The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, April 6, 2014

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, April 6, 2014

Coming to Champaign-Urbana later this month: one Oscar-winning director, one two-time nominee and other stars of the silver screen.

With Ebertfest around the corner, we asked today's panel to tell us about their one celebrity encounter that went from awesome to awkward.


Co-owner, Jane Addams Book Shop

"As a UI student, I was studying on the lawn one afternoon at our apartment on South First Street when I saw four guys rollerblading down the street.

"It was Van Halen — minus Eddie but plus a roadie. They were tired and lost, and they asked for directions back to University Inn, which is now The Tower on Third on campus. I gave them directions but then managed to remember that I had a car. I asked if they wanted a ride. Their looks indicated that I might have offered that information sooner, but they accepted and still appreciated it.

"On the ride back up South First, the roadie attempted to hang on to my trailer hitch and skate. That didn't work out."


Principal, Centennial High

"In college, I was working at what used to be the Pizza Inn, right near the Savoy movie theater. Late one evening, someone who I was pretty sure was Harry Connick Jr. came in with three or four people and ordered a sandwich. The others didn't order anything; they just stared at me while I took the order. I was the only one working up front at that point, and I remember trying not to stare back, thinking, 'Hmmm, is that really Harry Connick Jr.?'

"I later found out that he was performing at the Assembly Hall the next night, so I figured it had to be him. All I could think of after that point was: Our sandwiches stink; I can't believe he ordered one here."


1999 Champaign County Fair Queen, 2000 Illinois County Fair Queen

"As I was waiting to meet Def Leppard before they performed at the Illinois State Fair, I found myself at a table with their drummer, Rick Allen. I told him how much I loved their music.

"He looked at me and said, 'Nice hat,' in reference to the crown I was wearing."


Former assistant coach, University of Illinois basketball team

"I was 23 and asked to work as the manager for the 1992 Dream Team — the first collection of NBA players to play for the Olympic team and included 11 likely Hall of Famers. My first duty after arriving in La Jolla, Calif., was to deliver their practice gear. I guess I was in a fog — I just grabbed the rooming list and set out to do my delivery.

"I vividly remember going to the first room and knocking on the door. It swings open — and there is Magic Johnson. I must have just stared at him and not said anything because he put his hand out and said, 'Hi, I'm Magic. What's your name, because it looks like we are going to be together for a few weeks.'

"I told him my name, handed him his gear, then proceeded to the next room, which was the other M.J. I did much better on Michael Jordan's drop."


Pastor, Tuscola's United Methodist Church

"Mine was riding in a hotel elevator with James Garner in Cocoa Beach, Fla., while they were filming 'Space Cowboys.' I was with my husband and two kids, who were really young then — and while I was tongue-tied, our son struck up a conversation with him."


Anchor, WICD-TV

"One of the few times I was rendered speechless was when I met Roger Ebert. I was about 17. A family friend was working on the show at the time. I got a tour of the 'At the Movies' studio — yep, the balcony was really there — then headed into the makeup room. And there was Roger, looking over scripts and talking with a producer.

"I'm really never at a loss for words — shocking, right? — but I was that day. All I could get out was a 'Hello,' a smile and a 'Nice to meet you.' He said hello and asked if I was enjoying my visit. That was a cool moment."


Mayor, Mahomet

"My most lasting memory always will date back to when I was 7 and my family was staying at a hotel in Maryland. This guy gets on the elevator and rides up several floors with us. It was my first celebrity encounter. My dad explained to me who he was and I remember becoming just as impressed as he was because I watched him on the television every week.

"Then I remember the disappointment the next time we watched 'Hee Haw' on Saturday night when I learned that it was not Roy Clark I had met, but some other guy named Roy Rogers I'd never heard of."


Anchor, WCIA-TV

"A few years ago, Reggie Bush was in Danville to shoot a show called 'The Same Name.' He traded places with the Reggie Bush who lived in Danville and sent him to live the lavish life. I got to cover the story here.

"We didn't have much time with Reggie; the story was a bit of a blur. I just remember smiling — a lot — and telling him he looked smaller in person. Smooth."


2008 Olympic gymnast, UI men's coach

"We started the 48-city post-Olympic tour in California, with a charity show done for television. Mario, an R&B/pop singer, was one of the many artists there performing. I was in the back with him and a few other stars — Kenny Loggins and Maria Sharapova.

"Mario was dancing with one of the rhythmic gymnasts, preparing for a lift move like in ice skating. Naturally, I pulled out my phone to videotape it. She ran to him, he hoisted her above his head and ... she came crashing down on top of him.

"He gets up immediately, runs over, points to me with a big smile on his face and says, 'You better not put that on the Internet. I don't want to see that all over YouTube.'

"I never did, but wanted to so bad."


Rantoul native; assistant basketball coach, Canisius College

"Last summer in Las Vegas, I was out to dinner with a few friends at the Aria Hotel. We were hanging out, having a good time and next thing you know, Dr. J (Julius Erving) rolls into the spot. I had to do a double take — not only was he there but headed right for us and sat at a table next to ours.

"I couldn't resist and (yelled): 'The Doctor is in the building!' He looked at me like 'Who is this guy?' and then he broke a smile. I bought the Doctor a cocktail and we toasted and talked old school hoops for about 15 minutes."


Dean, UI College of Business

"I went to high school with Jerry Hadley, who became an internationally known operatic tenor and three-time Grammy Award winner. He sang at my wedding when we were both in grad school in the late '70s.

"In 1990, my wife Cindy and I went to the Met in New York to attend the final performance of Don Giovanni, an opera directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Jerry played the role of Ottavio. After the opera, we accompanied Jerry to a 'champagne party' at a nearby apartment. My wife and I brought some champagne to the party, but when we opened the fridge, it was completely full of French champagne — remarkably more expensive than the domestic bottle we brought.

"We did our best to hide our bottle at the very back of the fridge and disappeared into the crowded room."


Anchor, WICD-TV

"I decided to go out with a group of friends to a popular club, at the last minute, on a Sunday night in Tampa, Florida. Yes, Sunday.

"A giant of a man was standing alone. He looked familiar. It was a legend — Michael Jordan. I paused, my mind blank. What do I say? Then, I thought, 'Is that really ...? Noooo.'

"Yes, it was Michael Jordan and I said, 'hi' and 'goodbye' at the same time and walked away."


Owner, The Salon House, Champaign

"It was 1994. I was 30 at the time. I was rushing to the Brookfield Zoo with my 8-year-old son after missing his field trip bus. My friend Karen and I arrived, and we were lucky enough to find the group of students within 15 minutes.

"After my son went with them, we headed out of the zoo through a back way. And out the door of the building walks Tom Selleck and his bodyguard. There was no one else but us four. We told him it was a pleasure to meet him but I couldn't get his autograph because we didn't have a pen. We later found out he was there filming 'Folks.'"

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (1):People

Comments embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments