By day, I teach two year olds. Friday marked the last day of school. As I was packing up my classroom, I was thinking about the other jobs I have held. I haven’t always spent my days singing Wheels on the Bus and helping children learn to play nicely with others. In my past life, I worked at The Spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, and currently moonlight as a consultant at a local PR company. In both of these situations, I have had the opportunity to meet professional athletes, politicians, and people I consider celebrities. I have learned from these encounters that celebrities are real people. I am very grateful for that fact as I have had my fair share of “open mouth insert foot moments.”
I worked at The Spa on and off for 11 years, and wore many hats. I was a receptionist, locker room attendant, served mimosas and wine spritzers, trained new employees, and worked as group coordinator when large groups came into The Spa. I moved up to the management team, and was the Front Desk Manager. One Sunday, I was the only manager in the building, and answered the phone at the front desk. Here’s the phone conversation:
Me: Spa Ponte Vedra, this is Jenny, how may I help you?
Client: Do you have any openings for a shampoo and blow dry?
Me: I’m sorry, we are fully booked. May I add your name to the wait list?
Client: Yes, please.
Me: Last name?
Me: First name?
Me: As in George Bush?
Client: That’s right!
Me: I will call you as soon as there is an opening.
Needless to say, Former First Lady Barbara Bush came into The Spa that afternoon for her hair appointment. Secret Service came in prior to her appointment so that I could be vetted. I felt funny charging her for her service, but company policy stated we treat VIPs the same way you would treat anyone else. Asking for a photograph or an autograph was definitely out of the question. She was so gracious and very nice.
I am no longer on the payroll, but would highly recommend vacationing at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. Relaxation, privacy, fine dining, and magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean are guaranteed. On a side note, I also worked at The Gym on property. Again, front desk, I handed out towels. I was a trainer for a few days at the gym. I trained employees on the new computer booking system.
image via taxslayerbowl.com
My most recent embarrassing moment occurred at a Silent Auction fundraiser at the school where I currently teach. Have you ever played the telephone game as a child? The following events remind me of playing that game.
One of my parents donated a four course meal to the auction. I knew that he was from New York, and that he was a celebrity chef. The piece of information I was missing was the name of the celebrity. While I was volunteering at the event, the chef and his wife came over to say hello, and thank me for everything I was doing for their child. Here is a snippet of that conversation.
Me: You’re welcome! Thank you for donating to the auction! Oh! Next week, I want to ask you about New York. I have my flight, but wanted to ask you about where to stay, etc…
Him: What are you going to do while you are there?
Me: I’m going to the NYC Tartan Day Parade. (My last name is McAfee, they didn’t question why I was going.)
At this point, they start talking to me about Matt Lauer. In my head, I’m thinking, they must really like Matt Lauer.
Both: We can hook you up with Matt Lauer. You can walk down the parade route with
Me: I don’t care about Matt Lauer. If you really want to hook me up with someone…
(Insert conversation about Sam Heughan, Outlander, and Starz)
I finish my shift selling gift cards, and finally have a chance to look at all the auction items. Sipping a glass of wine, I discover the item donated by the parent. The description of the meal included a wonderful bio describing him as Matt Lauer’s former personal chef.
Fast forward to the end of the evening, I am behind the check-out table. My favorite parents come to say good night.
Me: I owe you an apology. I am so sorry! I would love to meet Matt Lauer!
Both: Start laughing
My co-teacher still giggles about my conversation. PR gal tuned fangirl fail. The sweet Mom and Dad were genuinely interested in my New York trip.
After I told them about my adventure, they shook their heads, and joked, “My child is in your class.” Not to worry, I have my Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. I’m certified by the state of Florida to mold young minds. Stay tuned for more news about this talented chef. He is opening a restaurant in Neptune Beach, FL this summer.
Those awkward slip ups aren’t the norm for me. I have actually been described as “most professional”. I’m able to do PR work during events and shows when school is not in session. I’ve never been to a Comic-Con or any Con, but I have worked as a “celebrity handler”. The Home and Patio Show and the Southern Women’s Show come to the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville in the spring and in the fall, and feature a celebrity guest. In between their scheduled speaking times, they go off stage and into a different room. This is where I came into the picture. If they needed anything, I made sure they had whatever they needed. Whether it was a bottle of water, lunch, a picture taken, or a Sharpie, I made it happen. I researched plane tickets taking into account when some needed to fly “first class because I have long legs, and need more leg room.” Easy enough. I respected their privacy, and took my cues from them. I’ve met John Gidding, Peter Walsh, Angelo Surmelis, Matt Muenster, and Joey Fatone. All were incredibly nice, very talented, and unique. Some wanted to talk to me and others working with the show, and some wanted to quietly read a book in between their scheduled speaking times. I admit to fangirling a little bit about Joey Fatone.
One of them even took me and my children into the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios with him and his VIP guide. He was presenting at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Have you seen the VIP guides on Disney property? In Florida, they wear a plaid vest. The children and I had so much fun! My nine year old daughter now thinks that every time we go to Disney we will have a VIP guide.
Image via smallworldvacations.com
Image via cdn.wdwmagic.com
In addition to the Home and Patio Show and Southern Women’s Show, I’ve been involved with Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, and the Monster Truck Show. In Birmingham, Alabama, I met James Spann. He’s a weatherman, and a celebrity in his own right. He was doing live shots from the rink at Disney on Ice, and children were lined up to get his autograph as well as those of the Disney princesses.
I was thrilled to get an “elphie” with this beautiful girl. She is enjoying her retirement with all of her elephant friends in sunny Florida.
Jacksonville, Florida is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars football team. I met players and their wives while working at The Spa. Some of the children of the players go the school where I teach. Jacksonville also hosted the Super Bowl in 2005, and there were several parties and functions. I worked at one of the parties, one of those “your dress code is a black suit” kind of parties if you were doing PR. Senator John McCain was speaking at the sit down dinner. I was his celebrity handler. He was very dignified. I also met former head coach Jack Del Rio that evening as well.
To quote “Us Magazine”, “Stars are just like us”. They make their own hair appointments, enjoy a nice dinner, relax and read a good book, and drop their kids off at school. Even though I now spend my days in the classroom, to this day, I still carry a Sharpie in my purse. Maybe in my next blog I will share the story about the time I was on live morning television dressed as a queen inspired by Disney’s Frozen and accidentally flashed Jacksonville viewers. The camera man told me there were three or four minutes until the bump shot.
Thank you so much for reading!
Jenny Mc @jennymcinspired – Twitter
Jennifer McAfee – Facebook
2 thoughts on “People are People”
As it always say, celebrities are just like us….only better! I didn’t know you were a fellow Floridian!
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Yes, I’m in North Florida on the East coast.