Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Celebrity encounters--sort of

I have to admit it. I'm impressed by famous people. Well, maybe not impressed—let's say fascinated. I'd like to say that everyone has value and no one's value is more important than anyone else. And I believe that, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't at least a little bit excited when I'm around someone famous. And I think I'm normal in that way. Psychologists say that some form of this fascination has been going on since the beginning of time. Early on it may have been advantageous to know about those in charge and emulate them. And things evolved from there.

So do I have any interesting stories to tell about meeting someone famous? Well, sort of. There was the time I was at a conference and had a conversation with the governor of WV, John D. Rockefeller IV. At that time I was more impressed with how tall he was (6' 7”) than who he was. (I was a teen. I had an excuse for being shallow.) And then there's country singer and song writer, Tom T. Hall, who used to work at the radio station where I grew up. I don't remember him from then, but learned some interesting things about him several years later when he returned to town, now famous, for a concert. I rode home from the concert with the man who used to be his dentist (my friend's father) and learned all about his dental work over the years. How's that for intimate details of the rich and famous?

But my biggest celebrity encounter was with Bubba Knight, from Gladys Knight and the Pips. I was on business travel and checking into a hotel and beside me was a man also checking in. After they confirmed my reservation, the clerk said, “Ms. Cleaver, this is Bubba.” I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but said, “Hi.” She repeated, “Ms. Cleaver, this is Bubba. Bubba Knight. Bubba Knight of Gladys night and the Pips.” Finally it registered.  I was standing next to someone famous. “Hello, Bubba. Can I have your autograph?” He gladly signed my paper and it was then I noticed that he was wearing a purple suit. That should have clued me in on something earlier. (Gladys is famous for wearing purple.) 

Bubba's flowery handwriting seemed to match his purple suit.
But this "fascinating" encounter doesn't stop there. After I got his autograph, I proceeded to my room, but it turns out that it was already occupied by a couple of men. I guess in all of the excitement that things got messed up at the desk. The men volunteered to switch rooms, but I said that I would get another one. Trying to compensate for my inconvenience, they asked if I would like to have dinner with them. Well, they seemed nice enough, but I thought it wouldn't be too wise to go out with two strange men I just met. But with that decision, I blew my chance for an even bigger celebrity encounter. It turns out that they were old high school buddies of Gladys and her brother, Bubba, and were in town for a reunion. So, I almost had dinner with Gladys Knight. However, the best I got to see was  her drinking a cup of coffee at breakfast the next day.

So, Bubba was my biggest celebrity encounter for many years. In fact, he held top spot until recently when I “met” someone who was not only famous, but had truly stood the test of time proving that he deserved his fame.. And I met him in a place I least expected. Soon I'll tell you all about it.


  1. I love the story about meeting/knowing the dentist of someone famous! Oooooh, can I touch your sleeve?!

    Although I live near a major city, we really don't have any close encounters with celebrities in our small town. Is that bad thing, or perhaps a good thing?

    1. It was really funny. The dentist was also the mayor when Tom T. Hall lived in the town, so they knew each other more than just as dentist and patient. However, all he talked about was the dental work it looked like Tom had had done since he left town.

      I think it's better not to have too many encounters with celebrities. First, they always have a lot of people around them, and second how would be be able to get such a thrill out of our minor encounters if we saw someone famous all of the time.

  2. Wow... well, actually I've never heard of this Bubba character, and Gladys Knight only rings the slightest of bells, so I probably would never have even noticed! But I did have several encounters with Pete Seeger if he "counts" as a celebrity. I used to work at a leadership camp in upstate NY and Seeger attended the camp as a boy, so every year he would come and perform for the kids (for free.) Anyhow, I got to stand in line for hamburgers with him and make small talk. A few years later I ran into him in an elevator at a folk music conference. I wanted to say something about the camp, but chickened out - so I just stood there like an idiot and tried not to puke (mostly because elevators totally mess with my equilibrium.)

    I also used to be on a first name basis with John Hickenlooper (now governor of Colorado) - this was before he went into politics when he was just a restaurant/brew pub owner who loved folk music. I doubt he would remember me now, but he was a big supporter of our music school.

    There you have it - my brushes with fame!

    But my favorite brush with fame story comes from a friend I used to work with. Her eldest son was big into football and played in a Pop Warner league (like little league only for football.) This was after John Elway had retired as a player, and before he became the team manager. At the time he was coaching his own son's Pop Warner team in the same league. Elway's son was several years older than my friend's was, but their teams practiced at the same time. Anyhow, one day she was late getting her son to practice. so when they got to the parking lot she told him to just run off, and she'd catch up, because she had to get her younger son out of the car seat and into the stroller, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    So.... she gets the stroller out of the car and sets it by the door, but in her haste and fluster she forgot to put the brake on, and when she turned to get her son out of the car seat the stroller took off rolling down the parking lot. But out of the corner of her eye she saw that someone caught it and was bringing it back to the car, so she turned her attention back to the baby. Imagine her surprise when she turned around to thank the stoller-fetching stranger and found that it was none other than John Elway himself! She said he was just as nice as could be. Not sure that counts as a big deal for everyone, but for a die-hard Broncos fan like myself, I'd have been swooning! :-)

    1. I'm surprised that you aren't more familiar with Gladys Knight since you have a music background. She has had lots of hits and at least four Grammys. I really didn't know Bubba either, but I did know about the Pips (he was one) who did back up for Gladys and the typical dancing that Motown acts often did.

      I think all of your stories certainly count for celebrity encounters. I don't know much about football, but even I have heard of John Elway. That's the best story since it involves a kind act. I'm pretty sure that I saw several famous football players when I lived in New Orleans especially the year the Super Bowl was there. However, I can't tell you exactly who they were. I don't think a celebrity encounter actually counts unless you know who you are seeing.

    2. Ha! Yes... I do think you have to know who you are seeing in order for it to "count" - which brings me to another completely hilarious story. Another friend of mine was once working as a clerk at a hotel. One day there was some guest of the hotel who was being a complete and total jerk about some situation about a room. The guy just kept shouting at my friend "But I'm ____ (insert name of jerkly guest here)". Finally in frustration, my friend stuck out his hand and said "Well I'm ______ (insert name of my friend here) and I'm glad to meet you, but that doesn't resolve our situation!"

      Only later did my friend find out that the demanding jerk was apparently some world famous person whom he'd never heard of. I thought it was the most hilarious story. Guess the guy just couldn't conceive of the fact that my friend had never heard of him! Sorta puts the value of "fame" into perspective, doesn't it?

    3. What a complete contrast to the John Elway story. Even though your friend didn't know who the guy was, I bet the famous guy was really incensed because he thought your friend was mocking him. HA, HA.
      I guess people can be nice or jerks whether they are famous or just the average Joe.


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