EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of an occasional series in which the author shares his experiences about trying to get a job and move from Michigan to Western New York.
We just made a whirlwind visit to Buffalo for a bat mitzvah celebration.
While meeting new people, I had a couple "Where'd you grow up?" conversations. For me, that was Lowell, Ind. (Never heard of Lowell? It's right near Cedar Lake. Have heard of Lowell? I better hear from you!)
Whether you know Lowell or not, someone from there may be familiar: comedian and "Laugh-In" regular Jo Anne Worley, Lowell's biggest -- and only -- celebrity ever. (My dad was her high school history teacher. She supposedly once told a joke about him on the "Tonight" show. Thus, according to the "Six Degrees of Separation" principle, my dad is only two "degrees" from knowing Johnny Carson.)
What's my point? Well, today's story is about celebrities with zero degrees of separation from Buffalo, and how I contacted a few for their opinions of Western New York. My goal: To curry their favor and inspire one into giving me a ridiculously high-paying Western New York job.
Actually, I thought News readers might enjoy seeing what famous types with Buffalo ties have to say about the Queen City, the way Lowellians get all a-twitter when Jo Anne Worley mentions the place.
My first celebrity input arrived unsolicited. Chad Schlee, the Buffalo guy who came ever-so-close last year to capturing the heart of one of ABC's "Bachelorettes,"e-mailed me after I mentioned him in a News article.
Schlee loves Buffalo. I hope he doesn't still need a job (as he famously admitted to the Bachelorette that he did), but if so, the Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau-Bachelor's Division should hire him.
Schlee said Buffalo "is a great place, and the people are polite and friendly. A few of the guys (from the "Bachelorette") were just here (in June) and were very impressed."
My family got a kick from Schlee's note -- my boys because he said he's friends with several Bills players and could introduce the kids to them, and my wife because she daydreams of being "The Bachelorette."
Hearing from Schlee inspired me to shrug off the bonds of my innate regular-schmo-ness. I mailed letters to comedian Mark Russert and newsman Tim Russell . . . wait, that's Mark Russell and Tim Russert. The Russell letter apparently made a fast trip to a recycling center (geez, did I address it to "Mark Russert"?). But a producer from "Meet the Press," named Ted Kresse, replied with a "Thanks but Tim's awfully busy" e-mail. I thanked him for responding, saying his politeness reminded me of Russert's hometown.
He replied, "Well, I'm from Buffalo, too." So I coaxed him into a phone conversation, during which he suggested I quote him accurately or the huge Kresse clan of Western New York would be on my case.
He said when people ask him about Buffalo, he tells them, "It's a lot more than the 'flannel shirts and beer' image that people love to express at Bills games."
As proof, he rattled off a list of Buffalo attractions faster than I could write them down. I think my notes say "great restaurants -- Mother's, Ya Ya Brewhouse, Chef's," the "King Urban Life Center," "Buffalo Museum of Science" and "Aardvarks in Lewiston." (My wife thinks that should read "Artpark in Lewiston.") Plus, he said every restaurant in Western New York offers a good fish fry on Fridays, as required by law.
Kresse's input motivated me to cast for more Buffalo-connected big fish. I wrote to film moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein of Miramax Films; entertainment mogul Brad Grey of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment; and moolah mogul Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, who's not a Buffalonian, but who owns The News, and seems worthy of serious favor-currying.
The Weinstein and Grey letters hopefully got recycled. But to my everlasting disbelief, I received a hand-written reply from Warren Buffett. It said "Report for work immediately as my CFO (Chief Folderol Officer)!"
Not really. He actually wrote: "Buffalo is much like Omaha (where he lives) -- friendly people, a sense of community and far more going on than most non-residents realize."
Emboldened by Mr. Buffett's reply, I pitched woo at more slebs.
I read about Buffalo native Tom Fontana, Emmy-award winning writer/producer ("St. Elsewhere," "Homicide," "The Jury"). I e-mailed his office, and by golly, he agreed to chat. His comments were full of warmth and affection:
"Buffalo is a friendly and supportive town," full of "great people -- real people -- who are willing to help.
"There's an inherent nobility in Buffalo that I find hard to let go of. Buffalo constantly shows up in my work."
If he sent holiday greeting cards, he'd send "tons and tons" to Buffalo, because he has remained close to people from college (Buffalo State), high school and even grade school. (He said "Hi!" to everyone, by the way.)
I'd like to publicly thank Messrs. Schlee, Kresse, Buffett and Fontana for their input, and also point out that, thanks to me, they're now only separated by two degrees.
So did you enjoy learning what leading lights think about the City of Light? Or should I look for the naked truth from everyday folks? From, say, the people who posed for the recent "nude photo installation" in the Central Terminal? Until they've got their clothes back on, I promise to maintain two degrees of separation.