Rubin: Laimbeer, Seger & other tales from the restroom

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

So it’s Metro Airport, gateway to the world and home to many restrooms, and Richard Goldman walks into one of them at the same time as Bill Laimbeer.

The timeline is mid-2000s, and Laimbeer is coaching the Detroit Shock, a fairly visible position. Before that he played for the Pistons, an even more visible position. Plus he’s 6-foot-11, which tends to make a person stand out.

Everyone is gaping as though they’ve never seen an extremely tall famous person in an airport bathroom before. And Laimbeer turns to Goldman and says, “Hey, are you someone I should know? Everyone is staring at you.”

The two of them bust out laughing. Everyone else keeps gaping. Laimbeer and Goldman chat as they conduct their business, wind up having coffee as they wait for the same flight, and according to Goldman, remain friendly today.

As restroom encounters go, that one may be a hall-of-famer. But does it beat listening to a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer singing a particularly appropriate song as he stands at a urinal? Or giving a glamorous actress an assist at a particularly vulnerable moment in her life?

A few weeks ago, I asked you to tell me about your restroom encounters with greatness. The request was inspired by a story former disc jockey Lee Alan tells about meeting Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas.

I’ve had a few of those brushes myself, which left me pondering: Maybe it’s a more common occurrence than I realized. Maybe, to invoke a brand name, it’s an American Standard.

Sure enough, our state is flush with stories.

Morris gives thanks

Everyone of a certain age seems to have a tale about Bob Seger playing their homecoming dance. Everyone of any age seems to have seen him in a men’s room.

The most enviable locale: the 2005 All-Star game at Comerica Park, as reported by Pat Clemens of Allen Park.

Goldman also has a baseball-related story. A Floridian and Michigan native who travels widely as a consultant, he was in a discussion in a Metro Airport lavatory in 1991, defending Tigers pitcher Jack Morris’ decision to court offers from other teams.

“Gee, thanks,” said a familiar voice behind him. “I think you may be the only person in Detroit saying something nice about me.”

Hockey broadcaster and publicist Pete Krupsky saw Mark Fidrych, a.k.a. the Bird, at a Red Wings game. Michael Weisserman of Wixom saw O’Shea Jackson Sr., a.k.a. Ice Cube, with a sizeable entourage that escorted him in and out of a limited-access restroom at a Los Angeles Dodgers game.

“Cube!” said Weisserman, a lawyer, employing unusually few words. Mr. Cube gave him a thumbs-up.

From Beverly Hills — ours, not California’s — Cindi Brody recalled a trip to see “Hello, Dolly!” at the Fisher Theater when she was 10 years old, and being part of a swarm of kids invited onstage by Pearl Bailey.

After the matinee, Brody says, her aunt and uncle took her to Saks across the street, and there in a ladies’ room was Bailey herself. “She hugged me, asked if I had liked the show and thanked us for coming.”

Shepherd had paper plea

Among the other reported sightings: Soupy Sales, by Novi optometrist David Adelsberg, at a WTVS-TV (Channel 56) telethon in the late 1960s.

Steffi Graf, at the Australian Open tennis tournament in 2000; says Joan Trute of Grosse Pointe Woods, “she avoided me trying to make eye contact.”

Denny McLain and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, many years and several time zones apart, by Michael Porter of Detroit.

As a young reporter in Jackson, Chuck Wrzesinski was supposed to be given a five-minute interview with Louis Armstrong.

Not wanting to interrupt the flow, Wrzesinski watched Armstrong awkwardly in a Jackson Country Club men’s room for what seemed like 4 1/2 minutes, “pools of sweat forming while I rehearsed in my mind the questions I would ask him.”

Then Armstrong finished and his manager led him away to rest, leaving Wrzesinski with nothing but a sinking feeling. “So much,” Wrzesinski says, “for my first claim to fame.”

Laurie Lewsley of White Lake was in the Memphis, Tennessee, airport “when a hand emerged under the stall wall,” accompanied by a plea for toilet paper in a distinct Southern drawl.

At the basins, Lewsley found herself awash in thanks from Cybill Shepherd.

Gordon Houston of Livonia also has a story with ties to Memphis, though it took place at a rock ‘n’ roll show in East St. Louis, Illinois.

The year was 1959, and one of the acts was Sun Records star Jerry Lee Lewis. During intermission, Houston saw and heard him at the far end of a row of urinals.

Lewis was grinning as he sang the first hit of what was then his young career — “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”