Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Non-Interview

It’s an ever-vexing journalistic conundrum: what do you do when the interview falls through? You’ve promised your editor a certain amount of words or a bunch of column inches and what you’ve got is bubkas, a bunch of research and old news and nothing straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

An intern at Style apparently had to deal with that in her recent attempts to sync schedules with Idina Menzel, the Broadway chanteuse most recently celebrated for her run in “Wicked.” I quite enjoy Katy Johnstone’s “what she could be doing instead of talking to me” take on the situation, just as I enjoyed her “online only” review of Richmond Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” last week.

I will always have a small chip on my shoulder when it comes to Chris Rock who proved to be a bit of a tool when it came to committing to an interview with me some 9 years back. I used a fair amount of borrowed material and duct tape to put an article about him together just the same, but still resent that he couldn’t spare 10 minutes to give me an original quote or two.

But Brent Baldwin did an epic job in recounting his challenges in trying to score a chat with rocker Lou Reed, who, if you’ll pardon the language, seems to be something of a shit. On the other extreme, I just talked yesterday with Michael Clem of “Eddie from Ohio” for a piece I’m doing for Playlist magazine and he was about the nicest guy I talked to all week. He even emailed me a picture of his bandmate Robbie Schaefer and his pals Barenaked Ladies (one of my favorite bands). It’s great experiences like this one that clears the slate after a bad interview, making you realize that “celebrities” are just like other folks -- some are jerks and some are the salt of the earth -- only more so.


Anonymous said...

That piece on Idina Menzel was quite entertaining. I didn't even realize she was going to be in Richmond playing a gig. Off to buy some tickets.

You going Dave? Love to hear your thoughts on that one.

pnlkotula said...

I thought it was petulant and mean-spirited, personally. I can hardly carve out time to call my mom once a week. I can't imagine the amount of directions Ms. Menzel is being pulled in. I'm going to the concert and will be happy to report back.

Dave T said...

Hmmm... I respect your opinion, Ms. K, but have to side with the journalist on this one. I know agents or artists often pitch stories to magazines to get publicity for upcoming performances and then it can be nearly impossible to nail down said artist to talk. If you're too busy to talk, fine. But if you want press, the least you could do is carve out a few minutes. If you can't, don't pitch (or don't let your agent pitch) a story to a magazine that will then be saving a spot for it.

I'd love to hear how the concert is. Ms. Menzel wasn't performing in "Wicked" or "Rent" by the time I got up to see them, so I don't know her talent first hand. But I expect she's pretty darn good.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

I know she is an extremely busy woman, but she can spare a few minutes I am sure.

This is interesting because last weekend I was up in Poughkeepsie, NY attending some of the readings of new shows and she was starring in one of them along with Spring Awakening's Lea Michele. She was great.

I, like Dave, never saw her in Rent, Wicked, or the other shows she has done. Interested to see her doing original music. Or is this a broadway cabaret of sorts?

Anyways I don't think the journalist was being cruel with their little "top 5". I can understand their frustration and I am sure Ms. Taye Diggs (I mean really...a Tony and A Taye? That's just too much) got a chuckle out of it.

pnlkotula said...

I could have agreed with you until the last one, and that was just elementary school ugly. I understand your side about a few minutes, and don't forget I seek lots of people's "few minutes" around here, too. I don't want to argue the point, but if I felt that way, I'm sure there were other readers who did, too.

Andrew Hamm said...

I'm with Lisa. There are ways to deal with the situation that aren't snide and mean.

Dan Neman would have written something like that.

Thespis' Little Helper said...

It's often hard to read tone. Hell, there's a lot of misinterpretation on blogs and especially in email these days. I took the piece to be in a spirit of fun.

I do think, however, that it's not really fair to see that as a personal reflection on the artist, as perhaps her publicist never even got her the information.

We spend a lot of time in our society bashing celebrities (who are people...strangers, even, for the most part). We don't know these people! We don't know what happened to them today! And yesterday! And the day they got the message!

Sure, a certain level of obligation comes when you start asking people to pay a lot of money to see you (and her concert is not that expensive at all) and buy your CDs and Tshirts and blah blah blah, BUT...maybe she broke a friggin' nail at the same time she got the note and it fell into the trash bin. Who knows!

Still, I thought the article was funny and good humored.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

Did her publicist/agent just give Style a press release about the concert, or did she actually promise an interview? 'Cause there's a huge difference between issuing a press release to announce an event and pitching an interview/story idea.

If no interview was promised upon press release and it was just the Style reporter's ambition to try to score one, I really can't blame Idina.

I really think people have NO IDEA how much work goes into just being a professional performer in a smaller market like Richmond, let alone on the scale that Idina lives and works on. Sometimes "just a few minutes" really is asking a lot, especially when you're sacrificing meals and laundry and time with your loved ones to make deadlines and honor call times.

It's not just about your current gig. It's about landing and planning for the next one, it's about managing your finances and taxes as an independent contractor (you are your own small business), it's about health and personal maintenance since your body is your vessel and your product, it's about keeping up with all that, learning all those lines, learning all those notes, learning all that blocking and choreography and still finding time to keep a clean home, maintain a relationship, feed whatever pets you have, etc.

And don't presume that at Idina's success level that she can afford to pay others for that. You'd also be amazed at how much money people DON'T make in the business, even when they're "famous."

Oh, and did I mention the need for sleep as well? That 5 a.m. call times for 18-hour days are not unheard of, and are in fact commonplace?


I have a crush on a local Richmond rock star, and I'm telling you. He's ALWAYS working. Always. It's a lot more time and effort than you'd think. Cut some slack.

As for Lou Reed, well. That's just something else entirely. I love Lou Reed times ten, but I'm not sure he's entirely human after all the drugs he's ingested. Punk was quite...well, punk was punk.

No comparison between him and Ms. Menzel.

And certainly no need to poke fun at her physical features. That's elementary school, and if a reporter would mock a person's physical features because she couldn't score an interview, that reporter needs to get over herself.

Realistically, if a performer barely has time for an interview with a national entertainment magazine, is she really going to have time for a free Richmond trade paper? One can hope, but one can't blame.

I'm not knocking Style in any way...I support free press and enjoy reading Style and have a great deal of respect for its staff...but it just is what it is.

Anonymous said...

I hear they got their interview. So I guess it worked.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

I apologize for the vehemence of my response, but I just feel obligated to defend the people in my trade as you defend those in yours, Dave.

Also, I just can't deal with pot shots about people's looks. It's my own issue left over from my own social torture throughout my school years. Also, I think Idina is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Angelika's point. I am sure Ms. Menzel is being pulled in a million directions. I think it is nice that she even took the time to schedule an interview with Style Weekly because I would have expected her to be across the Times Dispatch or something instead. It would make more sense.

But I also don't think the writer was being cruel either. I get the humor that came from the article, but I can see how one could take offense to it as well.

I am just happy that someone like Idina Menzel is coming to Richmond. It doesn't happen to often.

elise said...

Well, the link now goes to an interview. I guess Ms. Johnstone put a foot in the mouth. I didn't get to read the original story. Anyone have that text?

pnlkotula said...

OK, so I said I would report back -as our dear Angelika would say "OH EM GEE."

I would probably have called myself a moderate Idina fan prior to - never really listened all the way through Rent, although I like the well known songs, love Wicked but not listening to it every day kind of fan.

My sweet husband got me the tickets for my birthday and had no idea what he was in for. At one point, during the song "Brave" from the album she is promoting, I looked over with tears in my eyes to see that he, too, had teared up and was leaping to his feet at every opportunity. She rocked the house with a cover of the Police's "Roxanne" that was amazing, and of course encored with a pop version of "Defying Gravity". Probably my most favorite part of the evening was when she told the kid in front of us who was having Idina spasms that she loved him, too, but to shut up (I'm editing here - it's a family blog). I don't think the house was packed which is a shame, but I think Richmond represented pretty well. There you have it. She's cool.

Anonymous said...

I was at the concert as well and I agree that Idina was quite the little entertainer. I can see why people would make a fuss over her.

The crowd was a mixuture of ages. She handled the obnoxious questions people asked her. For example:

Fan: "How is Sammy Davis Jr.?"
Idina: "That is my dog...and it's Jr. Jr.!"

There was also a little girl in the audience that Idina was quite smitten with. She kept talking and singing to her.

And my highlight also was Idina telling the annoying guy in the front (and I just remembered that these were the kids that Idina asked to fill the empty seats with, bet she was regretting that one) to shut his mouth.

It was so great I felt the need to transcribe it.

Idina's show is winding down and she is starting to thank the audience for being amazing and welcoming here in good old southern Richmond.

Annoying Boy: "You mean that's it?"
Idina: "Ok, where are you? Who keeps talking to me?"

Audience all points to Annoying Boy because Idina hearing is reversed. She thinks he is house left when he is house right.

Idina: "Oh, this makes it sound like you are over there. What is your name?"

Annoying Boy: Coooorrrreeeyy! (and he says it that obnoxiously)
Idina: Corey, I love you but STFU!

Audience: claps and cheers galore!

She mentioned that she liked it here and will be back. I will definitely see her again.