Kenai Peninsula has its own homegrown celebrities

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- During the summer months, rich and famous celebrities from the worlds of sports, politics and entertainment vacation on the Kenai Peninsula to take advantage of outdoor recreation and world-class fishing.

But even after the weather cools and they've left, the peninsula still has plenty of homegrown celebrities.

Even if Kenai's John ''Ozzie'' Osborne has never bitten the head off a live bat, he's often mistaken for rock star Ozzy Osbourne.

Osborne said he gets calls mostly from youngsters.

''People call me up all the time,'' Osborne said last week from his Kenai home. ''Mostly teenyboppers call asking if Ozzy Osbourne is home. They think it's funny.''

The 62-year-old Osborne has been known as ''Ozzie'' since the eighth grade, meaning he's had to deal with sharing a celebrity name for as long as the more-famous Osbourne has been recording music.

However, the similarity between their names hasn't led to any real celebrity status for Osborne -- well, maybe once.

''One time back in the '80s, some radio station from Anchorage called me,'' he recalled with a laugh. ''They called me up and gave me a little interview, you know, for fun.''

Osborne said he's also occasionally signed autographs for people looking for a bargain on a celebrity signature. And although he's not much of a heavy-metal fan, he does own a couple pieces of Ozzy memorabilia of his own.

''I do have one Ozzy CD,'' he said, ''but I'm pretty much a country music fan.''

A quick perusal of the local phone book reveals other celebrity names.

There's Debbie Reynolds, John Steinbeck, Bill Bixby, Phil Collins, Don Johnson, James Stewart, Gary Cooper and Doris Day -- to name a few.

Nikiski Middle-Senior High School Principal Robin Williams said she's never considered a career in movies. However, sharing a name with a famous comedian does invite its share of quips from clever teenagers.

''I think 'Mrs. Doubtfire' was the worst. Some of the kids would ask me, 'Are you really a man?''' she said Monday.

Williams said one time while being wheeled into surgery at the hospital, one of the doctors was unsure exactly which Robin Williams he was about to operate on.

''They started the IV drip, and I was being put under,'' she recalls. ''I was pretty groggy, but I heard someone come into the room and ask, 'Is this REALLY Robin Williams?'''

It really was, but not the one the surgeon had in mind.

Sharing a name with a dead president rarely leads to such hilarity, but Skyview High School teacher John Kennedy said it sometimes comes up.

''Occasionally I get crank calls, that type of thing,'' Kennedy said.

Soldotna's Sandra Bullock often finds herself having to explain to people that she's not a famous movie star hiding out in a small Alaska town. Actually, she's a single mom who works for SEGO Consultants and makes holiday gift baskets on the side.

Bullock, like most people who share names with famous people, said the experience is more a novelty than anything else.

''It hasn't been a hassle. It's really been kind of fun,'' she said.

Bullock has learned that sometimes, having a famous name can even have its perks.

''One time I had a bagger boy at Safeway who always took my groceries out for me, I think because of my name,'' she said. ''I kind of got the star treatment over there for a while.''

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