Join Me for “It’s Only Humiliation! Lessons of a Celebrity Interviewer”

September 28, 2015

This is going to be one memorable evening and I want to see you there. Part entertaining talk, part master class with tips on how to have you communicating like the pros. It’s taking place Friday, October 2nd at the Berrie Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. 8PM.

I’ve spent two decades interviewing everyone in every walk of life: leaders in politics, religion, everyday folks in extraordinary circumstances. But most notable are my interviews with entertainers. And from them, believe me, I have learned a lot. In fact, I’ve discovered things about life through my celebrity interviews that are actually useful in the day to day lives of us “regular” folks.

Oh, and the very first celebrity lesson of the night…is the answer to why “it’s only humiliation.”

I’m also sharing some personal stories about the rocky road that led me to tv news.

Here’s the info and I’ll see you Friday night! http://www.ramapo.edu/berriecenter/event/john-bathke/


2014 The Year of “ON THE SCENE”

December 30, 2014

First of all, I just received year-end statistics for this blog and it’s attracted readers from 48 countries this year. That is astounding and I’m grateful for your interest.

There are many “ON THE SCENE” interviews from 2014 that I will long remember. Oscar winner, Rita Moreno, was candid and compelling when we sat down in New York this past January. In fact, the quote of the year award goes to her. When I asked Moreno what she felt the first time she met a young Marlon Brando, she said, “I felt heat, physical heat. The walls were sweating.” They went on to have an eight year affair.

The Moreno interview was a finalist for a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award given by the Los Angeles Press Club. (Another interview of mine taped last year with musician Southside Johnny was one of the winners of that award).

And a joy for us this past summer was an interview with married comedians Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane. They host the popular podcast “My Wife Hates Me” in addition to touring their individual stand up comedy acts. They ripped on each other as they are known to do, but were also revealing about their comedy and what drew them to each other as a couple. I heard from many viewers who loved that interview.

And there are countless more interviews that made this year special for “ON THE SCENE” viewers and for myself. I say thank you to all of the artists who took time to speak with us and to the viewers for watching.


“ON THE SCENE” A Finalist for National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award

November 11, 2014

“ON THE SCENE” got some great news: not one, but two of our interviews are finalists for the National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.

The interview that I conducted last year with rocker Southside Johnny on the Count Basie Theatre stage in Red Bank, New Jersey was singled out along with my interview earlier this year in New York with Oscar winner, Rita Moreno.

It’s always an honor to be recognized by my peers and my industry. But LA is in many ways the epicenter of entertainment journalism.  And for “ON THE SCENE” to be nominated by the journalists of LA is a tremendous honor, indeed.




ON THE SCENE: This Weekend’s Show

August 16, 2014

Regular News 12 New Jersey viewers have seen the promotional spot running often this week, seen the show times appear on the station ticker and our followers have read the tweets.   But if you follow me through the blog, here’s one final reminder!

“ON THE SCENE” is on this weekend, August 16th and 17th at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM both days.  That’s Cablevision and Time Warner Channel 12, Comcast Channel 62 (1218 in HD on many systems).

Enjoy the show and let me know what you think.


‘Cocumentary’: Interviewing Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane

August 10, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of time with husband and wife comedians Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane lately. Three hours for an interview at their Hillsborough, New Jersey home…and since then countless more hours in editing suites screening the footage and now in extensive sessions with my video editor.

We finished the piece today and it will air August 16th and 17th on News 12 New Jersey at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM both days.

Without a doubt, in my nine (incredible) years of hosting “ON THE SCENE” and interviewing artists in every possible genre, this is the funniest interview we have ever aired. These two stick it to each other…a constant roast Bonnie says…but there is a chemistry and charm between them that is endearing.

Their new film (they call it a cocumentary…a comedy/documentary) called “Women Aren’t Funny” will be released on iTunes on August 26th.  The title is meant to be sarcastic according to Bonnie. She directed the movie after getting fed up with people who debate whether female comedians are as funny as their male counterparts.

Follow me on Twitter @johnbathkelive for continuous news about “ON THE SCENE,” who we’re interviewing and the dates these entertainment specials air.


ON THE SCENE Encore: Jim Breuer, David Benoit

January 4, 2014

This weekend is your chance to see the most surprising interview with comedian Jim Breuer. He and I sat down at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey late last year for this interview. I asked him about his wife’s life altering battle with breast cancer, and about his caregiver relationship with is 90 year old father. What Breuer has to say will be enlightening not only to his fans, but to anyone dealing with these issues in their own family.

And composer David Benoit and I discuss his year of performing and composing music for “Peanuts.” Charlie Brown is who he saw when he looked in the mirror as a kid and he grew up to not only play that iconic music from the tv specials, but to become a “Peanuts” composer himself.

And, see who made our “Favorites of 2013” flashback.

Tune in News 12 New Jersey this Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. This is an encore of a program that initially aired last month and it’s the final time this episode will run. So don’t miss out!  Check back here on the blog for news or links when certain segments are posted online.


ON THE SCENE This Weekend: Jim Breuer, David Benoit and Our Best Of ’13

December 21, 2013

If you only know Jim Breuer as “Goat Boy” from his Saturday Night Live years, or the stoner characters he’s played…you will be shocked by the interview you’ll see “ON THE SCENE” this weekend. He speaks with me openly about his wife’s brave battle against breast cancer, caring for his 90 year old father who is in deteriorating health and the crisis it caused in his parents’ marriage. 

And I sit down at the piano with composer David Benoit on a snowy Friday afternoon at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. When our previously scheduled artist was stuck for hours at the Nashville airport and couldn’t make the interview, David  jumped in that very afternoon and welcomed “ON THE SCENE” to his rehearsal. It’s an interesting interview and you’ll learn why this composer credited as being one of the originators of the “smooth jazz” genre…loathes the term. 

And I look forward to this every year: our Best Of list, a compilation of our favorites interviews of the year just ending. See who made the list!  Watch News 12 New Jersey Saturday and Sunday, December 21st and 22nd, at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM each day to catch “ON THE SCENE.”

From all of us, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thanks for supporting our show.


Dissed By Danza: The Real Losers When Stars Behave Badly

October 21, 2013

You can’t help but feel excited for the cast of  “Honeymoon in Vegas The Musical” at Paper Mill Playhouse. They know that this show is this close to landing on Broadway. You can see how hard the cast, mostly young, some mid career, are working to seal the deal…performing their hearts out to convince any doubters that this show would be a mega hit if a Broadway theatre just gives it a chance.

And you can’t help feeling how proud Paper Mill Playhouse is to have this world premiere opening its  2013-2014 season.  Just six years ago, it looked like one of New Jersey’s best known regional theatres would go under. Choking on debt and suffering the fallout of failed artistic choices, Paper Mill nearly shuttered. Finally, it was a take-over by its home city of Millburn that saved Paper Mill.

Now, Paper Mill is presenting one of its most critically acclaimed shows in years, the musical version of the Nicholas Cage-Sarah Jessica Parker film, “Honeymoon In Vegas.” If the show transfers to Broadway it would be another much needed feather in Paper Mill’s cap. Two years ago the Broadway sensation “Newsies” transferred directly from Paper Mill.

What “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” does not have is stars. Some in the talented cast are known in the theatre community but not to the general public. Except one performer: Tony Danza.  The former sitcom actor plays the James Caan part from the movie…the older widower trying to woo a young woman away from her fiance. In shows like this, the lesser known cast members rely on the famous to bring attention to the show. Their chance to make it to Broadway, to have a paycheck, is helped when the most recognizable person in the cast brings notice to everyone’s good work.

Which is why it is so troubling that Tony Danza declined without notice to talk about this production, canceling our scheduled interview at Paper Mill on Friday evening at the very time it was to begin.  Danza, residing  in theatre housing almost next door and without need to travel for the interview, did so without expressing to us a word of apology or regret, leaving the Paper Mill’s longtime publicist and a true believer in “Honeymoon in Vegas The Musical,”  to deliver the embarrassing message.

But this isn’t just an affront to the hard working folks at Paper Mill,  who most certainly liked the idea of this show being featured on local television. There are a week of shows left, none of which is listed as sold out as of the time I’m writing this.  (Sold out houses would also help convince Broadway the show is a good bet). When Danza backed out on the opportunity to discuss work being staged in New Jersey, it hurt the state’s arts community.

I am extremely fortunate to work at News 12 New Jersey, one of the only local television stations in America that still covers  arts and entertainment in a substantive way.  It is time consuming and costs money, but the station feels that  it is important for well rounded coverage. However, I still have to advocate to get time to do my segments and sometimes fight for camera crews. The interview Friday night was one of those times.

Maybe Danza felt not showing up for an interview with the local tv station was no big deal. He was recently on Jimmy Fallon and the Today Show, after all. But we’re proud of what we do. In fact, it’s not only the newscasts where my pieces air.  I produce and host an arts and entertainment series of half hour specials, “ON THE SCENE.” We’ve won two Emmy Awards, garnered a dozen Emmy Award nominations, and earned more than two dozen other regional and national peer recognition awards.   We’re the only show of our kind…one that is shot entirely on location in the artist’s environment and hosted from arts venues… on commercial tv in the New York market.  Some of the most accomplished artists in their genres have sat down with me for interviews…Tony Bennett, Lewis Black, Joan Rivers, Tyne Daly, Bill T. Jones, Bernadette Peters to name only a very few.

New Jersey has a vibrant theatre community seldom seen by the outside world and one that would never be in the spotlight without a program like ours, or the local newspapers. When Danza turns his back at the last minute he’s not just wasting the time and energy of many people, he has shut out viewers who have found in my show the rarest of places where enlightening interviews with artists and entertainers still exist.

Yes, I understand that a “personal emergency” or “sudden conflict” or “death in the family”  and other matters do come up that legitimately cause scheduled appointments to be missed.   But the entertainment industry and the journalists who cover it are also a surprisingly small lot.  It’s not lost on us how many of us have heard the same reasons for cancelations by the same people over and over again.  As the saying goes, “you can’t always be having a bad day.”

Certainly, I didn’t let one canceled interview stop us from doing the story. The charismatic lead actor in “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical,”  Rob McClure, has a long connection to Paper Mill. He went from selling tickets in the box office to starring in a musical in which people are buying tickets to see him. ( It was my third interview with McClure within the past year. He was nominated for a Tony Award earlier this year for playing Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin The Musical.” ) And Friday evening  we also shot footage of the musical’s first act.

The piece will air today. I’m sure viewers won’t miss the Tony Danza interview because they don’t know it was supposed to be there to begin with. But if they are clicking through the channels,  would more people have stopped when seeing a familiar face from 70s and 80s tv? Would they be curious what he’s up to now? Absolutely. And maybe they would spend a minute or two longer watching and enjoying that hard working cast singing and dancing… and dreaming of  Broadway.



October 10, 2013

The “ON THE SCENE” episode featuring my interviews with Southside Johnny, Lisa Lampanelli and Joel Grey will replay this Saturday and Sunday (October 12th and 13th) on News 12 New Jersey at 11 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:30 PM each day.


Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical

October 8, 2013

“I am prepared to hate this show, ” is what I said  to my friend as we took our seats at Paper Mill Playhouse for the performance of “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical.”

“Me, too.” was the response.

Admittedly, not  a great attitude to bring to a show.  But I don’t like the movie “Honeymoon In Vegas,” dragged down by some stiff  performances and missed potential for comedy.  If this musical was going to be a rehash of Nicholas Cage, James Caan and Sarah Jessica Parker 20 years later and with a few songs tossed in, we were in for a long night.

But I was attending the show as research for anticipated cast interviews.  I need to bring an open mind and I was curious  how they would take the film’s storyline and turn it into a musical.

It turned out be the most surprising evening in all my years covering entertainment. Not because the producers tried to reinvent the genre, make a social statement, be self consciously artistic, or stray from the story’s basic boy loses girl-boy gets girl plot.  It was a surprise because the musical (with book written by Andrew Bergman who also wrote the screenplay) achieves what the movie did not:  it embraces the absurdity, goes balls to the wall for laughs, creates a tender moment without leaving the audience suffocating in vat of schmaltz.

At it’s core, the story is pretty preposterous. So why hold back? I’m delighted to say, “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” does not. It is hilarious, action packed, with first class musical performances.

“Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” stars audience favorite Tony Danza as Tommy Korman (the James Caan part in the movie),  the impossibly energetic Rob McClure who brings his substantial gifts for song and physical comedy to Jack Singer (the Nicholas Cage  movie role), and  includes outstanding performances by Broadway veterans Nancy Opel and  Matthew Saldivar, and a 14 piece orchestra that is refreshingly on stage and an integral part of the show.