A couple of co-workers were talking the other day about their "brushes with greatness" (didn't Letterman invent that term?), their encounters with celebrities, and I thought it might be a good way to fill some space here.
My favorite one is the sit-down interview I had with actor Robert Forster. He was in Champaign as a guest of Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, and I chatted with him about the film he was presenting, the excellent DIAMOND MEN. It was to be for MICRO-FILM, a publication devoted to independent movies, so I talked to him mostly about DIAMOND MEN and a film he directed, produced and starred in back in the '80s for Cannon called HOLLYWOOD HARRY. We touched on some of his other work too, like his films for William Lustig and his TV shows. It never ran in MICRO-FILM, but you, dear readers, can find it right here at Mobius Home Video Forum. Forster was a very nice man, a great storyteller, and a real thrill to chat with, especially since I had admired him since I was a kid.
I'm really proud of my sit-down interview with director Bert I. Gordon, since, outside of a piece he did with VIDEO WATCHDOG, this might be the only career-length interview the octogenarian has ever given, making it somewhat important in the realm of cult movies (and I think mine is better than VW's, absolutely no offense intended towards the makers of that excellent publication, some of whom are friends of mine). Gordon, the director of such sci-fi favorites as BEGINNING OF THE END, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and many others, was a guest of the University of Illinois' annual Insect Fear Film Festival, where they showed three of his films about giant bugs. Again, it was to be for MICRO-FILM, but never ran there, so go back to Mobius to read it. Gordon was a nice man, though a bit vain, and talking to him was a delightful way to spend an hour or so.
One of these days, I'll get around to transcribing my telephone interview with Troma president Lloyd Kaufman. This article actually did run in MICRO-FILM. It was about Troma's then-new release TERROR FIRMER, and I spent nearly two hours on the phone with Kaufman chatting about it and several other things. It was the first "celebrity" interview I had ever done, and, boy, Lloyd made it easy. I did it from the production studio of the radio station I was working at then, and recorded the whole thing on both reel and cassette tape. Well, we chatted so long that I ran out of tape (!), so I only have about 90 minutes. He was in a hotel room in Dallas, and a couple of times, I said something like, "Well, I'll let you go, because I'm sure you're a busy guy" (our talk went from after 10pm to just past midnight), but he was all, "Nah, don't worry about it, I'm having a good time." Kaufman is a crude, cantankerous, mischievous man who is surprisingly erudite, funny and entertaining. I'm not much of a Troma fan, but Kaufman definitely charmed me.
I chatted on the phone one afternoon with Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. John Riley and I were doing a TV show called THE ONLY THING ON, and he mentioned that his friend Doug Bryan was a film editor in Dallas, and was then working on Williamson's new movie (STEELE'S LAW, I think). So John called Doug at work and said, "How's Fred?" "Fine, he's sitting right here, wanna talk to him?" So I rapped with The Hammer for ten minutes or so, partially about Super Bowl I and mostly about THREE THE HARD WAY and its "sequel" ONE DOWN TWO TO GO, which Fred claimed was the world leader in being stolen from video stores or something like that. Again, a very charming fellow and it was great of him to say hello.
M*A*S*H star Larry Linville made a promotional appearance for a radio station I worked at in Bloomington-Normal. I only worked there for about four months, and most of my memories are lost, but I think this took place at Bombay Bicycle Club, and all I recall is that Larry was pretty hammered and had a good time putting his arms around all the women. I shook his hand, said hi, and that was about it, although when he visited the station the next day, he recorded a funny "drop-in" for me to use on the air.
I never met comedian Marty Allen face-to-face, but when I was doing overnights at WCIL-FM in Carbondale, my "producer" Dave Crome would get Marty on the phone in Las Vegas, and I'd interview him on the air live. I think we did this about three times, for no other reason that we loved HOLLYWOOD SQUARES and we thought it would be fun to talk to Marty Allen. Which it was. For us, not the teenagers in the audience.
In Carbondale, I also got to meet Jim Hart many times. The former St. Louis Cardinal quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer was Southern Illinois University's athletic director for several years. I also knew (barely) his daughter, and I think I met Dan Dierdorf down there, but I can't recall for sure.
I briefly met Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer at the DuQuoin State Fair. WCIL-AM and -FM were broadcasting live from there, and I was standing at the AM booth waiting to go on after Steve Farkas went off the air. Shaffer was performing that night with The World's Most Dangerous Band, and happened to get off a golf cart in front of our booth and wander over to us while Steve was on the air. I don't know if it was set up or if Shaffer just wanted to be on the radio, but he came over to us, shook our hands, and talked to Steve on-air for a couple of minutes.
ESPN's Dan Patrick was very nice to us. He came to Carbondale to broadcast an SIU basketball game and then partied at my friend Dave's house afterwards. All night. I got off the air at 6:00am, and everyone was still there. He ended up driving straight to St. Louis around 8:00 and boarding a plane for Connecticut. Somewhere exists photos of Patrick shaving our friend Wendy's legs. Not long after that, he did another Saluki game in St. Louis, and we went out with him again to an establishment called P.T.'s that provided, um, adult entertainment. That was a fun night and another all-nighter.
We first met ESPN's Gary Miller when he was at CNN. For some reason, we were planning a road trip to Atlanta, and, since Miller was an SIU grad, we thought we'd see if we could meet him and get a tour. So we called him at work. He wasn't in, but CNN gave us his home number (WTF?). He eventually called us back, and when Brad, Dave, Michelle and I went to CNN Center, he graciously took us around and gave us a tour of CNN studios. A couple of years later, we hooked up with him again in Chicago during the Bulls/Suns NBA Finals, and had a terrific time staying out late, drinking and chatting. I think he appreciated not having to talk sports all the time, since he was also an appreciator of bad TV like us. Yes, I will always cherish our conversation about the merits of Vic Mizzy. I remember Chris Fowler was also around that night, but didn't say too much.
My first (brief) brush with greatness was with one of the Bellamy Brothers, I don't know which one, when he called the radio station in Farmer City I was working for to talk to my boss, I think about setting up an on-air interview. I just happened to answer the phone. I remember, when I later worked at WCIL, musical acts like Vixen, Winger, Tora Tora and others coming in. I saw them, but I can't honestly remember if I officially met them or not. And, really, who could remember meeting these guys?
I suppose it doesn't officially count, but with my background in broadcasting, several of my friends are "greatness", since they work in the radio and television industries and are celebrities of a sort. The list includes, but is by no means limited to, Steve Stewart, Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman's partner on Cincinnati Reds radio broadcasts; Dave Crome at the WB in Dallas (his colleague Bob Irzyk is also an old college acquaintance and a nice guy), one of my best friends; Beth Galvin in Atlanta, married to another close friend from school, Brad White; Amy Brooke in Phoenix and many others.
Yeah, I know, none of these stories are on the same level as "snorting coke off Tia Carrere's backside", but, hey, I live in downstate Illinois, it's the best I could do.