by Trish Milburn
Sometimes we seek them out. Sometimes they're totally unexpected. Sometimes they involve a minor celebrity, sometimes major. They are brushes with fame, and most of us have had at least one. Whether you've met an actor at an autograph fair, eyed a sports hero at a benefit, or simply passed a famous person on the street, these brushes with fame are often unforgettable. For us average folk, it's like seeing someone up close who has until that moment lived inside your TV. Often, these brushes cause double-takes, the dropping of jaws or accelerated heart rates. They can seem like the world stops for a moment or you're dreaming.
Though I live in the Land of Country Music (aka Twang City), I don't exactly see country music stars when I go to the local grocery. In fact, I've seen more local stars while attending Nashville Predators hockey games than anywhere else. But I don't consider these brushes with fame when they were sitting in entirely different sections and I didn't meet them. I met Louise Mandrell once while I still worked at a magazine, but probably the most famous non-author person I've ever met was Lou Diamond Phillips. It was the summer I was doing my newspaper internship, and he and the band of which he was a member did an outdoor concert nearby. My sister, my hubby (boyfriend at the time), and I went. Sis and I waited in line for autographs afterward. He was nice and signed my T-shirt. I still have it.
My most recent brushes with fame were when Jeff Fisher, coach of the Tennessee Titans, walked into Borders behind me, and when I sent a fan e-mail to Italian rock/metal band Lacuna Coil and lead singer Cristina Scabbia actually e-mailed me back a few minutes later. Very cool.
So what brushes with fame have the Banditas had? It's an impressive list. This is a lengthy post, but my fellow Banditas had such cool stories to share that I had difficulty trimming. I hope you enjoy them too.
I am perhaps most jealous of Anna Campbell's close proximity to David Wenham, who played Faramir in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Dilios in 300.
"A friend of mine had set up an acting company and was doing her first show in a very shabby venue. But David Wenham came, sat through the whole thing, and then wrote her a lovely encouraging letter afterwards. Isn't that nice? He was on his own and so was I and the audience was really small, only about a dozen people. I always kick myself that I didn't at least say hello and say how much I admired his work. But I got attacked with a huge dose of the shys, sadly."
But wait! That wasn't Anna's only brush with fame.
“Ooh, and I sat at the table right next to the one Rufus Sewell was having breakfast at in a cafe in Bondi in Sydney. He was here making a film. He's actually much bigger and muscly than he looks on screen. PRETTY DARNED IMPRESSIVE!
"And when I worked at a stall in the market in Covent Garden in London in the mid-'80s, I saw Michael Caine. He smiled at me which I thought was nice -- although I expect I looked so gobsmacked, he probably was trying not to laugh. I also saw Judi Dench and her late husband Michael Williams. They were walking arm and arm and looked incredibly happy together. They smiled at me too -- another gobsmacked moment, I expect."
Anna Campbell might have received a smile from the lady who played the queen, but Anna Sugden got to meet actual members of the British royal family!
“I met the Queen Mother when I was invited to tea at St James' Palace. It was a thing to do with the schools and the Queen Mary's Needlework Guild. I was one of the representatives from my school as I was deputy head girl. I had to wear gloves and learn to curtsey, etc. She was lovely ... but those bloody Corgis were horrid! As for Prince Phillip -- he was at the opening of a new pier in Brighton, where I went to school. And he and the Queen went walkabout and happened to stop and talk to me and my friend. We had a real giggle with him.”
Anna S has had quite a few other brushes with fame, including meeting Richard Harris, David Prowse (Darth Vader), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films), James and Oliver Phelps (the Weasley twins from the HP films), and her hockey hero, Scott Stevens, former captain of the New Jersey Devils.
Joan Kayse also had a bit of a royal encounter.
“I was THIS close to Prince Phillip once! I was at a nurses’ convention in San Antonio. Like any good nurses we were on our way to the Riverwalk to shop. Queen Elizabeth was visiting the Riverwalk that morning. We came out of the side door of the hotel to a deserted street. A motorcycle policeman pulled up in front of us to keep us from walking anywhere. In a few minutes here came the motorcade. QE WAVED at us! We thought that was it until we walked down to the part of the Riverwalk where she was getting on a boat. I wasn’t more than 10 feet away in the crowd and yelled out, ‘Howdy Prince!’ Prince Phillip actually LOOKED at me and laughed.”
These nurses’ conventions must be brush-with-fame magnets because while attending another in Las Vegas, Joan was on her way to a diva’s concert when, “I looked up and realized I was walking in the midst of Jesse Jackson’s entourage…with Jesse Jackson right next to me!”
I predict many of you are going to be really jealous after reading about Kate Carlisle’s encounter with Hollywood A-listers.
“My first husband worked in politics and I won't mention the year, but Jimmy Carter had just won the election. Some friends were having a small dinner party for a senior Carter staff member and his wife (I want to say Hamilton Jordan but honestly can't remember). They had invited some ‘influential political types’ but wouldn't tell us who. We got there and naturally, the first thing I did was grab a beer. The next guy who arrived came right up and asked me where I got that beer. I led him to the bar where he got his beer and we talked for a while and I tried not to swallow my tongue because -- it was PAUL NEWMAN. (This was just a few years after Butch Cassidy in case you'd like to get a good picture of what I was staring at all night.) Anyway, we drank beer together. We had dinner together. We laughed, we joked. OMG, I still get palpitations. And oh yeah, Warren Beatty was there, too, and some others, but at that point, who cared? LOL!”
Some other Bandita brushes with fame:
“I went to high school with Kid Rock (known as Bob Ritchie back in the day). Our parents used to play tennis together. Bob and I were in junior high choir together, so I can claim with complete honesty that I have sung with Kid Rock.
“More recently, I hung out with Charles Barkley at my sister’s bachelorette party. He was in town to do commentary for a Pistons game (I was at home in Detroit), and he ended up at the same bar we were in. We had this semi-private room for the party with a big-screen TV and he wandered in to watch whatever game was on. He sat down with us, bought us a round of drinks. He was fun and funny. He seemed like a nice guy, and he had this bodyguard who made him (not exactly a small guy, you know) look positively scrawny.”
“You would think being a native Californian I'd have encountered a bunch of celebs, right? Wrong. The closest was the time Dustin Hoffman walked across the lobby of the hotel where I was staying in downtown LA. I was sitting there waiting for a co-worker (Yes, I was there for work) and I couldn't even say a word. My mouth just hung open. DUH! As for celeb signings, my biggest (and most cherished) was getting Alex Haley to autograph my copy of Roots.”
“I've shaken Joanne Woodward's hand and exchanged pleasantries. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are big supporters of the theater program at Kenyon University about 40 miles north of me. Myself and another auditor were assigned to audit the summer program's books. Afterwards, we attended one of their productions and were invited backstage to meet the star - Joanne. We were told Paul Newman often attends the performances and where he would sit when he did. Alas - he didn't attend that night.
“I also was attending an accounting function in Chicago when I got on the elevator and saw Gary Coleman. This was when he was on the TV series and so still a celebrity at that time.”
"I have a small sports moment. When I was about 10, my mom's airline stewardess cousin was a Delta flight attendant. She met Alex Karras on a flight and they were dating for a while. She brought him to our house for dinner, and he hung around until pretty late. Before I went to bed, he had me sit in front of his chair so he could brush my hair (which was long and straight). He was very nice. This was circa 1975, when he was a commentator on Monday Night Football. Kind of after his football career, after Blazing Saddles but before Webster. Also before he married Susan Clark.
“My other brush with a famous person was in NYC. I was at the Carnegie Deli and had to use the loo. Well, you had to descend this narrow, rickety staircase to the basement. I ran into Steve Landesberg (who played Dietrich on Barney Miller) coming up the staircase as I was going down. I made some comment like, "They don't make it easy, do they?" He smiled and said something like, "I think they just want us to leave already."
“I’ve met some absolutely WONDERFUL people like Paul Williams, Melissa Manchester, Mac Davis. Oh, and the guys from Cheap Trick. They were the coolest EVER.”
“I spent and entire night with Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. Uh, let me clarify that, I spent the night with him, taking care of his second wife when they had their baby. Very, very nice unassuming man. Signed some fetal monitor graph paper to my hubby for me. :) Made hubby's day!”
If you’ve ever seen a movie called Woman in the Red Dress starring Veronica Hamel, you might have caught a glimpse of Jo.
“My husband and I were in Reno, staying at our fave hotel. We liked it because there was so much more to do besides gamble. A gym with massage, shops, bowling alley, swimming pool, shows. We like to go up before Christmas when it's not so busy.
“Apparently movie crews like to shoot inside for that same reason. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for my husband to check us in when a crew started filming. This fellow came up to me and said, ‘Are you an extra?’ ‘Uh, no.’ ‘Okay, then,’ he said, ‘you either have to move or stay very still.’
“I stayed very still.”
“I was in a Sylvester Stallone movie once (Is it bad that I can't even remember the title? Part of it was shot in Vegas), and I've been in a few commercials. But those aren't fame; they were shoe money.”
“At DragonCon many years ago, I bopped down the hall from my room to take the elevator down to the convention level. I rounded the corner to the elevator bank, and who should be waiting there but David (Darth Vader) Prowse? He smiled. I smiled. I couldn't think of anything to say. Since he didn't do the voice, a compliment to the acting seemed a little ‘off.’ I thought of ‘You really moved well, gave Vader a lot of body language,’ but then remembered he'd since developed very bad arthritis, or so I'd heard. I was racking my brain when the elevator arrived, empty, confronting me with a ten-floor downward ride, still with nothing to say! Mr. Prowse smiled again and gestured that I should go first, whereupon I said I'd forgotten something and ran back around the corner until the elevator had gone. By all accounts, he's a lovely man and would have appreciated anything I'd come up with to say.”
DragonCon also offered up chances to spot Ted Halmi from Xena and Kevin Sorbo from Hercules. Personally, I’m hoping to meet Tahmoh Penikett (Helo on Battlestar Galactica) when I attend my first DragonCon this year.
So, if you’re still with us after this lengthy post, tell us about your brushes with fame. Who have you met? Who have you spotted but didn’t have the nerve to speak to?