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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Brushes with Celebrity

Fame. Celebrity. Notoriety. Prestige.

No matter how hard we try, we're still effected by it. We read passages like James 2, and we desire not to show favoritism, yet we're easily dazzled. Before posting some of my thoughts on the positive and negative effects of celebrity influence in the church, I thought I'd allow you to see glimpses of my encounters with celebrities. (Some you may not find famous, but I was impressed to be having contact with them.)

Starting with the disasters and working the way to the more pleasurable...

10. Barry St. Clair--BNYC '97. After an evening session (where St. Clair was the speaker), Charity and I headed to Applebee's for a late meal. After we were seated, St. Clair and an intern were seated at the table next to us. Trying to be funny, I look at Charity and say, "Man, wasn't the guy that spoke tonight a drag? I mean, could a guy be more boring than that?" I then pretend to be startled to realize St. Clair was sitting next to us. I thought I was overacting enough that he would know that I spotted him and was trying to be funny. Well, he didn't buy it. Instead, he turned his head disgusted. My attempt to say hi in a unique way, instead insulted the guy.
9. Chris Rice--Same conference. Rice lead worship for the conference all week and performed a concert the night before (of which I missed). The amazing thing about Chris Rice at conference was that he mingled with the kids. He'd eat with them. He'd even let them play around on his guitar. I'm sitting with my youth group at lunch the next day when I see Rice walk by. Trying to act cool for the kids, I call out, "Hey Chris, come here for a second." Not knowing me from Adam, he makes his way toward our table. I explain to him that I missed the concert (not a flattering detail) and ask him to perfom the "Cartoon Song" at a session because, "...it's one of my favorite songs." Rice gives me a polite, but disinterested nod and walks away. As he heads for the door, a student of mine that attended the concert informs me that he performed the "Cartoon Song" only after explaining to the audience how much he hates the song and hates being known for it.
8. Bebo Norman--Standing outside a club for a Caedmon's Call concert, a man approaches on the sidewalk and asks us what we think of Bebo Norman. I had never heard of him, and took some shots at his obviously unique name. Then we walk into the club and find out Bebo is the opening number. As he begins, I feel this nagging feeling that I've seen him before. Then it hits me. He was the guy with the microphone outside asking me what I think of Bebo Norman.
7. Ron Harper--I'm walking the Salem Mall (back when that was something you could do without a death wish) while in high school. Walking the opposite of us was a 6'6" well built man. I turned to my friend and said, "Man, that guy looks like Ron Harper." Then we realize odds are pretty low that a man that tall would have his unique look. We grab some scrap paper and follow him into KB Toys. He's with his niece and he tells her that he'll buy whatever she wants. I approach and ask for his autograph. He quickly scribbles what looks like "Roy Hape" and then asks me leave him alone. I obliged.
6. Francis Chan--One of my favorite speakers since hearing him at BNYC a couple years ago. Last summer I had the privilege of introducing him at a question and answer session over lunch. He's sitting at the other end of the tent, so I approach him to tell him how the Q & A works. Trying to act calm and kind, I put my hand on his shoulder to tell him we need to begin. I may have startled him, but he quickly turns and gives me a look that says "it's really not wise for you to be touching me." I removed my hand, and in his defense, he was as fun and friendly as he seems as a speaker after that.
5. Ohio George--George Montgomery is a racing legend from the 60's-70's. He has a speed shop in Dayton, Ohio. In junior high, my dad took me to his speed shop to order some parts and pick George's brain. I remember walking into the lobby of his shop. It was filled with so many trophies I was sure they couldn't be all for one man. George was pretty matter of fact and stuck to the point in conversation. I simply stood there in silence.
4. Bob Glidden Growing up as a "Ford man," Glidden was certainly a hero. Attending a race near Cincinnatti, my dad takes me over to Glidden's car. Dad and Glidden have met before so they enter into a conversation about racing and how the car is doing. I just stand there, staring at his car. After we walk away, Dad must have noticed the ghost-like look on my face. He asks me what I thought. I say nothing except that I wish I had his autograph.
3. Josh Harris--Yes, he's the "Kissed Dating Goodbye Guy" but he's also written other books (Not Even A Hint, Stop Dating the Church among others). But Josh is also doing a great job leading a church in Maryland. I took a long shot at emailing Josh to ask him some questions. He responded within the week and even lavished some free loot on me. I was touched by his humility.
2. Audio Adrenaline--One year removed from high school, I'm interning at a local church. While at youth conference, I'm asked to lead the band to a room so they can enjoy lunch. The lady in charge of the meal left her purse in the room and asked me to stand guard. At first, I just sit in the corner of the room, watching the guys eat ribs and hearing their conversation about football. One turns to me and asks if I follow the NFL. I tell him I love the Steelers and they quickly ask me to join them at the table. They offer me some of their food and we sit around talking football for over an hour. Really cool guys. Ever since then, I always stop to listen when I know an AudioA song is on. (That and the fact that I think the lead singer looks like Jack Baurer).
1. Hakeem Olajuwon--or Akeem, as he was called in that day. My dad takes me to an Indiana Pacers game during Olajuwon's second season. He's hurt so he skips the game. During warmups after halftime, I sneak passed some security to get Olajuwon's autograph. The man is huge. Seated in a folding chair, he is still taller than me as I stand there. I hand him my pen and his hand completely swallows it. He scratches his name quickly and then hands the paper back to me. It was a rushed moment (as security was walking toward me telling me to get away from him) but he took the time to make eye contact with me and thank me for being a fan. Then he changed his name and probably made my autograph worthless.


  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger Jones said…

    Wow, you really know how impress celebrities danny. I would watch out, your probably on Bebo's hit list or something.

  • At 10:56 PM, Blogger Jones said…


  • At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Ma said…

    Did I ever tell you about Grandpa Schipper getting Jackie Robinson's autograph on a baseball for your Uncle John? Your uncle thought the nice clean ball was neater than having the autograph and took it out to play. Of course he lost it. He is kicking himself now......

  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    I think it would be cool to see you do another post evaluating the whole idea of a "Christian celebrity."

    The only two people whose names would be recognized in our culture as celebrities would be Hakeem Olajuwon and Ron Harper. All of the others are Christian authors or notables.

    Not that being a Christian necessarily makes you a non-celebrity, but it doesn't help.

    Barry St. Clair?

    That story is hilarious. I had to rack my brain to remember who that guy was.

  • At 2:32 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Oops, I didn't mean to slight Ohio George or Bob Glidden. Is "Ohio George" related to "Curious"?

  • At 10:01 PM, Anonymous katie rose said…

    you are so funny. i've heard these stories before and love hearing them over and over.

    your adoring fan

  • At 3:23 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    This is really odd. I was a couple of paragraphs into a post on my own blog entitled "What's Celebrity?" stemming from a debate my wife and I had the other night when I read this post.

    It's a difficult thing to define. Really, what is celebrity? Frankly, I wouldn't know Hakeem Olajuwon from Adam if I sat next to him on the bus for 20 minutes. Who decided Hakeem was a celebrity? Is there a certain percentage of the world's population that needs to be familiar with a person or their accomplishments before they're considered a celebrity?

    It's no secret that I'm a comics imbecile and within the comics community there's a hierarchy of celebrity. I'd wager you've never heard of Alan Moore, Jim Lee, Frank Miller or Joe Quesada, but on the floor of San Diego Comicon, they're unable to fall down. There are literally tens of thousands of people hoping for 15 seconds of their attention to grab their autograph (in fact, Moore has vowed never to attend again after an episode involving fans slipping pieces of paper for him to sign under the door while he sat on the toilet).

    But a week later, all of those guys are just one more face at McDonald's, ordering a McRib with no onions. So are they celebrities? In my mind, without a doubt! They posess fame in the same way that Hakeem posesses fame: within a very specific, however large, community, they're recognized and discussed by people that don't know them.

    So Carey and I tried to arrive at a qualification for "celebrity". I suggested that you're a celebrity if more people know of you than know you.

    That's pretty broad, though, and by that definition I guess you could consider my mother a celebrity, however ridiculous that sounds. She's frequently recognized and approached by people she doesn't know. She's been a keynote speaker at Kent State. As of yesterday, she's been recognized by the Akron Women's History Project as Akron, Ohio's 2006 Woman of the Year. She certainly doesn't seem celebrity-ish, though, and her life is just about as un-glamorous as you could imagine. And to be fair, she's an Akron-level celebrity, which is something that most would say isn't much.

    But Christian Celebrities: sure, why not? Even the most exclusive definition would have difficulty discounting Billy Graham, Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant as celebrities. Lord knows you can barely make it through a day without hearing the latest soundbyte from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Why resist it?

    I'm not so sure that celebrity is necessarily a Personal Presence issue, either. Frankly, every bonafide celebrity I've ever personally met (from George Bush Sr. to Jay Leno) has been a mild let down. There wasn't so much a celebrity-ness to them... in fact, it seemed as if celebrity or notoriety "happened" to them, rather than something that they quested for and attained. Obviously, both Bush and Leno are ridiculously hard-working individuals with an impressive library of accomplishment behind them, but still... that was my impression.

    In the end, I have as much comprehension of folks that obsess over celebrities as those that despise and resist them. What's the point? I think we'd be really surprised at how similar our own lives are to those that have reached "celebrity" status.

    Whatever that is.

  • At 9:42 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    In response to Jer's...

    (1) Actually, if you were seated on the bus with Hakeem Olajuwon and "Adam," I do think you would be able to tell the difference.

    One would be naked and speak some form of Mesopotamian language.

    Process of elimination would concur that this is NOT Hakeem Olajuwon.

    (2) I'd love to hear about your own encounters with celebrities! Do you have a top ten?

  • At 1:57 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    no doubt, jer's would be a riot!

  • At 11:08 AM, Anonymous katie rose said…

    i watched bebo dance! have you seen it yet?


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