The 10-Not-So-Famous-People Meme, Part II

30 01 2007

Curtain Call
A few months ago, I concocted this meme, and I even convinced a handful of people to participate. I keep thinking of not-so-famous people I’d like to meet, though, so I’m having another go at it.

To refresh your memory, here are the rules.

  • Select 10 not-so-famous people that you’d like to meet.
  • Give a brief, or not-so-brief, explanation as to each. Why would you like to meet Mr. X? What, if anything, would you say to Ms. Y?
  • All 10 must be living and cannot be so famous that an average person would have heard of them. It’s ok if a pick is well-known in a particular circle, so long as most people don’t follow that particular endeavor closely enough to recognize the name. (As a lawyer might say, it’s ok if the persons are limited-purpose public figures.)
  • The idea is to compile a list that’s mostly about you and your interests. The list should not simply be a reflection of who’s currently popular.

1.) John Anderson — John Anderson first caught my eye when he was the weekend sports anchor for KOTV, one of Tulsa’s local TV stations. He was smart, brash, witty, refreshingly sarcastic, and he had incredible TV hair. I mean, really, the hair was just amazing! It was thick and fairly longish, and Anderson pushed it straight up. He had memorable hair. I lost track of Anderson, and his hair, when he left Tulsa, apparently for a Phoenix station. Sometime in the late 1990s, though, I was happily surprised to see him on ESPNEWS. Now he’s one of the hosts of ESPN’s flagship, SportsCenter. Anderson’s hair is less impressive now (whose isn’t?), but he’s still just as smart and funny. And, refreshingly, he delivers the news with just enough bite to keep you wondering.

2.) Erik Balkey — I’ve written previously about Balkey, one of my favorite folksingers, and the crush I have on him. I’ve seen him in concert, he’s walked right by me afterward, I’ve repeatedly been been within six feet of him—and, yet, I’ve never even said hello or shaken his hand. Am I crazy shy or what? Anyway, it’d be fun to talk to Balkey about his music, his house-painting (to pay the bills), being on the road forever, and, well, my crush.

3.) Tony Carrillo — Carrillo is the cartoonist behind F Minus, the quirky, entertaining comic strip that recently hit the “big time” when United Features Syndicate began, um, syndicating it. F Minus is one of the strips—like Bizarro, The Quigmans, The Far Side—with an off-kilter, often slightly surreal point of view. In F Minus, bears drive, physicians compete at speed-surgery, and bad street musicians solicit contributions to quit playing. There’s so much junk on most newspapers’ comics pages these days. F Minus is worth two dozen Sally Forths or For Better or for Worses.

4.) Bill Daily — I’ve been watching the first four seasons of The Bob Newhart Show on DVD. When I was a kid, nothing made me laugh like CBS’s Saturday night line-up—The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. (And earlier in the evening, CBS aired All in the Family and M*A*S*H. What an incredible set of shows!) While watching TBNS again, I’ve realized what an impact the show had on me. Newhart’s character, psychologist Bob Hartley, always struck me as the quintessential rational adult, composed even when nuttiness occurs all around. I think I sort of wanted to be him; I wanted to move to the big city, have a smart career, and be the voice of reason in a network of friends. I’d love to meet Bob Newhart himself, of course, but he wouldn’t qualify as not-so-famous….so I’m going to go with Daily, who brilliantly played the Hartleys’ quirky neighbor, Howard Borden. Borden was an airplane navigator (later pilot), who was always dropping in, unannounced, on the Hartleys. He conveyed a sort of humane neediness that was altogether charming. Daily also played Major Roger Healey, on I Dream of Jeannie—a show, ahem, that was a little before my time.

5.) Robert Drake — Drake is my favorite Philly DJ, probably because he’s a fan and proponent of New Wave music. (I’m such a child of the early 1980s.) Once a month, the local alternative public radio station, WXPN, gives Drake four hours to play New Wave music on a show atply titled Land of the Lost. And best of all, Drake doesn’t play the obvious choices; I’m always really surprised by his choices. Want proof? Check out the Land of the Lost archives here. Drake also hosts and produces Q’Zine, Philly’s flagship radio program for the GLBT community.

6.) Margo Howard — Howard is Ann Landers’s daughter, and she’s an excellent advice columnist in her own right. I started reading Howard when she served as Slate‘s Dear Prudence. The current Prudence, Emily Yoffe, is horrible—she’s one of those advice columnists whose normal schtick, say in 90% of the cases, is to blame the advice-seeker for even needing help. (Other irritating advice columnists in this blame-the-victim vein include Carolyn Hax and Amy Dickinson.) That’s sometimes what a good advice columnist will do, but sometimes, maybe even often, the advice-seeker is better served with some good, objective judgment—not with stinging criticism. Best of all, Howard’s judgment is modern and sound. She understands that humans are sexual, flawed, and all-too-needy. If I needed advice, I’d want it from someone like Howard.

7.) Ruth Prawer Jhabvala — Jhabvala is a Booker Prize-winning novelist (in 1975, for Heat and Dust) who is probably better known for the screenplays she wrote for filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. She won the Academy Award for two of those Merchant-Ivory screenplays, A Room with a View and Howards End—both, of course, adapatations of E.M. Forster novels. A Room with a View is one of my absolute favorite novels, and Jhabvala’s adaptation is exquisite. The story of the love affair between George and Lucy, including Lucy’s escape from a life dominated by convention (there was a similar theme in Heat and Dust, by the way), is somehow almost sharper in Jhabvala’s telling. It’s a brilliant screenplay. Jhabvala, by the way, has also lived a fascinating life. A German Jew, she fled to England as a child. She married an Indian man, and they moved to New Delhi. And, of course, she’s had an enormously successful career. Wouldn’t it be great to meet her?

8.) Linda Johnson — Johnson, the “first lady of poker,” is probably better known these days for being a tournament director. Most notably, she’s often seen at World Poker Tour events, keeping the live audience informed and making sure that everything’s, well, according to Hoyle. But I saw her play last year on a GSN poker series, and she was just delightful. One thing she said stuck with me. Every time she plays, she said, she has three goals: To make money, to have fun, and to make sure her competitors have fun, too. (She says something similar in this Card Player Magazine piece.) What a great attitude. She’s also well-known for working to combat player-on-player abuse in poker rooms. And having been in the poker business for years, I’m sure she has a lot of stories to tell—including how she won a World Series of Poker bracelet in Razz, a game that fascinates me.

9.) John Scalzi — Scalzi wrote my favorite book of 2006, the sci-fi thriller The Android’s Dream. TAD begins with an interstellar scandal initiated by a diplomat’s fart (really), a plot point that caused me to discount the book initially. (I have nothing against farting, I swear. I just thought the farting gambit was a bit too gimmicky.) I was wrong. The rest of TAD—which exposes the reader to a self-consciously ironic religious sect, authenticist butcher shops in a post-Meat Age, and a xenophobic planet with a strange interest in a particular breed of Earth sheep—is engrossing. I took TAD home with me to Oklahoma over Christmas, and I absolutely couldn’t stop reading it. One way Scalzi lured me in was by placing a sympathetic figure (and eventually more) on the side of the “bad guys.” For me, the only false note in the book involved a gay relationship, or, rather, how one of the gay men acts after a certain eventuality becomes obvious. Highly recommended, anyway. Scalzi also writes two blogs, Whatever and By the Way (hey, an AOL blog is so retro for a sci-fi author), and he seems like a genuinely good guy.

10.) L. Jon Wertheim — Wertheim, of Sports Illustrated, is the best tennis writer of our time. His Tennis Mailbag column for SI.com is always one of the highlights of my week. It’s smart, shrewd, and funny. Wertheim stresses that the not-always-so-serious Mailbag is a small part of what he does at SI. Maybe he’s a little embarrassed by it? “You fear that your reputation as a journalist might be compromised when you’re known more for your snarky, stream-of-consciousness on-line column, than for the books and magazine pieces, etc. in which you’re much more professionally invested,” he’s said. But for a tennis geek like me, it’s a real treasure to have a place to remember journeyman John van Lottum, to discuss why the American Davis Cup team is always so disappointing, or to debate whether Tomas Berdych’s height is one of the reasons he’s been so startlingly successful against Rafael Nadal. (You’re yawning now, aren’t you?) Anyway, Wertheim is so clever and knowledgeable—about any number of things—that he’d definitely be fun to meet. By the way, if you haven’t checked out his more serious writing, I highly recommend Transition Game: How Hoosiers Went Hip-Hop (see, he’s more than just tennis) and Venus Envy: A Sensational Season Inside the Women’s Tennis Tour.

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