Famous actor Larry Hagman passed away over the weekend, and I would've loved to have met him, but it was just as well, I would've made a fool out of myself anyway. I can say that with authority as I once had the chance of a lifetime to interview another famous actor (who passed away nearly two years ago this week at 78), the late great Leslie Nielsen.
I had a chance to interview him for my college newspaper (before the movie Airplane came out). He was playing Harry Truman in a one man play at the Paramount in Aurora, Illinois...either 1979 or 1980. I had never heard of him but my mom was super excited because she loved him as the villain in her favorite soap (that's soap operas to you kids under 30), and my college Spanish teacher was excited because Leslie was his favorite bad guy in a lot of television shows. Stupid kid that I was (college freshman-like that's an excuse, I was a not very bright college freshman), I drew the "interview the soap star at the Paramount" card, put on my very best heels, because if I wasn't yet a full-blown journalist, I could at least look the part, sat down right next to him, turned on my cassette recorder, and interviewed him-lots of (now very embarrassing) interview 101 questions;
Hi Leslie, do you like playing bad guys?
Are you married?
How many kids do you have?
Leslie was so kind, he gave me very generous answers-because, perhaps, I was a sweet little 19 year old blond wearing a skirt with a slit in it (disco wasn't dead yet) OR because he realized there was no way I was asking him anything I could use for my newspaper article and he was a very kind man with daughters my age.
Then, at the end of the interview, I thanked him for his time and asked, "Now, do you have any questions you want to ask me?" I remember he gave me a very quizzical look, and said "No," and then preceded to invite me to his play. If he meant anything in his invitation I was too stupid to pick up on it; I told him I had to work that night, but then asked him for his autograph (which I gave to my Spanish teacher! because he had begged me to get one for him), turned off my little cassette tape recorder and went back to school where I typed up my article. The next week I taped over his interview on some stupid new interview I did. When my mom heard I did that she was LIVID!!! She told me I would regret it, yeah, sure, whatever mom.
Then, a few months later, there was that actor I interviewed on the big screen, AIRPLANE!
My mom was right.
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