Monday, September 24, 2007

Brush with Greatness

This morning on the Jim Leach Show, the host was asking listeners to call in and name a famous person they have personally interacted with and then Leach would guess whether the celebrity had acted congenially or jerkily during said encounter. He did a good job of predicting the offscreen demeanor of the celebrities, but then, who would doubt that Mrs. Brady could be anything less than a dazzling ray of sunshine.

It was an enjoyable bit of light radio fare, but it left me feeling bereft. You see, I’ve never met anyone truly famous.

Combing through my memory banks for any such meetings, the best I can come up with was a brief congratulatory exchange with All-American defensive lineman Bryant Young after his 1993 Fighting Irish squad defeated the number-one ranked Florida State Seminoles. His girlfriend had sold a ticket to my friend before the game and when we saw them walking through campus after the game we talked with them for a minute or two. We found them both to be quite charming, and in the case of Young, quite large.

Young is currently in his 14th season with the San Francisco 49ers and while he certainly qualifies as a sports celebrity, he’s no Joe Montana or Jerry Rice and would probably go unrecognized by a great majority of Americans. Nor will Lorne Michaels likely ever ask him to host Saturday Night Live.

My wife, on the other hand, once met Vanessa Williams. This was after Vanessa’s little scandal (click, click) at which point she was fully recognizable to almost everyone. I don’t believe she’s ever hosted SNL, but she has appeared as a musical guest.

While my sad and insular lifestyle has kept me from rubbing elbows with the noted and renowned, I’m sure some of you more worldly types have a story to tell.

So who then, is the most famous person you have met? Not the most famous person you glimpsed in person or the most famous person that resides in your delusions, but someone you can actually say you met. There must have been some exchange of conversation in which you were acknowledged as being a viable life form worthy of her or his consideration. Encounters at book signings or autograph sessions don’t count unless you were able to elicit both eye contact and some sort of verbiage that exceeded the perfunctory pleasantries normally exchanged at such encounters. If the meeting resulted in you being arrested, the celebrity must have testified in person at your trial for it to qualify.

To make things interesting, the person with the most impressive story, as judged by me, will receive a Kimberly Smoot “Best Blogger” T-shirt.*

*For the record, I have no problem with her winning the Best Blogger award. The people were asked to speak and they did so. She deserves the crown. Although her site doesn’t meet my definition of a blog, neither does Olive Garden meet my definition of an Italian restaurant. That said, I can’t expect the IT to put eligibility requirements on all of their categories just to satisfy my personal tastes.**

**Also for the record, there are three individuals who I feel could legitimately lay claim to the Best Blogger title and a fourth who might have were his ties to Springfield not so tenuous. I will refrain from naming these bloggers because I didn’t get around to voting this year and I don’t want to be blamed for not helping to push someone over the top.


Anonymous Communist said...

Dude, Bryant Young. No. 97 has been a mainstay on the 49ers defensive line, a rarity in today's era of free agency.

He's a seven-time winner of the 49ers' Len Eshmont Award, given each year to the 49er who best exemplifies the "inspirational and courageous play" of Len Eshmont, a player from the original 1946 49ers team.

If you couldn't tell, I'm a fan of the 49ers, especially Bryant Young.

Uh, I met Charles Haley once. Was rendered pretty much speechless.

David said...

I once saw Jay O. Sanders (best known as the mean play-by-play guy in Angels in the Outfield) naked. He just kept wandering around the locker room with no clothes on. It wasnt pretty, he's kinda let himself go since then so there was a whole lot to see.

John said...

I once met Charles Simic, the current poet laureate of the United States.

I also had an encounter with Lisa Collis (wife of former VA Governor Mark Warner) one time. It was my first day of work, and I had to attend a function at the Governor's mansion. I walked in knowing no one, and got my name tag from the table. I met this wonderful woman, named Lisa Collis. At the time I had no idea who she was, and I started riffing with her on subjects such as, "How these things are usually pretty stuffy," and "Oh boy, look at that spread! I'll be stuffing my pockets before I leave for sure," and that "At least the coffee will be good." We chatted for awhile. She was very pleasant, and she laughed at my nervous jokes.

About half an hour later, she took the podium to announce the Governor's new Adult Literacy Initiative, and I almost died realizing how easily I'd schmoozed up to the Governor's wife. Good times. For a long time, I'd brag about how I was going to see if my good friend Lisa Collis wanted to get together for drinks or a movie.

Other than that, nada. I did see Steve Martin at the Chicago Art Institute once, but he was dressed in a manner that told me he was really trying to have a quiet day out, so I didn't race up with my inkpen and fawn over him.

And once I saw John McCain at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. We rode on the same little trolley train with him and his family. Again, I didn't make contact because I wouldn't want me bothering me if I were a bigwig celebrity or politician.

Vic Mackey said...

It's a toss up. I shook hands with and had a photograph taken with Bryan Cox, former Miami Dolphin/New York Jet linebacker, when his softball team was playing in Springfield.

While in New Orleans at Pat O'Brien's I also shook hands with and briefly spoke to Dave Grohl while pulling my incredibly inebriated wife away from him. He didn't have to say thanks, his expression said it all.

russ said...

When I was in 8th grade, I got to meet Dick Enberg and Al McGuire in the tunnel at Assembly Hall before an Illini game.

I had a nice chat with Robin Wilson from The Gin Blossoms in the bleachers of the Quincy College gym before a concert there in the early 90's. Also in the world of music, I've met Darius Rucker of Hootie fame, Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, and most of Material Issue - all from volunteering for stage crew while in college. Good times. Of course, I've also met future star Sarah Borges, thanks to you.

Going to Spring Training and playing in the Cardinal golf outings, I've met several current former redbirds. The best experiences have been with Bob Forsch, Willie McGee, Red Schoendienst, Jose Oquendo, and Mike Matheny.

Henny Penny said...

Well I worked w/ Obama at the Capitol so there's that. My hubs says Roy Acuff, a country western musician.

Will said...

One of the perks to working a low pay 60 hour a week job on a Presidential campaign is meeting a few celebrities. A few that weren't politicians...

I met Al Franken and drove him along with his film crew to an event in Chicago. Nice guy. He didn't make any jokes.

I talked with Michael Moore for about 20 seconds. He was kind of a smart ass.

I met the real Patch Adams that the movie is based on. He was wearing a clown suit and had a very warm personality. He said he was disappointed that the movie didn't include any of his anti-war activism.

I met Mimi Kennedy (no relation to Ted) who played Dharma's Mom on the show Dharma and Greg. She's another person I gave a ride to a campaign event. She was very nice and talked about being a Yippie back in the day. I mostly tried reminding myself to not be an idiot and ask for Jenna Elfman's phone number.

OK, one politician. I met John Kerry in New Hampshire before the primary. I went to a Kerry event with a woman I was working with. When Kerry went around shaking everyones hand he said to me, "Hi Will, thanks for coming." After that my friends eyes bulged out and she said, "You know John Kerry!" The fact that she got so excited was funny since we were both working for a rival campaign. To this day I wish I had pretended that John and I were old friends, but instead I just pointed to my name tag. He was a lot more engaging in a small crowd that he is on TV.

nancy said...

Well, Chicago was pretty good to me. While working the front desk at a downtown hotel I checked in the following:

Troy Aikmann, but I had no idea who he was. Rob was in the lobby at the time, ready to pick me up and head down to the Billy Goat. He was right behind Troy and fr-eaking out trying to get me to get his autograph. I just figured Rob was drunk.

I also checked in Ronny Milsap. This time I knew he was a VIP, b/c it said so on the registration, however I did NOT know he was blind, so when I kinda waved hello as he entered with what I thought was his pretensious entourage, but what were really his handlers, I felt like he was a bit big for his britches when he didn't wave back.

I checked in Chuck D. (nee Charles Rittenhour), and had him sign a worthless safe deposit box agreement form after he refused an autograph request. I still have that somewhere.

I didn't check him in myself, but Joe Walsh stayed at my hotel and invited the front desk staff to see him perform at Andy's Jazz. We went and he let us come on stage with him at the end of his set. Super nice guy, although entirely bizarre.

I met Dick Durbin at O'Hare.

But my best experience was kissing Kiefer Sutherland on the cheek when "Flatliners" was filming on Loyola's lake shore campus. William Baldwin was nice, but Julia Roberts was visibly disinterested in anyone who could not recollect having seen "Mystic Pizza".

Can I have my t-shirt now?

nancy said...

Just talked to Rob about my entry and he gave me a little long distance thump to my forehead.

We hung out with and partied with Billy Corgan and James Iha MANY times when they were just young little gourds. A momentary truce in the famous Loyola/Northwestern rivalry.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

These are some very impressive encounters, indeed.

I would have to say that based on cumulative Q ratings, Nancy has done the most hobnobbing with the rich and famous. With all of those celebrities, there has to be a way to embellish events a bit and come out with a juicy tell-all book.

If Obama wins the White House, then H.P. would then take the crown because Obama’s Q rating would go through the roof as one of the most recognizable people in the world, even more so than Kiefer. But did she ever kiss him on the cheek?

Will just missed having met a future president and John maintains a slim chance with McCain, but again, was there a kiss on the cheek?

Seeing Jay O. Sanders naked would seem to warrant, if not a prize, then surely some sort of reparation.

Enberg, McGee, Nielsen – all impressive Russ, but I’m afraid they are cancelled out by Hootie. If Sarah Borges ever achieves the aclaim she deserves, you’ll be back in the running.

The Dave Grohl story deserves some sort of recognition for Best Encounter Resembling a Saturday Night Live Skit.

Thanks for commenting,

mary said...

I was in a small, independent movie several years ago which was filmed in Havana, IL. It starred Michael Hayden, most famous for many roles on Broadway and on the London stage. He even got a Tony Award nomination. We sat and chatted more than once about this and that. Nice guy. I also befriended the stuntman from the movie and have kept in contact with him ever since. His name is Randall Huber and he’s been in lots of films including Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Replacement Killers and something called Earth vs. the Spider.

Then I was an extra in a movie that went straight to video called Unconditional Love. Though I didn’t actually meet or schmooz any of them, I hung out in the same room with Rupert Everet and Kathy Bates…and about 200 other extras. I remember at one point we were fed lukewarm corn dogs and milk. That’s when I decided Chicago extra work probably isn’t worth the time and trouble.

While working the out for Mame at Sangamon Auditorium, I exchanged a quick “hello” with Juliet Prowse.

I participated in an improv workshop led by Rieko Aylesworth, co-star of “24” (Michelle Dessler). I know her step-dad. He told me later that she said I, and one other actor in the workshop, were her favorites. Woo hoo!

I was not in the recent “Pirates of Penzance” fundraiser at the Hoogland staring Rex Smith but I know many, many people who were. Rumor has it he was something of a…challenge to work with.

I also stood in line once at the concession stand with Joan Allen at Steppenwolf.

And if local celebrity counts (which it shouldn’t), I’ve performed in many local shows with Gus Gordon.

Oh, and my husband also shook hands with Mo Rocca when he arrived for his show at UIS.

Hmmm, it seems many of my boasts are simply guilt by association or near misses. Not very impressive, I guess…but still fun to talk about nonetheless.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Did Rex have some diva issues? I normally don't dabble in celebrity gossip but since there's a local angle to it, I think it will be okay this one time.

Thanks for commenting,

mary said...

WELL...I’m not one to gossip either...BUT...

Actually, I don’t really know enough at this point to make this post interesting but from what I’ve heard so far, not many were impressed with his behavior. I did see the show, however, and can report that he was VERY impressive on stage. He was completely engaging and thoroughly entertaining...and in a show I don’t particularly care for. It was a job well done for everyone involved.

nancy said...

Mmmmmm....I'd trade all of my close encounters for one Rupert Everett. Obviously, he's super cute, super rich, and super gay, but I can dream, can't I?

UMRBlog said...

I have had a number of celeb experiences just from a ton of business travel.

Biggest and most consistent terminal jerk = Ralph Nader

Most Charming and Wonderfully Clever and Humble = Spencer Haywood.

Most Sensitive Inquiring Mind = Frank Broyles

Best with Children = Ernie Banks

Just pure smartest = Reba McEntire

Anonymous said...

Lots of impressive brushes with celebrity out there! Personally, I've only met a few famous folks, buts its all about the quality not the quantity BlogFree! Of course now that I'm trying to recall my own encounters, I know I haven't had the most here and am starting to question the quality!!

I met Stan-the-Man Musial (STL Cardinal) with my dad as a kid at the restaurant he used to own in downtown St.Louis. I've also met current Cardinal broadcaster Mike Shannon at his restaurant. He wasn't as drunk as he seems on-air but did stand and chat with us for about 5 minutes. Very charming!

I also saw Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon at a Houlihans in St.Louis while they were filming that movie "White Palace". They were polite to fans, but one of their babies was dressed in nothing but a diaper and actually had dirt/food all over them before they started eating (c'mon-wash the baby up before a public appearance!!).

I watched Michael Stipe plant a tree on campus while at SIU-C. He didn't exhibit much personality and wouldn't sign autographs.

Stan Lee (comic book legend) literally bumped into me as I walked by him at a convention. He was very apologetic and asked "What's a sweet looking gal like you doing in a place like this?" Ha ha!

I've met 3 Illinois governors: Jim Thompson at the State Fair as I climbed the steps to the giant slide; Jim Edgar crossing the street at the stop light on 4th & Adams; and George Ryan at the State Library. All were politically polite, but I must say that Jim Edgar was more handsome in person than I expected!

And last, but certainly not least, I met Don Ho in Hawaii. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and gave kisses on the cheek. Aloha!

Laura said...

When I went to Hawaii to see Notre Dame play University of Hawaii, I saw ND quarterback and all-around babe Rick Mirer walk though the outdoor lobby of the hotel. Of course at the age of 18 I had no notion of playing it cool, so I ran up to him and gushed all over him. He was very nice and agreed to sign the t-shirt I was wearing, for lack of anything else available. He also held my Pepsi can while I fumbled around for a pen, which I thought was just the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me. It was fitting that I was wearing an ND t-shirt, which I never washed again to preserve the autograph. It was my pride and joy until some low-life Quincy College student who was never caught stole my prized possession out of my dorm room and desicrated it. Although he flopped in the NFL, I still consider this a highly worthy brush with greatness.

Yellowdog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yellowdog said...

I think I may have the most encounters with the so called famous. I spose its up to the resident blogger to decide if mine are anything to speak of.

Localy, I had lunch at the Governors Mansion with the wife of soon to be imprisoned Gov Ryan. Lora Lynn was a great host. Got a complete tour of the mansion from basement to attic.

Keeping with politicians, do encounters with the dead count? Lets just say that I saw Senator Paul Simon up close and personal at a work related event. Dan should understand what that means.

I had another few up and close personal work related encounters from work in the past. I worked for the King of Saudi Arabia. Mustasfa Al Malic Fahad ibn Abdulazez ibn Al Saud. His brother, now King of Saudi Arabia, then Prince Abdullah. The stuttering prince.

I also got close enough to the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Yep, he smelled like a goat. I had dinner with him, the King and Queen of Spain. I also had the previledge to meet then president Clinton. Much early in his first term. Before the blue dress incident.

On the rock n roll side I got on the tour bus of Sammy Hagar and Loverboy. Beers and other items were exchanged with the Loverboy group....

On the sports side I got to sit next to Sachel Page at the old Lanphier Ball Park. There were wooden bleachers back then. I had no clue who he was but my dad insisted I meet him. We talked about baseball for a few innings and he signed an autograph. Wish I still had it.

I had a Jay Leno close encounter with Tommy Lasorta in a NY City bar. One of those bars were ladies have less than the normal amount of clothes but then again what is normal. Tommy was headed down to "the dungeon" for what was explained to me as the special room. He liked to visit that room whenever he was in town. Use your imagination as to what took place down there.

I have saved the best for last. WMAY fans are probably familliar with thier most famous listener, Bill. Bill and I exchanged hand shakes and greetings this summer. Now how can you top Bill?

Di said...

When I was a sophomore in high school, I got to meet and kiss full on the lips(sorry Nancy) Michael Hutchence, former INXS lead singer. However, shortly after that, I developed a case of herpes zoster. Actually, we were in the elevator ready to go to the bands room(my naive self was thinking "cool, free alcohol") when a hotel security guard made us vacate. We saw Michael walking downtown trying to fing the hotel while we were driving home and we rushed to his aid.

P.S. Dave Grohl loved me!!

Di said...

Wait, I almost forgot about Evander Holyfield. He asked me to dance at the old Bauer's (the name escapes me) and I didn't know who he was at the time. Also, I introduced myself to Ken Norton at Voses Corn Dog stand at the fair this year. He was there signing a T-shirt for Bob. I would like to add boxing to the list of things I would prefer my children not to do. He is a mess physically, but dressed very dashingly and was very friendly.

nancy said...

Michael Hutchence????YUMMMY!!No fair, but I concede victory for the full kiss.

Furthermore, even a drunken attempt at contact with Dave Grohl is time well spent. Drummer, guitarist, vocalist...what more could you ask for?

Well played, Diane, well played.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Royalty, heads of state, hall-of-famers, AND Bill? You've lived a charmed life, indeed.


You're the Pamela Des Barres of Springfield.

Thanks for commenting,

Marie said...

Saw Kelsey Grammer at the Hardee's on Toronto Road in the early 90s. It was about 8:15 on a Saturday morning. He pulled up in a limo to use the bathroom and grab breakfast. I would have said something to him, but it was quite obvious he did not want to be approached. Probably too early in the morning.

I had a brief, but friendly, conversation about art one Saturday morning with Bruce Weitz at the Old State Capitol Art Fair in the late 80s.

When I lived in Chicago, I had a job interview with Christie Hefner to be her personal assistant back in about 1982. Despite the fact that we really hit it off and had chemistry, I did not get the job.

Yellowdog, it's going to be pretty difficult for anyone to top yours, but you might like one of mine: From 1979 to 81 I was the right-hand girl to the right-hand man of former Gov. Ogilvie at a now defunct law firm in Chicago.

There have been others. But, that's all I can think of right now.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


You were probably wise not to approach Kelsey Grammer at the time. That was back when he was doing a lot of coke.

Do you remember why Bruce Weitz was in town? I do remember that my brother met him at Bauer's Opera House.

Thanks for commenting,

Mare said...

Dan, I never really knew why Bruce Weitz was in town. At the time, I assumed it was just for the art fair. I wonder if your brother met him the same day I did. Also, a couple years later I was talking to someone else who met him at the same art fair.

Insignificant sidenote: My best friend was the bookkeeper for the Opera House during the late 80s to the early 90s. But, she was usually out of there by the time the crowd showed up.

Laura said...

I thought Bruce Weitz was in town for LincolnFest.

Just Here to Help said...

Bruce Weitz was in town on at least one occasion to do research for his role a "Belker" on Hill Street Blues. Weitz spent a period of time with at least one Springfield Police Officer on ride-a-longs to see how they operated.

Marie said...

To Just here to help: Thanks for the excellent info. That's kind of thrilling and makes perfect sense. I'd love to know who the local police officer was. (Maybe you?)

Mick Belker has always been one of my favorite TV characters. I was really sad to see that show go. We could use some TV like that now.

just here to help said...


It wasn't me, and I am leaving the now retired officers' name out of it. However, I can tell you that he too was short and rather feisty, much like the beloved Belker.

brunettechicagogal said...

I know I'm getting in on this late, but does getting directions to my gym in NYC from Frances McDormand count?

After scrolling through some of the responses, I think it does! I will share the full story once you confirm that the encounter meets your criteria, Sir Dan.

And P.S. How did Tammy fare during the "Defeat in the Heat," aka Chicago Marathon? What a disaster. My brother got sent back to Grant Park at Mile 17. He was not happy.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Frances McDormand is one of my favorite actresses and she definitely qualifies as greatness, so make with the details of your encounter.

Brian must have just missed the cut off where they allowed runners to finish the course. Tammy was about at the same mark when they were told they had to walk if they wanted to continue. She ended up finishing, running the last mile. She was pretty pumped about finishing, but felt that, despite the heat, she could have run the entire way.

BTW. I still can't access your blog. My connection to the Big Apple is now limited to my subscription to New York magazine.


brunettechicagogal said...

Dan, here's my FMcD story, but first: Brian was at Mile 17 when he was diverted to Grant Park -- well past the 13-mile mark, which was the criteria laid out in the Marathon's heat contingency plan. I also know people who got to 20 and were pulled out. Chaos. Good for Tammy -- especially since it was her first marathon. I think Brian would've been far more upset had it been his first.

OK, Frances: So I'm walking down Broadway on NYC's Upper West Side, looking for one of the many New York Sports Clubs. I'd just moved to the area and wasn't familiar with this specific NYSC location. Couldn't find it. So I decided to find someone who looked like they live in the neighborhood (this usually is someone carrying grocery bags). I spotted an older, white-haired man and a blondish woman (whose back was to me), along with a pudgy dark-haired kid who appeared to be about 12. From what I could hear and see, the adults seemed to be mildly reprimanding the kid for something school-related. I approached, looking at the man, and said, "Pardon me; do you live in the neighborhood?" As I waited for their response, I turned to look at the woman.

Who was, of course, Frances McDormand.

I like to think that my countenance remained unaltered. FMcD, on the other hand, looked a bit uncomfortable, like, "Oh, god, please dont' recognize me." She nodded. The man nodded.

"Could you please tell me where the NYSC at 76th and Broadway is? I don't see it at all."

The man sort of scratched his head and said, "Hmmmm...."

There was a pause, and then Frances (her skin is beautiful, and she has really pretty cornflower-blue eyes. She was surprisingly pretty; she always looks so haggard on screen.) said, in a tone befitting a small child, "Oh, OK. I know where it is. You go down here to 80th Street..." and proceeded to give me directions to the wrong NYSC location.

I just let her. Who was I to correct one of my Top 5 favorite actresses? It was all I could do to refrain from screaming, "Thank you for making such GREAT movies and being such a GREAT actress." I just thanked her and walked away.

I'll hook you up to my blog, Dan, but I need your proper email address. Hit me at