As the world pays homage to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, one of humanity's most incredible feats, here's the story of how my wife and I ended up having dinner with the real Buzz Lightyear.

For the sake of those who identify more with the Toy Story icon, when it was decided that the character of Buzz Lightyear would be an astronaut, his original name was Lunar Larry–not the most heroic name–so they chose Buzz Lightyear inspired by Buzz Aldrin, the second human to walk on another planet. And Buzz Aldrin got his nickname when his little sister mispronounced the word brother as buzzer; that was shortened to "Buzz" and eventually made legal years later. Here's something else to chuckle about: Aldrin's mother's maiden name was Marion Moon.

On May 27, 1998, my wife Celeste and I were guests of the celebrity maiden voyage of the beautiful Grand Princess. My morning radio show American Breakfast was broadcast coast-to-coast from the ship, that was christened by the legendary Olivia de Havilland on September 29 of the year prior. 

We decided not to eat in the formal dining room and chose a beautiful atrium buffet, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows with a gorgeous view of the water. We were looking for a place to sit when a couple motioned to us to come over and join them. I don't know how you'd react, but my heart started racing when that handsome couple turned out to be Buzz and Lois Aldrin. There we were, at a small table for four, enjoying the camaraderie of this famous couple. In a "pinch me" moment, still to this day, Celeste and I are so blown away by how this came about! 

We talked about everything from the 21 hours they spent on the moon's surface and the 46 pounds of moon rocks they returned with, to the ShareSpace Foundation he started to advance space education and affordable space flight experiences to Mars. But the most poignant part of our conversation came when I told Buzz and his wife that I had struggled with alcohol for years and found a new life in sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous. He dawned the brightest smile, looked me straight in the eyes, gave me a lighthearted laugh and burst out, "Me too, brother! I'm also a member of the club."  

Dr. Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr., Ph.D., better known as Buzz, the second man who accompanied Neil Armstrong onto the moon with Michael Collins on-board the command module, in a moment viewed by 600 million television viewers–becoming the world's largest television audience in history–returned to earth as a hero's hero. But I will always know him as a buzzer, I mean a brother, with respect and admiration that extends to the moon and back. 

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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