An epic night.

Last night I met Mario Lemieux.

I’m sorry. I think I’m going to cry. Give me a minute.

Okay. So, after years and years and years and YEARS of loving the man, and after more recent years of kinda sorta stalking the man and trying to steal his stuff from his foundation offices, with no luck (yet), I finally was in the same room with Mario Lemieux, walked up to Mario Lemieux, talked like a demon-possessed kid speaking tongues to Mario Lemieux, got my picture taken with Mario Lemieux, and was — wait for it — TOUCHED BY MARIO LEMIEUX.

I need to cry again.

The reason my husband and I, and my butler Mike and his wife Meg, and Luke from Microsoft and his wife Jessica were invited to the event was because of Make Room for Kids.

The event was the table games preview at the Casino last night, with all losses benefiting the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

The reason we were able to corner the man, and I DO LITERALLY MEAN CORNER THE MAN, was because someone ill-advisedly put us all on the VIP list. That person, who shall remain nameless, will probably never do that again.

Right now, she’s all, “That’s church, sister.”

Upon arrival at the casino, the six of us headed straight for the VIP restaurant area to eat delicious noms. There were spicy watermelon things, buffalo chicken things, tiny Primanti sandwich things, mystery lobster things, crab cakey things, and on and on and on. Oh, and cheesecake things.

So there we were, like jesters in the royal ballroom, sitting in a booth, eating all manner of weird, but delicious foods, and drinking wine.

Delicious wine.

The six of us were sharing stories of our run-ins with famous people when Mario and his beautiful wife Nathalie walked into the restaurant.

And a hush fell over the crowd.

Not really. A hush fell over our table and then our conversation turned to this, “HE’S HERE HE’S HERE HE’S HERE THERE HE IS LOOK AT HIS HEAD. HE’S HERE. WE ARE IN THE SAME ROOM WITH MARIO LEMIEUX.”

The fact that we were the ONLY people in the VIP room doing that tells me something, but I’m ignoring it. LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU TELL ME I’M COMMON FOLK.

We began strategizing because no way in hell were we leaving without a picture of us with Mario. As we were discussing strategies, Mario and his wife left the room, probably to go mingle with the common folk. HA! Kidding.

After about 15 more minutes of stuffing my face with tiny foods and downing my second glass of Riesling, we decided to head out to the table games and donate some money via losses at the tables. It was then, when we rose and walked toward the restaurant exit, THAT MARIO WALKED BACK IN.

We stopped in our tracks as he engaged guests in conversation.

And we laid in wait. When he had finished his conversation, he looked like he was coming straight for us and we collectively began to internally jump up and down. We all got big smiles on our faces and our shoulders rose with anticipation and we rehearsed in our heads what we would say to him, and Mario walked right past us.

So, most of the people in the VIP room, when they talk to Mario? It’s no big deal. They have an air of indifference. I’m sure he appreciates that, but I couldn’t do that, because I’m all too aware that in that room at that moment, Mario was the entire head at the top of the totem pole and I was the left half of the eyeball of the tiny bug pooping on the ground next to the totem pole.

After another minute or so of waiting, we did our CORNER HIM LIKE NINJAS bit, and approached him in a way that he had no way out but to go through us. And if he tried that, we were totally going to trip him.

I sort of spoke initially for the group and tried to give the Make Room for Kids elevator speech as fast as humanly possible and did it in a way that made zero sense, so little sense in fact that I’m pretty sure Mario thinks Luke Sossi invented the XBOX.

Let’s just roll with that.

So after my blah blah blah giggle XBOX transplant I love you will you marry me blah blah [click click] [pew pew] speech, I said, “Look, we’re probably the only people in the VIP section who are going to ask you this question, but can we get a picture with you?”

And Mario did not say, “I have hundreds of millions of dollars; my shoes are made from the hide of a royal cow who was fed only gold flakes; my watch costs more than most people will earn in a lifetime; and you, you common folk crashing the VIP section, I fart in your general direction.”

He said, “Sure!”

Of course the professional photographers suddenly appeared to snap the picture, BUT THAT WOULDN’T DO, because I’ll never get those pictures. So after they took pictures, I had to say to Mario, “Um. Could you stay there while WE get a picture now?”

And he farted in our general direction.

I’M KIDDING. He was gracious and kind and took the additional picture with us and then was immediately pulled away by other VIPs.

But we got our picture you guys!

He has his arms around my waist!

Do you mind if I cry again? Do you mind if I crop out me and Meg’s husbands just for a sec?

But wait. The fun didn’t end there.

We stalked Mario to the table games and I sent Woy to take pictures:

At this point, we decided we were risking a warning to leave Mario alone, so it was gambling time. Meg, Jennifer and I left our husbands at the craps table, which boy is THAT an appropriately named game. Know what else would be a good name for it? Chaos.

I much preferred the Monopoly machine Meg introduced me to. No skill. Just feed this machine a $20, smack this button here, and watch the little men in suits run around on the screen. She and I sat there for an hour maybe and took turns screaming and punching each other on the arm when the other would make some money while people all around us did the same. We were with our people. The common people.

Fast forward to later in the evening. Luke and Jessica and Mike and Meg had left. It was about 8:45 p.m. and I was standing in the High Roller room or whatever it’s called, watching my husband play blackjack. This will be the only time I’m ever in that room because for this one night only, the maximum and minimum bet was FIGH DOLLAHS!

I went between that room and the outer room where Mario was still gambling with his wife, and at one point when I returned to my husband he said, “Did you see Jerome Bettis?”

I was all, “JEROME BETTIS IS HERE WHERE OKAY BYE NOW DON’T LOSE ALL OUR MONEY!”

I walked out of the room and there was Jerome Freaking Bettis walking right toward me with a friend of his. He didn’t appear to be there for the table games preview event, but rather was just there on his own. I stepped in front of him, prepared to trip him if necessary, and I said, “[Gasp!] Can I get my picture taken with you?”

But he kept walking, possibly farted in my general direction, and called out, “I don’t think they let people take pictures in here.”

I called after him, “Well, I’m a big fan!” and in my head I added, “You big fat jerk has-been!”

He stopped dead in his tracks like he heard me! As I wondered if I accidentally said that last part out loud, his shoulders slumped a bit and … he burst out laughing, turned on his heel and came back to me to shake my hand and say thanks.

I was on top of the world.

I met Mario. I was touched by Mario. I had a chance encounter with Jerome Bettis who I may or may not have insulted out-loud. I mingled with the filthy rich. I ate rich foods. I felt like I had climbed up the totem pole. Like maybe I was the entire bug that was caught in the spider web two heads from the bottom of the totem pole.

And the universe saw this and the universe said, “BAZINGA!” and smote me immediately with the worst migraine headache I have ever had in my whole life. I spent the last 45 minutes at the Casino wondering if the VIPs would be grossed out if I used one of the tiny dessert spoons to scoop my throbbing eyeball out of my head and place it in a martini glass.

In the car ride on the way home, it felt like someone had replaced my eyeball with a billiard ball. Just shoved it in there. The car ride home was also when I learned from a phone call to my Mom that my daughter had taken ill with a high fever.

Two hours later, close to midnight, having met Mario Lemieux and Jerome Bettis, and having spent time in places I’ll never be again with important people I’ll never be with again, I sat in my living room, my feverish, weeping daughter on the couch with my husband, my son crying because he was so tired and his room was messy and he couldn’t sleep in a messy room, the dogs tearing through the living room chasing each other like common folk dogs do, and I puked and fell off the totem pole, landing hard on the ground where a monkey stepped on me.

And the Universe slowly nodded its head and said, “That’s better.”

But who cares. Mario Lemieux touched me. And it’s all because of you.

The point of this post? Just wanted to say thank you, you guys, for giving me one of the best nights of my life.

I’m going to steal a hockey stick for you next time I’m in the foundation offices.





48 Comments

  1. Marcy
    July 7, 2010 11:06 am

    Both men are really kind and generous about pictures. My daughter and I were lucky enough to be on the sidelines at practice before a Steelers game in October, and they both took pictures with her and wished her a happy birthday!



  2. Jaime
    July 7, 2010 11:10 am

    That’s church, sister!

    Good for you!! Although I am a teensy bit jealous!!



  3. Jessica @ How Sweet
    July 7, 2010 11:10 am

    So envious. I love him. If I had to pick one ‘celeb or famous person to meet, it would be him! Great pictures!



  4. PA Girl in VA
    July 7, 2010 11:11 am

    OMG! OMG! OMG!!!!!! Every time we see him on TV I say to my son, “Look Ronnie, there’s your REAL daddy!!” I always said he was going to father my children and then my husband and I would live nicely off the child support payments!

    **sigh** (back to reality)

    I’ve always heard nothing but wonderful things about Mario and it makes me happy to hear people confirm what I’ve read and heard. **sigh**



  5. unsatisfied
    July 7, 2010 11:14 am

    I’m going to just take a wild guess and say that mario has been out on the golf links lately. A. LOT.

    he must glow in the dark…..



  6. Pensgirl
    July 7, 2010 11:15 am

    I know a story about Mario and kids that would make you laugh and cry and worship him even more, but I’m not going to tell it. Instead I’m just going to say rest assured that you met a great, great man.



  7. Jen
    July 7, 2010 11:16 am

    He is such a looker, man.

    Why does the universe have to even things out like though? What is UP WITH THAT?



  8. pghjen
    July 7, 2010 11:18 am

    I was on the same flight as Jerome Bettis a few months ago. We waited for our luggage near each other (I totally didn’t know it was him at first) and when fans came up to him, he was incredibly nice and took pictures, despite the late hour. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

    Also, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to take photos in a casino, especially of the table games.

    Sounds like a great night!



  9. bucdaddy
    July 7, 2010 11:22 am

    Every time we see him on TV I say to my son, “Look Ronnie, there’s your REAL daddy!!”

    You probably can’t have Mario, but I’m sure Jeff Reed would accommodate.

    Ginny,

    Not to spoil your fun too much, but it looks like Mario has at least one arm around the lady to our right (his left) as well.

    The man has three arms? No wonder he was so good.



  10. Shannon
    July 7, 2010 11:23 am

    Mario is a HANDSOME MAN……I met him once and literally couldn’t speak because he is so tall and massive, just takes your breath away!!! Glad you had fun!!



  11. TheJim
    July 7, 2010 11:26 am

    Million dollar story right there.



  12. pghsciencenerd
    July 7, 2010 11:27 am

    I cried tears of joy after I met Mario. He was super nice and let my entire group get pictures. I was surprised I conducted myself in a professional manner in Le Magnifique’s presence and wasn’t at all BLLLL OMFG BURIES IT. I thanked him for keeping the Pens in the Burgh and for all he’d done for us, and he replied with an air of utmost awesomeness “oh, you’re welcome!”



  13. Dana
    July 7, 2010 11:28 am

    I want to be Virginia Montanez when I grow up.

    P.S. I’m photoshopping my head on your body and pretending I met him too. I believe I’m totally entitled to it since I donated to Make Room for Kids =P



  14. 90+ degree heat
    July 7, 2010 11:38 am

    Ginny,

    I too want to be you…but without the panty hose!

    I give you credit for classin’ it up in 90+ degree heat.



  15. Katie
    July 7, 2010 11:40 am

    this is the best story ever.



  16. TripleC
    July 7, 2010 11:53 am

    Geez. May I nominate this for the longest post ever on this blog.

    After taking the photo did he looks at you 3 ladies and say “all you bitches drink my shots”?



  17. Scott
    July 7, 2010 11:57 am

    While your political meddling does irk me on occasion, I do so love it when you spin a good yarn, girl.

    Also, hawt.



  18. LegallyPgh(Kathy)
    July 7, 2010 12:01 pm

    Awesome story, at least right up to the migraine part! That wine will get you everytime, I know. Thanks so much for sharing!!



  19. Bulldog
    July 7, 2010 12:13 pm

    This is exactly the kind of post that keeps bringing me back here so much. As “TheJim” said, “million dollar story right there.”



  20. cheld
    July 7, 2010 12:17 pm

    omgomgomgomg O M G Mario!!!!



  21. tw
    July 7, 2010 12:18 pm

    Ginny – when you met Mario were you amazed at his height? I met him once (waitress at a country club) and got to ask him if he wanted a drink. Lovely man and super nice, but I was struck by how tall he was (may have helped that I’m only 5’3″ but still…he’s tall!). Anywho…congrats! Especially on the picture…I didn’t get one b/c I don’t think my boss would have appreciated me asking for one.

    p.s. PGHJEN i believe you are right…you’re not supposed to be allowed to take pix in any casinos. so be extra thankful about that Ginny. :)



  22. red pen mama
    July 7, 2010 12:21 pm

    That. Was. EPIC.

    I was 10 feet from Mario once. And I thought I was going to faint. (It was at my workplace at the time, 10 years ago, and I’m pretty sure if I asked to take a picture with him, I would have been fired and escorted to my car by security. And looking back now: it would have been TOTALLY WORTH IT.)

    I do, however, hope you and your daughter are feeling better. Long live the hoi polloi!



  23. red pen mama
    July 7, 2010 12:23 pm

    @tw, I am 5’10”, and I also was struck by how tall he was. He’s TALL even to tall people.



  24. Carpetbagger
    July 7, 2010 12:28 pm

    How strange. Mario usually heals the deaf and lame with his touch. Perhaps it was Jerome who reversed that. Or perhaps, after your encounter with Mario, you touched an ex-Pirate without knowing it. That would put the kibosh on the whole Mario-healing-rainbows-touch thing. Interesting case….



  25. Mary
    July 7, 2010 12:30 pm

    Oh, I am crazed with jealousy. Incidently, the scene back at the homestead is known at “mom penance” for having a good time sans children. But yep, soooooooooo worth it.



  26. Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker
    July 7, 2010 12:46 pm

    Color me a million shades of jealous. I adore Mario, simply adore him. Once when I was a kid (probably in the late ’80s/90ish) my dad scored box seats to a game. It was during a time when Mario when injured and my dad met him in the men’s room. Still so jealous that I’ve never had a close encounter!



  27. T
    July 7, 2010 1:09 pm

    Great story! My fiance and I ran into him (literally) leaving a Pens game last year. He was going into the arena as we were leaving after the game. I literally screamed “OMG There’s Mario!!” and he looked at me and laughed (not menacingly, probably because I was so star struck my face was must have been hillarious) I still kick myself for not stopping and grabbing a picture.

    I was completely struck by how tall he is!



  28. L-A
    July 7, 2010 1:13 pm

    Yay for you, lucky girl!



  29. hello haha narf
    July 7, 2010 1:20 pm

    i’m glad the universe rewarded your hard work on mr4k with a night where you were flying so high. hate that your migraine crash landed you. (i’ll blame cigarette and cigar smoke at the casino for your head pain. somehow they are always the cause of mine.)



  30. Leslie in Dayton
    July 7, 2010 1:27 pm

    Ginny, what a great story (aside from the sickness! Congratulations – couldn’t happen to anyone more deserving!



  31. PA Girl in VA
    July 7, 2010 1:34 pm

    @bucdaddy – Honey, I realized a LONG time ago that I’d never get Mario (and thanks SO much for reminding me), so I settled for my actual husband for baby-making purposes. Jeff Reed??? I spit on you for even suggesting that! Blech!



  32. Lauren
    July 7, 2010 2:22 pm

    Congrats on actually being able to utter words. The two times I’ve met Mario (at Pens practice way many years ago) I sounded like a cat hacking up a hairball.



  33. Baba Wawa
    July 7, 2010 2:29 pm

    the pens used to practice at the mt. lebanon ice rink years ago…when mario was a rookie, i met him a few times…i am amazed to this day that more people came to watch JoJo Starbuck skate on the practice rink than watch the pens



  34. Politicalpartypooper
    July 7, 2010 2:45 pm

    Virginia,

    If I’m Mario and you approach me wearing that leopard print dress, I’m taking a picture with you, too. “By the way, hon, who the hell are all these other people, and did you just ask me to marry you?”

    Can you get that dress in leather and a little bit shorter and a little bit lower cut? ;)



  35. Dan
    July 7, 2010 2:49 pm

    Last March my Family, Girlfriend, and I were going to Florida for spring break. My parents and little brother were going to fly to Tampa from Pittsburgh and I was flying out of Youngstown to Orlando with my girlfriend. I was fine with this because I had a direct flight and didn’t have to get up at 6AM to drive down to Pittsburgh. At around 8 AM I got a text message from my brother saying Mario was at the airport. An hour later I got a text message from my brother saying he was sitting next to Mario and his son Austin on the flight. after the flight landed in Tampa my brother was able to snag a picture with Mario at the baggage claim. I was so jealous.



  36. MiamiShyner
    July 7, 2010 2:52 pm

    How. Freaking. Awesome!

    Hope you and your little one are both feeling better. :-)

    I never got to meet Mario whilst in town. Jerome, on the other hand, I got to see almost weekly for a while in the restaurant where I worked. (it was Mexican but not real Mexican and I’m sure nowhere as cool as your place!) He was cool and would even acknowledge me in public when I saw him out at clubs.



  37. Dudders
    July 7, 2010 3:05 pm

    That is so awesome! And the fact you actually got a photo with everyone’s eyes open is impressive. I love Jon Secada’s pimpsuit!



  38. Chris
    July 7, 2010 3:13 pm

    Excellent story and excellent to hear that both were so accommodating and nice. That is why they are, and will continue to be, loved by Pittsburghers.

    And Big Ben would be wise to learn something from both of them.



  39. Sooska
    July 7, 2010 3:31 pm

    …and you didn’t invite ME, who gave you the idea?



  40. facie
    July 7, 2010 3:57 pm

    I am so jealous. More importantly, is your left hand on his butt?!

    I literally grabbed various Penguins players (including Mario and Mark Recchi, whom I love) at the old airport the night they came home from winning the first Cup. I will never forget that.



  41. richrovs
    July 7, 2010 5:59 pm

    HOORAY for you, woo hoo!!!



  42. Steeler_Tom
    July 7, 2010 6:07 pm

    Effing lucky You!
    And you got to do that on the backs of all us loyal readers who contributed to make room for kids!

    If I ever run into you (and it’s not likely since I live in Tucson, AZ) I am going to punch you in the arm! :-p



  43. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    July 7, 2010 8:48 pm

    I was there last night, too, Ginny, but I’m was on the ordinary invite list and not the VIP list. While I didn’t get my picture taken with Mario, I did spend a good five-ten minutes in the high limit room just playing and simply gazing at him. Later near the end of the night I was talking with a friend and he bumped into me. He did apologize, and I was like, “No problem Mario. Have a good night.” He smiled and replied “Thanks for coming.” I don’t think I heard anything else for the next 45 minutes.

    As for Jerome, I’ve run into him on several occasions and he’s always been very generous with his time. I do know that most, if not all, casinos in Vegas prohibit you from taking pictures that show the gaming area in the background, and Jerome is a big gambler so he probably was being straight when he commented that he didn’t think/know that photos were allowed. When I was in Vegas earlier this spring my friend got yelled at for taking a picture of me at a slot machine.



  44. Angry Mongo
    July 8, 2010 9:51 am

    Rocky Bleir stole my wife’s Christmas tree when she was a kid. I made him apologize years later.

    True Story.



  45. VAgirl
    July 8, 2010 1:20 pm

    Good for you Ginny and it was a wonderful read. You had me right there next to you and yes I loved the ending. I hope your daughter is feeling better.



  46. blackandgoldchick
    July 8, 2010 6:37 pm

    I am very jealous. But soo happy for you. That’s a pretty intense and awesome night. You deserve all of the good things that come to you because you pay it forward. I wish more people in the world were like you. Keep up the good work, and who knows what else can and will happen to you! :)

    But still, very jealous.



  47. PensAreYourDaddy
    July 9, 2010 8:10 pm

    Way to go, Ginny. I was quite awestruck when I met Mario and Nathalie. Fortunately my wife managed to keep her senses and got us in and out of there without Mario having to call in the NHL security goons to haul me away.

    Geno scoring a playoff overtime game winner, 19000 Caps fans going home real sad, meeting Mario and getting a picture with him….has to be one of the best nights ever. I’m glad you had a pretty good one too!



  48. Rachel
    July 9, 2010 9:50 pm

    I feel that, Ginny. The first time I met Mario Lemieux, it was a religious experience. I cried!