James Jones column: No Problems with celebrities

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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Last week I met the actor Danny Glover last at the R.B. Hudson Steam Academy. The brush with a star was not only my experience meeting a celebrity.

My celebrity brush began when I was a teenager. Back in the day, I used to take my mother to the Soap Opera Mall Tours at University Mall in Tuscaloosa. I watched as my mother stood among a heavy crowd of screaming women, extending their hands to touch someone, usually an actor from “As the World Turns,” her favorite soap opera.

Whenever I see actors William Fichtner, Frank Runyeon and Meg Ryan on TV or in the movies, I scream, ‘that’s Josh, Steve and Betsy from As the World Turns.

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I got a heavy dose of symbolism two decades later when Meg Ryan portrayed Jackie Kallen, a professional boxing manager in the 2004 feature film, “Against the Ropes.”

I became friends with Kallen during my days as a boxing reporter. Her top fighter was James Toney, a former middleweight and super middleweight champion who occasionally fought on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Kallen is a nice, down-to-earth person and Ryan portrayed her well.

I felt sadness watching the movie because my mother passed away a decade before its release. Knowing her, she would’ve said, ‘Betsy is a boxing manager now.’

I eventually had a close encounter with celebrities in the summer of 1992, during my first job at The Biloxi Sun Herald. Three months after graduating from college, I covered the Miss Teen USA Pageant. None of the other staff reporters wanted the week-long gig, but I happily volunteered.

That week, I did profile stories on American Bandstand’s Dick Clark and actress Jeannie Cooper, who portrayed Katherine Chancellor on the iconic soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.”

My meeting with Cooper meant more to my mother, who watched Young and the Restless.  For me, Dick Clark was a bigger deal. I grew up watching “American Bandstand” and $25,000 Pyramid, two shows he’s best known for.

Had the internet existed back then, I would’ve had photos of that time.

Seven years ago, I met actor John Schneider at a Film Festival. It was really cool meeting, “Bo Duke” from the hit TV series, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Believe me, I got photos from that. encounter

Whenever I am around celebrities, I never get starstruck. The credit goes to my mother for the years I drover her to the Soap Opera Tours at University Mall during the 1980’s and 1990’s.