Larry & Me

// October 22nd, 2013 // CHiPs, News

Hi, this is Sue! I run this website, the Facebook fan community, the chat room, and a bunch of other things for Larry. I’m often asked larryme2how I met Larry and how I came to be his “Girl Friday” of sorts. I shared a little bit of the story on the Facebook page recently and received such an enthusiastic response I thought I’d share the rest of it here.

The story starts of course in 1977 when CHiPs premiered. I was 7, and like most of you I immediately fell in love with the show and its characters. While I loved the entire gang at Central, there was something about Jon Baker that just connected with me. Maybe it was his warmth and kindness, his willingness to accept people for who they were, his gentleness with children, or his determination to make the world a better place in whatever small way he could, but he quickly became my hero. I grew up in a home damaged by alcoholism and its associated problems, and as an only child spent a lot of time alone. It was often painful, and Jon was the only positive male role model in my life for a very long time. I know most of you grew up wanting to marry Jon, but I wanted him to adopt me!

I grew up with Jon, Ponch, Sarge and the gang at Central. When the series went into syndication I did my homework with them every afternoon. One Saturday night, I was punished for something (I’ve long since forgotten what) by being sent to my room and not being able to watch the new CHiPs episode that was on that night. I was terribly upset-but then it suddenly occurred to me. If I couldn’t watch my episode, I’d write my own! And that’s exactly what I did that night, under the covers with a flashlight. It was absolutely terrible but that began my love affair with writing.

As I watched CHiPs I often wondered what it would be like to meet Larry. Of course I knew it would never happen-after all here I was a kid in Boston and he was a grown man all the way in California, which at the time seemed so far away and exotic to me. It was just a little girl’s dream. As shy has I was back then, I couldn’t even muster the courage to send him a fan letter!

When I was 10, our local paper, the Boston Herald, featured Larry in their Sunday magazine. It wasn’t a typical celebrity profile, instead Larry talked about what it was like being a famous dad and how much he loved his kids. He spoke about them with such pride and it made me love him even more! I cut out the photo that accompanied it, which showed him leaning against a stall, rope in hand, looking relaxed and content with his world, and taped it to my bedroom mirror. It stayed there until I left for college.

I sort of lost touch with CHiPs in college. With no cable TV and 3 roommates, there was just no time or way to watch. However one day after Id moved back home, there was a Braves game on TV. It ended and then I heard it-that familiar theme song. I fell in love all over again, and a few years later in 1995, I discovered a CHiPs discussion group. Sadly, it’s long defunct now, but at the time it was a truly wonderful group, made up of fan and CHiPs crew members like Randy Torno and the late great Phil Bondelli. I started sharing my CHiPs stories with them and they loved them-one of them (It was about Jon’s experiences in Vietnam and his visit to the newly opened Vietnam Memorial in DC) so much that they encouraged me to send to Larry. Phil Bondelli and his wife insisted he just had to see it. I thought they were crazy. What would Larry want to read some fan’s story for? Surely he had better things to do? Yet the group was insistent and managed to find Larry’s email address. So one day in 1997 very VERY nervously I did, not expecting to get any sort of response. Two days later I received one.

I tell you I sat in front of my computer for 15 minutes just staring at his name in my inbox. I finally opened it and it was a lovely message telling me how much he loved my story, how it made him cry and he hoped I was getting paid to write because I was that good. It was then he gave me the nickname I still have today- Miss Steinbeck.

We kept emailing each other, and it surprised me to learn how much we had in common. I still never thought we’d meet but then I learned he was coming to NYC to do a CHiPs 99 promotion. My childhood dream was going to come true.

A year or so after I sent him my story, we met.  I was a shaking, stuttering wreck but it was a night I’ll never forget. The first time I ever saw Larry in person he was driving up the street toward me riding a CHP motor! Seeing the man I had grown up watching on TV right there in front of me was both amazing and absolutely terrifying. I tripped over my tongue more than once, shook like a leaf and I’m sure made a total fool of myself. Yet Larry was kind and warm and when I told him who I was he gave me a big smile and an even bigger hug. We talked for a good hour and I helped out by snapping photos of him with fans for said fans. It was a lot of fun-although I feel a little bad-Erik was there too but I was so wrapped up in talking to Larry I’m afraid I pretty much ignored him aside from saying hello!

From time to time over the next 16 years we’d get busy with our own lives but always reconnected and somewhere along the way grew from fan and celebrity to very close friends. Larry started asking for my help with things and the next thing I knew I was running his website, then the Facebook page. I absolutely love it and it’s led to some amazing experiences, like having dinner with him, Robert Pine and Catherine Bach (Daisy from Dukes of Hazzard!) in Las Vegas, getting to talk to the producers of the new Hawaii 5-0 series, helping negotiate a movie deal, and of course, the CHiPs Reunion! I look back on that with pride, yet also realize there were so many things I screwed up! It, like much of what I’ve done with and for Larry was an invaluable learning experience, and I couldn’t have done it at all with his help and encouragement. It helped me come out of my shell and become more confident in myself. Lord knows I am far from perfect but the opportunities I’ve received have really made me a stronger and better person. I’ve also made many real and lifelong friendships through the fan community, and through Larry I’ve had the rare opportunity to see fame from the other side of the coin, and to find that guess what? Most famous people are truly no different than you or I, and fame and fortune is nice, but family, integrity and love are far more important and enjoyable.

My very favorite part of being Larry’s assistant is helping at his personal appearances. I love seeing the fans’ faces when they see him for the first time and listening to their stories about how he encouraged and/or inspired them. It’s truly amazing. I hear those stories every day on the fan page and in my email too. Countless people have shared how he inspired them to pursue a career in law enforcement or like me, offered them comfort and hope while they struggled with a painful home life. I love that I get to play a small part in connecting him to you, the fans. I haven’t and never will forget what it was like to get that first email, that autograph in the mail, and meeting him for the first time. I’m still one of his biggest fans!

Every so often I look back on the journey and wonder to myself how I’ve been so lucky. I’ve decided that a higher power had something to do with bringing us together. I mean let’s face it, people generally do not grow up to become close friends with one of their favorite actors, let alone organize a reunion of the cast of their show. It just does not happen without a little help from above. I truly believe that.

At a personal appearance he did in April, I told Larry I’d be happy to pay him for his autograph just like everyone else, and he grinned, told me not to be silly and said, “Aww, you’re family!”

He’s family to me (and my husband!) too, and so much more. He is a mentor, one of my dearest, best friends, a surrogate father, and to the little girl in me, he’s still my hero. On Father’s Day I wished him a happy one and he responded to thank me, calling me his “third daughter.” I won’t lie, it brought tears to my eyes as I thought back to the time when I wanted nothing more than for Jon Baker to adopt me. It’s just been an amazing journey and I am deeply grateful and the beautiful sapphire I wear (a gift from Larry) every day reminds me of just how blessed I am.

I remember often thinking when I watched CHiPs that when I grew up I hoped I would have friends like the gang at Central. They were always there for each other, loyal and loving until the end-and I do! I never dreamed that I’d actually have them themselves as friends, but I play Scrabble with Paul Linke all the time and talk to Robert Pine from time to time. It’s been a wonderful journey from a little girl who loved CHiPs to who I am today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story, one I’ve been asked for many times, and that someday you’ll get to meet Larry yourselves. He is every bit as kind and warm as Jon Baker, as down to earth as they come and just a lot of fun to be around. He also has a wicked sense of humor, and truly loves and appreciates his fans. He’s has never forgotten the wonderful ride you sent him on thanks to your love for CHiPs. Your loyalty and support mean a lot to him.

Thank you all for making the Larry Wilcox fan community so very special!

45 Responses to “Larry & Me”

  1. Patti Hittner- Sundita says:

    What a beautiful story Sue. It was wonderful reading about your dream, which proves that dreams come true and the powers above work in mysterious ways. My family new Larry from our hometown of Rawlins, Wyoming. My dad taught him in high school. We were all very happy to see somebody from our small town grace our TV weekly! You are truly a loyal woman and it shows in your writing and your story. Thank You for sharing your story with us!
    Patti Hittner- Sundita

    • larry wilcox says:

      Patti – yesterday I was at my son Chad’s basketball game and I was thinking of your Dad, Coach Hitner to me. I was thinking that such a small town Coach taught the fundamentals of basketball so very well and often Coaches today miss those cornerstones. When I coached my boys as youth, I always taught the same fundamentals. I am grateful for his time with me and thank you for stopping by and sharing with the great SUE Walsh. She is a wonderful person for sure!

  2. Céline says:

    Dear Sue, Dear Miss Steinbeck ;-),
    I am writing to you from France… I am French, but I feel very close to you. Many thanks for this very moving text. It brought tears to my eyes. I watched CHiPS, when I was a teenager and I never forgot Jon Baker. I lived a very sad childhood and Jon Baker was my hero and still he is. He helped me to keep faith in future. Now I am very happy, but he will stay in my heart forever. I hope that I will be able to meet him and to tell him how important he was to me. Keep up the good job here and on the Facebook page, Sue!
    Amicalement,
    Céline

  3. rivaud véronique says:

    sue, j’ai adorer ton histoires qui me touche beaucoup car tout se que tu dit sur larry est bien vrai . larry est d’un homme chaleureux et gentil et généreux .

  4. Melanie Gladden says:

    Sue,

    This was so awesome to read! I’m so happy that you had the opportunity and availability to meet and build a real friendship with Larry, to the point that you are extended, chosen family members!

  5. Shawnette says:

    such a great story, Sue! thanks for sharing it with us…it’s so awesome to hear how the smallest of circumstances can bring the most wonderful gifts!

  6. Laura Skelton says:

    I have to admit that Jon Baker was my absolute favorite on the the series as well. Can’t really explain why, other than he seemed so genuine and down to earth sometimes even unscripted. I am so happy for you Sue that you have had such a positive outcome from your sad childhood. Makes me feel that much more grateful for my wonderful parents and unblemished childhood. I’ll have to keep following this website, look forward to the possibility of meeting Larry (my dads naem as well) at a public appearance in the future myself. Congratulations with your inspiration and Good Luck! I wish you the very best.

  7. Scott Brice says:

    I too am a die hard fan I use to watch as a young kid and pretended to be Jon on my bicycle chips peddle bike I had I would always wreck to recreate chips. I would wear a baton like Jon did also around a belt. I have all the DVDs and have them on my iPad I met Erik a few months ago when I was on a layover in Chicago .. Love this show I bet larry Wilcox would be a great guy to meet I love all his tweets .. Iam truly a sincere fan .. Chips was such a big part of my growing up period

  8. Nur baiti says:

    Oh, Sue. You make me cry. Your journey is resemble with me. For some reason, I love him very much, not just because his series, but his kindness, attitude, and a good role model. He is one of my reasons to brave, hang on and face the world. I love Larry, I love you Sue. I hope some day we can meet directly. Maybe I will frozen, shaking, speechless or crying. Meet Larry is one of my dream. Hugs from Indonesia

  9. Nancy Waller says:

    I just now saw this story on here Sue. Wow! What a story it is. My father figure was Robert Urich from SWAT and numerous other shows. I wanted to go on Fantasy Island and get my wish come true. He was an inspiration to me. Larry is a great inspiration too. So positive in whatever he does and a great Parent too. We can all learn from him. I feel that I am a better person for meeting him and the cast from CHiPs. Thanks for writing your story for all of us to read.

  10. Jobert Latoza says:

    I so love Larry Wilcox aka Jon baker. I grew up watching Chips in my younger years! I still love and adore him now. Hope to get a signed photo of him. That would be the greatest thing ever! ?Send my love to him.

  11. faye says:

    beautiful story and lucky

  12. Lucy Doogan says:

    Larry really thinks of you as a daughter? Honestly? He really said that? Wow.

  13. larry wilcox says:

    Yep…Larry said that…I sure did.

    Larry

  14. Terri says:

    Looking forward to the new store, also love the chatroom really like the people there. Sue is amazing at what she does!! Thanks Larry and Sue Hugs to you both!!

  15. larry wilcox says:

    Thank you Terri

    Larry

  16. Ambie says:

    aww Sue that is an amazing story the bond you and Larry have is amazing I’m actually sat here crying thinking how you could have had such a hard childhood as I can kind of understand how you feel as a child as I had been moved from one foster care home to another as a child after my losing my biological parents a day after I was born due to the use of drugs that i thought I did wrong and like you found your way of getting through with watching CHiPs and wishing Jon Baker was your dad. I admit Larry is an awesome role model I may only be 21 but watching the show he has an awesome and gentle heart and his smile shows that he has that caring nature that I can see that no matter what has happened you fought through it all.

    Larry what can I say you would be an amazing role model and with growing up in a country town and showing that anyone can get out and pursue what they dream of doing even if they never become famous it is the fact you show that no matter what they dream of go out and follow that dream if i could have picked someone to help me with my options I would have you as my main one although my singing days ended after a personal and hard situtation I had to face but Larry you show what it is to have strength and carry on never letting Life tear you down. Thank you Larry

  17. Sue says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my story. Everyday I hear wonderful stories from fans about how Larry and CHiPs have inspired and comforted them and I was happy to share my own! A special thanks to Larry for being such a friend, father and mentor to me. Love you with all my heart! God bless….

  18. Terri says:

    Sue that was so inspiring. You and Larry are awesome!!

  19. Scott Marshall says:

    Hi I am from Toowoomba in Queensland Australia, I grew up watching CHiPs and Emergency and other shows of that genre, I miss those day’s, I am sick of reality shows and the other garbage that is on these days. I have even convinced my too teenage daughters to watch these shows, they roll their eyes but they do not get up and leave, they do enjoy them. My eldest daughter suffers from depression and some days it is just hard to see the pain in her eyes, but she always has a smile on her face after we watch an episode.
    Thank you for the memories that I have and the new ones I have with my girls.

    • Monica says:

      Whoa, if you think you only has garbage on TV, try to live in Brazil… I am happy for being a book reader addicted, (thats how i kept my english, improoving)

      I guess I don’t watch regular TV since 2004, except for News, of course…

  20. Cora-Jane says:

    Amazing Story Sue…..wow Larry I have read all and you truely are an amazing guy. I grew up on the show after it aired and after you left the series. I first watched CHiPs when I was 6 years old as a child had a wild imagination(like any little kid) and Larry and Robert both became my heros(well morre my on screen fathers) as been raised just by my mum due to the fact my dad was abusive and been the youngest and very ill most my life it was hard to bond and build trust as when growing up it became harder as many family members did not treat me the same as my half brother and my sister but it was watching CHiPs and with the love from my mum I got through the hard times especially when I was been bullied all through my school years all I can say is Larry thank you for been the most amazing role model and if you ever came to Australia it would be amazing to meet you but keep up the good work and love reading all you write.
    Cheers and Love
    Cora-Jane

  21. Terri says:

    Thanks, you have no idea how your reply made my day!! Good Night!

  22. Nathalie says:

    Hi very inspiring and so similar to what I went through, alcoholism and physical abuse and the only thing that helped me out was the Chips episodes (in French, I’m from Canada) I would picture myself living in California with Jon watching over me…. I have the series on dvd and watch them every night before bed and it helps me dream of a different life I could have had… Like I said I live in a small town in Canada so no hopes in ever meeting Larry.. but I girl can still dream :)

  23. Richard says:

    Sue, I loved your story of how you felt for Larry and how you met him. There is so much love in that story that you told us; I just loved it. As you mentioned earlier while watching Chips, I kind of had the impression that Larry was playing himself as Jon Baker. And I felt that Erik was Mr. showoff. If it was not for Larry being on the show, it may have not been as successful as it was. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us; I enjoyed it.

  24. Monica says:

    Sue, thanks for sharing your story with all of us, I’m a Brazilian fan who also was a child when CHiPs was a new show on TV. Maybe too Young at its première, but my grandma and I never missed one episode… Had to had my homework done to be allowed to watch the show (it used to be on air at night, here in Brasil, after my bed time.) but as I was raised by my grandparents, it was one show we could watch together and enjoy it, so it was like really special time to me, now every time I watch na episode I remember that time, back on the 80′s where all was just fine…

    I must say that my father figure back there was Sgt. Getraer, probably because he had children on the show. I remember that my cousin got a kit with some CHiP stuff, like a plastic hemet, the handcuffs, a wistle, a badge… I kinda, took the badge from him… well, you know, just a kid… if I was older I’d have probably got the handcuffs… Anyway, I remember a lot I did to pretend to be a CHiP, like painting my fiberglass car in black and White, well, tried to, but ran out of ink… oh the memories…

    Nowadays I’m married (my husband is a COP,) we have no kids, but I watch the show with my nephew when he comes to visit and stays with us, its hard to compete with Anime, but, at least I try…

    Its really amazing finding out that so many people take TV Characters to be life examples, someone to look up to. I really grew up feeling more confortable with my dream scapes trough series, cartoons, wathever, comes to my aid when I feel down.

    Got to go, got a new job enterview, in one hour, I’m aplying for English Teacher at a local school, like a second job…. I live in a Small town, in Brazil, so no hopes to meet the cast, but surelly I’d try to get online on your chat sessions…

    Bye!!!!

  25. Cindy Linn says:

    As you’ve already heard, thank you for your story. I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. Your enduring friendship with Larry is living proof.

    I too loved the show as a child growing up and Larry was my favorite character. Robert Pine was and is a favorite as well. My Dad was always working to support our family and thus, was gone quite a bit. And when he was home, he was busy getting things done around the house. Watching Mr. Pine on the show gave me that father stability I felt that I lacked at the time. And now, all these years later, he’s become one of my favorites.

    In a sense, I can relate to how you wanted Larry to adopt you. For me, it was Mr. Pine.

  26. carmela Di Paola says:

    Ciao Sue grazie della tua storia.. Mi chiamo Di Paola Carmela ho 46 anni, vivo a Catania città della Sicilia (Italia) lavoro come fisioterapista (specializzazione in fisioterapia Ortopedica, Neurologica, Sportiva.. scusami non parlo inglese parlo italiano e francese. Ti racconto un pò la mia storia..
    Avevo 13 anni quando ho iniziato a seguire CHIPS.. à questa età io ero una ragazza timida ma con una personalità forte, i compagni mi prendevano in giro perché non mi lasciavo coinvolgere dalle cattive compagnie,visto che abitavo ( e abito tutt’ora insieme ai miei genitori ) in un quartiere periferico con alta percentuale di delinguenzialità,( oggi la delinquenza è diminuita ) quindi non avevo molti amici. Guardando CHIPS voi siete diventati i miei amici, ho seguito tutte le puntate ,forse per te CHIPS è stato l’inizio del successo, ma per me e credo per molti altri è stato un insegnamento di vita attraverso le vostre avventure avete trasmesso valori come l’ amicizia, la solidarietà, l’amore, l’aiuto reciproco , ad andare avanti senza scoraggiarsi.. a dire NO alla timidezza, attraverso un percorso religioso, conoscenza interiore (con l’aiuto di un sacerdote)ho vinto la mia timidezza, ho conosciuto la mia migliore amica e ho iniziato a battermi per i miei diritti e quelle dei miei amici Africani .. Oggi ti scrivo per dirti GRAZIE di cuore , perché credo che un po’ di questo mio amore per l’africa lo devo anche un pochino a CHIPS.

  27. carmela Di Paola says:

    Grazie sue per la tua storia anch’io volevo condividere con voi la mia.Mi chiamo Di Paola Carmela ho 46 anni, vivo a Catania città della Sicilia (Italia) lavoro come fisioterapista (specializzazione in fisioterapia Ortopedica, Neurologica, Sportiva)Ho lavorato 5 anni (non continuativi) in Africa come Fisioterapista volontaria, ( contratto CEI Chiesa Cattolica Italiana) in Africa mi sono inserita in un progetto locale che si occupa di persone portatori di handicap visivo , uditivo, motorio. Il mio compito era quello di formare il personale locale . continuerò poi se vi interessa…la mia esperienza in africa…
    Avevo 13 anni quando ho iniziato a seguire CHIPS.. à questa età io ero una ragazza timida ma con una personalità forte, i compagni mi prendevano in giro perché non mi lasciavo coinvolgere dalle cattive compagnie,visto che abitavo ( e abito tutt’ora insieme ai miei genitori ) in un quartiere periferico con alta percentuale di delinguenzialità,( oggi la delinquenza è diminuita ) quindi non avevo molti amici. Guardando CHIPS voi siete diventati i miei amici, ho seguito tutte le puntate ,forse per te CHIPS è stato l’inizio del successo, ma per me e credo per molti altri è stato un insegnamento di vita attraverso le vostre avventure avete trasmesso valori come l’ amicizia, la solidarietà, l’amore, l’aiuto reciproco , ad andare avanti senza scoraggiarsi.. a dire NO alla timidezza, attraverso un percorso religioso, conoscenza interiore (con l’aiuto di un sacerdote)ho vinto la mia timidezza, ho conosciuto la mia migliore amica e ho iniziato a battermi per i miei diritti e quelle dei miei amici Africani .. Oggi ti scrivo per dirti GRAZIE di cuore , perché credo che un po’ di questo mio amore per l’africa lo devo anche un pochino a CHIPS. Grazie Larry.

  28. carmela Di Paola says:

    ciao Larry oggi una mia paziente (ti ho scritto che io sono fisioterapista) prima di iniziare la fisioterapia stava seguendo in tv un episodio di CHIPS, ha riso di cuore non lo faceva da due anni da quando la malattia l’ha colpita. grazie Larry a nome suo.

  29. Tootles says:

    Well said Sue! And true for more people than he’ll ever know. Timeless lessons, and proof that art has power, and that nature can teach us a thing or too about comportment with one another. Experience, too, if we let it! Now, who’s chopping onions in here… sniff!

    Really, thanks to Mr. Wilcox for bringing to life a gentle, strong male role model we will ALWAYS need. In mentorship perfect isn’t required, just that a man (or woman) who cares and gives their best in all they have to offer.

    Finally, even bigger thanks to Mr. Wilcox for his service to our country, and to all those online here, as well. The tour doesn’t end when they return home, so show them we care…

    And God Bless to all. : )

  30. Lora says:

    I loved reading this article. I’m happy to learn I wasn’t the only girl who wanted Larry to adopt me. I’m glad your dream was met.

  31. Michelle says:

    I also grew up watching CHiPs. My best friend and I would pretend to be Jon and Ponch riding our bikes in the neighborhood. I now have children and they have been introduced to the DVDs from season 1 and they loved it. I have caught them more than once imitating the CHP, Jon, Ponch and the rest of the cast.
    I will always enjoy watching the dvds and watching Jon and Ponch. Truth is Jon was my favorite and still is to this day.

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