You know that insurance commercial where everyone in the restaurant goes bananas when they recognize the “save 40 percent” guy?
The commercial has made “the guy,” 66-year-old actor Dennis Haysbert, an “overnight” star even though he has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows since the 1970s.
That’s the thing about stardom and celebrity.
No doubt, the insurance gig has been good to the actor and he has been good for the insurance company judging by the fact that he has also been its off-screen voice for the past 15 years.
There was a time Mr. Haysbert could go anywhere without causing much of a commotion but since he can be seen several times of day playing “the 40 percent guy,” he is famous. And he only says two words during that 30 second spot.
I can relate. Not to Mr. Haysbert’s fame, but to all those awestruck people in the restaurant in that commercial.
That’s me. I have a thing for celebrities and an incredibly low threshold for being awed by even the most local personalities, like local sports radio talker Mike Trivisonno before he turned into a poor man’s Rush Limbaugh.
Who else misses the old Mike? Especially during Browns football season. He knew what he was talking about and gave a region-wide voice to fan frustration.
Here’s another. I was young, and although honored by the assignment, was nervous to interview beloved “weather man” and Cleveland icon Dick Goddard.
I arrived at the TV station on time but he was running late, I was told, by a producer who led me to his tiny office. Some minutes later, the door opened and he made a flustered entrance, apologizing for his tardiness. Then Dick Goddard tripped and fell into my lap. Talk about ice breakers.
See, it doesn’t take much to get me all starstruck.
So you can imagine my OMG reaction in New York City, a few years ago, at catching a glimpse of Jean “Designing Women” Smart getting into a cab near the HLM store in Manhattan and upon seeing Richard “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Kind animatedly talking to another man at the East 72nd Street entrance to Central Park.
Tim “Shawshank Redemption” Robbins once walked right past me on Second Avenue and Tony Roberts, the veteran of six Woody Allen movies, sat two tables over from me in the old Carnegie Deli. And don’t get me started on meeting Robert Redford before he was THE Robert Redford.
But my standout star of all time is Cleveland pitching legend Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller who offered an unforgettable life lesson in 1989 during the Cleveland International Film Festival benefit opening of the Cleveland Indians inspired film “Major League.”
That night, I was a volunteer “beer puller” working behind a temporary bar set up in the lobby of the Ohio Theater. The Tribe great was alone when he walked over to my station, put one elbow on the bar and asked for a beer.
He hung around while Corbin “L.A. Law” Bernsen, who was in the movie, approached to get a mug of suds. Then Mr. Feller said something like, “If you want to make money for your cause then you are doing it wrong.”
With that, he produced a $20 bill and deposited it into an empty mug and set it on the bar. Seed money, he said. Soon all of our patrons were putting money in the mug and we made a little extra for the festival.
Bob Feller was seldom wrong about a pitch and he sure wasn’t wrong about the what happens when you put a $20 bill into a mug on the bar at the benefit of a major motion picture about a Cleveland baseball team grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat.
I think about Bob Feller’s life lesson every time I pass his statue in front of Progressive Field. Like I said, it doesn’t take much.