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Pitchin’ Pennies with George Clooney

By Roger C. Adams |

Before George Clooney became a mega-watt celebrity, he was a curly haired Kentucky kid selling shoes at the local department store.

I'd like to tell you a story about a time George Clooney and I went head-to-head for pocket change.


George worked at McAlpin's Department Store in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, in the early 1980s. The Crestview Hills Mall was a sorry little development. It was anchored on the north end by McAlpin's and on the south end by a big, empty lot. While Florence Mall was the big boy on the mall block in northern Kentucky, Crestview Hills Mall was a blue-haired mall-walker's delight in suburban Kenton County, eking out a modest crowd from the Dixie Highway / I-275 commuters.

Anyway, my mom worked at that same McAlpin's with George for several years. Dad and I would pick her up when her shifts were over and I would wait near the small closet where the employees clocked out — which happened to be adjacent to the shoe department where George worked.


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Everyone knew George, and not just because of the magnificent, curly, raven-hued thatch of a 'fro on his noggin. George was Nick Clooney's son, a local newscaster anchorman for a Cincinnati television station. He was also a nephew to Rosemary Clooney, northern Kentucky royalty.


Because folks generally didn't come running into McAlpin's a half-hour before closing with a shoe emergency, George frequently had nothing to do towards the end of his shift. He would close his register early, straighten the displays, and sit in one of the many chairs. He also probably wondered who this little kid was eyeballing him.


Eight years my senior, George was sort of attending Northern Kentucky University at that time, where he will tell you that he mostly majored in Ping Pong. One evening, while waiting for my mom, I started pitching pennies against the wall near his department. George strolled over, and without a word, coolly reached into his pocket and produced a small handful of pennies.


He looked down at me and said, "Ten throws, closest to the wall takes all?"


"Sure," I said, and we had a game.


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I'm not sure George ever asked me my name, but he knew me as "Beverly's kid," because everyone knew my diminutive, red-headed, acid-for-blood mother from the linens department. We pitched pennies nearly every time Dad and I would go to pick up Mom. George fleeced me often and never apologized. I fleeced him often and he would always give me that trademark cock of his head and his gentle smirk.


One day George wasn't there. Mom got into the car and said that George had gone around to all the departments where he knew someone and said that he was leaving for Hollywood to be a driver for his Aunt Rosemary and attempt to break into show business. My dad, in theater himself, scoffed and said, "They're going to eat him alive. He doesn't have any discipline; just his looks."


Mom disregarded anything my father ever said, and replied that she had told George, "When you make it big in L.A., you have to come back and buy everyone dinner, someplace nice, not a shithole like Applebee's." She said George promised he would do that.


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Sure enough, a few years after he landed a regular gig on "ER," George came back to northern Kentucky and rounded up everyone he could find from his department store days. He also invited friends and family. George rented out one of the restaurants on the Cincinnati side of the Ohio River and it was a night of free-flowing ribs, whiskey and two bands. George was our gracious host — a true Kentucky gentleman in every sense.


My parents were divorced by the time of this soiree and I got to accompany my mom. I only saw George once that night, when he came up behind Mom and said, "Beverly, I made good on that promise." She answered: "You sure as shit did, George, but this music really sucks."


Roger Adams is a native of Kenton County, with Kentucky roots dating back to the 1790s. He's a food and drink historian, not related to Daniel Boone, and believes Sasquatch is real.


Visit the shop for kick-ass Kentucky gear, including our world-famous "George Clooney is a Beautiful Man" tee shirt! The world went crazy when Bill Murray sported one this past summer, while watching fireworks with George and Amal.


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