In my life, I’ve had a grand total of three close encounters with famous people. (Four if you count the time I saw Dave Matthews get out of a car in Nashville, but that could have been a lookalike.)
Now, I don’t mean people who are renowned in their field, local celebrities, etc., but legitimately famous people. As a child, I met – as in, shook hands with – Charlton Heston at a dinner in Birmingham. I was too young to have any idea that the man was associated with anything more political than chariot races and getting even with damned, dirty apes. (This may be why I found it really weird that he signed a picture for me, then told me that I could have it when I pried it from his cold, dead hands.)
I also met Paul Simon while living in Nashville. He was walking down a hall at Warner, I was walking down the same hall, and as we passed each other I made the scintillating insight that he was, in fact, Paul Simon. He did not seem as overwhelmed by this as I was. But at least he smiled and mumbled something that sounded like “Yyyyyyyyup.”
Honestly, this encounter could have been significantly more embarrassing, because I did not say the first thing that came to mind. The first thing that came to mind was, “Wow, that guy is extremely short.” I have a feeling that this may have evoked a different, perhaps more humiliating response, and am glad that we kept it to the basics.
But my favorite “Hey, that’s a famous-person”-story actually happened while we were at Baylor. Joanie and I went out with two dear friends of ours, John and Ellie, and as we walked into the restaurant we saw a guy wearing a very loud, very funny-looking shirt.
Now, everybody who tells this story swears that they were the ones to say the following line in reference to everybody’s favorite heist movie that included George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt – Ocean’s Eleven – but I’m almost certain it was me, for two reasons.
· First, I’ve been stealing this line since I saw the movie.
· Second, anybody who has spent more than ten minutes with me knows that I don’t actually have a personality or vocabulary, but am rather just a bundle of movie/music/book references held together by hairy skin.
So while the years may have dulled certainty, I’m pretty sure that I said, upon viewing this excellently tasteless shirt, “Hey, Ted Nugent called. He wants that guy’s shirt back.”
We shared a giggle as we were seated and proceeded to order our food. A few moments later, John looked up from his then-brand-new-iPhone and said the words that changed our lives forever.
“Dude… that is Ted Nugent.”
And proceeded to show us a photo that not only confirmed the man in the restaurant as Ted White and Blue, but as Ted Nugent Wearing That Exact T-Shirt On the Internet.
Needless to say, we were flabbergasted. The man who, for good or ill, wrote “Cat Scratch Fever,” the man who uttered such witticisms as “My idea of fast food is a mallard,” was sitting a paltry five yards from our very table.
Also needless to say, we (being shameless) went up to Mr. Nugent and asked him if he was, in fact, Ted Nugent. This was eerily similar to my situation with Paul Simon, as he simply smiled and confirmed his own existence. Upon being informed that we were fans of his (I mean, why not), he smiled even more, shook our hands, and informed us that it was a pleasure to make our acquaintances. (Joanie insisted that she would never wash that hand again, but I think she probably has by now. At least, I hope she has by now.)
Apparently, Ted owns a ranch in Crawford, Texas – we found out from friends of ours at Baylor that Nugent-sightings aren’t uncommon in the area. He’s known for being pretty laid back and approachable for somebody who once asserted that he has, in his storied history, “busted more hippies' noses than all the narcs in the free world.”
This entire incident, of course, led to us all actually being huge Ted Nugent fans for at least a week. It was up there with the Chuck Norris craze, but only for the four of us.
I think “Cat Scratch Fever,” which remains the only song of his that I can readily identify, was my cell-phone ring, and we all read up on funny Ted Nugent one-liners. Joanie and I even picked a favorite, which we still use frequently today: “Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians.”
(Side note to vegetarians: we love you. We really do. We have many vegetarian friends, and have been known to put tofu in lasagna, make homemade falafel, and ingest other vegetarian-oriented food-stuffs from time to time. But please – do NOT try to convert us. Joanie grew up on a beef farm, and I would probably eat nothing but ribs and/or chicken wings forever if I thought I could get away with it. We believe that we have canine teeth for a reason, and that anybody who spends more than ten minutes around a cow will understand why they are food. You will not win this one. Just move along.)
Our love for The Nuge has dimmed, but will never wholly fade, largely because he was so cool in person - especially in comparison with his fairly, um, “intense” public persona. And to this day, whenever I hear “Cat Scratch Fever,” I desperately crave Pad Thai.
But definitely not a vegetarian version.