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Dave Spencer Recalls ‘Brushes with Greatness’ [VIDEO]

Tom Ewell (left) with Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch." (youtube.com)

When I was in college, my friends and I were devoted David Letterman fans. I still am. In the 80s, Letterman had a segment called “Brushes with Greatness” during which he would go up into the audience and pick a random member and have him or her detail a “brush with greatness”–a meeting or encounter with someone famous. We sort of adopted the term and began cataloguing our own “brushes with greatness.” But ours were with anyone who was even remotely famous. And over the years, I have collected a few. Now, because of my work at WBKR, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of famous country musicians. But none of them were what I would call chance encounters. And that’s what a “brush with greatness” has to be–a chance encounter, something you couldn’t anticipate happening. Actually, I can recall THREE such occurrences that pre-date my college years.

“BRUSHES WITH GREATNESS”–THE EARLY YEARS

When I was a little kid–about 5 years old, I believe–I was with my grandmother and we happened to run into the actor Tom Ewell. Now, I have to tell you that I have only vague recollections of this incident, as you might imagine. And I had no idea who the man was at the time. As I got older, I learned more about Tom Ewell, especially when the 70s cop show “Baretta” debuted and there was Mr. Ewell playing Robert Blake’s sidekick. Then I found out that Tom Ewell had already a very long and successful Hollywood career. Good Lord, the man co-starred with none other than Marilyn Monroe in “The Seven-Year Itch.”  By the way, my grandmother and Tom Ewell were classmates and graduated from Owensboro High School in 1928. That’s why they had such a lengthy conversation. And that’s why I likely became very fidgety. Hey, I was 5. Who cared who Tom Ewell was? I was bored.

Marcia Yockey was in a class by herself. (youtube.com)

A few years later, I had a “brush with greatness” that I wouldn’t soon forget. To me, this was a much bigger deal. There was a carnival at the end of our neighborhood and who was there but none other than legendary WFIE  weather personality Marcia Yockey! In the tri-state area, Marcia Yockey was must-see TV when must-see TV wasn’t cool. She was NUTS! But she was awesome! I remember that old weather board and that Sharpie. And there she was that day making an appearance at the end of my block! Incredible! After talking to her, I remember running home and telling Mom and Dad about it like I’d met the president. Actually, if I HAD met the president, it might not have been as big a deal. Of course, later, when I was a teenager, it WAS a big deal when I had lunch with Senator Wendell  Ford, an old friend of our family’s. But at 7 years old, Marcia Yockey was the biggest star I had ever met.

“BRUSHES WITH GREATNESS” — COLLEGE DAYS AND BEYOND

Joan Mondale (right) with husband, former presidential candidate, and former Vice President Walter Mondale. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

When I got to college, I had two “brushes with greatness” inside my first semester. In the fall of 1984, we were all gearing up for a presidential election. And everyone was making the rounds. I remember when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush made a campaign speech at Diddle Arena on Western’s campus. And I remember when Joan Mondale–wife of Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale–came to Bowling Green to speak on the lawn at Downing University Center. I was at the University Center around the time of the speech and walked over to get a drink of water. As I approached the fountain, Mrs. Mondale and her entourage walked past me. I guess her security detail was keeping a safe distance; she seemed to be pretty accessible. I guess if you’re hoping to be the First Lady, you need to be. So I shook her hand and we spoke briefly. Nice lady. And then later that same semester, my family and I flew to Dallas for Thanksgiving.

Oaks on a plane! (Well, here they're on a stage, but I HAD to use the line.) (cdnmusicdiva, flickr.com)

We met my New Mexico relatives halfway and had Thanksgiving dinner at a Dallas restaurant then went to a Cowboys/Patriots game at Texas Stadium. It was a blast. But I couldn’t quit talking about who was riding in the row of seats in front of us on the airplane during the flight from Nashville. We were at the very front of coach–had to accommodate my long legs–and sitting in the very back of first class was the Oak Ridge Boys. Ironically, I have never met them since I started working at WBKR. But there we were on the same plane to Dallas. We introduced ourselves; my dad wouldn’t have had it any other way. They were–and, I guess, ARE–really nice guys.

Since that time, it’s pretty much been country artists I’ve met through working here. And, trust me, that’s cool. I don’t diminish those opportunities one bit. But the others were just unexpected. And the unexpected is always more interesting, I think.

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