Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Celebrity Encounters

So, as I said earlier, I have had the good fortune to encounter several celebrities over the years. I can honestly say that every single one was a pleasure to meet or talk to.

The first was Phyllis Diller, whom I talked to when she was on Larry King's television show. I asked her if she remembered having guest starred on "The New Scooby Doo Mysteries". This was about fifteen years or so after she had done the show. She laughed and then said that yes, she remembered it. And that she had enjoyed doing it. Sadly, she is no longer with us, having died in 2012.

The next was James Doohan. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a science fiction convention in Syracuse, New York. This was in 1987, on the day after "Star Trek: The Next Generation" had its debut. Mister Doohan was very pleasant and he stayed later than he was contractually obligated to in order for everyone who wanted his autograph to get it. I truly appreciated that because I was next to last in line. This fine gentleman passed away in 2005.

In 1988, I had the pleasure of attending a concert given by Bobby Lewis. Lewis is best known for having one of the biggest hit records of 1961, the classic number "Tossin' And Turnin'".  He gave a great performance that lasted over two hours. At the end, he began shaking hands with everyone near the stage, including myself. I really wish I had stayed for the second show that started at midnight as friends of mine who were there said it was even better than the first show.

The fourth famous person I met was the late George McGovern. This true patriot took on the burden of running against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election knowing he had a very small chance of winning. He too, stayed later than he was obligated to, for book signings after he had given the keynote address for my college's Convocation Day. I was the last person in line so, again, I appreciated the extra effort.

Now, the next person, I did not talk to. This happened the first time I ever traveled to New York City. I was walking down a side street when I heard, from out of nowhere, a laugh that I recognized. Not having any friends or family in the city, I was curious as to who exactly I had heard laugh.

When I turned around, I saw the actress Bonnie Hunt. She was having a conversation with her husband, and not wanting to interrupt, I smiled at her and she smiled back.

Next on this list is the late Ellie Greenwich. As writer or co-writer, she gave us some of the best rock and roll songs ever. If you like "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", "Be My Baby" or "River Deep-Mountain High", you have Ellie to thank.

A little background, first.

There is a form of legal unlicensed broadcasting known as "Part 15" radio. I once had my own station that, in compliance with the regulations, had a range of about 1/4 of a mile.

One day, I read an interview with Ellie that had been posted online. It had contact information for her business manager. Now, I'm a big believer in the idea that it's always fun to try something crazy. So, I called this person who had never heard of me. He took the time to listen to my very hastily improvised pitch. And to my surprise, he said that he felt Ellie would probably get a kick out of the whole thing.

That was on a Friday afternoon. Five days later, I did the interview live on air for 45 minutes. She did indeed get a kick out of the whole idea of Part 15 radio. She was so nice to talk to, and for those 45 minutes, she made me feel like I was part of her world. I was so sad when she died much too young on August 26, 2009 at the age of sixty-eight.

The last was another brief encounter. This was during the time I lived in San Francisco. I walked into a Subway store. The guy working the counter, myself and one other person were the only people in the place. When I got my sub and went to sit down. I walked past the other customer.

Who was Johnny Depp.

Again, not wanting to intrude, I gave him a quick nod of my head and said, "Good evening, Mister Depp".

He smiled and said good evening in return.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about all of these encounters.

And as a bonus, here are two chances I missed out on.

In 1998, I was working for the local chapter of a well known national charity. Keep in mind, this was eighteen years ago. The reigning Miss America had done volunteer work for her local chapter as a teenager and wanted to learn more about the agency. A visit to our office was arranged. This was very low key, off the radar kind of stuff. There were no reporters present. I asked our director very nicely if I could meet Miss America. She explained why she wouldn't let me.

So there I was, sitting in the receptionist's office with Miss America down at the end of the hallway.

And in 2000, I was part of a very large crowd who greeted President Clinton on a Sunday morning. He was speaking at a fund raiser for his wife, who was making her first run for the Senate. Tickets for the breakfast were, if I recall correctly, $100. Not outrageous, by any means, but out of my price range.

I was close enough to his limousine to read his lips as he saw how many people had come out in chilly weather to see him. It's a cliche, but he really did say "awesome".

I went home. And wound up watching live coverage on a local television station of the President shaking hands with every person who had stayed and waited for such a chance.

Oh, well. I did get close enough to read his lips.

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