Steve Wilson

One of the favorite questions posted on social media is “Who is the most famous person you have ever met?”; or some derivative thereof. Well, I have met many in my life, probably more than my share compared to the average life, but that’s because I have gotten around some and so have been in places and situations where celebrities were present.

I once sought to make a list of those well-known individuals I either worked with or just with whom I had brief encounters, but it got too involved, so I let it go. But I do recall my first star encounter and I’m afraid I didn’t come out of the situation looking very good. It happened like this:

It was a summer day in Greenfield. I was 11 years old and had ventured down to the Star Café (as it was known then) on the corner of El Camino Real and Palm Avenue for an order of fries and a soda. I recall it was a big deal to do that on my own and I was, apparently, feeling very sure of myself (later referred to not as confidence but “cockiness”) and as I exited the café door on El Camino Real, I encountered three individuals I didn’t recognize coming into the building (it should be mentioned here that back in those years we knew most all the faces in town).

I can’t really tell you about that entrance now, but back then it was a two-way swinging door and I felt, as a local, I had the right of way so even though the man had the door open inward about four or five inches I pushed the other way and as the trio stepped back I made my way out and down the sidewalk. I remember looking back over my shoulder and saw the man, he was with two boys about my age, all three blondes, and he had a scowl on his face that indicated what he thought of my actions; and he had good reason. It was rude, and I’m sure today I would have the same reaction as he did back then, but at the time I felt pretty, well, cocky.

The next day people about town were talking about Mike Nelson from the TV show “Sea Hunt” eating at the Star Café with his sons. I had offended Lloyd Bridges and sons Beau and Jeff. Great. I remember about two days later I walked by the café and one of the waitresses, her name was Pearl, gave me a look through the window that let me know that the movie star had mentioned the rude behavior of one of the locals and she knew it was me. Pearl was a very nice lady, so that look coming from her knocked all the cockiness out me for a while, at least.

Besides those working on projects in the area, like James Dean’s time in the Valley filming “East of Eden” in the late 1950s, there have been sightings and encounters with those from the movie industry. I worked for Safeway back in the early ’70s and recall a long-time employee, a lady from Greenfield named Vena, telling about when the Safeway store was on Broadway (now the market adjacent to the library) and she waited on Alfred Hitchcock who stopped for snacks on his way to San Juan Bautista, where he was directing “Vertigo” with James Stewart and Kim Novak. (Back in 1975, I was making a purchase at Brinton’s at the mouth of the valley in Carmel at the same time Ms. Novak was also making a purchase; she was at the time a local resident.)

There have been other celebrity encounters varying from minutes to hours, like the time Clerow “Flip” Wilson was in town long enough to deal with a car problem; I don’t recall if it was his vehicle or if he stopped to help someone on the freeway. The summer between my junior and senior year at KCHS I worked at Scotty’s Chevron on Broadway, then on the southeast corner of Broadway and Third Street, I waited on an early recreational vehicle and when the man in the dark sunglasses and ball cap handed me his credit card, it read Fred McMurry; the standard movie star disguise worked as I didn’t recognize him, and I was a big “My Three Sons” fan.

Surely there is also someone in town who will recall that after traveling up and down the 101 over the years and seeing the golf course right next to the freeway that Martin Sheen decided to try the course and did so. And because of a mayor’s conference held in Greenfield, Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood made his way over the mountain for a few hours; current Greenfield Mayor Lance Walker has photos of that sighting, as do others I’m sure.

If I stray some from the Valley I can remember being chided for sitting on Lorne Green’s lunch. Ben Cartwright post-“Bonanza” did other projects, Mr. Green put out the song “Johnny Ringo” to some success. So in 1970, as a troupe member of The Little Theatre, Hartnell, then Junior, College’s Drama Department, a few of us went to see Lorne Green do an outdoor scene in Castroville for a television piece, an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s short story “The Harness.” Long story short, I sat on a bench on what I thought was a cushion but in fact was a cloth over catered lunches in tin foil containers; Mr. Green’s lunch just happened to be the only one really smashed. Bummer.

Now, if we get into earlier days of the Fair then Marty Stuart and Jan Berry and Dean Torrance and Freddy Fender and other celebs have made their way to town. Paul Beckett told me of an encounter he once had on the fairgrounds with the Grateful Dead. So, who have you seen?

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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