Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Celebrities on Parade

Greenville, SC is a great place to see and to be seen in. As long as it's not raining, the downtown is a heaving mass of humanity, even on weekends.

I love being here and apparently so do a lot of other people.

I'm not easily star struck.

Let me qualify that by saying that I don't come unhinged when confronted with a celebrity. But sightings and encounters make for good war stories, which I am happy to tell.

My first celebrity encounter was at the restaurant of the Bridge Hotel in Boca Raton back in 1985 or so when Lorne Green leaned over and asked to borrow our table's bottle of ketchup. I recognized his voice before turning around to confirm my guess. I knew him from playing Pa Cartwright on "Bonanza" and Adama on "Battlestar Galactica." Most of the people at my table were a decade younger than I and recognized him as a pitchman for dog food.

That evening, Joe DiMaggio was dining in the bar area of the joint across the street from the Boca News where we always migrated after work and we got to eyeball him. He proved to be an arrogant, rude snot, but it was fun nonetheless.

Some of my celebrity sightings have been brief, yet close up like riding several floors in an elevator in the W Hotel in Seattle with Seth Green (Scott Evil in the Austin Powers movies and Oz in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series). I got a "hi" out of him.

Or sitting across the aisle from Danny Glover in the first-class cabin of a flight from Washington D.C. to Atlanta. He spent the entire flight with his nose buried in a magazine refusing to make eye contact with anyone around him.

My favorite celebrity-sighting story was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. It sits about four blocks off of Austin's famous 6th Street with all of its live-music venues. I was there for a Jaguar event. We had just completed dinner and adjourned to the hotel bar before heading to 6th Street.

We walked in to find Luke Wilson, Michael Madsen ("Reservoir Dogs") and Keanu Reeves all seated at separate tables. Reeves looked all the world like a homeless person to the point we didn't even recognize him. We only noticed him because he seemed so out of place in the Four Season's bar and he was surrounded by two very hot chicks. It wasn't until Bruce Willis wandered in and shook Reeves' hand that we finally figured out who he was. Yep, Willis was there, too.

You couldn't swing a dead cat over your head in that room that night and not hit someone you had seen in the movies.

Sightings in Hollywood are expected, so that somewhat diminished my sighting of the entire Kardashian clan including Kim and Bruce Jenner two tables away at a local steak house at another auto program in Tinsel Town.

What inspired this rather long, boring walk down memory lane is that Friday was celebrity night at my favorite downtown Greenville watering hole, Soby's.

Every year BMW holds a pro/celebrity tournament in Greenville. Soby's is the unofficial downtown meeting place for the participants. It's where BMW throws its kick-off party. It also doesn't hurt that during the tournament anyone producing their PGA card gets to eat free. The place is packed with pro golfers and celebs every night for nearly a week.

Soby's is my Friday-night spot. When I'm in town, that's where you will find me.

I'm not a golfer and would only watch golf in TV if you paid me by the hour to do it. It would cost extra if you expected me to stay awake. Ping "Wow, he really got into that one and looks to have an easy approach to the green." Yawn.

So there are only two golfers currently on the circuit I would recognize: Tiger and Phil Mickelson. Oh, and I did see Tiger seated a table away from me at a restaurant and didn't have a clue who he was. My dinner companion had to tell me. It was in 1996 at a steak house in Milwaukee. He was playing in his first PGA tournament as a pro. I had never heard of him at that point.

In any case, I didn't recognize any of the pros hanging out at Soby's last Friday. But I did recognize a celebrity to two.

Cheech Marin dined with a posse of maybe 10 people. Two were body guards. Not sure why he thought he needed them in Greenville. He's one of those guys who could walk down the street completely unnoticed. In fact, the only reason you might recognize him is because he was with two big, honkin' security guards and they would have caused you to take a closer look.

Also hanging out were Oliver Hudson and Patrick Warburton who star with David Spade in "Rules of Engagement." Warburton also played Puddy, Elaine's long-time boyfriend on Seinfeld. They both seemed to be having fun and weren't shy about chatting with Soby's regular guests.

Downtown Greenville is one of those places that will surprise you. It's just one of the things I so like about it.

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