An honest, decent guy helps out a wild and crazy one

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First Posted: 7/8/2013

In a city where recent thefts have some pedestrians clutching their iPhones and purses a little tighter, one lost wallet actually found its way home on July 2.

Its owner? Actor, comedian and musician Steve Martin. Its rescuer? He still remains clouded in mystery.

“Honesty survives in Wilkes-Barre,” Martin said through a spokeswoman. “The gentleman couldn’t have been sweeter, nicer, kinder, and his Batman-like rescue of my wallet is one more reason to remember Wilkes-Barre.”

Martin was in town for a one-night appearance at the F.M. Kirby Center on Public Square, where he performed Tuesday evening with Edie Brickell with the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Will Beekman, the venue’s programming director, said he did not know the good Samaritan’s name, only that the man telephoned the Kirby box office at about 10 a.m. to report what he had found.

“We thought it was a joke at first,” Beekman said.

A quick check with Martin’s tour manager confirmed that the comedian had been out riding his bike around Wilkes-Barre earlier Tuesday, Beekman said, giving the caller’s story the ring of truth.

Ellen Masaitis, who works at Curry Donuts next to the theater, told The Times Leader that the man who found the wallet told her about the incident when he came into the shop after meeting with Martin – who, the man said, gave him a $100 reward.

“I can’t remember his name, but I see him all the time, though,” Masaitis said of the Good Samaritan, who she believes is in his 50s.

“He was just a guy that was walking past Boscov’s and found Steve’s wallet outside of Boscov’s,” Masaitis said, relating the man’s account of stumbling on Martin’s billfold outside the department store on South Main Street.

Kirby box office manager Tina Yurko said she saw Martin briefly while he was waiting for the man to arrive.

“Steve Martin came out beforehand. He was very anxious for the gentleman to return the wallet, and he wanted to see the gentleman so he could thank him in person,” Yurko said.

Yurko also did not know the man’s name, but she described him as appearing like a construction worker or laborer who might have been working downtown. Staff ushered Martin and the man into another room where they could have some privacy. Yurko said she understood that Martin offered him tickets for the performance, but the man declined, saying his wife was ill and he could not attend.

For Kirby staff, the incident was a bright spot not to be forgotten and a reminder “that there are good people” in the community.

“I can’t recall anything like it,” Beekman said. “Imagine that you find a wallet on the street, look inside to figure out who the owner is, and it belongs to Steve Martin.”

For Masaitis and a friend at Curry Donuts, there was an added bonus. When they saw the 67-year-old comedian in the alley behind the theater, “looking tired,” they gingerly requested autographs.

“I don’t think he really does autographs, but my friend got down on his knees,” Masaitis said Tuesday afternoon as she proudly displayed a scrap of paper bearing four words: “To Ellen – Steve Martin.”