Are you as turned off as I am by people who seize every opportunity to drop names of famous people they’ve encountered in person or up close and sometimes personal into casual conversation? It’s a delicate art that, no matter how subtly it’s done, can turn us ordinary folks off quickly. There have been times when someone mentions to me having bumped into a famous person that I’ve had to resist the urge to quip . . . that plus a couple of dollars will get you a cup of coffee of the day at Starbucks! Or, to put it another more colorful way Hubby’s Indian grandfather would have said it . . . if a crow has anything worth crowing about, you can see it when he flies. In other words, he or she needn’t waste his voice and energy cawing.
That being said, I am prepared to accept and absorb your wrath as I begin my own name dropping here in quite more than a casual way. Almost all my life I’ve been very quiet about the celebrities I’ve encountered. Could it be because my list, until very recently, reads like a list of stars in a B-movie trailer? Yes, that must be it.
Let’s begin with my second trip to New York City in 1968, and you’ll see what I mean. (The first had been an overnighter with little time to see anything except the person I had flown in to meet, the Director of the Standards Board for which I was now a new member, i.e., the purpose of the trip.) It was the fall of 1968 in New York City, at the Hilton Hotel. I arrived late in the afternoon just itching to see celebrities on the street, in cafes or hotels, anywhere but on the screen or stage where I would have had to buy a ticket. I hoped to see how they looked when they are just being themselves. You know, just like they were on the screen: eight or nine feet tall, perfectly made up, dressed to perfection!
The very first was (remember, I did mention it was a b-list) Katherine Kuhlman. Within an hour of my arrival at the Hilton, I had locked my room to set out and tour the big, fancy hotel to see what wonders I would discover. In one of the many ballrooms I walked by, I saw Ms. Kuhlman, who ran her own ministry as a faith healer at that time. She was pushing people on the shoulder and they were falling into the arms of her assistants. As a child I had witnessed many faith healers through the Pentacostal church I attended sporadically, so I was especially memerized by what I saw. It was said when she died just short of her 70th birthday that, “She loved her expensive clothes, precious jewels, luxury hotels, and first class travel.” She was a star up to the time of her death. Not bad for a woman with only a tenth grade education.
A day or so later, from the back of a taxi I was riding in at the time, I got a passing glimpse of Virginia Graham , a daytime television talk show host from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, as she exited a black limousine near the Rockefeller Center. The show she was hosting at the time (1968) was Girl Talk, which ran from 1963-1969, after which she began The Virginia Graham Show. Humm! Interesting if not exactly exciting since she was in her mid-fifties at the time. I was a mere 25!
After a couple of years I settled down to married life and had a family. Didn’t encounter another celebrated person among the diapers and car poolings until our oldest daughter began her college life at the Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. At the end of our trip to help her settle into her campus dormroom as a freshman, we went into the section of town called Little Italy to have dinner at a small, simple looking Italian restaurant that had a reputation for good food.
After ordering our meal I looked across the room to see Ed Asner sitting with a woman at the only other table in use in the small dining room that Sunday evening. The year was 1987, several years after his spinoff drama series from the Mary Tyler Moore show, Lou Grant, had been cancelled. I noted the observation casually to my family, and we smiled smugly to ourselves but otherwise ignored him. Had we been the celebrities that’s what we would have wanted, we reasoned. (Note: this encounter comes close to and may actually make the A list, as I’ve admired Mr. Asner for his social concerns for many years.)
My next celebrity sighting, a dubious one in light of how things have turned out, came in the year 2000 in Austin, Texas. We spent Thanksgiving (after the 2000 election) with Daughter #2 that year. On one of our tourist days while she was busy at the University, I suggested to Hubby that we tour the beautiful capitol building right on the edge of the campus. Anyone who’s ever visited Austin has probably been captivated by that beautiful pink building of “sunset red’ granite.
Since neither of us had voted for then-governor of Texas George W. Bush to be the next president, (I’m still very proud to say!) it took some talking to convince Hubby that it could be a worthwhile experience. As I recall, the “hanging chad” incident in Florida was still in full swing. It did prove to be a very illuminating tour, as we learned the Texas governor’s position actually was little more than a figurehead, and how useless the experience he gained from it would prove to be as a prelude to leading the whole country.
We’d just finished our tour when suddenly we noticed a hush about the building, and a flurry of official looking people bobbing about, conferring with the security guards. Then we heard a hushed he’s coming, and we wondered, who’s coming? We suspected that it might be George W. himself, so one of us, can’t remember who now, asked one of the guards and learned we were right. To his credit Hubby was not inclined to see the man himself, and was all set to leave until I insisted on staying, saying this may be the only time I’d ever get to see a–then maybe–U.S. president up so close. After ten minutes or so, he strode through the large reception hall looking decidedly smaller than he seemed on television. There were a few other men with him, all clad in business suits and looking very officious.
And that’s it! That is my B-list of celebrities that I can truthfully name drop. I cannot resist adding, however, that I worked in the same building on the University of Florida campus with Marilyn Monroe’s half-sister Berniece Miracle (who was incidentally the mother of a couple of my classmates from high school, twins–a boy and a girl–whose names I can no longer remember). A co-worker had warned me that if you wanted Berniece to talk to you, you could never, ever !! mention Marilyn. Never! So I didn’t, and we enjoyed a friendly co-worker reparté for years, never once mentioning you know who!
Only one worthwhile incident happened during those years. I watched an amazing transformation of Berniece. I was to learn through the rumor mill that she had just returned from a visit with Marilyn in New York. Mr. Kenneth, a famous hair dresser to the stars those years, had chopped off the long hair she’d always worn in a plaited chignon coiled on the back of her head, and changed the natural strawberry blonde to a softer blonde.
She’d come back to work looking stunningly glamorous, almost like Marilyn herself, and people fell all over themselves finding an excuse to visit the administrative offices where she worked so they could see the new do. After a time, the allure faded as her hair grew out, the color faded, and she changed back into a regular-looking working mother aged around 45 years, which is how we all came to think of her most of the time.
List B now completed, we come finally to the present. On December 4 last year, I posted a video of a new (to me) comedianne by the name of Mrs. Hughes. Since that time, more than half of my hits on Wintersong come from clicks to view that video, and many of the comments and emails I receive are about Mrs. Hughes. Last weekend, an 81-year-old from California emailed to ask me if I could tell her how to order a CD of Mrs. Hughes as she absolutely loved this woman. I had no clue if a CD was even available, so I decided to investigate for Bobbie.
I knew she, Mrs. Hughes, had her own website, I’d even surfed around on it myself, but somehow I missed whether there were CDs available. So I decided to desert my usual reticense where celebrities are concerned, and write to her myself at the email address provided on the website. It was short and sweet, basically telling her how so many people visiting Wintersong loved her, and I mentioned 81-year-old Bobbie who wanted to buy a CD. I added in an aside that, for some unknown reason, people seemed to think that I was a personal friend of hers. Then I clicked “send,” half-expecting to hear nothing more.
Lo and behold! When I opened my email Monday morning, there was an email to me from Mrs. Hughes herself. I’m “cut and pasting” what she wrote exactly as she wrote it so you can see for yourself my very latest celebrity encounter:
“Well tell them you do kno (sic) me. I enjoyed being on your blog and love hearing from you. Here’s the snippet I add to emails asking about the cd’s. You can cut and paste it if you want to be bothered. Carol
“I have two CD’s. One is PG and the other is R lite. No profanity. If you are interested send me $15 for one or $25 for two( One each or two of one kind) Please specify to: Mrs Hughes . P. O. Box 1507, Pismo Beach, CA 93448 Thanks for your note. Carol”
So there you have it! Carol Hughes seems to be on her way up and she’s a personal friend of mine. If you visit her website, you’ll note in the upcoming events that she’s scheduled to appear on America’s Got Talent on March 12. So my celebrity list is teetering now towards the A-list! And now that, in case I failed to mention it before, Carol is a friend of mine (see above), I’ll be an appalling name dropper I’m afraid. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for America’s Got Talent. And I hope you’ll forgive my name dropping today, but it’s been great fun.