Posts Tagged ‘Celebrity Deaths’

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An E Street Band Original

June 21, 2011

I spent the day reporting on the death of Clarence Clemons including a visit to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey where a memorial has sprouted in honor of Clarence. I met fans from New Jersey but as far away as Colorado and Illinois who stopped to share memories and to  grieve with people who share their loss.

And I had an interesting visit this afternoon with Vini Lopez. He’s the original drummer of the E Street Band. We taped an interview on the front steps of his house,  tucked away deep in the woods down a gravel road.

Lopez left the band in a money dispute in 1974. But in those early years he was roommates with Clemons. And Danny Federici. Of those three E Streeters Lopez is  now the only one still living.

He told me about remembering playing for as little as five bucks a gig, going fluke fishing so Clemons could fry fish for the gang come dinnertime, of Clemons’ humor, and how he built up his strength as a sax player by practicing on the bag pipes. Which presented some trying moments around the house.

I’d never met Lopez before and I’m glad he agreed to an interview on just an hour’s notice today. He was the there at the very beginnings of a musical dynasty.

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Remembering Clarence Clemons

June 19, 2011

A larger than life figure has left the stage. Clarence Clemons has died.

Tonight I’m thinking not only about the incredible sound he gave to the greatest songs of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, but about the times I interviewed Clarence.

The last time I interviewed him, in the fall of 2009, the signs were unfortunately apparent that his body was failing him. I remember waiting for him to arrive at a book store, where he was signing his memoir. I was scheduled to interview him before the signing. As he walked in I was shocked at the change in his appearance in just one year since I’d interviewed him last. Clarence had a hard time walking, moving carefully with a cane and was much thinner than I had ever seen him.

We shook hands and like he did with everyone,  he greeted me as if we were old friends…he had a warm familiarity with the whole world it seemed.  But the short distance he stepped to the space to the locations for the interview had left him very short of breath and I remember getting concerned how he could keep up the hectic schedule of a book tour.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to interview him..once backstage at a concert and then at the book signing. It is impossible to imagine the E Street Band without him. Impossible. But knowing the dedication of E Street Band fans they’ll find a way to keep him alive when Bruce Springsteen decides to take the band on tour once again.

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The Time I Interviewed Arthur Laurents

May 6, 2011

“The cords, Mr. Laurents. Be careful of the cords. Mr. Laurents look out!”

My last words to Arthur Laurents.

It was April 2009, I had just finished taping an interview with him. He was leaving the Cabaret room of George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the feet of this 91 year old legend had gotten tangled in a mass of microphone and light cords.

He appeared not to hear me and he kept trying to step his way out of it.

Teetering, he looked like he was about to hit the floor. There were a lot of cords and we needed to untangle them.  But Arthur just wanted to get to dress rehearsal.

“Goddammit, stop walking!”  I wanted to yell at him by this point.

If you knew Arthur Laurents, you know that’s what he probably would have responded to, and appreciated the humor in it.

When I heard today that he had died, of course it made me think of our interview, but also of his incredible longevity and body of work. He wrote the books for the iconic musicals “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” the screenplay for “The Way We Were” and also for the Hitchcock classic, “Rope.”

And he kept writing till the end.

He was debuting a new play, “New Year’s Eve,” starring Keith Carradine and Marlo Thomas when we met. I also interviewed Thomas that night. She talked to me about his attention to detail, the seriousness of his craft.

Arthur Laurents had a reputation for being caustic and tough on actors. I asked him about it and he shot right back, “I don’t know where you got that but you were misled. There is not anything that I have directed where the actors did not love me. For one simple reason: when you give love you get love.”

A few weeks later it was reported he had reamed the cast of the “West Side Story” revival on Broadway for too many sick outs and cast replacements soon followed.

He also peppered our interview with sexual references. I remember during edit sessions for “ON THE SCENE” laughing as we watched his comparisons between going to the theatre and having sex, which I made sure were included in the final piece.

“People are so afraid they’re going to do something wrong. Have a good time, have sex. Go to the theatre, enjoy the show, don’t worry about what anybody says.”

Arthur Laurents was colorful, opinionated, talented, and it seems to me did everything he ever wanted to do in life.

I’m honored that I had the chance to interview him…cords and all.