George Clooney gives 17-year-old Ariana Bowles the thrill of a lifetime by taking their picture together at the Maysville premier of Leatherheads. The resulting picture is below. Copyrighted Herald-Leader photos by Charles Bertram.
My first encounter with Nick Clooney was when I called him out of the blue. I was up in the Maysville-Augusta area in 1998, trying to get a little sense of George Clooney's roots for a preview of Out of Sight. Some folks in Maysville told me I should give Nick a ring, and I dialed his number with some trepidation, expecting a gruff response.
Far from it, he invited me and photographer Janet Worne to come over. We sat in the living room of Nick and Nina Clooney's Augusta home and chatted about their son, who at the time was making the risky move of leaving the successful NBC drama ER for the uncertain world of cinema. Nick, who at the time was a host on American Movie Classics, knew his son had star quality, but also knew the movies are a tough business. Mom and dad hoped things would go well.
Fast forward 10 years, and they most certainly have. Gorgeous George is now an Oscar-winner, two-time sexiest man alive and one of the top movie stars on the planet, Janet.
But home has always remained a big deal for him, which he showed Monday night in bringing a premier of his new movie, Leatherheads, back to his family home of Maysville. His co-star, Renee Zellweger, said Clooney had been talking about a Maysville premier since the movie started filming.
It's the same thing his Aunt Rosemary did in 1953 when she came home with her movie The Stars are Singing in 1953 and again in 1997, when she came home to marry her longtime love Dante Di Paolo.
They brought their stars home and the accompanying glow.
With the Clooneys, there's never any sense this sort of thing is an act. Monday night on the red carpet, it was clear George loves his roots in Northern Kentucky, understands the impact he and his famous family have had on Maysville, and he wants to help that continue.
You could see that in the way he spent a solid hour on the red carpet with fans and media. And it was fun to see how his star could serve as inspiration for other Maysville kids who might want to follow in their footsteps -- from former Miss America Heather French Henry who seemed so tickled when George looked over and said, " . . . and there's Heather," to theater student Jessica Moulis, who was visiting home on spring break from California State at Northridge, where she's studying theater.
"It's pretty inspiring to see how it is possible to come from a small town and make it," she said, clutching a lottery ticket for the 10:30 (though it must have started much later than that) screening of Leatherheads.
If she or others do make it, the Clooneys have set the precedent that stars from Maysville remember their roots and they are gracious.