Fifteen minutes of fame

Terry has a knack for running into famous people. Sometimes he insinuates himself into a situation where he’ll have an opportunity to talk with them. Other times he has just chance meetings with them. Our library is lined with shelves of books autographed by the authors. There are a few of those autographs that I have secured, but most of the time, Terry gets them. Our walls in the library are filled with photos of famous people, authors, entertainers, musicians, politicians, and autographed by them. I am particularly proud of a photo I took of Garrison Keillor many years ago before he landed on the cover of Time Magazine and got really famous and which he autographed for me. But most of those photos and even album covers are autographs that Terry has secured. Because he has so many, the bulk of them are in albums available for anyone who wants to leaf through them.

It happened again last week. We had just walked out of the Milwaukee Art Museum. I had gone ahead to board the bus (Terry was in charge of a program for a conference being held there) and he was waiting to see if there were other members of the group coming along late. But when he left the museum, he turned around and found himself face-to-face with a man who he addressed. “Aren’t you Edmund Morris?”

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Now, I wouldn’t know Edmund Morris from a hole in the ground, but he is a highly praised author of several biographies including a three-volume set on Theodore Roosevelt. The last one, Colonel Roosevelt (Random House, 2010) holds special meaning for Terry. He had met Morris at another conference when Morris was working on this edition. They talked about the influence on Roosevelt of South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck and the progressive movement there and when Terry returned home, he sent Morris some material that he felt Morris might be interested in using.

When the book came out, Terry was browsing through it at our local Barnes & Noble. Suddenly, I heard my name shouted across the store. I ran to see what was going on and Terry had this book open and was pointing at page 571. It was Morris’ list of acknowledgments and because they were in alphabetical order, displayed prominently in the very first slot was Terry C. Anderson. Gosh, I can’t blame him for getting excited. To be publicly thanked by a highly respected author is a big deal.

So when Terry turned around at the museum and met once again with Morris, he reminded him of their previous meetings and correspondence and he told him how excited he was to find himself noted in the book.

As nice as that was, what was even more interesting to me was the reaction of Morris’ wife Sylvia Jukes Morris. She said something to the effect of, “What is it with Wisconsin? This morning we were at Taliesin and someone recognized him [Morris] there!” Taliesin was the home of notable architect Frank Lloyd Wright at Spring Green, approximately 120 miles west of Milwaukee. “Now here we are this afternoon in Milwaukee and you get recognized here! We live in New York City and can walk down the street any day of the week and no one knows him. I think we should move to Wisconsin.”


Yep. That’s Terry C. Anderson in the Acknowledgments of Edmund Morris’ “Colonel Roosevelt.”

Ah, I thought. Fame is an interesting concept. If we aren’t famous, sometimes we crave it. Some folks become famous when, in fact, the only reason they are is because they are infamous. It seems some people revel in their famousity. Others prefer anonymity. Apparently, Mrs. Morris subscribed to the notion that the more one is recognized the better, especially when that person is selling very well-written books. I don’t doubt that she is correct.

know & be knownI don’t put myself in the same category as the likes of Edmund Morris or anyone who is famous, but I did have my own 15 minutes of fame when I served as the press secretary for the late-Gov. George S. Mickelson of South Dakota. It was a great job, but I always preferred to be in the background. I didn’t like being in front of a camera and, in most cases, I had mastered my anonymity when it came to film. But my name was in the newspaper a lot and I was often quoted in news stories on radio and television. I was never comfortable with that. My job, I felt, was to keep Gov. Mickelson in the forefront. I was nothing but a staffer and that was my preference. I was glad when I was no longer a public figure and I could retreat into my anonymity.

From that brief brush with fame, what I know about it is that people don’t know me. They really don’t know anything about me. Neither do we know much about anyone who is famous although we like to think we do. I do find it fearsome to think of a fame that would expose my deepest thoughts and feelings. I wonder how often famous people would like us to know what they are really like, that they are just people like the rest of us. Then again, that’s personal stuff and exposing the knowledge to the world makes us oh, so vulnerable.

If I ever write the Great American Novel or find myself on the bestseller list for non-fiction, I will, no doubt, be more excited about coming out of the woodwork. But for the foreseeable future, I would just prefer to stand behind the lights and the action.

And, after all, I live in Wisconsin where, if we are to believe Mrs. Morris, famous people are more instantly recognized. I’m right where I need to be if I ever need to be known.

Right now, I’m quite satisfied with being known, deeply known only to Terry and to God.


“12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

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