Lesson One from Sailor Bob

When I was four or five years old, a local celebrity from NBC television in Richmond, Virginia, made an appearance at Bill’s Supermarket in Kenbridge. This event was quite exciting for me. Nothing much ever happened in our county, and we were going to have a chance to see Sailor Bob!

That sunny afternoon, the store was packed. My mother and I stood in line awhile. Finally, it was my turn to sit on Sailor Bob’s lap. I would be getting a picture signed by Sailor Bob!

Once I met him, I don’t remember saying anything. I was probably too awestruck.

He got ready to sign his photo. “What is your name?”

“Tammy.” I felt excitement rise at the thought of taking home my very own signed photo!

He looked around the crowd of parents and kids to find my mother. “How do you spell Tammy?”

She smiled and answered. “T-a-m-m-y.”

I hadn’t expected to feel disappointed in Sailor Bob, but I was. How could he not know how to spell Tammy? Lots of girls I knew were named Tammy. Didn’t everyone in the world know how to spell Tammy?

My hero had fallen.

Of course, Sailor Bob was right to ask! However, from that day forward, I never looked at celebrities the same way  again.

Maybe that’s one reason why today it’s easy for me to work with important authors. I see them as people trying to make a living with their time and talent. Celebrity is just a consequence of success.

I learned early the folly of thinking celebrities are perfect. That was a great lesson. Thanks, Sailor Bob.


Your turn:

Have you ever met a celebrity?

Have you ever been inspired by or disappointed by a celebrity?

Who is your favorite Christian in the public eye today?


33 Responses to Lesson One from Sailor Bob

  1. Avatar
    CJ Chase December 6, 2018 at 5:24 am #

    In fairness to Sailor Bob, he’d probably already been asked to sign pictures for Tammie/Tammi/Tami and a half dozen other variations, so he knew better than to write “Tammy” without checking the spelling. (And that’s a good lesson for authors — verify the spelling when asked to autograph a book.)

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:00 am #

      So glad you connected the post directly to authors. Excellent point! And yes, Sailor Bob WAS right to ask!

  2. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson December 6, 2018 at 5:35 am #

    My father’s a successful businessman who had a lot of celebrities (mostly musicians or ministry leaders) at our house when I was growing up. Mercy Me, Michael W. Smith, Franklin Graham. I remember many staying at my house, and remember what a lot of them talked about. I’m a musician and many of the musicians said, “Be careful. It’s a hard business. Your family suffers.” My rose-colored glasses were broken early, and I was taught by a lot of them and by my parents about the dark side of celebrity (“Christian celebrity” – which is it’s own flavor of weirdness). Most people who are celebrities have sacrificed way too much to gain that distinction. Most sacrifice their families. Or at least a considerable amount of the best time with their families. Those are the mistakes we’ll all be weeping for on judgment day. “I chose success over my own infinitely valuable family?”

    I’m convinced there are very few who are called to be famous. Many fewer than actually are. But we won’t ever know just how few because so many of us refuse God’s call to be faithful in our immediate responsibilities to our families and to the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is first to love God, then to love our families and be there for them, then to do our jobs, then to do “ministry.” (Because being there for your family IS ministry, and so is doing your job.) It’s eternally important that we don’t get that order wrong.

    I struggle a lot with work/life balance. I’m sure a lot of us do. So I’m preaching to myself this morning. We’re people, not little gods.

    • Avatar
      Rebekah Love Dorris December 6, 2018 at 7:31 am #

      This comment needs to be published as a disclaimer on every platform article ever. Well said.

      • Avatar
        Rebekah Love Dorris December 6, 2018 at 7:34 am #

        PS – Along with a T-shirt saying “I chose success over my own infinitely valuable family.” Whew! Who wants to win that T-shirt?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:05 am #

      Brennan, yes, you have identified the struggle. I work with so many authors some fans would nearly pull out their eye teeth to meet, but the authors are my friends and I know the struggle of being a writer. I’m so glad I’m not on television. I wouldn’t want my living to depend on being camera ready at all times. Fans see the glamour and think every celebrity is rich. Some celebrities aren’t rich, and often fans don’t realize that in many ways, the job of a celebrity is more difficult and sometimes even more boring than a “normal” job.

      Your comments are greatly appreciated. Preach it, Brother!

  3. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson December 6, 2018 at 7:26 am #

    I used to hold pastor’s up on a pedestal, thinking they were the most revered among Christians. They were my celebrities even though Elvis Presley lived in my city. Once I secured a job at my church I began to realize that pastors are normal, everyday people just like us. They are to be respected but not placed on a pedestal. They are the ones who teach and encourage us to accept Christ as our Savior, live Godly lives, and be a witness to others. They utilize wisdom, discernment, and compassion. However, I’ve seen some of them become so busy reaching out to the world that they leave their families behind. Any profession requires time away from family, including writing. That’s why it’s so important to make sure we don’t neglect our families while pursuing our dreams.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:08 am #

      Exactly. Every job requires some time away from family, but families know earning money for needs is a fact of life for most of us. But when we are with our families, the love is immeasurable. I know you are a joyous person who loves your family, Loretta. Thank you for reminding us all of need for a work/life balance.

  4. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris December 6, 2018 at 7:36 am #

    What a great post, and what great comments! I’m saving this one in my bookmarks.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:08 am #

      Thank you. I am flattered and humbled for my posts to be part of anyone’s set of bookmarks.

  5. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D December 6, 2018 at 7:43 am #

    Tamela, as an original cast member at Walt Disney World, I met several celebrities and found them delightful. I met Roy Disney right before the park opened, when he visited our restaurant; he was very kind. DeForrest Kelly from the original Star Trek was a tiny and quiet-spoken man who came to my juice bar in Adventureland. Cat Stevens didn’t want to be recognized because “i just want to see the park with my family, if that’s okay.” I could go on and on….They were nice folks, just like everyone else, except for their profession.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:10 am #

      Yes, to the well-grounded celebrity, it’s a job. Those who “believe their own publicity” are the ones who get in trouble.

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 6, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    Actually, I achieved some degree of fame though books and blog; it was completely unexpected, but like Glen Campbell sang in ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, I am

    “…gettin’ cards and letter from people I don’t even know,
    and offers comin’ over the phone…”

    Well, offers by email, since I don’t have a phone, as talkin’ is now too difficult.

    The biggest thing about this is the sense of responsibility; people really DO care about what I’m doing, and answering letters and emails (and blog comments) comes first.

    Related to this is quality of content; someone really is watching, and expecting my best, and I have to give it, every time.

    It’s a rare privilege, one I never expected, and something I treasure.

  7. Avatar
    Carol Ashby December 6, 2018 at 8:37 am #

    The one “celebrity” I know personally has a Noble Prize in Physics for the fractional quantum Hall effect. A brilliant man and one of the nicest people you could meet. He visited our lab 2-3 times each year to assess our research program, so I got to know him well enough that we talked about our kids and prayed for each other. Yes, Dan is a Christian, and he’d be the first to say how unimportant being called a celebrity is.

    But scientists are unusual because it’s the importance of the work, not the supposed importance of the person that impresses. A newbie who’s just made a significant discovery will be sought out by more scientists for conversation at a meeting than the “big name” in a field who hasn’t done anything lately.

    Fame is fleeting and spiritually dangerous. It’s too easy to let the adulation of others make you think you really are hot stuff. And when that moment in the limelight fades, too many can be consumed by jealousy of those who are the latest favorites of the masses and by longing for what used to be. Better to be like Paul…content in whatever situation God has placed us and not driven by a desire for personal glory.

    The pressure for platform numbers, while totally understandable from a business perspective, encourages us as writers to be constantly waving our arms and shouting, “Look at me!” I had a successful research career, but I never became a household word nor aspired to be one. I used to joke with colleagues that God had protected me from the spiritual hazard of too much money and too much fame. They laughed, but I really wasn’t joking. It was true.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:17 am #

      Excellent point, Carol! It’s great when your work goes beyond yourself. Sadly, I believe some celebrities are forced to focus on themselves because they ARE the “product” so I would imagine true happiness and grounding is difficult even for the most sincere.

      This is another reason why I’m so glad to be in Christian ministry. Yes, we do have to look at sales numbers, but our work is ultimately about the Lord. The author is a vessel, and I am but droplet of water in the journey. When you’re focused on Him, it’s easy not to worry about yourself.

  8. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson December 6, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    I have met various celebrities over the years. Some of the people I consider celebrities might not fit the description for other folks. I have learned to remember that we are not supposed to worship people. We are called to worship God. 🙂 People are human and even celebrities make mistakes.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:17 am #

      And sadly, their mistakes are reported in the press! Another reason not to desire to be a celebrity…

  9. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 6, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    Tamela, the ‘spelling the name’ thing brought to mind some fun I had whilst teaching…

    A student who I knew well (and who is a close friend today) came into my office to ask for a grad school recommendation.

    “Fine,” I said. “Sit down, and I’ll write it now.”

    He sat, and the first thing I asked him was, “OK, how do you spell your last name?”

    He looked at me dubiously, and enunciated, “S-M-I-T-H.”

    “Great!” I typed away for a couple of minutes, humming to myself.

    Then I asked, :How do you spell ‘sucks’?”

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 6, 2018 at 10:18 am #

      An admissions board with a sense of humor would have let him in!

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 6, 2018 at 10:30 am #

        They did! He ended up with a Masters’ degree, which I always called a Mastiff’s degree because he looks like one.

        He declined to pursue a PhD, he said, on the strength of my example.

  10. Avatar
    Debra Torres December 6, 2018 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Tamela!
    I heard a pastor say recently that God uses the talents of “normal” people for some pretty spectacular things. And, it could be that those people may not be as spiritually mature as we set them up to be in our minds.

    This is why when we hear of a “Christian celebrity” who has “fallen,” we get so shocked – when we really shouldn’t be. They are just people working through the bumps of life like you and me.

    I like what you said, “Celebrity is just a consequence of success.” And, they aren’t perfect.

    I think this helps us to use our gifts and talents better when we are working with someone of high profile.

    Hope you are well! Looking forward to chatting soon, I know it’s a busy season!

  11. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 6, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    If anyone’s interested in a musical approach to the price of fame, here’s a Youtube link to AJ Michalka singing “All I Ever Needed” from the film “Grace Unplugged”.


  12. Avatar
    Nick Kording December 6, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    I’ve met many celebrities, including Daniel Radcliffe, Lin Manuel Miranda, and a lot of broadway stars, as well as Adam Sandler, John Stamos and more. When I became a Christian, I met many of the celebrities in this world – Matthew West, Pricilla Shirer and Beth Moore. Cristie Caine’s daughter (as well as several of those infamous housewives’ children) even went to my children’s school. As a people watcher, I’ve always been more surprised by the response to celebrity than the celebrities themselves. Since becoming a Christian, I am even more intrigued by the response to celebrities. For me, celebrity is not appealing. While I joke about fan-girling over an author I like, the reason I like them is because they point people to God, not themselves. As a speaker and writer, I definitely want my work published… but not to be famous (maybe why I like pen names) but rather to help people see how their lives can be changed by the One who changed mine. Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to write or speak at all.

  13. Avatar
    Sharon K Combs December 6, 2018 at 1:35 pm #

    I’ve never been impressed with fame. That’s just how my mother raised me. People are all important to me, whether they are known world wide or just the neighbor next door. We are all human and do the same things every other human does, albeit some have jobs where they travel a lot or get to meet people from other lands. If I met a well-known someone on the street, I’d smile at them, maybe say hi, but I wouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

    That applies to Christians as well. All my Christian brothers and sisters are equal in my eyes. Call me strange, but that’s how I see it.

    Years ago, I remember someone telling me that they had a pastor placed on a pedestal until they did something wrong. My thought was, don’t we all? And why on a pedestal? The only one in my eyes that belongs on a pedestal is my Lord Jesus Christ. Now Him I look up to.

  14. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage December 6, 2018 at 8:47 pm #

    In grade school, I did a research project on Harry Houdini and developed a crush on him. 🙂 Couldn’t meet him, of course, as he was already dead.

    Apart from Houdini, I’m a sucker for writers. All you have to do to become my hero is write an amazing novel or a really well-expressed, well-reasoned argument (like some of Philip Johnson’s books).

    I have not got to meet many of my literary heroes, but I have found that for fiction writers especially, there is wisdom in their work that is not there in the person if you see them interviewed or read their nonfiction.

    I would say this is even truer of poets. No actual person could be as divine as you would expect the author of a really great poem to be. This is why we talk about the Muse.

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 6, 2018 at 9:14 pm #

      Dear Jennifer, a poet’s charm
      lies not in the magic-skilled use
      of words, and not to cause alarm
      but neither ’tis connexion to Muse.
      The stardust of the rhyming tongue
      comes from the heart-bond
      with those the wordsmith lives among,
      and studies, with the kind fond
      care for foibles of old, and young.
      Emotions rise and are controlled
      through diligent use of sharp-nibbed pen
      and thesaurus, and the scary-bold
      blood-use of edit-red, and then!
      The verses rise from the fallow page
      and dance life upon your personal stage.

  15. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage December 6, 2018 at 8:52 pm #

    P.S. Being starstruck and then disillusioned works great in a story too.
    I just watched “The Force Awakens” with my kids. There’s a scene in which Rose meets Finn, a Resistance hero. At first, she’s so flustered that she’s stammering phrases like “doing talking.” But within a minute or two, she has to taze him because she discovers he’s trying to abandon ship.

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