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On Trying to Get Interviews With Celebrities

May 14, 2008

One of the loveliest aspects of being an arts & culture -- as opposed to entertainment -- journalist is that I don't often have to pursue famous people for interviews. I reserve only the highest admiration for writers who not only manage to secure meetings and phonecalls with celebrities but then also somehow go on to write articles and books that don't merely repeat the dull stuff about these "A" listers that the public has read a thousand times. Doing these things requires amazing skills and creativity and very few people are up to the job in my opinion.

Every now and again, though, even in my blissfully celeb-free line of work, I'll be forced to put myself through the charade of writing flattering emails to press agents, managers, producers, label reps and a whole host of other flunkies in order to request an interview with someone who is either mildly or very well known.

The process is frequently painful. One often ends up making inumerable phone calls and sending countless emails before tracking down the right contact person. ("Oh, you should have said you were a reporter for a British magazine when you called three weeks ago -- we only handle Mr. Z's U.S. media requests...") And even when I've zoned in on the correct target, I'll either never hear from them again, or be turned down flat. ("Mr. Z isn't doing press right now.") It's particularly frustrating when the PR agent or whomever decides that they'll "pass" because the client in question doesn't have anything in particular to promote at the time of calling. ("Mr. Z won't be touring again until 2009 following the release of his next movie/album/book. Why don't you try again then?") This is annoying because more often than not, my request for an interview has nothing to do with whatever the person has to promote.

On some occasions, though, I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy the process of obtaing phone- or face-time with luminaries can be. OK, I've never tried to obtain interviews with the likes of Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow. But getting to speak to several other famous -- albeit slightly less starry -- individuals in recent years like movie director Mike Leigh, the late author Douglas Adams and musician Tricky simply required the exchange of one or two emails. And only this morning, I had uncharacteristically friendly and responsive conversations with the PR agent and personal manager of a pop music icon whose name I shan't reveal here for fear of jinxing the possibility of this person agreeing to a phone conversation for a story I'm writing about singing for The Guardian newspaper.

I guess the celebrity system does have its loopholes after all.


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