I ran into actor Jim Parsons recently. It was nice to see him again since we hadn't chatted since "The Big Bang Theory" series finale. In brevity more typical of his TV persona, he said "I've got a cold. I'm a recovering nerd."
I've seen him a few times before. Usually we chat about life in the Houston suburbs where he grew up. He and my daughter Lou attended the same high school near our subdivision, she finishing four years before him. Parsons and I were browsing in a Victorian house converted to studios and boutique stalls. I was looking for my misplaced iPad so I could write this column. Seeing I was preoccupied, he moved on.
Before then I had left a piano studio where my granddaughter takes lessons. Her teacher, a stern retired Russian concert pianist, employs an odd method: She plays simultaneously with her students. The lesson today had the young one attempting Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor alongside the teacher. Granddaughter was not doing well. It's hard to start that piece without its famous tympani roll.
My phone abruptly alerted me with a message tone and I woke up. My vivid, strange dream in piney woods near Tomball, Texas, ended sharply.
I contend dreams rarely hold meaning. I agree with experts who say dreams are merely the brain deleting bits of former consciousness. I'd had homemade Tex-Mex the night before, ergo Parsons appeared in old Houston days.
Awake or sleeping, I'm no celebrity stalker, though I've met many starting as a college newspaperman and continuing through years of hucksterism, uh, a career in public relations and sales. From late night coffee and Dunkin' Donuts in Waco, Texas, with broadcast journalist Bill Moyers, to up-close interviews with singers like John Denver (a prince of a fellow) to crooked politicians and noble statesmen, I've had brushes with celebrity.
Celebrity sightings around the Bentonville Square these days are "five and dime" a dozen. Decades ago, there was but one VIP. I met "Mr. Sam" Walton in 1981 during my first visit to the old Home Office waiting room where vending machine coffee cost a dime. Introducing himself to a handful of salesmen, he approached me last asking what I sold. "Swimming pool chemicals, sir," I answered nervously, "This is my first call."
Patting my shoulder, he said "I'm sure you'll do fine."
More prescience has never been uttered. To paraphrase vintage "Saturday Night Live" satire, "Walmart been berry, berry good to me."
Years and much sales growth later we met again, under less pleasant circumstances. Walmart shoppers loved my pouches of chlorine granules, but our plant couldn't keep up. At a Chicago convention hotel, Sam and his wife Helen were in a receiving line as the retailer was being honored. I reached out for a handshake, but Sam poked a finger at my name tag instead.
"I know you, Ted," he said, "You're not shipping my stores."
Fortunately, I could respond, "Mr. Sam, my people are meeting with your people next week in Bentonville and we're gonna fix things."
Holding my shoulder for further emphasis, he said, "You do that."
Interfaces with "bold types" are memorable, but when you're mistaken for one, it gets interesting.
Once upon a time near Hollywood in 1992, after a long day of store visits in Southern California suburban sprawl, I schlepped into the San Bernardino Hilton. When my reservation appeared on his screen, the young desk clerk's eyes widened. I became an instant friend.
Unctuously, he presented my key folder, then gushed, "Oh, Mr. Talley we are so honored to have you as a guest. I can't tell you how much I admire your writing."
"We were just discussing your work in my college class yesterday," he continued. "Call me if you need anything at all."
I offered confused thanks as he pointed to the elevators.
Discussed my work? He's read my freelance articles on advertising and public relations in "Farm Store Merchandising" or the Don's Western Wear of Houston profile in "Tack 'n' Togs Magazine?" This kid gets the Purina Checkerboard Newsletter? How odd.
Opening the double doors to my quarters, I understood. This star-struck Californian upgraded me thinking I was Ted Tally, with no "e", the playwright and recent Oscar-winner for adapting "Silence of the Lambs," not Ted Talley the Arkansas salesman.
Gazing over palm trees from my living room, I chuckled and considered the win-win transaction. The young fellow got a great story to share in class. I got keys to the Governor's Suite. We'd both brushed against fame.
Commentary on 10/10/2019
Print Headline: Brushes with greatness