FAMOUS ENCOUNTERS - Part I 4/23/2020

I spent last night reading through some posts about fans encounters with famous people. Anyone from actors to musicians to athletes, it was interesting to see whose name popped up again and again in a positive light and vice versa.

I've been fortunate to meet some celebrities if you will through Eclectic Arts. But, I've also met people through conventions as a fan, public appearances, and a few times by mere chance out in public. So, I thought it would be a fun way to pass the time writing about a few of those memories that are not EA specific (with a few exceptions). These are clearly not verbatim as my memory continues to fail me on a daily basis.

Here we go in no particular order:

*Lenny Wilkens (NBA Player and Sonics Head Coach)

I was buying movie tickets with my mom at a Bellevue Theatre (the one that you had to take the escalator up to - where Tower Music moved to). Walking not too far from us, leaving the theatre outside, was Coach. I said something to the effect to my mom, "hey there's Lenny Wilkens or there's Coach Lenny". He clearly overheard me and did a closed mouthed smile and a one finger point and shoot toward me. I thought that was the coolest thing. This was maybe early 90's…. not real sure on the date.

*Eddie Jackson (Queensryche)

My family used to frequent Mia Roma in Kenmore. We were there sometime in the 90's I want to say and over to my right was a couple eating dinner. I looked at the guy again and realized it was Eddie. I didn't want to bother him while he was eating but thought it was cool to see him about 6 feet away from me at a place I liked to eat (miss that place btw).

*Ann Wilson (Heart)

One of the big festivals during the summer - which I believe was Bumbershoot - Ann was walking with one or two people taking in the sights and sounds. No one seemed to be bothering her and I thought that was cool to see her out and about. This was either late 80's or early 90's.

*Efren Herrera (kicker for the Seahawks)

This was probably the first celebrity I remember seeing in public. We were at a movie theatre in Bellevue - north of where Bellevue Square is now. I believe we were seeing one of the Pink Panther movies. Efren was there and I don't remember if people applauded him as he left or as he came, I just know there was commotion that he was at the theater with the rest of us watching the film. I think this was the late 70's.

*Queensryche (three members)

I was at Easy Street Records with my mom and I had already purchased the Queensryche EP earlier in the year. There were three guys standing at the counter with leather jackets on and jeans. To this day I believe it was Geoff, Chris, and Michael but I'm not positive. I knew what they looked like from the back of the EP (well half of their faces due to the shadows - hah). All I remember is that I was looking through records to buy and one of the guys kept staring at me like, "don't you know who we are" kind of vibe. I did know who they were but I was too shy to say anything to them. This was the early 80's.

That's all I have for now regarding public run ins with celebs. I may remember more. Next up are 

Public Appearances (unpaid - public can get something signed for free).

*Freddy Garcia (Mariner's starting pitcher)

The Mariners were doing monthly signings at Macy's downtown. I decided to go down and wait in line to get Freddy's autograph on a baseball. When I got down there the line was around the block! I don't remember how long I waited but I did manage to get up there, take a photo of him signing stuff, got my ball signed, and then left. It was free so it was worth the wait. This was either 2001 or 2002.

*Felix Hernandez (Mariners starting pitcher)

Another Mariners sponsored signing - this time at the Ballard Fred Meyer. I knew from before to get there early so I did. I must have been about 60th in line or so. I had brought a jersey for him to sign (and hopefully personalize - I was big into that). When I got up to his table, I asked if he could sign my jersey, "To Mark" which he was happy to do (knowing that I wasn't going to re-sell it - ahhhhh - yes, a tip to you that get autographs). I then asked if he mind writing, "King" Felix Hernandez - the whole King thing was just starting up. There was no Kings Court or any of that yet. He laughed and embarrassingly said, "no no - I can't do that" and laughed some more. I good-naturedly said, "but you’re the king" and he laughed some more. Still have that jersey. This was maybe his second year as a starter or so.

*Betty Lennox and Lauren (LJ) Jackson, LJ, and LJ (Seattle Storm)

I was just getting into the Storm and I saw that in 2004 Betty and LJ were doing a signing at a QFC in Bellevue. I got there and there was a small line. I didn't quite understand where they would be signing in the store. When I got closer - I saw that they had them in the produce section. Yeah, the produce section. One of the sponsors was milk and when I got to the table Betty asked me if I drank milk. I said, "sometimes" which was true. I don't remember what she said back to me but it was something like, "it makes you strong like me" …I don't even remember what I said to LJ or if she said anything to me. She was definitely the quieter of the two. Still pleasant but quiet. Why they had those two star athletes by the damn produce is beyond me.

There was another signing at the same QFC but with just LJ there. I think Starbucks sponsored it. So logically they had her table by the Starbucks café. I got a picture with LJ but it was one where she was leaning over the table. Still pleasant. Still quiet.

Lastly, I waited at a newsstand/book place in the U District to meet LJ again. The big photo book had just come out of Australian Olympic athletes in the nude (some showing parts of their bodies, others were implied). I felt weird getting the book signed but I had her sign the introductory page photo where she had on clothes.

*Sue Bird, LJ, and Diana Taurasi (Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury)

The three stars of the WNBA were at Nike Town doing a signing. I remember they had a drawing and I won a signed Diana t-shirt (I never win anything) - which I still have. I remember our family got a photo with (the late) coach Anne Donovan - she's like 6'10" and it shows. I also remember that one of the police officers there working security said I looked familiar to him. I said is that a good thing or a bad thing? He laughed and as we got to talking, he may have run across me as he patrolled the east side where I grew up.

I've met the Seattle Storm on numerous occasions, as I was a season ticket holder for years. Once a season they would have a courtside only party so I could comment on those gatherings but they were too numerous to mention. Maybe for another post.

*Kane (WWE)

I went to a public signing at a now defunct K- Mart in Shoreline to meet Kane. He was there before the wrestling event that night at Key Arena.

I learned from my Barry Manilow mishap to either get to these signings early or don't go at all. So, I was there early but the line was already formed outside the door. It seemed like I waited over an hour before he showed up to sign.

I don’t remember much about getting my promo photo signed other than he shook my hand, I asked him something (I usually have a question in mind) that I don't remember right now, and that he spoke very well. He personalized my photo and then it was over.

Next up - paid public appearances (for charity or conventions)

*Seattle Mariners - Dave Valle charity signings

I went to a handful of these signings with my mom at Bellevue Square. They would do two sessions - four players per session - different players each session and some of the money went to Dave's charity. You paid for each session you wanted. We would get there really early to stand in line. This started around 2002 and we went every year until they stopped.

I don't remember all of the players but I do remember getting my photo personalized by Edgar Martinez - something they said the players wouldn't do. I asked him anyway and he was happy to do it (again most celebs like it when you get your item personalized because there's much less of a chance of you trying to resell the autograph). He was the class act we've come to know and love.

I met Mike Cameron, Mark McLemore (kind of a jerk), Joel Piniero, Willy Bloomquist, Freddy Garcia (again), Dan Wilson, and several others.

Dave Valle would usually go through the line of people waiting and shake hands, say hello, sign something for free if you wanted, sometimes gave out photos, etc. Super nice guy.

I met Rick Rizzs at one of the signings. He was exactly the way he is on the radio. He asked me my name, we talked about contracts for on air talent, the state of the team, everything. I got a photo with him and Valle - its somewhere around here. A total gentleman.

*Brett Boone (Seattle Mariners)

Boone was doing a signing at a hitting complex in Redmond. It was on a Sunday after they had played an early game. I remember getting up there he asked how I was doing, I asked how he was doing and he just kind of groaned. I said, "hey at least you got the W" and he did that classic Boone smirk - looked right at me - nodded his head and said, "yeah!" and smiled.

*Mad Monster 2014 (Bellevue, WA)

I attended this convention purely as a fan. Here are my memories:

*Peter Criss (KISS)

Peter was the main reason for attending - although there was a great list of celebs at the event. Being a big KISS fan in the early days, this was my chance to finally meet him. And his prices were reasonable (I think it was like $50 or something for an autograph - I figured it would have been higher). He had his own separate room away from the main room where the other guests were. They had everything down to a science - single person line, items you could buy, his wife taking the money, and one by one you got your few seconds with Peter for a photo with your camera (phone) or an autograph or both (I got both).

I remember talking to him and my "strategy" was that until they tell me to move along, I was going to keep talking to him. He hugged me; we talked about 1979 (the show I saw) - what he remembered about that tour (not much due to his excesses) and some other random Kiss things. He hugged me AGAIN then I got the photo taken. One of my best fan experiences as a paying fan.

*Heidi Sorenson (former Playmate and actress)

This was Heidi's first (and maybe only) convention. They got the entire living cast from one of my favorite horror films together, "Fright Night". Heidi had a small part in it as one of the victims.

Most every other actor had people talking to him or her at their tables, autographs, photos, and the usual. Heidi didn't so I went and talked with her for a while. She talked about her breast cancer scare, her work for breast cancer awareness, other things she had been doing career wise, etc. I told her I felt kind of bad buying something now after hearing about her breast cancer work but she quickly told me that she doesn't regret her Playboy appearance, etc. I've never met a Playmate before (or since) and she had photos for purchase and also "her" issue of Playboy she was in. I thought she meant facsimiles of her issue but I later found out, no, she had actual copies. Missed opportunity. Anyway, I bought a photo instead and got a selfie with her. Super sweet lady.

*Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (Misfits)

One thing that was different about Mad Monster is that they had music guests alongside the genre guests. I knew who Doyle was from his Misfits work. I thought it would be cool to buy a shirt and get a photo with him. When I pulled out my phone for the photo, he said he had the exact same Otter Box case (but with a different photo on the back) - mine had this picture of tall grass on the backside of it. He said he was going to get the same one as mine but he said if you drop it in the grass - (he then gestured with his arms in a "I don't know" gesture - like you wouldn't be able to find it). I laughed and he thanked me. He was very cool the first time I met him.

*Marky Ramone (The Ramones)

I got a selfie with Marky. I do remember asking him something but I don't remember what it was. He was cool and approachable.

*Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWE Hall Of Famer)

I was on the fence about paying for a selfie with Hot Rod. I knew he was a legend but I was running out of money. (I think it was only $10 - autographs were a lot more) But then I decided shit who knows when I'll get the chance again. Thank goodness that side of me won out.

He could not have been more gracious. He came right up to me, shook my hand, asked me where I was from, shook my brother and sister in laws hands who were standing off to the side, and was completely "present" with me.

When we went to take the photo(s) - he was saying under his breath things like, "damn you Andre the Giant" and "I'm going to kill you Hulkster" and all sorts of other wrestling things which made me laugh. All three photos I'm smiling in them because he was making me laugh while he posed like a tough guy for at least one of them - all while saying that stuff to me under his breath. What a fantastic experience with Hot Rod. RIP.

I was out of money so I didn't get anything from the main cast members of, "Fright Night". I do remember standing around listening a bit to Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale, and others while they chatted with fans.

WWE Fan Axxess (prior to Wrestlemania 19 - 2003)

*Night One (Thursday)

I was way into WWE at this point and had saved what I could to attend at least one Fan Axxess (ended up attending two) before the Wrestlemania 19 on Sunday and RAW on Monday. They did 5 Fan Axxess sessions back then - one on Thursday, two on Friday, and two on Saturday (I think - may be wrong on that)

Your ticket only guaranteed you entry. You didn’t know which wrestlers would be there, who would be doing what, etc. My hope was that between the two sessions I paid for, that I would meet either Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit (before his atrocities obviously), Kurt Angle, or Brock Lesnar. The Rock and Stone Cold would be awesome too but I figured their lines would be ridiculous - ditto Undertakers.

They had a merch booth inside but only typical items. There was nothing like the promo photos WWE used so I had taken a chance and bought a range of promo photos online ahead of time. Brought all of them with me and hoped I'd get at least one of them signed by one of my favorite wrestlers.

Autograph signings were free. Professional photos were like $15 additional but it was for charity.

They had a wrestling ring in side where different wrestlers would talk and do Q/A's. I got super lucky as The Rock came out and talked. I was about 10 feet from him. Stone Cold did an autograph signing but I can't remember if it was TH or FRI. Anyway, his line was understandably stupid long so I didn't bother waiting in it. Just watched him sign stuff for a bit and then walked around.

The Hurricane was the first doing the charity photos so I got one of those. Then they said Eddie and Chavo would be doing the next round. Both guys asked me how I was doing, what match I was looking forward to (Angle VS Lesnar I told them which they both gave me shit about - for fun - saying what about their tag team match). SO glad I got that photo. RIP Eddie.

I got one autograph that night which was Torrie Wilson - she was super sweet. With every fan she took her time - as did almost every wrestler. They knew. This was a paid WWE event so they were all "on their game" so to speak. Taker showed up to sign but understandably his line was worse than Stone Cold's….

*Night Two (Friday - Second Session)

The second session was Friday at night. As the first session fans were leaving everyone was asking them who was in there, who signed during the session, etc. It was HHH and I believe Benoit. So I was bummed but still hopeful.

Once inside it was much, much louder due to more fans than Thursday night. I managed to buy a book at the merch booth (as I didn't have promo photos of either guy) and get Matt and Jeff Hardy to sign it. Matt was very cool - I told him his gimmick of Matt V 2.0 should evolve into Matt V PIE (pie symbol) which he laughed about. Jeff was super shy and awkward but still shook my hand and thanked me.

Lita was in the ring talking and answering questions.

For the autograph sessions, I got super lucky as both Brock AND Kurt were there signing. I was in line for Brock first. A few people in front of me was a kid in a wheelchair. When the kid was next to meet Brock, I still remember this. Brock got up from the table, came off the stage, and got eye level with the kid. He shook his hand, asked him how he was, who was his favorite wrestler (Brock the kid said), and he signed something for the kid. Like I mentioned earlier, the wrestlers knew this was a paid WWE event but man did Brock go above and beyond.

When I got up to meet him he shook my hand (crushed my hand is more like it), I told him his match with Kurt was what I was looking most forward to on the card which he was happy about and that he was going to walk out of there the champ), and then he thanked me again.

I got in Kurt's line next and when I got up there you could tell his neck was bothering him. He was rubbing it, and trying to not move it too much. But, he was still out there, signing everything for the fans. When I got up there I told him the same thing I told Brock and he said thanks man. Brocks going down and its true - its damn true lol. He shook my hand and that was that. Both wrestlers were awesome!

As a side note - I think it was actually on Thursday - they had a roped off area where wrestlers would speak about their workout routines. John Cena came out and was talking to a few fans about his workout routine. I watched for a bit and then moved on. Keep in mind this was 2003 and John wasn't "John Cena" you know? He was still the guy that was trying to find his gimmick. At Wrestlemania he did that awesome dis rap before the show went live around the world which really got him on the path to becoming the John Cena we know today.


*Nightwish - 2005

The "Once" tour came to Seattle at El Corazon. It was more like a promo tour as they only played like ten shows or so. The album wasn't even out in the US yet. After the gig, I waited outside with a lot of fans.

Time passed and some fans left.

Eventually, from the side door (a place I had never seen bands come out from), I saw a guy with a hat on walk past every fan, on his way to the tour bus which was just behind me. He had his head down but I suspected that was Tuomas. I said his name; he lifted his head and grinned at me. I asked him if he could sign my CD booklet which he obliged and we chatted a little bit. By this point other fans saw him and then he was stuck. Sorry Tuomas.

The other band members came out so I talked with Jukka (drummer) quite a bit. Then Emppu (guitarist). I just needed Marco and Tarja. Well, over by the door I saw Marco so I got his signature. I don't remember saying much to him. Then Tarja came out. She was super pleasant. There were stories floating around that she was aloof and wouldn't sign or take photos with fans but she was the complete opposite in Seattle. I thanked her and mentioned how much I loved the new album. She was very polite and thankful.

I was glad I waited as long as I did considering that was her only appearance in Seattle as the vocalist of Nightwish.

To Be Continued...


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