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My Brush with Greatness


I enjoy the "Brush With Greatness" series enough that I though I'd contribute...and I've had several! 
And I won't even include some that virtually none of your readers will have heard of, like Emil Wolf
and Nickolai Kukhtarev, the great optical scientists.

The first one I remember was in 1967.  My father was teaching Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. 
One day he had a party with some of his students and one of them, it turned out, was the football team
captain, Rocky Bleier.  (He was famous for being injured in Viet Nam, but coming back, working hard
on his body for a couple years--mostly stretches--and becoming a great halfback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.) 
Another student of my father's, a few years later, was Joe Theismann, who changed my loyalty from
the Steelers to the Redskins.

1968 was a good year for brushes with greatness.  In April or May of that year (I don't really remember,
I was only nine) I was at a rally of about 20 people with Robert Kennedy telling us he was running for president. 
Then I had to see him get killed on live TV in June.  That summer, in a couple of plays at the Williamstown
Theater Festival in Massachusetts, we saw a new kid actor in some pretty good roles -- Christopher Reeve. 
We met him after one of the shows; he seemed to be an OK guy (well, he was 15 and I was only nine,
but my 12-year-old sister got along with him...)

In 1976 my family moved to Kuwait.  There one of my classmates was Basil as-Sabah, whose grandfather
was the Emir.  Basil had been raised in Washington, DC, while his father (Salem as-Sabah) was ambassador
to the US.  We ran into Salem once at the dentist's office, and he helped translate for us.  In 1977, my best
friend from Kuwait, Tarif el-Hoss, invited me to visit with him in Lebanon (during one of the lulls in
the civil war).  After I got there, I discovered his uncle Salem was Prime Minister of Lebanon
(and extremely kind to a visitor who didn't speak Arabic).

In 1991 I had a temp job at Warner Brothers, helping set up the Movieland Theme Park on the Gold Coast
of Australia.  My immediate supervisor was C.V. Wood, who had the original idea for Disneyland and helped
Walt set it up.  When he and virtually all his staff went to Australia, I was the Acting Vice President of
Theme Parks at Warner Brothers.  (Since my name is Russell Kurtz, and everyone there called me Kurt Russell,
I was hoping Goldie Hawn would stop by, but she never visited our area -- although she did come to the lot
several times while I was there.)

A big one for me was 2001, when I was visiting MIT in the fall.  At the cafeteria I sat by some guy who I
thought was a grad student. We got to talking, and he said he worked with Bose-Einstein Condensates,
which were a hot topic but one I didn't understand.  He was able to explain them to me in about five minutes. 
His name was Wolfgang Ketterle, and he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics--for his work on Bose-Einstein
Condensates--later that year.

I seem to remember running into a few others, but this is the list I can definitely confirm.


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