Celebs: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Posted 3/13/18

Port Townsend resident Bill Mann is always looking for funny material and funny people. He can be contacted at




“A celebrity,” H.L. …

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Celebs: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly


Port Townsend resident Bill Mann is always looking for funny material and funny people. He can be contacted at




“A celebrity,” H.L. Mencken once wrote, “is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.”

But actually knowing and meeting celebrities is a mixed bag. I have some firsthand experience with it.

I’m sometimes asked about the numerous famous people/celebs I met and interviewed when I was a columnist at four major daily newspapers.

Since you asked …

The Good: Perhaps most notably, I did the last interview the legendary Jackie Robinson ever gave. This was in Montreal in 1972, just days before the civil-rights pioneer died. (You can find my story on the USA Today website.) He was a sweet man, a class act. And justifiably famous.

The Bad: Sitting in Led Zeppelin’s dressing room and seeing the group’s burly manager, Peter Grant, storm into the room, rip the speakers off the wall and stomp them into kindling. Why? Apparently, just to amuse the lads. And they were easily amused. Stairway to the basement.

The Good again: I got to spend some quality, if highly “cannabinated,” time in George Carlin’s dressing room one night in Montreal. Interesting, reflective guy – a rarity for performers.

The Overrated: I was invited by the promoter to an after-concert party in the Rolling Stones’ hotel suites. I wanted some interesting conversation, but, well, you can’t always get what you want.

The Extremely Ugly: When this huge baseball fan/sportswriter finally got the chance to cover a Major League game, I went down on the field to hang around the batting cage before the game.

But hearing these lotharios’ vulgar observations about women was nauseating. It happened at virtually every game. Ball four. I walked.

So, this sportswriter switched to being a rock critic. I expected an upgrade. There was none. There were the same perpetual adolescents, but with bigger hair and bigger egos.

A notable exception: One of my most memorable and funniest interviews was with the irreverent and outspoken Frank Zappa.

“You’re a rock critic?” Zappa asked me.

Gulp. Um, yes.

“You know what a rock critic is?” the legendary musician asked rhetorically. “It’s someone who can’t write ... interviewing people who can’t talk ... for people who don’t read.” Soon after, I switched beats again, to covering TV. Which led to ...

The Formidable: I’m also asked who the most memorable person I ever interviewed was.

That one’s easy:

Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve never met anyone quite like her, before or since. She made a lasting impression.

I got 30 minutes alone with Oprah for an interview at San Francisco’s KGO-TV to help promote her then-new daytime show.

I don’t remember what was said, but I’ll never forget Winfrey’s intense, almost-prosecutorial stare. There was something powerful and spiritual about her that I hadn’t experienced before.

This was not someone to trifle with (and I enjoyed trifling with celebs).

I hope she changes her mind and runs for president.


Congratulations and thanks to all the high school and junior high students here who will be out protesting national gun insanity today.

Just trying to be helpful: If any of you kids are looking for protest-sign material, two of the better ones I’ve spotted at similar rallies lately include:

“Guns Don’t Kill People. Ummm. Yes, They Do.” And: “If I Get Shot, Please Politicize My Death.”


As you know, cute names for coffeehouses abound. Things like Has Beans or Grounds for Perfection, etc., etc.

But a new brewpub in Chimacum has a name that is not just clever but also has a nice tie-in with local history. (Betty MacDonald lives.)

Its name? The Keg and I.


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