Famous People

…Whom I’ve Known, Met, or Seen in Person
By Jeff Salter

Well, I’m not normally a name-dropper, but I have had quite a few brushes – though some rather distant – with famous people.  There’s insufficient space here for a complete list, but I’ll happily share a few names which might surprise you.
I saw Pres. John F. Kennedy in New Orleans (in 1962 probably) though he was a loonnngggg way away.  I saw Janis Joplin, in concert, at the New Orleans Pops Festival in 1969 (a few months before she died).
In far closer quarters, though not actually ‘touching’ them, I saw Walt Disney and Fess Parker (in a movie premiere parade in Atlanta, mid-1950s) and Gene Autry – with his horse Champion – in that same general timeframe.
At library conferences, I’ve heard quite a few authors speak, including: James Michener and John Berendt (among many others).
At NFL ballgames, I’ve seen numerous big-name coaches and players — but the one I most brag about seeing was Tom Landry.  I spoke to Mike Ditka in an elevator and shook hands with MLB player Steve Garvey in an airport.
I’ve met (and spoken to) authors Alex Haley, Larry McMurtry, and Robin Cook (among others).
I posed in a photo with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John D. Ryan (early 1973) when (at the Pentagon) I received an award from him.
In Dallas, late 70s I guess, I finally got to ‘meet’ my long-time hero Arnold Palmer, the golfing legend.  I stood on the edge of the putting green where he practiced and watched him joke and chat (before the tournament began).  Then I asked him a question — and he ANSWERED me!  Star-struck.
I’ve had three encounters with Louisiana Governors:  spoke to Edwin Edwards (and listened to him speak on several times), shook hands with Jimmie Davis … and saw Earl K. Long when he was on trial.
Acclaimed novelist Walker Percy was a family friend (in CovingtonLA) whom I encountered many times, including the time he took us on a short boat ride.
I had a long one-on-one interview with singer Glen Yarbrough, when he was still at the height of his career.  I interviewed and photographed the 1969 Miss Louisiana, Sharon Branaman, when I worked for a daily newspaper.  During that same time frame, I shot photos of a college game featuring Terry Bradshaw, who later won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jerry Clower
            But the celebrity I really want to talk about is one my parents knew when he was just a college kid in Mississippi.  I came to “know” Jerry Clower through his hilarious recordings and TV appearances.  But I finally had a chance to meet him in the early 1990s at an airport in Texas.
I recognized him immediately, of course, as I spotted him alone in a fairly empty waiting area.  A cluster of ladies approached him and gushed.  Clearly, to please them, he put on his CHARACTER Jerry Clower — clowning, with exaggerated movements and expressions … and volume.  And, of course, that down-country accent and charm.
When they departed, I approached and introduced myself.  I named my parents and asked if he remembered them.  Big smile – the genuine personal smile, not the character – and, yes, he certainly did remember them from his student days at MSU, when my dad was director of the Baptist Student Union.  “How are Augie and Dottie doing?” he asked.
It saddened me to tell Jerry that my parents had divorced.  And it clearly saddened him too.  We talked a bit about what my folks were doing and he asked a bit about me.  It was relaxing and enjoyable to speak to the real-life warm person behind that larger-than-life persona of his character.  Just as personable as he could be, but without the exaggerated country accents and expressions.  He spoke just like real people talk.
I watched for signals that he might want to break off … I certainly didn’t want to monopolize his time.  But he gave no such signals.  I believe he’d have been content to sit there and chat – man to man, person to person – until one of our flights were called.
But, sadly, another cluster of people recognized him and approached … already laughing at what they knew would be an amusing celebrity encounter.  Because, of course, they were expecting his character.
I knew I’d lost the real Jerry as soon as those other people captured his attention, so I shook his hand again and bade him goodbye.  We’d both enjoyed the low-key, honest conversation and both said as much.  Then he turned to the others — and in an instant resumed the persona of celebrity Jerry Clower, as though he’d just stepped onto the stage at Grand Ole Opry.
Of all the celebrities I’ve actually met – only once – I most treasure my airport encounter with Jerry Clower … the REAL Jerry, not the character everyone else “knows”.

Questions:
            Who is the most famous person you’ve actually MET?
Was she/he different in person than as portrayed on-screen (or on-stage)?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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44 Responses to Famous People

  1. I have had many near-brushes and made a list of famous people I had within2-3 degrees of separation ,(it is almost scary how many big names are there), but one close contact will be up on Friday.
    On the other hands,I saw Jerry Clower in person;I was in the audience.I was not a big country music fan at the time,(however, I wrote a few Country songs a few years later, after a great deal more exposure to it), but my sister was already a big fan.She asked if I’d go with her to see one of her favorites, Merle Haggard, in concert.At first I said no,but she countered with,”C’mon! If you wanted to go to the opera,I’d go with you”.Well, it just so happened that the Metropolitan Opera was still touring and headed for the Kennedy Center a few months later.I had just read that my FAVORITE singer was coming to town, but I had no hope of going.I took her up on the offer.
    The local winners of a radio station contest sang first, then Jeery Clower was the opening comic; we saw Merle then Tammy Wynette came out.My sister said we could leave but I said, “Nope; it’s an experience and I will NEVER get this close to seeing her again, trust me!” I felt better about not leaving as a lot of people walked out on her and she looked terribly worried as she watched them climbing the stairs away from her, and I felt sorry for her.(Besides, one of her guitar players was darned attractive!)
    If you knew my sister you’d know the probably answer to whether we did get to see my favorite singer…and the Met stopped touring the next year,I believe.

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  2. Iris says:

    Great topic … where do I start … LOL … I leave concerts out, otherwise I’ll write till tomorrow 🙂 I think everyone might be impressed that I “saw” the Queen and shook hands with Princess Di 🙂 Apart from that … hmm … working at the tv station in Germany obviously gave me a few opportunities to “meet & greet” famous people (German actors mainly), but when I went to Wimbledon I saw & talked to Steffi Graf, who I really like; I saw Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and “something Steenburg” I think was his name. He was rather rude so I’ve never really bothered remembering his name. I saw a few 80s singer when in various clubs in London, interviewed Matt Goss and hoping to chat to his brother Luke soon. AND of course I know YOU, Jeff.
    I might think of a few more ….
    PS – Is it a bad thing if I don’t know any of the above 😦

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    • jeff salter says:

      I wish I could’ve met Lady Diane — so lovely and such a big heart. I really think the Palace Life just strangled her spirit. And what a horrible shame the way she died. I directly blame the paparazzi (as most people do) and yet, seemingly, nothing was learned from that awful result.
      Glad you could visit today, Iris. And that gives me another name to add to MY list of celebrities — Iris Blobel.

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  3. Jeanne Theunissen says:

    The only famous person I can honestly say I’ve met is G.W. Bush. I met him twice when he was still governor of Texas, and even had my picture taken with him. (I’ve still got the photo. LOL)

    I’ve been to numerous concerts, but never got anywhere close to the performers.

    Oh, and my apologies to all the sports fans out there, but I’m really not into sports. However, I was at a conference once, and there was a guy sitting next to me who had this HUGE gaudy looking ring on, and when I asked him if I could take a closer look at it, he actually took it off and handed it to me. It was a Superbowl ring! I can’t even remember the guy’s name now *hangs head in shame* but I think he used to play for New England, though I’m not even 100% sure about that…

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    • jeff salter says:

      Cool. I’ve never actaully touched a SB ring … but always wanted to. From the pix, they look gigantic.
      Always wanted to meet GW Bush. I did get to see his dad, when GHW Bush was still V-P with Reagan … but I was at least 75 ft away.
      Glad to see you here on Hound Day again, Jeanne.

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  4. Graziela says:

    Back home in Canada I used to work as a receptionist at a high end men’s wear store, we’d have several pro hockey (the Edmonton Oilers) and football players (The Edmonton Eskimos) come in. I met a few of them, but couldn’t tell you their names now. I did see Wayne Gretzky in a shop downtown when he was dating actress Janet Jones, they eventually married. I didn’t go up to him and say hello so not sure if that qualifies as meeting a celebrity? But, back to the men’s wear store, Neil Patrick Harris was in town for a friend’s wedding, he was in the bridal party. I had to be the one to take his picture since the store owners had every celebs picture taken to advertise, my sister Ruby also worked there and was the one that fitted him for the tux, Ha! This was around the time his Starship Troopers movie came out. At the same job I met Joe Flaherty, you know the guy from the SCTV days, he’s also been in a few movies and television shows. The other celebrity I met was Tommy Chong, yep, that Chong, the other half of Cheech. We went to a comedy club where he was performing a got to meet him after the show, my sister, the same one that fitted NPH, asked if she could feel his biceps because they were huge, who knew Chong had such big guns!?! He allowed it, he was a good sport. The most recent celeb I met was Christian singer Christy Nockels. I met her this past April when I went to the Women of Joy conference in Tennessee, she was super kind and sweet, as were the other celebs I met. Oh, I almost forgot! I met the band Avalon when they came to perform at our church as well as one of the men from Greater Vision.

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    • jeff salter says:

      Wow, that’s quite a list, Graziela. I had forgotten that Tommy Chong was a big weight-lifter. Of course that may have been a while back. I haven’t seen any pix of him lately.
      Thanks for visiting on Hound Day!

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      • Jeanne Theunissen says:

        Here’s an interview from about 3 or 4 years ago with Cheech and Chong discussing (what else?) the legalisation of marijuana, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRXR_pk_MVA and another one from about two years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQFL5W5cTds

        I did see Steven Curtis Chapman at a church in Virginia once when I was still stationed there while in the Air Force, and I met Carmen when he came to a church in Nacogdoches, Texas, and I also met and spoke with Christian comedienne Chonda Pierce. You never would expect a person as funny as she is to ever suffer from depression, but she did, and even wrote a book about it. Very enlightening.

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      • jeff salter says:

        Thanks for that interview clip, Jeanne.
        Speaking of Christian singers/performers, I saw Sandi Patti in concert and I’m pretty sure Carmen came to our 5000-member church for a concert.

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  5. jbrayweber says:

    Great topic, Jeff.
    It will come as no surprise that I have met, talked with, and even had drinks with many Rock and Roll, musicians and a handful of insanely famous, girl-crush-worthy authors. My most recent encounter included dragging Nora Roberts onto a dance floor. 🙂

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  6. I love that Jerry remembered your folks and was sad about the divorce. That’s a man who kept his true roots. Awesome. I got to see him at a worker’s comp conference here in Florida when he was the keynote speaker- and yeah, I know that sounds totally odd, but there ya go. He was so funny – there was no one quite like him.

    I’m the most envious of you seeing Fess Parker. I had SUCH a crush on him.

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  7. I bet Jillian’s crush was on Davy Crockett, too…my ‘thing’ was for Richard Greene, as robin Hood.I found most of them on $1.00 DVD’s!

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  8. P.S.My brother had a (fake) coonskin cap,Jeff..did you?

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  9. Micki Gibson says:

    Hey! I saw Mike Ditka too! I had just arrived in Chicago and my husband and I decided to go to the bar across the street from our hotel for a late night drink before turning in. He came in after we did. My husband says, “Hey, that guy looks like Mike Ditka.” I turned around and it WAS Ditka. We didn’t bother him since no one else seemed to disturb him either, but it was still really cool for me to see him there.

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    • jeff salter says:

      Well, truth be told, I kinda regretted greeting him in that elevator … because after I did, several other folks in the elevator with us turned to him and said, “Oh, are you Coach Ditka?” And then he had to interact with them. I had the distinct impression that he preferred being left alone. Ha.

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