My wife Joan and I are retired and living in Pompano Beach, Florida.
One day in August 2007 we had a disagreement as to whether or not Roddy McDowell was still alive, so we decided to let the Internet settle the matter.
After researching Roddy's career, we sadly found out that he was in fact deceased.
While sitting at the computer, and with nothing better to do, I was wondering "who else do I know in show business."
The first name that came to mind was a tennis friend of mine, Billy Fields.
Billy was a friendly, outgoing, fairly decent doubles partner who, between matches, would entertain the guys with stories about his earlier life in show business.
Billy started out as a singer and made numerous recordings for MGM Records in the 1950s. He then went on to manage Neil Diamond and Frankie Valle at the beginning of their careers and has been close to them over the years. Neil Diamond's first wife was actually Billy's secretary.
While "surfing" the web, various facts about Billy popped up. One fact I wasn't aware of is that he worked closely with Sid Bernstein promoting the Beatles' famous Shea Stadium show in 1963.
Then it happened, as I jumped from site to site, that somehow I wound up on a website where residents and former residents of Queens, N.Y., were trying to reconnect with old friends via the Internet.
As I scrolled down the long list of inquiries, one caught my attention. It was from a Bill Cook "looking for a Billy Fields, who sang Sincerely for MGM Records in the 1950s."
Oddly, this email was over two years old.
So i took a chance and replied: "I saw your 2005 inquiry regarding a friend of mine who sang Sincerely for MGM Records in the 1950s on a Kew Gardens, N.Y., website. Please respond so we can see if it's the same guy you're looking for."
I was surprised that the next day Bill Cook emailed back saying: "The gentleman I'm looking for sang with the USO in the early '50s and possibly worked the naval bases on the East Coast. Any chance they're the same guy? The Billy Fields I'm looking for was originally from New York. I have several of his records."
I next emailed:
"The Billy Fields (ex-Marine) you are looking for and my friend are one in the same. Billy is 77, living in Manhattan and Florida. But if you give me your phone number I'll have him call you, in case he owes you $$$$$.
Bill Cook answered with:
"I'm a chemistry professor (and musician) at Illinois Central College in Peoria. My mother is an old acquaintance of Billy's. She was stationed at Parris Island in the early 1950s and one of Billy's fans so she gave me some of his records. Her name is Joretta Dunnington, now Jorette Cook. I play in a jazz quartet and do a rendition of "Sincerely" from one of Billy's old records.
Billy doesn't owe me any money, but if you could have him call me, it would be much appreciated."
I quickly called Billy and told him what had transpired so far. After a very long pause he said, in a shaky voice, "if he's 55 years old he's ........he's my son.".=
A son Billy had never mentioned to anyone, a son he has never ever seen.
I quickly called Bill Cook and during the conversation I managed to ask his age, to which he replied 55. Now I was shaking. As we talked further he told me that his original email was actually an attempt to find his biological father, a father he's never met.
I told him i would give his phone number to Billy Fields and the rest would be up to him.
I pressed Billy for the rest of the story, and he told me that while he was in the marines (1950 to 1952) stationed at Parris Island, he met and fell in love with a lovely Marine WAVE named Joretta Dunnington. Shortly thereafter she became pregnant, left the service and moved back to Spring Bay, Ill. Billy's enlistment was also up and he returned to New York.
After they both were discharged and the baby was born, they only spoke a couple of times over the phone. The last contact was when Bill was 2 and Joretta sent Billy a picture of baby Bill. Shortly after that, Joretta married Richard Cook and they raised Bill in Peoria. And Billy Fields went on to a successful show business career in New York.
Billy called Bill the very next day and they reunited after all those years. The best part is that Bill Cook has a son and told Billy that he was the grandfather of a 12 year boy named Sam who also is a musician and singer like his father and grandfather.
After a few months Bill and Billy met in Florida for the first time; both have similar interests in music and performing and seeing them side by side you would think they were twins.
On the next Father's Day, Bill sent his dad a large box, containing 55 really "ugly" ties, one for each of the Father's Days they missed together.
Billy Fields, now 86, is happily living in California, and Bill Cook is living in Mapleton, Ill., with his son Sam and new wife Youmna. They visit each other often.