Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our Next Guest

Oddly, I often get requests for interviews. Not from big deal newspapers or magazines, mind you. Mostly from websites and bloggers. I’m always sort of surprised to be asked since I’m not exactly a glamorous or notable person in the entertainment industry. I actually consider myself more of a “survivor” who’s had a few interesting jobs and occasionally rubbed elbows with the famous and powerful.

Interviews are always a little dicey since sometimes one’s off-the-cuff remarks can backfire. The first interview I ever gave was when I was a young actor doing a play in upstate New York. The play was a limited run and toward the end of the interview the reporter asked, “So what’s next for you?” Being a novice in the world of print media, I took it as a sincere question on his part, so I answered “Absolutely nothing” (which was the truth). I then launched into a short, heartfelt explanation of how I was hoping for another job, but not sure when or where it would come from. But alas, this was the life I’d chosen for myself and gosh, I hope it all worked out. Sadly, the reporter decided to use a few of those remarks in his article and, quoted out of context, I sounded like the most neurotic, self-involved jerk in the world. Lesson learned. The next time that question came up on a local talk show, I smiled coyly and said “There are a couple of things pending, but I’m not supposed to talk about them until they’re definite.” So for future reference, if you ever see me interviewed and I say anything like that, it actually means I don’t have a fucking thing going on.

My least favorite interviews are live TV interviews. I always have this horrible fear that I’m going to start a sentence and then have no idea how to finish it. The most bizarre TV interview I ever did happened shortly after I had been on “Boston Legal.” I was invited to appear on a cable talk show hosted by a 70’s TV star. The show, I was told, was the flagship of a new, soon-to-be-launched cable network geared toward people of retirement age. Despite the fact that there was no studio audience, I was instructed to act like there was one. Apparently, canned applause and a laugh track were cheaper than installing actual seats in the studio. My hostess was amazingly good (some might say disturbingly good) at working with our make-believe audience. At key moments during our interview, she would actually look out at the imaginary people, smile and say things like “Wasn’t he wonderful on that ‘Boston Legal?”

The most fun I ever had being interviewed was around the same time when I was asked to do a “radio tour.” I was delighted to find out that one can do a radio “tour” without leaving your house or even getting dressed. All that was required was that I be awake and ready to talk on the phone at 4:30 in the morning, so all the east coast stations could each grab an 8-minute interview with me during their morning “drive-time” shows. The point of the 3-hour tour was to talk to as many stations as possible; gradually working your way west, time zone-by-time zone. An engineer would break in between interviews and tell you the call letters and location of the next station, but that was all the information you got.

On the appointed morning, I parked myself at my desk, armed with a giant mug of coffee. Sure enough at 4:30 on the dot, the call came in. I, for one, am not very used to talking about myself before the sun comes up, but my first DJ was an aggressive, fast-talking New Yorker who was determined to wrench as many answers out of me as possible in the 8 minutes we had together. As my “tour” worked its way into the midwest, I noticed that I was suddenly talking to lots of “teams” of chatty “morning personalities” who seemed to really get a kick out of hanging out with each other. So much so, that they would occasionally forget that I was even on the line. Somewhere around Colorado, one interview began to blur into the next and serious déjà vu started setting in. By this time, I’d answered the question “So what was it like to work with Candice Bergin?” about seventeen times and I couldn’t remember which charming anecdote I’d told to whom.

As my “tour” moved over the Rockies, the character of the interviews began to change erratically from one station to the next. One minute I would be on with “Bobo and Meathead in the Morning” (where I was competing with air horns and whoopee cushions). The next I’d be on with some classical NPR station in the Pacific Northwest, speaking with a woman so calm she sounded like she might drift off to sleep at any moment. The one thing nobody had thought to mention was that the “tour” had no scheduled no bathroom break, so by the time we had reached the third hour, I was seriously considering putting my office trash can to use. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.

Interestingly enough, my radio tour resulted in more fan mail than I received during the entire time I was actually on “Boston Legal.” One of my interviews was with a station in Lexington, Kentucky, about sixty miles from where my family lives. I had alerted them to be tuned in that particular morning, but panic struck when they discovered that for some reason the kitchen radio was not picking up the station. Desperate to not miss my voice on the airwaves, they camped out in their car (with the engine running) for the next two hours, armed with a cassette tape recorder, determined to not only hear my 8-minute interview, but record it for posterity. I ask you…How could I ever consider quitting show business when I've got fans like that?

Copyright 2010 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at
www.partsandlabor.tv

Shameless self-promotion:
http://daviddeanbottrell.blogspot.com/2010/04/thank-you-los-angeles-times.html

2 comments:

Betty Dravis said...

I really enjoyed this column, David. I had to LOL at your take on interviews. I enjoy this kind of shop talk because I have interviewed some of the biggies (Eastwood, Jane Russell, Ted Kennedy) back in the day, and am now doing interviews for our second DREAM REACHERS book... Just finished Katherin Kovin Pacino and Tony Tarantino and working on Questions for actress Debra Garrett. I do my interviews by email... Have you ever done one like that?
LOL...

Anyway, this is a fun blog and I will return for more!

Best of luck in your career and with STREEP TEASE. Streep is awesome.

Hugs - Betty Dravis

Raaawb said...

Always enjoyed your posts to MySpace, but it seems you've joined the mass exodus (of a sort) that seems to have taken place there. I went looking again as KABC is currently airing your Boston Legal eps in their Sunday night (or Monday morning) 1:30 a.m. slot -- so, thought I'd mention in case no one had already done so.

Anyway, if it's a matter of a quick copy/paste to repost over there -- or at least to blog with a link to new posts over here -- you should still do it! MySpace isn't entirely dead, it's just limping -- and it could do with people still being active on it anyhow. Anyway, good to see you're still writing these!