500 Fest, Shooter McGavin, etc.

Celeb spotting is a month of May tradition in Indy

May 3, 2010
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In the stands at the Indy 500 a few years back, the crowd around me was offering polite applause to the celebrities rounding the track. It was hot, I figured, and energy was being saved for the start of the race. Or maybe race fans just aren't that impressed by Hollywood types coming to town.

The energy level, however, suddenly shot up considerably. And a rousing cheer arose from the crowd. The recipient? A  relatively unknown actor named Christopher McDonald.

Who?

While his real name may be unfamiliar, Christopher McDonald earned a place in cinematic sports villain history by playing Shooter McGavin, Adam Sandler's golfing nemesis in "Happy Gilmore." That cheer is one of my favorite celebrity (or semi-celebrity) memories of the 500.

I'm sure you have some, too. As Monument Circle begins to fill up with today's 500 Festival kick-off event, feel free to share here your favorite 500 celeb memories. Who did you get a kick out of spotting in a parade, on the track, or on the streets during a past month of May?

And, on the business front, do you think these celebs add value and luster to the greatest spectacle in racing? Should more be done to bring non-racing names to Indy in May or do they get enough publicity and perks for their efforts?

Your thoughts?

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  • Jon Voight!
    One of my favorites was standing next to the Pagoda anticipating the fanfare of the start of the race, and Jon Voight walks by on his way up to the podium. One of my cohorts involuntarily screams "Jon Voight!!" right at him to which Mr. Voight turns and gives us a great Buddy Jesus wink and thumbs up, as if to say "yes I am". You had to be there, but it was hilarious.
  • Sargeant Schultz
    One year back when, we had TV actor John Banner as our guest for the Indy500. John played Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes and was a big crowd favorite at the 500 Festival Parade. Ironically, John showed us a somewhat famous WWII era photo of him wearing his US Army uniform and kneeling at an altar as if praying before he went off to war. He was a great guy and even played with us kids in the yard every day he was here.
  • About 20 years ago a couple of friends and I were walking down 16th Street the night before the race. As we walked along one of my friends said he saw Jim Nabors. He turned and yelled "Hey Gomer". He turned and smiled and said "Well Gooollleee" and gave us a big thumbs up. Where else can you have that happen amongst all the drunks and partying on 16th?

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