ASPEN, Colo. – There was the time Matthew McConaughey gave him the ‘What’s up?’ sign at an awards show. Or when Andre Agassi peppered him with snowboarding questions in between takes of a commercial.
Then there was an event with Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise, the one where Elton John grabbed him by the shoulders, and the time Dennis Hopper chatted him up at the Red Bull stunt awards show. And the ESPYs, where Dwyane Wade was over one shoulder, Kobe Bryant over another and LeBron James just down the aisle.
It’s been a wild ride since Shaun White won Olympic gold nearly two years ago and it doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon.
“It doesn’t compare to what the Olympics was, but it never settled down to what it used to be. Not even the slightest,” he said.
A loose and confident White talked about life since winning Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics in a one-on-one interview with the Associated Press this week at the Winter X Games where he is competing.
The energetic snowboarder with the shaggy red hair spoke in clipped sentences filled with sound effects and lots of ‘dudes’ and ‘rads’.
Animated and engaging, White showed off the kind of charm that’s had sponsors, magazines and newspapers and talk shows clamoring for a piece of him.
“It’s just interesting because it’s like getting used to life because it’s definitely changed,” White said. “Just trying to go to dinner or going to the grocery store is a mission. It’s like ‘What’s he buying? Are those Kix? Are they Fruit Loops? What is he buying?’ “
The whirlwind started right after White stepped off the podium in Italy. He made his rounds on the national talk show circuit, appeared in commercials and on magazine covers and became a tabloid target.
It was a lot to keep up with, even for someone who was once considered a skateboarding and snowboarding prodigy.
“It got to a point that I couldn’t even remember doing things – like ‘that’s when we did those photos?’ – there was so much going on,” he said.
But, boy, it sure was fun – and still is.
All the publicity led to opportunities White never could have imagined – invitations to parties and clubs, recognition from celebrities he didn’t think knew he existed.
The American Express Members Project commercial was particularly thrilling. It featured White, Agassi, Alicia Keys, Ellen DeGeneres and Sheryl Crow, and was directed by Scorcese.
In between takes and laughing at DeGeneres’ jokes, White found himself talking to Agassi about snowboarding. The tennis legend he had grown up watching was now asking him about how often he should practice snowboarding, what kind of stance he should use.
By the time it was over, Agassi had invited him to go riding, which White, of course, thought was rad.
“I’m going to trade him for some tennis lessons,” White said. “How random would that be to get a phone call from a friend: ‘Where are you? Dude, I’m playing tennis with Agassi.’ You know what I mean? I thought that would be pretty cool.”
•Gretchen Bleiler won her third Winter X Games gold in the superpipe Friday night, capping a spectacular show of grace and athleticism with a near-flawless run.