Brushes with greatness

March 8, 2006 at 9:45 pm (Uncategorized)

My brother still talks about the time he ran into former Gov. Michael Dukakis in downtown Boston. This brush with greatness was so profound, he alerted friends he had not seen or spoken to in years. He told the story with wild gesticulations, even if he happened to be on the phone.

As time went by, more details clung to the story like lint to a new sweater. Minute details of the conversation were recalled and shared. My brother told of meeting the one-time presidential candidate as though the two of them were old friends who had met for many drinks.

The poor, wide-eyed schlep. It was the same when we met John Travolta back in the ’70s. And when we met Donny Most from “Happy Days” fame. It was life-changing fate for my brother when we got a few minutes to talk to Ron Palillo, the wormy guy who played Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

And when relief-pitching great Dennis Eckersley nearly mowed my brother and me down outside Fenway Park, well … that’s a story to be unleashed at just the right moment of a party.

My brother will tell complete strangers about the impromptu conversation we had with the Eck. I’ll nod a lot and back up his every word. But what I remember most about the incident was that the hurler was running across the street toward the ballpark and almost ran right over us. I remember the conversation going like this:

Eckersley: “Sorry about that, guys.”

Us: “Quite all right.”

Celebrities don’t do much for me. If the stars in the Hollywood tabloids jumped from the pages in a grocery store line, I would have no other reaction than to check to see if they had 10 items or less. No, really.

OK, I’ll admit it. There are a few megastars who might make me stutter. I’d probably stammer a bit if I came face-to-face with Robert DeNiro, because I’d be trying to muster the courage to call him Bob. Martin Scorsese might set me back a few minutes, but I’d regain my voice soon enough. These are just people. They get colds, dandruff, skin eruptions and embarrassing stomach disorders just like everyone else. No reason to fan yourself and swoon.

I know what you’re thinking: that I’m lying because you recall the piece I wrote about my first meeting with Stephen King. You remember that I described the first word I uttered to the great one as something like: “verymuchbigfanthankyou.”

I will ask you to stop your snickering. It was a big moment for me. It’s one thing to run into simple celebrity. Greatness is a different matter altogether.

So you can imagine my distress when I was asked to sign a copy of my novel for Mr. King. You can imagine the word-evaporating horror at trying to muster just a few simple lines to impress a longtime hero.

Not that the big man was anywhere in sight, mind you. No, I was at the Book Burrow in Auburn and the owner of the place asked for the signature so she could send King a copy later. I’m not telling you what I wrote, because I know how you are.

I’ve decided there are two kinds of people: those who regard the famous as godlike creatures worthy of all the hysteria, and those who have deduced that even the most esteemed celebrities are still made of flesh and bone. I am of the latter group, those temporary lapses notwithstanding.

And yet, I’m willing to wager that even the steeliest, most cynical people have one or two heroes capable of striking them dumb. If you’re an airline buff, it might be Chuck Yeager. If you’re a geek, it’s probably Bill Gates. If you golf more than twice a week and wish you could do it more, an introduction to Tiger Woods might give you goose bumps.

My brother is easy. Michael Dukakis made his day, and how many people can say that? Frankly, I’m glad it wasn’t Bruce Springsteen or Joe Torre he encountered that sunny, warm day in Boston. Either of those guys might have done him in for good.



  1. fizzlefart said,

    how to fluck is this suppose to work?–>

  2. Leonila Gussler said,

    Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be very useful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had joy writing this article. When something special is coming up for someone, and you think it is a big deal, think about putting together something to show them how excited you are about their achievement, or see if someone else is doing something and ask if you can help out in any way.

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