Famous People I Have Met Along The Way

by Kevin Burton

    In the newsroom we called him “Governor Gopher.”

   Fred Grandy who played Gopher on the ABC series “Love Boat” also ran as a republican for Governor of Iowa in 1994. That’s how I met him, doing an interview.

   His birthday was yesterday, June 29. That’s why he leads my list of famous people I have met. 

   From time to time people on Facebook ask, “Who is the most famous person you have ever met?”

   I’m going to mention some I have met in today’s and next Wednesday’s posts, and let you decide who is most famous. 

   The newspaper I worked for at the time, the Muscatine Journal, sent me to interview Grandy on a Saturday and sent a photographer with me.  

   You could tell my paper wanted incumbent Terry Branstad to win because  they cut my Grandy story in half and buried it on an inside page, “next to the squid” races” as I used to say.  They killed the photo altogether.

   I don’t remember anything he said. It’s all lost to memory and only half of it is recorded for posterity.

   Just looked it up, and the primary election was much closer than I recalled; Branstad winning with 51.8 percent of the vote to Grandy’s 48.1

   For the record, for a fictional place I would want to go to, it’s “Love Shack” over “Love Boat” every time.

   Here are some other people you might have heard of that I have met:

   Patty Murray, US Senator from Washington.  This is another one I met doing the news. I was working for the Shelton/Mason County Journal when Murray came through on the campaign trail in 1992.

   A democrat, she billed herself as a “mom in tennis shoes.” She was seeking to fill the seat of a scandal-ridden incumbent who chose not to run again.

   I don’t remember whether she showed up in tennis shoes or heels. But I knew she was going to win because she had “people.” The guy who was travelling with her had a briefcase you could carry a small dog in.

   Murray won the 1992 race 54 percent to 46 over republican Rod Chandler. She is still in office today.

   Johnny Orr, legendary Iowa State basketball coach. Orr gave me my all-time favorite one-word quote.

    At the time The Big 8 conference was in the process of becoming the Big 12 conference, adding Southwest Conference members, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor.

   I asked Orr why the change was being made. He said “Money!”

   Orr smiled, caressing the word the way a rapper might.

   All the longtime college basketball people have very entertaining Johnny Orr stories. I have my little one.

   Christopher Cross, Grammy award winning singer/songwriter. Once on a very pleasant evening I went to an outdoor Christopher Cross concert with a teacher friend of mine in Columbus, Ohio. 

   I bought a greatest hits collections and the setlist from that night’s concert. He signed one of them for me. I think his is the only autograph I have of all these famous people I met. I’m not into autographs. I know the person’s name already. 

   Cross seemed unhurried and talked a little bit with fans who waited in line for him.  He said he liked a Canada shirt I was wearing. He hit the top 20 in the US nine times, including two number ones, “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” and “Sailing.” My favorite, “Ride Like The Wind,” peaked at number two.   

   Greg “Spike” Brummett, pitching star from the 1989 College World Series champion Wichita State Shockers baseball team.

   Brummett pitched the Shockers to a 5-3 win in the championship game over Texas. My editor at a monthly magazine I was working for, somehow knew Brummett’s family and sent me to his house to wait for him.  He clearly wasn’t thrilled to find yet another reporter waiting for him at his kitchen table. But he did the interview showing only a touch of weariness, no rancor.  In 1993 he made it to the big leagues. In 13 starts with Giants and Twins he went 4-4 with a 5.08 ERA.

   Next Wednesday, more famous people I met, including another legendary coach, a movie star and more politicians. 

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