My many brushes with celebrity – Red Bluff Daily News
A few weeks ago, R. Minch was foolishly fooled by the fact that one of his daughters had long ago managed to get him a personal autograph from Mel Brooks or perhaps Ernest Hemingway. It doesn’t really matter who it was, what matters is that he was comparing his single brush with the rich and famous to my meaningful relationship with Tom Hanks, who I refer to as Hanx, a term only his closest friends can freely use.
Mr. Minch closed his authority (whoever he was) with the challenge of “Your move, says William.” I suppose he was suggesting that a signature from his celebrity would carry more weight than my very close relationship with Mr. Hanks. I couldn’t take the bait at first, because it seems like a waste of time to compare my close friendship with dozens of celebrities to a single celebrity. I’m just coming back to the topic today because I can’t write anything else about it.
My first encounter with Hollywood royalty was in the late 50’s when in high school I was chasing foul balls in a fast pitch softball game when Leo Gorcey showed up obviously drunk, I don’t know why.
For those of you who don’t know the name, Leo Gorce was the lead actor in the Bowery Boys series. I think his movie was called “Slip Mahoney”. He was exactly what he was on the big screen in real life. I later worked with one of his several wives when he was employed by the welfare department and I was on probation.
As an exceptional athlete, I played with and against other exceptional athletes, including Bill Plummer, who played twelve years as a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds and went on to manage the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
If that’s not impressive enough, I was on the football team my freshman year in place of sophomore quarterback Bob Grimm, who went on to become an all-pro wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings. It doesn’t really matter that I only played three shows all year – I could have come a long way if it wasn’t for him.
Speaking of famous athletes who like me a lot, I’m good friends with two-time Super Bowl champion Jeff Stover, who played defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers. Jeff is about 15 years younger than me. I found out who he was when he was in high school at Corning, running over people as an exceptional cornerback and linebacker. He was even more successful as a shooter, leading the nation in that event as a high school student.
Jeff attended the University of Oregon on a track scholarship and qualified to represent the United States in the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the shot put. Unfortunately, the US boycotted those Olympics and Jeff came home to Corning to make a home with his father.
Even though Jeff had never played college football, the Niners tried him out and the rest is history. I met her when her twin sister Trish married my best friend Larry Jantzen. I have met dozens of other famous athletes who played in his celebrity golf tournaments. I have a signed Joe Montana jersey on my office wall because of him.
During many trips on his Harley motorcycle, I traded on his behalf with fans who asked for autographs or to look at his Super Bowl rings. To others he may be a celebrity. For me he is just my friend.
My favorite celebrity memorabilia is my John Wooden collection. John Wooden is undoubtedly the greatest coach of any sport of all time. Local legend Doug Seal was his assistant coach for a time at UCLA.
Doug Seale donated an autographed John Wooden basketball to a local fundraiser in the early 1990s, and I bought the ball. When Doug Seal found out I had bought the ball, he requested it and asked the wood trainer to personalize one for me. That’s exactly what Coach Wooden did.
In addition to a personal message about basketball, Coach Wooden sent me one of his Success Pyramid posters, which is a structure of personal characteristics designed to maximize success. Showing a great sense of humor, he wrote: “My friend Doug Seal tells me you need this to get on the right track.” At least I hope he meant it to be funny.
I sent a letter to Coach Wooden thanking him for the autographed basketball and autographed Pyramid of Success, and he again took the time to write the following letter: “Dear Mr. Cornelius, Your words of praise were very kind. And it is deeply appreciated. Thank you very much for taking the time to express yourself. I am always happy to learn that others feel that my “pyramid” has helped them. Sincerely, John Wooden.”
John Chubby’s ball, Pyramid of Success poster and personal letter are my most treasured collection of memorabilia, mostly because I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for my dear friend and mentor Doug Seal.
I have been closely involved with the concert programs at the historic State Theater for the past dozen years. Since I’m often the one introducing our concerts and sometimes flying the performers to places as far away as Sacramento, I know many of them on a first-name basis.
I have had dinner with the musicians of our concert. I have also had wine with them. I have dozens and dozens of photos of me and some of the best performers in the world. Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure a picture with me is not only what Hanks remembers well, but Petula Clark, Clint Black, Chad Bushnell, Tanya Tucker, Josh Turner, Rita Wilson, Pam Tillis also remembers the Kingston Trilogy. …well, you get the picture.
move on robert
Have a nice Wednesday everyone
Bill Cornelius is a lifelong resident of Red Bluff, a retired Chief Warrant Officer, State Theater Champion and exceptional athlete. He can be reached at [email protected]