Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Famous people you've met

Posted March 25, 2009

Who are the famous people you’ve met?   What were they like?  Were they nice or grumpy?  Did they seem kind and authentic or distant and fake?  I’d love to get your thoughts.

The first famous person I got to know early on in life was Senator Sam Ervin. He was one of the nicest, smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever known. But Sam “was family” in Morganton so I guess I should move on to the next famous person I met. That was Fred Kirby, the Singing Cowboy at WBTV in Charlotte and then Big Bill Ward of Championship Wrestling on the same channel. Both of them were great guys, very real and patient. I also really admired radio personality Ty Boyd who was kind enough to take me out to lunch in the Queen City and send a letter of recommendation for me to UNC.

I met Charles Kuralt while in college at Carolina and he instantly became one of my journalistic heroes. Many years later I was fortunate to interview Charles less than a month before his death. I was also deeply impressed with former UNC system president Bill Friday when I was in school in Chapel Hill.

Right out of college I had a chance to play a couple of basketball games with the great David Thompson of NC State. David was terrific in every respect. Once while in Houston I visited David in the Denver Nuggets locker room where he agreed to sing “Happy Birthday” on audio tape for my father-in-law Dr. Grover Miller, a zoology professor at NC State.  Grandfather Mountain's Hugh Morton also became a person I idolized.

In more recent years I was deeply impressed with evangelist Billy Graham while interviewing him at his home in Montreat. What a prince of a man! Basketball legend Dean Smith made a similar impression on me when I attended the funeral of longtime UNC athletics academic adviser Burgess McSwain. I also had excellent interviews with the first President Bush, his wife Barbara and President Barack Obama.  I asked them the toughest questions I could think of and they responded with grace and candor.

I really haven’t met many “jerks” along the way. I once interviewed actress Angela Lansbury and she must have been having a bad day.  But the next time I interviewed her she was quite warm, charming and accessible.   I guess I’ve been pretty lucky. How about you and your experiences with famous folk?


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  • UniqueAntique1 Mar 27, 2009

    These stories are great!Years ago,I was a medical assistant in Chapel Hill.Aunt Bea was a patient of ours.It was a very interesting day.We were told by her entourage,to NOT ask her about the Andy Griffith show,and to NOT ask for autographs.She was very proper and not personal.We showed her total respect.We loved seeing her tho! I also met and got autographs from the wonderful basketball star Michael Jordon -my what a sweet and gentle person he is!I told him my 2 sons would not let me in the house without his autograph and he kindly gave me one.The boys were thrilled! Matt Dougherty also complied and was very nice.
    Who is my favorite...Bill Leslie! I called to order his CD "Peaceful Journey" and I was amazed that he answered the phone.He is the kindest soul.We adore his music.We play it all the time in our home and guests love it too.Thank you Bill for all you do for our community and for the ethereal peace of your music! More more more!

  • bobokelly2003 Mar 27, 2009

    I hope my list of famous people will grow and to achieve to some bigger names as well.
    1. Bill Leslie, visited our church in Sanford (Buffalo Presbyterian Church) and delivered a wonderful sermon. I found Bill to be very respectable and down to earth.
    2. Richard Burr, I have met Richard Burr several times through work and had always enjoy it.
    3. Other congressman from out state Virgina Foxx, Bob Etheridge, Mel Watt, Health Shuler, and others.
    4. Robby Gordon, Nascar Driver.
    5. Recently Ty Pennington, when he visited Broadway NC for a shoot for Extreme Home Makeover. A VERY down to earth and really loves what he is doing.
    6.Hardy Boys WWE wrestlers ( From Sanford) 7. Taye Bittle Running back for the Jets 8. Lt. Gen Paul V. Hester Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

    This July I will be meeting the real Rudy Ruettiger from Notre Dame, the man the movie "Rudy" was based upon.

  • hollyrph Mar 26, 2009

    These are fun to read! My exciting moment was back in the early 80's when Barry Manilow chose me out of the audience at Reynolds Coliseum to sing a duet with him on stage. It was an amazing night.
    I met Emeril Lagasse backstage after a taping of his show in New York. Super nice guy. It was a couple of months after 9/11 and we talked a bit about that.
    Had a brief 3-4 minutes with Kevin Costner at the Jimmy V one year. Nobody had caught up with him yet from the last hole. He was cordial and signed an autograph while my hubby took photos.
    My husband and I met Walter Payton who had given a motivational speech at a convention we were attending. He was so very nice. Posed for a photo and chatted a while outside with us.
    Handshakes include Gerald Ford, Jim Valvano, Jimmy Buffett,and Clarence from the E Street Band.
    Last, but not least I'd like to say that David Crabtree at WRAL is one of the nicest and most sincere people I have ever met!

  • curiousgeorgia Mar 26, 2009

    My family met Desmond Tutu when we lived in Lesotho.

    I tried dancing with the late King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho years ago. A friend of ours took me to Scottish dancing, he liked Scottish dancing, too, but he didn't know how to do the steps either and we got all turned around coming down the line. It was very funny, doubly so because he was very tall and I am very short. We both laughed a bunch!

    I also met F W Deklerk (South Africa) but he wasn't a very nice man.

    I have met and spoken with Bob Etheridge, (very nice man) David Price (also very nice) and Erskine Bowles (very nice, too). Met Mrs Dole, too, she seemed very pleasant. I got to meet Jesse Helms a couple of times, once formally and once informally. He made me think of a kindly old Grandpa.

    I met Elizabeth Gardner in a shop once ages ago and complimented her on her weather forcasting. She was so sweet and seemed a little shy. I waited on Pam Saulsby a couple of times years ago, such a pleasant, nice person!

  • fishnett5977 Mar 26, 2009

    I've met just a few famous people. Nicholas Sparks for one, he probably thinks I am a stalker! lol He and I get into a conversation everytime I go to his book signings! And he is really nice! I've met Trace Atkins - got just a nod from him on his way out of the LongBranch on time. Goodness he's purty!!! lol I've met KC of KC and the Sunshine Band a couple of times at concerts. But the biggest impact has been meeting a local celebrity at a show at JCC back in December. Bill Leslie is just what you see on TV, the real thing! He was sooo nice! And I took great pleasure in telling my 6 yr old granddaughter when she watched the morning news with me, that the nice man that was on tv right then gave her grammy a kiss on the cheek!!!lol :) You should have seen her eyes!lol I hope all famous folks are as nice as he is!!! He will forever be at the top of my list! :)

  • ghimmy51 Mar 26, 2009

    Used to bump into Andy Griffith at the tiny Manteo post office sometimes. I let him alone. One morning I did say "Morning Mr. Griffith" and got a "ummph." With all the enjoyment he's given me I don't expect him to be "up" every second. As a child we lived a block from a dance hall where black performers did shows. It was just interesting to me, so I'd hang out and help with carrying stage setups for all the greats. I would stand at the stage for many of the practice sessions and some performances. Everyone was very nice to the little white kid. I wish I'd kept all the cardboard posters instead of making airplanes from them.

  • Yourekiddingme Mar 26, 2009

    I once got a call from former NHL star, Bates Battaglia. My neighbor, a Raleigh Police Officer, was escorting him home (for safety reasons) from a rally downtown after the run for the cup. (when they didn't win) Bates called me and we talked briefly. What a nice young man! I had such a crush on him--with the approval of my husband, of course! That call made me very cool with the 3rd grade boys in my Sunday School class that year! Later, my family had the chance to meet him at a Jimmy V classic and he was just a nice in person. Every now and then my husband and I visit his bar just to see him!

  • iriemom Mar 26, 2009

    We met Billy Jonas (musician from Asheville) at the NC Museum of Art after a performance there. My 5 yr old adores him, and Billy was very nice to my son. He seems like a cool person.

  • thefensk Mar 26, 2009

    In college I worked with the campus programming group and I met Timothy Leary, Jose Feliciano, Robert Morse, Leo Kotke, Truman Capote, Madeleine Murray O'Hare, Arlo Guthrie, and Harry Anderson. There are probably a couple of more I don't recall at this time. We'd have to meet and greet and sometimes wine and dine.

    My favorite though was in the early days of the web pages. I looked up a contact email on a very early version of the National Public Radio website and sent a note addressed to Susan Stamberg, a long time anchor at NPR news. Email and getting contacts through web pages was really new at the time for organizations ... about twenty minutes later my phone rang. "Tom? This is Susan Stamberg from NPR." We had a marvelous chat.

    I saw actor Dennis Franz at the Newark airport once. We must have been on the same plane. I chose not to bother him like others were doing (he looked tired), but his bag was next to mine on the turnstile and we mutually nodded.

  • ladybugs-mom Mar 26, 2009

    I met my muscial hero Rosemary Clooney when she came through Raleigh & sang with the Symphony a little over a decade ago. I had loved & idolized her for years and was thrilled that she was as kind & sweet in her dressing room as she was on stage. I brought her flowers & she was very gracious. And she was impressed that someone as young as I (I was in my 20's then) loved & knew her for her music...not just that she was George Clooney's aunt!




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