It finally happened! I got "farklempt"!
I don't know if there's a course one can take to learn how to be a good interviewer, but if there is, I'm sure lesson #1 would be "don't get farklempt". For those of you who don't know Yiddish, to get "farklempt" means to be overcome with emotion. If you follow the Barbara Walters school of interviewing - and I love her - the idea is to get the interviewee to get "farklempt", not the interviewer. I always got the feeling that she considered it a badge of honour when she asked a question that got her guest teary-eyed.
Well, forgive me Barbara, but this time, during the Greg Louganis interview, I just couldn't help myself. If you've read Greg's book "Breaking the Surface", you'll know that before each dive, he whispered to himself a snippet of lyrics from the song "Believe in Yourself" from The Wiz. Lena Horne sang that song so powerfully at the end of the movie. The lyrics Greg would repeat to himself are: "If you believe, within your heart you'll know; that no one can change the path that you must go." This was the mantra of an insecure, bullied and yet highly driven young man who was trying desperately to bolster his shattered self-esteem, all the while winning medal after medal and becoming the top diver in the world.
By repeating those words to Greg, I was trying to tell him that many of us too were battling our own demons, and were drawing strength and inspiration from his courage and determination to succeed. I had a feeling before I even started to utter those lyrics, that I was going to get "farklempt", and sure enough, I did. After the interview, I toyed with the idea of editing out that whole sequence, because I was embarrassed that I had lost my composure and feared that I would appear unprofessional. But my producer Steve convinced me to keep that part in the finished product, because it was a moment of sincerity and authenticity, not from an interviewer but from a life long fan.
I was so moved that a superstar of Greg's caliber was so generous with his time. After all, he's been interviewed by the biggest names in the business - Oprah, Barbara Walters and the rest of them - and his manager told me that he is constantly flooded with interview requests. And yet this humble, kind, empathetic man had the generosity of spirit to open up his life story and his heart to me and my viewers. I will be forever grateful to Greg and his management team led by Greg Sims at Arya Artist Management, for allowing me the honour and privilege of interviewing my hero.
So, folks, that's the way it is, at least for this humble interviewer. If someone I'm interviewing moves me to tears with their accomplishments, challenges, kindness and generosity of spirit, I'm going to let those tears flow. That's what getting "farklempt" is all about!