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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Celebrity contacts

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not many of us feel that we have achieved celebrity status. But something within us likes to acknowledge any close encounters with a famous person.

For years our family has enjoyed the realization that Lester and Ken Curtis (Festus on the Gunsmoke series) are second cousins. His actual name is Gates but he changed it to Ken Curtis when he started singing with the Sons of the Pioneers. We even had a short visit with him back stage at the American Royal in Kansas City. He kissed our youngest daughter who was then around 6 years old. He called her his kissing cousin.

This week Lester read my article about Sally Rand. It intrigued him that someone from Hickory County could become so famous in such a profession. It suddenly occurred to him that Fair Grove where his maternal aunt had lived was right on the border of Hickory County, and her husband's name was Beck, which was Sally Rand's birth name also.

So the genealogist in Lester got busy and sure enough he has found ties between the birth family of Sally Rand and the family of his uncle by marriage. This isn't exactly a close tie, but it is an interesting possibility. And to think that my father didn't take my sister and me to see that show when he and my mother took us to the Chicago World's Fair where she became so famous!

With these things going on in Lester's family I was feeling like the country cousin. There is nothing famous in our heritage except a Civil War General, McClelland. In this county I probably shouldn't boast about that since he was wearing the Union uniform.

But daughter Susan came to my rescue last Friday night. She has season's tickets to performances in Austin, Texas, and has been able to see and/or meet several celebrities at these shows. The one Friday night was my favorite comedienne of all times, Carol Burnett. Susan grew up watching her shows with me while Lester was off doing church business.

The Austin show had a format where a clip was shown from an old show and then Carol went into questions and answers from the audience. Susan had gone prepared for the chance that she might meet the star. She had taken two of my books with her.

After several questions had been asked, Susan was called upon to ask her question. She made it a two-parter and in the first part she asked Carol Burnett how it felt to be an institution. When Carol was taken aback at that, Susan explained that no one in her mother's generation wanted to miss Cronkite, Carson or Carol.

Then she told the celebrity that her mother wrote a column similar to Erma Bombeck's style, and could she give Carol two of her mother's books of the columns. When the usher took the books to her, Carol read the title, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Senility," and laughed her famous laugh. Then she added, "I'm going to read this one tonight!" The audience laughed with her and Susan basked in the glory that she was able to get her mother's book mentioned in a large crowd by our favorite entertainer.

I can dream that someone of her stature has actually read some of the book, if we can believe what she said. At least she has read the title. That doesn't give me celebrity status, but it might be just as good as being related, distantly, by marriage, to a fan dancer!

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus