On celebrity interviews

October 28, 2008
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Peter Bart, one of the smarter guys in Hollywood, has an interesting blog over at Variety. His topic: Celebrity interviews. (Find it here.)

In the piece, Bart elequently points out something I've felt for a long time now: That most celebrity profiles in magazines and newspapers are total nonsense. And that goes for both regional and national publications.

Most of them are built out of the briefest of time the writers spends with their subjects. And editors tend to push for the most concrete conclusions from the writer based on this scant, controlled information.

Way back when, I dabbled in this area for a few regional magazines. Nothing major, mind you, but there were lengthy stories on such folks as Morton Downey Jr. and Bob Saget (both at the height of their TV popularity), George Carlin, Penn and Teller, and Joan Collins. I conversed with Chrisopher Plummer and Dudley Moore, Kim Hunter and the great Karl Malden. And had a fantastic time talking with the notoriously difficult Jerry Lewis. (Lest you think I'm name-dropping, keep it in perspective. The average third-tier newspaper TV critic does more celeb interviewing in a month than I've done in a career.)

Despite the time constraints, I liked the challenge of talking to people who have been talked to--and talked about--at length. But when writing the stories, there was always a part of me that knew that I didn't really know my subject. And, further, that my subjects knew that I was going to be writing about them and so adjusted their personalities to suit what they wanted to see in print.

The longer I spent with someone, the more I felt I was getting some germ of true character. But even then, I knew it was only a hint. And to draw big conclusions from that would be silly. Given a choice, I prefered just presenting them in Q&A format. It felt more honest that way.

But it seems any time I pick up a magazine, there's a writer pretending to know what an actor, a director, or a whatever is all about. Which is why I no longer read--or, at least, take any stock in--such stories. If the subject is talking about his or her process, that's different.

So are we deluding ourselves when we think we know what stars are really like?

What magazines or newspapers do you trust when reading about actors, musicians, and other celebs?

Your thoughts?
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  • I cruised in through a Google Alert on Dudley Moore. :-)

    I pretty much gave up on magazines and media. You read one story and it seems true, then you hear a different version elsewhere. Even the TV news doesn't get things accurate anymore. 2 people killed, 3 hurt versus 4 people killed, 1 hurt. You never know what to believe anymore. People will swear the story is legit, then you find out it isn't.

    I used to buy magazines (even tabloids) like crazy years ago. Not for the stories, but for the pictures. Back when they'd have photos of people that aren't just flavours of the week. Now it's all about who's dating who and who's pregnant with who's kid. Snore.

    I have a bunch of fansites online and have come in contact with a few well-known people and/or their friends of family. There have been people I was completely crazy over and then found out they weren't anything like I thought they were. Some people act like one thing (say they value something or stand for whatever) and then you see they weren't that honest about it at all. As much as it's fun to have the contact and the experience of meeting them, I think in most cases, it's lessened the whole situation. I think I prefer to have my own image and illusions of how someone is rather than have that shattered by actually finding out they're real persona.
  • Lisa,
    However you got here, welcome aboard. Hope you check in often and comment.
    Dudley Moore, by the way, was fun to talk to. It was a phoner, alas. He was driving through L.A. traffic at the time.
    Lou
  • Yay! I'm glad you're here, too, Lisa.

    Hope Baugh (one of Lou's main groupies)
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
  • Thanks for the welcome, you two!
  • Hey, Lou!
    I'm a lurker on your blog, and just wanted to say hey from NYC, and I hope all is well with you. Glad to see you're holding down (and lifting up) the arts scene in Indy, as always.

    Thanks for turning me on to Peter Bart's Variety Blog...very fun/cool.

    Happy Thanksgiving-
    Bill

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