"Brush With Greatness" can be lots of fun and anyone can play. The more obscure and removed the "brush" the better.
The rules are simple--along the lines of Six Degrees of Separation (or the always enjoyable Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon site). Have you ever encountered anyone famous?
Now you might be able to say "I met Tom Hanks once", but frankly I find these the more boring Brushes With Greatness.
Much preferable are those brushes along the lines of: "I once knew someone who was the babysitter for the butcher of Keanu Reeves's sister".
That was just a fictional example--here's a real life personal "brush" of my own:
I have a friend who once knew someone who went out on a vacation to Los Angeles and stayed with the roommate of . . . . Daryl Hannah.
You see how easy it is? Send me your brushes via e-mail and I'll post them!
And now, the brushes . . . .
Karen proves to be another Brushmaster General.
JFdttcom has several fun brushes.
Kersten writes: I used to live around the corner from Margot Kidder's brother John Kidder. He always let his dogs poop in my lawn and never picked it up.
Amanda has so many fantastic brushes that I set up her own page.
Gwendol in Georgia has a "Take Me Home Country Roads" brush:
- A friend of mine (named Anne) was in high school in Fort Worth (Paschel, I think.) This fellow who had been a runaway dropout asked her out. Her father would NOT let her go out with such a young scoundrel. He later wrote a song "Leaving on a Jet Plane." His name at the time? Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. You might know him as John Denver.
Leah has two "old Hollywood" brushes:
- My grandmother was a struggling songwriter, as a young woman, she rode in a taxicab with Alfred Hitchcock, he asked her to come up to his office & star in his movie, she declined.
- On another occasion, Frank Sinatra’s manager followed her out of an audition and asked her to leave her husband & marry him
Genessa has four wacky brushes:
- when i was working in the accounting section of the department of justice in 1977, i was given a document to process and happily found that it was the order for the u.s. to pay the court costs in the legal procedings u.s. vs. john lennon. the u.s. had lost and lennon had won. i was never so happy with a simple typing job as i was with that one!
- i once sat on the park bench in central park dedicated by alan alda and his wife arlene. okay, twice. it's a nice bench!
- my late mother slept with the late elsa lanchester. it's not what you think! my mom was a kid and she simply slept in the same bed with the great actress. so she said, anyway.
- the tony-nominated british actor martin shaw almost trampled me once. i was in front of the broadway theatre in which he was starring in "an ideal husband" and looking down the street, facing west. the sun was in its most brilliant blaze of sunset and all i could see was this halo floating toward me. it turned out to be a head of curls, or at least strong waves, and he was almost upon me before i realized what was happening and stepped aside. he had such a funny little smile on his face! he must've thought i was starstruck, when in fact i was sunstruck.
Robert has some wild and crazy brushes:
- I rode the elevator at the Toronto Eaton Centre with Geddy Lee, lead singer of “Rush” carrying the gerbil cage he had just purchased.
- I once had sex with one-hit (It Just Occurred to Me) wonder and sometime host of the Miss Canada Pageant Peter Pringle.
- My best friend knows the guy who makes Rita McNeil ’s costumes.
- A few weeks ago Nana Mouskouri was right on my street after her final Vancouver appearance.
- I met Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in a café and disco icon Sylvester in a Toronto gay club.
- A friend of mine repeatedly saw Rudolf Nureyev at the gay baths in New York and once saw Barry Manilow in an absurd disguise complete with wig at a gay bar.
- My husband’s middle name is Dwight, after Dwight Eisenhower . His parents wrote a letter to Eisenhower and told him they'd given their son his name so he invited them to the White House and Ken peed in Eisenhower ’s lap.
- A friend of mine arranged a rental of a house for Orson Welles . He needed to have canvas screening hung all along the fences so he could have privacy while he swam in the pool.
- I had sex with a British Airways flight attendant who'd served Princess Diana and her sons on a royal charter flight.
- My hubby once flew Toronto-Seattle in 1st class with Celine Dion – she kept going in the bathroom, coming out for a moment, and going back in until finally the flight attendant went in after her…turns out she couldn’t leave the lav area until someone had gone in after her, because otherwise, if there's a mess in there people will say, “I flew with CD and she left SUCH a mess in the bathroom….”
- And we flew Qantas from Auckland to Sydney across the aisle from stick-insect Natalie Imbruglia . We ate the entire first class lunch spread and she ate: FOUR peanuts.
James has a treasure trove of brushes:
- One day a few years ago, myself, my mother, my cousin and her daughter went to Wal-Mart, wheree celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse was on a book-signing tour. We each met him and he gave my cousin (an aspiring chef) a cookie or something. As we walked out, she said in a dreamy state "I'm never washing my hand again." You would have thought that she had just met Liza Minnelli or something.
- At the same Border's bookstore about a year apart, I met Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth, from the British sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances") and Nicholas Smith (the jug-earred Mr. Rumbold on "Are You Being Served?"). You may say that I was in the middle of a British Circus of the Stars or something.
- One time as my family was driving through Loveladies, New Jersey, a family friend pointed out Billy Joel's summer house. As we drove by, through a big plate window, I saw someone climbing the stairs. It could have been Billy Joel. Hell, it could have been Christie Brinkley....at least, I think it was while they were still together.
- This is a case of being in the same place at the same time but without meeting. Pam Dawber (Mindy from "Mork and Mindy") and I think her husband (actor Mark Harmon) were shopping at the same flea market I was at.
- I went to school with the first cousin of actress Christine Taylor. Also, I think that as a child, Christine lived on the same street as my grandparents!
- I went to Sunday School with a girl who is Nancy Kerrigan's cousin. (Or so she said. They had the same last name, anyway.)
- My down-the-street neighbor drove past the motorcade of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and, supposedly Clinton waved at her.
- My boyfriend, who was working as a desk clerk at a Holiday Inn, once checked in Kenny Chesney. (This was before he became super-famous; I believe he had just started to become popular, but he didn't recognize him. My boyfriend also said that he -- Kenny -- was short.)
- My cousin supposedly met Pamela Anderson, "before she got plastic surgery".
- Back in 2001, I was working as a telemarketer (I know, but it payed the bills). At that time, I had to call long-distance customers in New York City and ask them if they wanted to switch to Bell Atlantic or AT&T...I can't remember. Anyway, the one name was Adam Sandler. I called and I'm pretty sure it was him. The guy that answered put on a fake-sounding Chinese accent and said that I had the wrong number. To this day, I'm pretty sure it was him. (I wrote down the number, but I can't find it.). And last year, working as a .... yeah, a telemarketer (I needed the money), I called Bill Gates for some business related thing, but they wouldn't let me talk to him withour proper authorization first. I guess he was too busy counting his millions to pick up the damn phone.
A Toronto "brushee" writes: "I stoped for some air for my tires at Dundas st near Lansdown Ave. when on my way out of the gas bar, there he [Kurt Russell] was smilling at me filling a gerry can for his Muskoka cottage. I smilled back and I regret not saying hello. His bodygaurds scared me they wre 6 foot 5 and armed. I wish I could have been on the movie he was making at the time: SOLDIER."
Amanda passes along three entertaining brushes:
- I was once on the same cat-care internet forum with a woman whose sister was Nicole Kidman's hairdresser.
- I once gave a light to French film star Alain Delon.
- My Dad sat next to Cher at a fashion show.
Michael submits two crime-related brushes:
- According to my grandmother, my great-great-grandfather once met Jesse James in a general store....as he was about to rob it.
- This next one isn't so much a brush with greatness so much as it's a brush with infamy. When I was in grade school, I used to ride the school bus with Brandon Basham, who was featured on America's Most Wanted after kidnapping and killing a woman. He's facing the death penalty, if I recall correctly.
It's not often that I have a brush of my very own, let alone a "multiple brush," but recently I was on a plane with half the cast of the show Queer As Folk.
Michael Escher submits these exciting brushes:
Joel Silverman in Atlanta submits two brushes: When I was in high school, I worked in a building where one of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s scenes from Terminator 2 was filmed. And one day when I was working there I saw Holly Hunter in the elevator. Talk about coincidence!
Anonymous writes: My aunt dated the concert pianist Dino Kartsonakis when they were in college together . . . .
Brian has three amazing brushes:
- My stepmother's mom (I call her my grandmother) sat on a plane next to Barry Manilow before he was very big, and she didn't know who he was. He told her some of the jingles he had written. My grandmother later told him, "I have a daughter your age..." Nothing came of it, but it was still pretty funny when my stepmother identified who she had almost been paired up with!
- Another brush with greatness is that my uncle played golf with Alice Cooper (I think it was in Dubai, although I don't know what Alice Cooper would be doing there.) It's still true though, you'd have to ask my uncle (As if any of you knew him).
- Lastly, my great-grandfather grew up in a house (and my grandparents still live there) that was catacorner from the house of Evelyn Nesbit, who later became a sex symbol after her jealous husband murdered her lover. My great-grandfather and she used to play together as children.
Marg submits a brush: "Last Wednesday, while i was vacationing at Star Lake in the Muskoka's (Ontario, Canada) my mother-in-law and sister-in-law went to a place for lunch called Windermere House. We had heard that "stars" hang out there and we thought it would be a neat place to eat. We got there and they told us that lunch was over for the dining room, but that we could eat in the pub in the basement. So, deciding that there would be nowhere else close to eat and the fact that we were starving, we decided to go, figuring that there would DEFINITELY be no stars there. About five minutes in to lunch, i looked over and low and behold there was Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell eating about five feet away from us. It was cool."
Anonymous writes: "As a teen-girl, I never knew or paid attention to sports . . . . but one day my parents had a dinner party and the one guest that was there, and that I had talked with . . . . . . whom I found out later he was important . . . . . was Bobby Hall. He lived right above my doctor's office with other team members. Shucks!!! Should have gotten a jersey!
Nick from Rochester, New York submits this brush--fresh from the oven: "My aunt baby sat for the man who designed the familiar colorful dots on the Wonder Bread package. This would have been in the late 1930s or early forties when she baby sat for this man whose name I don't know. It was in the city of Detroit. This does not necessarily mean that the packaging was designed in Detroit."
An anonymous brushee writes: "When I was a little girl I met Buster Keaton. He was doing a Gulf Gas Station commercial near my house and we didn't know till we had pulled in for gas. He was standing outside of the station and I walked over and got his autograph. He didn't say nothing, just patted me on the head and signed his autograph. He gave a taste of his 'silent' film talent that day. I loved it!"
Jane has a posthumous brush: "In the course of my work (don't ask!) I occasionally have to speak to undertakers. I spoke to a British undertaker whose father was the man who embalmed Jimi Hendrix."
Sheri submits and exciting brush: "I used to babysit for the sister of the girl who used to play Leather
Tuscadero on Happy Days."
Bill Totten has two vintage brushes:
- "I used to housesit for a friend of mine on Charles Street in Greenwich Village in NYC. His next-door neighbor didn't want to pay for a parking permit for her car so she asked me, during the, day when she was at work, to move her car to it wouldn't be ticketed nor towed. She was Anne Francine, the actress who played the psychiatrist for Guiletta Massina in 'Guiletta Degli Spiritti' (Juliet of the Spirits) Federico Fellini's wonderful 1965 Technicolor film. She was a wonderful dyke and had a great one bedroom apartment of the back of a three-storey Civil War era walk-up with the living room facing a courtyard garden. When I met her, in 1979, she was playing the Wicked Witch of the West in a production of 'The Wizard of Oz' at Radio City Music Hall."
- "I was flying from San Francisco to L.A. in 1972 and was seated next to Anne Francis ('Forbidden Planet', 'Honey West' (TV 1964 - I mean who could forget her Emma Peel leather suit and the ocelot she had on a jewelled leash!), etc.). She drank alot during the flight and told me about her failed marriages and how tough it was to get roles 'if you've over 30'. I genuinely liked her. She had great blue eyes. If she could have put on the performance that she did for me on camera, she'd still have a career."
Bill adds: "That's it, except for times I ran into Zsa Zsa Gabor (1978 Beverly Hills) and got a signed 8x10 glossy from her, and another time I ran into Gale Sondergaard ('The Bluebird', 'The Letter', 'Anthony Adverse') in NYC and she gave me her autograph."
Andrew contributes this amazing brush:
Although, we didn't have direct contact, we were in the same place(s) at the same time.
So, I'm at Tortilla Flats, a fun and fabulous Mexican dive in the West Village of NYC (West 12th and Washington). I'm there with my best friend, David. We stopped in before going to see Sandra Bernhard at the Jane Street Theatre. A waiter friend of mine says, "Check out the woman at the bar with the red scarf. It's Michelle Lee." Lo and behold, it was. Total random celeb siting. She was sitting at the bar drinking margaritas with friends. I pointed her out to David and said, "Wouldn't it be funny if she were going to see Sandra, too?"
Ms. Lee was in full face having obviously come from a matinee of 'The Algerist's Wife', that she is currently starring in. Lashes and all. Hair done.
So, we finish our pitcher of margaritas and go to see Sandy B. As people were beginning to settle into their seats, I catch a glimpse of a red scarf. Yes, sirree, Miss Michelle Lee was there. She had a fabulous evening, yucking it up the whole time.
Total random brush~
Another Andrew has some enjoyable brushes. CAPS LOCK ALERT!
An e-mail friend in Australia once met Michael Palin while he was passing through during the promotion of one of his television travel series projects.
This one just in! . . . . "my mother used to work w/the best friend of Ellen Degeneres's mom!!!" Cool!
And this gem from Meg Lubozynski: "When my dad was on a business trip in Atlanta, GA, he was in his hotel's elevator. Who walks in but Hulk Hogan! Dad said that Hulk Hogan was with his bodyguard. Dad told Hulk Hogan that his kids were
big fans and watched Hulk wrestle on T.V. all the time. Hulk Hogan said thank you to my dad, and then went back to discussing business with his bodyguard.
My remote brush with greatness!"
Rebecca has a brush that will interest the more crime-conscious segment of the population: "My father went to Gates Chili High School in Rochester, NY with Ken Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler."
(Update: A visitor responds with a correction and his/her own brush: "I would like to let you know , Richard Ramirez was NOT the Hillside Strangler. Angelo Buono, Kenneth Bianchi were a duo , and together were " the Hillside Strangler. Richard Ramirez was The Night Stalker ........ I am also a friend of Richards .... so I know this first hand .. "
Ronnie Sutton tells us: "I once taught a safety class to a group of city (Kinston North Carolina USA) employees and Jerry Stackhouse's (of the Philadelphia 76'ers) father was in the class. He even led us in prayer before the
Here's a British brush! "I used to work with someone whose sister was married to the man who trained Red Rum, the only horse ever to have won the Grand National three times."
C.W. has three cool brushes:
- "My cousin's stepfather's friend in college knew Bill Cosby's roommate. It's true."
- "My uncle worked in a hotel and carried Fred Astair's wife's luggage."
- "He also brought food to the Osmond family--none of whom would answer the door, he had to put the tray in front of the door AND they never tipped him."
Christopher Lion in California writes: "I worked in a movie theatre when Steven Spielberg came for an advanced screening of "Back to the Future." He was very nice to our employees and played video games (Paperboy). However, he borrowed money from everyone! Quarters for the video game, money for a drink, etc. Here he was (only worth $100 million or so at the time) borrowing money. However, he DID go through the lines at the snack bar himself."
Leonard shares an exciting brush: "My parents used to have a neighbor (still a good friend) who roomed with Ray Manzarek of the Doors, while they were in film school. Jim Morrison used to crash there after a night of partying on campus. My parents friend was also a poet. Having read some of his old writings, I began to wonder: who influenced who? I guess they were both lunatics/prophets in their own right."
Gwendol Bowling of Newnan, Georgia tells me that she has "lots of weird tidbits" in terms of brushes. Let's start with these three:
Andy Pozo has two good brushes:
- "While attending college at SW Louisiana St. University I had a roommate for one semester who kept bragging about his father being a famous songwriter. Of course I didn't believe him. One day he took me to his father's home in Baton Rouge. In his den hung several gold records including one for "Indian Reservation" which was a big hit by Paul Revere & the Raiders back in the early '70s."
- "Recently on a business trip from Des Moines, Iowa to Chicago I was lucky enough to get a free upgrade to first class. Seated directly across the aisle from me was James Brady. The James Brady who was seriously injured by a bullet intended for President Reagan. The same James Brady who is the author of the famous gun control law named after him. Would you believe that they wouldn't allow him to enter the airplane in his wheelchair even though it was a collapsible wheelchair that could have been stored in a closet. Instead they made him get out of his wheelchair, his travel companion and I had to almost carry him to his seat. After all this man has been through it was evident that he was full of life and very friendly. He was friendly and cordial with all who approached him for autographs and photos. Not once did he complain about having to try and walk from outside the airplane to his seat. Truly a great American."
Ted Burton (aka "Flipper") from California has an entire treasury of fantastic brushes:
- "I have driven Myrna Goldsmith, sister to the incomprable "Velvet Fog" (Mel Torme), in my car."
- "And I thought of another . . . My best friend Carrie's mom was the cleaning lady for the woman who lived next door to . . . Andre Agassi! I got to go to his house and swim in his pool, but I never got to meet him. I only ever went there when he was not home. (Carrie's mom was friends with Andre's cleaning lady)."
- "And another . . . I who work with . . . Holly, star of MTV's new (loosely) reality-based show, FEAR!! (seriously, she works at the host stand in the restaurant at House of Blues)."
- "And another . . . I once rented a basement apartment that was formerly occupied by . . . Richard Ramirez, the notorious Hillside Strangler. And, to make things even stranger, this same apartment was also the former apartment of . . . . Dr. Demento, washed-up radio personality from the '70s!"
- "And yet another . . . I just bought a hi-fi (console radio) from a guy who was once roomates wih the best friend of . . . Mike Ness, lead singer of Social Distortion!!! (his one really IS a brush with greatness, as Social Distortion is one of my favorite bands.)"
Philip from Canada has two brushes: "I have a friend in Vancouver whose recent ex-girlfried slept with Wilt the Stilt Chamberlin."
or, how about this one...
My father went to high school with Glenn Gould, whose mother made him wear gloves to school even in the summer."
I emailed my cousin in Columbia, South Carolina yesterday commenting what a tragic loss that George Gershwin died so young! (for she had recently attended a special all Gershwin concert) and this is her email back to me today:
Back in the 30`s, being from Charleston, S.C., my Dad met Gershwin at a party given by some of the Jewish singles at Folly Beach, S.C.(afew miles from Charleston) when Gershwin was doing research work to write Porgy n Bess. Gershwin played the piano at this party. The Jewish girls from Charleston were really hitting on Gershwin.
Shelly has a pile of brushes:
"My sister's husband met and became friends with Larry Lam in high school who became Leonardo the Mutant Ninja Turtle martial arts stunt double in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies."
"My sister's husband had lunch with Arnold Schwartzenegger after a photo shoot when he used to do some modeling down in L.A. in high school."
"My younger sister got to meet Robin Williams when he narrated Peter and the Wolf Xmas concert with the San Francisco Youth symphony (she was in the orchestra), and she got to meet and play on James Gallway's flute in a 'workshop'."
"Some of the musicians my mother has gotten to meet and speak with during her years as a violinist with the San Jose Symphony have been Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Andre Watts, and Paul Tortellie (I got to meet him too)."
Shelly also has a musical "Six Degrees of Separation" type brush:
"My sister studied with Barbara Larsen. Larsen studied with Ethel Leginska. Leginska studied with Leschetizky. Leschetizky studied with Czerny. Czerny studied with Beethoven."
Dennis in Kentucky has a Beatles brush:
"In July of 1976 I ran into John and Yoko on their favorite park bench in Central Park West near their Dakota home... baby Sean was in a stroller (pram) and they looked so happy on the day after his GREEN CARD reinstatement from Dick Nixon the nastyone... that I simply approached and thanked them for existing and left the park and the trees with my empty camera. Respect for humanity I call it."
Amy and Adrian have some cool brushes to add:
- "Well, this might not exactly be "greatness" but I think everyone knows the slogan for the Hanes underware ad, "wait till we get our hanes on you". Well, my brother is good friends with the brother of the guy who invented that slogan."
- "And my mother was friends with the daughter of the man who invented saran wrap (yes, invented it!).
- "Ok, now for the "star" brushes that most everyone thinks are the real brushes...(since I live in LA I've actually had quite a few):
- I've stood in line for popcorn with Tom Hanks at "Wag the Dog".
- I sat behind Goldie Hawn in the movie theater at "Amistad".
- And last April my wedding reception was next to Eddie Murphey's birthday party at the same restaurant (Sugar Ray Leonard among other well knowns were there also).
- OH OH . . . . I forgot a good one . . . . I know a woman who used to be the nanny for Ann Archer ("Fatal
Attraction"). We would go over to "Ann's" house and eat dinner and "hot tub" when the family wasn't there.
Drew in Vancouver has this absolutely astounding brush:
"My housemate's friend's housemate's friend, is Keri Russell, star of the TV show 'Felicity'!! Want my autograph?"
Shelly has an entire brush story
Kathy shares this brush:
"My neighbor has a friend whose brother married Alan Alda's daughter. They had a small wedding, and not all family and friends were invited. They took a group picture in which all but the immediate family wore Groucho Marx' glasses/nose and moustache. That way no one would know who WAS invited, and thereby avoid family/friend problems. So, you too can claim to have attended an NO ONE will know!"
Christopher Lion (see the cool Spielberg brush above) has a Jennifer Beals brush which he himself describes as a . . . . . brush with adequacy
Pat in Cincinnati has two brushes:
- While attending the theater in London, a very familiar face sat next to me and we had a lovely chat about travelling and plays and life in general. When he asked me if I attended much theater in the States, I stupidly told Herbert Lom, that "Oh, no, it's much too expensive there!" He probably thought he was sitting next to Inspector Clouseau's sister.
- My husband came home from a business trip in Atlanta GA, telling me about this very nice English school teacher that he had met. They talked at length, for most of the late evening, in the practically deserted hotel bar. The next morning, by chance, he rode down in the elevator with the same man. When the doors opened, they were greeted by a screaming
crowd and police escorts. Casually, my husband asked me if I'd ever heard of Sting ... that was the name the hotel clerk had given my husband when he made inquiries. He had known his bar mate as simply
Nichole has a remote brush with greatness:
"My dad is in the Christian (I know . . .) music business. (See the special thanks to for Bad and songwriting credits for The Color Purple) My dad called me one day and said, Nicole, I'm sitting in Steven Speilberg's desk. I'm supposed to meet Michael Jackson, but I don't want to, is that strange? I've got a ton of them, but that was the most memorable."
Meghan has three incredible brushes:
- My aunt's husband's brother's daughter is dating the best friend of Leo Dicaprio.
- My best friend's grandmother is a second cousin of Celine Dion.
- One time at my grandparent's cottage, my cousins and I walked down to the pier and there was a group of people by the water. One of my cousin's said, "Wow that one person kinda looks like Nancy Kerrigan." But we all thought it wasn't her until we noticed all the other people surrounding her were getting her autograph!! We ran down to her and not only did I get her autograph, but I got a picture taken with her too!
bishowj has brushes with two megastars you rarely see mentioned together:
- Marlena Dietrich's daughter lived in my town (many years ago)--on ocassion, my girlfiend and myself would spot them shopping together in our 5 & 10. Both always wore babushkas and no makeup.... since no one else wore babushkas, they were easy to recognize.
- I once met Dom Delouise's sister and we walked up Main St. chatting together.