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They Said WHAT? Light Moments In Celebrity Interviews


During my career as a journalist, I have done hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews. Many have been with prominent people, leaders in their fields. But within those chats were some amusing moments. As a counterpoint to all of the COVID-19 pandemic news permeating the media now, I thought I’d highlight some of those lighter moments.

Art Garfunkel: A few years back, I interviewed singer Art Garfunkel for AMPLIFIED!, my upcoming book about 1960s rock music. At the outset, I made it clear to Art that I was a serious fan of Simon & Garfunkel, but would try to remain objective and dispassionate. About half way through our chat, though, I accidentally called him Paul (as in Paul Simon). As soon as I realized the mistake, I kept talking in the hopes that he didn’t hear me. But almost immediately Art said, “Jim, I heard that.” I was so embarrassed, apologized profusely. After a pause, Art laughed, saying, “Don’t worry, it happens all the time.”

Chuck Yeager: Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, in 1947, is known in the adventure world for being a character, for having no filter during interviews. When I asked him where he was when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon as part of Apollo 11, he quipped, “I don’t know. That was two chimps in a can.” Who knows whether Yeager was serious? He can be quite the joker. But what happened next I will never forget. I can’t remember my specific question, but Yeager’s response was, “That’s probably the dumbest question I’ve ever been asked.” Without missing a beat, I responded, “Well, that’s why I get paid the big bucks, to ask the dumb questions.” He just smiled.

Mario Andretti: During an on-stage interview last summer with “The Driver of the Century,” I asked Mario if he had ever been pulled over for speeding. He didn’t answer directly, but did mention a time several years ago when he was the passenger in a car driven by his friend, Vince Granatelli. As the story goes, they got pulled over for speeding. When the angry officer approached the driver’s window, he asked, “Who do you think you are, Mario Andretti?” Granatelli sheepishly pointed to his passenger, Mario Andretti. The cop’s face turned red as soon as he saw Mario. Needless to say, they weren’t given a speeding ticket.

Roger Daltrey: On rock band The Who’s famous album cover, “Who’s Next,” is a photo of the band walking away from a monument with four water splashes on it. The idea is that the four members had just urinated on its stone face. When I asked Daltrey if they had, indeed, urinated on the monument, his response was, “Some and some.” When I inquired further, Daltrey said they had, in fact, urinated but that some additional water was needed to fill the dark spots in. You can’t make this stuff up.

Bill Anders: When astronaut Bill Anders took his famous “Earthrise” photo in 1968, he was orbiting the moon as part of Apollo 8. When I asked Anders what he was thinking when he took the iconic shot, he said he was feeling guilty, thought he was going to be reprimanded by NASA. I asked him, “Why?” His response: “I was off-mission. I was supposed to be taking photos of a possible future Apollo 11 landing site, and the back side of the moon. And there I was taking photos of Earth, wasting time and film.”



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