My Eight Most Memorable Interviews

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Liza Minnelli is among the most memorable entertainers SFGN’s A&E editor J.W. Arnold has interviewed. Source: Speakerpedia.

I’ve been covering and arts and entertainment in South Florida for more than a decade and had the honor of writing for SFGN beginning with the very first issue eight years ago. 

Over that time, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of actors, artists and musicians from international stars to local sensations.

This anniversary issue offered the perfect opportunity to reflect on some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had—most for SFGN, others for its predecessor, Express Gay News:

 

Liza Minnelli

Liza—can I call her that now?—missed two appointments for a short “phoner” and I was starting to feel put off. She was a huge star and, admittedly, I wrote for a relatively small niche publication (meaning I carried a chip on my shoulder), albeit a paper read by her most devoted (gay) fans. The third time proved to be the charm and she was just as gracious and chatty as I could have ever imagined.

 

Nichelle Nichols

Nichols, best known as Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek,” has shared the story about how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked her out of quitting the series countless times over the past half-century, but it still brought goosebumps to this Trekkie. She was a courageous pioneer, the first African-American woman in a primetime role on network television, and remains an important role model for all.

 

Rue McClanahan

Unfortunately, I was expecting Blanche Devereaux on the other end of the phone. That happens sometimes when an actor becomes so closely identified with such a flamboyant character, I guess. Instead, McClanahan was a thoughtful, but soft-spoken artist who appreciated her “Golden Girls” fans and viewed the iconic role as just that, one of many in a long career.

 

William Shatner

William Shatner had primarily done TV westerns when he signed on as Capt. James T. Kirk for “Star Trek.” He didn’t imagine the cult status the series would attain, especially when it was canceled after only three seasons. Unlike other actors faced with the same dilemma (I’m thinking “Batman” Adam West), the classically-trained actor embraced his defining role and became a hero for generations to come.

 

Lynda Carter

I was in second or third grade when “Wonder Woman” first hit the airwaves. I fell in love with the statuesque Carter and, like so many gaybies, wanted to be just like her. I was giddy when the opportunity came to speak with Carter and my nerves got the better of me. It’s not good when a journalist gets tongue-tied during an interview! Her surprisingly dry sense of humor didn’t help the situation, either.

 

Cloris Leachman

I spoke to Leachman around the time of her “Dancing with the Stars” appearance. The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Phyllis” star flaunted her carefree personality, but I was not prepared. After I politely asked how she was, Leachman responded with a haughty chuckle, “I just got out of the tub and I’m lying on the bed naked.” The interview went downhill from there (in a good way, of course).

 

Valerie Harper

Valerie Harper, Rhoda on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” was coming to town to perform in West Palm Beach as the gay icon Tallulah Bankhead in “Looped.” Usually, these kinds of interviews last 10 or 15 minutes at the most, but my conversation with Harper lasted just over an hour. We chatted about everything! She was charming and funny and personable and just as interested in me as I was in her.

 

Patti LuPone

I interviewed LuPone shortly after the 2007 incident in which “pirates” chartered a boat out of Miami and killed the crew. We talked a little bit about her upcoming performance at the Arsht Center, but she was simply obsessed by the bizarre tale. I don’t know if she regularly charters boats while on tour, but I was pretty sure she didn’t on this particular trip to South Florida.


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