I felt obligated to write this once I saw the Bull Pen was looking for stories about Celebrity Encounters.
While attending the University of Arkansas as an undergrad, my brother, two years my elder, has the idea to go to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday. My birthday falls on a Friday so as he saw it, “It only makes sense to go.” For many reasons, this was a very bad decision.
First we book rooms at the “luxurious” Imperial Palace for the dates of my birthday weekend ($59 a night for 3 nights.) Next, we reserve our flights on Allegiant Air ($89 round trip, direct flight from NW Arkansas to Vegas.) As a virgin to Vegas the next thing I do is take to the internet to find out what all there is to do in Las Vegas, USA! As luck would have it, the pride of Little Rock and native son to Arkansas Jermain Taylor is fighting at MGM on the Friday of my birthday (tickets $287 apiece, 2nd row from the top.)
To make a long story short we celebrate my birthday at midnight on Thursday, and I wake up Friday just in time to make the fight, which starts at 6pm.
We take a taxi from the Imperial Palace to MGM and arrive as the undercards are starting. My brother has the idea to go down to the lower level entrance and walk around before climbing to our seats. He gets a beer, I get a water, and we very quickly end up somewhere we’re not supposed to be. Vince Vaughn walks right in front of me and is at least 7 feet tall. A crowd of girls is gathered behind a rope and a few bouncers scream at him to come back. We quickly hop in line at the full service bar on the floor and try our best to blend in. Right in front of us is a Katherine Webb/Erin Andrews caliber blonde who I spend the next 15 minutes trying not to stare at. The line is moving slowly when a guy in tight jeans and a white sequined shirt (that would make Ed Hardy himself proud) gets to the front and yells, “What are we drinking?” to the line. It is none other than OU’s Bob Stoops. He points at the blonde in front of us and says, “Come on blondie what are we drinking.” She leaves her place in line and joins Bob at the front. From what I can see, they take two vodka shots, get beers to go, and then walk into the seating area together.
Finally we make it to the front of the line and my brother pays $17 for a whiskey and coke the size of a shot glass. I opt for another water. After finishing our drinks we decide to try and get down next to the ring. Bad decision. Security guards and a few old guys in suits start walking brusquely toward us. We have been made. So the only thing we can think of is to hide out in the bathroom. I fly into the bathroom, slamming the door open, and go directly to the first open urinal. While I don’t have to use the bathroom I still go through the motions so I don’t creep out the guy next to me. As I’m standing there effectively faking, I look to my left and realize the guy next to me is Idris Elba from The Wire. I take another look but glance away as the person starts to turn towards me. At this point I’m no longer certain, but I’m still going with Idris.
Then an incredibly obnoxious drunk walks in and starts screaming, “JERRRRRRRRRY, OH MY GOD JERRRRRRRRRRRY, HOLY COW IT’S JERRRRRRRY,” at the back of Idris Elba’s head. I am so confused and mad at the drunk guy for embarrassing me and everyone else in the bathroom in front of Stringer Bell. Why on earth was he doing this? About the time Idris finishes up and heads to the sink, it hits me. This is not Idris Elba. It’s the greatest wide reciever of all time Jerry Rice!
I hurry through the motions of finishing my fake usage of the urinal and beat another guy to the sink next to Jerry. We wash our hands while I stare at the top of his bald head in the mirror in front of me. When I look up for more soap I notice the only paper towels are on my side. This is my chance. Jerry Rice would have to either reach in front of me or ask me to hand him a paper towel. YES! This was the opening I needed. But Jerry opts for the reach across and doesn’t say anything to me. I want so badly to talk to him yet I find myself speechless when we finally make eye contact. Just an awkward stare and creepy smile from me.
When all is about to be lost and he’s reaching for the door handle to leave I say in an accidentally LOUD voice, “MR. RICE!” He stops, turns around and looks at me. This is where I wish I could say we have a nice chat or sit ring side together but that’s not what happens. I put out my hand, and he’s nice enough to shake my hand while I continue to stare at him. I know it’s on me to say something since I started the encounter in the first place. There are a million things I could have said: I am a huge fan! You’re the best! Just wanted to shake your hand! But instead I stare into Jerry’s eyes with his hand in mine and say….”Nice hands.”
That was it for Jerry. Not one word out of him as he looks back at me and then walks out.
I leave and take the slow journey back up to my seat to watch JT get the s*** beat out of him.