Aaron Beck

Column: Celebrities Have Power to Stun Brains

The Columbus Dispatch | November 7th, 2008

I've talked to celebrities: Jimmy Dean, Stella Parton, a dude from Korn. You name 'em, I've delved deeply into their affairs. Before I chat with brand-name humans, I write 20 to 25 questions to try to outline our conversation.

But when I run into celebrities on the street, I'm as star-struck as the next yokel. On E. Broad Street years ago, I noticed Jim Brown walking next to me. "I loved you in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," I said -- to which the Cleveland Browns' all-time leading rusher replied, "Uh-huh, yeah, thanks," and admirably refrained from punching a hole through my torso.

At Indiana University in the early '90s, Penn Jillette -- the tall, speaking half of Penn & Teller -- asked me where in Bloomington to buy a Discman.

"You're Penn," I said. "Yes," he said, "Let me ask this again..."

Imagine my delight last month when I was walking past Mitchell's Steakhouse and noticed a man I'd spoken with days prior -- ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, a long, tall Texan with whom I'd had a very good rapport.

While chatting on the phone, Gibbons had talked about a '58 Thunderbird he was overhauling. "What's your e-mail?" he had asked. "I'll send you some photos." Days passed; no photos. I chalked it up to life on the road as Billy Gibbons. I wasn't fixing to start Billygibbons liedtome.com, but did I really think that Billy Gibbons takes time away from chasing skirt and growing beard to e-mail dudes at newspapers?

The guy who sings, "I spied a little thing and followed her all night in her funky, fine Levi's and her sweater kind of tight" messes with e-mail? Come on. So, when I saw Gibbons chatting in front of Mitchell's, I thought: "Huzzah! I finally actually have something legitimate to talk about." Alas, Gibbons was deep in a cell-phone conversation and wanted no part of your reporter -- a schlep in shorts and a backpack -- interrupting his off-the-clock time.

He did notice me hanging around like a pigeon waiting for a crumb. Gibbons offered his hand, I shook it, he didn't break stride in his conversation, and that was that -- making me zero for, oh, about 13 in the realm of fruitful encounters with stars on the street.