Brushes with fame on the job

Ok, I can now add another celebrity to my brushes with fame list while working in the media. Frank Fritz, of “American Pickers,” and I talked for a few minutes last Friday at the Iowa State Fair. He seemed just as down-to-earth as he appears on his television show and even brought up his Marshalltown connection of being a former Swift worker.

He sure had plenty of people at the fair excited to see him, which leads me to believe his show is even more popular than I thought.

Meeting celebrities like Fritz is one of the perks of the job. The number of celebrities is beginning to get too high to count, but I’ll give you a few of the highlights.

I’ve been able to talk to NASCAR drivers and former drivers like Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace during my time working in Newton. I’ve done phone interviews with famous people as well. A couple of years ago I talked with Lee Brice, who is solidifying himself as a country music star.

Of course, sometimes these celebrities can be temperamental and the planned interview doesn’t work out. One country star I lined up to talk to got sick and we had to do an email interview, which wasn’t the same.

My first job out of college was an agricultural reporter, and it was cool to cover Farm Aid in suburban Chicago one year. I was at a press conference that featured Willie Nelson, Phish, Hootie and the Blowfish and plenty of “earthy-smelling” smoke in the air. I was also able to rub elbows with actor Woody Harrelson and other celebrities. This was my first realization that being a member of the press had its privileges.

The coolest part is being able to tell my family about who I encountered on the job.

My nephew is a huge American Pickers fan and he had one word for me when I told him I talked to Fritz – “lucky.”

The encounter with Fritz is one of the reasons I like to cover the state fair as well. You never know what will happen that day or who you are going to run into in Des Moines during the fair.

I would say the most famous person I’ve been in the presence of on the job is President Barack Obama, but I have never actually met him. I’ve been to two of his events to write down what he says, which wasn’t quite as personal as other celebrity encounters.

With caucus season getting earlier and earlier each presidential election, I’m sure I’ll be adding several names to this list soon.

You have to take the perks when you can get them in this business.

Reporter Andrew Potter is a Tuesday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or