Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dropped Names, Part IV, the last installment

I have realized what an unusual autobiography this “Dropped Names” project offers me—a sort-of look at my life with some odd encounters with famous people. Let’s now travel back to the summer of 1986, the summer I graduated from Denison, the summer I visited college friend Sarah in Manhattan (!!!!) and the summer I then moved to North Carolina to begin my teaching career.

Loving cast     I had always had a disdain for soap operas…I needn’t list the reasons, but you could probably guess yourself. But while I was in college a new soap opera debuted with a TV-movie and I thought I would watch the evening movie, laugh at the conventions of the “art form” and move on. Well, I got hooked. (I will whisper this next bit, since it is a little embarrassing: I even made one semester schedule around seeing Loving in my dorm room—no VCRs yet…) So when I discovered that the set of the soap was just a couple blocks from Sarah’s house, I made a beeline over to the ABC studio to hang out by the door. Sarah and I made an afternoon of it, meeting many of the cast, enjoying a chat, gushing over how I enjoyed the show. One older actress on the show, after I said I watched it every day, said, “Don’t you have anything else to do, dear?” Well, eventually low ratings sank the show, they killed off every character (seriously!) and renamed the show, The City. I stopped watching then.

Barbara Walters       My first encounter with Ms. Walters was actually through a letter. My college friend Jill had gotten a job at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and when I was visiting, Jill showed me a letter from none-other than Barbara Walters. Walters had loaned a Corot painting to the MFA, but now that she was getting divorced, the painting went to the ex in the settlement. Walters wrote to the MFA telling them she needed it back so she could hand it over. Jill was reluctant to show me the letter because Barbara’s phone number was on the stationery and she thought I might memorize the number and call Barbara up! I did memorize the number, but I exercised restraint and never called her. I have some sense. A decade later, at the posh Carlyle Hotel, I found myself seated two people away from Ms. Walters at one of Barbara Cook’s concerts. I almost went over and spoke to her, telling her how she had been such a pioneer for women on television, but I decided she didn’t need to hear that from me. See! More restraint! Instead I just ogled at her small waist and how daintily she ate her pasta.

Elaine Stritch             Strichy,” as Noel Coward called her, is a bombastic, Broadway icon. I have seen her in many of her shows. One night, while seeing a play revival on Broadway, I had a cough and when intermission ended, I hung back by the standing room in case the cough persisted. As I stood and watched the veteran and formidable actress Marian Seldes emote on stage, none other than Elaine Stritch came up beside me, winked at me, winked at Marian on stage, and whispered to me, “The kid just might make it after all!” I have no idea what she was doing in the back of the theater, but there she was in her trademark black hat and witty, eccentric personality!
Bernadette Peters      This story is among my favorite of all my celebrity encounters. For New Years’ Eve of my senior year of college,1985 going into 1986, my new college friend Sarah invited me to New York for the week. We went to shows and museums and one night Sarah suggested seeing Bernadette Peters in her new smash show, Song and Dance. I whined that I had never liked Peters, but we got standing room tickets for $10 anyway. By the end of Act I, I wanted to be the president of Peters’ fan club! After the show Sarah wanted to see the doorman of the theater, an old friend of hers. He asked if we wanted to go up to Ms. Peters’ dressing room, and I immediately shouted, “Yes!”  We were ushered upstairs, and out of the dressing room came actor Dom Deluise, who gushed, “I taught her everything she knows!” Then we went in, and there she was—she of the big hair and big bosom, and so so tiny and delightful. We talked for about 10 minutes—she couldn’t have been nicer, and she asked us what shows we had seen, hoped to see, and about her show. Several hours before I could hardly have cared less, and now I was a fan for life!

Howard Zinn and Carl Schorske    These two names are two of my favorite historians, and in the 1999-2000 school year both of came to Hackley as guests of mine to talk with my classes. Student Adam Wald asked me about his uncle Carl, in the fall, and I was thrilled to have his Uncle Carl, a great historian of art and history come and talk to our class about Fin-de-Siecle Vienna’s art and politics. A few months later we hosted Howard Zinn, who began his talk to the school with the line, “When I was young, I wanted to change the world, so I became a history teacher.” The crowd laughed—Zinn did not, but went on to explain how he had done his work over the next 50 years. As he spoke, the students saw how this career path had actually changed how History is taught and perceived (remember how he is lauded in Good Will Hunting??) Both of these guys are heroes of mine—how they took the study of history, and deepened and enriched it, and made it about society, and urgency, and questioned the notion of progress. Wow. For years I kept the recorded voicemail from Howard Zinn that began, “Hi John, this is Howard Zinn…”

Maureen McCormack          On a lighter note, one night in the mid-90s I attended Grease in part because Brady Girl-Marcia played Bad Girl-Rizzo on Broadway. After the show I met McCormack at the stage door, recounted my 70s love for The Brady Bunch, and told her that when the show had come to Cincinnati, my hometown, to film at the then-new amusement park, King’s Island I had begged my mother to meet the Bradys. My mother did not take me, and so I wept and wailed that I would never forgive her for that. I did not win the award as the weirdest fan that night, however. There was some strange middle-aged woman who kept creepily repeating: “Maureen, I know your neighbor in California.”  I seem almost normal in comparison.

Kitty Carlisle Hart                Ms. Hart, a grande dame of New York theatrical society, lived to her late 90s, and I spied her several times in the 1990s. One time was at a great theater group, the Drama Department, and their 1990s revival of her husband Moss Hart’s revue, As Thousands Cheer, a 1930s hit that had long been moth-balled. Hart looked regal in her fur stole and diamonds, as everyone else sat comfortable in their jeans and sweaters in the folding-chair downtown theater. I went over to speak to Ms. Hart, told her that I grew up watching her as a panelist on To Tell The Truth. I asked her about those opening nights in the old days, the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and she wistfully recounted the glamour of those days, looked a little sad about the current state of comfortable theater-going clothes, but looked every inch the socialite she had been for decades. Every time I saw her in the 1990s she looked impeccably dressed and groomed and an icon of exquisite taste. 

Patti Lupone              In 1990 I went to a matinee of Anything Goes and was enchanted by the volcanic talents of Patti Lupone. After the show I went to the stage door, and the doorman asked if I wanted to meet Lupone. Of course! About 10 minutes later a plain woman emerged and asked who wanted to meet her. I did a double-take! On stage she had been as sensuous and dynamic as a human could be allowed to be, but under the wig and make-up seemed a strangely plain human. After that little shock, I talked with Patti Lupone for a little bit, told her that I had written her a fan letter in 1978 when she starred as Eva Peron, and thanked her for her extraordinary performance in Anything Goes. We talked about if the film version of Evita would ever be made, and she sneered that it would most likely never see her starring in the celluloid version. Years and years later, another Sicilian, Madonna, would star in the picture. But oh, Lupone, what a great stage performer!

Kevin Bacon              I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest once starring Lynn Redgrave, and who do you think sat beside me at the play? Kevin Bacon! I wanted to make a joke about the Six Degrees…game, but instead, I let the man be. I did steal many glances at Bacon in his leather jacket and his asymmetrical hair. Again, I acted calm and oh-so—New-York.

Neil Simon                  The autumn of 1984 I spent in Chicago, and one day in front of the Chicago Art Institute I noticed Neil Simon with a young, young woman. He stopped and asked me (maybe I was staring too openly???) what pieces I had liked in the Museum, and I told him the Impressionist exhibit was great (we actually talked for a minute about the Monet haystacks series!). I also told him I had done a scene study of The Odd Couple in a junior-high drama class. He seemed happy with the world and delighted at our conversation. 

John Lewis                 In 2000 I co-taught a class on the Civil Rights era, and we read passages from activist and U.S. Representative John Lewis’ autobiography, Walking With The Wind. Lewis spoke in New York that spring, and several of us went to meet him, get our books signed, and thank him for his long work for the United States people. He was charming, and eager to hear about our course devoted to studying the era in detail. On the cover of his memoir he is in a profile picture from the early 1960s. That night I had a seat seeing him from the profile and it was interesting to see him with that view and think of all he has seen and done in the United States over the last 50+ years.

David Rockefeller     In 2006 I was reading this 90-year old’s memoir of his life and career. If I spent a Sunday in Tarrytown I always went to the church where the Rockefellers attended church (*by the way, not to people-watch—I loved the sermons, the music and the Chagall and Matisse stained glass.). One wintry Sunday I had my head down trying to dodge the gale-force winds, and I ran right into Mr. Rockefeller (yes, by accident!). He was as nice as can be as I apologized, and as he said, “Take care, young man,” I told him I was finishing his book and found his life exciting and inspiring. See how I have matured since my run-in with Sissy Spacek!

Charles Nelson Reilly            One day around the same time I spied the daffy Mr. Reilly on the subway, and I mentioned to him the recent interview when he was nominated for a directing Tony, that he said he didn’t always even read the script as he directed plays. He threw his hand to his head and sighed, “That comment was taken so out of context!” For the next several stops he explained what he really said, and explained his philosophy of directing plays to me.
Don Rickles                I mentioned in an earlier email about singer Julius LaRosa, and how in 2004, friend Anne and I went to Las Vegas to see him perform and open for Don Rickles’ comedy act. True to form, Rickles was a riot, and spared no one and no group from his rapier wit. He is hysterical! We met him after the show, and Anne asked him to sit so she could explain how she taught about Don Rickles in her English class, as she taught the novel In Country. (Rickles appears in a TV bit in the work.) Mr. Rickles seemed utterly enchanted with Anne and how un-star crazy she was as she got out her glasses and book, and went into Teacher Mode to explain how he functioned in the book. Watching him watch her was so charming.

JFK, jr.          I had been told that to be real New Yorker you needed to have at least one Kennedy sighting. In the mid-1990s I bumped into JFK, jr. twice. When I attended Brown in 1989, people still spoke about him on campus, and how normal and kind he always was. One day on a sunny day in Central Park, I saw this jogger coming toward me. He had a confidence and charisma even in that mundane act of jogging. Then I realized—it’s John John! I started to think of something to say, perhaps offer sympathy about his mother’s recent death, but in the end, decided to let him be. But as he passed, he made the kind of eye contact that only friendly, caring people make. Eye contact! He wasn’t trying to hide, he wasn’t showing off, he was radiating the charm and avuncular mood for which he was famous. A year or so later, we passed each other on 53rd Street, and again, he made eye contact and seemed just happy to be alive and passing people, smiling, and offering a friendly nod.

So that’s my list—there may have been more, but those are the people who pop back into my mind from my half century of celebrity-watching in the real world. Our spring break is ending now as I end my list, and my dad and I are poised to travel back together to Jordan tomorrow. Let’s leave the celebrity world and go back to teaching art history and working with faculty in Jordan. Thanks for indulging the trip down memory lane.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dropped Names, Part III

Last week when I wrote the blog entry a few hours before the 86th annual Academy Awards, I planned to watch the show, as I mentioned. I even talked two young colleagues, Ben and Peter, into coming over at 3:00 AM to watch with me. I got up at 2:45 AM, prepared the Oscar-watching food, the two young ones showed up, and then we spent 90 minutes flipping channels trying to find the Oscars! Ben tried to live-stream them, all to no avail! So, ultimately, there was no Oscar-watching this year…such a shame, oh well, but not tragic…but I did decide that this next edition of “Dropped Names” should feature some of the Oscar winners and nominees I have bumped into (of course, I have already mentioned Al Pacino, Sissy Spacek, George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Hayes and Olivia de Havilland). So let’s see…let’s start with an Oscar winner whose birthday I share—that would be Susan Sarandon.

Susan Sarandon        Way back at Christmas time in 1994, I attended the new A Christmas Carol playing at Madison Square Garden, and who should be sitting beside me, but Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and their children! One unusual costuming note: Susan and Tim were dressed all in black (naturally, in New York) and their children were all in white. Hmmm… Obviously I would think of reasons to turn to my right, discreetly, over the next two hours and check their reactions. I didn’t bother them, but I did love looking at Susan’s gorgeous skin. Ten years later I found myself next to Ms. Sarandon again, at a basketball game, between Hackley School and Dalton (the school where their little children grew up to attend). I almost commented to Ms. Sarandon that we had sat beside each other years ago, but reasoned that she would just stare at me a la Sissy Spacek. I almost told her that we shared the same October 4th birthday, but in the end, I just sat and cheered when Hackley scored. I was such a non-plussed celeb watcher!

Daniel Day Lewis      This three-time Oscar winner and I were out at the same restaurant one summer night in 2011 in Greenwich Village. I was with the Unger family, one of my favorites in the world, and we noted that we had come in at the same time as Daniel D-L, and just kind of kept watch of him throughout dinner. I made sure we crossed paths, one more time as we left, and he commented to me, “Mate, we came and left at the same time!” I nodded and smiled, again, such a jaded, non-plussed celeb star-gazer!

Sigourney Weaver     The autumn of 1994, when I moved to New York to be a Klingenstein fellow, was a goldmine of celeb sightings—and that fall I went to Brearley School to see a musical. I found myself in line to enter behind a tall, stylish woman, who, wait-a-minute, this was Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver! I noted that no one acted like they saw the Brearley mom there, but I could also tell that everyone there knew exactly where she was that evening!

Glenn Close   I saw multiple-nominee Glennie jogging in Central Park once, but my favorite encounter with Ms. Close was at a donut shop in Armonk—a shop known for its unbelievably good and in-demand donut treats. The shop had a rule that one could only buy one bag a visit at the shop of the donuts, and Glenn, two people in front of me, pleaded that she wanted more. The weary clerk sighed and responded, “Ms. Close—you know the policy!” I almost volunteered to sell her my bag of the donuts!

Candice Bergen         Years before I loved her in Murphy Brown on TV, this Oscar nominee was in Salzburg, Austria, and we bumped into each other in the American Express office in the Old Town (bumped into each other?? That suggests that Candy and I are old friends!). She was with husband Louis Malle and looked every bit as lovely as one would hope. Again, I kept my cool…

Barbra Streisand       This may be my most tenuous Dropped Name connection, but years ago I spent a weekend with a friend of college friend Jill’s in Connecticut who sold a piece of furniture to Barbra Streisand. Come to think of it, I guess that hardly counts. But I had a great conversation about 17th century furniture and how the Thirty Years’ War affected furniture production. She said Barbra was a picky buyer.

Liza Minnelli              Liza, oh, Liza, you have been a source of joy and bizarre-behavior for years. I saw Liza in concert several times in the 1980s, and she was always a mesmerizing, riveting performer. However, when I saw her in the late 1990s subbing in Victor/Victoria on Broadway she was in a fog of something and it was a night that I almost gave up theater-going. However, my encounter came when I was in line to enter my favorite NYC cabaret spot, 88s, around 2003, and all of a sudden, a woman cut in line, and brushed past me, going right in. I turned to say something, and noticed that it was La Minnelli herself. While we waited for singer Sally Mayes (who is superb!) I made my way over to Liza’s table to thank her for the concerts of the 80s and her stupendous star quality. She smiled, looked grateful and sincere, and gave me a hug. She also enjoyed the show—I made sure to look over and note her reactions throughout the show!

Jane Fonda                At Brown University, the night before graduation every year is the Campus Dance, and all alumni are invited back every year. I have gone only once, the year I graduated with my Master’s degree from Brown, but the dance was a great affair. I was there with my History peeps and all of a sudden I heard a voice from behind me that I instantly recognized! I turned and there,a few feet away, was Jane Fonda. I went over and said hello (husband at the time Ted Turner is a Brown alum, as was her daughter) and told her that I was a big fan. (I didn’t mention to her that I wrote her for my 7th grade Oscar project and never heard from her.) I gushed that the year I got into the Oscars—1977—I rooted for her to win for Julia. She was pleasant.

Wendy Hiller             This Oscar winner (she won for Separate Tables in the late 50s) starred in Driving Miss Daisy in London in the summer of 1988, and Tony and I went to see her and then met her afterwards. She was so gracious—insistent that we chat with her while she signed our programs, and asked us about our travels and if we enjoyed the play. I adored her performance and also enjoyed her kindly grande dame persona after the show.

Meryl Streep              Okay, this is maybe me at my most stalker self…I have yet to meet Meryl Streep, although that would be a thrill. But in the fall of 1994 I spent a day at the boarding school Hotchkiss, shadowing a French teacher, and she pointed out Meryl Streep’s son. I made sure I bumped into him during lunch, and almost spoke to him about his wondrous mother, but restrained myself instead. I hope to drop the name Meryl Streep someday!

Celeste Holm              One evening in Manhattan I came across an elegant, older lady, and I realized it was Celeste Holm—an Oscar winner from the mid-1940s. She was outside of Le Bernardin, a wonderful, expensive restaurant. I did decide to go up and speak to Ms. Holm, telling her how much I enjoyed her in a movie, Tom Sawyer, from my childhood, from a TV film about the Presidents, and seeing her in All About Eve. I also confessed that I had watched her in a soap opera (see in the next installment of Dropped Names) when she joined her husband for a few months on the soap. She was thoroughly sweet and a reminder of old Hollywood, old Broadway, early TV, and totally classy and glam. Note to musical theater enthusiasts: Celeste Holm was the original Ado Annie in Oklahoma in 1943. Lovely lady!

So those are my encounters with Oscar winners. There was a summer that I walked around the Turtle Bay area in Manhattan, hoping to bump into 4-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn. I never saw her coming out for milk or her dry cleaning! I have seen Oscar winners in plays, but my favorite Oscar-person moment might be watching Joanne Woodward, the director of an agitprop 1930s play in the late 90s, watching her own play she had directed. Splashed across her face was such a love for the work, a pride, an excitement (she had gotten a great performance out of Oscar winner My Cousin Vinny’s Marisa Tomei) and a pure joy. It wasn’t about her being “famous,” but just the thrill of the work.
Tomorrow I will complete my Dropped Names project…

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dropped Names, Part II

If you read the last blog entry, you know that I was enchanted and inspired by Frank Langella’s memoir, Dropped Names, in which he told stories of the famous people he has encountered, known, or spied upon. One of the caveats he made in his book is that he only chose to speak of the dead, so anyone else whose name he might drop, he only speaks of the departed. He tells of a youthful encounter with a friend when they spent a weekend with Jackie Onassis, dinner with Sir John Gielgud, and the like. As my old friend Dawn Wilbers reminded me, I have had encounters with famous people. Now, none may be as exciting or infamous as Langella (Anne Bancroft does not come off well!) but they have been a fun chain of sightings and encounters in restaurants, theaters, or even rest rooms. I don’t subscribe to Langella’s rule about the departed, many of mine are still living! I also don’t wonder if my name will pop up in any of their memoirs!

Sarah Jessica Parker This is the celebrity I knew the best at one time and whose generosity touched my life as well. Way, way back in my youth I met several members of the Parker family, all whose children went to the Cincinnati version of the “Fame School.”I sat by Toby in the All-City Boy Choir, and then in a Saturday drama program for children at the Conservatory, I met Rachel and Sarah Jessica Parker. Their slightly bohemian mother would drop them off, talk with the other cool, east-side moms, and then pick up her brood after the drama class or rehearsal. Rachel came to rehearsal one day especially excited—Sarah Jessica had chosen been chosen to be one of the orphans in the long-running Broadway hit, Annie!! Someone that I knew was headed to Broadway! Rachel and I spent that summer doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the Showboat Majestic, dreaming of the work that SJ, and then brother Toby (he had been cast in a show called Runaways) were doing in New York. Sarah Jessica played the Annie role for a long time, established a scholarship in her name at the Conservatory, and that paid for my drama classes for a while. That was quite kind—for a stretch of the early 1980s we exchanged Christmas cards. Then she got a TV show! Someone from my drama class with Kay King had gotten the lead in a TV show! About a decade later, when I was in New York for the Klingenstein Fellowship, I saw Sarah Jessica in a hilarious play, wrote her a letter, reminding her of our childhood connection, thanked her for the scholarship help, and praised her performance. I never heard from her again…but back in the late 70s, we all loved our drama work together.

Julius LaRosa In the last century there have been a number of hot, handsome, young male singers. Over the decades, there have been no shortage of ‘Justin Biebers’ who come and go. One of the hottest, young male singers in the 1950s was Julius LaRosa, a fixture on the Arthur Godfrey show. Mr. LaRosa, or Julie, as he asked me to call him, has been a neighbor for years of my dear friend Anne. I have been out to dinner with Julie and his lovely wife Rory (who used to be Perry Como’s secretary—she could no doubt play this game well!), spent New Years’ Eves with them, called and chatted. But my favorite times have been talking with Julie about the singers he has known and worked with. For those of you who don’t know the score, he was publicly fired on the Godfrey show when the supposedly-genial, but secretly-monstrous Godfrey feared LaRosa’s popularity might eclipse his. But over the decades LaRosa has worked with all the giants, and it has been fun to talk with him about the talents of Sinatra, Clooney, and others. In 2004 he was playing in Las Vegas, opening for Don Rickles, and Anne and I went out to see him perform. As he performed he introduced his neighbor Anne from New York, and a spot light hit our table. The then-74-year old performer knew his way around the American standards, and it was such a treat to hear his stories about the great singers of the mid-century.

Barbara Cook If you do not know the name Barbara Cook, then you probably know the name Shirley Jones. If you know Shirley Jones, well, she starred in all the Hollywood musicals that had starred Barbara Cook on Broadway. Barbara Cook is an icon in the Broadway and cabaret world. She conducts master classes in the most mesmerizing and life-changing ways. She sings like…well, like none other. She understands a song like a play, invests it with every drop of meaning and beauty, and leaves you breathless. For a number of years Barbara Cook’s cabaret performance was my birthday gift from Christy. Well, one evening I am at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and I see Barbara Cook walking toward the exit. I come up beside her, politely say, “Aren’t you Barbara Cook?” She nods, and I say, gushing, “Ohmigosh—I think you are like the best singer—in the world!” She patted my hand, smiled, and said, “And sweetie, you’re under 60! Aren’t you kind?!” About a year later I came upon Ms. Cook at a bus stop! She and I were waiting to go downtown. I complimented her again on her performances, also said that I knew an old friend of hers. We talked about Julie LaRosa, and Ms. Cook praised his phrasing of a lyric, and I said that he had sung her praises many a time. The bus came, and Ms. Cook got on. I actually wasn’t taking the bus—I was walking, but I wasn’t about to waste a chance to talk with Barbara Cook!

Whoopi Goldberg In the winter of 1993 Whoopi was filming a movie in Charlotte, NC and my friend Judy called me up and said we should go and be extras in a movie scene they were filming at the Charlotte Coliseum. Judy and I joined the 15,000 or so others to be in this crowd scene (the film also starred Frank Langella actually, and this is the encounter that spawned their short-lived romance). We got a free box lunch, but spent about four hours as they filmed this one scene. Whoopi had to come out and talk to the crowd, admonishing us that they couldn’t sit there and scream, “Hey, Whoopi, whoop, whoop, Whoopi!” Her character wasn’t‘Whoopi’ in the movie, and none of the takes had worked thus far because people in the crowd (not me! Not Judy!) kept shouting her name!

George Clooney In my childhood Nick Clooney was a local Cincinnati celebrity with a variety show. My mother had a bit of a crush on Nick Clooney. One day that I must have had off from school, my mother took me downtown to be in the studio audience for Nick’s show. I loved watching the whole production of a show—how exciting to see the lights and camera and all the work to present this show. The long-forgotten singer Trini Lopez was a guest (somehow I remember that!) and afterwards my mother made a bee-line to speak to Nick. He knew her name somehow! His family was there—his gorgeous wife Nina, his less attractive daughter Ada, and nice kid, Nick’s son, George, was a couple years older than I. My mother gushed and we six stood and talked for a few minutes.

Fred Astaire Do phone calls count? If so, then I can drop Fred Astaire as a name. When I was in 7th grade I became obsessed with the Academy Awards (I will be watching them tonight, starting at 3:00 AM Monday time in Jordan!) and I did a presentation in my 7th grade class on the history of the Oscars. I wrote a number of letters to Oscar winners—so what if I had very few answers!! But one of the people I wrote—the one and only Fred Astaire—called me so I could interview him for my project. We talked for a while—it was really exciting!! My father groused a bit when the phone bill came the next month—Fred Astaire had reversed the charges on the phone bill!

Olivia deHavilland Speaking of that Oscars project, about four years later, when I was in high school, I came home and saw a letter to me from Paris. The return address looked vaguely familiar, and as I tore it open, I saw it was a letter, a picture, and an apology from the Oscar-winning actress Olivia deHavilland. She apologized she took so long to get back to me! But I had a letter and an apology from an actress from Gone With The Wind(another obsession of mine in the late 70s).

Jean Stapleton This was not an encounter for the ages—well, actually I guess it was in a way. I saw Emmy-winning Stapleton, the celebrated Edith Bunker of TV’s All In the Family, in a Broadway comedy in 1986. I used to always go to the stage door of theaters to get autographs of the stars. As Stapleton came out, I asked for an autograph—she was dressed in a Queen-of- Sheba-like outfit. In the seconds she signed the playbill, she never once acknowledged me, looked at the playbill, and seemed overwhelmed with the ennui of celebrity. After that, I wasn’t interested in autographs anymore. I still loved looking at stars, watching the games as they left a theater, but the enchantment with autographs was sapped after encountering Ms. Stapleton.

Tina Fey For Easter of 2012 I got to be in New York since it overlapped with my spring break here in Jordan. Christy went for Easter Sunday to Advent Lutheran Church, the church we have attended on and off since 1994 (when I am in New York, obviously). So here we are in the crowded church, with all the flowers, beautiful Easter clothes for the children, and I notice that in the pew behind me, I think, yes, I am pretty sure, it is Tina Fey! I casually turn around, confirm, yes, indeed, that is Bossypantsand 30 Rock star right behind me with her daughter. I need to turn around just one more time, because I want to see how Ms. Fey is enjoying the service I turn around, and she is staring right at me (not unlike what William Holden did to Lucy Ricardo in the Hollywood episode of I Love Lucy!) and nodding her head, as if to say, “Yes, it truly is me!” I remained non-plussed, and gushed to her about how cute her daughter is.

Bill Clinton For another spring break, 1993, the same break as the infamous encounter with Sissy Spacek, Casey Brown and I hear that presidential hopeful Bill Clinton is in New York. We brainstorm—where would Bill go that day??? We remembered that pundits had said he should schmooze the Jewish vote while in New York, so we decide to head uptown to the Jewish Museum just in case. We guessed correctly! The crowds are thick on his side of the street, but we realize that no one is across the street, so we cross over, and I yell out in my booming tenor, “Heya, Bill!” And he turns to us and waves.

Hillary Clinton I see Hillary in person about 18 months later when, as First Lady now, she comes to dedicate a new statue to Eleanor Roosevelt on the Upper West Side. I attend that day, and it was interesting to see Hillary in person, working the crowd, her strident voice a little harsher in person, but I enjoyed her speech. At the time she was taking heat for having met with a medium in the White House. The comics all talked about how she was summoning up the ghost of past First Ladies, seeking advice (maybe she was!). In her speech, Hillary joked that she planned to tell Eleanor later that day, when she spoke with her, how nice the dedication was.

Okay, I see that the series will have to continue…until next time when we will meet some of these people: Sigourney Weaver, Glenn Close, Patti Lupone, Kevin Bacon, Regis Philbin, Candice Bergen, Bob Dole and his dog, Gerald Ford, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, James Baker, Neil Simon and Jane Fonda.