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A Weird News Reporter’s celebrity encounters

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From time-to-time people ask me about celebrities I’ve met in my years as a journalist. There was a period when Baby Girl and I were so financially stressed — by which I mean the economy tanked and we were forced to take a month off from work each year without pay — and we had to curtail trips and extras. I took any opportunity to interview celebrities just to add a little fun to our lives. I would take Baby Girl along whenever possible.

Our favorites: When asked who was our favorite, Baby Girl and I will immediately say, “Dolly Parton,” although for me, Fannie Flagg is right up there, too. Two quintessential southern ladies. When we met Dolly, Baby Girl was 12. She was wearing a cute little skirt and sandals with a small heel. She and Dolly were nearly the same height, and Dolly was wearing what looked to be 5-inch heels. Dolly said to me, “Mama, you need to get this girl some shoes like mine.” She was so funny. And so real (well, except for her hair and fingernails).

Here are more tidbits:

The one most like I expected (other than Dolly): William Shatner. Gruff, acerbic, witty and just a little annoyed.

Most unlike I expected: Olivia Newton-John. She was very polite and sweet, almost too polite but, as I reminded Shannon, she was a 60-something-year-old woman who’d just performed for an hour and a half. I’d be quiet and polite, too.

Most beautiful complexion: Gabrielle Union (“Bring It On,” “Deliver Us From Eva”). Most. Gorgeous. Skin. Ever.

Most surprising thing up close: Billy Bob and John Stamos both had very small bodies, which made their heads look big. They weren’t short, they were just fit and really, really lean.

Funniest behind-the-scenes moment: Several reporters were interviewing Billy Bob Thornton at the same time, with photographers hovering over us. I wanted to have my photo made with him but didn’t want to ask, so I kept inching closer and closer in the interview until our photographer could snap a photo of us together.

Uh-oh moment: I took Baby Girl’s Nanna and Aunt Bell to see Vicki Lawrence, who performed as herself and as her character Mama. I’d interviewed her by phone for a story and then set up with her public relations people a time to meet Lawrence backstage after the show. Someone had forgotten, though, and I had to track down someone and ask to see her. Vicki was gracious and sweet and allowed a photo, despite the fact that she’d just taken off the Mama costume and was in a robe and her hair was flat from the wig. She probably hated me but was so nice anyway. (btw, as much as I loved Mama, I went to see this show specifically to hear her sing “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” a fave from my childhood)

Oh, no, you did NOT moment: I went to Auburn University at the same time as Bo Jackson. I’d see him in Haley Center and wonder if he had his jeans special made to fit those massive thighs. We all loved watching “Bo over the top.” When I requested an interview with him in 2012 about his tornado-relief fundraiser Bo Bikes Bama, his rep said Bo would call me at a certain time. When he did, I answered and said, “Is this Bo?” and he said, “This is Mr. Jackson.” Although I didn’t put it rudely, I mentioned we were in college together, by which I meant, wth Bo??

The last Munchkin: We had so much fun talking with Jerry Maren, who was a Munchkin in the “Wizard of Oz,” (the one who handed Judy Garland the lollipop), and his little wife, Elizabeth Barrington,. who was a stand-in for children in numerous movies, including “The Apple Dumpling Gang.” As of April 2017, Jerry was 97 years old and the last surviving Munchkin. His wife passed away in 2011.

Hope you enjoy a look at some of our encounters.

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