Have you ever met someone famous, or someone you greatly admired? How did you react?
Back in the halcyon 90s, a friend & I found out that there was going to be a book party at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side (where we used to go for open mic night) for a volume of Walt Whitman’s later poems, and that Allen Ginsberg was going to be there. We went to the book party which, having no publicity at all, was sparsely attended and was more like a private party open to the public. Ginsberg was just hanging around waiting to read some Whitman, clad in his late-life attire of a conservative 50s-style suit. I managed to speak to him, stammer out something coherent about Whitman (whose work I knew only slightly) without sounding like a gushing fanboy, and he replied thoughtfully and courteously.
Marc Ribot, an incredible guitarist who’s played with just about everybody, in a myriad of styles, was a friend of some friends of mine. Not only got to meet him (many years ago), got to jam with him a couple of times; he was very patient and easygoing about playing with such untalented strummers.
I’ve met a number of blog “stars” in recent years who I greatly admire (you included). Almost always, they’ve been a delight to get to know.
And as for someone I specifically did not “meet”: many years ago on a cold February weekend morning, I got out of the West 4th Street IND subway station in Manhattan and almost walked smack into Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, looking at something in the Sam Goody store window; I did a double-take, stopped just long enough to make sure it was them, and moved on — I was not going to subject myself to Reed’s famously acid tongue!
I used to fly a lot for work, so both my very slight brushes with the famous occured on planes.
1) On one flight Laurie Anderson (who I love) was seated next to me. Unfortunately, she had a travelling companion and asked if I’d be willing to trade seats with him. So the extent of my interaction with her was to say “sure”.
2) On one flight (ORD to LAX) a man briefly sat across the aisle from me while waiting for the line of people putting things in the overheadand getting seated. I paid him no attention except to think, “Huh. He looks like O.J. Simpson.” On exiting the plane I took a closer and saw that it was in fact Simpson. I still didn’t think much of the encounter till later in the day when I learned that he was a person of interest in his wife’s murder the night before.
Back in the late 70’s when I was a teenager, my mom was giving a big party. Someone who was coming was a friend of Frank Zappa, and he was supposed to come to the party, but he didn’t.
Still, an almost-encounter with Zappa is better than actual encounters with just about any other famous person 🙂
I lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, so I’ve met, seen, and otherwise stumbled across plenty of famous people – Johnny Carson, Jack Nicholson, Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton at the same event, Wilt Chamberlain, Carl Reiner, Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner engrossed in conversation, Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, and on and on.
– I was at Madame Wongs West one night to see a favorite band of mine one night who almost became famous (The Wild Cards), and the big name band that night was The Knack. This was maybe 1886 or so, so they had been famous, gone away, and were trying to make their comeback. Wongs West had their ‘main room’ up this sort-of spiral staircase on the 2nd floor (I think the place used to be a funeral home).
Of course, The Knack were late. So everybody in the place is watching as this poor roadie is hauling equipment spray-painted ‘The Knack’ up those stairs while other people are trying up and down. And there’s a VERY good-looking blond doing what she can to help him, directing traffic, etc. So he/they finally finish, and he walks over next to me at this dry bar just off the top of the staircase. He says to the bartender “Give me a Miller”. Then over his shoulder, he says to the blond “Hey Sharona, you want a beer?” The blond nods”. “Make that two Millers.” “Casablaca”-style, the bartender looks at him, looks at me, I look at the bartender, at the roadie, and we all look back over at Sharona.
– Still pretty new to LA, I’m going to the airport to pick up a college friend coming to town to visit, and I’m late. I know he’s coming on American Airlines, but as I arrive at the airport, I realize I don’t know which terminal American is in – LAX is huge! A big-city airport might have two or three terminal buildings; LAX has eight or nine.
So I park semi-illegally and run into Terminal Two. I look up and down, and over the length of 50 yards of counter space, there are exactly two people in view, all the way down at the end; a man behind the counter and a woman in front. So I start to double-time it down to them. As I get closer, I realize the woman is Margot Kidder, a pretty well-known actress at the time (Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies). They’re talking about whatever when I interrupt, a little breathless. “Excuse me.” She looks at me and sort-of rolls her eyes, as if thinking “Oh, here we go again.”. I turn to the ticket agent behind the counter and ask “Which terminal is American in?”. He says “Terminal Six”. I tell him thanks, and turn heel and hot-foot it away.
i met barack obama the day after he was elected to the u.s. senate. i was going into my wife’s office building on michgan avenue, and he was coming out. i assume he had just done an interview at the local nbc station, which has a studio on the ground floor.
he was alone. i congratulated him on his victory. we shook hands and i said i looked forward to voting for him many more times. (i doubt either one of us thought it would be so soon and for what!)
he couldn’t have been more gracious.
Met Hunter S. Thompson in the San Jose Airport in 1980 – he was flying to Hawaii w/ Steadman to cover (I think) the first Ironman. I spotted him, jumped out and introduced myself to say how much I loved his work. He said “shit, I thought I’d busted.”
He’s not exactly famous, but I saw former-and-possibly-still-minor candidate for president Buddy Roemer at the local Whole Foods here in Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t say much besides hello-how-are-you, but he was friendlly enough.
A couple of years ago I had a similar encounter with singer/guitarist Richie Havens at Jazz Fest.
I was a gynormous Kirsty MacColl fan from the first time I heard “Kite”, so when she did her first US tour in ’92, I went to see her here in LA at Club Lingerie (who spelled her name as “Kristy McCall” on the marquee, the dopes) and got there superearly; the band were just finishing up their soundcheck. I was ordering a beer as they were getting off stage, so I ordered a round for her and her then-husband Steve Lillywhite, and they came over to thank me. We got on from the outset, and chatted for a while before they went backstage, and we exchanged addresses/phone numbers (although that might’ve been after the show, since I stuck around to thank her for an awesome set).
A month later, I got a package from her–a cassette of older stuff, most unreleased or demos, and a lovely letter to thank me (!) for coming down to see her and telling me what she’d been up to. The package had a few rubber-stamped images on it, so when I found a bunch of goofy/eccentric rubber stamps at a store on Melrose, I sent them off to her, and she wrote back immediately to tell me how much she loved ’em.
And that started a friendship (not like we called each other with our deepest secrets or anything, but whenever she was in town afterwards she’d always call to chat/put me on the guestlist/have a round after the show, along with sending the occasional demo or postcard) that lasted until she died, tragically far too early and in horribly tragic circumstances.
She was a wonderfully funny, hilariously filthy, beautiful, intelligent, creative woman, easily one of my top ten favorite musicians, and I was unbelievably lucky enough to have known her. And when “Fairytale of New York” pops up as it does every Christmas, I unashamedly cry all the way through it, in equal parts grief and love. And then as antidote, I’ll put on “In These Shoes?” and shake my ass, remembering my joyously bawdy and brilliant friend.
(Rereading this before I post it, I hope it doesn’t look too mawkish. Sorry, Kirsty. Cheers…)
I didn’t exactly meet him, but I saw James Watt (remember him? the secretary of the interior under Reagan, the one who said that we should go ahead and clear-cut all the forests because the rapture was coming soon anyway?) across the street from me in Jackson Hole, WY.
My companion grabbed hold of my collar to stop me from running across the street and cold-cocking him. I mean, sure I’d probably have been arrested, but oh my holy mother maybelle he was loathsome. It’d have been worth it.
i am not sure this counts. late one night/early morning maybe, i jumped on a 5 had sheepshead game as a sub. i hate abandones. game 1/2 over + one player was paul wellstone. play a hand or so, but i gotta ask. senator paul wellstone? you are in Minn, sheeps more a WI game, i guess relatives played. he played well. chatted a bit on politics, but the game comes 1st.
i did manage to edjumcate some sheeps players during the mess in madison. one die hard and other players especially 1 saw light.
I met Sen. Joe Lieberman* at the Ranch House Hot Dog Stand in just outside Hartford. I asked him a softball question about how he balances the needs the needs of the wealthy and the poor when representing the people of Connecticut (Hartford & Bridgeport were 2 of the poorest cities in the nation at the time, Fairfield County one of the richest in the US). He gave me a non-answer and asked me if I was a student (I was at the time) and how I liked my hot dog.
* – He’s famous, I don’t admire him, for those scoring at home and I think that’s all of us wink wink nudge nudge say no more.
Living in NYC and Austin, I’ve had tons of chance encounters with famous ppl, and I’ve been friends wIth a few musicians who were well known in the 90s alt\Indie music scene, but in terms of very famous ppl, I guess the only one that I could say I hung out with was Melissa Etheridge, who spent an evening at my house. She and my roomate at the time had a close mutual friend. she wasn’t mega famous yet but definitely on the way. She’d been on Letterman a couple nights before and it was strange to see this rock star who’d been on national TV sitting on our old couch that smelled slightly of cat pee. She was with her girlfriend at the time whose name I don’t remember (this was years beforeTammy) but who later dumped her and ended up with a more famous dyke musician. The conversation turned to LGBT issues and I had restrain myself from asking her why the hell she hadn’t come out yet. Other than thinking she seemed like she’d be a handfull, I didN.t think much about her afterward.
Two ppl I saw all the time on NY were 1) John Tuturro, who lived in our neighborhood and was in the friendly neighbor nodding as you pass by category. He’s so strange looking on screen but I was always struck by how beautiful his face and bone structure were. Definitely walked right out of an El Greco painting.
2) Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. She lived in this amazing eccentric old building I worked in for 3 years or so in the theatre district. She came down to the lobby to smoke and she and the doorman/desk clerk would hang out and gossip and laugh. She was loud. She must have smoked a couple packs a day because she was down there a LOT.
He’s hardly a big name now, but, in the `60s, Biff Rose was big enough to make the Johnny Carson show. In 1977, I was working as a night watchman at a dude ranch in Michigan (geez, don’t ask), and he showed up one night at about one a.m., looking a bit bedraggled and forlorn, saying that he had worked there in the `50s. I took him up to the kitchen in the dining hall, got him some coffee and something to eat, listened to him sort of edge around the issue of whether the new owners would have work for him (my general feeling was, “why the fuck would you want to workhere?”). His was a monologue full of oblique, glancing blows at show business and performing, and there was something about him at the time that was hoping for respect, but would accept a little pity, just so long as it wasn’t named as such. In an odd way, he reminded me of the old vaudevillian, Harry Greener, inDay of the Locust, that, like Harry, he was finding it increasingly difficult to hang onto his pride.
Our corner of northern Illinois doesn’t get many famous people coming around. Although Andy Richter is from a town fairly close by, I’ve never met him. I did meet Glenn Frey when he came to our neck of the woods to do location work on a forgettable movie after I volunteered to do a photo feature on it for the paper. He seemed like a nice guy for a musician.
And one day while I was staffing the newspaper office by myself, a nicely dressed lady came in the door, up to the counter, stuck out her hand and said, “Hello. I’m Jeanne Simon and just thought I’d stop by and see how things are going.” I was a great admirer of Paul Simon (the politician; the singer’s not bad, either) and I was a big fan of his wife, too. Can’t remember exactly what we chatted about but it involved local issues and whether the senator could be of help. Those were the days well before pols and their wives travelled with entourages, and I’ve always treasured that memory.
My folks worked jobs that skirted the edges of the hoi paloi for years, so there were a lot of bump ins. My mom was a very popular caterer in Miami, and was the preferred caterer of one of the Dupont daughters and her husband. She would always come come home with funny little stories about famous people, but the one I remember the most was from the mid 90’s. We chatted on the fon one day and she told me how the dinner she had done the night before was attended by GHW, Barbzilla, GW and Laura Bush. At some point GW came back to the kitchen and interacted with Mom and her staff, and then later GHW came back to thank them for the meal etc. She said, “There could not have been a bigger difference between them. GHW was kind and gracious whereas GW was a snotty little brat”. After that, even my Dad didn’t vote for him.
A couple of years ago I accompanied the Rutgers University modern dance ensemble in an early work by Mark Morris. As it turned out my first rehearsal with troupe was in front of Morris in his Brooklyn studio. One of the more nerve-wracking performances of my life, as I was well aware of his “bad boy of modern dance” reputation. While his personality was certainly larger-than-life, he was also incredibly gracious and patient, and spent a modest chunk of time talking and singing me through how he heard the music. At one point while addressing the dancers he turned to me just to say “You’re fabulous.” So, yeah, I pretty much danced my way up Flatbush Avenue back to the subway.
Before Bill Moyers spoke at Wake Forest University in 1996 to kick off the university’s Year of Religion, I did a freelance piece for their alumni magazine on the Year of Religion, which featured a lot of programs, performances, academic emphases and other events focusing on matters of faith, values and ethics.
When Moyers had a news conference before his convocation speech, he asked each reporter his/her name and affiliation before taking the individual’s question. When I told him who I was, he said something to the effect of, “Oh, you’re the guy who wrote the piece in the alumni magazine on the Year of Religion. I read it on the plane. That was really good.”
Imagine you’re 19 and Nolan Ryan tells you you’ve got four great pitches. All of a sudden, a whole new world opens up.
I got to meet my favorite comic ever a couple of times, Bill Hicks. Once there was a big party about to start after a benefit show, we talked briefly, and as he was about to go in with others he looked at me and says “You goin’?” I said yeah and he says “Bring your attitude”.
I once attended a party given by the English department at a large state U. Their guest reader for the monthly big-deal reading was Thomas Keneally. He hadn’t published Schindler’s List yet. I had read one book of his “A Chant For Jimmie Blacksmith”, and after the cocktails began to flow I started to talk to him about the jail scene where a young man is hung by the neck and the jailer is getting ready for some drunk sex action with said hung corpse. The hostess of the party interrupted us before we got too deep nto the issue. Dang.
I’ve met a lot of famous people because my dad was in the music industry and my parents would drag me to parties and conferences, so I’ve met tons of people. And then I ended up in the music industry, too, and spent years as a music journalist, so I was interviewing people all the time. I really only got totally tongue-tied and geeked out about two people: Johnny Cash (on an assignment, a couple years before he died) and B.B King (met him at a Grammy party when I was with my dad when I was 19.
I DO get really tongue-tied when I meet politicians, not because I’m so impressed with them, but usually because I want to impress upon them something very important and I just don’t express myself verbally as well as I do in writing. I can write one mean constituent letter, but run into my senator at a local deliand I’m beside myself. Not because he’s so swuft, but because I’m a DFH anti-war tree-hugging lib and he’s a fucking conservative Republican who I think really deserves a punch in the nose.
When I was a kid I got to meet Omar Bradley, the WWII general. This was back in the 60s, and the hot timepiece to own was the Accutron watch which was made by Bulova. My father was making a lot of money from Bulova stock (BVA – I still remember the stock ticker symbol), and Bulova headquarters was not far from our house in Jackson Heights. (It’s the Art Deco Bulova building nowadays. You might notice it on your way to or from La Guardia airport.)
Since we were shareholders and my parents wanted me to learn more about capitalism, we went to the annual meeting. General Bradley was on the board of directors, and during a break in the meeting, my mother introduced me first to Mrs. Bradley, who was much younger than the general and had one of the first southern accents I had heard live, and then to the general. I only knew a little about him at the time. After all, it was Eisenhower who had gone on to become president, but Bradley had been a major figure in the war.
I also got to see a shareholders’ meeting, complete with some corporate shill doing a sort of Ed Norton – Ralph Kramden’s friend – delivery of the lone shareholder proposal. Even I, as a child, could tell he was bogus. He was probably some actor they had hired and told to ham it up so the proposal wouldn’t be taken seriously. Then my mother, my sister and I had lunch in the company cafeteria. What can I say? I learned a lot, and I got to meet one of the top generals of WWII.
Back in 1991, I was in my first year of grad school at University of Missouri. David Spade was a rising star on SNL but still doing stand-up tours in small venues. I had seen him on “HBO Young Comedians” earlier that year, so I went out to see his stand-up on campus. He killed—great, funny show. Later that night, I was hanging out at a sandwich shop that a friend managed, and in walks Spade. I tried to be cool, waited for him to make eye contact, then I said, “Hi, loved your show tonight.” He was polite and gracious, and we talked for about 20 minutes about his experiences on SNL. In person (at least back then), he was the total opposite of the snarky asshole he always plays. I still have his autograph stashed in a college notebook somewhere.
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