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Before They Were Famous

If you don’t read Jan Herman daily you should – he’s everything an arts and entertainment writer should be: sophisticated but not snotty, worldly but not jaded, experienced but not worn out, funny, and with a fierce integrity.

Today he outdoes himself with a wistful but not cloying reminiscence about going to high school with Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon (!) – he was friendly with Artie but real pals with Paul:

    Artie’s Web site brought back memories. He always had an intellectual take on things even in high school. We weren’t what you’d call close, but we were friendly enough to consider rooming together in college. He was a smart guy. Loved math, for instance – not what you’d expect from someone who’d made a hit single (“Hey Schoolgirl”) with Paul Simon in the days when they called themselves Tom and Jerry.

    I knew Paul better. We used to hang out in his basement rec room listening to Lenny Bruce. I went with him to the Brill Building in our senior year and watched him record quick demos for other songwriters so they could show their tunes and lyrics around.

    Later, during college, I’d go to the Village with Paul on bitter-cold winter nights when he needed someone to cheer him on at Gerde’s Folk City, long before he and Artie became real stars. And I’ll never forget going with Paul to a concert at Town Hall. It featured the music of electronic composer Edgar Varèse. (We never would have gone if a music professor hadn’t insisted, and comped the two of us with free tickets.)

    Paul was leery of the whole thing. We arrived late, to find a hushed audience already listening to weird, prerecorded sounds emanating from various speakers. Paul didn’t seem to feel he was interrupting anything. He strode down the center aisle, and I followed.

    Our seats, unfortunately, were in the first row. This allowed us to watch several musicians up close as they accompaned the taped sounds. A percussionist, beating a leather pad with a stick, dropped the pad and didn’t have time to pick it up. So he began beating the pad with his foot. Paul couldn’t stifle his giggles. He gave me a look that said, “Did you see that?” He thought the whole thing was a musical charade.

But they drifted apart – memories are beautiful, dangerous things.

Jan also wants to hear your stories of growing up with people who became famous. I went to Chagrin Falls high school and played baseball with a tremendous three sport athlete and super nice guy, Jeff Groth, who went on to a record-breaking career as a wide receiver at Bowling Green, and then a fine career in the NFL as a receiver and kick returner.

But the most famous person I knew back in the day was Bill Watterson (he looks about the same – hair was longer back then, but whose wasn’t?), he of Calvin and Hobbes. Bill was a very quiet and shy, though not unfriendly, in high school, and a cartoonist of obvious great talent even then. He illustrated the yearbook each year, and even illustrated a couple of stories I wrote for the school literary mag.

In knew his wife too, Missy (now Melissa), a shy flautist in the band. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Watterson was back in Chagrin Falls in December of ’98. As far as I know, he still is. Hi Bill – hope you are well!

I knew a lot of famous people in LA in the ’80s, but they were already famous so that doesn’t count.

What’s your story?

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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