MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: A salute to greatness…

Glenn Mitchell recounts blocking Wayne Gretzky's path, talking to Martin Sheen and getting Jack Nicklaus' autograph

David Letterman used to have an ongoing bit on his talk show called “Brush with Greatness” that involved audience members telling stories about when they had encounters with real-live celebrities.

Of course the Late Night host would then take it one step further as he and his writers would then get that same audience member to tell a much more interesting version of the encounter, full of embellishment and falsehoods that would always be good for plenty of laughs.

Well, here goes nothing, but I swear these stories are mostly true as much as I can recall, although I’m sure the passage of time plays a factor in making the stories better than they may originally have played out.

The first one I’ll share took place at Prospera Place in Kelowna many moons ago when Team Canada held their training camp there prior to the Olympics.

I sat in the media section taking it all in and when the ice session was over I slowly made my way down the stairs and casually stopped to talk to someone along the way.

Before I knew it there was a polite tap on my shoulder and I looked back and it was the Great One. Oops. Apparently I was in the way of Greatness, one might say.

Wayne Gretzky smiled and made his way past me like the gentleman he is and all was good with the world and I had my brush with greatness story ready to go.

Unbeknownst to me our photographer Lisa VanderVelde was watching the whole thing unfold and snapped a picture of the event, much to the amusement of my fellow journalists. Ha.

Another time, the movie star Martin Sheen came to the Vernon Army Camp to check it out for a possible movie involving his son Charlie, and a small group of smalltown journalists got a tip and gathered to see Hollywood up close and personal.

I remember we all watched the star of Apocalypse Now almost walk right by us until I mustered up the guts to actually blurt out “What brings you to Vernon Mr. Sheen?” and he politely came over and answered our questions like the true pro he is.

Which brings me to the story I want to share during the week that the legendary and first superstar of golf Arnold Palmer passed away. It was at the Wailea Golf and Country Club in Maui and I was there attending the Senior Skins Game that just happened to be on while we were vacationing in Hawaii.

It was a break in the action and the players returned to the clubhouse to take care of business and such and before you know it the man himself is walking by me. A fan much braver than myself asked Arnold for an autograph and he politely and graciously requested that he be allowed to hit the little boy’s room first and he would catch him later.

I’m glad it wasn’t me and I fought the urge to pursue a Palmer autograph further when Jack Nicklaus meandered by and some brave soul went up to him and asked if he could autograph a golf ball for them.

“Sorry, that’s the one thing I don’t sign,” he said graciously, with yours truly standing behind the spurned autograph seeker wondering what I could come up with on the spot that the living legend would sign that would be more appropriate.

I quickly took off my New York Yankees baseball hat and he happily signed the brim and I was one happy fan, not to mention the benefactor of one pretty decent brush with greatness story.

So, indirectly, Palmer helped get me a treasured autograph and I thank him for that, as well as all the other amazing feats that he accomplished with style and grace.