Minor celebrityhood: What’s YOUR dubious claim to fame?

I miss the Fly By Night Club, a proudly sleazy Alaskan bar that served up Spam and satire in equal doses. Nine months a year the club presented “The Whale Fat Follies,” a musical revue that skewered local and national politics, Martha Stewart, wildlife management policies, the Neiman-Marcus catalog, the official state fossil (that’s the woolly mammoth, not Sen. Ted Stevens), money-grubbing evangelical ministers, opera, squid, Bill Clinton and just about anything else that club owner Mr. Whitekeys figured could get a laugh.

The slide shows usually included at least one naked backside. The male cast members enjoyed the cross-dressing skits just a little too much. Some shows featured the world’s first tap-dancing outhouse, a performer introduced as “the happy tapper in the snappy crapper.”

Hey, this was Alaska: We had to make our own fun.

One of my favorite bits was “Minor Celebrities,” which invited audience members to submit their most tenuous brushes with fame – the more bizarre, the better. You’d hear stuff like “My father ran over Michael Landon’s cat,” “I stole some gravel from Paul Newman’s driveway” or “My best friend’s step-brother’s next-door neighbor’s swimming coach’s son was William Shatner’s gardener’s daughter’s best friend.”

Naturally there was a book in this, a compilation called “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday School Teacher.”

Share your story and win a prize

So tell me: What’s your most freakish brush with fame?

It needs to be a brush, mind you. I’m not interested in actual accomplishments, especially if they’re dignified.

Maybe you’re embarrassed to admit certain, uh, indiscretions involving underage drinking or gravel theft. That’s OK: Your full name need not be used if privacy (or a statute of limitations) is a concern.

And of course there’s a prize: The best worst story wins a copy of “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday School Teacher.” Maybe some chocolate, too.

Xena, Yahoo and Uma Thurman

To enter, leave a comment with your minor celebrity tale. Use a pseudonym if you like. I’ll wait a couple of weeks before announcing a winner.

And to get the ball rolling, here are a few of my own dubious distinctions:

  • I served Thanksgiving dinner in a trailer in Alaska to the man who invented “Xena, Warrior Princess.” (Do you think it was the way I carved the turkey…?)
  • My ex-husband’s sister’s boyfriend is in a band with the guy who did the yodel for “Yahoo.”
  • I held hands with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Jesse Jackson Jr. in the same night.
  • My sister’s husband’s brother’s wife got turned into stone by Uma Thurman in the movie “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”
  • I was in a shotgun tournament with Sarah Palin.

Come on, folks: Surely you can top those. And I hope you’ll try. Otherwise I’ll be stuck with this copy of “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday School Teacher.”

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  1. Alane

    Years ago my son was taking skating lessons at the same rink where the Flyers practiced. After the lessons one day we stayed to watch. My boys who were 3 and 5 at the time decided they had to use the bathroom. After taking too long I walked down to the restroom. When I got there a man came out the door laughing and said they were fine. So, i turned to watch the practice and came face to butt with Eric Lindross who was stretching and his backside was almost at perfect eye level to me.
    The other one was I stood next to my husband when he shook hands with Dr. Hawas after we attended a seminar on King Tut at The Franklin Institute.
    Are those lame enough?

  2. Donna Freedman

    @Alane: I bow to your minor celebrityhood!

  3. Donna

    While waiting to get into Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the San Francisco team I was knocked to the ground by a San Francisco player who reached down and picked me up with one hand. The player was Willie McCovey (great player by the way). He stood over 6 feet 7 inches and was huge! He apologized profusely and gave me a big hug. That would have made my day except the Cubbies lost! lol

  4. =D I am Jimmy Swaggart’s 3rd cousin. Mickey Gilley’s 4th & Jerry Lee Lewis’s 3rd as well.

    I dated a guy whose brother was friends with Ralph Fiennes.

    Also, I SWEAR I stood behind Axl Rose in line at the Garden Island Deli & Mini-mart in Fairbanks! He did not buy a Dr. Pepper, he got a sandwich and a Mt. Dew. He also stopped to complement the clerk on the deli items. It was so definitely him.

    I sort of dated a bartender at Fly By Night, so Keys actually kind of knew who I was most days… (I felt so proud.)

    When I was driving for Princess, I had Margaret Mitchell’s (yes, GWTW Margaret Mitchell) grandchildren & great grandchildren on my bus. We also took a rafting tour together on the Skilak, nice people!

    Ted Stevens once absconded with my wineglass.

    I am friends with Brian Stoecker the Birdman of Mount Marathon fame, I even took one of his Christmas card pictures.

    And finally…
    I am Sid the Kid’s daughter. It blows my mind how the entire state seems to know my Dad!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Leah: I knew you were Alaska royalty but gosh, Lower 48 royalty too! This response shakes my nerves and rattles my brain. 😉

  5. My former hairdresser’s ex-husband was an extra in Catwoman with Halle Berry (I believe her character kicked his character’s @$$…).

    I was once waitressing in a bar where Peter Wolf was hanging out (Bar patron to me, “That’s Peter Wolf!” Me: “Does he want a drink?”)

    I live in L.A., so brushes with fame are a bit more commonplace here. For example, I’ve hung out with the guys that wrote Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. on multiple occasions and, although it’s not helpful for purposes of this post, they are the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

  6. This took me forever but I’ve got one! My MIL’s half brother’s wife’s family started Cracker Barrel! He has met Dolly Pardon and Winona Judd.
    I feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders! Next time, how about something easy like cage fighting over a candy bar? That would be easier than trying to clear out the cob webs of my mind!
    Den just walked in and said that we saw Stevie Wonder in a golf cart at the airport. This has turned into a family affair!

  7. Donna Freedman

    @SonyaAnn: But the chocolate would NOT be a family affair, right???

  8. I met Wild Bill Cody’s grandson when I was a kid. He was short–not much taller than I was.

    I met and shook hands with Sam Walton, founder of Wal-mart. He was also short, had televangelist hair, and a way off the rack polyester suit.

    I had a brief but intense online fling with a guy who’s a part-time actor and precision driver who’s been a Bajoran on Star Trek (hot), bodyguard to the President’s wife on Prison Break, served crabcakes to Fran Drescher on The Nanny, and played a guard in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the film that started it all for Brangelina.

  9. priskill

    I live in LA so there are too many sightings and none nearly as interesting as all of these, but here goes . . .

    I once stood in line on La Brea to see Woody Allen’s latest movie (Hannah and her Sisters), talking to my friend and the guy behind us started chatting with us until we noticed he was Mark Singer, the actor who had just made “Beast Master,” and he promptly stopped talking to us. He seemed to have a good sense of humor.

    I once saw Ricardo Montalban driving a big sedan down Sunset and I waved and yelled, and he waved and smiled, and then looked perplexed.

    In our living room we have a glass topped end table that belonged to the actor, Tom LaGrua and his family, who lived upstairs from us many years ago, and who was throwing it out. My husband rescued it from the curb, along with the matching coffee table (he asked them if they were truly tossing it.) We are still using them, 20+ years later. They were also very nice.

    Finally, when i first moved here, i shared a big, old run down house in Hollywood with a bunch of people. The house had belonged to Gary Cooper’s father, and Gary was purported to have lived there early on in his career. No ghosts that i could see, laconic or otherwise. . .

  10. Freya

    My dad once was at a party that John Denver was at, and he danced with John Denver’s date.

    Also, he was once an alternate for Paul Newman! My dad has beautiful blue eyes, but they were not a requirement in this case. My dad was elected to represent CT at the Democratic National Convention, lo, these many years ago. They asked him if he would mind letting Paul Newman be the delegate, for the good of the party. He agreed, and went to the convention as an alternate.

  11. Deedee

    Kymm, do you mean Buffalo Bill Cody?

    (I live in Cody, Wyoming founded by Buffalo Bill Cody)

    And his grandchildren and great grandchildren etc. still live here.

    And once at a Dodger game in LA many hundreds of years ago, I was walking with friends to our seats and we walked past Cary Grant. I (who had had a little too much to drink) yelled out (while pointing rudely at him) hey – that’s….. and he stopped and looked at me smiling nicely…and I could not remember his name. So he kept going and THEN I remembered his name. But it was too late!

    Also, when I was in college I used to work at an advertising agency in LA off of Sunset Blvd. The guy I worked for had been Burt Reynold’s roommate in college. And one of the people who worked in the building was Dean Torrence (Jan and Dean – surfer music in the 60’s). (so you have to be really old to get excited about this one!).

    Hope this helps!

  12. FranticWoman

    In the early-ish 90s I took my unemployed self to my fave coffee house in the Mission in SF. I did this most days to read the paper, job hunt, and chain smoke with my pots of coffee (maybe they had free refills – I don’t remember).

    I am not much of a morning person, desparately needed my coffee when the place told me they were CLOSED for a film shoot. Outraged I asked what shoot was so important as to ruin my day (w/o coffee in the a.m. it truly is a travesty). “So I Married an Axe Murderer” was being filmed that day. Upon the commotion a PA told me to shut up but I could stay as an extra since they were short that day. Immediately I was thrown into a cafe chair with a hot-ish guy as my “date”. I learned you all whisper in restaurant scenes btw when you are the backdrop in a film – I had no idea. So, there I was, mouthing in silence with strangers while a band played and about 50 ppl filmed. Seems like a lot of work for 5 seconds as it turned out. We were cut except one frame with the band.

    If I had had enough coffee today I might remember the name of the place and the band. All I can remember is it started with a “P” and they gave me an envelope of $50 at the end of the day. That, plus all the free coffee I could drink, made it worth my while to be put out of my routine for the day.

    I’m not in the film but I could have been. Is that a brush? I cant think of others except one lame one: I housesit for people who live on John Waters’ block. He really likes their dog so I was told to walk by his house – and if he’s out he’ll want to visit with the dog for a bit. I have yet to run into him and I probably look like a stalker but to a man who filmed Devine eating dog poop, I’m not sure he’ll care about me peeking in his windows.


  13. FranticWoman

    poo, wish we could edit. It is “Divine” not Devine.

  14. Donna Freedman

    Wonderful stuff, everybody. Keep it coming — maybe we’ll write the sequel!

  15. Barb Coates

    1)My sister-in-law bought Diana Krall’s family home in Nanaimo, BC and raised her family there.

    2) George Segal’s daughter was in my 7th grade class while her dad was filming a movie in Vancouver in the ’70s. She was only there for about 4 weeks, loved all of the fawning attention she got and had the time of her life. Nice enough kid – I supposed that’s the kind of attention celebrity offspring are used to.

    3) I worked in broadcasting for 25 years and worked with many Vancouver TV personalities and celebrities (mostly newscasters etc. that nobody outside of Vancouver has ever heard of…)

    4) my Dad was a professional photographer and covered the Beatles’ concert in Vancouver’s old Empire Stadium in 1964…he was in the same room as the Fab 4 during the press conference and literally rubbed shoulders with Ringo Starr. Then he sent that leather jacket to my cousin in Germany and I never forgave him…

    5) When I was a CBC camera operator I interviewed hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and movie star Leslie Nielson.

    6) We ran into Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, at a local eatery. He signed my daughter’s cast ( she had broken) her leg in gymnastics. She had no idea who he was. We saved the cast and it now stands proudly displayed in our home office.

  16. I would definitely fight my family for chocolate! Family shamily, its every man for himself when it comes to chocolate!

  17. Catseye

    Way back in ’79, I was a state employee in Arkansas and Bill Clinton was running for governor. (I think he served 4 terms as governor altogether. Believe me, nobody considered him presidential material back then.)
    Anyway, he came thru our office in the Revenue building to meet and greet us. So I got to shake hands with Bill Clinton. In case anyone’s wondering, he was a perfect gentleman.
    Remember WKRP in Cincinnatti, one of my all time fav sitcoms? Frank Bonner, aka Herb Tarlek, was here sometime in the 80’s directing and starring in a play at the Rep. He was unlocking his car door in a parking deck and I smiled at him and he smiled back. Unfortunately, he was on one side and I was on the other or I’d have asked for his autograph.

  18. I once met Martin Sheen at a West Wing event who basically laughed when I told him my nickname. Said he was going to call me by my real name going forward…as if we’d ever meet again 😉

    I also once sat behind Blair Underwood in coach class. My brother tapped his wife on the shoulder and said how much her husband looked like Blair but knew it wasn’t him since they weren’t in first class. Oops.

  19. Donna Freedman

    @J. Money: If you ever run into Martin Sheen again, call him “Prez.” I double-dog-dare you.

  20. I can’t come close to some of these celebrities, but I’ll share anyway just to play along. Living in Memphis all my life, most of my minor celebrityness includes Elvis.

    My mother’s best friend’s brother married Elvis’s cousin and lived at Graceland (in a trailer behind the mansion but that kind of gets left out of most tellings).

    My cousin worked at Graceland and wrote a book about it.

    Elvis was in my grandmother’s Boys’ Club group for a while. As I heard it, she told him he’d never amount to anything.

    Fortunately for me, my pharmacist wasn’t the same one Elvis had. 🙁

    My only non-Elvis claims to fame are that I went to high school (for 1 year) with John Grisham, and I met Danny Glover at a spelling bee.

    That’s pitiful. 🙂

  21. I used to live in a famous city that had many famous people in it. And some were rich people, too.

  22. I went to David Cassidy’s yardsale and laid on his bed. For some reason I took a picture of his toilet.

    I now drink out of a mug that his lips were probably on at some point.

  23. shari

    Jim Cavezel’s dad and my dad worked together in the same Chiropractic office in Mt. Vernon, Washington and I played Basketball with his older sister and my little sister claims she dated him for 3 weeks in the 4th grade. 🙂

    Stood behind Marykay Latourno at Anthropology in Seattle. No Billy though.

    Checked Stephanie Powers into a Hilton I worked at in Seattle and also got Dale Evans autograph at the same hotel. Big year!
    thanks for the fun game.

  24. Elizabeth

    While being dragged against my will by my sister’s friend to dance on stage at a local fundraiser, someone grabbed my drink glass and brushed against my arm in the process (can’t have glass on stage), and the friend kept shouting, “Gary Sinise touched you!” Gary Sinise, which I’m not even sure how to spell, I guess was Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump. He now has a band which was playing at the event. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but I’m not knowledgeable of celebrities and wouldn’t have recognized him.

  25. All of my “brushes with celebrities” were at least one person removed. I could definitely play 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.
    1) In high school my mom dated the brother of the woman who won a tony for “A chorus line” when it was first run.
    2) I used to work work with the step-mom of the wife (soon to be ex) of Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
    3) My aunt is used to work with the mother of Jason Newsted.
    3) My mom used to live across the hall from Jason Cameron, Carpenter on TLC’s while you were out.
    4)Here is the most convoluted and I hope I have it right: My mom’s cousin’s ex-husband became the second husband to the real life woman who was played by Gwyneth Paltrow in Deadly Relations about her father who murdered the first husbands of a couple of his daughters.

  26. Yopperexile

    Back in the 60’s/70’s, my mother’s 4th cousin was interviewed by Charles Kuralt for the CBS program, On the Road. He was a notable local fisherman. The segment was cut because they probably found someone whole lot more interesting. Plus, during college, I was was waiting in line to attend a talk given by Mr. Kuralt AND he walked about 10 feet from where friends and I were standing!

  27. deb coy

    When we got married in 1988 we honeymooned in Atlantic City. We got on the hotel elevator with Joan Rivers. She smiled and said hello. Asked where we were from and told her we just got married. We wished us well. i couldn’t believe it!

  28. Where to begin?

    My father dated comedian Joey Bishop’s sister. If he hadn’t met my mother, I either wouldn’t be here or Joey Bishop would be my uncle.

    My brother went to high school with Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker. I went to school with the kid who played Larry Mondello in Leave It To Beaver.

    When my husband was 13, he spent the summer visiting his aunt in California and spent his time at the Desilu Studio with the casts of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Andy Griffith Show, making friends with Opie ( Ron Howard ) and even hung out in the Mayberry jail. His aunt was a good friend of Danny Thomas’ brother.

    After marrying my husband, Diane Renay became my first cousin by marriage. She was a 60s singer whose Top 40 hits included Navy Blue and Kiss Me Sailor.

    I owned the car used by Geena Davis and Michael Keaton in the movie, Speechless. It was really weird knowing they were once in it.

    My brother went to a reception and chatted with President Obama, when he was running for president.

    I met and shook hands with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, but not at the same time and several years and 2300 miles apart.

    And just last summer, I met Buzz Aldrin at a Louis Vuitton store.

  29. I was sitting at a bar in Las Vegas waiting for my husband to come out of wherever he was — probably at some conference meeting — when a man sat down and started talking to me. Because I lack the gene that allows one to idolize celebrities, the guy’s face didn’t register with me, although he looked vaguely familiar. We chatted politely for a while. After we parted, I realized I’d been speaking with Frank Sinatra.

  30. Carly

    My best friend was on Wheel of Fortune and my left arm was in one of the shots of the audience – slow down now!!!

  31. Carly

    I went to a private boarding school (Milton Hershey School – http://www.mhs-pa.org) for socially/financially needy kids. I got a cast put on my left hand and forearm (broken thumb playing softball) in my sophomore year. When I went in to get the cast removed 60 seconds covered it!! It was a special on the school and the care it provides. The nurse I was in the segment with remembers me to this day as that was our claim to fame!

  32. My favorite literal brush with a celeb happened in New York City in the early 80s. It was a really hot summer day and I had just walked about 60 blocks, stopping on the edge of Central Park West to buy a soda from a vendor (this was pre-plastic-water-bottle days). I chugged that soda like I was playing beer pong and it was the best thing I’d ever drunk. I tossed the can and kept walking. A moment later I accidentally stumbled on a curb as this handsome man was walking toward me in the opposite direction. I stumbled and he caught me by the elbow and I opened my mouth to say thank you, and the biggest, loudest, most virulent belch I’ve ever emitted came out of my mouth without permission. The man looked really startled and dropped my arm like it was hot, and kept walking, pulling his hat down over his eyes. It was only then I realized it was Richard Gere, upon whom I was madly crushing at the time after watching “An Officer & a Gentleman” a lot. Mortification, thy name is Pepsi.

  33. I rented an apartment from the cousins of Dermot Mulroney (ex-husband of the lovely and talented Catherine Keener). I know how he really got that scar on his lip.

  34. I was at a Billy Joel concert back in the 80s and I made my way to the very front. I was standing there gawking up at him and he took the red carnation off of his lapel and reached down and handed it to me.

    (Not to be ungrateful, but if I’m chosen, please give the book to someone who really, really wants it; although I wouldn’t mind the chocolate 🙂 Thank you.

  35. I went to a book signing of P. D. James with my (rather cute, if I might say so…) 6 month old baby. P. D. James couldn’t stop talking about how cute she was, pointing her out to her helpers, and patting the top of her head.

  36. sharon

    My sister had a friend in junior high school who was friends with friends of Stevie Ray Vaughn.

  37. sharon

    And! I was once sitting having lunch at Legal Seafood in Cambridge MA in the late 1970s when Julia and Paul Child were at the seafood counter buying fish.

  38. Kimberly Caron-Lohman

    When my husband and I owned a Wiccan store in town, reporters from the National Enquirer called on us to see if we knew anything about a roving band of satanists that might have killed Lacy Peterson.

    My adopted Grandmother is the granddaughter of Edgar Allan Poe.

    My ex-husband walked by Angela Lansberry near an escalator.


  1. My minor celebrity moment. What’s yours? | Surviving and Thriving - […] the first month that this blog was published I did a Minor Celebrities contest, inviting my then-small readership to…

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