I know I’m all about road tripping, but I do my fair share of flying (how else is one going to visit the majority of countries in this world?)

One thing I’ve never seen while driving on the road – a bona fide celebrity. Whether it’s an A-lister, C-lister, politician or musician, I’ve had a few close encounters with the rich and/or famous when flying the friendly skies.

The most memorable occasion may have been Election Day, 2010 (that year it happened to fall on November 2nd). That evening I was flying back from Washington, D.C. to my then current hometown of Billings, Montana (by way of Minneapolis). I heard a familiar gruff voice at the gate as I arrived early to relax and read a magazine. It was unmistakable as he chatted up a fellow flyer about the state of our country.

It was none other than Jesse Ventura. Yes, the former Minnesota Governor and third-party hero, not to mention former actor, wrestler, XFL commentator and author.

What a character! I quickly moved closer and got involved in the conversation when I brought up my curiosity regarding third parties (I was finally finishing up my final semester of college at the time and was taking an online class on political parties as well). For the next hour Jesse “The Body” regaled me with his 9/11 conspiracies, but – as an action movie aficionado – I was more interested in his time working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Predator as well as his possible role in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables series, and Ventura gladly obliged there, including his almost legendary tale of how he came up with the “Ain’t got time to bleed”-line.

Ventura boarded first class en route to his Minnesota home, but as I got on the plane I tapped him on the shoulder and told him “I’d see him around.” He told me to keep up the third-party support, to which I replied that I would (I’ve often shunned the business of big-time politics). I felt like I made a friend (and I got an autographed copy of my course textbook – which impressed my fellow students.

But that’s not my only sighting. This past January, when Breeah and I boarded our Alaska Airlines flight to Honolulu, I noticed an empty spot for luggage in the last row of the first class cabin. I asked the stewardess if it’d be ok to stash my stuff there, but she insisted it wouldn’t be. We managed to cram our stuff into the space that was left a couple rows into the standard cabin.

That empty seat in the last row of first class was finally filled by the last passenger to board the plane. It was none other than the lead singer of Train, Pat Monahan. I recognized him immediately and told Breeah, “Oh my God, you’re not going to believe who is sitting in front of us”. I knew she loved the band and she was ecstatic to find out that the guy that penned such hits as “Meet Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter” was sharing the same breathing space as us. Alas, we were too shy to do anything about it and “stalked” behind him for a little while at the Honolulu airport before heading to our Maui-bound flight.

Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer sat one row in front of me and my dad on a flight many years back. He was currently the Governor then and signed a business card for me as we all chatted together. He later became Secretary of Agriculture in George W. Bush’s last year in office.

Of a more C-lister variety, my sister and I spotted former MTV Road Rules (and subsequent Challenge spinoffs) castmember Ayanna Mackins at Washington-Dulles International Airport. She’s seemingly fallen off the celebrity radar, but she was only months removed from her last TV appearance when my sister chatted her up for a couple minutes. She was en route to a friend’s wedding and was very obliging and friendly. Another “C-list” candidate would be the respectably competitive Jamaican men’s national soccer (football) team. “The Reggae Boyz” as they are affectionately referred to, boarded a Miami-to-D.C. flight I was taking last August (on may way back from Easter Island).

I’ve had a couple “double take” sightings at airports. I walked past a lone Alec Baldwin dragging his luggage around LAX and couldn’t believe my eyes. Last year I also walked past John Malkovich (wearing the California flag symbol on his t-shirt) at Reagan National in D.C. Many, many years ago I remember seeing Jeff Foxworthy at my home airport in Billings surrounded by about 7-8 bags of luggage at the baggage claim.

I’d love to hear some of more tales of celebrity run-ins at the airport or in an airplane. Feel free to sound off in the comments!


  1. Many years ago, I took a milk-run flight from Portland OR to Seattle WA to Spokane WA to Great Falls MT with the Beach Boys, who were en route to a concert. I went one stop farther. Their road manager was my seatmate, which would have been a great chance to get inside info. Alas, I had been at a wedding where the champagne had been flowing freely, and slept heavily for all three legs of the flight. I do remember that I had no problem recognizing the band, as they were all wearing bright Hawaiian shirts and talking loudly about who they were as we boarded in Portland. My only other celebrity encounters have been on the ground..

  2. David Crosby sat across from me at the game in the Santa Barbara airport, then he stood next to me at the Phoenix baggage carousel. I knew it was him because it looked just like him and virtually everything he had on had the CSN logo on it. Also saw Mario Lopez in the Las Vegas airport once, and saw Pat Knight at DFW when he was still coach of Texas Tech.

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