SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Almost Famous


November 15, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - Last summer, my son asked me an odd question.

jpg Almost Famous

Dave Kiffer

"Daddy," he said. "Are you famous?"

I had spent several years on the local borough assembly and I had also been in the local newspaper for other reasons over the years. So I was not exactly anonymous.

And having been born and raised here also meant that a lot of folks "knew" me, but that was far different from being "famous" I tried to explain to him.

"No, I'm not famous," I told him. "Someone like Hanna Montana is famous. No one in Alaska is really famous."

And that was good enough for him.

Until this fall, when two things happened to cause him to question my earlier answer.

First, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin became the first Alaskan to become truly "famous." Not just in Alaska, but pretty much everywhere.

At one point, Liam asked me "Is Sarah Palin more famous than Britney Spears?"

In September and October of 2008, the answer was probably yes

For good or bad, the governor of our little backwater of a state was certainly one of the most "famous" people in America.

And Europe. And Asia. And Africa. And the Middle East. And just about anywhere in the world where the American presidential race was front page news. Which, of course, precludes Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

So, yes indeed, it was possible to be from Alaska and be "famous."

The second thing that happened was I got myself elected "mayor" of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

"Dad, are you famous now?" Liam asked shortly after the election.

The fact that I gone from "Daddy" to "Dad" in just a couple of months was duly noted and silently mourned.

"No, I'm just a mayor of a small place in Alaska," I told him, with a sigh.

"But you're famous here, right?"

"No," I said, said getting a little peeved. "I am not famous."

"Are you almost famous?" he pressed on.


But then it seemed like everyone on the street we met wanted to stop and shake my hand and congratulate me.

"You're famous," Liam said after about 10 people had congratulated me in the grocery store one afternoon.

"No, I am not!"

"You're more famous than Britney Spears!"




I wanted to add that I always wear underwear when I go out in public, but some issues you just don't raise with a seven year old.

Then the conversation abruptly changed.

"Are we gonna get secret service?" he asked with a big smile.

I had to think for a minute.

Then I realized that he was talking about the guys in black suits that stand around the president. We had been reading books about the president recently and Liam was very interested in the people who protect him and their family.

We had also had a little game going of trying to spot the secret service when we watched the candidates on television.

In fact, he had expressed interest in being a "secret service guy" when grows up. Until we talked about how it's the duty of some of the "secret service guys" to jump in front of the president if someone pulls out a gun.

Liam didn't like that idea too much, but I also explained that there are a lot of "secret service guys" who have other, less potentially lethal duties.

"So, do the secret service guys go with the president's family?" Liam had asked at one point.

I explained how the secret service would protect the president's family everywhere.

"Even school?"

"Yes, even school."

But it still seemed like a big leap for even a second-grader to think that the mayor of Ketchikan Gateway Borough should get "secret service guys."

Then I realized, it really wasn't about me, no matter how "famous" my seven year old thought I was.

"Liam," I said. "Do you wish you had 'secret service guys' at school?"

He looked a little embarrassed.

"Yes," he said after a few seconds.

"How come?"


Now, I don't for a minute think that Liam has a serious "bully" problem at school. If he did, I'd be all over it faster than any "secret service guy."

But there are always times when "older kids" lord it over the younger ones, especially on the playground.

I could imagine Liam thinking that having "secret service guys" would definitely put that to a stop.

And I have to admit that it's interesting to imagine just how the secret service would discharge its duties when a president's child was in public school.

"Back away from that kick ball, young man," would have a lot more resonance coming from a tall guy in a dark suit with dark glasses and an American flag lapel pin than it would from your average playground monitor,.

So would "Please return those marbles. Now!!!"

So I patiently explained to Liam that maybe someday when he grew up, he'd be president and he could have all the "secret service guys" he wanted.

"No," he said. "I just want to be the president's son."

Not this week.

No matter how "almost famous" he thinks I am.

Growing up in Ketchikan is clearly not the same as growing up in Wasilla.



Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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