Big names but regular JoesI’m not a big fan of celebrities. Never have been, never will be. But one of the things about living in Los Angeles is that, in addition to green lawns and flowers in January, crashing waves, sooty air, 14 million neighbors and an opportunity to overpay for everything from socks to hot dogs, you get to meet them, whether you want to or not.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I’m not a big fan of celebrities. Never have been, never will be. But one of the things about living in Los Angeles is that, in addition to green lawns and flowers in January, crashing waves, sooty air, 14 million neighbors and an opportunity to overpay for everything from socks to hot dogs, you get to meet them, whether you want to or not.
I met National Basketball Association giant Shaquille O’Neal after my son’s sixth grade basketball team won a tournament at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach when he waived my son and me over to his black SUV.
“What’s going on in the gym?” he asked.
“My son’s basketball team just won a sixth grade tournament,” I announced, beaming like a typically proud father, thinking that Shaq would be incredibly impressed.
“Oh,” he said, with mild indifference, “I wanted to practice free throws.”
“Good idea,” I said.
“What do you mean?” he asked, no doubt sensitive to the fact that he might be the worst free throw shooter of all time.
“Nothing,” I said and we walked off. He was just another guy, except for being so big that he wore his SUV like a leotard.
I met Judith Exner, former girlfriend of mob boss Sam Giancana and President John F. Kennedy, at a carwash in Newport Beach one day after work. I knew it was her because she’d just appeared on the cover of People magazine so I struck up a conversation as we waited for our cars. According to the article, she’d felt safe to confirm her liaisons with the mob boss and the president after learning that she was about to die of cancer. I’d liked to have heard a whole lot more about her story, but it’s hard to learn much in the time that it takes to shine up a car. At any rate, she was no different than the pretty receptionist at my doctor’s office, except for having had affairs with a big time murderer and White House legend.
Kurt Russell, movie star and husband of Goldie Hawn, lifted weights at a little gym in Augora, Calif. where I did, located just over the mountains from Malibu. It was a hole in the wall in a mini mall owned by a guy who used to be an extra in those beach movies with Frankie Avalon, who I’d also see occasionally, looking like a teenage 60 year old. Kurt usually rolled up in an old Ford that might have hauled a pig or two in the back seat, wearing a flannel shirt that he’d just grabbed off the sofa after his dog had napped on it for a couple hours. He was no different than the rest of us in that little gym, except for all those movies he made.
Country music star Dwight Yoakam walked up to me behind the chutes before a rodeo in southern California one night, I guess because I was getting taped up after having been off for awhile with broken ribs. He said he was there to do research for a role as a rodeo clown in an upcoming movie that must not have done too well at the box office. He liked to joke around and I remember us chuckling about his recent breakup with actress Sharon Stone as if she were some sorority girl that we’d both known in college. He was a good guy who happened to sell a lot of albums.
I probably have 40 stories like these about everyone from sportscaster Al Michaels and singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, to Maria Shriver and Marie Osmond. And what are they worth? Not a thing, because none of these people, though nice enough and entertaining, had any great impact on my life or yours.
You see, I’d rather tell you about a lot of other people I’ve met, who work behind the scenes and make a big impact, but get no ink. Like Pastor Don Ausland, who I met by chance at a restaurant in Torrance, Calif. He’d grown up in South Dakota, been a pastor in Fairview, Mont. and then dedicated his life to a little church in Gardena, Calif., that we’d say was “on the other side of the tracks.”
He was patient, positive, a good listener, enlightening, non-judgmental, dependable and loving. He impacted a lot of lives over the years and he recently died of cancer. I just wanted you to know who he was, because he deserved at least that, and a lot more.
— Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation’s communications director.