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Vince LaBarbera with Doc Severnson, American jazz trumpeter who led the band for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve met?

Maybe it was a Hollywood celebrity, movie star or Broadway headliner. Perhaps it was a recording artist, television entertainer or sports star. Whoever it was, we’ll wager you were thrilled with the opportunity to shake the person’s hand, get an autograph, have your picture taken with the celeb or be introduced and greet him or her face to face.

It doesn’t count if you were sitting in the audience or in a stadium and the superstar was on stage or on the field. You have to have made a personal encounter and not just shouted out as the luminary came near, “Hey there!” And your superstar can’t be included if all he or she did was tell you to “Get lost!”

Many of you probably travel in broader circles than me and so have met many public figures. Here’s my list in no particular order along with the circumstances surrounding each encounter:

Stars of stage, screen and entertainment:
William Bendix – slammed his dressing room door on a classmate and me after we met and took his picture for a college photography class assignment in Chicago.

Will Hutchins – invited me and the same classmate into his dressing room for a chat before we took his picture.

Ethel Merman – met her in Chicago after a performance of “Gypsy” by a cousin who was her assistant stage manager.

Donny Osmond – introduced after his performance in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in Chicago by friends whose son was in the production.

Henny Youngman and Morey Amsterdam – said “hello” in a bar and restroom, respectively, after they appeared in separate years at the Press Club’s “Gridiron Roast” at the Coliseum in Fort Wayne.

Doc Severnson – introduced to him in his dressing room at intermission by a friend of a friend at a concert at Niles (Michigan) High School.

Jim Davis – met at a filming session for a promotional video on “Muncie” (Indiana) featuring his cartoon creation “Garfield.”
Shelley Long – met at Kingston Nursing Home, Fort Wayne, where her late mother was residing.

Sports celebrities:
Ara Parseghian – met him and took his picture when he was a guest on a local high-school TV show.

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger – said “hello” in a bar in South Bend shortly after he was the subject of the Notre Dame movie “Rudy.” All I could think to say to him was “Nice movie!”

Several Notre Dame football, men’s and women’s basketball players – at games or “smoker” appearances.

Fathers Theodore M. Hesburgh and Edward “Monk” Malloy, CSC, — former presidents of the University of Notre Dame, at Notre Dame.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower — while I didn’t actually meet him according to my “rules” as stated above, I included him just to impress you. He reviewed a squad of Army ROTC cadre at Notre Dame prior to graduation ceremonies where he was the featured speaker. Although not a ROTC member, I was asked to stand in the formation for inspection in my ND Band uniform to “fill out” the ranks. I remember the Chief Executive looked at me rather curiously.

Finally, there are two very famous persons I forgot to mention meeting. Of course, they are based on my belief system at the time: Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny!

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer