I’d forgotten my unfortunate encounter with the former Governor of California and three-time presidential candidate (now the current Governor of California) until I dialed in to a local deejay who was asking listeners to phone in their most memorable encounter with a celebrity. The prize for the winning story was a day of pampering at a fancy spa, which I knew Sue would enjoy. As I thought about the deejay’s request, I recalled the Jerry Brown incident. It happened back in ’76 when Jerry was running for president. I still think I’d have won if my call had gotten through the radio station’s choked switchboard.
I was in downtown San Francisco, behind the wheel of my faded blue VW Bug and wearing a brown corduroy suit that made me look like the bear on the California flag. San Francisco’s hills are notoriously steep and my brakes were in sad shape, but I was broke and risking my life hunting for a job. Sue and I had only been married a few years and we’d just returned from backpacking in Europe. I was traveling south on Polk Street and had just stopped at the intersection of Polk and Grove Streets. I was looking up at the stately dome atop City Hall when it happened.
While idling at the intersection and waiting for the light to change, I suddenly found myself engulfed in a mob, a swarm of shouting, agitated hooligans gesticulating wildly and circling me like hyenas eying a wounded wildebeest. My VW Bug started bouncing about like I was in riot-torn Beirut instead of downtown San Francisco. My confusion gave way to the realization that these were reporters.
Just then a fellow came into view in front of my windshield. Even though I’d been out
of the country for a while and hadn’t been paying much attention to presidential politics, I still managed to recognize Jerry Brown, the former Governor of California famous for dating pop singer Linda Ronstadt. I’d heard he was running for president.
Somehow my foot slipped off the brake pedal and landed on the gas. The Bug lurched forward and struck Jerry Brown. Bumped into him would be more like it. He did a half twist and landed on the hood of my car. Our eyes locked, and I accidentally hit a switch and the windshield wipers began arcing across my dirty windshield. The incident lasted only a moment, and then Jerry rose up from the hood of my car, brushed himself off and marched away, followed by the horde of reporters.
A year later I was living in Los Angeles and decided to trade in my VW Bug. The fellow at the dealership scowled at the hippy-dippy bumper stickers and wrinkled his nose at the high mileage. He then offered me a few bucks for the car.
I said, “See that scratch on the hood?”
“What about it?” he asked.
“Jerry Brown did that.”
“I hate Jerry Brown, voted for Ford,” the fellow spat.
This was going to be easier than I thought. “That scratch is where I collided with Jerry last year when he was campaigning in downtown San Francisco.”
“No fooling? You actually hit Jerry Brown with this car?”
“I really did.”
He doubled his price.
Have you ever had a close encounter with a celebrity? Let us know about it.