My minor celebrity moment. What’s yours?

Photo courtesy of Free Images (pachd.com)

Photo courtesy of Free Images (pachd.com)

During its musical revues the old Fly By Night Club sometimes included a “Minor Celebrities” bit, inviting audience members to write down their furthest-removed brushes with fame. During intermission the cast would pick what they thought were the best – and again, the more tenuous, the better.

Thus we’d hear things like:

“I take dance class with Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon’s wife.

“My great-uncle invented Cheez Whiz.”

“I once heard Brian Keith belch when I walked past his house in Hawaii to go surfing.”

“I used to carpool a kid whose mother’s father embalmed Babe Ruth.”

All these snippets led, naturally, to a book. The title: “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday-School Teacher.” 

During the first month that this blog was published I did a Minor Celebrities contest, inviting my then-small readership to submit their own faint flashes of fame. I was delighted to receive 29 at-times hilarious stories, and awarded the book to a randomly chosen winner (whose story involved Richard Gere and Pepsi).

I’ve come into another copy of the book, so it’s time for another go – and I’m hoping for more than 29 stories this time.

Macklemore & Amelia Earhart

That star to the left is empty on purpose: It’s waiting for your name. What’s your almost-but-not-quite famous moment?

Do share. I’ll get you started with a couple of my own:

My ex-husband was one of the people who helped convince Mr. T not to beat up a Las Vegas bartender who wasn’t serving Leon Spinks fast enough.

DF’s grandfather got a Christmas card from Amelia Earhart. He committed suicide after she disappeared.

I once saw Vanna White in curlers and a bathrobe. (She’s even thinner in person than she appears on TV.)

I graduated with the same major (Comparative History of Ideas) in the same year (2009) as Ryan Lewis. Yes, the Ryan Lewis, of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fame, the guys who won two Grammy Awards for the song “Thrift Shop.” If bad language bothers you, don’t click on the video:

I think I should get double points because my minor celebrityhood involves a person who’s both famous and frugal. In theory, anyway.

To enter, leave your minor celebrity story in the comments by 7 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, March 19. At that point the random number generator will choose what it believes to be the best story.

The winner must agree to accept that copy of “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday-School Teacher.” (Note: Regifting is OK.)

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  1. My son retrieved Linus Torvalds’ water bottle from the stage after he gave a keynote address at Comdex years ago. (We refer to this as a moment of Nerdvana.)

  2. Holly S

    Just yesterday:
    I am in a local fruit/veg market buying CHEAP parmesian cheese, broccoli & red potatoes when I spot Mary Ann Ahern. She is a local NBC politics/news commentator & reporter. no makeup. Hair messy. Wearing clean the house stuff.

    WOW is she ever tall. Much taller (6-8 inches) than my 5’4.

  3. Tammy Littlejohn

    I fly to Santiago, Chile with my baby and toddler to visit parents. When leaving the airport a very handsome Hispanic man helped me with my luggage then let me go in front of him. As I exit the airport I am greeted by television cameras and excited, screaming women. I find out later that he was a famous singer and that my parents friend, involved with the American Society in Santiago got to give him a tour of the city.

  4. I went to hear Stephen King do a reading of Doctor Sleep back in October. My husband and I were scouting out the best seats when we ran into this nicely dressed librarian type lady who told us she had been checking out seating and felt this one bench was the best spot. So we thanked her, grabbed the spot and she smiled and walked away. I kept looking at her and saying to myself ” Who does she remind me of”. Duh, after about 5 minutes i realized it was Stephen’s wife Tabitha who of course is also an author. By than I was struck dumb and couldn’t bring myself to speak to her again.

    • Donna Freedman

      I like Tabitha’s books, but of course they don’t get nearly the amount of attention as Stephen’s do….And I just finished “Doctor Sleep” a few days ago. He’s in fine form now that he’s off the sauce.

      • I have only read one of Tabitha’s books. It was Caretakers. It was pretty good. You have to check out Joe Hill’s work. I love his stuff. He is also their son. Doctor Sleep was a good work.

  5. Danielle

    I used to work with a great niece of Al Capone.

  6. Sasha W

    My husband’s brother used to be LL Cool J’s barber. I found this out after looking through old photo albums. I also ran into Akon at a mall in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He must’ve just gotten there because no one was following him and my husband acted like it was no big deal to be walking past a celebrity (he knew who he is, he was just so whatever about it)

  7. Did a cooking segment (for a client) on a SF afternoon televised talk show. One of the hosts was Spencer Christian of Good Morning America fame. Met him that day while sitting in the make-up room chair, with my hair in curlers. Eek! He’s a nice guy, btw, and helped me to feel very relaxed during the demo.

  8. My mother-in-law’s first roommate was Donna Reed.
    When I was a telephone operator, I talked to Paul Harvey, John Wayne, and Shirley Temple Black. Well, not in a friendly way. My comments were along the line of “Am I speaking to so-and-so?” Then I would have to click off.

  9. My daughter’s second cousin on her father’s side is Julia Roberts half-sister and I actually met Julia at a family reunion when she was about 13 or 14.

  10. Haha… that’s awesome. Ninja from Punch Debt in The Face just blogged about his fame with Kristen Bell – and took a few snapshots to prove it 🙂


  11. Jennifer B

    Family friends of ours had their names used to name the ghosts in Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man video games.

    The ghosts are named Inky, Pinky, Blinkie and Clyde. Clyde was our family friend.

    In Ms. Pac-man, Clyde was replaced by Sue. Susan (in real life) is Clyde’s daughter and was maybe 10 years old when the games first came out. She just got married last weekend. The characters were named after Clyde and his daughter because of his business relationship with the company that imported the game to the US.

  12. My mother’s father is descended from one of the two Booth brothers who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland: one went West and sired Junius Booth, father to Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, the other stayed in the East and sired my mother’s father’s line. My mother’s friend is descended from Nancy Hanks, Lincoln’s mother. So, an odd coincidence.

    I bought an antique rug from a British antiques dealer who just sold antique rugs to the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton).

  13. Catseye

    My dad saw a before-he-was-famous Elvis Presley perform on a flat-bed truck in a small town in Arkansas in 1954. He was part of an old-timey medicine show.

    • My sister saw him hanging out with buddies at the Long Beach Pike (an amusement park that has since been torn down) in the late 50s also.

      Gosh, this is fun.

  14. 1. My husband worked with Gale Storm’s son at a gas station. She once brought her son’s sack lunch to him in a chauffeur driven limousine.

    2. In the early sixties my sister had one date with the youngest escaped Jew on Schindler’s list.

    3. I got a letter from Joan Baez’s mother when I wrote Joan Baez a letter after reading her memoir.

  15. Christine

    I mowed down Mikhail Baryshnikov in the MET lobby in NYC and he apologized to ME!!

  16. My Cousin’s husband is one of the original oak ridge boys. He is so modest and only showed me his hall of fame trophy when I insisted. I was so impressed and he just said, yes you can take that and a quarter and buy a cup of coffee.

  17. Cathy in NJ

    I had tea with illustrator Gennady Spirin. Gennady illustrated Julie Andrews children’s book.

    I was at Thanksgiving once and talked and passed gravy to the granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy author of “War and Peace”.

  18. Leah in AK

    My Mom went to high school with Lulu from Hee Haw
    I was mowed down by John Kerry in the inter-capitol subway (he never paused, a few of his staff stopped & stared as I was sprawled on the ground)
    My Dad’s 2nd cousin was a recording artist with Sun Records, he was on the Ed Sullivan show
    Jerry Lee Lewis is my 3rd cousin
    That’s all I can think of! =)

  19. My dad shared an elevator with Hulk Hogan in Las Vegas.

  20. My husband took a cooking class with Rumer Willis… That’s Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter. She only went to a couple of sessions before quitting.

    Oh, and I went to high school with one of Cindy Crawford’s cousins.

  21. I am a VERY distant cousin to Phyllis Diller.

    I met both Michael Bolton and his lady companion Marla Maples while they were catching a plane out of the lovely Boise International Airport when I was 11.

  22. enjoythejourney

    The brother to actors Dana Andrews and Steve Forrest attended my wedding reception in Texas with his wife in 1984. The couple were family friends.

    Years before, my family had finished an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant(also in Texas)…so early no one else was there yet. The owner knew my parents and told them to wait a little before leaving. Shortly, several couples arrived. We turned around and Jimmy Stewart waved to my sister and me as they were seated

    • Leah in AK

      PLEASE tell me it was El Fenix?!

      • enjoythejourney

        Sorry, it was Joe T. Garcia’s. But, my mother loved, loved, loved El Fenix’ nachos, so we’d go there some so she could have them for dinner.

        • Leah in AK

          Joe T’s is good too, but I’m definitely an El Fenix girl! =D

  23. Melissa F

    My mother is a distant cousin to Nancy Kerrigan, the ice skater. When I was young, I got to meet Olivia Newton John at one of her concerts since my uncle was the coffee guy at the arena where she was playing. I was very young and the encounter probably lasted all of a minute, but since I adored her, it seemed like forever. My high school friend was the cousin of Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. And Richard Gere-I see him every once in a while in my dreams. Wish I had a better connection!

  24. 1. My late husband was 42nd cousin to Bing Crosby.

    2. In the late 60s, I ate cheeseburgers and fries with the members of the Vogues singing group. (They had just performed at my college, and my date that evening was the student liason for the group.)

    3. I have a letter addressed to me from the personal secretary to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The letter explained why Mrs. Kennedy could not respond to the question I had asked of the First Lady.

    4. In 2000, I saw Senator Ted Kennedy getting out of a limo at the Boston airport.

    • I watched Ted Kennedy pick his nose on the floor of Congress! He was talking on the phone; I was in the gallery during a high school trip.

  25. I gave Ringo Starr (of Beatles fame) flowers from the front row at a concert way back in about 1989 or so. I had attached a note on Yellow Submarine stationary. Ringo go a big kick out of the note and teased me from the stage about reading the note to the crowd. He didn’t do that but the next week, his agent called and said Ringo had two front tickets for me at the concert of my choosing and I got to meet him. Yes, I accepted.

    I wrote Yoko Ono on what would have been John Lennon’s 50th birthday. About a year later, I received a handwritten note from her.

    Maybe 5 years ago I wrote a letter to Ringo Starr thanking him for the above mentioned tickets and received an autographed picture in return. I did not ask for anything. This was before he made the announcement that I am no longer doing autographs so do not ask.

    I know the person who made John Denver’s stage clothes back in the 70’s. Probably should make that knew as it’s been years since I have spoken to her.

    In my job at the IRS, I had run-ins with a lot of famous professional athletes but I can not give their names or they can sue me.

  26. Marinda S.

    The Kennedy family was at Gettysburg (the Civil War battleground) the same time we were, all on a hired coach. I saw John Kennedy Jr., his wife and Ted walking away from the visitors center as my husband and I were going towards. John John and his wife died not long after.
    Years ago, Elizabeth Ashley’s mom worked with my dad and he would go up to New York and see her while she was there ( Barefoot in the Park) and she took him to see this crazy comedian named Woody Allen. By the way George Peppard (The A-Team) smoked Parliment cigarettes, he was Elizabeth Ashley’s second husband.

    At lunch at August (a New Orleans eatery) John Besh will come out after 1:30 pm and walk the room. He’s just a lovely man.

    This is fun!

  27. mrs. short

    My dad’s 7th cousin was Jimmy Stewart. I’ve always heard that at reunions and such, but one time they actually had a family tree – and there he was!

    I’ve been quite fortunate in meeting some “rock stars” back in my day. Probably nobodies to you guys, but it gave me and my sister (10 years younger than me) quite a thrill – No Doubt (ok, that’s a big one), Everclear, Smashmouth, Brian Vander Ark from the Verve Pipe, Good Charlotte (that’s Benji and Joel Madden)… I could go on with more names that none of you care about! lol

  28. Mirabella

    Food Network personality Alton Brown signed and personally addressed one of his books to me at a cooking demonstration, but he mispelled my name. So my then-husband tracked him down weeks later at another cooking demonstration to have him re-sign the book with the correct spelling of my name. Alton Brown laughingly did so and even wrote an apology in the book.

  29. Kristin

    A couple of years ago, I saw former NHL player Matthew Barnaby (NY Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, etc.) in a rural Town Court in Central New York. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who recognized him. His expensive clothing stuck out like a sore thumb.

  30. Samantha

    I went to kindergarten with Brooke Hogan, Hulk Hogan’s daughter, in the early 90’s (the height of his fame and WAY before that awful reality show about their family). He often picked her up from school himself.

    I also ran into Jerry Springer at a CVS, but no one else was was reacting so I wasn’t sure it was him. I asked the cashier and he said Jerry came in all the time. I missed my chance for a cool picture!

    I DO have a picture with George Takai, which I took while he was doing a signing after a lecture/presentation.

  31. Virginia

    Have 2 –

    1) I lived in Dublin, Ireland in 2000, 2001. Walking down the street one day towards my office when I realize the handsome, slightly familiar man walking towards me with a big smile was The Edge from U2. And he was very sweet and gracious about a semi-hysterical fan 🙂

    2) Flying to Providence, RI to visit a friend on Cape Cod, paid to get bumped up to first class. Halfway through the flight I realize that there is a LOT of attention being paid to the man in the seat behind me. So I get up to use the bathroom and check him out…turns out it was Ruben Studdard from American Idol fame. Said hello but did not want to bother him more.

  32. Ro in San Diego

    When I was a young woman I worked in NYC! Once on the subway I sat next to one of the musicians from Saturday Night Live.

    When I worked at Bonwit Teller I sold hosiery to Imogene Coca. I took a telephone order from Shana Alexander.

    I got to shake hands with Senator McCain several years ago at a book signing.

    More recently I was able to take a picture of Gary Senise and Celebrity Chef Robert Irwin flipping burgers at a military event. Another military event made it possible to meet the actor known as “Triple A” and Kit Harrington. I was hoping to meet one of the other stars but Keifer Sutherland wasn’t there. Darn.

  33. My friend Susan’s niece went to school with a girl whose brother was the lover/boyfriend of actor Richard Chamberlin. I was surprised and said to Susan, Dr. Kildare is gay? Wow. This was years before the tabloids relentlessly followed him.

  34. My ex-husband’s grandfather lived a few doors down from the Wright brothers in Dayton, Ohio and knew them to speak to. My ex- actually met Wilbur (or maybe it was Orville; whichever one lived longest) – but doesn’t remember it because he was only a toddler.

  35. When I was living in Bermuda, the American Consulate had the tradition of throwing a huge BBQ and fireworks party for the Americans living in the country on the Fourth of July. It was a really fun party.

    My first year, I was in line in the food tent directly behind this little short guy with huge ears. He kept making sudden stops to talk to everyone and I know I ran into him several times with my overladen plate.

    Yep… I nearly dumped potato salad on Ross Perot. My one and only claim to fame.

  36. In 1984, while on vacation in Tampa, we sat in a restaurant booth next to Ron Howard, his wife & daughter. He was in town filming Cocoon.

    On the same trip, I shared the hotel pool with the singers from Air Supply, who were performing nearby.

    When I was about 12, our family was on a vacation to Washington, D.C., standing in line to tour the White House (the Nixon years) and a limo drove by. Out jumped David Eisenhower to greet someone he knew in the line. Speaking of Nixon, my husband’s grandmother was a cousin of his.

    Donna, thanks for this post. It reminded me of people & events I hadn’t thought of for years!

  37. Someone that taught at my high school was cousin’s with Eva Longoria. She took time off to go to her wedding with Tony Parker.

  38. Hmmm…
    my grandfather used to run into young Elvis when he was still a truck driver on the route between Tupelo and New Orleans.
    And my fave…I served a beer to Bruce Campbell…yes, ASH from Evil Dead, a number of years ago when he was in New Orleans for a sci-fi convention.

  39. My mother was a child during the Great Depression, & lived near a popular fishing area. One day as she & one of my cousins were walking along a country road, a man & woman in a fancy car stopped & asked them for directions. It was Clark Gable & Carole Lombard. We found out later that an Uncle who married into our family had seen Clark numerous times. Mr. Gable loved to go fishing, & one of the men he’d fish with was this Uncle’s father.

  40. Anna Black

    My brother’s name appears on a Cheryl Crow album as one of the engineers.
    My grandfather played cornet for Guy Lombardo.

  41. hmbalison

    When I was a teenager and went to an A.A meeting with my dad (then sober 10 years), I met a very drunk Truman Capote.

  42. My DH knows the lead pyrotechnician from Michael Jackson’s infamous Pepsi commercial.

  43. spiralingsnails

    1. I worked in catering during college and at a guest speaker luncheon I got to pour coffee for Dr. Jane Goodall.
    2. Also during college, some friends and I formed a team and won a contest for a game console release. As part of the prize package we were flown down as VIPs at the launch party, where Elijah Wood wandered by the station I was playing one of the new games on. Funny twist is that one of my teammates looked almost exactly like Frodo Baggins and had even brought his replica hobbit cloak along – so some of the other guests mistook my friend for Elijah!

  44. I once heard Jimmy Dean studder.The first & only concert I
    have ever been to.I think it was back in ’69 or ’70.

  45. My husband’s boss is actor Judge Reinhold’s father-in-law. He was able to get us a signed photo from Judge to give to our daughter.

  46. I was out to dinner with a friend who was in town for a convention and as I was walking through the hotel after dinner to my car Taylor Hicks of American Idol fame ran (literally ran) past me. I assumed he was late for his show.

  47. Kelly C.

    My Dad once met Jack Ruby. My dad encountered James Cagney in a New York antiques shop. My dad and a friend, while driving in Las Vegas, almost hit Kim Novak. My brother knows both Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker. My parents, while in Las Vegas (at a different time) literally bumped into Frankie Avalon while all of them were waiting for a cab.

  48. My husband’s sister went to high school with Sally Struthers (Gloria on All in the Family. One summer they went with a group of girls to stay at someone’s beach house over night. My husband, who was five at the time, had to go too as his sister was babysitting him. Apparently my husband thought it would be fun to run through the room naked in front of all the girls. So, my husband’s claim to fame is that he ran naked (at age five) in front of Sally Struthers. About 30 years ago, we saw Sally Struthers at some event, and my husband (who has always bragged about his foray into streaking) mentioned his proud moment to her. I must say he was quite disappointed that she had no memory of his “big” moment.

  49. More for the fun than the prize:

    1. A good friend of mine was once the seatmate of Sean Astin on a flight to London.
    2. A sports instructor classmate of my instructor (& I worked out him too) more than ten years ago went on to choreograph the martial arts for Nickelodeon’s Avatar, so he worked with Dante Basco, better known as Rufio from Hook 🙂
    3. An ex boyfriend went to high school with Jessica Alba.
    4. I’ve met and taken a photo with Stan Lee and Adam Baldwin (Firefly!), and hung out in a room as James Marsden (who is remarkably short…)

  50. My sister-in-law used to live in Ojai, CA. As she was going into a pizza place one night, a man held the door for her–she realized it was Sherman Hemsley–of George Jefferson fame (movin’ on up!).

  51. Just thought of another one–I’m related to Gilbert Stuart on my mother’s side: he is the famous artist who painted George Washington.



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