I’d Sure Like to Meet…

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

In 1960 when I saw To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew it was a great film that would become a classic. I also knew—or thought I knew—that Gregory Peck must be a thoroughly decent man, not just an actor who played the role of a decent man. And yet, that second notion is actually not as obvious as it often seems. Not all great actors are ethical, friendly or likable in real life. Happily enough, Peck turned out to be as nice as the part he played. His costars have praised him endlessly for his generosity and kindness. Time has been as kind to Peck’s reputation as it has to his most iconic film.

But being a great performance artist is difficult, and not every performer who reaches the high levels of artistry is as likable as Gregory Peck. While it is understandable that fans want to believe their favorite performers are also good people, not all performers are as likable as they are talented.

Some accomplished performers have complicated reputations. John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Pablo Picasso are often mentioned as people you might admire but would not enjoy being close to. In the world of business, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk and Henry Ford are usually considered difficult human beings, if not worse. I used to dislike Bill Gates, but either he changed or I was badly informed. He seems admirable now.

Steve Goodman is an interesting person in this context. Goodman was funny, smart and easy to like as a performer. And yet I’ve read that his close friends knew he could occasionally be one of most annoying persons on earth. One person saying that was Goodman’s wife, Nancy, who loved him deeply.

Similarly interesting is the singer Loudon Wainwright III. Several people close to him have accused him of being a shoddy human being. One person expressing that opinion is the singer himself. While he has admitted to philandering and other mistakes, Wainwright’s open way of discussing them makes him more interesting or even likable.

My daughter has met several authors, and it wasn’t always good. Bill Holm and Michael Ondaatje behaved like jerks at book signings. Louise Penny, by contrast, could not have been more friendly and fun.

Garrison Keillor has been an important personality in my life for 56 years. I am a fan of much of his work, but not of the man himself, for I know he can be discourteous or even cruel. It is a cliché that humorists are often gloomy, unpleasant people, but remember, sometimes clichés are true. The charges of sexual harassment complicate the reputation of a man who was already highly complicated in my mind.

While it is difficult to know what celebrities are like in real life, with some performers you just know in your heart that they are someone you would enjoy as a friend. Bonnie Raitt has so much compassion and respect for other performers that I can’t imagine not liking her. Similarly, Emmylou Harris is unfailingly generous with other performers. Who could possibly dislike her?

Who among famous people would you like to know as a friend? Why?

61 thoughts on “I’d Sure Like to Meet…”

  1. i met bill holm a couple times and loved him . just before he died he seemed at the top of his game
    michael ondaatje was fine. but we just exchanged niceties.

    i’d figure out how to bite the bullet to get to hang with dylan, joni, lennon or picasso

    elon musk and bill gates can teach me a thing or two.
    jobs . edison and einstein, da vinci michelangelo
    frank lloyd wright , i’d cut them as much slack as they needed just to get inside their brains

    loudan wainwright is a favorite, i’ve chatted with him a few times after concerts and was charmed,
    garrison is a creative id enjoy getting to know
    i do enjoy his performances
    if i were going to pick a couple past and present to meet it might be obama and biden, captain kangaroo mister rogers charles kerault, ansel adams maya angelo

    great question steve
    i could go on and on

    oprah barbara streisand jackson pollack shel silverstein dr seuss john denver bill murray

    and on and on

    jimmy stewart
    tom hanks
    jaque cousteau

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You have a lot of tolerance, tim. Of the folks you mention, I’d most enjoy the chance to meet Fred Rogers. I wasn’t a huge fan when my daughter was young, but the book and film about him make it clear he was original and surprisingly thoughtful.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I admire Barack Obama more than any other recent president, although I get the sense he isn’t an easy guy to be with. Not exactly warm and fuzzy, but fun enough if you could shoot hoops with him. My dad knew Reagan personally and disliked him, but there were special reasons for that. He met FDR, whom he disapproved of, but he and FDR were polite with each other. The recent president I misjudged when he was alive was Ike, whom I wrote off as shallow. He wasn’t, and I’m sure he would be a great dinner guest. His life taught him compassion and wisdom.

      The almost-president I’d love to have known personally was Hubert Humphrey. Imagine a dinner party where your guests would be Hubert, Paul Wellstone and Molly Ivins. That would be a memorable evening, although I don’t know how anyone could find an opening to make a comment.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. I would invite DT but put him at the end of a table filled with people who find him loathsome and who can do good putdowns of him. Colbert, Stewart, James Carville, Rachel Maddow . . . it would be easy to fill a dinner table with such people!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. think if it as dinner with history
          he will go down as notoriously as atolls the hun, stalin lenin hitler musalinni
          it’s got to fascinating to witness a total sociopath in action
          did you see blips if his town hall meeting yesterday. he just invents reality and his followers agree to see it with him
          what a phenomenal time
          the right has no filters today
          mitch and ted and rubio and mccarthy will all go down with him wondering what happened
          maybe paul ??? from janesville wisconsin will return if he hasn’t learned to enjoy life as a civilian

          Liked by 3 people

        3. atilla is the intended hun

          i have successfully blocked ryan from conscience so successfully he’s almost gone
          hope it stays that way

          who was the other gop intelligent snake ( looks even more like a snake than w)
          who got voted out by tea party new englanders who found his ability to withhold support of true nut jobs objectionable ?

          Liked by 2 people

  2. The problem with a one-off meeting with a famous person is they’d likely be “on” for that lunch or dinner or whatever, and you might not get to see the real person. But I lean toward wanting to meet great athletes because the work ethic they possess is often mind-boggling. Everyone assumes they make it on raw talent. A select few may have an effortless “gift” but as a golfer, I know that the best of the best live and breathe golf 16 hours per day. That’s not a job, that’s an obsession. Tiger Woods leaps to mind, of course. And the great thing about golf is they aren’t guaranteed a paycheck for playing a tournament. You’re as good and successful as your last tournament score.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d like to think Tiger Woods would be interesting to talk to. He sure experienced one of the most dramatic falls in public opinion in our time. I have a hunch that Lebron James would be interesting to know. But not Michael Jordan. Maybe it is unfair to expect great athletes to be thoughtful and complicated. I’d say there is good reason to believe that the life of a great athlete is so distorted and stressful that we can’t really expect them to be anything but great athletes. Kareem might be an exception. I’ve seen quotes from him that are intriguing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The one semi-famous person I know is Louise Erdrich, and she is as lovely as they come.

    I’d like to get to know Michelle Obama, and then I could also get to know Barack. I wonder what Carol Burnett is like in real life. I’m sure there are more…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Morning-
    I met Bill Holm after a production of his ‘Box Elder Bug Variations’. Went with he and a group to the bar afterward. I was too far away to have much to do with him. He sure seemed nice.
    But also with him was John Rezmerski and he and I had a really delightful night.
    Lighting designer / Theater designer Richard Pilbrow is famous in that world and I’ve met him a few times. He’s really very nice.

    There’s another lighting guy; very well respected, always helpful to anyone’s questions, does really good work, and has the same political views as me plus isn’t afraid to tell you about that. And yet if I see him in an interview or something, he comes across like a jerk. Not sure if it’s the tone of voice or attitude or what, but, when I watch him I think I am glad we’re not better friends.

    Some of the most artistic, daring, energetic people I know are difficult to deal with on a daily basis. Interesting isn’t it?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. dessa did my daughters graduation speech at u of m 8 years ago
        she had to fly back from europe to give the presentation and then fly back to europe again
        needless to say it was a strong intense talk and was so inspiring

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I met Bill Holm a couple of times, and he was delightful. I wanted to sign up for one of his tours of Iceland but didn’t when I realized that he was a heavy smoker. A week in the company of a bunch of smokers would be intolerable to me.


    2. Your comment reminds me, Ben, of a guy I met who was a political science professor at Carleton back when Wellstone was the same. This guy told me, “When Paul got into politics, there was a bunch of us who were delighted to see him go, even guys with liberal politics. Paul was . . . well, he could just be TOO MUCH!”

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Ruth Bader Ginsburg – I would love to have an afternoon of conversation with her. She is a fascinating human being. Probably would be the sort, if you had her as a teacher, who is hard on her best students.

    Dolly Parton is another that springs to mind. I am not a huge fan of her music, though there are a few of her songs I quite like. I am more intrigued and impressed with how she has used her platform and wealth to make the world a better place. Not flashy stuff mostly, but important stuff like books and education.

    Beethoven would be on that list, but even his friends said he was difficult to be around, notoriously so. Maybe Carroll Spinney instead. The man was Big Bird and Big Bird was him. And Big Bird was a huge part of my early years. And he seems like he was less difficult than Jim Henson was known to be…

    Liked by 6 people

  6. The people I’d love to have for an afternoon picnic are wide and varied.

    But if we’re talking about having him as a friend, a real friend, then I think I’d like to have Ann Reed. She’s got a great sense of humor, and of course I love her music, and based on those two things I assume that she would be an excellent friend, kind and wise and generous and loyal.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I don’t expect celebrities to be any more or less perfect than the rest of us. I have dear friends who drive me nuts if I’m with them for any length of time, and I’m pretty sure that’s how they feel about me, too.
    We all have personality quirks and habits that we might find cute or endearing in small doses, but that it would be a challenge to live with, day in and day out.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. From what I understand, Stan Rogers could be quite the handful. A wonderful singer, musician, and song writer, but a pretty complex personality with a quick temper, who wasn’t easy to get along with. Neither is his brother, Stan, but he fully owns that and makes no excuses for it.

        Mary Chapin Carpenter, on the other hand, seems like a gentle and kind person. I’ve really enjoyed her mini concerts taped live from her home during the pandemic. Her yellow lab (or maybe it’s a golden retriever) always makes a cameo with his squeeze toy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love those mini-concerts, PJ. The dog is Angus (goldens were first bred in Scotland, I think). One viewer commented below one of her YouTube videos: “When I die, I want to come back as MCC’s golden retriever.”

          Liked by 1 person

  8. This is Clyde. 55 years ago I was around some excellent athletes. I agree with what Chris said about their dedication when they came to the U of Chi field house to work out, which the university allowed them to do. I handed out towels and assigned lockers, sitting in my cage. Most ignored me, took me for the factotum I was. But two did not. One was Willy May. No, not Wily Mays. Willy May, a great hurdler. He had two modes. First loud, fun, talking to everybody including me. Then he went to work. Now he was focused and very hard working. Then he was done and became the other Willy May,
    The other athlete you may have heard of. He just died. Lou Brock the baseball player, who once held all the base stealing records, which he told me he was going to do in that summer after his rookie year when he was traded to the Cardinals. He was almost sweet, so pleasant and nice to me and everyone. He was as famous for that as he was his baseball record.
    I also knew in a way, much better, not that many got to know him well. John O’Hara who may be said to be the greatest miler in history because he held the indoor record for I think it was 27 years. He was shy and soft spoken and appreciative.
    This may have been the era when sports started to change because of huge money coming into sports, producing big money, big stars and big egos.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. As you all know, I’m from St. Louis, so I am a little Brock fan. I actually made it a point to watch the game where we were sure he was going to make the record of stealing the bass. Boy he could run.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The real reason I am coming out from cover is to talk about who I would like to meet and talk to and spend time with and ask questions. Frederik Backman the Swedish novelist and columnist. Writer of A Man Called Over and a few other delightful books. When I am becoming a grumpy old man I read some of Ove, or watch a bit of the movie to calm me down and give me some needed perspective, and not become Ove, even though I love the character.
    What has made me grumpy? One of the things that made Over over the top grumpy is medical places. This is a tale of why to be happy you live in Minnesota. At the end of last month my son developed an extreme pain in his lower abdomen. After a rough evening he went to emergency, sent there by a now care sort of place. They did a cat scan and saw as he expected the cause was his navel hernia, which a previous doctor said did not need repair because it would never cause a problem.
    But the catscan revealed a mass on his kidney, which the scan tech diagnosed as cancer, which in MN he would be in trouble for doing, making a diagnosis. So he needed immediate treatment of the bowel blockage and needed to get the mass removed, as my son’s college roommate, an oncologist in the Cities, said needed to be removed soon, and there was no point in a biopsy because they needed to get it out no matter what sort of mass it was. No the doctor in ER said they had to do a biopsy. Our son had to call to force their hand on the referral to surgery for the blockage. A clerk called back and said the surgery was set for the 24th. this was on the 6th. My son said he was in bad pain and needed it done sooner. She told him the ER doctor said he was not having pain and that was the way it was and hung up. Fortunately the oncologist and his father a retired internist have managed the pain from afar (His GP refused to prescribe pain meds and refused to get involved in his referral problems or even see him.) He now has little pain from what they told him to do. Then there was the biopsy referral which did not get made. My son made four calls between the 4th and the 12th before he got a clerk to do it. The other times she or someone else said it had been done or that she told his gp needed to be done and it was out of her hands. On the 12th he became insistant explained that someone with a cancer diagnosis deserved immediate action. So a referral was finally made for the 26th.
    Then today the hospital called and said my son needed to pay up front before they would do the surgery. He also found out that his company can terminate him for missing too much work (he has missed only one day so far through this.) In other words they can fire him for being sick.
    I can see some of these things happening here but not all of that. We have been to medical places for her or me alone for me about 20-24 times during the pandemic. Everyone has been sensitive to issues and very helpful.
    (Forgive typing errors. I can barely read this tiny print.)


      1. One of the best books I’ve ever read, Beartown, is by Fredrick Backman. Not even remotely like some of his other work like Ove. I can’t even say it was a pleasant read because it was searing. But I couldn’t put it down.


    1. sorry for your son
      i hope he gets it straightened out
      and the result is a good one

      sorry to have you back under duress but good to hear your voice again

      boise is the white supremisist head quarters of usa
      pretty terrain but i can’t do morman rule in salt lake or scary invisible kingdoms


  10. I might like to meet Jan Malcolm, Kris Ehresmann, and Tim Walz sometime. I listen to them whenever I can to have my anxiety calmed. They all seem like good folks trying their best to shepherd us through difficult times. Michael Osterholm too.

    Liked by 3 people

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