One day I received a phone call from someone at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, a Hearst newspaper in competition with the Times. They asked if they could send someone to interview me about my series (Interview) which had come to their attention. Of course, I agreed. Arrangements were made and the Herald's television critic David Gritten arrived at my house in Laurel Canyon along with a photographer.
The Herald-Examiner was my favorite newspaper at the time featuring columns over the years from Bud Furillo, Melvin Durslag, Alan Malamud and Doug Krikorian--an All-Star line-up if ever there was one! Though I'd read the Style section, which was devoted to the arts, I was unfamiliar with David Gritten so I looked for his articles to see what he wrote. I wished I hadn't. The first article I came across was a piece he did on a media personality who was promoting her film career based on a personal relationship with a male box office star. David dissected her with surgical precision usually reserved for autopsy procedures implying, perhaps, that her career was dead. I was forewarned.
As David conducted the interview in my living-room, I had no idea of his personal reaction to what I was saying in response to his questions. His British reserve and equanimity served him well and left me to focus on his questions rather than his thoughts. Later, we went out onto the deck overlooking the canyon where we took the photo that accompanies the article. As David and the photographer left, I had no idea whether he liked (Interview) or intended to write its obituary. I would have to wait to find out.
A few days later, I received a call telling me the article would appear in the Sunday edition and so it did. It was on the front page of the Style section with two other articles--one about Bernardo Bertolucci receiving the Oscar for The Last Emperor and the other about the Getty Museum. At least I was in good company!
Reading the article, it immediately became clear that David liked (Interview) opening with, "Los Angeles devotees of superior TV talk shows have been keeping a closely guarded secret to themselves these last couple of years." He wrote a very complimentary and appreciative appraisal of the series and David was not someone to hand out idle compliments in print.
I had been intrigued by David's "poker face" during the interview betraying none of his reactions and, given what he had written about the show, I decided to invite him to play an author in front of my cameras. Happily, he accepted. We went into the studio where I created a persona and story for him in the few minutes before we taped. He would be a British spy and there would be some professionally and personally controversial issues in the story. He gave a great performance.
Days later, after I had delivered a copy of his episode on cassette to him, David called me. He said that, while watching his performance in the interview, he couldn't tell where his truth ended and my fiction began. It was, perhaps, the best compliment he could have paid to me.
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