Celebrities are just like the rest of us

By Grant McGee

Cara Correnti and Jay Ricci, the television news people from KVII in Amarillo, were here the other week.

I was in front of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce office downtown. I saw Ricci, he shook my hand, I told him how I enjoyed KVII’s evening news.

Later I saw my friend Lizzie.

“Here,” I said, “shake this hand. Jay Ricci the TV news guy shook it and I haven’t washed up yet.”

Her amused reaction reminded me of encounters I’ve had with celebrities over the years.

The first celebrity I remember encountering was Allen Funt, host of the television show “Candid Camera.”

I was a little boy, our family was out to dinner and I spied him across the room. I pointed and my mom lightly spanked my hand.

“It’s not polite to point,” she said.

I asked my mom why Allen Funt got to chew with his mouth open and I didn’t. She just glared at me.

We were living in a town where the 1960s actor Troy Donahue was shooting a movie. I was on my way to the beach when I spied this crowd of people standing around this guy. I got in close and he stepped on my foot. He apologized and gave me his autograph.

I was 10 when I first saw a national politician up close. It was before I understood politics. Again, I was on my way to do something else when I saw this crowd of people. I went over to see what was going on. George Wallace was working his way through the crowd. He shook my hand.

The next day I told my teacher. She asked if I had washed my hands right away.

Richard Nixon was in Air Force One when it flew over our house. I don’t know if that counts as an encounter.

I’ve talked to performers, most of them in phone interviews, sometimes in person.

I met country singer/actor Dwight Yoakam just before an Amarillo concert a few years back. I was so excited I said something that was really out there (I honestly can’t remember what it was) and he just gave me a weird look.

I’ve been more excited to meet regional celebrities. The artist Diana Bryer came to Clovis a few months back. I have enjoyed her work for years. To me, her style and choice of colors capture the soul of New Mexico. It was a joy to meet her.

The most eye-opening encounter I ever had was when I tried to interview the folk-rock performer Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame) for a college newspaper.

I was dining with my date before the evening’s concert when she spied Stills across the room. I went over and asked him if I could have an interview after the concert.

Stills shot a glance that could kill, then let loose with some colorful language berating me for interrupting his dinner.

I was stunned for a few days, came to realize he was right, but also came to realize something else. Probably a lot of folks in our area who’ve encountered those we consider “celebrities” realized the same thing: Celebrities put their shoes on just like the rest of us.

Fame just helps pay the bills.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: