2011 has been…interesting.
Yeah, that’s about as good a word as I’ve got, really. These last twelve months have held more than a little bit of stress and some very legitimate terror about what the future might hold. For the first time since graduating from college, I found myself without a full-time job. A major decision had to be made: do I keep writing part-time but start looking for something else full-time to pay the bills, do I bite the bullet and go freelance, or do I just start drinking and never look back?
Turns out it was a rhetorical question. Once upon a time, I was a guy with a degree in journalism who worked everything from retail to telemarketing to the back end of a debt collection firm while doing a little bit of freelance writing to keep his sanity, but now…?
Now I’m a writer.
Of course, the sanity’s long gone. But you take the good with the bad.
Amazingly, despite all of the tensions and uncertainty that I endured in the first half of 2011, I’m wrapping up the year feeling like I’m in a better place as a pop culture journalist than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m still a regular contributor to Bullz-Eye.com – in fact, in the midst of all the transition, I somehow managed to get promoted to Senior Editor – but I’ve also branched out in a big way.
The biggest coup, inevitably, was finding my way into the ranks of the Onion A.V. Club. It happened as a result of developing a virtual friendship with Noel Murray, who fostered an introduction between myself and Keith Phipps and then subsequently – and very, very kindly – agreed to serve as my collaborator on my first piece for the site:
Thanks to my TCA comrade-in-arms Brent Furdyk, I’ve gotten to write some cover stories for Vancouver’s TV Week, including pieces about Smallville, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Courtesy of Shelly Washington and Caroline Luzzatto, I’ve continued to write for The Virginian-Pilot, which gives me the opportunity to see actual, honest-to-God newsprint on my fingers when I’m reading my work. I’ve also done a few things for Kirkus Reviews, a bunch of real-estate writing for newspapers in Houston, San Antonio, and San Francisco, and, although I haven’t done as much for them as I really would have liked due to frantically trying to make ends meet, I’ve written a few things for Popdose, which remains one of the best and most readable websites on the ‘net. (All hail Jeff Giles!) Somewhere in there, I even did a piece or two for AfterElton.com, including a short but very pleasant interview with Anderson Cooper. Now that Michael Jensen isn’t with the site, I don’t know that they’ll trust me to contribute further for them, but if his replacement is reading this, I remain available.
Yep, there’s definitely a recurring theme here: I owe a lot of 2011 to my friends and colleagues. I’m sure they would tell me that any doors they opened wouldn’t have been available if I hadn’t been able to provide the quality of material that I’ve tried so hard to maintain, but it does not change the depth of my thanks.
Here’s to 2012. May it be less stressful but equally as fruitful.
Okay, enough with the schmaltz. Let’s get to the interviews, shall we?
Least confidence-inspiring opening line: John Wesley Harding.
Wesley Stace went on at length about his 1991 album The Name Above the Title for Popdose’s “Flashback ’91” column, despite assuring me in the opening moments of our conversation, “This may be the most disappointing interview of all time, because, first of all, I never listen to the records – any of them – apart from when I’ve just made them, at which point I listen to them obsessively for about three months. So I haven’t heard The Name Above the Title for a long while. Nor would I like to.” Fortunately, he was willing to pop over to his CD collection, where he retrieved a copy of the album and proceeded to reminisce about each and every track with very little hesitation.
Most intimidating interview: Tommy Lee Jones.
Everyone warned me about Tommy Lee Jones. They said, “He’s not a good interview, he hates doing press, and if you’re not planning to bring your A-game, then you might as well not come at all.” But, dammit, it’s Tommy Lee Jones. If you know he’s going to be in attendance for the TCA Press Tour, how do you turn down the chance to sit in the presence of that guy, even if it’s only for a roundtable? I think I managed to make it through the experience without embarrassing myself. I will say that I can see how he’s developed a reputation for being rather reticent when it comes to interviews, and there’s little question that he’s a man who does not suffer fools gladly. I’m still thanking the good lord above that I found the time to watch my screener of his film, The Sunset Limited, in advance of the interview and research the other works of Cormac McCarthy, on whose play the film was based. It made all the difference in the world.
Best back-and-forth between two interview subjects: Sid and Marty Krofft.
I’d interviewed Marty Krofft several years earlier, but when I was told that I’d be able to chat with both Marty and his brother, Sid, I couldn’t resist the opportunity…and, better yet, neither could the AV Club. I particularly remember this piece because it inspired Keith Phipps to spontaneously send me an email which said simply, “That interview is awesome.” The awesomeness, however, came not from me but, rather, from the kibitzing of the brothers Krofft, which is best demonstrated in this brief exchange, which came about after Sid’s monopolization of the conversation to discuss his days in the circus led Marty to go quiet for several minutes.*
Sid: Marty, say something!
Marty: Well, you’ve been talking! He hasn’t even gotten to ask any questions since the one about the circus. “Hey, let me talk about the circus some more!” I’m only kidding.
Sid: Well, you were very, very young. You were, like, eight years old when I…
Marty: Oh, let’s get off the circus.
Sid: No, I’d say it was a very important part of my life. And it was the groundbreaking thing for what we’re talking about! I mean, that was the foundation of how we came up with all these crazy things. I think that’s a very important part of my life. I mean, Marty wasn’t involved, but… okay, we’re off the circus.
Marty: Twenty minutes later. But okay. [Laughs.]
*Actually, I could still hear Marty in the background, muttering to someone, “He doesn’t want to talk to me,” which couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The Girls-Are-An-Interviewer’s-Best-Friend Award: Susanna Hoffs, Cyndi Lauper, and Kate Pierson, all of whom were game to continue our phone conversations into a second call in order to do the best possible job of covering their entire careers.
The Great-Guy-Shame-About-The-Publicist Award: Alice Cooper, who sounded positively giddy about the idea of doing a follow-up interview focusing on his more recent albums, even suggesting that we talk the very next day. In the end, however, the second conversation never happened. After the publicist explained that Alice had gotten it wrong about being off the next day, she said she’d try to set something up for the day after, which was his actual day off. I never heard from her again. After several unanswered emails, I finally gave up trying and just submitted the piece as it was…which, in fairness, was still pretty good. But it could’ve been so much better.
Biggest interview that I really thought would get more traction: Scott Weiland.
I do not claim to be the biggest Stone Temple Pilots fan in the world, but when I started participating in a column collaboration between Popdose and Kirkus Reviews, my editor said that Scott Weiland’s autobiography was just sitting on her desk, should I be interested in checking it out. Although she added the caveat that it was fine if it wasn’t worth writing about, I’d just learned that STP were going to be playing at the NorVa, so for the hell of it, I contacted Weiland’s publicist and asked about the chances of doing an in-person interview while he was in town.
Thus began a relatively lengthy back-and-forth with his very patient publicist in an effort to either meet up with Weiland at the venue or, worst case scenario talk to him on the phone. It ended up being the latter, and even at that it ended up taking several tries to finally get the man on the line, but in the end, we had a pleasant conversation, one that I think would’ve only gotten better if he hadn’t had a show that evening.
Weiland wasn’t a big fan of interviews, so the fact that I’d gotten one at all struck me as a major coup, so I was excited at the thought of how far and wide the conversation might spread on the ‘net. Imagine my surprise, then, when it proved to be barely a blip. Truth be told, I really thought that Kirkus would use the piece as a springboard to promote the fact that they were scoring some pretty big names on their site, which was still more or less in the infancy of its rebirth. Instead, I’m not even certain that they put the link on their homepage. Weird. But whatever.
Most Mileage from a Single Question: When I interviewed Larry the Cable Guy for the Virginian-Pilot, I waited ’til the very end of our conversation before asking a question mostly for my own interest, namely what he’d thought about David Cross’s “Open Letter to Larry the Cable Guy.”
To my surprise, he decided to open up and tell me exactly what he thought about it. Since it didn’t fit into the Pilot piece (mostly because it was utterly irrelevant to the topic at hand, which was his upcoming concert appearance in Newport News), I posted his response on my own blog, which the AV Club promptly picked up as a piece on their Newswire.
Interview subject who owes me huge: Thomas Jane.
Mr. Jane gave me a quote that was absolutely awesome, but even as he said it, I knew it was the sort of thing that would’ve gotten him into hot water…which is why, when I got a call from the publicist a few minutes after the interview wrapped up, I knew I was going to be asked if I could pull the quote. So I did. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic quote, the kind where you go, “Oh, OUCH.” I’m also sure he meant it when he said it. But knowing the possible repercussions it could’ve had, I didn’t see it as being worth the cost of keeping it in the piece.
Interviews that turned out way more interesting than you’d expect:
- Gunnar Nelson, who took my kidding question about his hair-care regimen during Nelson’s commercial heyday in stride and answered it seriously:
“Well, to be honest with you, there was a guy, and his name was George Michael, not to be confused with the Wham! singer, and he actually had a salon in New York at the time that specialized in long hair … and what this guy considered long hair, we would consider freakish, because long hair to this guy was hair that you could stand on. No joke! He’s the guy that Crystal Gayle went to, and all that kind of stuff. And that’s all he did. He specialized in long hair. And Matthew and I had hair that, at its longest, got down to mid-thigh, okay? He would consider that medium-length hair. He wrote a book, and what he basically said was, don’t get your hair trimmed, eat gelatin, and … there’s a kind of shampoo called Main ‘n’ Tail, which is actually designed for horses, and it has keratin in it. And he said, ‘Just do those three things, use a good brush, don’t brush your hair when it’s wet,’ and there were a couple more little rules, but it was true: we grew our hair out in a three-year period of time.”
- Christopher Cross, who, in addition to discussing his new record, Doctor Faith, and various other albums from throughout his career, also offered up a great anecdote about his very short stint with Deep Purple:
“I was in San Antonio, and there was a big local promoter in San Antonio that was sort of managing me at the time, and he used to put me on some big bills with (Led) Zeppelin and people like that for about 30 minutes as, like, a local act. That’s what they used to do in those days. So Deep Purple came to down, and Richie got a reaction to a flu shot and couldn’t play, and it was their first show in the States, and…I think Jon Lord didn’t want to cancel the show, and in the dilemma of discussing what to do, Joe Miller said, ‘Look, I’ve got this guitar player in town…’ My real name is Geppert, not Cross, and he said, ‘I’ve got this guitar player, he’s called Chris Geppert and he’s pretty good, and he’s a big fan of Richie’s. Maybe he could just step in.’ So they went on with the show and announced to the audience that Richie was sick and wouldn’t play, and anybody who wanted to stay could, or they’d give refunds. And about 80% of the people stayed, and we played the hits and got through the night. A few of the band members were a little disgruntled at Jon’s decision, but we got through it. Anyway, it’s funny, ‘cause Edel Records in Germany, who has the European release of Doctor Faith, also has Deep Purple, and Max Vaccaro, who’s head of the label, I asked Max, ‘Hey, mention this to Jon Lord and see if he’s kind of into the trivia.’ And he has no recollection at all of it! I’m sure in Jon’s case he tried to block it out of his memory. Whereas for me, it lives in infamy. I mean, that’s one of my moments, you know?”
Great bits from random interviews:
- Guy Pearce on The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert:
“We had camera tests – it was our last day of rehearsals – and makeup tests, so we spent all day trying on different makeup and different outfits and costumes, and getting in front of the camera. And then that night, it had been planned that we were going to go out in Sydney in drag. Myself, Hugo (Weaving), and Terence in drag. So any laughing at each other that we did, we certainly got to get out of our systems before we even got on set. Hugo Weaving ended up under a table somewhere in some gay nightclub, completely hammered and on the floor. It was hilarious. But it was a really fascinating experience, actually, because, you know, Hugo’s obviously a recognizable actor in Sydney, and people know who I am, so in a way, just the thing of being in disguise, first of all, was fascinating. But also, to go to the drag queen clubs that we went to and have other drag queens kind of go, ‘Who are these girls? We don’t know who they are. Are they from out of town? Who are they?’”
- John Landis on castings that never came to be:
“(Jack Webb) was my first choice (to play Dean Wormer in Animal House). I went to Jack Webb, and he thought I was nuts. I mean, I had long hair, and…he did everything but call me a Jew commie faggot. But he sat there, drinking Scotch, and he listened to me. But he had no interest. The casting that I was always disappointed in was when I made The Blues Brothers. For Bob – of Bob’s Country Bunker – I had lunch with Roy Rogers. And Roy was a very nice guy, by the way, but he just couldn’t be in an R-rated film.”
- Norm MacDonald on trying to make Adam Sandler money with his comedy album
“Yeah, that would’ve been good! But here’s the problem. Sandler made a lot of money from his albums, so then the guy who made the albums said, ‘Norm, do you want to do one?’ I said, ‘That’d be great!’ So I made it. But it took me so long to make, ‘cause I had no deadline. It took me eight years. And during those eight years, music stores went out of business, and Napster came along…and so, basically, we just had to give away my album. Sandler’s have gone platinum or something, but now the highest you can go is, like, selling a hundred.”
Great moments in geeking out:
- Talking with John DiMaggio about Spider-Man’s immortal team-up with the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players (News Reviews Interviews)
- Inspiring Phil Morris to do a Lord Buckley impression (Bullz-Eye)
- Doing schtick with Aaron Paul (News Reviews Interviews)
- Listening to Hank Azaria slip in and out of his Simpsons characters during our interview (AV Club)
- Finally doing a one-on-one with the Shatman (Bullz-Eye)
- Chatting with Patrick Duffy about The Man from Atlantis (Bullz-Eye)
- Talking Al Stewart into playing an incredibly catchy obscurity – “Red Toupee” – during his concert in Suffolk (News Reviews Interviews)
(This isn’t the live version, but take my word for it, please, when I tell you that he and his opening act / co-guitarist Dave Nachminoff more than did it justice in an acoustic setting.)
Interview that went far more poorly than I ever could have anticipated: Patton Oswalt.
When it comes to my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt is damned near at the top of the list, and he’s never been anything less than a sweetheart when I’ve traded comments with him on Facebook. My history in interviewing him, however, is a bit more checkered. The first time I talked to him…well, I don’t have formal confirmation on this, but I swear it sounded like he was fixing himself a snack. Whatever he was doing, though, it definitely interested him more than talking to me. The second time we talked, however, was one of the most enjoyable interviews I did that year. As such, I figured the first time was an anomaly.
This year, Mr. Oswalt was in the Adult Swim miniseries The Heart, She Holler, and I figured, “Oh, this’ll be a good opportunity to play up the local angle for a piece in the Virginian-Pilot,” since – as you may or may not know – he was born in Portsmouth and later attended William & Mary. Unfortunately, after anticipating that we’d spend at least a third or more of the conversation discussing his time in the area, he immediately informed me that he really hadn’t spent a lot of time in Hampton Roads during his time at W&M, having been doing stand-up every weekend…and the subsequent silence clearly indicated that he had nothing more to add to the subject. I tried once to get him to bite, asking if he’d seen any shows while he was here, but when he didn’t even know what the Boathouse was, I knew I’d clearly miscalculated in a big way by trying to go the local-angle route.
Now, I can usually roll pretty well with an interview subject’s shift in mood, but on this particular occasion, I failed miserably. First of all, it simply never occurred to me that Patton wouldn’t have anything to say about having lived in the area, which left suddenly scrambling for questions, but…I don’t know, we just never connected after that. Maybe he was tired from doing a lot of press or was just wholly uninterested in the idea of pursuing the Hampton Roads angle. Maybe it’s because I was trying to steer things in more of a daily-newspaper-friendly direction. Possibly the whole idea of using something as completely fucking off the wall as The Heart, She Holler as a springboard to discuss Patton’s local connections was a lost cause to begin with. Whichever was the case, listening back to the conversation for transcription purposes was one of the more painful experiences of my year. As you can see from the above link, I still managed to turn out a pretty decent piece, but I’m more than willing to credit a good part of that to my editor, because lord knows it wasn’t a great interview.
As ever, Patton, it was nice to talk to you. Sorry things got weird. Here’s hoping our next encounter goes more smoothly.
Worst interview of the…oh, hell, rather than limit it to 2011, let’s just call it what it is: the WORST. INTERVIEW. EVER.
I’m trying to put it behind me – confession: I’m not entirely succeeding – but in short, the studio didn’t send out screeners of the film he was promoting (the straight-to-DVD prequel to the remake of Death Race), and while I was enough of a professional to admit outright that I hadn’t seen it rather than try to bluff my way through the conversation, the former Marcellus Wallace decided he was gonna get pissed off and go all Stanislavsky on my ass, questioning my professionalism as a journalist. Which is bullshit. Anyway, I tried to salvage the interview, but he wasn’t having it, and he ended up bailing out of the call 10 minutes before we were supposed to wrap. I have no complaints. I’m just disappointed that a guy whose work I’ve enjoyed so much turned out to be such a complete ass-hat.
And, now, what you’ve all been waiting for (or possibly haven’t): my top 10 interviews of the year.
10. Peter Gallagher (AV Club)
We were supposed to chat at 9 AM EST. Unfortunately, no one told this to Gallagher, who believed we were to be chatting at 9 AM PST, so while I’m anxiously awaiting his call, he’s still snoring away. When he finally woke up at around 7 AM his time, he became aware of the discrepancy in the scheduling – thanks, I believe, to several frantic messages from the publicists at the USA Network – and called me, all apologies. “I never would have set up an interview for 6 AM my time,” he assured me. “Maybe for The Wall Street Journal, sure, but you’ve got to have your wits about you for The Onion!” When I told him that this was my very first interview for The AV Club, you could hear the smile on his face (and, honest to God, I think I really did hear his eyebrows rise in amusement) as he said, “Well, then, we’d better hit this one out of the park, then, hadn’t we?” 105 minutes later, our conversation came to close. Talk about hitting a home run your first time at bat…
9. Tom Welling (TV Week)
When I first got the assignment to write a piece about the finale of the long-running CW series about Clark Kent’s maturation from a confused teenager into a full-fledged Superman, my editor admitted that he didn’t have any particular vision for what he wanted from the piece, effectively giving me carte blanche on what I wanted to pull together…pending his approval, of course. I immediately began to hustle up as many interviews with cast members as humanly possible, and all things considered, I did pretty well. One person who continued to elude me, however, was Clark Kent himself. As I talked to the other cast members, a recurring premise emerged whenever Welling became the topic of conversation: he was a great guy who had wholly immersed himself in the process of putting together the show over the years (in addition to acting, he’d also directed and produced), but early on, he’d been burned badly by the press by being too open with his answers. In other words, good luck getting him to agree to an interview, and even if you do somehow miraculously manage that feat, don’t expect him to be terribly forthcoming. But I persisted and, after dropping yet another email to ask about the likelihood that Welling might be willing to chat before my rapidly-approaching deadline, his publicist finally dropped back a reply and asked, “Can you talk to him in about 15 minutes?” Not much warning, but I wasn’t going to turn it down. 15 minutes later, I was on the phone with Welling, the conversation lasted for the better part of a half-hour, and he couldn’t have been a more pleasant interview. If nothing else, I hope I gave him a better impression of entertainment journalists.
In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine that I almost didn’t even get to talk to Jonathan Banks. I’d put in my request for an interview via email, but I didn’t hear back, so I followed up by phone and I was told, “Uh, yeah, basically, if he doesn’t write back, we generally figure it’s a ‘no.'” But I asked if they’d at least give it one more go, hoping to get a definitive answer of some sort, even if it was a negative one. The next day, Banks himself dropped me a line, saying he was ready to go at my leisure. This led to a brief back-and-forth where I suggested that we try to take care of things before my daughter got home from school, to which he countered that maybe she should do the interview, asking, “Has she seen ‘Flipper’? I smoke Flipper’s mom in that one.”Funny guy. And yet when we finally connected by phone, Banks agreed to say “hello” to Ally and turned on a grandfatherly charm you’d never imagine that Mike the Cleaner possessed, and their short conversation ultimately resulted in a moment so wonderful that, although it didn’t really fit into the final AV Club piece (and I can’t complain, because it still turned out extremely well), he gave me permission to post it here. Full-circle moment: Banks’ own daughter ended up Tweeting my interview with her dad.
7. Laura Dern (AV Club)
This was, in its way, the most revelatory interview of the year for me. Having attended the TCA tour since 2007 on behalf of Bullz-Eye, I must admit that I’d never really experienced someone saying, “Oh, you’re from Bullz-Eye? Cool!” And, you know, fair enough: I hadn’t heard of the site until I started writing for it. But when Laura Dern’s publicist told her that I was a writer for the Onion AV Club, she lost her mind. “Oh, my God, I love the Onion!” she said. “I have a subscription to the Onion!” This, in turn, made me lose my mind. Someone was excited to talk to me because of the publication I write for? Inconceivable!
Later, when I asked her about working on Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Dern produced the widest smile imaginable and said, “You are of course writing for The Onion, and you’re genius, and you’re my friend, because no one else will ask me about that movie today.” I’m guessing the same sentiment went for “Grizzly 2,” since she immediately erupted into laughter and declared that my having brought it up was “fucking hysterical.” I have to wonder how many other people – or outlets – would’ve gotten as forthright an answer from bringing up such an infamously awful film.
6. Henry Rollins (Bullz-Eye)
Henry Rollins rocks. This is not opinion. This is fact. And it has nothing to do with his music. He’s just a really swell guy who, as one might well expect from someone who’s done so much work in the spoken-word realm, is an equally swell interview. 2011 wasn’t the first time I’d talked to him, and I didn’t just talk to him once in 2011. First we talked during the January TCA tour in connection with his NatGeo Wild special about snakes, then we reconvened by phone a few weeks later to discuss the DVD release of the documentary Punk: Attitude. The conversations took place so close together that I decided to combine them into one big piece, and I like to think that any pop culture aficionado would geek out over the end result. (I certainly did.)
5. Susanna Hoffs (AV Club)
She was beautiful when she and the rest of the Bangles showed us how to walk like an Egyptian, and she’s still beautiful now. She was also a wonderful interview, as she has proven to be every time I’ve spoken with her. This was my first Set List piece for the AV Club, and, like Peter Gallagher with Random Roles, it felt very much like the gold standard that I’d like to maintain for all future pieces.
4. Mel Brooks (AV Club)
I don’t know that I necessarily need to add anything beyond the words “I interviewed Mel Brooks,” do I? I still can’t believe it. At the end of the conversation, he told me to call him anytime if I needed a quote or just wanted to hear some more stories. I haven’t taken him up on it yet. But one of these days, I just might.
3. Gary Oldman (Bullz-Eye)
Given that my wife and I have a Sid & Nancy poster on our bedroom wall because the film means so much to us (although we didn’t know each other at the time, we’re almost positive that we saw it the same night when it originally showed at the Naro, in Norfolk), you can imagine how utterly surreal it was to sit down in a suite in the Waldorf Astoria and spend 15 minutes chatting with Gary Oldman. Actually, there were a lot of things surreal about the experience, Oldman being only one of them, but he was definitely at the top of the list. I told him I envisioned Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy being viewed as the film where he transformed into an elder British statesman of acting. He quite liked that idea…which was a relief, ’cause I thought he might say, “What, are you calling me old, then?” Whew…
The day before I did my first phoner with Mark Harmon, he was named America’s most popular television personality. No pressure, right? The dude’s only more popular than Oprah. But you’d never know it from his ego, which appears to be virtually nonexistent. We had a great time chatting, and when I learned later in the year that he was branching out a bit from NCIS to do a movie for the USA Network (Certain Prey), he kindly agreed to do a Random Roles interview with me for the AV Club, which – from what I can tell – is about as in-depth a conversation as he’s had in awhile about his career. It may not have excited the AV Club audience all that much, but I was enthralled throughout our chat. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be at the TCA tour in January 2012. After two great phone interviews, it’d be nice to actually meet him.
I don’t want to lavish Bryan Cranston with too much praise, because it’s not like the man doesn’t already have a separate wing in his house for all the accolades he’s pulled from his work on Breaking Bad, but he really is about the nicest guy in show business. Looking back, between set visits, phone interviews, and TCA encounters, I’ve been in contact with Mr. Cranston a dozen times now, I think, and each conversation has been wonderful. He’s one of the few actors I’ve met enough times that I actually believe he remembers me from encounter to encounter, and it’s reached the point where, when I talked to him for the AV Club, he wanted to know how things were going with my transition from Bullz-Eye to freelance work…and, dammit, I think he really cared. Or maybe he didn’t. The guy’s got enough Emmys that there’s little question that he could act sincere enough to fool me. But I like to think he really is that guy.
Honorable mention: Paul McCartney
It’s a given, I suppose, that this would’ve topped my list if it had been a full-fledged interview. All I did, however, was take advantage of the opportunity to ask Sir Paul a question via satellite during the TCA panel for the documentary about his post-9/11 activities in New York, “The Love You Make,” which premiered on Showtime earlier this year.
It went down like this:
Me: Hi, Paul. I know that George visited America in 1963 and got to see some of the country at kind of a less frantic pace than you did when you toured with the Beatles. When was the first time that you came to America and actually got to enjoy the trip?
Paul: I did that a few times, actually. I came once…I had a girlfriend, Jane Asher, in the ’60s, who was an actress, and she was touring with a Shakespeare company. And I got to come out to Denver and spent some time in Colorado, just hanging out, which was very nice. Used to just kind of go up in the mountains and hike. That was a very gentle pace. And then later, I would come to New York a lot with Linda, who was from there and whose relatives were there. So we would just go and hang out. And it was funny, really, because around that time, I’d grown this big, black beard. And the fashion was kind of…we were dressed in kind of, like, old army stuff from thrift shops and stuff. So I had complete anonymity. I could be on the streets of New York and people would say, “Aren’t you worried about someone mugging you?” I said, “No, I look like the guy who’s going to mug you.” But I had a lot of fun. I would go up to Harlem, whereas with The Beatles we’d been warned, “You mustn’t go up there, you know, it’s dangerous.” So I was able to go up there and go into record shops and talk to the guys, talk to the people there, and just generally hang out in New York. So that was another very sort of good restful time to just see America for what it was rather than the hysteria.
To summarize, although he and I were not in the same room or even in the same state (he was in Ohio at the time), I asked Paul McCartney a question, and Paul McCartney heard that question and answered it, which means that, technically speaking, I interviewed a fucking Beatle…and if someone wants to put those five italicized words on my tombstone, you won’t hear me complaining.
Oh, shut up. You know what I mean.
Happy holidays, everybody, and let’s all have a happy year, shall we?