As the north Okanogan pulsated with rumors of Jack Black sightings last week, I received an email from my editor saying, “Keep your eyes out. Jack Black's in town.”

My first instinct was to bury my head in the sand. A bit of a cultural illiterate after years of no TV, the thought of interviewing a famous actor brought up feelings of utter incompetence.

I half-hoped the rumors, like UFO sightings, could be easily explained away. But pictures posted by a local resident of Jack entering the Kuhler - a Tonasket eatery - even though shot from behind, confirmed the sightings. There's no imitating that certain swagger that audiences love.

Facing my fears, I picked up the phone. His stepmom, Linda, said she'd ask Jack about meeting up the next day as he passed through Omak.

“I might get to interview Jack Black tomorrow,” I told my daughter Melissa nervously. “I don't know that much about him....but I loved “Old School” and everything else I've seen him in.”

“You mean 'School of Rock?'” Melissa asked with a raised eyebrow. “Do your research, Mom. Rent 'Orange County.' That movie is hilarious. I saw him over by the post office and kept hoping he would come in during my shift at the Co-op (store).”

With nowhere to rent a movie in Tonasket, I searched Netflix for “Orange County,” and found “The Polka King.” Produced by Jack last year, it's based on the true story of a Polish immigrant seeking fame and fortune with other people's finances. It was the perfect flick, as I soon realized anyone humble enough to play an Ooommpah-paahhing Polka King probably wasn't someone out to intimidate a reporter oblivious of the Hollywood scene.

Once in Jack's presence, I quickly forgot I was with a celebrity. Perhaps partially due to the calm grounded-ness that one gains from seven days in the Pasayten, Jack felt and sounded homegrown. His kindness and open-hearted acceptance of me quickly put me at ease.

The same was true of his sons and nephew, whose movie produced while Jack was in the woods was premiering on the big screen, courtesy of Maria Lassila and the Omak and Mirage Theaters.

Sammy Black, his name on the marquee for all the world to see, or at least this little part of the world, was a joy to interview and happily posed for photos. His nephew Evan, an aspiring PR man, asked if I wanted an autograph. Tommy Black happily signed his name, too, along with the scribe “Don't let your dad eat pie.”

The real treat of the day was watching Jack take pride in the son following in his footsteps, with giant leaps and bounds. In other words, eating pie.

Katie Teachout is a reporter for The Chronicle. She can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at kteachout@omakchronicle.com

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