Dick Cavett: Post-Script to an Interview

Tomorrow night, PBS premieres a wonderful new documentary called Dick Cavett’s Watergate, which takes a look at the Watergate scandal and its effects on Richard Nixon’s presidency through the prism of The Dick Cavett Show. During this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, I was fortunate enough to chat with Cavett about the documentary, which you can read right here, but the conversation continued for a few more minutes beyond the piece that appears on Bullz-Eye.

It felt unnecessary to include this bit, as it’s really just idle small talk, but as this is my site and tends to be frequented almost exclusively by people who know me and appreciate the excitement I still get from talking to pop culture figures even this far into my career, I figured you’re just the sort of people who’d appreciate it. Of course, that means you probably already know the Ving Rhames story I tell him, but on the other hand, you can also imagine how much my heart soared when Cavett delivered his closing line.

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Me: I know you’ve got an appointment to keep, but I’m glad I got a chance to talk to you.

Dick Cavett: Well, you make it painless!

You know, I took a very long time to figure out what in journalism I actually had a flair for, and I finally figured out about five years ago that it might be interviewing, so I’ve done my best to try and hone that. I may not be perfect at it, but in addition to reading interviews done by other journalists, I’ve also watched plenty of your shows, and I’m also a big fan of Craig Ferguson. When he’s on task and talking with someone who really interests him, I think he’s unparalleled.

Oh, his consistency is stunning. And thank you for not asking the one question where I want to pull a gun out every time I can hear it coming, and somehow I always hear it in the voice of a teenage junior-high journalist: [In a mocking tone.] “Who’s been your most interesting guest?” Oh, God

Well, as an interviewer myself, I ‘m always more interested in someone’s worst interview, which is why I went that direction.

Well, yeah, that’s where the money is!

When you told your story, I immediately thought of a comedian who gave me little more than “yep,” “nope,” and “I dunno” consistently throughout the interview.

That’s when I say, “Do you think that you have any obligation to hold up your end of this encounter?” And then another thing you can do to them at that point – and suppose his name is Jim Wilson –is ask, “Do you think you could be a little more helpful, uh…Jim, is it?”

I’ve used that cruel trick on two people I really hated. And I learned it from Walter Matthau, who was embarrassed about coming on my show one night to receive an award for the movie Kotch. They had a plaque, and we had to stop the show and stand up as a boring man in a suit came out and made a speech about how valuable he was to the movie, how much the studio admired him, and so on. And Walter… [Picks up a glass.] I’ll use this as my prop. Walter takes the plaque and says, “Well, that’s very handsome. And I must say, I’m proud to have been part of…Kotch, is it?”

The worst interview I’ve ever had to deal with was Ving Rhames, whose work I love. It was for a film that was straight to DVD, which was fine, except that the studio hadn’t gotten screeners yet, so I couldn’t watch it…and yet they were still setting up interviews anyway.

Oh, great!

So we had a couple of good minutes, and then I very casually said, “Well, of course, I haven’t been able to see the film yet, but I was curious about…” “What do you mean, you haven’t seen the film yet?” “Well, I mean that it wasn’t made available to me.” “As a journalist, don’t you feel that it’s your responsibility to see the film before talking to somebody?” And then he said, “Stanislavsky says…”

[Starts laughing.] What did Stanislavsky say about doing an interview with someone who hasn’t seen your movie?

Well, what Ving Rhames said was, “Stanislavsky said, ‘If you do not take your work seriously, I will refuse to work with you.’”

[At this point, Cavett begins to mime the act of using a crank to raise his middle finger.]

So I said, “And then the interview was over? I hope not.” And he said, “No, because I’m a professional.”

Yeah, a real trouper! [Snorts.] Sanctimonious whore.

So, of course, it was all terse responses from that point on, and then within a few minutes, he just said, “Well, look, I’ve got to go, other people to talk to,” and that was it. With 10 minutes left of our scheduled interview time.

Well, you know, Jack Paar was very opposed to the word “interview.” He called me before I began my show and said, “Look, kid, don’t do any interviews.” I said, “Well, what do you want me to do? Sing? Dance?” He said, “No, no, no. Make it a conversation. An interview is a Q&A. ‘What’s your favorite something?’ It’s David Frost with his horrible clipboard and his jetlag. Just throw away all your notes. As the show’s going along, make it a conversation.” That’s what Jack did. That’s what makes the difference. And this didn’t feel like I was interviewed. This felt like a conversation.

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Remember That Time Clark Gregg Flirted With Levon Helm?

What’s that? You don’t remember when Clark Gregg, the man who would go on to portray S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson in several chapters of Marvel’s cinematic universe before getting a promotion to director of the organization in the season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., put on a dress, a wig, and a lovely scarf, called himself Henrietta, and spent some time batting his eyelashes at the drummer and frequent singer for The Band?

Seems to me, then, that it’s time you watched the 1998 film The Adventures of Sebastian Cole.

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If the title doesn’t ring a bell, it’s not too surprising: it’s so obscure that it doesn’t even rate a mention in Helm’s Wikipedia filmography. It is, however, listed on his IMDb page…and, more importantly, Clark Gregg talked about it a bit when I chatted with him for Indiewire recently about his new film, Trust Me. Unfortunately, that particular bit of our conversation didn’t make the cut for the piece, but at least I have the option to share it with you here:

Me: Dare I ask if you had any encounters with Levon Helm on the film?

Clark: Um… [Starts to laugh.] That’s either very educated or perceptive.

Me: It’s really only that I like Levon Helm, so I was curious if you had any anecdotes to share about working with him.

Clark: Um, yes. I mean, my dad’s a big music fan, and his favorite band, I would say – probably because they played with (Bob) Dylan – was the Band. They were one of the first concerts I went to. As a little kid, he took me to one in Chicago. So I knew exactly who Levon Helm was, and…he has a cameo in the movie, playing a local gentleman who is attracted to Henrietta. Perhaps because his vision’s not so good. And it was one of my favorite days on the movie, to kind of spend a couple of hours in this truck, flirting with Levon. [Laughs.]

Sadly, the precise clip hasn’t been excised and posted on YouTube, but someone has made the legally-dodged decision to post the entire film in segments, so I can at least steer you pretty close to the moment in question for your viewing enjoyment. All things being equal, though, you should really just go buy your own copy, which you can do right here.

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Taken from the Pilot: Pat Metheny – The Unexpurgated Conversation

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A couple of weeks ago, my editor at Pulse Magazine dropped me a line and asked if I’d be interested in doing a piece on Pat Metheny’s upcoming appearance at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. In turn, I dropped a line to Pat Metheny’s publicist and asked if it’d be possible to hop on the phone with the noted jazz guitarist for a short interview.

I got a quick response, but it was inform me that, although he was up for doing an interview, he wasn’t doing any more phoners now that he was on tour, so it’d have to be by email. Having mixed feelings about email interviews because of the mixed results I’ve had with them in the past, I wrote back and, figuring it couldn’t hurt to be frank, said that I was up for that option if Metheny was someone who took email interviews seriously.

Fortunately, he does. Unfortunately, it took slightly longer to get the responses to my questions than I might’ve hoped, which meant that the amount of space for the piece ended up shrinking, necessitating that the conversation be trimmed somewhat.

You can find the Pulse version of the piece by clicking here, but for those interested in reading the conversation in full, now you can.

Enjoy!

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“Archer” creators Adam Reed & Matt Thompson on collaborating with Kevn Kinney

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The Archer panels at the Television Critics Association press tour never fail to be entertaining and enthralling (or at least they’ve always been so for me, anyway), but rarely have they made me do a double-take the way today’s panel did when the show’s executive producers, Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, announced that they were going to be releasing an Archer album in the near future. What surprised me wasn’t the fact that Kenny Loggins would be doing a duet of “Danger Zone” with the character Cherlene – the words “Archer” and “Danger Zone” are so closely linked at this point that that almost seemed like a given – but that a substantial amount of the music had been done by Kevn Kinney, the singer/songwriter best known for fronting the band Drivin n Cryin.

Clearly, I needed to know more.

Me: So how did Kevn Kinney end up working on this album?

Matt Thompson: Well, first of all, Adam had already known him.

Adam Reed: Yeah, we were buddies. I’ve known him for a long time. We’d met through mutual friends in the Athens music scene and just sort of hit it off. And when we started this, we were gonna have Cherlene be a country singer, and I was looking through all my music for a song for a scene, and the song where I was, like, “Oh, this would be perfect,” was a Kevn Kinney song. So I called Matt and said, “Let’s call and see if we can get the rights to this.” And Matt said, “I’m sure we can get the rights to it, but do you maybe want to expand this a little bit?” And before we knew it, we were making an entire record.

Matt: It kind of just snowballed.

Adam: It did. It snowballed really quickly. But, you know, there are a lot of Kevn Kinney songs that we… songs of his that we re-did for the record.

Matt: “40 Miles…”

Adam: “40 Miles of Mountain Road” we did. It’s one of his songs. We did…

Matt: “Straight to Hell.”

Adam: Yeah, I don’t know if you know the Drivin N Cryin anthem “Straight to Hell,” but…

Me: “Just like my mama said”?

Adam: [Laughs.] Yeah! Well, the whole cast sings it.

Matt: On “Straight to Hell,” Amber, Adam, and Lucky are singing in the background.

Adam: Yeah, we sing the chorus. So the record really turned out great. I’m just a huge fan of us, and I’d be delighted if somehow he ends up getting, like, a Grammy and a gold-plated hum-vee out of this. [Laughs.] Have you listened to any of his non-Drivin n Cryin stuff? I think he is, like, the best songwriter ever. He’s amazing.

Matt: Adam and he actually wrote some songs while they were just sitting around. I remember my favorite is “Burn It Down.” It talks about how she always just wanted to burn shit down. [Laughs.]

Adam: Yeah, he wrote several new songs just for the record. Like, sitting there at lunch, he would write a song and be, like, “Okay, let’s go record it.” “Well, when did you write it?” “Well, just right now.” [Laughs.] He’s really a talent.

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Oh, No! The Wonder Stuff Are Back! (But That’s Actually A Good Thing)

With all of the work I’ve been doing for AntennaFree.TV, Bullz-Eye, Popdose, the Onion A.V. Club, the Dissolve, TV Week in Vancouver, and – all too infrequently as of late – The Virginian-Pilot, I must admit that this site has gone without update for far too long, but as I give my umpteenth spin to the highly enjoyable new album from the Wonder Stuff, Oh No It’s… The Wonder Stuff, it occurs to me that giving this thing a little bit of promotion is as good a reason to bring News, Reviews and Interviews out of hibernation as any.

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I’ll preface my promo by saying that you would not be totally out of touch if you believed that the Stuffies had been defunct since their 1993 album, Construction for the Modern Idiot, since, indeed, that was the last time they released a new record on a major label here in the States, which means that it’s also the last time they got anything resembling a decent publicity push.

The band did actually call it quits in ’94, with frontman Miles Hunt starting a new band (Vent 414), ending it not too much later, and then going solo for a bit, but in 2000 the Wonder Stuff reformed for several concert dates, resulting in a reissue of their back catalog, a B-sides collection (Love Bites & Bruises), a live album (Cursed With Insincerity), and a live DVD (Construction For The Modern Vidiot).

After that, the line-up shifted somewhat, with a few folks dropping out, a few new faces popping in, and a couple of new albums emerging: 2004′s Escape from Rubbish Island and 2006′s Suspended by Stars. The former was pretty good, the latter wasn’t too bad, but in the end, neither really grabbed you in quite the same way as the records that had preceded them.

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It’s therefore a very pleasant surprise that Oh No It’s… The Wonder Stuff, the band’s first new album in the better part of a decade, is arguably the best they’ve come up with since those major-label glory days. What’s even more fun is that the double-disc version of the album also includes From the Midlands with Love, a bonus collection of 11 covers featuring the Stuffies’ interpretations of songs by Slade (“Far Far Away”), Duran Duran (“Planet Earth”), Dodgy (“In A Room”), the English Beat (“Save It For Later”), and the Primitives (“Crash”), among others.

You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to risk picking up the disc, but I’ll just say that I went in somewhat tentatively, and I came out quite pleased, so whether you want to blame that on lowered expectations or not, the end result is that I’ve really been enjoying the record, so if you’ve ever been a Wonder Stuff fan, it seems like there’s a decent chance you might end up enjoying it, too. If you need a bit of help before taking the plunge, though, here are a few videos to help give you a feel for the material included within.

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Flashing Back: Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman discuss “Nine to Five”

coleman-tomlin-9-5If you saw yesterday’s edition of “Watch This” on the Onion AV Club, then you already know that Eric Thurm shined the spotlight on the 1980 comedy Nine to Five, starring the unlikely trio of Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin as office employees battling back against their sexist supervisor, played by the always-irascible Dabney Coleman. As these things always do, it immediately reminded me of the conversations I had with Tomlin and Coleman about the film in their respective Random Roles interviews.

Both are lengthy, in-depth pieces that are worth reading in their entirety (you can find the links above), but if you’re only just curious about their reflections on Nine to Five, here are the appropriate excerpts about the film in question:

MBDNITO FE002Lily Tomlin: You know, Jane Fonda produced Nine To Five and created it for herself, Dolly [Parton], and me. But I turned it down at first. I was shooting The Incredible Shrinking Woman, which was a real trial. We were shooting for seven months. We finally had to shut it down just so I could go make Nine To Five. It was just a lot of stuff. Plus, Shrinking Woman had come on the heels of Moment By Moment, where we’d had such a disaster, and we were just in agony over that, anyway. But we went ahead and starting shooting Shrinking Woman, and one thing and another… blah blah blah, I won’t go into it, but it was a long, long shoot and very physical, with a lot of running around on scaffolding 30 feet high with no railings, because it was supposed to be a lab table.

So what happened was that I was on the set of Shrinking Woman one night, and I hadn’t said “yes” to Nine To Five yet, which was just unforgivable of me because of Jane Fonda. So they came to me and said, “They’ve got to have an answer,” because I just kept stringing them along, and I said, “Well, if it has to be now, then I’m saying no.” So I go home and I tell my partner Jane, “I turned down to Nine To Five,” and she said, “This is the worst thing you’ve ever done! How can you do that to Jane? She created this movie for you and Dolly, and you just cannot do that. This is going to be a terrific movie!” And I said… [Hesitates.] I’m telling you too much.

AV Club: I promise you, you absolutely are not.

LT: No, I am. I know in my heart I am. [Laughs.] I mean, there were things like… I didn’t like certain jokes in the movie, but they always got big laughs. Colin [Higgins] always knew where the laughs were and the timing. For instance, I didn’t like when we’re all at the bar and we’re supposed to be loaded, and I say, “Are you a woman or a wouse?” And then I didn’t like when Jane had to say, “And if I’m doing M&Ms,” because she doesn’t know what S&M is, and stuff like that, I was like, “Oh, this is just too lame. Nobody’s going to laugh at that.” But, of course, they do laugh, and quite heartily.

And there were times when I’d say to Colin… There’s a scene in Hart’s office, where Hart is pontificating about playing football and how girls don’t know what it is to be part of a team and all that stuff, and of course it was very funny. But earlier, I’d said in the outer office, “I’ve never seen anybody leapfrog so fast… and I’ve got the bad back to prove it,” which was a line that my partner Jane gave me and I threw in. So when Hart’s talking about football, I said to Colin, “Can I lean over and say to Jane, ‘Or leapfrog’?” But Colin said, “They’ll never hear you.” Well, I chewed on that for a while, but when the movie came out, the audience is laughing so much at Dabney [Coleman] that they wouldn’t have heard it. Colin seemed to know every beat. It was astonishing. Anyway, at some point, I called them back up and told them I wanted my part in the movie back. [Laughs.]

AVC: You, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda would seem to be a very unlikely trio, but there was real chemistry between the three of you.

LT: Yeah. And for years, we tried to make a sequel, but it just never worked out. There were several scripts, but after Colin died, we sort of gave up on that. Which is a shame. I wish we’d done it, if only just for the sake of doing it.

Dabney1Dabney Coleman: How adorable is Lily Tomlin? She’s one of the greats, I think. In every way. Well, I think of Lily initially because I think she had a lot to do with my getting that part. When I was doing Bright Promise, a now-defunct NBC soap opera, she was doing Laugh-In at the same time, and I loved that show and, in particular, I loved her. I loved when she was playing a high-school cheerleader, and she did this little cheer. I wanted to meet her, so after shooting Bright Promise one day, I just went over to the set of Laugh-In, knocked on her door, and when she invited me in, I said, “I just wanted to tell you how great I think you are, and that cheerleading thing you do.” I can’t do it justice, but it was just adorable the way she did it. In fact, I kind of had the hots for her. I thought she was very sexy. Cut to about 10 years later, I haven’t seen her since then, but [Nine To Five director] Colin Higgins, he was talking to Lily, and she said, “Well, what about Dabney Coleman? He’s funny and he’s sexy.” That’s a quote. [Laughs.] And Colin says, “Okay.” My understanding is that’s literally the way it happened, so I think that’d pass for saying that she got me that part. And that’s the first thing I remember when I think of that film.

The next thing I think of is how great all three of those girls were to me, because they were several steps up the ladder from where I was in my career. All of ’em were well-established. To varying degrees, but all extremely successful already. Almost icons in their fields, if you want to break it down like that. And here’s this guy coming off of Mary Hartman, which is not too shabby. [Laughs.] But it was late-night TV. Anyway, what I’m alluding to is that all three of them went out of their way to make me feel equal. There’s no other way to put it. Status-wise and talent-wise, they all made me feel extremely secure and were very supportive. I worked with Lily a couple of other times, most notably on The Beverly Hillbillies, but on both that and Nine To Five, I remember every now and then, she’d say, “Dabney, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to make it funny. What should I do?” And I’d look at her and just say, “Lily, come on. I’m not gonna say shit, because I have a feeling you might just come up with something that’s gonna be very, very funny. Don’t ever ask me that again, okay?” It was just very cute. Lily Tomlin asking me how to be funny. Unbelievable.

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Michael McKean’s P.S. to his Random Roles

After doing a lengthy Random Roles interview with Michael McKean for the AV Club – he’s had a subscription to the Onion for about a decade, by the way, so he’s well familiar not only with the publication but also with the feature itself – we wrapped up before I’d actually gotten through all of the items on my to-ask list, but I couldn’t in good conscience keep the man any longer. As it was, we’d already gone over our allotted time, but he’d said, “My wife is bringing me home a burrito, so you’re good ’til then. But when the burrito gets here, you’re done.” I finally decided to just let him go before getting the word that it was time to wrap things up, but as it turned out, his wife had gotten home some time before, and he’d just let me keep asking questions, anyway. Great guy, that Michael McKean.

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As we said our farewells, he’d said that he was going to be sending me an email with a link to a quote from Dave Grohl that he thought I’d enjoy. In turn, I told him I’d send him over the roles that’d been left on the list, saying, “These are all things that readers had requested, so if anything really leaps out at you as a great story, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.” So what did he do? He offered up a one-liner about every single item on the list.

Like I said: great guy, that Michael McKean.

Here’s what he had to say:

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Rick Gonzalez of “Reaper” on Spielberg, Cruise, and Gaga

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In the very near future, I’m going to be posting a piece over at Popdose.com about the Reaper reunion special that’s going to be airing on FEARnet on Tuesday, May 28. ‘Til then, though, here’s a non-Reaper nugget or two from my chat with Rick Gonzalez, who played Ben on the show. The first one was a specific request from a reader, but the other was all mine. Enjoy!

Rick Gonzales on War of the Worlds

It was surreal. Actually, I was numb to it at first. When I got the job, I got it really quick, and I didn’t think anything of it. And then once they put me in the van and I got to the set, that’s when everything crashed on me and I just realized, “I’m going to work with the guy who did E.T.!”  [Laughs.]

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And, y’know, I was and I still am a huge Tom Cruise fan, and it was the same thing. I was actually in awe of how very respectful and how talented and just how, for example, Tom would, in between takes, just talk to, like, an older lady who lived across the street, and he’d have a 20-minute conversation about why she lived there, who she lived with, and…it was just really cool stuff. I was, like, “Wow, that’s so humbling.” I was just awed with how they made a $200 million dollar movie feel like an independent film. It was crazy.

Rick Gonzales on playing Jesus for Lady Gaga

Amen. [Laughs.] Amen to that. It was pretty random. Very random. But they’d seen the glow and….no, I’m kidding! It was fun, man. I had no idea she knew who I was. I was shocked when my manager said, “Gaga wants you for Jesus.” I didn’t know what to be shocked about first: that Gaga knew who I was or that they wanted me to play Jesus. It was just really crazy. But it was fun, and she was great. She’s a sweet girl. She’s a New Yorker to the bone, and I’m from New York, so we just hit it off.

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Michael McKean sets the record straight on The Left Banke

In short order, you’ll be seeing my Random Roles with Michael McKean – who can currently be seen within the cast of Christopher Guest’s new HBO series, Family Tree, but when the piece pops up on the AV Club, it’ll be without the brief segment that you’re about to read.

Sometimes I just can’t resist asking a question that has no place in the piece I’m talking to someone about, and in this instance, I really wanted to know the truth about his connection the the ’60s baroque-pop band The Left Banke. There’s been a persistent rumor that McKean was in the line-up of the band for a very brief period, but it’s one of those odd little footnotes that I’d never actually heard or read him comment on, so I figured, what the hell, now’s my chance to get the truth straight from the horse’s mouth.

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Me: Due to the recurring tendency of semi-truths to find their way onto Wikipedia and be claimed as fact, I was wondering if you could set the record straight on exactly what your connection was to the Left Banke. Were you actually a member of the band?

Michael McKean: No, but…okay, here’s what happened. The Left Banke put out a couple of singles. “Walk Away Renee” didn’t do anything, and then…I think “I Haven’t Got the Nerve,” maybe? I’m not sure what the second one was. But they did nothing. Then they made an album, “Pretty Ballerina” was on it, and… [Hesitates.] I’m not really sure of the way this shaped up, but, anyway, what happened was that the Left Banke’s first two singles didn’t do anything, but then all of a sudden “Walk Away Renee” did become a hit, and their career kind of started, and they put this album out, which had some really cool songs on it. But after that, everybody split it up. It was just a disaster. I don’t know what happened there.

But Mike Brown, who was the main composer and kind of the guy – he was something like 18 at the time and was a real prodigy – he put together a new version of the Left Banke, and it was me, Warren David on drums, and a guy named Bert Sommer on bass and mainly on lead vocals, because he had a voice that was kind of high-pitched like Steve Martin, who was the original lead singer, except that Bert had a much better voice. So we rehearsed for three months, we had our pictures taken as the New Left Banke, they recorded a single while I was there, but I did not play on it because I wasn’t very good. [Laughs.] I was 19 years old, I wasn’t much of a guitar player, so they got good studio guys to do it. I don’t even think Warren, my friend the drummer who got me into the band, even played on it. It was called “Ivy, Ivy.” So I was with the band and yet not with the band. “Ivy, Ivy” was released, and it was a complete dud. Nobody cared. It’s not a bad record, but it just didn’t happen. And then there were some squabbles.

Mike’s manager, our manager, was also Mike’s dad: Harry Lookofsky, a famous New York session man, string arranger, string leader, and violinist. He also went by the name of Hash Brown, as in Hash Brown and his Orchestra. But, anyway, that’s what happened: they had this big fight, party time was over, and they pulled the plug. And I grabbed as many instruments as I could, and the fancy new clothes that they got us, and I headed downtown and went back to school at NYU. [Laughs.]

So here’s the song that, despite what you may have read on Wikipedia, does not feature Michael McKean, followed by its B-side, “And Suddenly.” McKean’s right, it isn’t a bad record. And neither is its B-side, for that matter. But, y’know, this is coming from someone who can’t begin to tell you how many times he’s spun There’s Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966–1969, so you’ll want to take my opinion with a grain of salt, I reckon.

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R.I.P. TNT’s “Monday Mornings” (and any chance of ever finishing that Random Roles with Alfred Molina)

Back in January, I had a very nice interview – a Random Roles interview, to be specific – with Alfred Molina in conjunction with his about-to-premiere TNT series, Monday Mornings. Our time was limited because of the number of people who wanted to chat with him, however, so he and I shook hands and talked of getting back on the phone to finish the conversation before the show was scheduled to make its debut. Unfortunately, despite multiple attempts to make it happen, this follow-up interview never came to pass, and with the news that TNT has decided to get out of the Monday Mornings business, there seems little chance that it ever will. I’m still going to hold onto the majority of it, though, just in case I manage to get him on the phone for something else, but while we wait for that to happen, here’s a taste of what came from that initial chat…

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—“Satipo”

Alfred Molina: Yeah! That was my first real movie. Hardly been in front of a camera of any kind before that. I was so green, the carpenters were giving me notes. [Laughs.] But what an experience. Spielberg was already a star director, Harrison (Ford) was already a star actor, the project was…we shot most of it in England, and they cast me in England. It was like a weird dream, in a way, because up until then I’d just been working in the theater. I wasn’t a star in any way. I was a busy actor. I was a jobbing actor, busy working, doing plays in small little theaters or maybe the occasional little bit of television. One TV job I think I’d done before that. But the theater was essentially my employer…and then this job came along.

I went and met with Steven, and…he didn’t even ask me to audition. I was expecting to have to audition, like you did in the theater. I had my Shakespeare piece ready and I had my modern piece ready. [Laughs.] But we just talked. We just sat across a table, and we just talked. He said, “This is what the movie’s about, blah blah blah, there’s a character here you might be interested in,” making it sound as if it was completely up to me. I had no idea of the protocols. I didn’t realize the protocols were so polite and pleasant! And then he offered me the job, and…I can remember the offer was a thousand pounds a week, and it was for three weeks’ work. At the time, at the theater where I was working, the top rate was…I think it was two hundred pounds a week. Or at least that’s what I was earning. And I kind of went, “What? Yeah!” And my agent said, “We’ll try to get it up more,” but I said, “No, no, that’s okay, I’ll take it!” Because my daughter was about to be born, and when that job came around…well, when we finished filming, my ex-wife was in her seventh month of the pregnancy, and I’ll tell you, that money came in real handy. I mean, we bought a cot, we bought a push chair, we bought a stroller, I got the little room that was going to be her bedroom decorated… I was broke when that movie came around, and I’ve thanked Steven publicly many a time. And I’ll do it again. [Laughs.] Thank you, Steven. You saved my bacon in more ways than one.

Alfred-Molina-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark

Me: How many times have people come up to you and said, “You know, you really should’ve thrown him the idol”?

AM: [Laughs.] It’s amazing. I think the reason why it got such a high profile wasn’t because of the size of the role. I think it was that if…well, you might be a bit too young, or you might remember, but at the time the movie was released, all the trailers featured me very prominently, because my little chunk of the movie had nothing to do with the rest of the film. It was just, like, a little introduction to Indy, so it didn’t give away any of the plot, so they used that little 10-minute sequence at the beginning, because it introduced Paul Freeman’s character (Belloq), it introduced Indy…

Me: It introduced the boulder.

AM: Exactly! All of that. So they used it really heavily. So in the trailer, it looked as though I had a huge part. It looked as if it was like me and Harrison. So I was getting phone calls from people saying, “Oh, my God, I’ve just seen the trailer!” I’m, like, “Yeah, relax. I get popped off in, like, 10 minutes. I barely make it past the credits.” [Laughs.] But everybody saw it! So that image, that was in the trailer, so generation upon generation are still coming up to me saying [As Satipo.] “Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip.” And it’s like…that’s great. I don’t care. I’m delighted. I’ve got a little corner of movie history that’s mine. So I’m fine with it.

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