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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Famous people you've met

Posted March 25, 2009 11:01 a.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2009 11:03 a.m. EDT

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?