Thursday, April 24, 2008

Five Memorable Interviews

I interviewed President Nixon twice, for around 10 minutes each time, once at Yankee Stadium, the other at Shea. It was surreal, like talking to Mount Rushmore. We talked only about baseball, not politics. And once he knew your name, he'd repeat it in his answers. Old political trick, I surmised. To get me to like him, feel comfortable with him.

I interviewed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who absolutely loathed the media, for 10 straight days, seven of them in California (including several days in the living room of his Beverly Hills home, all the way on top of a hill)and three in Arizona. He was so incredibly moody, and those moods could shift suddenly, in a matter of minutes sometimes. From friendly to angry. From likeable to defensive. Very challenging interview. Very hostile environment most of the time. Felt like I was walking on eggshells. Still, I came away thinking he was the most intelligent athlete I'd ever met.

I interviewed the actor Dennis Hopper on a golf course in Simi Valley, as well as in the limo that drove us for 40 minutes there. Met him very early in the morning (around 5 am) at his home in Venice. He made me coffee and was very nice to me. In fact, I was so unprepared for the rare California frigidness (it was around 40 degrees, if that much, and I had only packed short sleeve shirts)that he loaned me a sweater and jacket (which were so small on me). He was giving in the interview, but tough to keep on track. He'd go off on these wild tangents and never come back to question I asked. Plus, about some recollections, he'd go totally blank. Loved him, though. He was funny and bright and intense and loved talking about James Dean and Natalie Wood, as well as his obsession for golf.

I interviewed Joey Pants (Pantoliano) in a resturant in Connecticut. Crazy guy. Another guy who went off on tangents, never to return. One thing: he was passionate about everything. Politics. Acting. Whatever. In fact, at one point during our interview, he suddenly began talking to me not as Joey but in character--as psychopath Ralphie of the Sopranos. I thought I was about to get whacked!

And I interviewed Ozzie Smith for a week in St. Louis, at a time when the Cardinals were trying to make him go away. He was not the back-flipping Oz, I can tell you that. He was surprisingly very little fun at all. A guy who turns on the dazzle in public, but turns it off completely in private.

Anyway, those are five quick ones that come to mind right now, as I battle another night of insomnia. LOL

I'm going to write a how-to on interviewing for the newsletter, where I'll go into these memorable interviews in depth.

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