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November 22, 2014

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My 15 minute brush with fame - Sly of the Family Stone

By Mary Pannabecker Steiner

My first major brush with fame occurred in the early 1970s when I was working as a waitress at Nickerson Farms, one of those themed family restaurants commonly found along the interstate.

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It was about 8:30 p.m., just a half hour before closing, so we were all eager for our customers to finish eating and be on their way. Of course, as is often the case, two new customers appeared at the door and seated themselves at a table near the entrance.

We all groaned, then flipped a coin to see who had to serve them. I forget who won (or lost) the toss, but it wasn't me so I went about cleaning up the counters and filling condiments for the next day.

Two minutes later, the waitress who won the toss, came dancing back to the counter with a huge grin on her face. To say we were surprised was an understatement. We expected the usual whine of "let's get this over with".

Turns out the two guys were not just Joe Schmo off the highway. Nope. It was Sly. Yep, that Sly - as in Sly and the Family Stone...as in "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Dance to the Music." Of course, we'd all changed our tune about leaving and instead were each taking turns ambling to the store at the front of the restaurant, shooting furtive sidelong glances at this guy whose music had touched our souls.

I've played this card numerous times over the past 35 plus years, telling my story of A NIGHT WITH SLY....which really was more like an hour of ogling this celebrity, who turned out to be just a regular, friendly guy. But still....we were in the same room. And he smiled and waved at all of us as he left the restaurant.

Fast forward to 2011: Today's news includes a sad story about Sly, who is now homeless and living in a camper in Los Angeles. Homeless. It's so difficult to believe that the onetime Motown wonder, who as recently as four years ago was living a lavish life in Napa Valley. Blame it on an all-too-common tale of a drug habit and poor financial management.

Despite his current state of affairs, he claims he likes living in his camper and envisions a comeback, saying, "Let these guys know, like Lady Gaga, let me come in, just let me come in and pay me if you like it."

Well hey, if he keeps working at it, he might just get his wish. I can see it now. Lady Gaga in her plastic bubble dress and Sly in one of his 60s/70sleopard-print jumpsuits, Beatle boots and flashy cape....singing a remake of "Dance to the Music."

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