Gin's Tonic

No matter how down-to-earth they may seem, celebrities just aren't like the rest of us. Not better, but certainly different.

Sometimes they're great. Sometimes, well, not so much.

I'll never forget my first celebrity interview. It took place by phone just a few desks away from where I sit now. I was 23, and so fresh out of journalism school the ink was still wet on my diploma. At the time, my job was editing the special publications division of this company,

paying my dues covering small-business-of-the-year award winners and the latest trends in wedding cakes for magazines like Mid-South Bride (may it rest in peace). Eager to flex a little creative writing muscle, I volunteered my services to our sister publication, the Memphis Flyer. My first task was to interview Howie Mandel. Looking back at the article that ran in a 1997 issue of the Flyer, I remember how nervous I was to call this "big star." I prepared for the 500-word piece like a soldier readying for battle. I read anything I could get my hands on about this stand-up guy. And for what? So he — recognizing the rookie tremor in my voice — could make fun of me. Nothing too harsh, just your basic funnyman's version of banter, I imagine. But I survived, and by God, I was ready to tackle the world of celebrity journalism.

Well, not quite.

Since that early encounter, my career has put me in the path of a ton of famous people, but not always in the interviewer's seat.

Let's take, for example, my stint as the communications coordinator at Make-A-Wish. One of my tasks was to help organize celebrity-tinged events, like golf tournaments. In my first few months there, I helped plan a fund-raiser in Palm Springs, home of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Since John Daly was Make-A-Wish's signature celeb, the premise was we'd go out and host a Memphis-style party, hoping to lure some of the big names to our own golf event later in the year. On the guest list that night, among other notables, were Justin Timberlake and Alice Cooper. By night's end, Timberlake, Daly, and Cooper were on stage singing "Sweet Home Alabama," and I was in front of the club keeping the press at bay. Ironic, huh?

But it worked. A few months later, I found myself at our aforementioned golf tourney, trying to keep some pretty famous folks on schedule. Let me say, early-morning tee times and rock stars don't always mix. Okay, they never mix. I won't name names, but at one point, a rock legend being chauffeured to the first hole demanded, "Where's my vodka?" Never mind the fact that (A) we're in a golf cart in the middle of nowhere, and (B) it's 8 in the morning. But, somehow we managed to procure the bottle. To this day, I still think of him as the "Grey Goose" when I hear him on the radio. Of course, we had some celeb guests who were angels, but there were missed planes and mishaps galore. I could go on, but for the sake of two actors, a few musicians, and one very, very naughty event volunteer, I'll stop.

So I really appreciate it when a celebrity makes things easy. This month's cover girl, Ginnifer Goodwin, is a perfect example. Thirty minutes into our meeting, I'd almost forgotten she was Hollywood royalty. In fact, the only requirement she had was that I help her eat chocolate cake.

And I'll drink to that demand any day.

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