HOT DISH: Me and Charlie Sheen and Ellen DeGeneres

First Class Treatment at TV Show, No First Class Privileges During Flight to L.A.

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

Yes girls, without shame or fear, I wrapped my wanton arms around plumb pretty Charlie Sheen and almost remembered why God made me a woman. He is so handsome and just as nice. Unlike most actors I’ve met, he showed no ego or arrogance. I was totally impressed with the star of the CBS comedy Two and a Half Men.

My friend Martha Hume and I met at the Nashville airport to begin our sojourn west to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Martha allowed that she was my entourage. (Isn’t that funny!) We ran into Reba McEntire’s band at the airport. I recognized guitarist Jim Kimball and, of course, the incredible steel guitarist Bruce Bouton whom I’d known since he played in Ricky Skaggs’ band in 1981. And the ever so lovely and talented Linda Davis who dueted with Reba in 1993 on the No. 1 smash “Does He Love You.” Linda et al were on their way to perform with Reba on The Tonight Show.

Boarding the non-stop flight to L.A., we were made aware there would be no sandwiches served on the four-hour flight.

“Why?” I asked.

“Economy is so bad,” said the lady taking our tickets.

Feeling a dire need in my gut to inform and make her aware, I said, “Lord honey, somebody needs to tell your boss man that Washington says the economy is good.” She stared me clear out of sight and never said another word.

During the flight, an announcement was made twice, once by the flight attendant and once by the pilot: Coach flyers are not allowed to pee in the first class toilet. And what they said was exactly what they meant and was proved so on our return flight from L.A. to Music City when a teenager was chased from the first-class john to the back of the plane when he had the urge to go.

“Where is Rosa Parks when we need her?” I ask. “Back of the bus, back of the plane; same difference when it comes to relieving oneself.”

At the airport in L.A., the Ellen show had a stretch limo that delivered us to the hotel. The next day, a limo chauffeured us to the TV studio.

“Hazel Smith,” we said to the gun-wearing guard at the gate. And then, slick as owl poo-poo, he motioned us through. The Ellen DeGeneres Show sign is to the left of the Dennis Miller sign. And around the corner across from the renown NBC commissary is The Tonight Show. My fifth trip there, and I still don’t know my way around.

Screams of “Hazel! Hazel!” greeted us as we entered the office-studio, followed by hugs, laughs and unbelievable camaraderie from the show’s assistants to executive producers. And, of course, from Ellen, herself, who always makes me feel right at home. The show shut down in May for three months and returned to production a couple weeks ago. It had been a while since I’d seen crew, so it was good to see Ellen and the whole gang. By the front door, Jamie grabbed my hand and began showing me the new beautifully colored photos that lined the halls. Measuring 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep, the photos featured Ellen and some of the stars who have appeared on the show. Photos of Ellen with Dolly Parton, Elton John, Robin Williams, Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise, Prince, Steve Martin … and then there’s the one of Ellen and Hazel Smith. I wept.

Charlie Sheen went on with Ellen before me. I actually met him in the wings as he was coming off the set before I went on. I introduced myself and told him he needed me. Being smart and a gentleman, Charlie began saying how he liked Southern food.

“Maybe you can cook for me,” said he.

At that moment, I was thinking about cooking something up, but it wasn’t fried chicken! Oh, well. Win some and lose some. Seriously, I have to say Charlie Sheen is the nicest superstar actor I’ve ever met.

Ellen and I made cheddar burgers (recipe in this issue). It was great fun working up the ground chuck, mixing in the egg and bread crumbs with our hands and rolling out the patties. She is always fun and so funny and never fails to make a huge mess if I don’t watch her. This time, she rolled out the meat paper-thin. No way the meat would hold cheddar, but I worked mine up and threw the sucker in the pan in five minutes.

And yes, I told the “no peeing in first class” story on the TV show. Ellen expects that from me. She says I put her in a good mood. I do OK, I suppose. OK enough that they want me back at least three more times this season. Matter of fact, I’m not bragging, but I’ve appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show more than anyone else — but American Airlines still won’t allow me peeing privileges in first class.

As I left the set, I was face to face with Jennifer Coolidge who is on the TV show Joey, and I did not recognize her without glasses. “You were so funny. I hate to have to follow you,” she said. I thanked her and stumbled over a cord on my way to my dressing room with my name on the door just like Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Coolidge. Ain’t that hot? Name on the door, picture on the wall. God is good to me.

Limoed to L.A. International Airport, where we ran into Curb Records bigshot Dennis Hannon. The vice president and general manager of Curb Nashville, in L.A. on major Tim McGraw business, was all smiles over McGraw’s sales for his new CD Live Like You Were Dying. He was privy to a private showing of his singer as an actor in the forthcoming movie, Friday Night Lights. “Tim’s just great,” assured Hannon.

A four-hour flight home and no sandwich. However, American offered a “snack pack” for five bucks. I bought one and have to say the awful tasting carb bar, runny Jello, little bitty bag of Wheat Thins and a couple cookies were not worth the asking price. Yuck.

In Nashville but too tired to cook, we had supper at, the eatery owned by Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw at the corner of I-24 and Old Hickory Boulevard. Yummy.

Kenny, Martina and Oprah
Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride are my people. Both have brought tears to my eyes. Lord, I’m just a mess when it comes to Oprah Winfrey. During her first show of the season, Oprah saw to it that 250-plus women with old worn out cars or no cars were given new cars on her TV show. And that was after she’d sent her friend Gayle King to Schenectady, N.Y., to surprise a family who was about to be evicted from their home. Besides paying off the $100,000 loan, she sent all new furniture and kitchen appliances –plus a $30,000 check for needed house repairs. Grab me the tissues. Then Oprah read in the paper where pregnant women by the hundreds were awaiting birth without their husbands who were off serving our country in the Army.

Kenny, in the islands on vacation with his band and crew, had worked his butt off all year for his fans, but he caught a plane for Fort Campbell, Ky., because he had to be there. Martina could not get to Fort Campbell fast enough. With two daughters of her own, when Martina heard there were pregnant women about to have babies without their husbands there because the men are stationed overseas, it was a must do. Besides, Martina loves baby showers, and Oprah was having the world’s biggest shower — diapers, nighties, booties, strollers … everything a baby needs for 650 moms-to-be.

And Oprah, the saint, sat on the front row mouthing each and every word Kenny sang to create a lump in his throat so big, he could barely sing. The soon-to-be-mothers wept when Kenny did “There Goes My Life,” giving the song whole new meaning for him. Ditto when Martina performed “In My Daughter’s Eyes.”

When it was over, sweet Martina just could not help but seize the opportunity. She walked over to Oprah and explained, “I don’t mean to be a geek or anything, but I just have to tell you what an inspiration you’ve been for me.”

Me, too, Oprah. Me, too.

Skeeter Davis Remembered
Following a lengthy battle with cancer, Grand Ole Opry member Skeeter Davis passed away Sept. 19 at Alive Hospice in Nashville. The 72-year old Davis was a native of Dry Ridge, Ky.. Preceded in death by her parents, William Lee and Sarah Roberts Penick, and a sister and brother, she is survived by two sisters and two brothers. Services were held Wednesday (Sept. 22) at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Skeeter will be best remembered by her 1962 hit, “The End of the World,” a song that crossed musical genres and became an international success. It must have been Skeeter’s request that the great Vince Gill sing his touching and appropriate standard, “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” with wife Amy Grant and Ricky Skaggs adding harmony vocals. A great send off for a great lady.

What They’re Saying
Garth Brooks did it and Terry Bradshaw, Clint Black did it and Sam Donaldson. This coming March 3, 2005, Toby Keith is set to do it. Toby will serve as the keynote speaker at the 36th annual Country Radio Seminar.

Randy Travis will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday (Sept. 29). The award-winning singer-actor is putting the finishing touches on Passing Through, an album of country and inspirational songs set for a Nov. release.

Joining hosts Brooks & Dunn and special guest performers Shania Twain and Toby Keith at the upcoming CMA Awards show are Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson and Gretchen Wilson.

Eddie Montgomery of the Montgomery Gentry duo made his acting debut on Rodney Carrington’s new sitcom, Rodney. Eddie didn’t have to do much acting. He felt right at home in the show’s Blue Goose Bar.

One of music’s most soulful singers, Larry Sparks was inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Bean Blossom, Ind., on Friday (Sept. 24). Monroe created the Hall of Fame 16 years ago to honor those he felt had made a substantial contribution to bluegrass. Rebel Records is preparing to release Sparks’ newest CD featuring guests Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Andy Griggs, Rhonda Vincent, Sharon and Cheryl White, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Tom T. Hall, Dan Tyminski, Kevin Denney, the Isaacs and others.

Patti Page, a 100-million record-seller, put Tennessee on the map big time in 1951 when her recording of “The Tennessee Waltz” topped the country, pop and R&B charts — the only single to ever do so. Her recording of the song went on to sell more than 10 million copies and remains the top-selling single by a female. The world-renowned Page is set to be inducted into the Casino Legends Hall of Fame in Las Vegas on Oct. 31, and she will receive the Puccini Foundation Baccarat Award on Nov. 6 at New York City’s Lincoln Center. I’m proud to say I sat by Patti Page one night at supper. Was I impressed!

The only time in my life my sons were ever impressed with anything I ever did was the time I sat next to Carl Perkins at supper at Harlan Howard’s house. I’ll bet ol’ Harlan and Carl are having a fine time in heaven right about now.

Nineteen-year-old Catherine Britt is way mature for her years. Born in Australia, she learned to love country music from her dad’s cassette tapes and loved Hank Williams most of all. By the time she was 17, she was on a plane for Twang Town to be where Hank sang. In other words, “Hank made her do it.” When we had lunch this week at the Tin Angel in Nashville, Catherine wore a black Hank Williams T-shirt with his likeness spread across her chest. Tall, blond, pretty and focused, the girl is a true country singer. They say she has a Hank tattoo near her buttocks, but you can’t prove it by me.

Someone picked up a wad of gum discarded by Kenny Chesney before entering the Palm restaurant in Nashville and offered it on eBay for a $20 bid. No takers.

Good guy Keith Urban’s Max it Out for Meningitis show is set for Jan. 22 at Nashville’s Rocketown to benefit the Edwards Pediatric Meningitis Research Fund at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Jeff Bates spent his 40th birthday singing the national anthem before a crowd of 60,000 a Texas Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys’ season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 19.

Singer-songwriter Steve Azar had a benign lesion on his vocal cord that required surgery this past week.

Two-party day: Terri Clark honored for the No. 1 single “Girls Lie Too” by ASCAP and BMI. Clark was totally taken by surprise when CMA’s Tammy Genovese presented her with the Connie B. Gay Award, an award presented to a non-board member who is a great supporter of CMA.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cheddar Burgers.