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Doctor Who Goes To School

There’s a piece on the BBC website highlighted today by the folks over at BBC America’s Anglophenia blog (Nerdist Week is over, but we’re still friends, okay?) about Matt Smith dropping by a school to surprise the students there. It was part of a scriptwriting competition for school kids, and the winning students got to see their script made into a three-minute short, but they were only told that they’d get to see a preview of the video, not that Doctor Who himself would be strolling onto the campus. But he did, and the video’s at the BBC website (we can’t, unfortunately, embed BBC video here, so you’ll have to go to the actual website to see the actual video. Actually.

Anyway, the kids went wild, as you’d expect, and Matt was cool and the day was memorable for all, and it got me thinking about school days and the occasion when they’d bring someone in to speak to us. It didn’t happen often, and when it did, it was usually some poor city official or agricultural agent or cop who’d been roped into doing it by whatever public affairs office was in contact with the school.

But we did get a celebrity once. My high school had become a fundraiser for a charity that helped the developmentally disabled in the wake of scathing reports about a state mental hospital’s mistreatment of its patients, and to rally our troops, the school brought in the intrepid local news reporter who’d uncovered the misdeeds and had gotten national attention for his work. That reporter was…

Geraldo Rivera.

Yes, Geraldo was the sole Big Name Celebrity to show up at my school. They herded us into an auditorium, put a slide show depicting volunteers helping renovate new group homes on the big screen to the strains of “Teach Your Children Well,” and then, to great fanfare, strolling onto the stage was The Man Himself, and…

And I can’t remember what he said, or anything much other than wide lapels and flared jeans. I guess he said some boilerplate thanks-for-helping stuff, then was ushered away and whisked into a waiting Town Car to be taken to his next appearance. Even then, he was all about the flash.

How about your school? Was your school ever graced by the presence of (figurative, or literal) royalty? Maybe you had a commencement speaker, or an assembly, or some kind of special event; anything comparable to Doctor Who (or Geraldo) dropping in? Talk about your Brush With Greatness in the comments.


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  1. ian r says:

    we never had a celebrity come to my high school but i graduated at the same high school as john barrowman… and andy dick.

  2. my_leisure says:

    We had Bill Nye come to our school. So there!

  3. Kristine says:

    Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) came to my 8th grade school band’s concert. She came in the practice room, and “hello” to us all before joining the audience. I think she was related to one of the parents or something.

    Also, Senator Alarcón came to my high school to hand out the “governor’s scholarship” awards.

  4. Janey says:

    Burt Ward. No kidding, Robin HIMSELF came to talk at my school when I was in the first grade – around 1985?

    All I really remember was him telling the hot teacher that Batman was too busy battling the Riddler for their date that night and he was sorry he’d have to cancel.


  5. Angel Bob says:

    Will Steger dropped by my high school in MN one day and did a big presentation. So did the Comedy Sportz people.

  6. Rob says:

    I love that he has on the girl’s fez towards the end. 😀

  7. Jennifer says:

    @Jeremy- Those yo yo people came to my middle school. I think they visit every school in the United States. I distinctly remember two astronauts coming to my school in 1st grade but I wouldn’t be able to tell your their names if you paid me a million dollars.

  8. calvinorion says:

    George Bush made a speech at my High School when he was running against Dukakis in ’88. Attendence was mandatory. The one kid who had the guts to wear a Dukakis T-Shirt got beat up. Presumably by some other kids and not someone from the campaign but you never know.

    The actress who played Alice on the Brady Bunch made a speech at my elementary school. I guess she had a side gig as a motivational speaker. Don’t know what made her qualified for the gig but she looked just like she looked on the TV show. It was weirdly exciting to see her. Bush, not so much.

  9. Jeremy says:

    “Doctor Who himself”

    The Doctor, please.

  10. Manders says:

    Some country singer (I can’t remember who it was, zoinks) did a fundraiser for my tiny private school when I was a senior; when I was a freshman in college, Bill Cosby came and spoke and was inducted into our satirical fraternity…

  11. Annie says:

    The most interesting assembly I remember from grades K-12 was a man with a didgeridoo. I think I was in… 4th grade? We spent the rest of the day making random objects into didgeridoos.
    I’d love to see the episode the children wrote, what a lovely and sweet idea! The girl was so cute with her fez, and all their little faces, watching the Ood so closely, just adorable! I wrote a really short kind of spec-scene modeled after “LOST” when I was in 7th grade. My mom thought I had plagiarized it (now, thanks to the podcast, I have a word for my feelings after that- a complisult!), and I would have passed out or something if the actors and Lindelof and Cuse had walked into my class!

  12. sunstonetal says:

    K’Naan came to my high school music class before he was famous and sang one of his songs. there was only 20-40 kids there from the various music classes in the auditorium. he sat around afterwards and a small group of people hung around for a bit afterwards and talked. like i said, he wasn’t famous yet but maybe my music teacher could see that he was going to get there eventually. (this was somewhere between 2005-2007.)

  13. sunstonetal says:

    K’Naan came to my grade 10 music class before he was famous and sang one of his songs. there was only 20-40 kids there from the various music classes in the auditorium. he sat around afterwards and a small group of people hung around for a bit afterwards and talked. like i said, he wasn’t famous yet but maybe my music teacher could see that he was going to get there eventually. (this was somewhere between 2005-2007.)

  14. Wildcat says:

    During my sophomore year, Kansas City Royals’ second-baseman Frank White paid a visit and addressed an assembly, 2 years after KC won the 85 World Series, and 1 year after White’s 1986 All Star Game. I’ve still got his autograph filed away somewhere. 🙂

  15. Kelovich says:

    J. David Shapiro. He wrote the screen play for Robin Hood: Men in Tights and gave the commencement address for my high school graduation (Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia class of 2001). It was amazing. I can’t really think of anything in my life that compares.

  16. victor says:

    i love matt smith. hes fast becoming “my doctor” eventho hes just 2 years older then me. i really respect the way he treats his young fans. not like the “stars” in hollywood do.

  17. Alvin says:

    Guillermo del Toro spoke to my 11th grade English class. This was around ’93 or ’94, and he’d brought Cronos to our local film festival. He was very candid, and we all got a kick out of him tossing around ideas for future films and telling us about having to choose between a beat-up, bloodied Jesus and masturbation.

  18. Jason says:

    Barack Obama was my commencement speaker at Arizona State. I thought it was cool back then. Now.. I dont know how I feel about it.

  19. Gabriel says:

    Way back in the early 70’s when I was stil in elementary school we had an olmpic medal gymnast come by. She showed us her medals, told us about the olympics and did a pretty cool demo on the uneven bars. This was so long ago and I was probably like 6 or 7 so I don’t remeber her name.

  20. Ethan says:

    Didn’t Matt Smith say on the podcast that HE wrote fan-fiction about the Doctor meeting Albert Einstein?

  21. Catherine says:

    Amanda Palmer went to my high school and a few years ago came back to collaborate with the students on a musical production that they put on. Neil Gaiman showed up a few times to consult.

  22. Chris says:

    My former high school had Michelle Obama as their graduation speaker last year, but I graduated in ’05 so I guess that doesn’t count. I think the coolest event we had while I was there was when a Vietnam era Huey (helicopter) was being retired and flown to the Smithsonian where it is now on exhibit. They landed on the football field and we had an assembly that recognized all of the faculty and staff at our school who had served in Vietnam. They then got to go for a short flight in the Huey and rumor has it that they let the former pilot in the group take the stick for a short time.

    Another notable visitor was Dr. Bob Ballard, the guy who discovered the titanic, life around hydrothermal vents, and started the JASON project. Though now that I think about it, he didn’t actually come to our school, that was a field trip to a talk he was giving at the Congressional office building, which was a cool experience in and of itself.

    @Dustin, You’re not the first person I’ve heard say that about Clinton’s handshakes, I know several former Marine One pilots who said the same thing.

  23. Diane says:

    The drama teacher at my high school taught him at one point, so he got John Stamos to come in to talk to us. If you want acting advice interspersed with horrible bitterness about marriage (obviously this was during the time of his divorce), then Uncle Jesse certainly was the way to go.

    Full disclosure though, still totally good looking. Dammit.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Y’know, I grew up in LA (well, the valley) so you’d think I’d have a story about meeting somebody cool, but I totally don’t. The town I grew up in was kinda janky, and there was a pretty clear divide between where the Hollywood people lived (the foothills) and where the rest of us lived. My school was definitely not in their area. Growing up I wanted nothing more than to be an actor or meet someone famous, but in my head I was as far away from Hollywood as some kid in Oklahoma or something, so the coolest guests I remember my elementary school having were these yo-yo demonstrators– which was AWESOME!

  25. Rita says:

    I went to high school in the late 80’s. In order to get us to register to vote and do our civic duty, we had Jesse Jackson come in to speak to us.

  26. Sally says:

    When I was in 4th grade, the entire grade was told that we were going on a field trip to learn about the dutch colonies and colonial New York City. We walked around brooklyn to get to the museum, but our final destination was a movie theater. We were all taken on a surprise showing of The Phantom Menace.
    I think that all of our parents knew (and kept the secret from all of us), and I think it was really just an excuse for all of the teachers to go to the movies during the middle of the day, but it was pretty awesome.

  27. Daryl says:

    Mercedes McCambridge (the voice of Pazuzu in The Exorcist) came and gave a speech at my high school while I was there. It was really cool. She was a friend of the then headmaster. Of course I don’t remember anything of what she talked about, it was a while ago.

  28. The Goog says:

    Chow Daddy came by my school once. That was mildly exciting.

  29. Dustin says:

    I went to a small Catholic boarding school in Arkansas my senior year (2000) in high school. Two days before a wedding in our chapel, it was announced that the bride, a former secretary of then Governor Clinton, was going to have as guests at her wedding, the President and First Lady. We got a brief address and a handshake from the two of them out of the deal, as well as a quick tour of the Secret Service tactical vehicles.

    Long story short, the Secret Service is awesome, Air Force One M&M’s taste the same as regular M&M’s and Bill had the handshake of a dead fish.