What do you do when you meet a famous person? Personally, I tend to freeze up and quietly stand like an idiot.
My first brush with fame was as a teen in downtown Maysville. I was at the Second Street mall, when the optimistically named fountain was in place, regurgitating water with the force of me at a spitting contest.
While I was inexplicably staring at the fluid dribble feebly out of the pipe, Nick, Nina, George and Ada Clooney came up to the fountain. I stood like a dummy, not even having the presence of mind to say Hello. After all, Nick was the top news man at WKRC in Cincinnati. At the time, my idea of social interaction was standing immobile, wishing there were a way I could sink into the pavement.
I remember the conversation between Nick and George like it was yesterday: “What is that?” “It’s supposed to be a fountain.”
With that, the Clooney family left the mall and moved down Second Street, ending my brush with greatness. Eventually my limbs regained movement and I left the mall, berating myself for such timidity.
Funny enough, my next celebrity encounter came in Lexington with another member of the Clooney Clan. As an anchor on the college’s cable access show MCC-TV, I joined fellow students Tom Scahill and Lisha Gorman in a chat with Rosemary Clooney. Rosie was giving a lecture at the University of Kentucky that evening.
The chat was a pool interview, meaning that one news anchor (not me) would ask questions and the rest of the press would record the interaction, taking Rosemary’s snippets for the evening news. Ironically, the pool interview was done by a swimming pool, but that is not important to this story.
After the segment, several of us asked for autographs. When it came to my turn, Rosemary asked my name. The answer was “Robert,” since that is my name. To which she replied, “Of course you are,” and graciously gave me an autograph.
Since then I have procured a number of celebrity signatures, a lot of them in person. Not surprisingly, most are from agicians, given my passion for the craft. Autographs in my collection include Penn and Teller, Piff the Magic Dragon, Mac King, David Copperfield, Rob Zabrecky, Dan Harlan and Max Maven.
I got a CD signed by music idol Donny Osmond for my sister, Robin. Donny was in Maysville to perform at Clyde Barbour’s Exposition and Trade Fair. Believe it or not, Maysville was the kick-off for Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” world tour promoting his chart-topping album.
Robin reciprocated by procuring a personalized autograph of horror legend (and my personal hero) Vincent Price one Christmas. My bride gifted me with a signed caricature of the Master of Horror from a celebrity auction.
I recently bought a signature of comedian, actor and screen writer Steve Martin. In his “Wild and Crazy Guy” phase, whenever he was asked for an autograph, he handed the fan a card which read, “This certifies that you have had a personal encounter with me and that you found me warm, polite, intelligent and funny,” followed by his signature.
My great friend Sean McHugh got me a signed picture of “Six Million Dollar Man” star Richard Anderson, with the inscription “Robert, I’ve got a mission for you, pal.”
I know collecting autographs and meeting celebrities is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I feel like since these people gave me joy and entertainment, it’s the least I can do to seek them out and thank them.
But not in a stalkery way – that would be weird.