Monday, October 24, 2011

Running Down The Governor Of California

     No, it wasn’t Arnold the Governator, and no, I wasn’t a reporter in hot pursuit of an interview. It was Jerry Brown, and I ran him down with my car.
     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.  


  1. I've had a couple of celebrity meetings. My favorite/most embarrassing is when I met Brian Ritchie, guitarist for my favorite band ever, the Violent Femmes. I met him at Summerfest, and bought him a beer, and was making small talk with him. Then we had this exchange:

    Me: "So, when do you think you're new album will come out?"

    Him: "Not for a while yet. It might be a year."

    Me: "Why so long between albums?"

    Him: "Well, it's really hard writing those songs, you know."

    Me: [With an unintended air of skepticism] "Really?"

    He took offense, I think at the implication that writing THEIR songs wasn't hard, and left.

  2. But - was the story good enough to get you to the spa?

  3. Joe: The switchboard at the radio station was swamped and I wasn't able to get through. I like to think I would have won.

  4. Hi Stephen--what a very funny story! sorry you didn't get to speak to Jerry...I haven't had any similar experiences--the closest was Dennis Kucinich in Portland for the film "What the Bleep do we know?" we came out the door and there he was! but I was so out of it from watching the film that I just passed him by--

    Thanks for your always welcome comments on my blog--we have never visited this area either and I agree about the stones--very magical. I have had close encounters with a few of them but was afraid to mention this on my blog...the ones here in Brittany have been silent so far...

  5. I myself have never met anyone famous or well known... I enjoyed reading your works and am very pleased I found your blog! I mean, who doesn't like smiling and giggling at a good read?
    Many Blessings~

  6. I was an extra in Johnny Depp's movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." We were in a grocery store waiting another take. Johnny was holding a large cake box in one hand. Another of the extras, a woman, said "while we're waiting you can rest that cake on my grocery cart." Johnny replied "It's o.k. I've been doing cake curls," and lifted the box and brought it back to waist level a few times. (The box was empty, by the way.)

  7. I rode the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle with Drew Barrymore..... and then I kidnapped her for a few years.... shes free now. Im not a monster.

  8. I met Kojak many years ago. He was very nice. I've met a lot of folks that work in government. Never was really impressed with them, but then that's just me.

    I don't care for Jerry Brown.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  9. LOL - that was a great story. You probably WOULD have won.

    My only brush with a famous person wasn't really even a very famous person. I was with a woman who met Michael Waltrip in a bar & they flirted for a while. I was unimpressed. I guess even though I'm from NC I wasn't really into the good ol' boy act.

  10. I hope you at least voted for him!

  11. my moment was Rodeo Drive I was sixteen years old walking down the street in awe of it all and Jack Lemon nearly knocked me over, I assume he was in a hurry! Closest i've come to a celebrity. Too bad you didn't get on the radio you surely would have won!

  12. A hilarious story, Stephen. Love it, and I love how everyone's response is to say not-so-nice things about Jerry, when it was your foot that accidentally (hmm, purely accidental?) slipped.
    Thanks for sharing.