Wednesday, November 05, 2014

I Love Used Book Stores

My favorite is “The Hole in the Wall”right here in Falls Church on Main Street.

It’s owned by one of the nicest ladies in this town.  Her name is…THE BOOKSTORE LADY.  (I’m pretty sure she has another more formal one, but after all the years I’ve known her, it’s too late now to ask what her name is.)

We were talking the other day and she commented on how I ought to consider writing a book about all of the famous people I interviewed on TV over the years. She suggested a possible title, “Famous Interviews I’ve had.”  Or something like that.
I thought about that for a few seconds and told her that I had a better idea in mind and it would be an even thicker book, “Famous Interviews I NEVER had.” 

Because I had many more near misses than home runs in the interview department.  And a lot of the
time it was my fault.  In the early 60’s former President Harry Truman would often visit Washington and when he did, he continued his habit of “walking” several blocks every morning, like he had always done during his days as President.

Harry Truman morning walk
My friend Paul Niven of CBS had arranged with the ex President to walk along with him and be interviewed as he walked.
Paul invited me to come along.  Then, the day before the event, something else came up…something totally forgettable and insignificant and in my infinite poor judgement chose it over the walk with Harry Truman!

Then there was the story I’ve told before on this site when I turned down an interview with the WTOP switchboard operator’s ex husband………who later turned out to be Carlos Casteneda who TIME Magazine called  “THE MOST MYSTERIOUS MAN IN AMERICA.”

I came very close to interviewing JOHN F. KENNEDY.  I had gotten clearance for 5 minutes with him following one of his many press
conferences. We were to meet behind the stage of the State Department Auditorium following  the briefing, but as  luck would have it the news event went long, and my interview was scrapped.  However, I’ll always remember how different Kennedy looked in person as he answered the reporter’s questions that day.  His complexion was very ruddy and…his face was extremely puffy…and swollen.  It was almost like his head didn't match his body. 
We all learned later it was the result of Addison’s disease, but to this day, I have no idea how the TV cameras failed to show this. Perhaps it was because of the “black and white” video images of that day.

Drew Pearson
Then, there was the time I almost interviewed Frank Sinatra. It was May 3, 1967. The famous “Muckracker"  Drew Pearson (who was proud to be called that) was President of the Washington “Big Brothers,” and to raise money for them had arranged for his friend Frank Sinatra to perform for free at the Shoreham Hotel. More that 14 hundred people paid $50 each for attending this testimonial affair.

I was one of them.

Pearson had become a fairly regular guest on a local morning TV show I was hosting at the time and he seemed to like me. I was fairly confident he was going to get Sinatra to say yes to an interview with me after his performance. Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was also a guest at the Sinatra Concert and mentioned that President Johnson had invited Drew to come by the White House after the show.

Frank Sinatra
So, there went my interview with Sinatra.  Although, as it turned out, Frank would probably have wished to have stayed around the hotel and had  an interview with me……or …..ANYBODY……rather that to be at the White House that night.
Oliver Pilat, in his book, “Drew Pearson,” describes what happened:

“The three men (Pearson, Humphrey, and Sinatra) arrived at the Lincoln bedroom in the White House well after midnight.  Lady Bird was already under the covers in the big four poster Lincoln bed with its overhanging canopy. The President, bare above pajama bottoms, was lying on a table being pounded by a masseur.

After a quick glance, Johnson turned his head away from his visitors without saying anything.  Humprey’s light conversation with Lady Bird gradually evaporated.  The President finally threw a few words of greeting at Humphrey and Pearson, ignoring Sinatra, who had gone over to the famous mantelpiece, on which Pearson had reported in the column, Jacqueline Kennedy had carved a strange record of her husband’s tenancy.

Johnson jumped off the rubbing table, grabbed an old souvenir booklet about the White House dating back to the Kennedy administration and thrust it at Sinatra. “I don’t suppose you read, “ the President said, with an edge on his Texas drawl, “but this has lots of pictures.”  The pictures included Rat Pack members Eddie Fisher and Dean Martin.

“Here’s something else,” Johnson said, even more offensively, handing Sinatra a presidential trinket for women visitors, a lipstick with the White House seal on it.   “It’s a conversation piece,” he said.  “It will make a big man of you with your women,”

Stiffening under the patter of insult, Sinatra turned and walked from the room without a word. 

Pearson and Humphrey followed after hurried farewells.

-Oliver Pilat  from his book DREW PEARSON

Classy Guy, that LBJ!