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A lot of famous people! (01/28/2007)
From: Jane A. Kohner

My twin sister Jeanne and I grew up in a home filled with music of every genre. Listening to the Texaco sponsored Metropolitan Opera live broadcasts, we learned to love opera. Since the Met visited every year at Northrup Auditorium in Minneapolis, we had great experiences meeting the famous singers who appeared. Backstage, after the opera, we met Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, and Franco Corelli, to name a few. Most were very gracious about autographing our programs. We took our young grandchildren to the Met to see "Hansel and Gretel," and had a small reunion with the young conductor Thomas Fulton, who we met in Florence, Italy. (We thought he was a college student when we first met.) We love all performing arts, and over the years we have met some famous people. We saw Julie Andrews in "Victor-Victoria" from the first row and she smiled right at us. (Okay, that's a stretch.) Mandy Patinkin gave us a warm hug, Baryshnikov ignored us, as did Margot Fonteyn; Bob Dylan didn't seem to know he was in LaCrosse, but k.d. Lang spoke to us before her concert in Minneapolis. (She was staying in the same hotel.) My daughter, Laurie Becker, told her how far we had come to hear her sing, and she replied, "I hope you won't be disappointed." We didn't get close to Michael Flatley or Barbra Streisand, or Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli, but Ed and I did get a good photo of Michael Crawford when we saw him in Los Angeles in "Phantom of the Opera." We learned that most performers really appreciate sincere compliments about their work.

We shook hands three times in one day with Paul Newman (those eyes!) when he was campaigning for George McGovern, got a wave from Harry Truman in St. Paul, when we were in college there, and a wave and a blown kiss from Thomas Dewey, as our trains left the city. Laurie and I spoke with Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., just before she was to speak to a group at our hotel, and Ed and I got a wave from President Ronald Reagan when he addressed the International Fire Chief's Conference, also in Washington. We were suddenly campaigning with George and Barbara Bush in Chicago, where later I appeared on national TV, big mouth and all, yelling "Four More Years!" When Ed was Lt. Governor of the Kiwanis, I spoke with and had a picture taken with the speaker for the National Conference - Christopher Reeve. He spoke on environmental issues. He was very congenial, and so easy to talk to. (And handsome!) While looking for a ladies room before a Frank Sinatra/Sammy Davis concert in Minneapolis, I took a wrong turn and was escorted away from the area, but not before I saw Frank Sinatra through an open dressing room door, adjusting his tie. After the concert my daughter Laurie and I shook his hand. Since many famous people stay at the St. Paul Hotel, it's not all that unusual to see a celebrity or two now and then. Neil Diamond comes to mind, easy to recognize, but I saw Tom Hanks talking to another man at the entrance to the hotel and was so surprised that I couldn't say his name, instead told my sister, "Look, there's...mn...BIG."

Our family calls my sister and me "the Pope followers." We saw Pope Paul VI and most recently Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, but our very favorite was Pope John Paul II, who we saw in Chicago, where he waved at us, and in Winnipeg, Canada, where he said Mass and left in a white helicopter. As Jeanne and I walked across an open field, the plane came directly toward us. We began waving our Polish flags and the plane banked and we saw the Pope in the window, who then blessed us. Memorable! (There are some in our family who do not believe this happened, but it really did.) We saw him three times in Rome, the most outstanding being at an evening Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. As he came down the aisle after the service, we called to him as he passed us, saying in Polish, "Blessed be the name of Jesus Christ." He came to a complete stop, turned and blessed us. It was so beautiful!

I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence, therefore all these encounters were meant to be. How fortunate we've been to have had such experiences! 


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