The question has been asked many times in the past few weeks: “Aren’t you going to miss your job when you retire?”
The answer? Yes. Working for The Eagle has given me the opportunity to meet people famous and infamous.
And I’ve had many experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had if I’d continued teaching physical education or working as the assistant to the director in women’s athletics at Wichita State University.
Where else would you get the opportunity to play Gumby and tackle The Famous San Diego Chicken at a Wichita Wranglers baseball game? Yes, I did that. Just so you know, a foam rubber Gumby costume makes it difficult to run, and it’s hot. Really, really hot.
The same editor sent me to Valley Center to meet the train that brought the circus to town. I rode an elephant from Valley Center to the Kansas Coliseum. That might not seem very far, but an elephant is slow going. And no, I wasn’t waving from a comfortable basket balanced on Julia’s back. I was astride that elephant. When I got down — with the help of the very handsome animal trainer — I could barely walk.
Needless to say, it’s also been fun to meet famous people. Going to Fashion Week in New York gave me the opportunity to chat with a lot of stars. Almost without exception, they were very nice. Debra Messing, Cheryl Hines, Ana Ortiz and Kelly Pickler were really fun.
OK, since I’m name dropping, here are some others I’ve met the past 32 years:
• Patricia Neal, who was my first real interview. I was so nervous I memorized her entire life before I met with her. She wrote me a nice letter later, and, of course, I still have it.
• Esther Williams, another favorite interview. I’ll never forget that she said she was still swimming every day and she used to have to ask if she would be doing an interview wet or dry.
• Richard Simmons was a whole lot of fun. I got a one-on-one interview with him. We talked for an hour. Earlier that day in 1984, he was at a news conference at the Dallas Market Center but wouldn’t go in the room because there were doughnuts in there. It was fun seeing him two years later in Wichita. He said he remembered me, which I doubt, but he did recall the doughnuts in the press room.
• Eva Longoria is tiny, but not as tiny as Kristin Chenoweth, whom I met last February. They both have great smiles and act like they’re tickled to death to meet you.
• The late Dixie Carter is a person I will never forget meeting. She was a warm, friendly person.
• Mary Lou Retton was a challenge because the only time I had with her was walking between the room at Via Christi where she had given a talk to her car. She might have short legs, but she can walk fast when she’s running behind schedule.
• Martin Short interviewed me while staying in character as Jiminy Glick. It was six minutes and 35 seconds of terror and fun at the same time. He is a very nice guy.
• Martin Sheen was helping market a line of clothing being sold by the mother of his first grandchild. It was fun to chat with the star who at that time said how proud he was of his son who had gone to rehab and “got his act together.” Obviously that was before his son’s meltdown.
• I got to sit in Charlie Gibson’s office and talk with him and Diane Sawyer. The fun part was when they seemed to forget I was there. I was supposed to get seven minutes but ended up with 30.
• When we covered the Miss USA pageants at Century II, the judges were celebrities, including supermodel Carol Alt. And it was great to hang out with Dick Clark.
• Frank Gifford and Donald Trump aren’t all that friendly. Frank has better hair — but who doesn’t. I sat behind the Trumpster at a fashion show and I think I figured out his hair. The top is really long. He combs it forward, puts sort of loop in it and combs it back. I swear I think that’s the technique.
I’ve always been more thrilled to talk to famous fashion designers than movie stars.
Jewelry designer David Yurman is my all-time favorite. But I was beside myself when I got to interview Hubert de Givenchy and Gianni Versace. I was able to speak briefly to Oscar de la Renta, and I will never forget the first time I got a few quotes from Ralph Lauren.
Brief meetings with Kelly Ripa, Randy Jackson, Regis Philbin, Ivana Trump, Tommy Lasorda, Carol Burnett, Rue McClanahan, Harrison Ford, Craig Ferguson and Sean Combs also were memorable.
All right, enough of this reminiscing. But one more thing.
I got to do the pre-performance phone interview with Jerry Seinfeld when he came to do a benefit show after the tornado in Andover. We talked about “Seinfeld,” why he was coming, etc. and before we hung up, he said, “You’re funny, Bonnie.”
I could have died happy that minute: Jerry Seinfeld said I was funny.
Wow, talk to Jerry Seinfeld and get paid for it.
Good job to have.
And yes, I’ll miss it.