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  • Writer's pictureharveybrownstone

What Becomes a Legend Most?

In the 70's, there was a series of full-page ads in the most popular magazines, featuring A list female celebrities, photographed by iconic photographer Richard Avedon, wearing a black gamma mink fur coat. The headline said "What Becomes a Legend Most?" Superstars including Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Liza Minnelli, Ingrid Bergman lined up to appear in these ads. And why not? Their reward for posing was that they got to keep the fur coat!

Yesterday I interviewed a true legend: music genius Paul Williams. His songs dominated the charts in the 70s and 80s, and they remain classics today. He is beloved throughout the world for his iconic ballads including "We've Only Just Begun", "An Old Fashioned Love Song", "I Won't Last a Day Without You", "Rainy Days and Mondays", "You and Me Against the World", and dozens more. Two of his songs, "The Rainbow Connection" from "The Muppet Movie", and "Evergreen" from "A Star is Born" are on the American Film Institute's list of the top 10 movie songs of all time.

Paul Williams has won an Oscar, 3 Grammys, 2 Golden Globes and an Ivor Novello International Award. He's been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Since 2009 he's been President and Chairman of the Board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). It is indisputable that this man has earned the title of "legend".

Paul's interview was originally scheduled for Tuesday November 30 at 3:30pm. Shortly before the scheduled start time, his manager emailed to say that Mr. Williams would be unable to do the interview, as he was running late in another interview he was filming, and he was concerned that his voice was beginning to go hoarse. Of course I was disappointed, but I was sure that we would be able to reschedule. Then, at 3:30pm, my producer received a zoom notification on his cell phone that "Paul Williams has joined Zoom". We were confused. Hadn't he just cancelled our interview?

We quickly logged onto zoom, and there was Paul Williams. Although he was unavailable to do the interview, he wanted to apologize in person, and to reschedule the interview for the next morning at 9am. He said he had enjoyed my interview with his friend and colleague Dan Foliart, and that he was very much looking forward to being on our show. He wanted to be sure to have a strong speaking voice so that he could be at his best. And rather than leave it to his manager to reschedule the interview, he insisted on doing it himself.

Honestly, I was dumbfounded. This was certainly not the first time that a guest has cancelled and had to reschedule their appearance on our show. But it was the first time that the guest took the time to contact me in person to apologize and reschedule.

If you watch the Paul Williams interview, you'll see that he is humble, kind, and totally without guile. He spoke honestly and candidly about his emotional insecurity in adjusting to worldwide fame. He spoke passionately about his substance abuse addiction and his road to recovery. On several occasions during our conversation he made a point of telling me how pleased he was with my questions and comments. He even likened me to a "therapist"!

So now, whenever I wonder "what becomes a legend most", I have the answer: kindness and class. Mr. Paul Williams, a legend in anyone's book, is the personification of kindness and class.

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