When it comes to identifying celebrities, I find a lack of recognition kind of sweet. All summer I’ve been sharing stories of readers who knowingly — if briefly — interacted with someone famous. Today we’ll hear from readers who had to be told what just happened.
When the District’s Julie Penndorf was in college, she worked at a Victoria’s Secret in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte.
“In the summer of ’97, I checked out a guy who was buying his wife anything she wanted from the store,” Julie wrote.
The bill came to nearly $1,000. Julie ran the man’s credit card and gave him the receipt to sign. He penned his name: “James Smith.”
After the couple left, a co-worker asked Julie how it felt to get the man’s autograph.
“I looked at her quizzically and said, ‘James Smith?’ She exclaimed, ‘You just served LL Cool J!’”
Years ago, Dale Wall used to take the train regularly between San Diego and Los Angeles with her then-toddler, Taylor.
“I always chose a seat at the front of the car because there was extra room for my antsy child to move around without getting in anyone’s way,” wrote Dale, who lives in Memphis now. On one trip, a middle-aged man asked if he could sit next to them, explaining that those seats had more legroom than the ones farther down the car. “I pointed at my daughter and told him that he rode at his own risk.”
The man took a seat and didn’t seem at all upset when Taylor wiped her Cheerio- and raisin-stained fingers on his sport coat. He even helped Dale unload all of the kid paraphernalia she was traveling with after the train arrived in L.A.
After they went their separate ways, a woman who had apparently been sitting behind Dale said to her, “Burt Bacharach is really a nice guy, isn’t he?”
“I don’t know,” Dale said, strapping her toddler into her stroller. “I’ve never met him.”
The woman laughed and walked away, shaking her head.
In 1995, Russell Hughes of Falls Church was on the return leg of a business trip to Hawaii. He’d spent his last night in Honolulu painting the town and decided to continue the party as he waited for his flight home.
“I found the closest bar to my gate, ordered a drink as I settled onto my stool, and then started chatting with the couple sitting next to me,” he wrote. “Typical bar chat — nothing too personal in nature — but several times while we were talking, people walked up to the woman and asked her for her autograph.”
Russell was a little curious but he also didn’t want to look clueless. He ignored the occasional interruption.
After about 30 minutes — and at least two drinks — the couple got up to catch their flight. When another autograph hound walked up, Russell finally blurted out, “Who the heck are you?”
The woman answered “Oh, I’m nobody” and walked out.
Wrote Russell: “I turned around and asked others in the bar who the mystery guest was and multiple people hollered out in unison, ‘Juliette Lewis.’”
From one airport to another: Early one morning in the 1990s, Susan Taylor was at LAX for a flight to visit her family in Wisconsin. As she stood in line at a newsstand, she noticed that the man in front of her was wearing an immaculate pair of leather sneakers that were the largest, most finely crafted shoes she had ever seen.
“I remember thinking the wearer must be very successful to have custom shoes like that,” wrote Susan, of Newport Beach, Calif.
The man paid for his newspaper, then began pulling it apart, keeping one section and asking the cashier to dispose of the rest. Seeing the puzzled look on Susan’s face, the man said, “I only read the Sports section.”
Susan said they should share the paper as she read everything except the Sports section.
“He let out a quick laugh, flashed me a dazzling smile, handed me the remainder of the newspaper, tucked the Sports section under his arm, and walked away,” Susan wrote.
As Susan watched the man stride down the concourse, the penny dropped.
“The clerk started laughing at the shocked look on my face,” she wrote. “I’d just met Michael Jordan!”