Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brushes with Celebrity

In the course of my lifetime I have had several brushes with celebrity.  I am not one to go ga-ga over this, but on the other hand it's kind of fun to think about.  Celebrities are people who sometimes have a hard time walking down the street. They tend to be rushed by admirers looking for a photo or an autograph. And yet, each encounter that I had was just in the context of daily life--people doing their shopping, traveling and even going into the restroom.  Yes, celebrities are people, too!  Here are my stories.

Keith Magnuson:  late Blackhawks hockey player.
I was 17 and waiting on tables in a small, family style restaurant in Tinley Park.  While working the day shift one hot summer afternoon, the 7-Up delivery truck arrived.  In walked the truckers, carting several cases of 7-Up products on their dollies.  "That's Keith Magnuson," my boss told me.  Not being an avid hockey fan, I hadn't recognized him.  But when I asked for an autograph, he was gracious enough to give me one.  I lost that autograph a long time ago, but I will always remember the regular, friendly guy who delivered 7-Up.

Barabara Eden:  the genie in "I Dream of Jeannie"
I was shopping, well, mostly window shopping, at Water Tower Place one Saturday afternoon.  My son and I had gone downtown to visit the large Sport Mart down there.  He was looking for something in particular--I don't remember what exactly.  Since we were already downtown, we stopped in to Water Tower Place.  There on the escalator, right behind me, was Barbara Eden, riding up just like the rest of us.  I smiled and said "hello" and she returned the greeting. That was it--no big hullabaloo or anything.  Just a brief, pleasant encounter.

Evander Holyfield:  boxing champion
I was traveling to Dallas with a friend.  We were both Mary Kay Cosmetic beauty consultants on our way to the national convention.  Far from being a frequent flyer, I was having the usual difficulty navigating my way through O'Hare airport.  There were several lines, some with signs.  Seeing a sign that said something like "Premier Members," I showed the man standing close by my ticket, asking him if that's where I belonged.  The sign itself should have been a hint that I was in the wrong spot.  He kindly pointed my friend and I in the right direction.  "Do you know who that was?" asked my friend, awestruck.  "That was Evander Holyfield!"  "Oh, really?" I replied.  "How about that!?"  He probably thought I was an idiot, but he was nice enough not to show it.

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker:  actors
It was my 50th birthday.  My husband had gotten tickets for the family and a friend of ours to see "The Producers" starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.  We arrived downtown early and stopped to have something to eat and drink.  The inevitable need to use the bathroom followed, but where could we go?  We stopped in the Allerton Hotel, close to the theater.  While walking down the hallway, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker passed us by, going the other direction.  My husband made the mistake of mentioning this to me.  Immediately, I headed the other way, trying to follow them to whatever destination they happened upon.  There they were!  In the hotel gift shop.  I walked up to Matthew Broderick, introduced myself and told him that I would be attending the performance.  He said that he hoped I would enjoy it.  This was my most fan-like encounter---and Sarah Jessica Parker got a big kick out of it.  Yes, this time I did go ga-ga, but I'm not ashamed.  You don't turn 50 every day, and I felt like a young kid again.

Dick Durbin:  Senior senator from Illinois
My son did an internship with Durbin a few summers ago.  While  I did not have a chance to meet the senator during that time, once my son started working in DC for Senator Obama we attended a constituent breakfast where both Illinois Senators were present.  We talked to Durbin and Obama for a few minutes, and had our picture taken with them.  We were just another couple of constituents, but he made us feel welcome.

Barack Obama:  President Elect of the United States
As I mentioned above, we met Barack Obama at a constituent breakfast.  Since my son had just begun working for him (after doing an internship with him the year prior,) we were able to talk with him privately for a few minutes.  We explained that Jeff had just relocated to Washington, DC and we were in town, helping him to get settled in to his apartment.  "Take good care of him, please?" I asked the Senator.  In his usual way, he hesitated momentarily, thinking of a good reply.  "Well, it looks like he's already taking pretty good care of himself," Barack replied, doing his best to comfort this anxious mother while still maintaining my son's dignity.  Yes,  because of this empathy, I refer to him as Barack because he seems like a comfortable family friend.  For some reason, I don't think he'd mind.

Newt Gingrich:  politician, former Speaker of the House
While vacationing in Washington, DC, we went to the National Shrine for mass one Sunday.  Again, the need to use the restroom was the cause for this brief encounter.  It was really an encounter between my husband, Terry, and Gingrich, but I am including it here because it is interesting, and because I was, after all, in close proximity.  Gingrich had enterred the men's room and my son pointed out to Terry who he was.  Terry followed him into the room and stood next to him at the urinal.  They didn't speak to each other but Terry took note of one thing:  he did not take time to wash his hands before exiting. Eww!  Perhaps this is too personal, but nevertheless it's true, so I'm posting it here.  What are the chances that Gingrich will read it anyway??

Well, that's about it.  I did not include other close encounters--like being feet away from the stage where Obama claimed victory after the election. The first family and the Biden family were all there.  A few feet to my left stood Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey.  I heard that Brad Pitt was there, but I did not see him.  There was no celebrity being touted at this event; we were all equal, just American folks here to celebrate our new President.

Celebrities are just people after all.  In most cases, I didn't recognize these people when I came across them. They were in the process of going about their daily lives like everyone else.  They were friendly, courteous, and maybe even appreciative that I didn't recognize them, treating them like everyone else.  That's who they are after all--the everyone else's of the world.  We are all in this together, all citizens of the world just trying to do our best.  I wonder who I'll run into today?


Lin said...

I LOVED this story, Diane! Isn't it amazing how someone in the limelight can make you happy just by walking by? And then to be gracious if you stop them and say "hello"? Imagine what pressure it would be to be in that situation--how your image to the world is judged by that millisecond encounter with a stranger, who will, no less, report to everyone you know what you are like--like the bathroom story.

My fav was the Matthew Broderick encounter. Good one! That's quite the fish story--that I believe.

I, too, had my own brush-with-greatness this year--with Tim Gunn and Jon Katz. Although they were here for press reasons and readied for their public encounters, I was still impressed. Both left me with a warm feeling in my heart and a huge smile on my face. I wonder if they know how good we feel when we have a positive experience with them? Hope so.

Tao Master said...

I like the lightness of your storytelling technique. I can see you gushing over Matthew and Sarah giggling. The Blackhawks honored Keith Magnussen last night, retiring his number (3). So I wondered, did you know that they were doing that of was this just coincidence.
Keep writing (cause you are so good at it)