In my years as a journalist, I’ve interviewed a great many interesting personalities. I’ll be posting clips from some of my interviews up here.
The arts scene is always full of unsung heroes, and Ralph Bass, the former A & R man for Chess Records and the man who discovered James Brown was one of them. I caught up with him late in life when he was working at the Sammy Dyer School of Dance south of the Loop and trying to find a writer to work with him on his memoirs.
The guru/mad genius of improvisational comedy, an inspiration for countless Chicago comedians. I once called him in print the “Ted Kaczynski of Comedy,” an appellation he seemed to relish when I met him in the audience of one of my plays, even though he said that I plagiarized one of my monologues from one of his old comedy routines. Untrue. I plagiarized the monologue from my father who may or may not have been plagiarizing Del Close.
Growing up in Chicago, I was a huge fan of old-time radio and listened to recorded broadcasts on stations like WNIB and WXFM. I was very fond of the radio plays that were written and directed by one of radio theater’s founders Norman Corwin, and finally had a chance to speak to him a few years back.
Tony is a multitalented fellow, not only a great artist but also a great writer too. He also has quite a few opinions, some of which he shares here. Tony was always a good guy to me, and though he didn’t wind up appearing in my film The Blank Page, he did introduce me to fellow artist, the late great Ed Paschke who did wind up appearing in it.
When I was about five years old, my favorite artists were probably Marcel
Marceau, Danny Kaye, and Charlie Chaplin. I only ever got a chance to talk
to one of them. Here's a bit from a conversation I had with Marcel Marceau
when he was giving one of his last tours in Chicago.
While editing Subnation Magazine, an alternative, design-driven magazine that flourished briefly during the height of the 90s music scene in Chicago. Louise Post of Veruca Salt dropped by our office a couple of times, Kurt Cobain was seen reading a copy of it when Nirvana was playing the Aragon, and we featured Liz Phair several times in the magazine. It never went well—either we printed the article she wrote in an unreadable font or we made her pose for an awful photo shoot—but when I met her afterwards while she was house-hunting, she was still quite gracious. Here’s a clip of her chatting with one of our contributors, artist Tom Billings.
While working as a theater critic for the Chicago Reader, I had several chances to interview one of my favorite playwrights. I first encountered Wilson’s work when I was in college in New York and attended a preview performance of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Here are two clips of him—the first from when he was premiering The Piano Lesson, the second during rehearsals for Seven Guitars.
Back in the late 1990's, when I was trying to figure out what career move I should make next I interviewed for the position of host of the morning talk show 848. I didn't get the gig, and, as it turned out, Steve Edwards—who does a far better job than I ever could have—has been hosting ever since. He interviewed me about The Washington Story and various other issues. The interview's about twenty minutes long, and you can find it if you poke around the link above.