July 21, 2009

Name Droppings



I have had some weird encounters with famous people. Saturday night I sat with my friend C. at the Times Square plaza waiting to see a Broadway show. Shortly after 7 p.m. a woman wearing a lanyard marked, “Dr. Phil Show” walked into the crowd with a production team, a boom mic, and a large video camera. She told the crowd, “Dr. Phil will be arriving soon.”

A large, black limousine pulled up mid block on 7th Avenue and out jumped Dr. Phil McGraw. The crowd pressed in on him and dozens of digital cameras clicked shot after shot of his moving through the plaza. Dr. Phil walked slowly, shaking every outstretched hand, and taking picture after posed picture. A couple from Finland that spoke no English was clued in to who Dr. Phil was when someone shouted “Oprah,” and the Finnish couple smiled and agreed, “Ah, Oprah!”

The mob moved with Dr. Phil across the plaza to Broadway. Like some teenybopper seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, I kept on snapping pictures. Now, the back of Dr Phil’s head. Now he is gone. He passed through the crowd for an unknown reason. I suspect he was filming some type of promotion.

Watch for the ads for his fall show and the accompanying voice over, “On the next Dr. Phil Show, an unemployed writer from Apple Blossom, Indiana, tells her story!”

In 1981, my first full-time employer sent me on a business trip to Washington DC. I was attending a meeting near DuPont Circle. The group learned President Reagan was speaking at the Hilton. During our lunch break, we walked toward the Hilton when all hell broke loose and about six black limos passed quickly. President Ronald Reagan and Press Secretary James Brady were shot outside the hotel. I went to a pay phone and called my mother in Indiana, collect. She had the TV on and already knew President Reagan had been shot before I did, on the scene.

I was in DC for a week as I took vacation days after the meeting. I stood in the crowd across from the entrance to George Washington University Hospital one morning to watch First Lady Nancy Reagan go inside to visit her husband. People in the crowd threw jelly beans at her, “Ronnie’s” favorite candy, remember?

I sat in on a session of the Senate later in the week, courtesy of a ticket from then Senator J. Danforth Quayle who came from my district. I was alone and rode an elevator up to the visitors gallery. Senator Ted Kennedy got on the elevator with me. I had unknowingly entered a “Senators Only” elevator. This was before heightened security, but the thought crossed my mind that here was Ted Kennedy, brother of two assassinated men. He did not ask me to leave and we rode up together in silence. How odd it was for me to be this close to him 2 days after President Reagan was shot, as his brothers had been assassinated less than eighteen years before.

On a business trip to Denver in the mid 1980s, my friend W. met me for a drink in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel. I had forgotten my purse. She and I went upstairs to my room, and came right back down the elevator. Why this seemingly inane detail is important is that Sir Elton John was in the elevator when we got back on to ride down again. He was wearing a pink and orange suit that looked similar to a dominoes game piece and donned large white dark glasses. He was hard to miss.

Husband and I, who lived in Tampa, saw Elton in concert three or four days before at the University of South Florida Sun Dome. I told this to Elton. He was friendly and asked me how I liked the concert. Of course, I told him I liked it a lot. W. just stood there, speechless, and then finally told him her 16-year-old daughter was seeing him that night at Red Rocks.

The elevator arrived at the lobby and Elton deplaned. W. and I just stood there, immobilized. And the weirdest thing happened next. NFL broadcaster John Madden got on the elevator. But neither W. or I could care less. We had just seen Elton John!

Brief(s) Encounters:
Sometimes job duties meant delivering speakers to and from the airport. I took psychic Jeane Dixon to Baer Field in Fort Wayne after a speaking engagement in the early 1980s. We had a nice twenty-minute talk about our families and I shared that I was going on a small road trip the next day. She said, “Oh, please be careful.” The next day I was in a serious accident and totaled my car. Weird.

In Tampa I worked for a major hospital chain that was often in the news. A nationally known doctor who was associated with this company was visiting the University of South Florida. His trip was sponsored by my hospital company. This doctor did not want a limo, so the hospital rented a black Caddy and The Resident Flunkee (that would be me) drove him around during his visit.

I dropped Dr. Bigshot off at his hotel so he could change and he asked me to come back 20 minutes later to drive him to the program. When I knocked on his door, he answered in his “drawers”. He was truly the absent-minded professor. He slammed the door shut, and then opened it an inch, and apologized, and said, “I’ll be right out,” I have had the honor and privilege of seeing this famous man--who has been on the cover of several national magazines--in his skivvies.

Finally while visiting the Statue of Liberty with a friend in 1992, we spotted celebrity game show host Gene Rayburn (long-time host of The Match Game, “Matilda had a BLANK on her BLANK.”). Rayburn was in an intense conversation with someone and kept circling the base of the statue. And my friend and I kept following him, circling the base of the statue.

I believe today we would call that stalking. Quoth the raven.