Archive for December, 2010

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Housebound With “White Nights”

December 27, 2010

Blizzard. Housebound. Watching “White Nights.” If I’m feeling trapped why not go all the way with it? I’m not a defector held against my will, but I am prisoner of the snow and my yard looks like Siberia.

Thinking about the time I interviewed Mikhail Baryshnikov. And how I wish I’d had the chance to interview Gregory Hines. Extraordinary.

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Interviewing Darlene Love

December 22, 2010

Darlene Love couldn’t hold back the tears today during our interview. The news is still fresh that she’ll be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in March (she found out last week and it had been her dream for years). I asked  what it meant to her and I could see the decades of music industry rejection, disappointments, and breaks that took so long to come her way, flash across her face. Her eyes teared over as she told me, “this means they recognize and appreciate what I did for the world of music.”

Spoken like someone who sang next to the A-list headliners as a back up singer for 20 years…to Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Cher, all the time yearning for more. She had her own records in the 1960s produced by Phil Spector, most notably the holiday classic she performs every year on David Letterman,  “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home.)

By the 1980s she was broke and working as a maid in Los Angeles.

But as I said to her today, what people find so “rock star ” about her, is that she never gave up. She got her singing career back and had a long run on Broadway in “Hairspray” a few years ago.

I also watched Darlene  rehearse for a show she’s performing Wednesday night, along with Freda Payne, who I also met today. They both sound astonishing.

Her interview with air in an ON THE SCENE episode next month, we can’t wait to put it together.

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The Worst Advice I Ever Got

December 8, 2010

Quite a few years ago I was standing…because I was not invited to sit down…in my boss’s office at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. He was giving me advice about presenting news on tv. It was early in my career, I was impressionable, and I remember every word he said to me.

“We all have somebody we don’t like talking to. Maybe it’s your neighbor, or the guy next to you at work. There’s something about them that turns us off…they talk too loud, we hate the way they blink, they raise one eyebrow kind of weird, whatever. When somebody’s on tv, they need to know what it is about them that could annoy people and get rid of it. You (now giving me his prized advice) have got to make yourself  easy for EVERYBODY to watch.”

So, I took his advice for a while. Of course it makes you paranoid as hell. Am I raising one eyebrow and looking weird? Am I shouting? How long can I go without blinking..long enough to give a full report? What if somebody notices I am not blinking?

Time passed and I matured and I realized what he was really saying: Be like the others. Be typical. Be unobjectionable. Don’t be too individual. You have brown hair, that’s enough.

My successes didn’t start to happen until I threw his advice, and that of all too many people like him in tv…over my shoulder.  If you have any sense of yourself, any identity at all, any self-respect…if you’re human in other words…there is no other choice.

And it’s also obvious how times have quickly changed. Now to have even the most polarizing personality is an asset. It’s the barometer of a hit when the audience is divided into those who “love it” and those who “hate it.” If  not polarizing, at least be quirky.

So I have come to know this: take away everything about you that could annoy someone and you take away anything that someone else will love.

His was the worst advice I ever got.

As for the boss, he left the station shortly after dispensing that sage advice and as far as I can tell never resurfaced in tv in a significant way. But I am sure wherever he is all of his neighbors and coworkers find him absolutely…uh, palatable.

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Awards Season and ON THE SCENE Alums

December 4, 2010

It’s exciting for me whenever something great happens for an artist I’ve enjoyed interviewing for ON THE SCENE.

That happened again Friday when the Producers Guild of America (PGA) nominated “Smash His Camera” for its Best Documentary Feature award. The film chronicles the photography and life of paparazzo Ron Galella. In previous posts I’ve written about my experience interviewing the controversial and colorful Galella. And I’ve heard from a lot of viewers and colleagues who were fascinated by the ON THE SCENE profile, and I appreciate how engaging people found it.

What I don’t understand, is why “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” was eliminated from Oscar contention and hasn’t picked up any other early awards nominations after playing to rave reviews at film festivals all over America and becoming, I have to believe, the most seen documentary of the year, if the number of theaters that showed it is any indication. It’s a compelling, surprising, and extraordinarily well produced story of a show business life, by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. They are serious storytellers whose work here merits upper echelon award consideration. In a documentary, the award is for the filmmakers, not the subject of the piece. Is there a preconception that  a film about a comedian is by nature a less serious endeavor? Is there red carpet resentment against Rivers by the industry? If so, that’s absurd. Quality filmmaking needs to be recognized or we risk losing it. (I interviewed Joan Rivers for ON THE SCENE last year, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Times Square. People still ask me about her. It’s one of my most popular interviews and one I will always remember vividly.)

The Grammy nominations also came out this week. I was wondering if the cast recording for “Memphis” the Broadway musical would be nominated for Best Musical Show Album. It wasn’t. When I interviewed David Bryan at his house this summer, he told me how much he hoped the album would get a nomination. He was proud of the cast and creative team for working well together as they plowed through the recording session at a lightning pace. “Memphis” won the Best Musical Tony Award this year and often the recording of the Best Musical winner receives a Grammy nom, but not this time. (David Bryan won three Tony Awards for writing the music and producing “Memphis.” You may also know him as the keyboardist in Bon Jovi.)

Awards season is just beginning, we’ll see who stands out over the next couple months.