I’ve meet most of the famous people that have influenced my life in a positive way, and it’s not by accident. For the first time ever, I’m divulging my tactics on how to meet celebrities, including artists, athletes, and other inspirational, culturally significant folks. You may say, “hey Cam, what’s this got to do with SURVIVAL?” Well, I believe meeting legends improves you as a person, and at the end of the day, all you can hope for is that you are better than the day before.
I think I got hooked on approaching stars in my childhood, when I stalked Portland Trail Blazer players after games with my dad. They’d be gingerly strolling to their luxury cars, and I’d go in for the kill. I offered them a basketball to sign with my Sharpie. Any good autograph seeker knows to bring their own fresh permanent pen. Nothing is worse that standing in front of your hero trying to bum a pen for a signature. I caught up to Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams, and the rest of the old school Blazers. I remember weaseling close enough to the locker room entrance too, so that I could high five all the players as they ran out on the court. After that, I didn’t wash my hand for a week. My mom made me in the end.
I learned as a kid how to approach cool people. First I would say something like, “Hey, I’m a big fan. I just wanted to say hi, and ask for you autograph.” They usually obliged, but I’ve had more than my fair share of epic snubs. More on that in a second. Basically, if you see a celebrity, be chill like them. I offer up a compliment, but don’t go overboard. Plus, I tell them something about myself, that they can relate to. I find common ground. For instance, when I went up to UFC star Chael Sonnen at an amateur MMA event, I shook his hand and told him I was also an Oregon Duck. Then I mentioned being a ring announcer for mixed martial arts fights in Seaside, Oregon. I told him maybe I would announce his name one day in the octagon. I had his attention, and he was happy to pose for a picture, and sign an autograph for me. I have more autographs than a memorabilia dealer. Meeting athletes is easy. Catch them before or after the event, and be polite.
I’ve been snubbed by stars too. Jack Nickalus passed me by. Arnold Palmer told me he had signed enough autographs that day. But the biggest snub of all-time comes from the punk Greg Oden. This Blazer washout walked by me on Burnside in Portland, while I was talking on my phone. I hung up, and casually approached him while waiting for a crosswalk light to change. We were the only ones on the block. I said, “hey Greg, I’m a big fan (lie), and I just wanted to say hi and shake your hand.” Greg Oden looked me up and down, and then looked away, not saying a word. I backed up slowly proclaiming, “Greg Oden just snubbed me!” Then I yelled for all of PDX to hear, “Greg Oden is too good for the world!!!” The realest thing I’ve ever said. I told that story on my radio show on the Oregon Coast. I still plan to burn his basketball card on camera. It will never be worth anything.
Most celebs aren’t goons, so don’t be afraid to go up to them. One of my favorite encounters was when I slept on the street in Los Angeles to have a chance as a contestant on The Price is Right. I went during spring break right after I turned 18. It took 14 hours of waiting in line before I stormed CBS Studios and sat front row, one seat over from Contestant’s Row. I didn’t play any pricing games that day, but I did have a long conversation with Bob Barker himself. He towered over me, high on the stage. During a commercial break I had the courage to raise my hand and ask him a question, but not a stupid one. I’m sure he’d been asked during every damn taping about when he is doing Happy Gilmore 2. I could tell Bob was sick of that comment, so I buttered him up like hot corn on the cob. He read my price tag name tag, “Yes Cameron.” I said, “Bob, after all these years, how do you look so good, and stay so fit?” Perfectly executed. He rambled for 5 minutes about his days in the military, and training, and so on, then went back to the show. However, to my surprise, when he was way across the stage during the next break he said, “anyways Cameron, back to your question.” I still have that yellow price tag sticker with my name on it.
I could go on all day about the well-known people I’ve met. Mainly, you just need to be on the lookout. Get very familiar with the faces of people you appreciate. Be ready to approach, and try to know their schedule. When I worked at the mall running a kiosk, I had mini football helmets stocked, so I could throw up my back in whenever I feel like it sign, and get that autograph. This was in Eugene, and athletes from Oregon and around the country shopped there. I even had one foot by one foot sections of hardwood floor on standby for basketballers to sign. I remember bothering U of O sensation Luke Jackson for an autograph when I finally hunted him down in Macy’s. He said, “what do you just carry pieces of wood around?” I said yes, but he scribbled on one anyway. I met comedian Carlos Mencia in the mall too, and Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin’s family. My picture with Bindi Irwin is classic.
This is getting long, but the point is that you can meet influential people too. Have guts, be ready, and meet them with confidence. Gifts don’t hurt either. I once went to legendary Air Jordan shoe designer Tinker Hatfield’s pad with a house warming gift. I crashed his party, but he invited me in anyways. I gave him the best ceramic vase I’d ever made. He put it on his mantle, and gave me a 45 minute tour. Just goes to show you that if you appreciate others, they will appreciate you. I can’t imagine the person I’d be if I hadn’t met the people that inspire me to go hard. The World is yours. Don’t let anybody bring you down. Meeting famous people is your God given right.
From top left: Cameron McKirdy with Haloti Ngata (NFL), Joey Chestnut (#1 Pro Eater), Aston Eaton (#1 athlete on Earth), Bindi Irwin (Freed Willy), Chael Sonnen (UFC), Badlands Booker (rapper, competitive eating champion), Joey Harrington (Oregon Duck QB), Erick Lindgren (#1 poker player in the world), Terrell Brandon (NBA All-star)