Famous people met: Tale of our own history

Who’s the most famous person you ever met?

I mean directly or indirectly. And I don’t mean being in an audience with hundreds or thousands of others at a concert or rally.

President Gerald Ford tops my list. I met him on July 4, 1976, as he took part in the Bicentennial Wagon Train that made its way to Valley Forge State Park. I was serving as a newspaper reporter for the Pottstown Mercury newspaper some 25 miles away.


President Ford at Valley Forge

I don’t remember anything he said but recall him looking out at the crowd after being introduced by the then governor of Pennsylvania, Milton J Shapp, one of the other famous people I had met three years earlier after being awarded a fellowship to study state government and dine with him and other winners.

(I also wrote a speech for the governor  while working at the public relations officer of PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in Harrisburg.)

Other famous people that I met include both Pennsylvania senators Arlen Spector and John Heinz. I interviewed Sen. Spector at the Sunnybrook Ballroom near Pottstown and covered a speaking event Sen. Heinz attended at a high school several months before his fatal plane crash in Lower Merion Township.

More recently, I shook hands with and joked with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf who took part in a protest against assault weapons at the courthouse steps of Montgomery County in Norristown. He was joined by two county commissioners, all of whom wore orange shirts – myself included – as part of the protest.


My wife had taken a leave of absence from her newspaper job at the Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a volunteer for Geraldine Ferrero, the vice presidential candidate for whom she served as a cavalcade driver. Among those she greeted was Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary who requested Wendy take her to a famous landmark to get a cheesesteak. They ate at Pat’s Steaks in South Philadelphia!

My wife, who passed away more than a year ago, played with the youth orchestra in Lexington KY and visited the White House where they played on the White House Lawn for President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy told the group he had work to do in the Oval Office but that he would keep the door open so that he could hear them play.


I attended a meditation retreat at a monastery for Buddhist monks and nuns in upstate New York and came within five feet of Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Peace Prize for his opposition to the Vietnam War. While at the treatment I join a group of veterans and family members of vets who sang protest songs and shared memories of the war.

One family member asked for forgiveness for what her father may have caused us grunts who served in the war. Her father was a colonel in the Vietnamese army.

Another woman asked us for compassion for what her father may have done during what was then the United States longest war. Her father was a military leader of the US Army by the name of Gen. William Westmorland, who commanded the military operations at the peak of the Vietnam War.

I believe we taste a little bit of history whenever we meet such famous people and their family members. It’s also fun to name drop while showing our own historic roots.

16 comments on “Famous people met: Tale of our own history

  1. sallyjanevictorious says:

    Starting when I was ten, I’ve been the Forrest Gump of famous encounters: pre-presidential John F. Kennedy; Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle; William F. Buckley, Tom Hayden, and Jesse Jackson (balance in all things, right?); Harold Macmillan (Both he and Bill Buckley were lovely men. I actually was acquainted with them.); and several famous actors. I am somewhat ashamed to say, the only encounter that left me dumbstruck was with Paul Newman. He sat down at a table in a NOLA courtyard with me when he was filming The Drowning Pool. He said hello, read a newspaper while I pretended to continue reading a book, and then left, saying goodbye and wishing me a pleasant evening. I was unable to utter.


    • contoveros says:

      Paul Neumann could make anyone dumbstruck.
      Wasn’t Tom Hayden an early opponent to the Vietnam War and a husband of Jane Fonda. I saw Paul Simon in concert some two years ago and of course my wife had played on the White House lawn for JFK.
      You certainly have balanced out you meetings with William F Buckley and Jesse Jackson. I wonder if you were in New Yok or Washington DC when they occurred?
      Great history there!


      • sallyjanevictorious says:

        JFK, Jesse Jackson, S&G, and Tom Hayden were all Chicago meets.

        Back when SDS was becoming The Weatherman, I was at a small conference in Oakbrook, IL, with Tom. A huge snowstorm blew in, and Tom, along with several others, spent two nights at my parents’ house. Tom wrote a really sweet thank-you note to my charmed mother. Mom was in a bridge club with Tom Foran, the Chicago Seven prosecutor. When the trial came up over bridge, my adorable Irish Catholic mother proclaimed, “I don’t care what you say, Tom Foran, that Tom Hayden is a lovely boy!” Mr. Foran thought Mom was so hilarious he told the story to all and sundry. His tale came back to Mom through several channels–my family is host to a plethora of lawyers.

        Bill Buckley regularly visited my college near Boston in the late sixties-early seventies. He was sailing buddies with the head of the philosophy department, and spent a lot of time talking to students. Looking back, I am astonished by the level of courtesy he showed, listening carefully and responding thoughtfully and without any impatience to our at that point incredibly naive power-to-the-people rants.

        Nothing in my life compares with a Kennedy White House performance. Golden memory.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. kyleoyier says:

    Great post


  3. inhiscare753 says:

    My Apple Phone hacked through TMoble by using Voice Recognition. My went dead, tried using my tablet they hacked into Comcast network. This is the IP and the device used. Check out my Twitter


  4. Scott Rudolf says:

    My wife met Ed Rendell when he was running for Governor. She was with some friends in a diner.

    My brother, who was a newspaper reporter and, for a time, a TV station (WNEP) assignment editor, informs me that he interviewed five Governors of Pennsylvania (Thornburgh, Casey, Ridge, Schweiker, Rendell). He also got to photograph President Ford in 1976 during the Presidential campaign (during which time my brother was a senior in high school).

    The most famous person I met was former Congressman John Seiberling, who was on the House Judiciary Committee that adopted the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon in July 1974. The Congressman taught a seminar at my law school. Nice man, good man, but I can’t say he was really famous (he’s just the most famous that I ever met).

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Famous is as famous does. The congressman took part in the history of impeaching a president and I can’t help but think you readily recall your meeting with him as you watch the process going on today with another president.

      Ed Rendell was one of my favorites (Still is, particularly when he discusses the Eagles!) I bumped into him on Broad Street when he was the DA of Philadelphia but didn’t speak to him. I learned later that he was among the famous Philadelphians who threw snowballs at Santa Clause when marching drunk on the field of an Eagles’ game. You gotta love him.
      I’m impressed with all the governors your brother has had contact with. He ought to run for state office with all the name-dropping he could provide . . .


      • Scott Rudolf says:

        Mike, I was surprised at all the Governors my brother got to speak to. I assume these weren’t one on one I interviews since he worked for a tiny newspaper.

        As to Congressman Seiberling, it was a weekly class with about a dozen of us seated around a large table. I wasn’t up on Watergate at that time (other than having been aware as a 13 year old that it was ocurring). For me, I needed a law degree and an understanding of inchoate crimes to make sense of it.

        BTW, if you haven’t seen it, there’s a great BBC series about Watergate from 1994 or 1995 that’s on YouTube. Very thorough, explained very well, with interviews with damn near everybody involved. Nixon’s interviews are clips from the David Frost interviews interviews, and Leon Jaworski’s are from other taped program, but the rest are BBC interviews. Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Magurder, Dean, Liddy, on down — all interviewed by the BBC for the program. The Watergate burglars themselves, the lead FBI investigator, a lawyer from the Special Prosecutors Staff, Al Haig … just about everybody. If it’s something you haven’t seen, and you’re interested in Warergate, let me know and I’ll find the link for you.


  5. contoveros says:

    The following is a famous conversation I had with important viewers of Facebook:

    Sharon Sabrarose Ivanov:
    Good read. This topic’s fun to reflect on & ask other people about- good idea… OX
    I forgot that my first wife — Ella Gore — and I once went backstage at a night club in Hawaii and shook hands with the singer Don Ho. He was famous in 1970 for a song called “Tiny Bubbles.” I was on R & R from the Vietnam War!
    Janet Mather
    I was THIS close to Geraldine Ferraro when she spoke at a church in Germantown, during her campaign, and THIS close to Jesse Jackson when he spoke at a church in Mt. Airy. And have a friend who is a friend of Eliz. Warren. Shook Bill Clinton’s hand in spring of 2016. And then there’s Mike Contos, who I actually HUGGED recently.
    What a famous hug — scene around the world!
    Ain’t it cool to name drop? It shows where our interests lie. Geraldine Ferraro, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and a friend of Elizabeth Warren.

    I forgot to mention that Wendy and my son greeted Hillary Clinton when she came to the Fellowship House of Conshohocken in 2008. We got pictures of them. My son — who was 15 or 16 — was wearing a “wife-beater” shirt. Hillary didn’t seem to mind, and she got our votes!
    Diane Hamilton Burrus Pomponi:
    In 1968, I met Joey Bishop when I worked as a secretary at the law offices of Cohen, Shapiro, Berger, Polisher & Cohen in the PSFS Building. He was a friend of one of the partners. He was wearing a fire-engine red knit “Polo” brand shirt that perfectly highlighted his incredible deep Hollywood tan. I was very impressed. About ten years later, I shook hands with and sat down to eat at a pot-luck with a young Senator Joe Biden and about 7 other people… back in the late 1970s when he visited Cal State University, Dominguez Hills where I worked in the Student Affairs Division. He was meeting with our Associated Students. I remember how he joked that people often confused him with our then Governor Jerry Brown. He was very down to earth and a gentleman… but I’m still hoping Elizabeth Warren will be our nominee in 2020. I also met Jose Greco and his wife, Nana Lorca… also in the 70s, when they performed on the campus and I, along with a few others, were responsible for ironing their elaborate flamenco costumes for their performance. Luckily, I was not the person designated to help him quick-change his costumes between numbers!!! Those tight pants would have been impossible! I didn’t meet OJ Simpson, but I did see him on the El Camino College campus during the 80s while he was starring in the TV series “First & 10.” They used the campus for filming the series. He was so much shorter than I thought he would be. On several occasions, the CSU Dominguez Hills campus was used to film several episodes of “24,” so I got to watch Keifer Sutherland shooting and being shot at. He was also much shorter than I expected. And last, but certainly not least, I had the honor and pleasure to spend both the 4th and 6th grades as a student of Sister Josephine Francis… who became famous through the writings of Mike Contos!
    Joey Bishop. I haven’t heard that name since the days of the old “Rat Pack.” He was a true Philadelphian and helluva likable guy from what I could tell from TV and the magazines. Joe Biden, Jose Greco too.

    Keifer Sutherland is one of my favorites ever since the television series “24.” My son got me a model of his character — Jack Bauer — breaking down a door with his leg raised.

    But Sister Josephine Francis tops the list of famous people in my book. The book is the Baltimore Catechism, by the way!
    Howard Brown
    My Wife
    Famous indeed for having to put up with such a miscreant!
    Howard Brown
    Gene Pitney
    What a town without pity can do for Brewerytown!
    Howard Brown
    I met Michael J Contos
    Now that is some famous “bull.”
    Nancy Stinson
    Muddy Waters, Country Joe, Ginger Rogers, Allan Lane (Mr. Ed’s owner), Chet Atkins, Ruthie Foster, the 14th Karmapa.

    I am impressed by the group of famous people you mentioned above. I have to admit that I had to look up Ruthie Foster and I would not have known about Allan Lane if you didn’t mention he was Mr. Ed’s owner.
    Muddy Waters. Wow!
    Country Joe — “What are we fighting’ for? Don’t ask cause I don’t give a damn Next stop is Vietnam.”
    Ginger Roger had to do everything Fred Astaire did but only backwards and on high heels! Cool!

    Nancy Stinson
    Ginger and Young were Christian Scientists and were in Boston for a church convention. They stayed in the hotel where I worked as a waitress, in the fancy coffee shop. They were difficult customers and didn’t drink alcohol, so their demands were high and their bills were low.
    Bigwigs from the DNC stayed at the same hotel during the convention in 1972 and I waited on them too. They told all the staff- waitress, housekeepers, bellmen etc – that we would receive our gratuities at the end of their stay, but they stiffed us all, including the hotel.
    Also met Chet Atkins there. He was performing with the Boston Symphony and invited me to attend as his guest. Baseball teams also stayed at the hotel so I met a lot of players whose names I don’t remember or never knew.

    The DNC stiffed the waitresses? Shame on them since the minimum wage was far less for those working in restaurants. My mom worked as a waitress and so did my first girlfriend. And this was in 1972 when Richard Nixon was using his dirty tricks to win an election against George McGovern, whom I endorsed as editor of my small community college newspaper.
    Shulamit Sofia
    Walter Cronkite Bobby Kennedy Trini Lopez Bill Clinton Isabelle Allendei

    Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America!
    Bobby Kennedy was one of my early heroes and I learned of his assassination after being drafted and marching in boot amp. I wanted to stop the world and grieve and couldn’t.
    Felt bad when Trini Lopez dies after jumping out of a plane with a parachute and crashing into trees in the Dirty Dozen.
    Bill Clinton sent a car to my son who sent him a letter. We also have a picture of him addressed to me and my wife for being one of his supporters.
    Erica Bartlett
    Dr. Seuss.

    The real Dr. Seuss has a special place in my heart. My son Nicholas shares the same birthday, March 2nd!
    Elton Anglada
    Jorma Kaukonen, Johnny Winter

    Two great guitar players!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, well you and your wife didn’t just meet famous people, you met the political people who truly were/are a fixture of our history. I’m from Boston, so anyone meeting any one of the Kennedy’s gets my attention. In Boston, and much like the country at one point I do suppose, they were considered royalty. I haven’t met many famous politicians, though I have seen Al Gore, George W. Bush and Barack Obama pass on by in a motorcade… Hahahaha! Not sure that counts!

    I live in Los Angeles. And I happen to live where all the celebrities actually live or sometimes hang out so I see them often. I guess my favorite sightings were Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Brokaw, Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins. I sat at dinner next to one of them, was in line at the grocery store with two of them (at different times), and had a cup of coffee with another. But of course, my precious famous celeb sighting, was actually meeting with James Earl Jones. That was a little different because I headed the production he was working on, so someone surprised me and told him how much I was a fan and he came over to me during the lunch break and we had a wonderful sit down conversation that will forever be my joy. And yes, I got pics! Aahhhh… that was so nice to read this morning and reminisce over. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Brokaw, Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins — they’re among my favorites! James Earl Jones tops the cake. Glad to hear you got pictures that you can share with others how the voice of Darth Vader met such a famous person!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, well, I would never purposely link my blog post to yours, so forgive me — but I want to share the pic of me and James Earl Jones — I wrote a blog post about part of our conversation which was about stuttering. Here is the link. https://wp.me/pVc7s-16h

        And he’s a very kind man. It was one of the best moment of my life — I’m not even exaggerating because he was exactly how I expected him to be. A lovely man. Thanks for a the fun great post — it’s always good to take a trip down memory lane. Hugs. And happy sweet day to you!

        Liked by 1 person

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