Brushes with fame
Buck O'Neil died today. You'd have to be a student of the old Negro Leagues of baseball to know that name and I had never heard of it myself until 1994, when PBS was readying the Baseball documentary series by Ken Burns. I was among TV critics in Los Angeles who shared some time with Burns and O'Neil.
What I know about baseball wouldn't fit in a bag of peanuts, but I knew I was in the presence of greatness with Mr. O'Neil. He looked and acted like a star. You could still sense the athletic power he must once have had. I remember being moved to tears by his stories of playing ball in the early 20th century.
That's the great thing about being a journalist. Stay with it long enough and you meet your heroes. You also meet people who become your heroes.
Among interviews with famous names that I have most enjoyed over the years (in no particular order): Sir John Gielgud, Sir Elton John, John Frankenheimer, John Ritter, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, James Ellroy, Gregory Peck, Shelley Winters, Rose Marie, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore (several times), Carol Burnett, Roseanne Barr Arnold Barr, the writing staffs of Seinfeld, Frasier and The Simpsons, the stars of those three shows (several times and on the sets of the first two), YoYo Ma, Richie Havens, Goldie Hawn, Brian Wilson, Candice Bergen, Joe Wambaugh, Prince Edward, Ed Asner, Norman Lear, Sidney Poitier, Fred Rogers (who hugged me...twice), Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, the Nicholas Brothers, Pat Hitchcock (Alfred's daughter), the widows of Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Michael Landon (aka "Jesus of Malibu"), three of four Monkees, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda (when she was Mrs. Turner), President Gerald Ford, John Dean, Daniel Schorr and Julia Child.
There are hundreds of others. Basically, everyone on TV in the 1990s, which includes almost everyone on TV in the 1970s and 1980s who was looking to make a comeback.
Worst interview subjects: Robert Duvall, Valerie Bertinelli, Angelina Jolie, Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones. Given the opportunity to either sit next to any of those on a plane (even in first class) or undergo extensive root canal procedures, I'd opt for the dentistry.
Worst breath: Larry King. Who also hit on me. I have it on tape. Which is in a vault. And which I have instructed to be played at my funeral. Just for grins.