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My Encounters With Celebrities

I’m sure we all have our favorite celebrities. Favorite actor or actress. Favorite singer or band. Have you ever wondered what they’d be like in real life if you ever had the opportunity to meet them? Perhaps that “nice” guy portrayed in movies is actually a butthole in real life. Or the “bad” attitude actress on the screen is actually a sweetheart in real life.

As a teenager in the 70’s, like millions of other girls and women, I had the biggest crush on Leif Garrett. In fact, I saw him in person on four separate occasions and in four different locations.  I’ve met, and had encounters with, a few celebrities myself. Starting with my earliest experience, I’ll tell you about them all.

At 13, I lived in Tarrant City, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. My dad came home from work with a special surprise for my mom – tickets to an indoor concert. Too young to be left home alone, I went along. I wasn’t impressed. I’m not a fan of country music, but suffered through nearly 3 hours of Merle Haggard, Nat Stuckey, and Donna Fargo.

For my 14th birthday, my sister gave me a concert ticket to see The Osmond’s perform at Rickwood Field in Birmingham. I was one happy little camper because I loved Donny. It was my first outdoor concert, and my last. I’d never seen so many wild and crazy people gathered in one place before in all my life. I don’t fare well in large groups of people. The one thing I remember most about the concert is Donny tripping over the cords to the microphones.

Leif Garrett’s first trip to South Florida was sponsored by Y-100, a very popular radio station in Miami. He appeared at the Miami Baseball Stadium, but it wasn’t a live concert. He walked around on stage while his music played in the background – and while scores of teenaged girls drooled over him (myself not included!!! 😊) And if you believe that….

His second trip was to Lockhart (Soccer) Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. I was determined to meet him and get a close-up look at him. How could I do that? Buy him a gift, I decided. So I did. And I was right next to the stage. Now I had to figure out how to get the gift to him without getting trampled. I’ve got it! I’ll just toss it up in the air and watch him catch it. Oops, he missed. The box fell to the ground, and I had to scramble through a horde of horny teenaged girls to grab the box before they stomped an entire week’s pay into the dirt. Let me try that again. Into the air it went. Booyah, he caught it, opened the box, and started scanning the crowd to see if he could figure out who’d given him such an extravagant gift. “It’s me, it’s me!” I yelled. He looked at me, mouthed “thank you,” and went back to swooning the other girls. Later, I watched him kick soccer balls. How exciting!

His third trip was to Gulfstream Park in Ft. Lauderdale. It was to be a live concert. Alas, he had a terrible sore throat and was unable to perform his entire show. I drove 2 hours for that???

His fourth and final trip was to the Miami Jai Alai Fronton. Seating was assigned inside the arena. The crowd was large, but controlled, unlike the Osmond’s concert. This one was a live, on-stage concert. I was pleased with his performance.

At 19, I lived in Riviera Beach and worked two jobs. I was an insurance clerk by day and a waitress at an upscale restaurant, Tiffany’s, on Broadway at night. This particular event occurred on a Friday night when the restaurant (as usual) was packed. I was assigned to wait the table of a single female patron. Just like every other night, I performed my job and took care of my customer. She was extremely kind, polite, and patient.

After she left the restaurant and I was in the serving area with fellow employees, one of them said, “you lucky dog.” “Why am I lucky?” I asked, to which she responded, “Don’t you know who was at your table?” I answered with, “she asked me if I knew who she was. I told her she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t quite place her.” To her credit, she never disclosed to me who she was, and since I’ve never been starstruck, I didn’t press her. “Are you serious?” one of the older servers asked me. “You really don’t know who she was?” “She told me she was an actress but that’s all.” The server laughed and shook her head. “You just served Ruth Gordon.” Who? Hey, I was 19, give me a break.

The insurance office where I worked was owned by a prominent and wealthy man who lived in Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach and knew many, many celebrities. Although I never met any of them, we carried insurance policies for Mike Douglas, Jack Nicklaus, and Burt Reynolds. Burt filmed an episode of his show, Stryker, in Pahokee, where I’m from.

On a date in my early 20’s, I was taken to see Anne Murray in concert at the West Palm Beach Auditorium. She was phenomenal and sounds exactly the same in concert as she does on her records. I was not disappointed.

I “almost” got to see Elvis Presley in 1977, which turned out to be his last concert. I had already been asked to go by someone I’d known since first grade. Unfortunately, he also asked a very popular girl to go, one who’d declined dates with him on numerous occasions. Of course she said yes, so he ditched me for her. Yes, I was ticked! That was their first and only date.

A couple of years ago, Nicolas Cage was right here in Clarksville, Indiana, shopping at Toys R Us with his son. He was spotted in several other places around town as well, but I didn’t go chasing him down just to get a glimpse of him. I’ll see him in his next movie.

I’ve seen and spoken to Mel Tillis many times. He is, afterall, from my hometown of Pahokee, Florida. Whenever he was in town, one of his stops included a visit to a corner pharmacy that had a soda fountain. He’d sit at the table and converse with any and everyone. He was a super nice, down to earth man. On one occasion, he brought George Lindsay with him. I just happened to be working the counter that day. He, too, was a very nice man.

I saved the best for last. It is, undoubtedly, an encounter I will NEVER forget. My husband and I took a weekend trip to Sea World in Orlando. I was standing inside the building that houses several aquariums, admiring all the beautiful fish, when I heard this familiar voice beside me. I turned to look. “Betty White,” I said with a smile. She turned to me, dabbed her hair, and said, “what’s left of me.” We chatted for a bit, and I told her how much I admired her work. She thanked me, and before leaving she hugged me bye and told my husband and I to have a nice day. Little does Ms. White know what she did for me that day. In that very short but important encounter, she made a difference and brought joy to someone who didn’t have much at the time. You see, it was then that the darkness of my severe bout with depression and anxiety was settling in, and I was facing a long and hard battle without knowing it. For those few brief moments, she made me forget about my sadness. I only wish I’d had the opportunity to tell her how much I appreciated her sharing those moments with me. I feel comforted in knowing that she knew.

Have you had any encounters with celebrities? I’d love to hear your story. You can leave comments in the comment section or shoot me an email: glendanorwoodpetzauthor@gmail.com

I can’t wait to read your stories!!!

GNP