Banner editor encourages readers’ stories of celebrities

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By Dave Taylor

I have enjoyed many roles in my professional career: journalist, musician, announcer/broadcaster, author and laborer. Most of those roles have provided avenues to rub shoulders with celebrities from all walks of life.

I’ve hung out with racing celebrities including several Indianapolis 500 winners, almost every famous personage in boat racing over the past 40 years and Carroll Shelby (yes, the designer of the Shelby Cobras).

I have enjoyed interactions and friendships with numerous music personalities from the pop, country & western and Christian music genres. I’ve met TV stars, movie stars, politicians and others who have enjoyed fleeting and/or enduring celebrity status.

Journalism has provided many opportunities for celebrity encounters. Many of those opportunities came while covering major sporting events where celebrities often come to see and be seen.

I, along with fellow 1970 TCHS grads Ray Clem and Denny Jackson, attended the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1974. I was to continue a string of 26 consecutive years at Indy until I finally got tired of fighting the traffic jams in and out of the Speedway.

One year Jackson and myself, equipped with photographer’s passes, had completed our early morning rounds of Gasoline Alley—the speedway’s garage area—and were preparing to retrieve refreshments from our car. We came to the security gate allowing entry and exit to/from the garage area where we were halted by a young security guard who was trying to determine the validity of a motorist’s credentials.

One glance at the car’s occupant showed me that the driver had every right to be in Gasoline Alley. He was the widely known co-owner of one of the most popular teams in all of IndyCar racing and world-renowned in the entertainment field. It seems that his personal credentials weren’t in question. Rather, he apparently had not been issued the correct car pass to get his rental car into Gasoline Alley.

While one might think the racing team owner would be angry over this inconvenience, he smiled and waved through the windshield as Jackson and I approached.

“How is your day?” the driver said as we stopped at the checkpoint.

“I would guess it’s going a lot better than yours,” I replied. I turned to the security guard, a freckled youngster who had been left in charge of the gate when his supervisor took a coffee break. “Is there a problem here, guy?” I asked.

While his detainee – obviously amused at the youth’s ignorance of his celebrity – waited patiently, the youth eyed my media credentials and explained that he was confused over how to proceed.

“Don’t you recognize this man?” I asked, pointing to the occupant of the vehicle.

“I don’t know him any better than I do you,” he said.

“This man is a co-owner of one of the racing teams,” I said. “The Andrettis drive for him.”

“Mario Andretti?”

“Yes, Mario and his son Michael drive for this man,” I said. “You agree that Mario should be allowed in Gasoline Alley, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t you think the man that owns the car that Mario drives in the race should be allowed in here, too? If you don’t let him in he might get mad and withdraw Mario’s car from the race. If that happened a lot of race fans would be disappointed, don’t you think?”

“I guess you’re right,” the kid said and handed the credentials back to the motorist.

The driver winked at me, chuckled softly and said, “Thanks, friend! Enjoy the race!”

And with that, Paul Newman, star of the big screen, salad dressing mogul and co-owner of Newman-Haas Racing Team, passed into Gasoline Alley and out of my life.

How many of you have a celebrity story to share?
I suspect your friends and neighbors would be interested in reading about your chance meeting with someone rich and famous.

Write down your celebrity experience in 300 words or less and email your story to me at editor@mytrimblenews.com. In the weeks to come we’ll share your story with our readers and you can be the Banner “Celebrity of the Week.”