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From Heston to Malone, first impressions leave their mark

Wednesday night I dropped by the Delta Center to watch the Jazz demolish the New York Knicks.

It wasn't much of a game.As a young sports writer in the '70s I would have been hanging on every hoop, however. I would have been calling every illegal defense.

But these days my mind often wanders around the arena, up and down the stairs and in and out of the doors. And Wednesday I remembered the first time I met Karl Malone. And then I thought about how our first impressions of people often hang on for decades.

Years ago, for instance, Deseret News critic Howard Pearson flew to Rome for the filming of "The Agony and the Ecstasy." The bonus of the trip was a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel led by Charlton Heston.

But while there Howard wandered away from the group. When he returned, Heston thought he was an interloper. He belittled Howard in front of his peers then told him to run along like a good boy.

Howard never forgot the slight. Until the day he died Howard couldn't look at a photo of Charlton Heston without feeling his blood pressure rise.

As for me, I left a long-term impression on Deseret News publisher Wendell Ashton. Soon after I joined the staff, Wendell asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Brigham City - "Peach City."

It left an imprint on Wendell's mind. For the next 10 years he'd see me and he'd say, "Jerry! How are those peaches?"

And for the next 10 years I'd say, "They're doing fine." Though I didn't know peaches from leeches and half the time when Wendell asked it was winter.

And all this leads me to my "Malone moment," my wandering thoughts at the Jazz game this week.

I remember I'd gone to Westminster College to watch the Jazz workout. I was writing human interest stories on the rookies. Malone was to play on the Olympic team that year, so about half-way through practice he slipped into his Olympic uniform, went into one of the corners and began posing for a photographer.

Needless to say I dashed over and began shooting shots of my own.

The photographer popped his cork and flipped his lid. He made Charlton Heston sound like Holy Moses.

I slid away.

A few minutes later Malone came looking for me.

"Don't worry about that guy," he told me. "He's like that all the time. It's why we're firing him."

Then he trotted away.

I don't think the guy even worked for the Jazz. He was with the league. But the fact that Malone took time to smooth things over left an impression.

Now when I watch the Jazz win in a walk over the Knicks and my mind wanders, sometimes it wanders back to Westminster. And I know that no matter how many points Malone eventually scores, he scored a few with me.

As for Charlton Heston, I'm afraid Howard Pearson must have brainwashed me.

I just don't like the guy.

And Wendell, wherever you are, those Brigham City peaches did really well this year. Wish I could bring you some.