When Chace was ten years old, Taylor walked into his classroom to give a talk. "That was like Elvis arrived!" recalls Chace by phone from Torrance, California. "After it was over, I told my teacher that I really wanted to ask for his autograph. She said, 'Hurry up! Go take your football!' She gave me a Magic Marker--I ran out to the parking lot and caught him before he left. He signed my football in the parking lot of Newport Elementary School."
Chace graduated from Michigan, class of '83, went on to Yale Drama School and then out to California to become an actor. Taylor, less than a week after the 1972 Rose Bowl game, lost his mother to heart failure, then in quick succession his aunt and girlfriend were murdered. He plunged into alcoholism and crime and ended up in jail. He recovered briefly then slid into homelessness. Taylor had lost all chances of a pro football career, and Chace lost his hero.
Fast-forward forty years. Chace, in L.A., discovers online that Billy Taylor has written his life story. He buys it, reads it, and learns Taylor's almost miraculous account of how he quit drinking, returned to college, and earned a doctorate in education. "I called him," Chace recalls, and Taylor invited him to visit Get Back Up, the 160-bed, nonprofit recovery facility he operates in Detroit. Chace did, and was so moved he decided to shelve his acting career and recruit an old U-M friend, Bob Hercules, to co-produce a one-hour documentary of Taylor's story. Perseverance: The Story of Billy Taylor premieres at the Michigan Theater on November 16 (see Events).