Social Question

jaytkay's avatar

What's your brush with greatness?

Asked by jaytkay (25805points) April 26th, 2010
61 responses
“Great Question” (13points)

David Letterman used to have segment, “Brush with Greatness” where audience members told their (usually funnily ordinary) stories of meeting famous people.

What’s your brush with greatness?

Mine first.

I once sat down at a bar in Cambridge MA, and turned to see renowned architect Philip Johnson at my elbow. So I fancied myself as a bit of an architecture nerd, and I knew something about him. And I said I really enjoyed visiting a newish building of his, it’s in Chicago and I had customers there.

He said thanks. And asked if I was enjoying the weather in Cambridge.

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RedPowerLady's avatar

I met the Chief of the Cherokee Tribe (recently passed). I met several other well known Native Americans.
I know that is not funny but you’ve heard the expression “stoic native” right? lol

dpworkin's avatar

I have a ton of ‘em. They are scattered about on Fluther in previous, similar threads. I did know Phillip Johnson, though, because I worked at MOMA. Buckminster Fuller, too. Ken Kesey, too. Walker Evans, too. Many more.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I worked at a movie theater the night Steven Spielberg once came to have a private viewing.
I didn’t get to talk to Steven Spielberg.

Now I’m finding myself greatly underwhelmed with my brush with greatness.

laureth's avatar

I bagged Ted Nugent’s groceries once. They didn’t buy meat, just organic vegetables and stuff. I guess that whole hunting thing is working out for him.

gailcalled's avatar

@dpworkin: Walker Evans. Swoon.

dpworkin's avatar

Oh! I met Greta Garbo at a showing of one of her movies at the MOMA film department, and she invited me to sit in the projection booth with her while all the big-shots sat in the screening room wishing she would come join them. It was because I was friends with the projectionist, and he used to be a lighting technician on some of her films. I didn’t talk to her, because I had heard she hates that.

chels's avatar

I met Andrew when I spent a few days in San Francisco with Richard. Is there much more greatness than that?

Seek's avatar

I stood in line behind Michael Clarke Duncan ( from The Green Mile ) in line at the Hulk roller coaster at Islands of Adventure. He is a big friggin’ dude.

Vunessuh's avatar

Kathy Griffin sat behind me at a play once and laughed at me when a friend of mine pulled my hair.
Ice Cube said, “sup shawty” to me at a convenient store.
I sat across from Ray J at a restaurant called California Chicken Kitchen.
I saw Wee Man at the police station.
And I didn’t get to meet her, but I saw Paris hounded by about 15–20 paparazzi as she was walking to her car.
Unfortunately, I can’t really call the last four people great, just famous.

gailcalled's avatar

I kissed Steve Reich; I dated Richard Raskind before he became Renée Richards, I was squired around town and introduced to the NYC literati by Brendan Gill; he took me to a party at George Plimpton’s house; Norman Mailer was there. Dustin Hoffman winked at me once on Fifth Ave.

filmfann's avatar

I have met a lot of movie stars (even knew him in high school), but my favorite was when I met Arnold Swartzeneggar.
Before The Terminator, I ran into him at a book store. He was signing copies of his book (Education of a BodyBuilder), and had a hundred people lined up. He was not only signing his long ass name, legibly, but writing Best wishes and your name on every book! I told him that with all the writing he was doing, I was surpised he didn’t have cramps.
He looked at me funny, and said “Cramp? What is cramp?”
I was shocked! I told him what a muscle cramp was, and he extended those huge arms, and wiggled fingers, saying “Oh, yes! Many cramps today!”
So, I taught Arnold Swartzeneggar the meaning of the word Cramp.

jazmina88's avatar

slept with necked grammy winner in his hotel…..truly slept. also a regret, that i only slept.

dpworkin's avatar

(I used to live upstairs from George Plimpton. You were in my building! One night when he was out of town, Freddi burned his office down. She was waxing her eyebrows and the curtains caught fire.)

chyna's avatar

I had drinks with Billy Ray Cyrus’ brother one night. I graduated with Kathy Matea. Ok guys, I live in WV. It’s the best I can do.

iphigeneia's avatar

I live in a house that Errol Flynn used to live in. It has a front door and a verandah and a roof and a secret trapdoor room. It used to have a treehouse, but we got rid of that.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have a grandaughter whose name is Callie Dalton. The girl can sing. I mean really SING! She is my brush with “greatness.”

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I once visited an aunt who was dating a guy looking after Steve Jobs place in Woodside.
It was a very old mansion on a huge plot of land. I thought the place was amazing and it made me a little disappointed when he decided to tear the place down so he could build his own vision of a mansion.
Had I the cash that Jobs does, I’d have restored it.
So yeah, I was in Steve Jobs’ house once. Steve wasn’t there.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I was visiting my uncle, who was a Occupational/physical therapist with the army. I got to meet one of his patients. He was the last living 5 star General the US has produced, Omar Bradley.

skfinkel's avatar

I met Fabian (who is that?, you of few years might ask) at the Dick Clark show, and Bobby Darin was once at my house, and I served him hors d’oeuvres, and he played our piano in our apartment. But, I was never star-struck. Not even when I was young and was supposed to be.

gailcalled's avatar

And Richard Raskind before and after lived in skfinkel’s parents’ apartment.

Cartman's avatar

1) I was in a bar in Paris with a friend and he managed to spill his drink all over David Bowie. Naturally discovering who it was just as he was apologising. Smooth…

2) Kavin Costner checked in at my hotel just as I was checking out. He’s short.
He probably got a way better room than I did.

dpworkin's avatar

Once Richard Raskind and Walter Hopps and Ralph Nader and I had breakfast in a hotel dining room in DC, and the three of them tried to get butter pats to stick to the ceiling by catapulting them up there from fork handles.

Jill_E's avatar

My college friends and I met Woody Harrelson after his and friends’ band in Rochester, NY college event in early 1990s. He was warm, friendly, very bright, and humble.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

This one time, at band camp…

JLeslie's avatar

I see famous people all of the time when I am in NY, Isabella Rosellini, Patty Labelle, Big from Sex in the City, Monica Lewinsky, many more. I have personally met and spent some time with (well been to launch parties or events with) Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Carolina Herrera, there must be others, I just can’t think right now. Donna Karan told me I look just like Tatum O’Neil, I used to get that a lot when I was younger. Funny, I get Barbra Streisand constantly from people, one of her close friends, but she picked Tatum, I think she is right.

Oh, and Blyth Danner when I was a young teenager. I had dinner with Bobby Paltrow (her BIL) 25 years later, totally unrelated to meeting her, great guy.

I’ve also met many NASCAR drivers, but I would not know their names to tell you, I would have to ask my husband. And, we used to spend time with Rafael Matos at the Karting track we used to go to before he was driving Indy.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Greatness? Desmond Tutu, FTW. I met him when I was at uni.

Jeruba's avatar

Kissing Rudolf Nureyev.

JLeslie's avatar

My husband’s name is Salomon and my Aunts name is Reina (means Queen) so I figure I am royalty. I am my own greatness. LOL.

jazmina88's avatar

i smoked a j with Bono and I worked in the studio (receptionist) for ZZ Topp too.

eden2eve's avatar

I worked at a national defense laboratory, where I met and had extensive dealings with several very interesting scientists, including some Nobel Prize winners. To a man, they were very kind, appreciative of the things we did for their well being, and always willing to explain their concepts to even an administrative assistant (me) who was curious and eager to learn.

I think my favorite “great” person was Edward Teller, one of the founders of this Laboratory and one of the men who left Hitler’s nuclear weapons research and brought their knowledge to the US. Some people called him the “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb”, but he hated that title. He was considered the inspiration for the character of “Dr Strangelove”, from the move of that name.

For several years while I was there, he came to our lunches and spoke to some interns I was responsible for. He talked at length about his dealings with Einstein, and many other fascinating people. He was in a wheelchair due to a stroke, but was still very sharp mentally, and we were able to catch a glimpse of his brilliance. He was still very interested in the work that was going on there, and had meetings with my boss, who was the Bio-terror chief and was involved with defense of the US after 911.

He was reputed to be a volatile character, and difficult to get along with, but we did not see those facets of his character. By the time we were meeting with him, he was quite humble and introspective, even talking about the purpose of life and encouraging the students to be fully honorable in their dealings. I really liked the man!

A cute thing about him was, while waiting for his “entrance” to events, he would sometimes ask his assistants if there were any ladies present, and he always held our hand a little bit longer when we were introduced.

Some people had negative feelings about him due to his involvement in creating the Bomb, but I believed him when he explained that these men came here to prevent Hitler from developing it first, which they did do, and which probably changed the course of history. He said they never intended the bomb to be used, and he had great regrets about it. He was always very willing to share his knowledge and his insights with us. He died the day after I last saw him, at 95.

anartist's avatar

A group of Smithsonian Art history interns tried to wrap Christo during a lecture at the National Gallery. He was not amused.

And I met Robert Rauschenberg when we [NCFA/NMAA-SI] were getting ready for his show opening. I was filling in for the lead silkscreener and was up on a ladder screening the show title and at the end some of the ink landed on my helper’s head. Rauschenburg smiled and said that he used to do that too.

WestRiverrat's avatar

My high school physics/Chemistry teacher was unique. He was in the OSS during WW2. He was awarded an Iron Cross by Germany and the DSC by the USA. He also was one of the first Americans into Nagasaki after the war.

anartist's avatar

@skfinkel you from Philly?

kenmc's avatar

I met Tom Kenny once. That’s about it.

jeanmay's avatar

Kofi Annan once chugged by me in a little boat whilst holidaying by the sea in England. I almost fell off the harbour wall in surprise, but am glad I didn’t as I wouldn’t have wanted to catch the attention of his henchmen.

jaytkay's avatar

I rode a ski lift with Suzy “Chapstick” Chaffee.
Waiting tables I served Mortimer Adler.
I held a door for former President Ford.

How dorky is that, your brush with greatness is named “Mortimer”?

TexasDude's avatar

I’ve met:

1. Dave Prowse (Darth Vader)
2. Kenny Baker (R2D2)
3. George Romero
4. Tom Savini
5. Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
6. The guy who played Michael Myers and the Guy who played Jason (in a few of the movies)
7. Robert Englund
9. the guy who played Capt. Spalding in House of 1000 Corpses
10. the guy who played Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space (he showed me pictures of his grandchildren)
11. The girl who does all the voices of female characters in South Park (I got my picture taken with her. She is actually really, really hot)

skfinkel's avatar

@anartist : No, raised in NYC.
@gailcalled: The apt. Bobby Darin was in was a different one from the current one you know.

Nimis's avatar

@iphigeneia Goodness!
Why on earth would you get rid of a treehouse?

Roby's avatar

I shook hands with BIlly Joe Royal once after a concert… and he gave my daughter a hug.
Really nice man.

Sophief's avatar

I’ve met Michael Schumacher. Had my picture taken with David Coulthard, and a number of other Formula 1 drivers. Jason Orange winked at me. I’m sort of Friends with Lee Westwood. Unfortunately I went to school with Murderer Neil Entwistle.

Brian1946's avatar


Did Bono ever remove his shades? ;-)

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

I met John Corbett when he was filming Bigger Than The Sky in Portland, OR. It was the end “panace” scene and he signed a prop copy of the playbill. I got paid in cold burritos at 3 am. I’ve got family type brush with greatnesses if that counts.

Brian1946's avatar

I’ve been living in the Los Angeles area for about 55 years, so I’ve had a few brushes with fame and a few less with greatness.

In December, 1956 Elvis Presley appeared at our Cub Scouts’ function and signed an 8X10 color glossy of himself for me.

I posed with Jayne Mansfield when I was 15. A blurry photo of that occasion is my avatar as of this post.

In December, 1967 we saw the Animals at the Whiskey A GoGo.
After their gig, the bassist and major Jimi Hendrix advocate, Chas Chandler, rushed up to where I was sitting and shook my hand.
I didn’t know him then and I still don’t personally know Chas, so the only explanation I can give for that is that I emanated such strong “I love Hendrix” vibes that they drew him to me like some majorly strong stoner tractor beams.

Sometime in the middle 70’s I was at a laundromat.
Somebody grasped my hand and started shaking it.
I looked up and it was Jon Voight asking me to vote for I don’t remember who.
I said, “I’ll vote for him if you read my screenplay about a paralyzed Vietnam war vet”. ;~)

I was shopping at a Whole Foods in Sherman Oaks. I saw this guy wearing a hat that caught my attention.
I forgot what I asked him and what he replied, but Geena Davis joined our conversation.
Either she was fascinated with our conversation or she was with him; probably the latter. ;-)
I wound up asking her if there was going to be a “Thelma and Louise” sequel. She replied, “No, they were pretty much squished”.

I saw James Cromwell at a local health food store.
He was wearing a t-shirt advocating a Native American cause.
I said, “I like your t-shirt. I think the de facto genocide committed against Native Americans is shameful.”
He replied, “It wasn’t de facto, it IS genocide.”
I stood corrected and about 8 inches shorter than him.

I saw Jay Leno at the aforementioned Whole Foods in 2007(?).
I asked him if it was true that Conan was going to take over the Tonight Show in 2009.
He mumbled something as he made his escape.

I saw Leno’s band leader, Kevin Eubanks at a health food restaurant in West Hills.
I said, “I remember Jay making fun of your gesture of shooting a basketball. Where does he get off making fun of you? I mean, how strong is Jay’s game?”
He LHAO so I LMAO too. :-D

jfos's avatar

When I was in HS, I was in a group called Social Studies Seminar. One of our tasks was to collaborate with a handful of other high schools in North America to draft a resolution for the United Nations to establish concerning “Water As a Human Right” in Africa. We had multiple videoconferences with Kofi Annan and other UN figures.

anartist's avatar

@skfinkel just sounded like maybe you had been on American Bandstand from the people you met—and might have a bit of fame yourself.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Rudolph Nureyev? Really?? He is amazing! No one should be able to do leaps like he does ( did? ); he seems to defy gravity!

Seek's avatar

@Jeruba Okay, I just googled Rudolph Nureyev, finally. Why is the third picture very impressive, and very NSFW?

iphigeneia's avatar

@Nimis it got in the way of our new deck. Yeah, it was pretty low.

anartist's avatar

Do near misses count? I have one.
Along with several other Smithsonian staff members I was to meet the Queen of Belgium just before our Belgian Decorative Arts show opened at the Renwick Gallery. Our resident high society guru gave us lots of information on how to meet as queen, e.g. never speak first, don’t curtsy or bow as you are not one of her subjects, etc etc. It seemed a very interesting thing to do, meet a queen and have coffee with her, but the next day I didn’t wake up and slept through the whole damn thing and didn’t get to work until it was over. :-(

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

I saw Jimmy Carter at the Holocaust Museum when I went to the east coast for an 8th grade class trip.

anartist's avatar

He’s already had his 15 minutes of fame, but does anyone remember Marjoe? A documentary was made about him first as a child evangelist then later as a cynical atheist who went on a revival tour one last time to expose the business. It won an academy reward and complete documentary is at this link. I met him partying in a Soho loft with a bunch of struggling artists and actors shortly before he made this documentary.

SundayKittens's avatar

@RedPowerLady Do you mean former Chief Mankiller??

I met Barack Obama during the SC primaries. We chatted about funding for the arts as cameras rolled, and I called him “ma’am” twice because I was so nervous. Luckily, everyone who watched the national news that night saw it. He smelled like Polo for Men and freedom.

anartist's avatar

Met Roy Buchanen at backstage parties several times because my friend Malcolm Lukens was his keyboard player.

jaytkay's avatar

Wow, I forgot how fun this thread was, I just re-read the whole thing. Thanks for reviving it, @anartist!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Gadzooks! <1> In the 4th grade or so Diana Ross and the Supremes (they were just getting famous I guess) visited my school and handed out swag. Dang if I only knew and would have kept that stuff…..Ebay you’d be my best friend.

<2> While a sophomore leaving school there was a big crowd in the auditorium, when I looked in there was a young man at a piano wearing dark shades and lots of squealing girls about the piano and I thought, “What are they so excited about? He plays well, so do many other guys in school”. The next day people was asking did I see Stevie Wonder. Then I realized that student at the piano was Stevie Wonder…..and I missed him.

<3> Matt Millen of the Raiders came to my high School when I was a senior with a lovely Raiderette and I sketched his picture and he signed it, don’t know what happened to it, darn.

Sunny2's avatar

I was property master at a a summer theater at Harvard one summer. Faye Dunaway was in the cast (this was before she was “discovered.” The first scene opens on a few soldiers playing cards. The actors swiped the cards to play with in the green room. I ran around looking for the cards frantically just once. Then I removed the aces. I told the actors I’d done that and Faye said, “Yes, we found that out, you bitch.” That’s my claim to fame.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

Not exactly Zelig (or Forrest Gump!) here, but I’ve had my share. Like @Brian1946, I’ve had “a few brushes with fame,” although probably none of them I would call “great”.

As a child, I grew up in an artistic family. At gatherings and parties, I met people such as Carl Anderson, Ross Bellah, and others in the arts and film community in Los Angeles.

When I was in high school, I worked on the campaign of a woman who was the mother of a classmate. While doing canvassing, I was paired with another woman. As we were going door-to-door, we did our little speeches promoting the candidate. After leaving one particular house, where we spoke to an older man, she turned to me on the walkway and said, “You know who that was? Karl Shapiro.”

In college, I worked for a day as an extra on a straight-to-video movie that starred Brian Austin Green.

Again, like @Brian1946, living in Los Angeles means if you’re not being a hermit, it’s kind of hard not to pass by a celebrity; I won’t post all that I’ve seen (charity events, book signings, etc. are more run-of-the-mill things where celebrities are advertised as being present, and seeing one is expected); just a couple of the more interesting ones.

A few years ago, I was at the library, and went to look up a book in the catalog on the computer. While waiting for the results, I glanced casually to my right, and saw Danny De Vito using the catalog as well.

I marched in the anti-war protest in Hollywood in 2003, just prior to the start of the war in Iraq. To my right was Tyne Daly, and just behind us was James Cromwell.

My latest was about a month or so ago. I went to the art museum to see a new exhibit, and as I walked up the front entrance, I turned around to see if my companion was right behind me, and I looked straight into the (very!) blue eyes of Owen Wilson. This was just after I’d seen “Midnight in Paris”, so it was slightly, vaguely, remotely serendipitous, I suppose.

Right now I’m friends with a writer who I predict is going to be very well known, more so than she is now, someday. :-)

Brian1946's avatar


“I marched in the anti-war protest in Hollywood in 2003, just prior to the start of the war in Iraq. To my right was Tyne Daly, and just behind us was James Cromwell.”

I also met Cromwell and I posted the same IMDb link. ;-o

A date and I demonstrated against Bush Sr’s. Iraq war in 1991 at the Vet’s Center in Brentwood, but I didn’t see any celebrities.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

@Brian1946, possibly there weren’t any because Hollywood has a certain coolness factor, compared with the VA in Brentwood. ;-)

Seriously though, a possible factor is in the tenor of the times, and the nature of the war. Senior cast the war as a “rescue mission”, repelling Iraq’s “incursion” into Kuwait, he deliberately limited the mission, and pulled out once he got the bang for his buck (and his ratings soared). Essentially he was trying to replicate Reagan’s “success” in Grenada.

Junior, on the other hand, was pushing us to war in a country that had done absolutely nothing to deserve it, on ginned up premises, at a time when the nation had just been through a traumatic event and (educated) people were acutely aware of what was happening and at stake. I think people felt at the time that there was a sense that it wasn’t some sort of “police action” and threatened to be open-ended with unforeseen consequences.

Anyway, back to brushes with fame, for anyone still following this thread. :)

talljasperman's avatar

I rode with with two cabinet minister in a hummer. One became prime minister later.

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