I saw Jay Leno on the 210.
Never in my 71-plus years of living have I written that statement. But it actually happened during a trip to Southern California last week.
We were in the second lane of the 210 Freeway, north of downtown Los Angeles, and up ahead of us, in the right lane, was a guy in a sleek, low-slung, bright red convertible, top down and grey hair flying.
As we pulled alongside, we turned to look at the cool classic sports car and saw that the grey-haired man was, indeed, the former talk show host.
Knowing that Leno has an extensive car collection, we smiled as we passed by, happy that he could enjoy a morning jaunt around SoCal.
That is not a Selma story, of course. It’s an L.A. story. Many folks who live — or have lived — in that large metropolis have stories of seeing celebrities around town.
In Selma, not so much. We are small-town America, where celebrities drive through on Freeways between bigger cities.
Sure, we have our rare claims to fame. As I write this column, Scott Piercy is getting some significant TV time while in contention in the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach. Piercy, who grew up in Las Vegas, is the son of former Selma High athlete Ralph Piercy and grandson of former Selma residents Loyd and Delores Piercy.
And last month Sports Illustrated honored Selma wrestler Alleida Martinez in its “Faces in the Crowd” feature for winning a couple of national collegiate wrestling championships.
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Notices like that, and memories of Selma’s Bobby Cox managing the Atlanta Braves for so many years, can give us our share of sports cred even if we don’t have an armada of celebs tooling around town in shiny convertible sports cars.
Celebrity is a strange thing. We idolize people we see on screens, whether acting, singing or playing with balls. If we happen to see them in person, we tell all our friends: “Hey, I saw Jay Leno on the 210!”
I guess we think that connects us in some small way to fame. I believe most of us do not desire fame and the messy notoriety it can bring — lack of privacy and your every move scrutinized by people who write blogs and tweets.
America loves its celebrities. Observers sometimes joke that more of us can name all the Kardashians than can name our congressmen.
Recently, when some Fresno youth recognized NBA basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo at a mall in Fresno, it was front-page news in the big city north of us.
One of the qualities many of us appreciate about Selma is that we are not L.A., we are not The City, we are not the coast or the mountains. We are farmland, with down-to-earth working folks who enjoy our families and occasionally getting away to a place where we might actually see someone famous.
And if, once in awhile, we see a former TV talk show host in his red convertible on a busy L.A. freeway, we might smile and remind our imaginary movie dog, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Selma anymore.”
(Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. Selma Stories appears regularly in The Enterprise.)