Over the years, I have had the thrill of meeting several extremely famous folks and some not as famous but still exciting for me.
Grandpa is mortified whenever there is a celebrity nearby and gives me “the look,” which says please, please, please, don’t embarrass us. Unfortunately for him, my enthusiasm is too much for me to stifle, and I can’t stop myself from approaching people who I enjoy watching on TV, in movies or sports.
My list is actually very long from my days in New York City as a child to living in California as an adult and visits to Las Vegas. It would take hours to write about all the stories, so I selected a few that had special meaning to me and hopefully will bring a few smiles to your faces.
We recently lost a fine actor by the name of Orson Bean. His resume reads like the triathlon of talent from Broadway to television and movies. He won several awards and nominations for his performances with glowing accolades on his entire library of work. While I was walking down the street with my favorite aunt, heading to see a Broadway musical, I spotted Orson Bean out of the corner of my eye. I recognized him from television and even at 12 years old, I was starstruck. I ran up to him and yelled “Mr. Bean!” and he smiled and said hello. I think the reason it stood out in my mind all these years was his impish grin and kindness to an awkward but enthusiastic preteen fan. Bean was a very talented Broadway stage performer, and some may remember him from game shows that he was frequently a guest on or perhaps the quirky neighbor on “Desperate Housewives.” The list of his accomplishments goes on and on, but his smile will always be something that I will remember.
In 1964, at the ripe old age of 13, I was allowed to take the Long Island Railroad with a friend into New York City to see the show “Golden Boy” with Sammy Davis Jr. The Wednesday summer matinees were about $3, and the highlight was waiting in the alley of the Majestic Theater before the performance in the hopes of a glimpse of the famous star. As we stood among a small crowd, Diana Ross and The Supremes walked though to visit the cast. I thought that was the highlight but soon after the door opened and cast member Johnny Brown came out and asked if someone could please run and get coffees for the cast and Mr. Davis’ guests. “Yes!” I yelled, and off I went to the coffee shop nearby with my order and money from Sammy! When I returned and knocked on the door, I was invited in to meet him. It was like a dream since I was standing there in my pigtails with Jaime Rogers, Johnny Brown, Lola Falana, The Supremes and, of course, Sammy Davis Jr. The show was exceptional, and I sat there thinking, “I know these people!”
In 1965, the book “Yes, I Can” came out in which Davis wrote about many things, including the horrific car accident that took his eye and nearly killed him. I read that book over and over, and in 1966, I was lucky to go to Radio City and see his variety show, which included many who were also cast in “Golden Boy.” The excitement of this now true fan at the age of 15 was only magnified tenfold when I met him in the lobby and told him the coffee story. He hugged me and told me the story was “groovy.” I never forgot how generous he was with his kindness, and yes, he too was extremely groovy!
For many years, our family would go to the “borscht belt,” which was a group of hotels, bungalows and retreats in the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York. The Pines was a favorite of my grandparents who invited us for Labor Day weekend each year. It reminds me now of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” and I was Baby. No, I didn’t dance with Patrick Swayze or get put in a corner, but I did meet Robert Goulet in the elevator and had an ice cream sundae with the hilarious Totie Fields. After Goulet touched my braid, I swore I would never wash my hair again. Ms. Fields was a delight and seemed very happy for the company while we ate our sundaes together at 10 o’clock at night!
These sweet stories that I keep in my heart are just a few of the dozens of encounters I have had over the years. Meeting icons and finding out that, for the most part, they are just people like us but with a famous face is thrilling. Some are not as friendly or just can’t be bothered, but for the most part, I have met very sweet and accommodating folks from the entertainment industry. Over the decades, I still get a tad over the top around them, and Grandpa still cringes, but that’s part of the fun.
If you have a famous celebrity interaction, feel free to email and share. These kinds of memories are precious.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.