Rubin: Reports from the restroom – seen anyone notable?

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Maybe you remember Lee Alan. Probably, you remember Frank Sinatra.

Lee Alan, a former WXYZ-AM radio DJ pictured in 1994, was once tapped on the shoulder by Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Certainly, you’ve used a public restroom.

The question is, what persons of note have you seen there?

For me, in the press box men’s room at separate pro football games, it’s ex-quarterback John Brodie and broadcaster John Madden — a pair of Johns in the john.

All they were doing there is what you’d expect. But during my Las Vegas years, a friend who thought she was alone in the ladies’ lounge at Caesars Palace took advantage of the acoustics to start singing “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.”

To her surprise, a woman two stalls down began singing along. To her further surprise when they met at the sinks, it turned out to be Cher.

Lee Alan’s story about Sinatra brought those to mind, and brings forth a request, for the simple sake of curiosity:

Kindly tell me about your restroom encounters with greatness. Or if not greatness, at least famousness.

I’m at, or you can find me on Facebook. And just call me Neal, not “Mr. Rubin” — which takes us, again, back to Alan and Sinatra.

Alan, who’s now in his 70s, was a dominant rock jock in the ’60s on WXYZ-AM (1270), now WXYT.

On a first-name basis

He’s done a number of interesting things since, including create marketing campaigns for car dealerships. (All together now: “Birmingham’s in Troy.”)

You can catch up with him at And if you recall him on the radio, you’ll know that even on Top 40 stations, he always closed his show by introducing “Mr. Sinatra” singing “I Can’t Get Started With You.”

“I came close to being fired a number of times,” he says, “because it didn’t fit the format.”

But he stayed with it because in the late 1950s, in a men’s room at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, he glanced over at the next urinal and fearlessly said, “Hello, Frank” ...

To which Frank responded, without looking, “The name is MISTER SINATRA.”

If that was the end of the story, it wouldn’t be much of one. What makes it complete is that moments later, eyes averted as he dried his digits with a towel, Alan felt a tap on his shoulder.

It was Sinatra. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Sinatra,” Alan said, and Sinatra laughed and offered his hand.

“Kid,” he said, “to you, the name is Frank.” Then he turned as he reached the door, pointed his finger, and winked.

There was that one time when Frank Sinatra wanted to be called Mr. Sinatra ...

Slipping into Spanx

That’s the sort of thing that will inspire devotion, and launch a quest for other tales of chance meetings in lavatories.

The stories are out there. Heck, they’re in here, in my office. With a spin of my chair and a question to the room, I found three.

Jocelynn Brown, Handmade columnist: Aretha Franklin, putting on her makeup at the Atheneum Hotel.

Steve Pardo, food editor: Tony Bennett at Metro Airport, traveling by himself, with a small rolling suitcase.

Susan Whitall, music writer: Anita Baker, changing clothes for a photo shoot.

It should be noted that Whitall is among the 13 valued staffers who depart this week after taking what amount to buyouts — but don’t despair if you’ve enjoyed reading her these past 33 years, since she’ll continue to contribute as a freelancer.

It should also be noted that Baker was in our old building, posing for The News. Whitall led her to the ladies’ room — “It was the first time I’d seen Spanx” — so it doesn’t quite count as a chance encounter ...

At least, not for her. For the women who walked in on Anita Baker slipping into something less comfortable, it’s probably a story worth telling.

So is yours, and thanks in advance for passing it along.