Keeping A Safe Distance From Our Idols

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Working in the fields of public relations and journalism have been both a blessing and a curse for me from the perspective of getting up close to celebrities and other famous people.  All of us in public relations have stories of people we formerly admired – worshipped even – until the moment we ended up working with them.

One of the nicer PR experiences I had was when I got to work personally for two full days as the publicist for the cast of the 50’s sitcom “Leave it to Beaver”.   Jerry Mathers (The Beaver), Tony Dow (Wally) and Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell) were great people, genuinely cared for each other and left me with a hunger for watching more of that classic 50’s show that pioneered the modern sitcom.

The time I met my top childhood idol, Miami Dolphins QB great Dan Marino for a school newspaper interview in the late 80s wasn’t so great.   Marino was gruff and short with me.  (Then again I did interview him AFTER a hot day of football practice).

A close industry friend of mine told me she was the No. 1 fan of a major TV talk show duo until she did a commercial shoot with them.  “Foul mouth, ill tempered and TOTALLY not who they seem like on TV” were her words to me.  “I can’t watch that show any longer.”


The topic of idols has been on my mind because my 11-year-old son Jonathan is starting to track people he likes in music, movies and sports.  It was at this age that I discovered some of my own, early childhood idols: Marino, President Reagan and Joe Elliot of Def Leppard, among others.

I don’t want my kids to be jaded about having their own childhood idols but I do want them to be sober-minded about them because it seems that every time we come too close to these idols, be they a movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or a football talent (Michael Vick), we risk a mega letdown.

Today, at age 41, I’ve seen so many things in life that I feel almost too jaded about people for my own good and I’m not happy about that.  I want to believe in people more than I do but increasingly – and not less so – I find myself only more cynical.

At the wonderful church my wife and I attend here in Miami we regularly hear the calls to serve our congregation from our leaders but we don’t respond because frankly I’m terrified of being disappointed.  Our pastor wisely reminds our congregation that our church is the “perfect place for imperfect people” but I still can’t shake it.  At the last church we served several years ago we were massively let down personally by a key church leader and I don’t think we’re ready to take that risk again.  Not yet anyway.


When I was 10 I had a neighborhood friend who was the scorekeeper at all the Miami Dolphins home games at the old Orange Bowl.  For years, especially because of my adoration for the Dolphins, I thought that working in any role for my favorite team would be the greatest experience of my life but I never got the opportunity.

In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t because I probably wouldn’t love the Miami Dolphins as much as I still do today.  Maybe I’m just in an extra cynical stage of my life or something but right now I think that when it comes to people or institutions I strongly admire, I’d rather enjoy them from a safe distance.

Have you ever met someone you idolized that pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised you when you met them in person?  Tell us what happened?

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  • Raul

    I remember being 12 years old and meeting my favorite baseball player Igor Gonzales. Till this day I admire how he handled the press and everyone around him. The first time I met him he gladly signed a few baseball cards and that made my day. A few years later he got married to a volleyball player of my home town and since I worked as a volunteer of the Puerto Rican Volleyball Federation I was able to bump into him all the time.

    This guy was always there for his fans to the point me being 14 years old Is started making a profit at the opportunities I had to meet him. He knew I had my small baseball card collection business and he would sit down and sign dozens of cards which I would later sell for a premium to other kids.

    On the other side I was also big fan of Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga. During the 1993-1995 most of these players would play in the winter leagues and I would get a chance to go on the field and ask for there autographs. I remember Carlos Baerga saying no on various occasions to give out an autograph and in one occasion he even filled my baseball card with sweat and returned it (not sure if it was intentional). Since Roberto Alomar is thought to be one of the best 2nd basemen in history his ego was a lot larger than his talent. Those two I quickly lost my interest for.

    I guess that quickly at the age of 14 I learned that they where human being such as I was. Working as Volunteer for the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee, PR Basketball Federation, and Volleyball federation got me up close to many athletes and celebrities and since I served as a translator on many occasions I was pulled into the conversations.

    These experiences made me realize that Idols are in our Imagination and some people deserve more love than others but we are all human!

  • PapiBlogger

    great stuff, Raul. Growing up my favorite baseball star was Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt. We didn’t have a baseball team in South Florida back then so all of my viewing was purely on TV but I’ve read that Mike was not Mr. Fan-Friendly during his playing days. Glad he didn’t get to disappoint me 🙂

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