LL Cool J drops in on Juneau

Unusual for a rapper, Cool gets up close, personal and chatty with local admirers

Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mega-platinum rapper and actor LL Cool J surprised Juneau residents on Monday first by showing up and then by letting them get close to him.

Fans said Cool J and his family rode on the Mount Roberts Tramway, shopped downtown and toured the Mendenhall Glacier.

Alice Sollie, one of the residents who saw Cool J, said she was impressed by how approachable the rapper was.

"Over the years, we've heard rumors of other celebrities coming to town but I've never heard of anyone getting close enough to them to get autographs or pictures," Sollie said. "LL Cool J allowed his Juneau fans to take pictures with him and get autographs. It was great."

Sollie said she called her daughters immediately after she heard from her coworker that people had seen him take the tram. Her daughters, Kessie and Brittni, rushed to the tram and got autographs from him.

"I have seen some of his movies like 'S.W.A.T.,' " Kessie, 17, said. "He is really cool."

Sollie later drove out to the glacier to see him with her sister and daughters.

People who spoke with the celebrity said he arrived by cruise ship, but did not know which one.

Cool J has one of the longest and most successful careers in the hip-hop industry, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

Born as James Todd Smith, he started writing rap music at 11. Since he released his first single, "I Can't Live Without My Radio," in 1985, he has received two Grammy Awards and is the first rap artist to amass six consecutive platinum-plus selling albums and six gold singles, according to the Richard De La Font Agency.

The rapper also has appeared in movies such as "Deliver Us From Eva" and "Deep Blue Sea."

His stage name is an acronym for "Ladies Love Cool James." Wearing a hat is one of Cool J's trademarks. During his visit to Juneau, he wore a black parka.

Miciana Hutcherson, who has listened to Cool J's music since she was 5, said his music has a catchy beat.

Hutcherson, a theater host for the Mount Roberts Tramway, said many people, mostly tourists, went to the tram to see Cool J. Once residents knew he was in Juneau, they followed him around downtown.

"I expected that he would be kind of arrogant because he is a movie star. But he wasn't at all," Hutcherson, 15, said. "He was very nice."

Sollie said she will keep Cool J's autographs in a scrapbook or frame them.

"They are very special to me," Sollie said. "You don't expect to see a celebrity in our small town."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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