Who do you look up to in life? Athletes, actors, journalists, musicians, people you know? I have, at various times in my life, idolized all of the above – and, amazingly, I’ve even managed to meet a few of my heroes…some exceeded my expectations, and some not so much.
When I was a kid, I was a major nerd (color you not-at-all-surprised, I’m sure)…kids used to call me Brainy Smurf to tease me (dumb, I know). For whatever reason, I got into the habit of watching the CBC news at a very young age, and I was absolutely CRAZY about veteran newsman Knowlton Nash. I could sit and listen to that man talk forever, his soothing voice left me transfixed, and I was beyond dazzled by how brilliant he was. Lest you think I was Queen Geek of Nerd Island, I also had Kirk Cameron and Johnny Depp posters on my walls…but, if they had sold Knowlton posters, I would’ve had those, too. One year, I bought my Grandpa Knowlton’s autobiography for Christmas (Grandpa was a fan, too) and read it four times myself. In 1986, CBC Winnipeg held a celebration day at their studios, and I wanted to go more than anything: Knowlton was going to be there signing books! I couldn’t believe it!! I persuaded my mom, who persuaded a friend of hers to take me…and I got to go. We waited a very long time in line (see? Everyone thought Knowlton was the dude!), but finally we had our chance, and I had my date with destiny. He was as lovely and charming as I just knew he would be, he told me that I was by far the youngest person who had been waiting to meet him (I was 12), and he was legit surprised that I had read his book. He autographed it, shook my hand three times, and was just, sigh, perfect. My brief encounter with him happened 26 years ago, but it could’ve been yesterday, so vivid is the memory in my mind. (Sidebar: During that trip to the CBC Studios, I got to visit the set of the Fred Penner’s Place show, and I even got to crawl through his log. For the non-Canadians reading this, it’s kind of like being on the set of Mr. Rogers and being at the closet, trying on his cardigan – HUGE!) Knowlton Nash – my first meeting with one of my heroes was absolutely FANTASTIC – Mr. Nash did not disappoint.
As a teenager, I became very involved in the sport of diving (as in diving boards, not scuba), and the many competitions that I took part in afforded me the opportunity to see some of the sport’s finest up close and personal, and I even got to meet some of my favorites. One of the ones I most admired was Canadian diver Larry Flewwelling – I thought he was absolutely magical in the air. He was taking part in a competition that I was at in Winnipeg, Canada – and low and behold, we ended up on the same board, warming up at the same time. I remember so vividly standing behind him in the line, waiting for our turns to go – and he turned around, introduced himself (as if I didn’t know who he was!), and started chatting to me. I about died right then and there – thankfully I was able to form words, and we had a lovely visit…that continued each time we got out of the water and ended up back in the warm-up dive line. Here he was, at the top of his game (he competed in the Olympics that year), talking to little ol’ me (who was a big old nothing in the grand scheme of life) with such kindness and friendliness…he wasn’t phoning it in, and he seemed genuinely interested in my responses. I have never forgotten the way that this man (who was a rock star in Canadian diving circles) treated a silly little 14-year old who had a major case of stars in her eyes (my Mom was there at the pool that day, and I’m pretty sure she still remembers the look on my mug as I watched him on the diving board and then talked with him – what a guy)…that’s the sign of a true hero, and a gentleman.
Over the years, I have run in to more than my share of celebrities, some have been extremely lovely and gracious – others, not so much. Here are some of them, in no particular order: Alan Thicke (LAX Airport, I was terribly disappointed as he seemed really abrupt and rude – I choose to believe he was just jet lagged or something…I hate to think of Mike Seaver’s Dad from ‘Growing Pains’ being an ass), John Corbett (during his ‘Northern Exposure’ days – an absolutely AMAZING man..so charming, funny, smart, and SUCH a gentleman – he is gold, this one!), Faith Hill (she was awesome – we chatted, played a game of pool and had a drink together…this was shortly before she and Tim McGraw got together. She’s a very lovely person – and, as hard as this is to believe, she’s even more gorgeous in person. Not fair, is it?), Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks and Dunn – he was with Faith and I when we played pool and had a drink – hell of a nice guy, that one), Angelina Jolie (in the bathroom at Pinewood Studios in London – again, someone who is even prettier in person, she seemed really friendly and chatty – not at all what I expected), Thom Yorke (from Radiohead – extremely charming, smart man, and much friendlier than I would have thought he would be…we met at the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto and bonded over whether to order pecan pie or bread pudding for dessert), Nia Vardalos (in Winnipeg, pre-‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, absolutely SO friendly and lovely ), Austin Scarlett (from ‘Project Runway’ – met him on the street in NYC, and he was FABULOUS!! )…there are many more encounters, both big and small, and, for the most part, everyone has been very friendly. I’ve purposely left all of my disappointing encounters off the list, because I always hope that I just happened across these people on a bad day, that they really are super-lovely folks, and I don’t want to judge them based upon an off moment…at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe they really are just big ol’ arseholes – but I like to pretend otherwise. That’s me, for you…Pollyanna right to the end.
As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully a wee bit wiser), I have stopped looking outside of my circle of life for people to admire, and instead I’m finding really amazing people to look to a bit closer to home. I have tremendous admiration for some of the people I work with – they are capable, smart, decent people who seem to be in the education business for the right reasons (and aren’t there to screw everybody over, which is always a bonus). I think my brother is mighty heroic, too – he’s an RCMP officer, and I shudder to imagine the things he has seen and done over the years…he’s a brave little toaster, that one. I have a lot of admiration for my Wee One, who has endured such hardships in her short life due to her health problems, but has handled them with such courage and grace…she is incredible, that kid. I’m the luckiest Mama in the world. I also admire those that love me – I know that I’m not an easy person to deal with….and I figure that anyone who is brave enough to handle me is definitely worth some hero worship.
Love you, my friends!