Mount Olive Blogger Recounts Hard-won Encounters with the Stars

By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer

 

A young Mike Condon, meeting President Richard M. Nixon

The first thing you notice when you log into Mike Condon’s blog, Celebrity Encounters, is the impressive list of names and categories on the left hand side of the screen. Scroll down the list and marvel at the hodge-podge array of A-list and D-list celebrities, astronauts, senators, comedians, even a few presidents. Click too quickly on Barack Obama’s name, for example, and you may find yourself looking at a picture of Condon and his family posing with another Barry—Bostwick, that is—star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. On this list, and perhaps only on this list, Bostwick is properly positioned alphabetically right underneath the 44th president of the United States. 

 

Condon, raised in Byram Township and currently living in Mt. Olive, started to seek out celebrities in 1986, while still in high school. He was taking a modern history class, and the topic of discussion one week was the presidency of Richard Nixon. The teacher, eager to garnish his lecture with some trivia, asked the class if anyone knew where Nixon was currently residing.

 

“Turns out he was living in Upper Saddle River,” recalls Condon, with a laugh. “Forty-five minutes from me.”

Unbeknownst to Condon at the time, that bit of trivia would stick in his memory. Two years later, now out of high school, he came across a Newsweek article about Nixon’s return from therapy. The piece discussed his daily routines, what he did to stay active and healthy. 

 

“I remember reading about how he would go for two-mile walks every day, alone, just him and his dog,” says Condon. 

That was all it took. One weekend, bright and early, he and a buddy drove up to Upper Saddle River, and on a

The Condon family, with Kim Carnes

quiet block, there, in the solitude of the morning, was the former president of the country, indeed—walking with no one else but his pooch. As if in a dream, the boys walked right up to him, spoke to him, got photographs, and autographs. It was the one celebrity sighting that started it all. 

 

Ever since that day, Condon has scouted, sighted, posed with, and spoken to too many celebrities to keep track of, but managed to list pictures with about 60 actors, about 40 actresses, and an eclectic mix of in-betweens. 

His hard-hustle days of celebrity pursuit lasted for just over ten years, and included everything from calling in, receiving phone tips on possible celebrity locations, and doing the good ol’ fashioned legwork. From stage door to hotel door, book signings and back to the stage door, Condon clocked in the miles, and often brought his wife and children along for the show. 

 

He recalls waiting outside for hours on end, the thrill of finally seeing the target of their pursuit come out, willing to sign an autograph, the after-hour SNL parties at Manhattan restaurants and bars where the cast went after live tapings on Saturday nights. He remembers the adrenaline rushes, and the exhausting returns home, often after daybreak. 

 

“It was fun back then,” he says, reminiscing on the olden days before the explosion of the online marketplace. “Now, however, not so much. Things like eBay have really destroyed a lot of it, and celebrities today just know that you’re trying to sell whatever it is you’re trying to convince them to sign for you. They’re hesitant, and sometimes dismissive. Back in the old days, they’d hang for a minute, talk, without any rush.” 

 

Responding to the question of whether he was ever starstruck in one of these encounters, he does not even hesitate. 

 

“Kim Carnes! I met her in 1993, outside Regis and Kathie Lee. You know, when ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ came out I was 13 years old, and ever since then, that was it.”

 

Among the “nice” list of celebrities (those who were pleasant to the fans), there is Anthony Hopkins, Bette Midler—who was too tired to sign anything but happily posed for a photograph—Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, who he says was very nice, and Tom Cruise. 

 

His “naughty” list includes Dr. Strangelove star George C. Scott, who greeted Condon and his family with a few four-letter words and promptly took off in the other direction. There is also Star Trek legend William Shatner, who is not too nice on the street, but gentle as a lamb during paid meet-and-greets.

 

As for who he would like to meet, Condon goes for the heavies.

 

“Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Harrison Ford, whom I met once, but couldn’t get an autograph from because he was mobbed after he signed for a kid.”

 

For more information on Mike Condon’s Celebrity Encounters, check out the blog itself at www.condonfamilycelebrityencounters.blogspot.com. 

 

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