I can never claim to have had a brush with a celebrity. My wife, Helen, came close.
Imagine pre-teen Helen in the late 1950s, in front of a black-and-white TV, her adoring eyes locked on teenage singer Ricky Nelson, performing on the “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” sitcom.
That adoration never wavered for Helen.
One day in 1984, I came across a blurb in the newspaper that Rick Nelson (he dropped the “y” on his 21st birthday) was on tour. In the coming week, he was scheduled to perform at the Orange Show Fairgrounds in San Bernardino, Calif., which was near where we lived.
I called and purchased two tickets, to be picked up at the will-call window. I didn’t tell Helen. It was going to be a surprise for our date night.
But I knew the secret would unfold upon our arrival. There was no way I could keep her eyes away from the signs at the event center.
Sure enough, she saw the marquee and became giddy with excitement. She was like a pre-teen girl ready to meet her teen idol!
Once we were seated, Helen could hardly contain herself. The emcee came on stage, said a few remarks and introduced the opening act, a country singer named Joe Stampley.
Finally, the moment arrived. The announcer was back to introduce the main attraction. Middle-aged women cheered in delight as Rick Nelson strolled on stage with his guitar. He stood there, and his band members took their places behind him. He launched into his old hits.
By the time he was belting out “Travelin’ Man,” several ladies had rushed to the front of the stage. A few danced freely while others had their arms in the air, happily swaying back and forth. The response grew bigger as more ladies headed for the stage.
Helen threw a look my way. She was unsure if she should join the group. “Should I?” she implored.
I met her eyes with a smile. “Go ahead,” I said. “It’s your night.”
She brimmed with excitement, and off she went.
I wish I had taken a camera. We had no smartphones back then. But ingrained in my mind is a memory of her, close to the stage dancing in connection with other adoring fans.
When the concert was over, Rick Nelson thanked the group near the stage. He shook several hands and kissed a few ladies. But Helen was too far back; she missed shaking his hand and stealing a kiss.
Outside, we walked back to our car locked in arms.
“That was a nice surprise,” she said. “I had a wonderful time. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. “I’m glad you liked it.”
She gave me a dreamy smile. She leaned toward me and kissed me.
I still think fondly of that wonderful date night and the kiss, meant for Helen’s teenage idol, that I stole.
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