That Time I Met Billy Joel And His Uptown Girl

Dateline, the summer of 1989. I decided to spend the summer living with my Aunt Jo and my cousins Chris and Samantha in East Hampton, New York. (They were "working locals", not one of the uber rich that live in beachside mansions) I got a job working at a ranch in Montauk taking (uber rich) city people on guided trail rides for an hourly paycheck and was pretty good money! Plus my family had just sold all our horses and decided to get out of rodeo before I moved to go to Iowa State, and I was feeling the loss. I knew Christie Brinkley rode horses and boarded them at the ranch, but I hadn't seen her yet. I thought, "I've got all summer, I'm sure I'll catch a glimpse of her eventually".

The ranch manager was a cowboy and had a horse who'd actually been used in barrel racing, so when the ranch hosted a rodeo just a few weeks after I started, I was pretty pumped that I could barrel race again. Then I heard Christie was going to participate...ooh boy. Small town Iowa girl might meet Uptown Girl! Then I saw a flash of long blonde hair...OMG Christie Brinkley is here, on a horse, and she's more beautiful in person if that's possible!! She also seemed very friendly and nice, saying hi to people and enjoying her time being just another contestant. (I was fan girling before I'd ever heard the phrase)

Barrel racing was the second event, and I was the fourth contestant. It had quickly become apparent barrel racing wasn't something most Long Island equestrians did. The announcer said, "Up now is Heather Burnside, on deck is Christie Brinkley". That was surreal but I seemed to have an advantage to stick out, even among the rich and famous. I raced the pattern, and my horse cranked around those barrels like a pro! I felt like I was back in Iowa at a rodeo again. As I left the arena, Christie came up to me and said, "Wow, that was great! I'm not sure I want to follow that. Can you show me the pattern you just did again?" I did, she smiled and said thanks, and went out and did exactly what I told her to do. It wasn't quite as fast as my time (hey, can I say I was a pretty good barrel racer back in the day?) but she had fun and said thanks again as she left. Mission accomplished! I met Christie Brinkley. Night made.

Until later, when my cousin Chris and I were sitting on the fence watching the rest of the horse show and a red Ford pickup pulled up. My cousin glanced over and said, "Hey, Billy Joel's here". Celebrity sightings are no big deal for the locals, it would be hard to live in the Hamptons all the time *without* seeing dozens of them. But I was pretty star was Billy freaking Joel! My cousin and I started to walk away to leave when I heard a voice behind me say, "Honey, come meet the girl who helped me barrel race!" And that was when Christie Brinkley introduced me to her husband, Billy Joel. I played with Alexa for a few minutes (she was drawing things in the dirt with a stick), chatted with them about rodeos and horses like I met supermodels and rock stars all the time, and then we left.

And that's my way-too-long story about small town Iowa girl meeting Billy Joel and his Uptown Girl!

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