MAYSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - "Clooneymania" reached fever pitch Monday as star-struck women lined up in droves and this northern
Kentucky town rolled out the red carpet for locally homegrown movie
star George Clooney.
The Oscar winner was scheduled to be in town Monday night with
co-star Renee Zellweger for a special screening of his new movie
"Leatherheads," a romantic comedy about small-town professional
football in the 1920s.
It marked a homecoming of sorts for Clooney, who grew up in nearby Augusta. His father, Nick, and aunt, singer-actress Rosemary
Clooney, grew up in Maysville, where their grandfather was mayor.
Sharon Conrad was among the bundled-up fans who stood for hours along a railing next to the red carpet outside the Washington Opera House, where the special screening was being shown. Conrad, 52, drove 12½ hours from her south Georgia home just to catch a glimpse of Clooney. She had already spent about $100 in gas and and was staying with a friend.
"I just dropped everything I was doing and hopped in the car and came," Conrad said.
Karen Rayburn Edwards drove about an hour and a half from her
northern Kentucky home and was among the early arrivals to stake out a prime spot. A few snowflakes were falling, and Edwards was wrapped in a blanket several hours before the scheduled premiere but said it was worth the long wait.
"Our blood runs hot for George," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance."
Edwards was holding a sign letting everyone know that Monday was her birthday. She hoped to have her picture taken with the actor,
saying it would be a perfect birthday treat.
Megan Muse, a local bank teller, took vacation time to get a glimpse of Clooney. She said the attention was priceless for the town: "I've never seen Maysville so many times on the Internet, on TV."
The Hollywood-style event also says plenty about Clooney, she said.
"It shows he's a good guy," Muse said. "He doesn't let Hollywood get to him."
Downtown businesses displayed "Leatherheads" posters in their
front windows. Special lighting was set up outside the opera house to give a Hollywood feel when Clooney and Zellweger walked the red
Nearly 275 people were expected to see the first showing. The
audience was to include Clooney's family and friends as well as supporters of the renovated opera house and a group of local high
school students. Demand for tickets was so overwhelming that Universal Pictures added a second screening later Monday night. A
lottery was used to distribute the passes.
It's not the first time Maysville has hosted a special screening for a Clooney. In 1953, Rosemary Clooney came home for the premiere of her movie "The Stars are Singing," at a theater a couple of blocks from the opera house.
George Clooney's visit was part of a publicity surge for the town of about 9,000 about 60 miles southeast of Cincinnati.
The local boys' basketball team won the state high school tournament on Saturday night. On Tuesday, former president Bill
Clinton is scheduled to visit Maysville as part of a Kentucky campaign swing for his wife, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"We've hit the publicity trifecta," said Maysville Mayor David Cartmell.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)