George Sheehan. The famous “running philosopher” spoke at a banquet before a road race I ran in Raleigh (this was back when I used to run 20-30 miles a week – quite a few pounds ago). I ran into him (not literally, but almost) in the men’s restroom at the hotel hosting the banquet. Sheehan’s book, “Running and Being,” is a classic piece of writing. I was too awed by him to even speak. Of course, we were in the bathroom.
Jon Krakauer. I exchanged e-mail messages with the author of “Into Thin Air.” Krakauer’s book chronicles the May 1986 disaster on Mount Everest, when eight climbers died during a single ascent of the world’s tallest mountain. One of the best writers of this generation, Krakauer also wrote “Into the Wild” (a fabulous book about a Chris McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do family who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness alone in 1992, having sold or given away all of his possessions) and “Under the Banner of Heaven,” about some fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism.
Denis Potvin. Hockey Hall-of-Famer. I played in Serge Payer’s benefit golf tournament in Rockland, Ontario, near the border with Quebec in Canada in the summer of 2006, and Potvin – a legendary NHL defenseman and popular hockey commentator on XM Radio’s “Hockey This Morning” and broadcaster with the Florida Panthers – drove up to me during the event in his golf cart looking for an errant drive. He assumed I spoke French and asked me – presumably – where his ball was. When I stood there dumbfounded, not saying a word – I mean, it was DENIS POTVIN – he looked at me in stony silence for a moment and then drove off. (I introduced myself to him after the tournament and had a great conversation – in English. He was the guest speaker that night and had me stand up, introducing me as a “fan of the Carolina Hurricanes who came all the way up here from South Carolina.”)
Michael Medved. I interviewed the movie critic and conservative columnist following the release of his 1993 book, “Hollywood vs. America,” in which he criticizes Hollywood movies for portraying religion unfavorably, glamorizing violence, and celebrating immorality. Fascinating guy. Smart. He now has his own nationally-syndicated talk show.
Dr. Henry Heimlich. My wife and I had stayed at an inn in the N. C. mountains at the same time as Dr. Henry Heimlich, founder of the Heimlich maneuver, and his wife (who, incidentally, is the daughter of Arthur Murray, the famed dance instructor). We spent a wonderful hour with them talking about the Heimlich maneuver and his latest work involving using it to treat asthma sufferers. We were stunned to find out days later this Dr. Heimlich’s own son, Peter, has launched an internet crusdae to discredit his father.
Half of The Smithereens. My wife and I rode down an elevator at Kingston Plantation at Myrtle Beach back in 1992 with Pat DiNizio and Mike Mesaros of the rock band The Smithereens. I didn’t know it was them right off the bat, but soon realized it was. When they walked on the elevator – leather-clad from head to toe – I thought, “these guys must be rock stars.” I was something of a Smithereens fan at the time and discovered later that day they were playing at The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. DiNizio looks a lot like Bob Denver’s “Maynard G. Krebs” character from the old TV series, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”
A Pip. Not sure which one, but one member of Gladys Knight & The Pips was eating at a restaurant I visited.
Gallagher. The watermelon-smashing comedian was chatting up his show while my family and I were walking down Las Vegas Boulevard one spring break while we were visiting my mom and her boyfriend, Bud. I stopped and had my wife take my picture with Gallagher. I’d always been a big fan. I was surprised so few people recognized him. Maybe it was because he didn’t have his sledge-o-matic hammer by his side.
Russell Hitchcock of “Air Supply.” Air Supply was on a double-bill with America in Myrtle Beach and I went with my wife, primarily because I love the group America. Air Supply played first, and Russell Hitchcock (the singer) pointed to me at the start of the band’s show and smiled. (My wife and I were on the front row.) Creepy.
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