In this day and age of immediate report and global communication, a person labeled a celebrity is a matter of interpretation. Waiting in a doctor's office or sweating in my health club sauna, I easily passed away the minutes reading Us, OK and Entertainment Weekly. I used to be able to recognize the famous with just a glance. Now, I'd need to devote research time in figuring out why I should care about why someone is breaking up, pregnant or available.
As a kid (okay, going to date myself here), I discovered that my family flirted with stardom. The crooner, Dean Martin hosted a variety show on Thursday nights in the late sixties. My Dad would tune in and I watched it sometimes. He featured a lot of stars that populated the movies that I saw on Saturday afternoons at the theater. I didn't care much about his singing unless the Solid Gold Dancers (think music video females) were involved. Imagine my surprise when I eventually learned that Dad and Mr. Martin were childhood playmates in Steubbenville, Ohio. Dad never commented on the subject but I wonder what he thought about when he viewed the television.
About the same time, Robert Wagner, playing Tony Dinozzo's father on NCIS of late, starred in a heist drama comparable in plot to the USA Network's White Collar, aptly called It Takes a Thief. Each week's adventure offered exotic locations, action and good looking women where his character, Alexander Munday always won. About the second season, I received a personalized black and white 8 x 10 glossy from Mr. Wagner that read, "Jimmy, Best Wishes, Robert Wagner." Holy Crap! Al Munday sent me an autographed picture. The source of my treasure, you ask? My Grandma, Dad's Mom, was his housekeeper. She was a far cry from Berta who sterilizes the Malibu beach house on Two and a Half Men. But when Grandma visited, she always packed candid photos of R.J. as she called Mr. Wagner, later in the company of Stephanie Powers doing their Hart to Hart thing.
Where is it now? My Mom cleared my room of seemingly unimportant items after I went into the army. That publicity shot along with a couple hundred DC and Marvel comic books met the same fate as the assorted scraps of paper that captured several autographs from the late 60's Chicago Cubs teams members. The trash.
My Dad only took summer vacation time to pull maintenance on the family house that he built. But, two or three times every year, four or five in 1969, he gathered up my Sib's and I to venture into Wrigley Field. Armed with a dime pencil and a fifteen cent scorecard standing at the edge of the diamond under the watchful eye of an Andy Frain usher, I'd join a gallery of other kids. The likes of Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo smacked balls 70' away in the batting cages. A chorus of yells caused them to glance at the group. More than once, that cheap program became priceless when one of those baseball stars signed their John Henry for a young fan. In those days, no one required a designated signer or sold their name.
One of my favorite comedians besides Bill Cosby by virtue of his Road movies is Bob Hope. In 1975, he performed a stand-up show as homecoming entertainment at Western Illinois University. Earlier that day, he infiltrated a veteran's spirit squad to party in the stands with the football crowd present that day. He returned to be the Homecoming Parade Marshall in 1980. I attended WIU at that time and won a spot on that veteran's group called the Peach Blossoms, a team-cheering group that dressed loosely like female cheerleaders but drank shots and beer from toilet plungers. (Sidebar here: One boiled a new plunger head for ten minutes before refrigerating it overnight with mouthwash sitting in it to eliminate the rubber taste.)
Our paths crossed that Saturday. No, Mr. Hope did not rejoin us in the bleachers. He only wanted us Vets to surround his convertible on the parade route. In exchange (like we wanted anything), he signed all our toilet plungers. I suffered through that afternoon swigging shots out of a brand new scepter purchased from the local Ace Hardware. I still possess that signed plunger with pride. Mr. Hope and I share membership in a very exclusive private club.
Heading into the 90's, production for the movie, I Love Trouble entered the Mad City. Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts headlined this obscure little film. My schedule accommodated an assignment to the security detail. The set harnessed festive energy emitting from everyone present, caterer's assistant down to... well, me. Around 10 PM, the site manager sought me out to extract an over zealous homeless guy from the buffet line. I responded with a confident smile for a task easier said than done. I drifted over without a description and perused the area. I decided on a gaunt male Caucasian with stringy white blond hair wearing jeans over ratty tennis shoes. His blue knee length puffy coat showed white down sticking out of a tear in one sleeve.
With a stealth approach and a low, good natured voice, I suggested that he outlived his welcome and needed to exit the chow line. Amazed that his refusal to vacate came punctuated with profanity. I pinched the material on an arm and began a more forceful tact when I saw the young site manager sprinting my way. Her petrified face yelled, "Nooooooo!" The guy's British accent probably should have been a clue that I was actively ejecting the overall producer of the project off the set. He demanded my removal. I remained.
The next afternoon, Mr. Nollte strolled over to the Set moving in front of the gallery of onlookers. A local knucklehead ducked the "Police - Do Not Cross" banner to charge him. He reached about two steps away when I collared him. Literally. As I herded him back to the tape, this guy was yelling over my shoulder at Nolte. Based on the ability of this guy to almost contact him, staff members assigned me to stay with Mr. Nolte during the rest of the shoot. A favorite ever since the 48 Hours flicks, he turned out to be quite easy going and personable. Ms. Roberts, on the other hand, preferred the Carmen Santiago approach, hiding behind a top coat and wide brim hat.
I flew to Burbank in 2001 for an appearance on the court show, Power of Attorney. A production snafu resulted in a limo tour and sipping coffee from a sidewalk cafe on the Sunset Strip. I shared that limo with who else, Nick Nolte. Well, the driver admitted that he left the residual cigarette smoke odor in it so technically we rode the same car just not at the same time.
In the spring of this year, I signed on to safe guard Miss Joan Rivers who played a stage show in town. I listened to her sound check and witnessed her prep work. Behind the scenes, this 70 year old, five foot nothing lady represented all the qualities you cherish from your grandma or favorite aunt. On stage, think Portuguese sailor on leave. She stalked the stage with high velocity humor that left the full house exhausted from laughter. Ms. Rivers is a consume professional.
These people are celebrities in a true sense of word. Other individuals that I've meant over the years falling into this category include Country Singer Charlie Daniels, NHL stars Bobby Hull and Stan Makita. Heck, I'll throw in Roy Rogers too. No, not the singing cowboy. Military Police Investigator Roy Rogers worked in Karlruhe, West Germany where I was an army cop. His brother is country singer, Kenny.
A friend of mine talked me into establishing a Twitter account. Absent the pleasantries and liabilities of Facebook, I happily follow Mr. Cosby, Ms. Rivers and several actors of NCIS. General Hospital and Cougar Town actress Carolyn Hennesy follows me as I, her. I can tag mentions to any of these persons knowing that they can take note of my messages. Although I cannot have coffee or a beer with any of these celebrities, I need no explanation why I'd want to.