Baltimore doesn’t have celebrity home tours like in Los Angeles — and even if we did, it would be bad because they’re creepy stalker bait. But between the movies and TV shows filmed on location, the city’s professional athletes and just random folks hanging out here, we’ve got a lot of stories of just running into celebrities. Sometimes literally.
“Collision stories are very Baltimore,” said Carroll County’s Joan Weber. She “ran smack into Kevin Bacon” during a sudden summer rainstorm — “the kind that makes everything cooler” — on a “brutally hot” summer day in 1990 when the “Footloose” star was making “He Said, She Said.” Weber, who was tending bar at Bertha’s Mussels in Fells Point, “flew out to the square to dance in the puddles. I ran into him so hard. I sort of stepped back, looked up, registered that it was Kevin Bacon, and said, ‘I’m so sorry, Kevin.’ He couldn’t stop laughing.”
Apparently, Baltimoreans like our celebrity encounters up close and personal. “In my effort to get to my classroom on time, I nearly bowled over Kathleen Turner while they were filming part of “Serial Mom” at Towson High School,” said Cheryl Rosskopf, a former teacher at the school who now lives in Fort Pierce, Florida.
And Jack Darrell, who was a 10-year-old student at School Of The Cathedral while 2007′s “The Invasion” was filmed in their parking lot, said the ball from a recess game of four square “rolled into the set area, with the trailers, and I went running after it. The ball rolled down and ended up near Nicole Kidman’s feet! She walked over and picked it up for me.”
Young Jack may not have known who the Oscar-winning actress was, but Kirby Bunnell, originally from Baltimore, sure recognized a familiar face at Club Charles one night in 1989. “A close friend of mine at the time had been in a band with Johnny Depp when they were younger,” Bunnell said, and when the actor came to town to shoot John Waters’ “Cry-Baby,” they all met up and she got to meet the “21 Jump Street” star. “I tried to keep my cool but inside I was screeching. He literally held out his hand to shake mine and said simply, ‘Hi, I’m Johnny.’ My brain was like, ‘Umm, seriously, yeah who doesn’t know who you are?’ Out loud, though, I just said, ‘Nice to meet you!’”
The evening continued to be memorable: “At some point, he asked me if I had a light for his cigarette. I’ll never forget that I had a mini-size white Bic and he used it,” Bunnell said. There was also a more delightful, “very personal reason” that the night was fun. “An ex-boyfriend who had treated me so badly was sitting at the bar with a dancer who had no idea what a terrible person he was, and when he saw me hanging out with Johnny and the cast, I shot him a stone-faced look and he got up and left through the back door,” she said. “That. Felt. Perfect.”
Sometimes, celebrities are in town not because of movies or TV, but for more random reasons. In 2014, Will Cox of Halethorpe ran into Josh Charles of “We Own This City,” a huge Orioles fan and a Baltimore boy, “just walking around on Eutaw Street. Maybe he was heading to get some Boog’s or maybe just hanging out? I just said, ‘Whoa, it’s Josh Charles! Can I get a selfie?’” Apparently he could, and Cox has the photographic evidence.
It’s not surprising to see Charles around here, given his hometown roots. But in August of 1967, recent Towson State graduate and soon-to-be bride Jain Ferdinand was shocked to see classic actress Dorothy Lamour, star of many Bob Hope-Bing Crosby movies, in line in front of her at Hutzler’s department store, where Ferdinand was buying white pantyhose for her wedding. “The saleslady was helping a woman so I stood to one side and waited my turn. Then I heard the clerk say, ‘You’re welcome, Miss Lamour,’ and I tried to sneak a look at her. I had no idea why Dorothy Lamour would be shopping in Towson.” The answer: She was married to Baltimore native William Ross Howard III, and lived on a historic Sudbrook estate that Bing and Bob reportedly visited.
Of course, some seemingly fine encounters take on a different meaning with more context. Dave Tucker of Olney took a photo in 2007 with actor William H. Macy, who grew up in Cumberland, after spotting him having a drink at a spot in Rocky Gap. “He was very nice. We found out later that his father had passed away and he was out there for a memorial service. We didn’t realize it at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had left the poor guy alone,’” he said.
Because it’s Baltimore, Ravens and Orioles sightings are even more plentiful than movie stars. I have heard plenty of stories about glimpses of Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson over the years. Janel Cubbage of Pikesville met several Ravens in and around McDaniel College in Westminster, where she played field hockey and where the team used to train.
“We met Joe Flacco randomly in Qdoba,” she recalled. “And my friend and I walked-ran into Walmart a couple feet behind Tory Smith.” But one of her favorite purple encounters was with Terrell Suggs at the former Artful Gourmet restaurant in Owings Mills. “The guy I was dating at the time was at the bar, and he did that thing where people punch you on the arm and said, ‘Hey man!’ like he knew him. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ It felt like not a wise decision, like we didn’t have a longer life expectancy,” she said.
Fortunately, Suggs was in a good mood and just nodded and smiled. The best celebrity encounter tale I’ve heard wasn’t fatal either, but it was super traumatizing. My friend Jennifer Abeloff had the honor of presenting the Oriole Bird with thank-you notes from her third grade class at Mt. Washington Elementary. But when she got to the office, she was met not with the smiling black and orange face of the Bird, but “a bald short man” who had taken the costume head off. “I think I held it together, and then walked-ran away,” she said. “He wasn’t even nice! He didn’t talk to me like a little kid, but like I was delivering his lunch.”
That brief headless bird encounter had a permanent effect. “I don’t like mascots to this day. I met the Philly Phanatic and told him to back off,” she said. And when she met the Florida International University Panther at the Miami school where she now teaches, “I told him he seemed like a nice panther but he needed to stop touching me.”