Playing for time....
Imagine finally landing an interview with a much sought-after guest, only to be told by his/her manager/publicist/personal assistant that the guest has only a few minutes available for an interview - take it or leave it. If you're a fan of my show, you'll know by now that my trademark interviewing style cannot be accomplished in just a few minutes. I conduct in-depth interviews and I always ask for an hour of the guest's time. That's what sets me apart from all of the other "two-minute soundbite" interview shows out there. My interviews contain real substance. That's what my audience tunes in to see. And that's what they deserve.
My experience with Deana Martin taught me an important lesson. Her assistant initially agreed to a "15-minute maximum" interview. I said no, and explained that I conduct "in-depth interviews", and that 15 minutes did not fit into the format of our show.
Several hours later, the assistant wrote back to say, "OK, we can give you 30 minutes maximum, but that's the absolute outer limit of Ms. Martin's availability."
Mustering up all the courage I could summon, I said no, and this time I added that I considered it to be an insult to the career and legacy of Dean Martin, to try to cram all of his career highlights that were so beautifully set out in Ms. Martin's book, into a 30-minute interview. I was actually trembling as I wrote that email, because I very much wanted to interview Dean Martin's daughter, so we could add Dean Martin to our "Gone But Not Forgotten" series featuring the greatest Hollywood legends who have passed on.
I urged the assistant to have Ms. Martin actually watch one of my interviews to get a sense of my interviewing style. She needed to see and understand that I was not one of those late night talk show hosts who spend the precious few minutes they have with their guests just "shooting the breeze" or promoting their latest projects, without providing any depth into who they really are.
A few hours later, the assistant wrote back to say that Ms. Martin had reluctantly agreed to grant me "40 minutes maximum". I finally agreed, and thanked her profusely, figuring that I'd better not press my luck any further. Even though I would have preferred the standard 60 minutes, I figured that with 40 minutes, I still had a sufficient chunk of time within which to produce a compelling interview, if I did my homework and utilized my allotted time well.
Well, it turns out that Deana Martin is a truly savvy woman. She totally "got" me from the beginning. While she was answering my first question, I could tell that she was totally engaged in the interview. As the interview went on, and the clock kept ticking, she was demonstrating a real appreciation for the depth of my questions. She enthusiastically accepted my invitation to probe deeply into the true essence of who Dean Martin was and why his talent touched so many people.
The interview ended up lasting 41minutes and 32 seconds. But our time together was actually 53 minutes. We had a brief chat before the interview began, which happens with every interview I do. I want to put my guest at ease before we begin recording. After the recording ended, Deana and I had another chat about how much she loved the interview, and how different I was from every other interviewer she had encountered. At no time did Deana appear to be in a hurry, or rushed. She enjoyed her time on our show immensely, and I think she made that obvious.
So once again I've learned an important lesson. Whatever the guest's personal representative may say in advance about the guest's time availability, in the end it's up to me to impress the guest with my research, earnestness and personal integrity. And so far I think I've been able to do that. I have learned that a guest who is enjoying the interview will not worry about time restrictions, and will welcome the opportunity to share his/her life experiences, insights and wisdom with me and my viewers.
Thank you Deana, not only for so generously giving of your time, but most importantly, for sharing your wonderful memories of your iconic, legendary Rat Pack superstar father, Dean Martin.