I’ve heard this saying before from people who are celebrities, “Be nice to someone and they’ll tell a friend but if you’re not so nice, they’ll tell ten.” Being a celebrity isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be in Julie Klam’s new book, The Stars In Our Eyes; The Famous, The Infamous, And Why We Care So Much About Them, she quotes Charles Figley, the director of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane University, “To be a celebrity means to have more than the usual assault on one’s ego. You’re very vulnerable to the personal evaluations of other people. The public is ultimately in control of whether your career continues.”
Quinn Cummings, the actress who was once nominated for an oscar for her supporting actress role in the movie, The Good-bye Girl (she played Marsha Mason’s daughter) says, “Great fame is kind of like that torture where you’re in a room where they never turn the lights off. Thanks to phones and social media, there’s no place where the famous person isn’t fair game.”
Most of us at one time or another have had the chance to meet a famous person. I always get lots of calls from people when we bring up that topic on the morning show. After talking with Julie about her new book the other day it got me to thinking about some memorable moments I’ve had with celebrities so I thought I’d blog about that this week. For many years I would go to Nashville for live broadcasts during CMA week and what used to be called Fan Fair (now the CMA Music Festival).
So I had many chances to not just meet some famous people but to actually have conversations with them. I remember when I was two weeks from giving birth to my second son Taylor and was in Nashville talking to June Carter Cash, she took one look at me and said, “Having babies, honey that just hurts.” My favorite celebrity photo is actually one I took with June’s husband Johnny Cash out in western Maryland at Rocky Gap State Park where they used to do a weekend country festival every summer.
I also got to meet Willie Nelson there and Mary Chapin Carpenter before anyone really even knew who she was. Willie was an enchanting person to talk to and I hit it off with Mary Chapin (Chapin to friends) right away. In fact I interviewed her so many times over the years, when I was hosting New Country Video on Maryland Public Television and doing the morning show at WPOC that when my daughter Paris was born we gave her 'Chapin' as a middle name.
I still have the gift card MCC sent to me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers when the birth announcement came out in an industry magazine:
There was a politician in Maryland who spelled his name 'Parris' with two r’s, his last name was Glendening, he was the 59th governor from 1995 to 2002 but I had never seen that name spelled that way before. My boss had sent out the wrong spelling in the press release. Our Paris is spelled like the city.
Many years ago when budgets were bigger, I used to go to Nashville frequently to do TV commercials that would not only feature me but different country stars. I remember how mad Kenny Rogers was that his agent had agreed for him to do a commercial for a Baltimore radio station. I think Kenny thought he was too big a star for that but he was delightful on the set and regaled the make up lady with all the details of his many cosmetic surgeries.
Reba was great fun on the set, I have always appreciated her sense of humor. One of my favorite trips with WPOC listeners was when we took a couple of buses to New York to see Reba in her starring role as Annie in Annie Get Your Gun.
Whenever I interview anyone I always try to come up with questions that others might not think to ask. I used to have a bowl with “mystery questions” that people would randomly select from and then answer but I tried to stay away from things that weren’t considered to be “family friendly” as we like to say at WPOC. Imagine my surprise when Darryl Singletary just decided to go off page during one of our live broadcasts and talk about the fact that he didn’t ever put on underwear. I didn’t really have a follow up for that. That’s the risk and fun of doing live radio broadcasts, they can open you up to having people say things you just aren’t prepared for.
I remember Neal McCoy criticizing me during an interview about the fact our station wasn’t playing his new single. I thought it was very unprofessional. I’m sure it’s frustrating for artists and their promotional teams when songs they release don’t get played on the radio but I don’t pick the music that we play on WPOC and I didn’t feel like going into a detailed explanation of how the process works (especially when I knew he fully understood how it works), so I kept that interview short.
Mark Miller once confronted me at the Maryland State Fair where I was about to introduce his group, Sawyer Brown before they took the stage. He wanted to be sure I didn’t think his name was Sawyer Brown, which I didn’t but apparently someone had made the mistake before.
Dolly Parton once shared that given her measurements she didn’t find it all that surprising that children would occasionally give her chest a squeeze when they’d meet her. You can just picture it can’t you?
In my home, growing up I was taught that all of us are created equal no matter what kind of work you do, so I have to confess I don’t often get real nervous around celebrities because I truly believe God thinks we’re all the same. Isabel Gillies who played Elliott Stabler’s wife Kathy on Law and Order SVU for several years says this, "No matter what anyone says, fame separates people.” And maybe she’s right because whenever a celebrity walks into the room there’s suddenly a different kind of energy and we all just seem so much more interested in what they have to say than what the people we talk to everyday have to say
I always tell people that country stars are far more generous and kind generally speaking than the rock and roll musicians I used to run into back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was in a different format. I think most of them were focused on being cool. I’d love to hear your favorite “meeting a celebrity” story. I’ll leave you with one final photo. My husband Ed seems to have a knack for spotting celebrities. He was very excited a few months ago when he realized a local celebrity was eating at the same breakfast place he had stopped at shortly after football season had ended. He didn’t hesitate to get a selfie with this guy who Ed said was soft-spoken, gracious, and much taller in real life than on TV. See if you don’t recognize this famous face!
Check out Laurie's Book Club Interview with Julie Klam here!