Karen Fore lived near a home for women with AIDS, which opened in Atlanta in 1994 and was dedicated the following year. It was established by the religious order founded by Mother Theresa.
“My home in Atlanta was just one block west and one block north of Gift of Grace House,” Fore told me in an email. “The dedication was June 13, 1995, and Mother Theresa was there.”
But Fore wasn’t. On her list of celebrities met, Saint Theresa of Calcutta was the fib. “Due to work commitments at a new job at Georgia Tech, I was not able to attend,” she wrote.
Two weeks ago, I told you about this internet parlor game: Name five people you’ve met or stood near to, but include one falsehood and make people guess. One of the lists I offered boasted close contact with Henry Kissinger, Mickey Mantle, King Olav V of Norway, John Steinbeck and Mikhail Gorbachev. Steinbeck, one of my favorite authors, was my ringer.
I acknowledged that my list, and a second group of five notables, included no women, and I promised to fix that, which I will here. But first, let me share some of the remarkable lists sent in by readers.
Fore came to Grand Forks in 2011 to work in the North Dakota University System and be closer to family. Her celebrity contacts – the true ones – were Prince Charles, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Andrew Young. In 1974, as she visited the Georgia governor’s mansion in Atlanta, Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, brought out cookies. Daughter Amy was in the kitchen, helping make the cookies.
Jennifer Lu, who spent a summer as a reporting intern at the Herald a few years ago, wrote from Los Angeles to cite close encounters with children’s author Lois Lowry, singer Lea Salonga (singing voice of two Disney princesses), billionaire businessman David Koch, English author Neil Gaiman and journalist Bob Woodward. Alas, she said, she never met Woodward.
Ell-Piret Multer of Grand Forks submitted two impressive lists. The first included poet Robert Bly, Lassie, Jane Fonda, Harry Truman and Mikhail Gorbachev (Lassie was her fib.) Her second list: Joan Baez, Bill Clinton, Jerry Garcia, Mark Spitz and Joe Biden. Her ringer there? The Olympic swimmer.
Jim Aakhus reports from Bemidji that he shook hands with James Taylor when Taylor and Carole King sang in St. Paul years ago. Jim’s list included two other entertainers, Tommy James and Herb Alpert, and a local celebrity, the late Harold “Pinky” Kraft. Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys, was his fib.
The much-traveled Myrna Lyng of Mayville visited with actress Sally Field as they waited to enter the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, and she saw former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim between acts of an opera in Vienna. She spoke with Lutheran Bishop David Preus at a pottery shop in Delft, the Netherlands, and on a flight from Atlanta to North Dakota she met author Michael Shaara. He saw she was reading his book “The Killer Angels” and autographed it for her.
On a visit to the U.S. Capitol, Lyng saw many famous senators from the gallery. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., “must have just come from the restroom because his fly was not zipped.”
While a college student in Wisconsin, Nancy Swerdlow attended a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt and chatted with her in the reception line. It was in Wisconsin, too, that she was sitting in a coffee shop when Robert Kennedy came in “and asked us to vote for his brother Jack for president.”
She was residence director at the American College of Switzerland when Sylvester Stallone was a student. “He was a handful, to say the least,” she wrote. And she happened to be at a polo match near Windsor Castle when, searching for “the loo,” she found herself five feet from Queen Elizabeth. “I totally froze,” Swerdlow said. “She nodded at me and I nodded back and back-walked my way around the corner.” Her English friend “informed me that the queen wasn’t nodding at me, she was trying to remind me to curtsy.”
Nancy’s fib? “I would have loved to hear Sarah Vaughn sing in person, but I never got the opportunity.”
Carolyn King, daughter of longtime Grand Forks bandleader Dick King, included singer Peggy Lee on the list she sent from Grand Rapids, Minn., but she admitted she didn’t meet the North Dakota native. She was close, though – Lee attended a dinner party in King’s sister’s New York City apartment, but Carolyn said she was banished to the maid’s quarters.
She did meet the Dalai Lama at a Washington, D.C., reception in about 1980, and Brian Epstein – the Beatles manager – when she, her mother and sister stayed at the same Seattle motel as the Beatles. Her sister actually got to meet the lads themselves. Carolyn’s list also included singer/composer John Hartford (“Gentle on My Mind’) and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli.
My all-female list? I walked a course with pro golfer Patty Berg, welcomed Queen Silvia of Sweden to Minnesota, told poet Maya Angelou that I wished we could be neighbors, and had a beer with the late columnist and political commentator Molly Ivins. Ah, Molly. “Polarizing people is a good way to wreck a country,” she once wrote. “Many a time freedom has been rolled back – and always for the same sorry reason – fear.”
Chuck Haga had a long career at the Grand Forks Herald and the Minneapolis Star Tribune before retiring in 2013. He can be contacted at email@example.com.