Johnny Knoxville came back to his namesake hometown Tuesday night to a welcome befitting a star.
Hundreds of fans lined a red carpet event at the Regal Cinemas Pinnacle 18 at Turkey Creek for a screening of his latest film, "Jackass 3D." Accompanying Knoxville were his parents, Phil and Lemoyne Clapp of South Knoxville; his wife, Naomi; and several of his local friends.
Close to 350 guests attended the invitation-only screening. Cheerleaders from the University of Tennessee chanted Knoxville's name. Smoky, the Vols' canine mascot, was on hand, too.
Gawkers had out their cell phones to take photos and grab video of the MTV star, who grew up as PJ Clapp and attended South Young High School. He left Knoxville at age 18 to pursue acting in Los Angeles.
"It's great to come home and see all my friends and family," he said on the red carpet. "I get to show them this very naughty movie, which I am a little worried about" them seeing.
Prior to the screening, Knoxville's voice broke with emotion as he told the audience how much he enjoyed being home.
Then he presented a birthday cake to his mother, who was seated in the middle of the audience. The 39-year-old actor led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to her.
Knoxville knew his conservative Christian mother might not approve of some of the film's racier elements.
"There are a couple of parts that I don't know how much fun mom will have," Knoxville said, "but the rest of it she'll love."
"Jackass 3D," which opens Oct. 15, is rated R and contains male frontal nudity. Knoxville sat beside his parents during the screening.
Of taking his mother to an R-rated movie, he deadpanned, "I never have these (content) concerns when I show (the movie) to other crowds."
His father, on the other hand, is almost legendary in South Knoxville for his pranks.
"Who'd have thought this many people would turn out?" Phil Clapp said at the screening. "Yeah. I am real proud of him."
The star's father was decked out in "Jackass" memorabilia head to toe, sporting a "Jackass" T-shirt and sweater with the film's logo.
Knoxville resident Brianna Lowery, 18, stood behind a metal fence to catch a glimpse of the star. She got his autograph and a few photos. She was elated after the meeting.
"I got to meet him, shake his hand, took a picture with him and got an autograph," she said. "It was amazing."
Loudon resident Josh Moore, 19, calls Knoxville "the $49 million man." He was excited over getting to talk to him briefly.
What does he like about the entertainer?
"I don't know," Moore said. "He's just Johnny Knoxville. He's so cool. Gosh! To be him would be, like, being the luckiest man in the world."
Knoxville's visit to his hometown was short. He arrived in town late in the afternoon, went to his parents' home then to the screening. He left early today for another city to promote the movie.
He'll be a guest on "Late Night with David Letterman" on Thursday night.
The best part of coming home? "Pulling in the driveway. Mom has a big spread of food made," he said.
Knoxville said he does not feel like a star on nights like this, though strangers scream his name and vie for his attention.
Instead, "I feel lucky," he said. "I barely have a high school education, and we're making our third 'Jackass' movie, and I am from South Knoxville.
"I am pretty lucky."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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