By H. Scott Prosterman
I've been privileged to meet a lot of famous and important
people in my life. I got a head start growing up in
where some of Memphis
the world's great music luminaries live. Along the way I've learned some
ground rules for approaching famous people.
1.) Don't ask for an autograph. That is unless it's someone
with whom you have no hope of engaging in conversation. The only exceptions
are if their contributions to their art or science have been mostly made,
they're in the Autumn of their years, or if they are part of a genre that is
special to you. My exception is that I never hesitate to ask aging jazz
musicians or dance icons for an autograph. When I saw the Bolshoi Ballet, I
went backstage with program and pen in hand, because I couldn't speak
Asking for an autograph puts them on a different level from you
and creates a vicarious distance -- just like they're back on stage. I'd
much rather have a real conversation with someone I admire than get them to
sign my program or T-shirt.
2.) Asking them to pose for a picture with you is OK though --
as long as you've already had some conversation and given them a sense of
comfort about you.
3.) Never approach anyone having a meal at a restaurant unless
they are dining alone. Then, if they like you, you might be so bold as to
invite them to your table, or ask if you may join them. If you have a
compelling urge to speak with one of your heroes in a restaurant, wait until
they're leaving their table. Then approach them.
4.) Try to avoid asking questions that are common knowledge or
you can find with a little research.
5.) If you MUST speak with a great person you've never met,
first make eye contact. If they avoid it, then don't bother. By way of
introduction try this:
a.) "Excuse me Mr./Ms ______________, I've admired
your work for a long time, and I'm honored to meet you.."
b.) If you have any common ground or friends in
common, bring that up next.
c.) Don't overindulge them, unless it's clear they
like you and want to continue the conversation.
d.) If you're fortunate enough to create some bond,
THEN it's OK to ask for an e-mail or website address so you can share with
them whatever . . .
I've been privileged to meet, and in some cases become friendly
with people who’ve impacted the world in music, sports, and the arts. Most
of them indulged me with an interesting conversation, or funny interchange,
if not something more, like a free yoga class. A couple of them were rude,
but that’s how I arrived at what you just read.
Here is the list of people of greatness I’ve been blessed to
-Sam Phillips (Founder & Producer of Sun Records)
-Rufus, Carla and Marvell Thomas
-David Porter (producer of most of the great Stax music, along
-Tommy Boyce (or was it Bobby Hart?)
-Sam The Sham
-Billy Kreutzmann (drummer in Grateful Dead)
-Woody Harrelson (& brother, Brett)
-Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
-Patricia Wilde (former principal dancer at NYC ballet under
Balenchine, and former Director of the Pittsburgh Ballet.)
-Mike McGee (former NBA player and
all-time leading Michigan
-Phil Hubbard (U-M great and Olympic gold medalist.)
-Gordon Bell, (great Michigan & NFL running back)
-Butch Woolfolk (")
-Steve Smith (
winning Rose Bowl QB) Michigan
-Steve Kiner (
All-American & Pro Linebacker)-Had an Tennessee
impact on me.
-George Cafego (Legendary UTENN All-American & a coach at UT
-Ed Molinski ( “ and I played high school ball with his
-Bill Pearman, Sr. ( “ ) I played high school ball with
-Paul Hofer, running back on 1st 49er Super Bowl team; let me
try on the ring.
-John Urbanchek (Michigan & US Olympic Swim Coach)
-Eric Namesnik (
swimming gold medalist & asst. coach.) Michigan
-Brent Ray (
swimming gold medalist) Michigan
-Nort Thornton (Cal & US Olympic Swim Coach)
-Anthony Ervin (Cal Olympic Gold Medalist and world-record
holder in 50 and 100-yard freestyle.)
-Natalie Coughlin (
swimmer and world record holder in Cal
multiple events. Best in the world right now.)
-Haley Cope (
Olympic Gold Medalist) Cal
-Staciani Stitts (“)
-Jon Olson (Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming.)
-Michelle Richardson (Olympic Medalist in swimming.)
-Sulieman Nyambui (former world-record holder and Olympic
medalist in track)
-Ted Banks, 10+ time NCAA Champion track coach at UTEP
-Luther & Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) –I knew
them when. . .
-Phineas Newborn Jr. (& brother Calvin)
-Fred Ford & Honeymoon Garner
-Yehuda Blum (former Israeli UN Amb.)
-Alfred Atherton (former US Amb to
-Fahd Qawasmah (assassinated Palestinian leader and former mayor
-Tewfiq Zayyad (former mayor of
and Palestinian Nazareth
-Maier Pael (former Israeli MK)
-Aharon Ramez (former holder of many high level Israeli
-Elaine Tanner (Olympic swimmer & 2 time Gold Medalist from
-Jack Donohue (Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s high school coach, and the
father of Canadian basketball.)
-Wendell Ladner (great
-Mack Calvin (“)
-Johnny Newman, ABA Player and
high school legend. Memphis
-Mike Butler, (“)
-Sen. William Proxmire
Each of these people have blessed me with a memorable
experience, only one of which was unpleasant. And each will be described in
a forthcoming article or book.