My Brush With Celebrity
Well, people seemed to like the post about the time I stole a car, so I’ll tell you another true story from my life’s misadventures. This is about the time I used a famous actor’s hotel room for a day care center.
Back in the mid 1980s, I was involved with an annual fundraising dinner in Chicago where the Norman Thomas and Eugene V. Debs Award was presented. Recognition was given to Congressman, political activists, union leaders, and such like.
In this particular year, we were very excited because Ed Asner had agreed to accept the award. You remember Ed Asner, right? He was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant (possibly my favorite TV show of all time), among other things. He was also president of the Screen Actors’ Guild at the time.
I have to confess, our committee was really not experienced in dealing with celebrities. So my friend Kathye and I didn’t think twice about picking Ed Asner up at O’Hare airport with Kathye’s rusted out beater of an old Nissan. I forget the model, but it was definitely a subcompact.
Ed Asner didn’t bat an eye, however. We didn’t know how lucky we were that he wasn’t the temperamental sort of celebrity. Instead, he seemed perfectly happy crammed into the front passenger seat next to Kathye (Ed Asner was not a small guy). Kathye was quite a vivacious young woman, so that might have had something to do with it.
Anyhow, back then lots us of baby boomers were beginning to have children of our own. Naturally, some of us acted as if we were the first generation in the universe to experience parenthood. Many people I knew believed that ALL public events, including funerals and ship launches, should provide free child care. They and their little ones should be accommodated under all circumstances.
I didn’t have kids of my own yet, but I was willing to go along with the zeitgeist. And so for the first time our award dinner offered free child care and we hired a couple of babysitters. (This was a TERRIBLE idea for a lot of reasons.) One of the organizers was assigned to reserve a childcare room at the hotel where the dinner was being held.
So. Evening of the event. Parents with small children are advised to park their offspring with the babysitters, who are standing outside the ballroom where the dinner is to occur.
The question is asked: where are the babysitters supposed to take the children? I check with the person who was supposed to reserve the room. He denies being given that assignment. WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR CHILDCARE.
What space can we possibly use? Only one answer: Ed Asner’s room.
So I accompany the two baby sitters and about half a dozen toddlers up to Ed Asner’s hotel room. Honestly, I had no sense that I was doing something outrageous.
I knock on the door. He opens it and looks at all the toddlers. The toddlers look at him. I explain the situation, and then he looks at me for a long time.
Finally, he says, “OK. But no ka-ka on my bed!”
The event turned out fine, and there was no ka-ka on Ed Asner’s bed when the toddlers left his room, which was a lucky thing.
What did I learn from this experience? First, Ed Asner has a good soul. Second, I don’t mean to sound heartless, but fundraisers should not be expected to provide childcare. Third, if you do provide childcare in a hotel room, cover the bed with a tarp in case of ka-ka.