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  • Writer's pictureHarvey Brownstone

How to interview a beloved departed superstar

The sad reality for me as an interviewer is that many of the people I would have loved to have interviewed have already left us. But does that mean we can't do a show about them anyway? Of course not! The challenge is to find knowledgeable people - credible experts who can provide meaningful insights into the lives and careers of the late, great celebrities.

I started with an interview about the queen of 70's pop music, Helen Reddy. Her fan club president and dearest friend, Jim Keaton, agreed to be our guest. The public reaction to that interview was so overwhelming, and the demand from Helen Reddy fans for more, and more, and more was so strong, that we ended up doing a 4-part series about her. I knew I was onto something. I decided to do a series of interviews about the most beloved superstars who are gone but will never be forgotten.

I knew that, of all the dearly departed entertainers that I loved, Lucille Ball was at the top of the list. But who could I get to come on the show to provide candid insights into the real, "unplugged" Lucy? With the possible exception of her children (who did not respond to interview requests), there is no one alive today more qualified to talk about Lucy than Lee Tannen, author of a poignant book about his friendship with the legendary comedienne.

Once again, the fan reaction was a veritable deluge of praise and gratitude. My favourite fan comment was that the interview "was like My Dinner with Andre"! That says it all. And I wasn't surprised by that comment, because I could actually feel, midway through the interview, that something magical was unfolding, as Lee gradually let down his guard, began to trust me, and revealed more and more previously undisclosed details about his dear friend. I am exceedingly proud of that interview.

I then moved on to Doris Day - one of the greatest and most beloved musical and cinematic talents in the history of Hollywood. With the kind assistance of Steve Munn, the administrator of the wonderful fan site, I reached out to Tom Santopietro, author of the definitive book about Doris Day's life and career, "Considering Doris Day". Tom willingly agreed to be interviewed, and once again, an enchanting conversation about the life, career and legacy of a legendary superstar was captured for our show. Although I had never met or even spoken to Tom before the interview began, I quickly got the feeling that we were two old friends chatting about someone we both loved. And I could tell that he felt the same way. Honestly, I hated to see that interview end.

There are so many legendary stars who are gone but not forgotten. And thankfully, there are respected authors out there who have devoted many years to acquiring an intimate knowledge of those stars. In fact, our resident Doris Day expert Tom Santopietro has written highly compelling books about Barbara Cook, Bob Avian, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand. He also authored books about the beloved films "The Sound of Music" and "To Kill a Mockingbird". And I want to interview him about all of them!

And so, in the coming months, sprinkled among my interviews with celebrities, authors and prominent individuals, you will find a series of interviews about my favourite deceased show business legends. We will create a new section on the website labelled "Gone But Not Forgotten: Show Business Legends", where all of these interviews can be easily found in one place. I hope you enjoy them. It's my way of helping to perpetuate the memory, accomplishments and legacies of these great superstars.

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