In my humble life, as a not wealthy man from Ottawa, I’ve encountered a fair number of famous people. Whether it was because of working in a fancy steakhouse, or through my nationally famous late father-in-law (a great guy, by the way), I have met famous musicians and movie stars and politicians and many people of high social standing.
Serving Jean Chretien over and over again, shaking Gordon Lightfoot’s hand at a funeral, sitting shoulder to shoulder with Harrison Ford, looking at a French Impressionistic painting together on a small marble bench in Chicago. The famous musicians I once opened for, the chance encounters in New York or Toronto, the familial connections, it’s allowed me to encounter several world famous artists and performers. Hell, my father-in-law was once on the Ed Sullivan Show the same night as a drunken Errol Flynn, who recited Shakespeare.
But as I’ve been listening to some music, it made me wonder who I would like to meet. Of course, many of my heroes might be anti-social or shy or guarded. But if they weren’t, it would be an interesting choice to make. I bet we all have an interesting top five, for different reasons.
I would like to talk to Tom Waits, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan. They would likely all be a bit clammed up. I would ask Tom Waits about his transition from a troubadour to a more theatrical character performer. I would ask Kris how being a writer was a career that was different from being a performer. If he ever felt like a rock star. I would ask Dylan how confident he felt when he went electric. If he ever had any doubt. Interestingly, all three of those heroes acted in film. Two of them well.
Funny, I can’t really think of an actor I would love to meet. Or a politician. Of course, I’d like to meet Sophia Loren when she was thirty. Or JFK or RFK or MLK Jr. But that’s fantasy stuff.
I guess I could list thirty musicians I would like to meet. Mostly writers. But as the saying goes, never meet your heroes because they won’t be your heroes anymore. I suppose, if I had to pick just one person, it would be Pete Seeger. For his stories, for his activism, for his suffering on the blacklist. Maybe I wouldn’t ask him anything. Perhaps I would just thank him and shake his hand.
The thought of it almost makes me cry.