Friday, October 17, 2014

The 35 most famous people I have met. Plus, One Degree from Kevin Bacon.

Preparing for my phone interview tomorrow with Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons (he has a new book out about entrepreneurship), I wondered where he would fit in the list of celebrities I have met in my life.

These are some of the famous folks I have met in person, whether as a journalist, traveler, fan or parent. They are listed in approximate order of epic coolness:

John Cleese: Met over lunch in a rooftop restaurant in Monte Carlo. He agreed with my contention that Life of Brian is a better film than Holy Grail.

Prince Philip: Chatted at a press conference in Toronto, about World Wildlife issues.
Bill Gates: Asked question at press conference in Toronto.

Dave Keon: Lent him a pen in an arena hallway. Never got it back.
Bobby Hull: Met and interviewed him at a community festival in Consort, Alta. He was the Guest of Honour.

Gordie Howe: Talked in dressing room in Edmonton. Felt funny calling him “Mr. Howe.”

Gerald R. Ford: Calgary Convention Centre. Chatted briefly about the potential for a U.S. invasion of Canada. (He assured me it would never happen. I was unconvinced.)

Elijah Wood (Frodo): At Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, on LOTR press tour. My daughter was interviewing him, and I was just her escort.
Andy Serkis: At Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, on LOTR press tour. “Precious” memories of shaking hands with Gollum!
Billy Boyd ("Pippin" in LOTR). Twice, in Toronto.

Michael Moore: Sat together at annual meeting of Canadian Society of Magazine Editors, in Toronto. We argued over his proposal for a law prohibiting layoffs by Michigan employers.

Jan Peerce (renowned 1940s tenor , favorite of Toscanini): Interviewed him in Calgary hotel room, where he was still touring as Tevye the Milkman at age 75.

Samantha Bee: Got a big hug after winning “Test the Nation” at CBC studio in Toronto.
James Doohan: At a Star Trek convention in NYC. Such a nice guy, "Scottty."
Isaac Asimov: Star Trek convention, NYC.

Joey Smallwood: In his home in St. John’s. Nfld. I interviewed him, mainly as an excuse to meet the last living Father of Confederation.
Mary Tyler Moore: At luncheon in Toronto. She still turns the world on with her smile.
Carol BurnettAt Ottawa airport.

Roger Bannister (first to run a mile under four minutes): In Vancouver.
Marshall McLuhan: In Windsor, Ont., and by phone from Toronto.
Tim Minchin: I held his shoes while he gave an autograph to my daughter outside a Toronto comedy club.

Peter Mansbridge: On an escalator in Toronto.
Jimmy Pattison: In Vancouver and Toronto.
Conrad Black: On various occasions, in Toronto.
Ted Rogers: Various encounters in Toronto and GTA. First met him when I was managing the CHFI radio booth at the Canadian National Exhibition as a summer job.
Galen Weston: Forest Hill, Toronto.
Hillary Weston: Forest Hill, Toronto.

Prime Minister Joe Clark: In Alberta and Toronto.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney: Toronto annual meeting (he walked out of it at the behest of his U.S. bosses).
Prime Minister Paul Martin Jr.: Various occasions in Montreal, Ottawa.
Prime Minister John Turner: In Ottawa and Toronto.
Alberta premier Peter Lougheed: Calgary.
Alberta premier Ralph Klein: At his City Hall office in Calgary.
B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm: Met him and wife Lillian at their Fantasy Garden World park south of Vancouver.

Rob Ford: Met him while participating in All-Candidates’ meeting in Toronto, 2010. Didn’t like him much.

Ships Passing in the Night (“Almost Encounters”):

Ray Bolger: The former Scarecrow was the mystery guest at a live taping of Front Page Challenge I attended in Windsor. Afterwards, he led the audience in an impromptu singalong of his theme song: "Once in Love with Amy."

Valéry Giscard d'Estaingformer president of France: he was one table over at a hotel dining room in the French Alps.
Paul McCartney: We passed each other at Rockefeller Centre, NYC. New Yorkers are too cool to care, so I left him alone.
Charlton Heston: I walked past his table in Toronto at the World’s Biggest Bookstore where he was signing books.

Dick Cavett: The once-controversial talk show host and I were the only visitors at a small museum in New Orleans. But we merely nodded to each other and did not speak.
Charles Bronson: two tables away at NYC comedy club, but he left early.
Hilary Duff: My daughter interviewed this teen popstar in an exclusive Toronto club while I played escort at the ground-floor bar.

Ted Danson: Saw him (with wife Mary Steenburgen) at a Hollywood taping of their short-lived sitcom, Ink. But I saw him again last spring on the streets of Monte Carlo.
Kevin Bacon: My daughter's babysitter nannied his kids while he shot a movie in Toronto. One degree of separation!

The lead actors in Spartacus, one of my Top 10 movies:
Peter Ustinov: To be fair, he was on stage in London, and I was just in the audience. Still, Peter Ustinov!
Laurence Olivier: I met his son Richard in Toronto, and we spoke later by phone.
Kirk Douglas: Umm, I bought a plaid couch from a Muskoka BandB that Kirk’s son Michael (and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones) once sat upon.
Jean Simmons. I got nada. Except, Gene Simmons!

I’m pretty sure there are more. I’ll add to this list as the names come back to me.

First addition, later the same day:
Former PM John Diefenbaker, in Ottawa as a kid on a tour of the Parliament Buildings.
"Bad boy" sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison: NYC. To me, his most memorable work is Memos from Purgatory, for which he joined a street gang in Brooklyn.

Wayne Greztky: In Oilers dressing room, Edmonton, and at a Toronto book launch.

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