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Episode 88

The Art of the Interview & Knowing Your Subject featuring Larry Grobel

Episode  88
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Larry Grobel has been called by Playboy, “The interviewers’ interviewer,” by Joyce Carol Oats, “The Mozart of interviewers” and by J.P. Donleavy, “The most intelligent interviewer in the United States.”

Larry has written for The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Playboy and many more magazines and newspapers. He’s published 29 books including biographies, fiction and non-fiction. He’s been yelled at by Di Niro, scolded by Patty Hearst, almost thrown out of a car by Bobby Knight. He’s spent two weeks in Tahiti with Brando, gone toe to toe with Barbra Streisand, flown Kurt Russell’s plane and listened to Dolly Parton tap out her idea for “9-5” with her fingernails. Larry’s stories are vast and epic.

More Path Links

Larry Grobel

Larry Grobel's Amazon Author Page

Larry Grobel's Short Stories

The Narcissist

Schemers, Dreamers, Cheaters, Believers


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Louise Palanker (00:00:00):

Welcome to Media Path. I'm Louise Palanker

Fritz Coleman (00:00:07):

And I'm Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:00:09):

You know, what we try to do is every week on the show, we interview fascinating folks to help steer you towards content that you will enjoy in the course of our careers. Fritz and I have conducted thousands of interviews, and never will we match the resume of our guest, Larry Grobel, both in quantity and in quality. Larry's catalog of phenomenal interviews is vast and substantive. He's written for the New York Times, Newsday Rolling Stones, Playboy, and many more. Plus, Larry has 29 books to his credit, just waiting for you to tap by now with one click on Amazon. But before we get to Larry first, Fritz, what have you been enjoying this week? All

Fritz Coleman (00:00:45):

Right, well, you know, I like true stories, and I'm very forgiving of bad presentations of true stories as long as I learned something about the true story itself. And this is a good presentation of a true story. It's called The Dropout. It's on Hulu. It's a limited series. The series is currently four episodes in, it'll be eight total. The new one drops this Thursday and every Thursday until they get to eight. It's based on the ABC News podcast, the Dropout hosted by Rebecca Jarvis. She's the ABC News Chief Business Technology and Economics correspondent. It's the story of Elizabeth Holmes, a brilliant young woman who dropped out of Stanford University to do a Silicon Valley startup called Theranos. Now, Theranos tried to develop a way to streamline blood tests, analyzing a drop of blood for over 100 medical qualities, and doing it with a very small machine that ultimately would be placed in drug stores around the country.


It could transform the medical industry. Holmes's dark genius was her ability to sell the concept to investors and software scientists and other tech giants. She was a master salesman and cheerleader who started a company, hired hundreds of people, and gathered millions of dollars in investment money before the device was even made to work. It was a brilliant rise and a spectacular fall At her peak. She was the world's youngest female billionaire, amassing a fortune of 4.5 billion. She was touted as the next Steve Jobs. She bamboozled former political titans and industry executives to join her board. This was all done before the machine even worked, before it passed any proof of performance tests. It all came crashing down when the company was caught faking test results. She went on trial. She was convicted of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. She's awaiting sentencing right now, could get up to 20 years in prison. It's, it's a spectacular look at how the manic competition of Silicon Valley intersects with manic personal ambition. Again, episode five drops Thursday. It's really good. And Amanda Siegfried is the actor, and she not only looks identical to Elizabeth Holmes, she does a great job.

Louise Palanker (00:03:04):

So, did you get the sense that she actually thought this would work and kind of like launched herself and just sort of, uh, fake it till you make it type of art?

Fritz Coleman (00:03:12):

That's precisely the phrase I would use. Fake it till you make it. She didn't have it worked out yet, but she was very enterprising and very driven and would not fail. And so she stumbled over herself. They faked a couple of tests on the way up, and that's what did it. But, you know, it was, it, it, it, it, it torpedoed her ambition. Blood

Louise Palanker (00:03:32):

On the saddle, blood on

Fritz Coleman (00:03:33):

The ground. See what I'm saying? Yep.

Louise Palanker (00:03:35):

So it is award season for its, and I love to get myself as prepared as possible for Oscar night by attempting to see nominated movies before the TV show. So if you are aiming to do the same note that the Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 27th every year, and more and more films are available for streaming at home, and we can get our work done without worrying about parking. Fritz, I'm gonna read the nominees, let alone babysitting, you know, but the popcorn, the home, I don't, I just haven't figured out a way to get,

Fritz Coleman (00:04:06):

Well, you and I used to do the thing where you use Xerox, the sheets and we do this whole thing. Oh yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:04:10):

It's a big deal. We'd have contests and, uh, you know, awards and prizes, <laugh>. So I'm gonna read the nominees for the best picture and we can both see how we're coming along in terms of our viewing. Okay. Right in preparation for the Oscar night. They now nominate, I think, 10. I'm not good at math, but this is like, that's too many too. Yeah. Best picture nominees are Belfast Coda. Don't look up Dune King, Richard Licorice, pizza, nightmare Alley. The Power of the Dog West Side Story, and Drive my car. So I'm gonna talk about Drive my car for a moment, cuz I was unfamiliar with this title and I watched it over the weekend. Don't be confused. Drive My Car is not, in this case, a Beatle song, a video game, or a Fast and Furious sequel. It's a very long and lovely Japanese film, which may or may not be the best fit for you.


I'll fill you in so that you may decide for yourself. Yield for metaphors and subtexts. The film is called Drive My Car. Drive is a metaphor. Car is a metaphor. The road is a metaphor. The journey is a metaphor. This is a story about actors and scripts. Acting and scripts are metaphors. The dialogue and the storylines in the scripts are metaphors. The scenes in the film are achingly Long, A metaphor for time, a metaphor for longing, a metaphor for perspective, I guess. Drive My Car is about a stage actor married to a screenwriter who composes stories out loud during and after sex. And just when you are about to toss that bridal shower, gag, gif, penis shape pen, not so fast for reasons that will reveal themselves along the three hour long road of this film. The actor has a driver who takes him back and forth to rehearsals while he listens to his wife's voice on a cassette tape running lines for him from Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, the cassette tape his wife's voice.


Uncle Vanya. Say it with me. All metaphors. Do we learn more about these people's fears, guilts, longings, hopes and histories as the film progresses? Yes. Do we get to experience the beauty of Japanese lives and vistas? Yes. Is there a car and a lot of driving? Yes. Lots and lots of driving. There's also lots of talking. And it is entirely possible that the English subtitles did not do justice to the Japanese dialogue. See if it sounds like the type of film that you would enjoy, it's three hours long. Uh, and we found it on Apple Pay-per-view for two.

Fritz Coleman (00:06:22):

They could've been sized an hour out of it. I, I mean, I I, it took me to the last five minutes to understand that the Uncle Vaya text was very parallel to the lives of the two people who had suffered the loss in their lives. It was too long. It, it was, uh, I didn't even get it. I didn't get with the point of the movie halfway in, and I said, I've got another half of a movie to go through. I just didn't get it. And, uh, it, it, and it, it might have been a cultural divide for me, but I was fascinated by the multitasking of creating a script while you're having sex. Cuz that takes a power of concentration for sure. That I don't

Louise Palanker (00:06:56):

Have. It was impressive. Yes. Yeah. So anyway, so I would like to introduce our guest. Larry Grobel is a master interviewer who has written for the New York Times Newsday Rolling Stone Entertainment Weekly, readers Digest Parade, Playboy Cosmopolitan, and Writers Digest among many, many more. His 29 books include Conversations with Capote, the Houstons talking with Mitchner, the Art of the Interview. Madonna paints a mustache greatest book title ever, in my opinion, and conversations with Brando. He's written 49 books. You can check them all out on his, uh, writer page, author page on Larry has been called by Playboy, the interviewers interviewer by Joyce Carroll Oats, the Mozart of interviewers, and by JP Don Levy, the most intelligent interviewer in the United States. No pressure on Fritz and I interviewing the interviewer's. Interviewer. Welcome Larry <laugh>. And, um, I wanna welcome you and, and open by asking you this question. You've had the opportunity to interview interviewers as well. Tell us about comparing notes with Alex Haley.

Larry Grobel (00:08:00):

Alex Haley is very special. Um, you know, he, uh, he was a very, very sweet man. And, um, he did the interviews with Miles Davis. He did George Lincoln Rockwell. Um, he, he, uh, uh, he did, he did about five or six. Those, those two are some of his famous, oh, and of course, Malcolm. Malcolm X. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:08:22):


Larry Grobel (00:08:23):

And, uh, he wrote the book Malcolm X. And then he wrote Roots. And, um, he, he, he, he had lived in a, you know, as a sailor, he was on a ship. So when he was writing roots and he was trying to get to the certain sections of it when they were, they were crossing the ocean, he couldn't write it. He had, and he ended up going on a, a, a boat, you know, and he went on the ground and he stripped himself naked and laid down, and to see what it was like for, for, you know, his characters to do it. Anyway, Alex, um, I, I did a television interview with him that, uh, about three hours, four hours long and, you know, it was a Playboy cable thing and, and lasted eight minutes when we cut it <laugh>. But it was just fascinating because we did share so many stories.


We had some, you know, we understood because the interviews that he and I did, you don't see it happening too much anymore. The Playboy is gone and they don't give you that kind of time. I spent, uh, nine months with Barbara Streisand, you know, over a period. Um, and I did with Brando. I went to his island for 10 days, and I could have stayed for 50 days. It was up to me when I want to leave, you know, and, but you don't get that anymore, you know? I mean, you know, I, I once turned down Sophia Loren cuz Playboy asked me to do it, but she only had to six hours, two hours a day for three days before she had to do leave. And I said it was too short of time. Now, if you got six hours with Sophia Loren <laugh>, you'd make a movie out of it, you know, <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>.


Okay. So, you know, you know, things have changed. So, I mean, with, with Haley, it, it just, you know, I, I I show that tape. I, I, I, I do, I I show about five or six of the tapes I've done, uh, the interviews, uh, when I go to health spas and things like that, and pe, you know, resorts and people love to see these things. Yeah. And Alex is one of the most touching ones of the ones I did, because he also told stories. See, the difference between someone who understands the medium of TV is that you do sh you gotta have short bites, you know? And the thing would you do when you do a long interview is you ha you have forever in your mind. You ha you know, it's only over, like, even Streisand said, I, you know, she, I said, uh, how long do we have? She says, well, it's over when you're, when you're, when you're finished. So she was allowing me 52 hours of conversation, which is what I had with her over

Louise Palanker (00:10:40):

Time. Do you think that amount of time was provided because our attention was more focused to a few locations, so that everyone was gonna be reading that Playboy interview. But now we, we have so much variety in what we could choose select to, to, uh, consume that one you have,

Larry Grobel (00:10:57):

But Yes. But, but you still will read The New Yorker. Mm-hmm. If you wanna read a longer piece, a long, a more in-depth piece. Mm-hmm. You know, the Atlantic, you know, they, they're magazines that are still not very few. I mean, I feel, I I, I, I've, I've basically stopped being a magazine writer. I just came across, I did an interview with Tony Bennett. Yeah. He wasn't an, I was writing his book. He asked me to write his book. So I worked with him, and then he just decided he didn't wanna do it. And I went up to San Francisco once, and he forgot that I was even coming. And I realized, you know, maybe his dementia had begun earlier than we think, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but, uh, I had all this, I put together a 12,000 word interview with Tony Bennett. I've never shown it to anybody.


I've never published it. And they, you know, like I've, I, I just sent something to the New Yorker about it, that I have this, you know, I mean, whether anyone wants it or not, who knows. You know, it's a but you're, it's, it's a different, it's very hard to get the, that kind of time with someone. But I still think we could read long form. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, James, Mitch, I asked him, how did you know to write Hawaii and to write these books? Eight, you know, Centennial. And they were 800 to a thousand pages long. And he said, I knew, because it was like 19 51, 52. He said, because I saw television was coming along, and I saw people, you know, watching something for an hour, and I knew that they would want more. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that was his reasoning to do these. And he was right, because he, you know, he sold millions of copies. But today it's the opposite. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think it's, you know, we, we don't know how many long novels are, are, are coming out and how many people are buying them, and how many people are actually reading them. You know, when you

Louise Palanker (00:12:32):

Make a TikTok video that's three minutes long and you're told it's too long.

Larry Grobel (00:12:36):

<laugh> Yeah, exactly. <laugh>, I wish I could figure out a good TikTok video to do

Fritz Coleman (00:12:41):

<laugh>. I mean, you could do your poems, your shorter poems of TikTok. People will be very

Larry Grobel (00:12:45):

Used by that. I could, oh,

Fritz Coleman (00:12:46):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wanna talk to you about the Playboy interviews. Uh, Larry, this used to be the most prestigious interview any famous person ever did, because nowhere else did their true selves appear, and they expressed their true opinions about stuff, political or otherwise. I mean, there are famous Playboy interviews that affected Koreas like Jimmy Carter admitting that he might have lusted for women other than Rosalyn in his heart. Right. And, and just that very honest admission by a typical American male made people's heads explode. And people still talk about it. So, <laugh>, uh, talk about how you got your first Playboy interview.

Larry Grobel (00:13:25):

Okay. Uh, uh, also, if we get to Bobby Knight and, and Jesse Ventura, that might be of interesting. I'm

Fritz Coleman (00:13:31):

Gonna build that. We have to do Fourplay before we get there.

Louise Palanker (00:13:33):

No, we're going there.

Larry Grobel (00:13:34):

The first Playboy interview was this. I, I, I was out, I came out to, uh, I was in Africa for three years in the, in the Peace Corps. I traveled about nine months or almost a year around the world. I get back, I go to New York, uh, what am I gonna do? Right? I mean, so I said, well, I'll go to Newsday, see if I can, you know, write some freelance stories for them. They just was starting out with this magazine called Li Magazine. So they, they, I ended up writing a, a, a couple of dozen stories, articles. Then I, then they, I flew, came out here just to be a novelist, stop my journalism. And, uh, they said, they called me up. They said, we figured out a way to get off Long Island and the interviews with household names. Really? Who are you thinking about?


Mae West? I said, is she still alive? Yeah. You know, how do we know you're the one, you know, that has to find out <laugh>? So anyway, so, so check her Pulse. I, I, well, I did it. And that, and that led to, you know, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett and Warren Beatty. People that didn't talk to many people, they respected Newsday. Um, so as I'm doing this, I'm seeing, I have a an hour with Lucille Ball. A two hours, a three hours was a maximum I ever did with anybody. Uh, because how many questions do you need for a 3000 word interview in a sense, or, or 1500 word, whatever it was. But I was interested in the form. Suddenly, I'm, I'm with these people, and I'm thinking, what would it be like if I could come back tomorrow? And, you know, after we talked about it, what, what if I could come back for a few more days and dig deeper and deep?


When will they throw me out? Basically? How much do you, so, so I looked around and I said, wh where could I do an interview like that just to test, to see what it would be like? And it was Playboy. It was the only obvious play thing. How do you get into Playboy? I'm, I'm new. I'm just starting out in my career writing career Playboy's established, and they only have 12 interviews a year. So they've, they have their interviewers already, I'm sure. You know, like Alex Haley. Um, so my, I I thought of a way in, and that was, I had to convince News Day's Editor. It wasn't much convincing to let me do an interview with you Hefner for Newsday, for the LA magazine. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And they said, okay, I didn't get in touch with Playboys publicists. And, uh, they said, okay. So they set this thing up, and I g I really prepared.


I was, you know, like I knew, I, I, I just had questions. I wasn't gonna be a softball interview. I wanted to impress Hefner. Yeah. So I could, you know, get in. So anyway, we, we go, the interview took, uh, oh seven hours the first day, and he invited me back. He took me up to his bedroom to show me his rotating bed, that kind of stuff. But, you know, it was like, I, I did a, a pretty good job with this 3000 word piece. And what happened was that, that, when that came out, Hefner didn't show up for the, uh, annual dinner with the advertisers that was at the Playboy Club in Century City. But the publicist called me and said, instead of him showing up, he's printing out thousands of copies of this interview you did with him. And that's his statement. That's who he is.


And I, and I said, wow, that's amazing. So then they said, would you like to come to the, to the dinner? You know, to the luncheon. Arthur Kretchma will be there. Now, Arthur k Crutcher was the editorial director of Playboy, the number one guy in the magazine. Right. And then, so I said, of course, I'll come. And I had a portfolio with me. You know, everybody's going for the one thing. I'm going there to seriously talk to this man and see if I, I can talk him into letting me try to be a Playboy interviewer. He, so the publicist, uh, the Playboy was like, Don Rogers was name. He goes over to, uh, you know, after Kretchma spoke and everything, and they talk, he brought 'em over to my table, <laugh>. I couldn't believe that. And I said, Mr. Kretchma, I said, look, this is what I do.


This is who I've done, you know, and I, and he said, well, I like the one you do with Hef. I said, great. I said, but I think I can do it for Playboy. So he told me who the editor Playboy would be, Barry Goldson said, give a call. So I called him and I said, Arthur Kremer told me to call blood. So of course, he took my call. And, uh, he says, who are you working on? So I said, well, I'm trying to get to this, to this, to this. I mentioned 15 names. One of them was Barbara Streisand. Well, Streisand was like, uh, Beyonce now, or bigger. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I mean, Streisand was like really the biggest star. And, um, so, and so I never talked to anybody. So I started in trying to get to her, and it took me over a year, I think, to finally get her to agree.


And the reason she agreed was she was making that movie A Stars born. Frank Pearson was the director, and he published an article, New York Magazine called My Battles with John and Barbara. John Peters was a hus, uh, her boyfriend at the time. And, uh, he was producing, so this was, and Chris Christofferson was the star opposite her and a Stars woman. So, um, she wanted revenge. She was angry that he talked ab negatively about her and about her son or something he wrote. So, so I got to know Frank Pearson, by the way. I liked him. Uh, but, but anyway, uh, I get a call from Hi, her publicist, Lee Salters, who says, um, uh, Barbara would like to see you. I said, uh, okay. I said, is this, uh, you know, work <laugh>, or is this just a meeting? I, I didn't know. So she, they, she just said, just be there, tarde studio.


So that's what I, I didn't prepare to do the interview. I didn't think that was gonna happen. But I go to the Tarde Studios, and I'm waiting in the waiting room, and, uh, I'm waiting 10 minutes, a half hour maybe. And then here comes Barbara Streisand through the door behind her of five people. These are, this is her entourage, right. What, whoever they are. And she comes, she just comes right at me, right to my, you know, my, my face. And, you know, and she says, why does the press hate me? <laugh>, first question, first meeting, not, hello, Larry. We're both from Brooklyn. Nice to meet you. <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (00:19:23):

Like you can answer on behalf of everyone.

Larry Grobel (00:19:25):

Yeah. So I said, I, I took a step back and I wa I didn't expect the question, but I answered it honestly. And I just started listing all the reasons I was disliking her for keeping me, waiting for doing this, for doing that, for making the whole thing well behind her, her five people went <laugh>. Yes. Like, yes. And I realized, oh, right. I'm in the presence of a queen, and, you know, I shouldn't be doing this. Anyway, she looked at me and she said, come with me. And we go into the studio and said, there's, we, we are gonna watch, uh, uh, screening of A Star is Born, and she's gonna, uh, play with the music. She, she moves things up and down, you know, whatever. Um, and it was fascinating I, to watch her work and to also sit there with her and watch this thing.


But I was so nervous about it because I thought, I, I, I don't lie. Well, my face displays what I think. And if I don't like this movie, and she's, look, I'm gonna blow the interview. Right. <laugh> with her. So anyway, we watched this whole thing, and, and I didn't really care for the movie that much, to be honest, but I'm sitting there thinking, oh, gee, what's gonna happen? The lights come on. She turns to me. This is, we're the only two people in this, in this theater, and we're in these like, leather red leather seats, you know? Like, she turns to me and goes, well, <laugh>, oh my God. And I just looked at her and I said, you're gonna make a lot of money. Oh, that was a great out, wasn't it, <laugh>? It was a great out right there. Well done. That's, I'm remembering that.


And then she came, you know, and then what happened was, uh, she, she finally agrees to do the interview with me. She says, okay, call my publicist and he'll arrange it. And I said, no, no, Barbara, I have been talking to him for weeks, months, almost a year. I, I, I don't wanna deal that way. If you wanna do this, give me your phone number. And she looked at me and she was making a decision, you know, one of those moments. And then she goes to a, a pad, a yellow pad, like this one. And she, with, in the smallest little lettuce, she writes B and her phone number. And then she rips this piece off like this and hands me this little piece. So, okay, I had a phone number. So that's it. That's it. I called her directly, and we started, and the first thing I'm going on about this, this is maybe too long for you, but the first thing, oh, no, it's great.


The first thing that Barbara wanted, she came down the steps. I'm in her house in, in, in home hills. And she comes down the steps with a, with a document, and she hands it to me, and she says, okay, you know, just sign this and, and we'll get going. And I go, sign what? Right. What is she talking about? And I look down and I see it says, dear Barbara. And at the bottom of the second page says my name, and I'm supposed to have written this letter, and it's gonna sign it. It's that her lawyer wrote. And it basically said that, uh, she would control the interview. She would, uh, take, keep all the tapes. She could edit the transcript to, to her liking and whatever, you know. And I just looked at that, and I said, Barbara, I said, uh, I, I, I can't sign this. And she says, well, everybody does. And I said, <laugh>. Yeah, but everybody's not doing an interview like this. I said, this is different. And you know, you have to, uh, understand that because, um, I'm not a secretary, and what you're asking me to do is, uh, you know, to, to perform a, an, uh, an interview with you so you can edit it and make it the way you want it. That's not a, that's not journalism. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So she just hesitated a minute, and then the phone rings.


Well, she said, okay, she'll do it. But then the phone rings, and it's her, it's her lawyer. And he, and he says he's calling, did he sign? Did he sign? And, uh, no, she, and she says he did. And then she, he starts yelling at her. And so she looks at me and hands me the phone and says, here, you talk to him. And she hands me the phone, and I hear the lawyer. I don't know who the lawyer was. I hear the guy, him screaming out, I don't wanna ask him, talk to him. <laugh>. So I give, I took the phone. I gave, I said, he doesn't wanna talk to me, <laugh>. I gave it back there, <laugh>. She hangs up with him. Two minutes later, John Peters calls. Did he sign then again? No. Then Okay, then another five minutes. Lisa Salt is called. So, I mean, she had her whole entourage.

Fritz Coleman (00:23:48):

You disappointed a lot of people, Larry.

Larry Grobel (00:23:50):

Oh, yeah. I, oh, they were not happy with me. <laugh>. Marty Oliman called, you know, I mean, Marty was the, was the one actually, he screamed. I don't wanna talk to him. And that was her manager. Anyway, um, so we sit down. I've never quite told this story before. So, but I mean this way. Um, but when, when we finally start to, you know, I take out the tape record, we go into her living room, and we, that's the only time we ever talked in that room. We always went into a different place, but that this was by the fireplace. And then there's a living room, and we're sitting on the floor, and we start to talk. And the talk got a little bit sexual. I mean, you know, talk about sex. And it surprised me because in all the 150 to 200 questions I may have written, none of it was about that.


Right. I, and it, and I, I, and we just started talking on an intimate level in a way that, uh, made me think about this later. And I said to myself, what she was doing was committing to this interview because it was gonna take a battle, and it was a battle. And they wanted to buy it off. I had, you know, they offered me, you know, John Peters called me to his office. They tried to buy it from me. They tried to get me to sign. So up, I mean, all sorts of things happened. It's an amazing story, actually. The whole story. It's a whole chapter in my, my book, uh, my memoir, you show me yours. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, it's a, and it was, lemme

Fritz Coleman (00:25:12):

Lemme just stop you right there. This was, uh, your interview with her was for Playboy.

Larry Grobel (00:25:17):

Yeah. Okay, good. And the, and, and, and, you know, but, and oh man, there's so much. There was so much that happened during this, this time. You know, that ha you know, that I was with her. That it was fascinating. And I also know Elliott Gould, he's a f became a friend of mine before I even did Barbara. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, and, you know, then I'd meet Jason when he was a boy, you know, and it was like, you know, in a lot of ways, like family, I was, I was intersecting into, into different lives, uh, and, and trying to figure out things out too.

Fritz Coleman (00:25:45):

I, I will say that your book, um, you show me, yours is like a textbook on how to be an effective interviewer. And, and what you're describing is sort of a subsection of your book, which is don't allow the interview subject to control the circumstances. So Barbara tried to control you and wasn't successful. Vince Bui, the prosecutor in the Charles Manson case did exactly the same thing. And so did Alec Baldwin, although sort of time delayed try to control. But you can't allow that to happen as an effective interviewer. I, I, I really, I learned so much from reading your, your book of the various suggestions. And that was one. Okay. Don't, don't let the interviews subject control it. And

Louise Palanker (00:26:26):

It's hard because they're very intimidating

Fritz Coleman (00:26:28):

People. Yes. Of course. There's big stars.

Larry Grobel (00:26:30):

You have, you know, the, the thing about doing interviews is, cause I've taught it at UCLA for, I did 10 years. I was teaching, uh, the art of the interview. And, um, and I was bringing in everybody. I was a, Al Pacino came, Diane Keaton came. Wow. You know, Steve Martin, John, uh, Jonathan Saffer foyer, they loved him because he was like 25 years old. He wrote, everything is Illuminated. And he's like, making millions of dollars. You know? So it's hope for writers, you know, once in a while. Yeah. Um, so it was a really fascinating class to, uh, to, to do Farcet. You know, she came, uh, it was, it was one of those. Um, but, but, but to try to teach how to do an interview, you know, how do you duplicate what you, I've done, that's an impossible thing to answer, but I realize a lot of it has to do with confidence.


Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and personality. Um, and, you know, I have friends who are very accomplished, but they are like a level kinds of people that is, they can only, you know, put strict attention on something when it's about them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, you know, um, uh, Ray Bradbury, who was like that in a way, you know, uh, the, these certain people I've met, um, other people, uh, like Brando, who was not like that at all. Brando wanted to hear your stories. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, Brando, he, he, if, if it was up to him, I never would've done the interview with him. He just would've listened to me the whole time. You know, I mean, wow. They, because it, it was a very different kind of person to be with than Warren Beatty. He'll talk about certain things, but then boom, you know, the women is not crazy about talking about, this is earlier, but, but also I learned, you know, what you learned, for instance, that, uh, you, you learn when you can sort of broach certain subjects, if you have a lot of time.


For instance, the, the with Beatty, we, we talked at his Beverly Hills. Uh, he had the top floor there for small little two bedroom apartment. But that's where he did all his, his, his loving ats, a Beverly officer hotel. Right. Hotel. All his loving <laugh>. And, uh, and, and, and, you know, and I, when I went to see him, see some of it had to do with just how you dress. I was in Africa for three years, so I, I was comfortable wearing these fugo, you know, like, it didn't look like anything normal. I'd go to CP people, I'd be wearing what I'm comfortable in, cuz I'm gonna be there for a while. I don't wanna be uncomfortable. And they would always look at me with a smile or a little strange with Beatty. It was like, the minute he took, he looked me up and down.


It was like, come on in, come on in. It was like, you know, it, it was just that thing. That's, it could be the way you dress, it could be the way you smile. It's that with Pacino, the first time I met him, it was in his apartment now on fifth, uh, uh, 85th Street was it, um, you know, on Madison at Matt Madison. And it was like, like Candace Bergen was the name on the, on the mailbox. It was his place. But he kept make was hers before he never took it off, so you wouldn't know he was there. Um, and the first thing I did when, when we got in, he opened the door and it was a small apartment. And, and he sort of, uh, you could see he was nervous. He was really not wanting to do it because he never did a big, an interview, even a small one.


He was, he was basically a virgin. And, um, I, I just looked at him, you know, and I, I knew immediately to take out my tape recorder immediately, because I, with Brando, he wouldn't let me turn on the tape recorder for three or four days. And that was torture, you know? But, so I took it out immediately and he says, what are you doing? What are you doing, <laugh>? I said, trust me, Al, I said, this is the way to, this is the best way to do this. And I said, I just put this on. I'm gonna put it aside and we're just gonna talk, you know, and this, you know, don't, you'll forget it. And then he, he said, okay, okay. I guess you know best. Why was he acting like that? Nicely to me, because I had done Brando and Al had never done an interview before.


When that interview got published, I was working on Steve Martin. I was, you know, getting rid for Playboy. And I get a call from the editor saying, um, we got Al Pacino. And that was another big take, you know, a big get mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I, I did Patty Hurst too. There were certain big gets I, I've done, uh, for, for them. And that, you know, Al was a big one. Marlon of course was really a big one. Um, and they were, I had to go there on Thursday and I'm in, uh, I, it's Tuesday and on Wednesday the Academy Library is closed. I can't, at that time, I was doing my research there, you know, I had, I couldn't do any research. Oh, oh, yeah. So I said, I can't do it. I can't, I can't do it that soon, you know. Uh, so they said to me, you don't understand.


He said, he'll only do it with the guy who did Brando. Yeah, I heard that. You know, I mean, immediately I said, huh. He doesn't know my name, but I'm the guy who did Brando. So I said to him, well, okay, but I want more money. Ta-da Right. Writer against moments, you know, you don't get many of those moments, but once in a while. So, um, and they agreed. And, uh, I flew off to New York and, and I went to see him. He opens the door, he's nervous. I put on the tape recorder like that, we go to sit down. First thing I notice is, uh, is a, oh, I, I sit in this, um, a wicker seat, right. He had his kind of, he had an old couch, a moldy yogurt, uh, was sitting on the top of the hand, uh, the top of the couch.


Um, and I go to sit in this thing and my ass goes right through the chair. It's a broken, oh my God. And it's not that I was that heavy, you know, I mean, it was just, you know. So I went, what <laugh> I just love to laugh. And then, you know, he, he, he's like jittery. He says, you want some coffee? I said, okay. So we go in this little kitchen and he lights the stove. And then, but he also, uh, uh, sets, sets the, um, what do you call the towel? Dish towel he had on fire. Oh my God. So now I'm, all of a sudden he's waving this dish towel and trying to get this fire. And I'm there 10, 15 minutes already. And I'm saying, this is like my friends, this is, I I know this guy <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. It wasn't, it was no longer, you know, Michael Corleone, you know, it was, it was no lo it, it was a different person. It was someone I could relate to I grew up with.

Louise Palanker (00:32:34):

Was this guy that was, you felt like, you know, you had the footing because he didn't have his footing. So that, that you could make him feel more comfortable.

Fritz Coleman (00:32:42):

Yeah. And, and, and in your book, you talk, just to further comment on the dressing thing you were talking about, you really comment on your book. And it's really a revelation where if you walk in there with a suit and tie, the person you're interviewing immediately feels uptight because you look uptight wearing a suit and tie. If you go in with jeans and a sweatshirt, or as you say, that African piece you were wearing, people are immediately, they, they feel you're gonna be open-minded and relaxed. And their responses might be open-minded or relaxed. So you have to think about what you're gonna wear as well. Y

Larry Grobel (00:33:14):

You well, I, but my feeling too is that I think you want, what I used to tell my students, cuz when, when I said one time we were gonna go to the Playboy Mansion, they were gonna interview Hefner. You know, he agreed to do that. Um, or, you know, if, if Pacino came, he came three times. Anthony KK came, you know, from the Red Eye Chili Peppers. And I know they're gonna be nervous. They all, I say, look, you guys are gonna get nervous. They, they say, well, they're all confident. You know what? I said, no, you'll see you, what'll happen. But, um, the, you know, the thing is, I want you all to dress the way you would dress if you were going to this person's house. I don't care what you wear. You can wear a sweatshirt, you can wear your pajamas, or you can wear time jacket.


Whatever you feel creates the respect you wanna give to the person you're about to, to interview. You don't wanna show disrespect. You don't, you know, but you, you wanna be comfortable. But you also wanna show the, you know, where the level of this can go. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I remember when, when I went to see Luis Lasser, she was in that Mary Hartman. Mary Hartman. Then she got caught the drugs. She was smoking marijuana or something. So she got put in jail. She came out. So she, she, I was supposed to be, I thought I was the first person who was gonna be interviewing her since she got out. But as it turned out, I get to her, it was in Malibu, and I get to the door and a man with, in a suit and tote tie is Lee just leaving. He was from the Wall Street Journal.


And he, and then she looked at me and a giant sigh of relief, <laugh>. It was really interesting, you know? Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. I could see cuz I could. And so in that sense, yes, he was stiff, you know, and I could see it, you know, right away. Arthur Miller, the same thing. I went to see Arthur Miller and, and a New York Times reporter was there, and, and he was also in a tie in a jacket and stuff. It's funny, you know, but, but you know, GAE TOIs, you, you're familiar with Gae, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, well, GAE TOIs is a, a, a really brilliant journalist, you know, he was, he's one of the best. And, uh, he was at UCLA at the book, uh, festival of Books one year. And I was there, I always, uh, I had an office at UCLA for 10 years. So I, I, I was walking down bru and walk, and he was coming up and I see it's him.


And I just said, Mr. Tillis, listen. I said, introduced who I am. I said, you know what I do. But I said, you know, I, I'm teaching here and I teach, you know, your work. I said, I, and, and I love some of your essays sometimes. And he said, why don't we go have a coffee? So we go into the faculty and we start talking and we're getting along. And I said to him, um, what are you doing tonight? And he said, what, what are you thinking? I said, well, uh, would you like to go see Al Pacino in, um, Salame, uh, or at the, uh, Wadsworth Theater? And he looks at me, he says, it's Saturday night. You can't get tickets to that. Now it's, I said, no, I can. So he says, how? I said, cuz I know Al So I call Al <laugh>. He said, I need, I, I need your two tickets and talk about impressing Gae TOIs. You know,

Louise Palanker (00:36:03):

<laugh>. Yeah.

Larry Grobel (00:36:04):

But here's the thing. We're, you know, the Wadsworth Theater is at the Veterans Avenue. It's not, it's near U C L A. I live up in the Hollywood Hills. I'm dressed the way I'm dressed, which is probably like a sweater or whatever. So he, I said, okay, we can go, we can have, maybe we'll have dinner for us. And he says, well, you're not gonna go like that, are you? He says to me, and I said, well, what do you mean? I said, yeah, I've only been to this thing about eight times now. I've taken Joyce car os to it. I, I took, uh, Anthony Hopkins to it. You know, so it was, it was fun. You know, I would take them backstage. They would talk to him. So till he says, no, no, no, you're going out with me. So, so <laugh>, I want you to wear a jacket and tie. I said, well, if I had to drive all the way home, get put out. My wife says to me, what are you doing? I said, why are you here? I said, I have a day with gay Tise <laugh>. Come on a jacket and code. Isn't that,

Louise Palanker (00:36:53):

Wow. So you talk in your book about the experience that you had with Goldie Han and Kurt Russell and, and you kind of talk about how you're not really friends with the people that you're interviewing. It may feel like you're friendly, but you are lifelong friends with Al Pacino. So tell, tell those stories and, you know, and what happened and why, and when you can trust friendship in, in, in

Larry Grobel (00:37:15):

This, well, you don't really, you really don't know. You don't know what you can trust. I thought Dolly Parton and I were, were pretty solid. You know, we were friendly, you know, as with Goldie and, and Kurt, um, Diane Keaton, um, Elliot Gould, uh, Pacino, I would say those were the major people that I would Oh, and for Far force, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I thought Kim Bassinger for a while, and you know, cuz we, but she's an a agoraphobic, so she doesn't like to go out. But, you know, we talk on the phone a lot. And then I think what happened is she couldn't wait to read My Neck, my last book, which was that book You talking to me? Yeah. And, um, she, you know, I wrote about her twice in that book and once, once was, you know, very nice about animals and all her, the, and the other was that how I noticed how women sometimes kind of exaggerate their relationship with their loved one.


Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, uh, Angelina Jolie talked about Billy Bob thought and how she could never leave him. How she would, you know, use a knife on him if, if he ever did anything. It was like a amazing what they would say to me, you know? And that would get into the interview. Uh, Nicole Kidman, you know, talked about Tom Cruise to me, you know, she came here in my room where I'm sitting right now. Nicole Kidman sat here. Angelina Jo Lee sat here. Um, Kim Basinger did not come here. No, I went to her. But, um, and Kim about Alec, you know, what a great kisser he was. This and that on, you know, all three of these women, uh, got divorced from these men <laugh>, it ended badly for the most part. And they went on to the next one together. And so I was writing a piece about how I have never been, I have never talked openly about my relationship with my wife, for instance. You know, it's a private relationship. But I, I love her dearly, but I'm not gonna say in print the way these women said about their men. And yet, I'm still with my wife <laugh> for so many years now, you know, since the seventies. Um, and, uh, these women are not. So that was what I wrote that.

Fritz Coleman (00:39:17):

And so, what do you think they were trying to get?

Larry Grobel (00:39:19):

Kim Kim read that and said, and, and I, she hasn't answered my phone since, you know, I mean, I know she read the book, so I guess she was upset with that. But this is the problem. You, you have a problem when you meet these people because you, if they wa if there's a lot of people will wanna be friendly when you have a lot of stories. Everyone loved to talk to me because of Brando. You know, after I did Brando Boy, you know, uh, Lilly Tomlin wanted, wanted to hear about Brando, Barbara Streisand wanted to hear about Brando. Everybody wanted to hear stories about him. So that was an interesting thing. So, you know, people, you think you, you're becoming friendly with cer certain people, you know, cuz it's a different level. You're not there to write about them now. But with me, I, I'm a writer mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I, I, I do keep a journal, you know what I mean? And so, uh, this is, uh, I don't know what's gonna come that's not gonna come, but I don't, you know, I just sort of see I'm living my life, whatever enters it.

Louise Palanker (00:40:13):


Larry Grobel (00:40:13):

And that became very close with, with Elliot Gould. And I heard him once in that book as well. He read the book and said, Larry, uh, it wasn't, uh, David Carradine who gave me L s D for the first time. And he told me, who someone else? And I said, Elliot, but you had told me that, you know, but he was, he was saying, you know, and there was, it wasn't Fox Ubi, it, it wasn't Hershey's Chocolate, it was Fox EBIT or something, you know. And, and, uh, when he was a kid, did a, an advertisement. So I felt badly about that. You know, I, I don't wanna make mistakes in, in my writing, you know, and certain things you couldn't correct or not, but he's a minch, you know what I mean? He's, he, he may not like something I wrote, or I might have got it wrong, but we're still friends. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we talk to each other on the phone all the time. But

Fritz Coleman (00:40:54):

Sometimes those guys will call you for having made a mistake. But you have the tape to prove that you were right.

Larry Grobel (00:41:01):

Well, yes. Yes. That hap that's happened. You know, the glisi, I mean, you brought up Glisi. I can go in so many directions now, you know, it's like <laugh>. Yeah. You know, because there's, you know, what's the, what happened with Goldie and Kurt? That's a good story, but it's gonna take me five minutes to tell it. Yeah. You know, the same thing with the governor of Ventura, you know, and, and, and, uh, Bobby Knight. These are all great stories. But the problem is, I don't know your timing. So you, I'm willing to go anywhere you want you

Louise Palanker (00:41:27):

Guys, I mean, we, we can pick out certain stories to tell, and I know they're, you know, they're in Larry's books if you want to read these books. But what I, kind of, the takeaway that I got from hearing about how people wanted to be your friend until they suddenly didn't like something maybe that you had written, it felt to me like, you know, celebrities spend their lives very exposed. And the insecurity that sends them into public life seeking attention is the trait that makes negative attention almost unbearable. And that's why you encounter rage and control issues. And the story about your friendship with Goldie Han and Kurt Russell is especially haunting because when it came down to feeling pricked, they just circled their wagons. I mean, well,

Larry Grobel (00:42:06):

What happened? Yeah. But, but you see, and, and again, that wasn't even my fault,

Louise Palanker (00:42:09):

Of course. It wasn't

Larry Grobel (00:42:11):

Like a malon short story. It was like the necklace, the story of the necklace. Um, and I, you know, in a nutshell, um, I'd interviewed Goldie for Playboy, and we became friends. And then I got to know Kurt. And, uh, Kurt was the opposite of Goldie. Goldie was a liberal. Kurt was a conservative. Uh, and, and every time we would have dinner, we, we arrange, we liked each other. So we, we would arrange to have, uh, every few months they would come to our house, or we would go to their house and, and share and have a dinner. You know? And it was fun, you know, and we bought Kate, Kate Hudson was a, a, a young girl then, you know, and Oliver, I mean, you know, they were, they were under 10, probably mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so, um, yeah. So we, we, we had this very nice kind of friendship that, you know, I, I thought, and to the point that Goldie gave us, you know, uh, the key to her house in, in Malibu stayed with when, when, with my family, when my kids were small, says, oh, we're going away.


You can ha it was wonderful. You know, it was a very nice kind of thing. And then, um, uh, entertainment Weekly asked me to do an in, uh, uh, a story on, um, Kurt Russell. And, uh, he was making that, um, fire Backdraft Backdraft. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So, so I said, fine, you know, I said, but you know, you know, I know him. You know, I, I I'm always upfront with, with these people, uh, with editors. Cause I said, if you want a hatchet job on somebody, you hire somebody else. If you want something that's not gonna be that, but it'll be more insightful because you'll get different kinds of stories that way. Then I can do those stories. I'm only, I only say that with a few people, but with them I did Anyway, so I, Kurt and I, we go up in a plane.


We said, let's have lunch in, uh, like near the Hearst Castle or something. Okay, let's fly the plane. So we go in the plane, and the two of us, he, he's, he's a very good, you know, pilot. And then somewhere in the air he says, okay, you take control <laugh>. I said, what are you kidding me? He says, go ahead. And suddenly I'm flying a plane for the very first time, and I, you know, say, okay, but, but, and then we get there, we had a nice lunch. We get back, I write the article, I write about, you know, going up in the plane. I do the whole thing. And the article comes out in, in, uh, entertainment Weekly was part of Time Magazine, you know, so and so, I'd never had that, that was the only magazine I ever had to deal with. More than one editor.


Usually you del you and your editor hash things out. But it it, with, with a, that kind of a, a magazine it used to go through, one editor would read it and then make his comments. Another would read it, make Heart Comments, and it went up to three or four people. So they kept sending me back versions of it, you know, faxing me at the time. And I'm reading this thing and I say, no, no, no, you're taking out the s and I'm writing back. You know, it's one of those things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, when the thing finally comes out, which is, you know, it's rushed these things, once they decide to go with it, it's like the next week or something. So it comes out and, um, in the second paragraph, it said something like, uh, Kurt Russell, who is a, uh, b actor trying to become an a tier actor, uh, and then da, da da, something else.


Well, I never, I've never written in my life anything about A's and B's and ratings and tears. I, it was like crazy. And I read, but it was already in print. You know, there was so sandwich in between my article. They, they did this, and, uh, he got, now I never knew for sure that that was it, but when, when, when was our turn to, to see them, and I called and I didn't, they didn't called, didn't call me back. And then I tried again, and she, again, we, I didn't call me back. And I said, well, it's funny they're not calling back. My wife says, oh, maybe it's because, you know, we set off the alarm in their house. Cuz when we stayed there, I, uh, I, I put in the wrong number, but I said, no, no, that, that was silly. We knew the password.


So we were able to get through that one <laugh>. But, but I said, maybe it was the article, but I didn't know. So, so, um, after the third attempt, I said, well, that's, I guess that friendship is, was not what I thought it was. I tell this story to Al Pacino. Oh, oh. So Al goes to about a year later, I don't know, half a year, year, Al goes to the Oscars or to the Golden Globes. And, and then he comes back and I s I'm seeing him. And he, he says, uh, Hey, I, I met your friends yesterday. I said, who are my friends? He says, Goldie and Kurt. I said, oh, I don't, I don't know if they're friends anymore, <laugh>. I said, I, I, he says, why? What happened? I said, I don't know. I never found out. I suspect that I don't know.


So I can't really talk. So he says, I want you to do this. He says, I want you to write to Goldie and I want you to say, I'm saying to you to write. He says, say, Al Pacino told you to do me to do this. And, um, and say, you know, you wanna know why, what happened? So I wrote Goldie a note and I said, look, gold, I guess I said, uh, Al's in full Al's insisting I write this. Cause he wants to know what happened. But I'm not sure exactly what happened between us. Um, but perhaps you can answer. So she writes me back and she says, uh, that the problem was, she said, is everything was great, be she with us all the time. And then this article comes out and she says, and I didn't recognize Kurt, I didn't recognize the man I'm living with.


And if that's who you thought he was, then I, you know, he was so hurt by it. I just thought we shouldn't talking. And I said, well, listen, I wrote back. Now what I did is I wrote back. And I had my article still in my file, but I also had a copy of the magazine and I sent it. I think she was in Hawaii at the time. And I sent this to her. I said, I said, Goldie, I want you to look at, I, I'm sure you don't have that article anymore, so here's a copy. You know what, what? And then, uh, but I want you to look at what I wrote and see if, if, uh, there's any difference in that. And she wrote me back, I'm down on my knees an apology. What you wrote was so beautiful, and I'm so sorry, you know, but, but she didn't know.


But what I'm saying is, why didn't you call, why didn't you say, call me and ignore, you know, I didn't get it. And so, you know, and then she says, oh, you must come for dinner. I said, all right. So we go and my wife says, are you gonna bring it up? And I said, well, yeah, I think we have to discuss it, but not at dinner. I said, you know, let's do seven nice dinner. So we go and we sit down and then Kurt brings it up quickly at, at dinner. And I said, Kurt, let's wait. Let's have a, let's just have dinner first. And then the, we, we'll discuss this cuz I have a lot to say about it, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But it basically ruined the friendship, you know? I mean, even though we were, uh, we were at back at dinner, we po We don't do that. We don't have that relationship. We had once had. So what was that a friendship? Or was that, you know, a dayan kind of Dante dish kind of thing? I think

Louise Palanker (00:48:49):

It was a friendship. I think the thing is about very famous people is like, they live in that spotlight. And so they're, it's like they burn more easily from the sun. Right? So when they feel, when they feel that burn, it's just excruciating. And they can't, they can't tolerate. So they go back inside. But that was a friendship. It's just, they're more vulnerable than we are. We don't walk down the street and, and people know I'm Goldie haunt. Like we don't have the experience that they have.

Larry Grobel (00:49:16):

Yeah. I, well, I've experienced that. Barbara Streis told me once, walking on the beach, she says, uh, someone walked right by her and said, yeah, look a lot like her. <laugh> <laugh>, you don't expect to see her. Right? I was with Diane Keaton, and, and I've been with the number size where, where we're walking somewhere and something happens. Diane Keaton was always the coolest. You know, anybody came up there. She would, she would just disarm them. Goldie was pretty good at disarming too. Pacino jumped, you know, one time a a, a woman came out of a carb, saw him. We were walking just down Bev in Beverly Hills going towards, uh, you know, little Santa Monica in that area. And she, this woman came from behind, young woman. And, uh, and, and she, she reached out. I think she touched him on the shoulder. And I thought Al Owen was jumped into the bushes, you know, really like <laugh>. He just really got nervous. Let,

Fritz Coleman (00:50:03):

Let, let, let, let me take you back for just a second cuz I don't wanna lose this point. What irritated me about the Kurt and Goldie story was that an editor has the ability to change your words mm-hmm. <affirmative> and attribute words to you that you did not say legally. That seems, uh, un that seems untoward to me. Yeah.

Larry Grobel (00:50:22):

I'll tell you, I think it happens a great deal in journalism. You know, inri in magazine journalism stuff. It just some, and sometimes you just can't fight it, you know? I mean, with the Playboy interview, I pretty much had my way, but there were times in the very beginning, my very first interview, even though Streisand was my first assignment, it took so long to do, I ended up doing Henry Winkler in between. And Henry Winkler got published first. And, um, but when the, when I got the galley back, this is the first one, you know, I'm dealing with my editor. I, it was like I had built up, I saw doing an interview as a, a three act play in a way. I don't know why, but I, I said drama, you know, so you wanna build up, you, you, you have someone maybe starting out high and then sinking low and then going back up and at the end, what is your ending?


And with Henry Winkler, he was the funds, he was the, you know, Georgie Scott, uh, said to him, you know, kid, you better enjoy it cuz you may never get another part like it, you know, interesting. Right? And, um, so, so, uh, I ended it with, uh, he went to Mardi Gras and he was the king of Mardi Gras, and he's throwing out the, the balloons and the necklaces. And I said, he's at the top of the world, you know? And so I thought, this is a nice place to end this piece. And I did. So when I get the galleys back, the whole section is gone. And I'm going, what happened? And they said, well, the advertisements came in and you know, we, you measure by the, the inches now. So you have to take something out. And for Alana of editors, the easiest thing to do is to take it out from the bottom.


You know, rather than go through in the middles where they, where you've made all your connections. Why wouldn't they ask you what you thought ought to be hoisted on? Well, I got, that's the thing. I, it was my first, first time. Oh, okay. So, you know what I mean? So they didn't know. And when I, I called and I started to say, look, you got, this is what I did. I remember Barry gels and saying to me, you know, I never thought of an interview like that. This is the editor of the Playboy interview. And he didn't see it the way I was seeing it. Isn't that something? So anyway, uh, they respected me after that. Now I think that's why I got the call to do Brando so quickly after Streisand, because it took nine months to get Streisand. And I didn't get paid until the end.


You know, I, so I was, I was working for free and who knew that was gonna have a, a heaven ending ending. Um, but after that came out, it was on the, she was on the cover, and it was the first celebrity ever to be on the cover of that magazine. And, uh, that was a huge deal because Barbara does not know this story. But what happened was, she said to me, wouldn't there be something advised on the cover of Playboy? And I looked at her, I said, you would, you wanna be on the cover <laugh>? I didn't believe it, right? So she said, well, it would be something with it. So I called Barry in, in New York and I said, you're not gonna believe this. She wants to be on the cover. What do you think? Are you kidding? This is great. We're, you know, so then, then he flies out cuz he's gonna meet with her to discuss the cover, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So he flies out to New York, uh, tale. And I meet him at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And he is like, Ashin. I said, what's the matter cuz we're, we're going to see Barbara and John within the next half hour let's say. He says, Hef doesn't wander on the cover. I said, oh wow. What are you kidding me? He says, well, apparently she never goes to his parties. <laugh>, please. And I'm going,

Louise Palanker (00:53:33):

Everyone is so insecure.

Fritz Coleman (00:53:34):

<laugh>, did you see the Secrets of Playboy streaming series?

Larry Grobel (00:53:38):

Yeah, I'm watching that. But I, I, that's, that's really one-sided in a certain way. But I, I, I don't know for for sure about a lot of the stuff. I, I can know what I've seen cuz I went to that mansion every Sunday to movie line. I

Fritz Coleman (00:53:49):

Just wondered what your opinion was and you just POed it.

Louise Palanker (00:53:51):

So have you watched Licorice Pizza? Cuz I'm wondering if that is an accurate portrayal of John Peters

Larry Grobel (00:53:56):

<laugh>. Oh, yeah, John Peters is nuts. But let me just finish this story with,

Louise Palanker (00:53:59):

Okay, go ahead, please.

Larry Grobel (00:54:01):

Uh, where was I with, with this? With, sorry.

Louise Palanker (00:54:03):

I heard, uh, Hef didn't want her on the cover.

Larry Grobel (00:54:05):

Oh, Hef didn't want her on the cover. Excuse me. And, um, so I, I said to, you know, if we go and tell her that this interview that I've been doing for eight, seven or eight months is over, it's over. She's never gonna let it. He goes, what are we gonna do? I said, this is what we're gonna do. You, you, you will give her control of the picture and you, because Hefner has control of the picture. He's the one who decides, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So they said, but we'll tell her that she can pick the picture she wants because you Playboy's never done that. And we, we don't, and we won't, we don't care. If she doesn't like it, it won't happen. You know? But if she, but, but even if, even if she says no to it, the interview itself will appear. And that's all I was caring about. Okay. So the idea would be that we, so she agreed to that, and then they took the pictures and they had, they built this big circle, and she's wearing a Superman t-shirt and her legs, beautiful legs. She had, uh, uh, bare legs. And, um, it says, what's a nice Jewish girl doing on the cover of Playboys <laugh>?


Um, and she also posed in the bunny suit, and they didn't use that. They went with this one. So anyway, this is God,

Fritz Coleman (00:55:21):

That's branding. You couldn't even put, I mean, that, that would be branding. You couldn't even put a dollar value on to have her in a bunny suit. They blew it.

Larry Grobel (00:55:28):

Why that one? Because Dolly pardoned it and they put her on the cupboard with the bunny suit. Um, and so did, so did Sally Field. I arranged for that one. And she did. She, she was in the cup bunny suit. So anyway, so Barbara, um, uh, agreed to the, the picture, you know, that she liked or took the three, and then they took it to Hefner, cuz they still didn't know if this was gonna go mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the, the, the, we told Barbara that Hefner and Barbara have to agree together. That was, that was the idea. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that way, no matter what Barbara said, if Hefner didn't want it, okay, it's not gonna happen. Hefner looked at it and he liked it. Bingo. It's on the cover of Playboy. First, first celebrity cover. All

Louise Palanker (00:56:07):

Right, before we wrap up, I think we need to hear the Dolly Parton story, because I don't know if I've ever encountered a story quite like this one.

Larry Grobel (00:56:15):

<laugh>. Okay. But, but you know, I haven't even talked about my, my Turquoise book.

Louise Palanker (00:56:20):

Oh, we're gonna, yeah, we're gonna plug your books. Of

Larry Grobel (00:56:22):

Course. And, and, and I got so much I wanna tell you, but Okay. <laugh>, um, Dolly Parton. What happened with Dolly was, I, I, I flew off to, uh, Virginia in West Virginia to be in her, um, uh, entourage while she was performing. So we, I traveled on her bus, we stayed at motels. Uh, I always stayed in the room next to hers so we could talk after the show. Two, three in the morning, we would be talking, and we, we developed a very nice rapport. And, and, um, uh, it, it got to the point that, you know, she, one time she called me, she was in town, so I said, okay, well, I'll go pick her up. I had a little Fiat, and we drove down to the beach and, and, uh, she tapped out with her fingernails, the nine to five song she was working on.


She didn't have it all together. She, what do you think? I thought that was pretty cool. And then we would walk down the, along the beach and some big, big muscle guy recognized, I think he recognized her, but he, he, he saw the big boobs, you know, the hair, the boobs, and the, the heels. And we're walking along the, you know, Santa Monica Beach, uh, uh, uh, on the sidewalk. And, um, he screamed out something and Dolly grabbed my arm and said, oh, damn. She says, and I left my gun in my bag, in your car, <laugh>. And I said, your gun? She says, oh, yeah, I carry my gun all the time. I matter. Remember, you know, I told, uh, in New York, I was my sister. And I said, I'm gonna turn you from a rooster to a hen if you don't get away from you. <laugh>.


I told that story to, uh, Colin Higgins, who wrote Nine to Five and put that in the lines in the movie. I know that's right. That's one of the great, so, so anyway, with Dolly, so we were pretty close. And then, um, uh, she calls me up one day, Charlie Manson, uh, Playboy had, ca had called me a coup the, on a Friday or a Thursday and said, w we want you to think about something. We, uh, we, we want, we, we, uh, we think we can get an interview with Charlie Manson before we ask anybody else. We wanna know if you'd want to do it. And my in instinct was, of course, but then they said, listen, where, you know, some of that stuff happened with, uh, Sharon Taton All isn't in the area. You live in the Hollywood Hills. And, um, also, uh, you just had a child, you know, and it might be a little scary for you.


So I said, all right, I'll think about it. So I tell my wife, and she said, well, you know, what do you do what you do? It's your job. So I started calling different people. All the men I talked to, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. All the women I talk to, you're not doing that. You gotta be crazy. You don't wanna do that. Okay? So I'm leaning towards doing it on a Saturday night. I think I'm gonna talk to my editor on Monday. So I, and, and the phone rings like seven, eight o'clock at night. It's Dolly Parton. No. So, Adam, Hey, hey, guy, you know, how you doing? Just thinking about you. That's what she says. I said, gee, Dolly, isn't that interesting? You called. I said, I'm, I'm the middle of making a decision. She says, what, what are you, what's your decision?


I said, well, Playboy asked me, you know, uh, if I, uh, to interview Charles Manson and what she says, are you cri kidding? No, I'm not. I don't, I can't tell you what to do, but I'm gonna tell you this if you see him. Have you talked to him yet? I said, no, have you? She says, if you see him, if you're near him, if you're anywhere in the vicinity of him, I never wanna see you again. She says, that man is evil, that his evil will, will come, will spread onto you. And I don't want that coming near me. This is, she really believed this. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So she said, you're a very sensitive man. And, and I know that it's, he's the wrong person to be around. Well, in a sense, I, I caved, <laugh>. I said, well, Dolly, if it's, if it means that much to you, I said, I don't wanna lose your friendship.


You know? Uh, so I didn't do it. Playboy never got to him in the end, but Dolly could never get it out of her mind. And I, I, I, I, when I tried to see her a couple times, I'd never heard from her. So one time I was, I was asked by, uh, good Housekeeping or, or Nicole's or Cosmopolitan, one of those magazines asked me to, to, to do a story on Dolly. She, so I let her left the message, she agrees, we mute, uh, near the Chateau Marmont at a French restaurant. We see. And we had a, you know, we talked for a long time, and then I said, Dolly, it was Manson, right? She says, yes. She says, just the fact that you were even considering it change me. Just change me about you, because I can't think of you without thinking of Charlie Manson. And I don't want to, oh, so what can you do <laugh>? You know, I mean, I think she's being honest with me. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative>, yes. She's in a sense her loss as well, right? I mean, you know, like there's stories you share on both ends, but it's interesting

Louise Palanker (01:01:14):

What, what scares people and what, what are people's triggers? Because for me, that feels like a trigger. Yeah. And, you know, and so it sends her to a dark place and she just can't go there. So, I mean, I, we don't know what people's triggers are. I think we all have triggers, you know?

Larry Grobel (01:01:28):

Yes, absolutely. Uh, my sister's, my trigger <laugh>,

Louise Palanker (01:01:31):

Your sister's, your triggers.

Fritz Coleman (01:01:33):


Larry Grobel (01:01:34):

She was talking about, I'm not how dearly, but yes, of course, of

Fritz Coleman (01:01:37):

Course. I mean, some people might resent it because, uh, you know, you, you're doing it for the commerce of doing an interviewing, you know, it'll be successful and Playboy will make a lot of money off of it. That would be something to resent. But she was looking at it from like a voodoo aspect, like the bad mojo. That was a spiritual thing. She was

Louise Palanker (01:01:55):

Talking, and the way that she said, you're sensitive, that was a compliment to you. And that she was legit worried that some of this evil,

Larry Grobel (01:02:00):

You know? Oh, yeah, no, I, I take her absolutely at her word. I love her. I mean, I think she's extraordinary. She's a real genius. You know, smokes great. She's an amazing woman. And boy, I'll never forget the first time I met her, she was a bit zoic, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, this was the Dolly Parton that we sort of have in our minds when we were, you know, when you knew her when she was younger mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So she had, she was, she didn't have her waist was, Hmm, I don't know. It was a little bit bigger than, than <laugh>. We see it now. Then when I saw her that, that last time, my goodness, she told me she had an 18 inch waist. I said, did you have ribs removed? I mean, it was like a, she still had the bosom, but, but the, she was, as soon as anything, and her, her diet was nibbling. Aw. That's what she did. She didn't eat a lunch or dinner. She, she would nibble five, six times a day. But it was just, you know, small little things that she <laugh> that was what she ate. All

Louise Palanker (01:02:48):

Right. So let's talk about what you've written recently and what you wanna talk about and share with our audience.

Larry Grobel (01:02:53):

Good. Yes. I'm happy to do that. Yeah. Well, what happened is, um, with this pandemic, once it started, I, I don't know what ha why, but I started thinking in fiction. I, I started writing stories. I had a dream about a spider that was in the bath, bath bedroom, but it wa the, the, the web was half the size of the bedroom, the bathroom. So you had to go under the door to get to it. And this guy in my dream, uh, goes onto the door. Cause he wants to take a picture of it, and he goes to take a picture. But what he forgets is any spider that would've built that web, it's gotta be a very big spider. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so that big spider comes out from behind the toilet and bites him. Ooh, his body freeze, right? And then he turns him into cocoon.


And what happens then? Okay. So that, I wake up from that and I said, Benson, I gotta find out what happened. So I write this story, and I make it about a guy and call guy a narcissist, you know? And why a narcissist? Well, cause he had everything in the world. Everything came to him, whatever he did. And this is the guy who's gonna get by, by this spider, and what's gonna happen next. So, um, so I wrote this story. Then I had another dream about a carousel. And if somehow a man was buying a carousel at an auction, only it was a real live cousel, he's gonna bring it to his home. What kind of home do you have to have to have a carousel fit in? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, a 50,000 square foot home of, you know, something like that. So this guy had to be very rich.


So, okay, so I, I, I came up with this story. As I start writing these things, uh, they did, they just flow. They just come. I couldn't believe it. So the first book was the Narcissist. My sister-in-law did that. I love the title. Yeah. The second book was Schemers Dreamers, cheetahs Believers, <laugh>, 30 Thought Stories. And this is, this was a, you know, all about, well, a lot of it has Trump's stories in here. A lot of it has, you know, what's going on, uh, between the sexes and, and, you know, are they essays or fiction? No, no. They're all short stories. They're all fiction. And the last one is stuck. This is about a guy who wakes up one morning and, uh, he, he, you know, he had, he had touched Ave Cactus or something. So he got those prickles out, but then the next one, there's more needles that are coming on, and he takes those out.


And then a little later more, he's growing the these from the inside. Right? So how did this happen? I didn't know, but I, what, what kind of story is this? Right? He's a plant man. Um, so I started writing these stories. Another one is, you ever do any coloring? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I never colored, I mean, when I was a kid mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But, uh, my proofreader sent me a coloring book. Very, you know, old triangulations and all this stuff. And, um, and with, with pastels and, and gels and pimp pens, I said, what are you doing? I said, I don't have the time to do this. So I had the, I started doing it when watching tv. And the more I did it, it is very relaxing, very interesting. And I got, you start getting into color, you know what I mean? You're starting to actually, like, you're painting in a way.


It's a very, because I'm not a good artist, but I can color. So I did, I did a number of these things. Then I thought of a story. I said, what if, what if a guy goes into a shop, he wants to buy his friend a present. And he says, do you have anything really unusual? So they come up, he says, well, I, they, this thing we have, it's a coloring book, but it's of, of every monster from every country. They're big monster. Which one? You know, which a which, you know, the goum from one country, whatever. So, uh, I looked this up, you know, I started doing research. I, I got the top monster from each country, 16 of them or so. Now, what if it was Franz Kafka's book? It's never been colored, but it's, you know, his name is his handwritten thing there. So now it's re, you know,

Fritz Coleman (01:06:33):

The cockroaches are all black anyway, so what are you gonna call

Larry Grobel (01:06:35):

It Cocks look like? So, so, uh, I, the guy gives him the thing and they go off to a cabin. He's coloring, coloring, coloring. And he, when he saw the color finishing one of these monsters, the monster appears. Wow.

Fritz Coleman (01:06:49):

Oh, that's cool.

Larry Grobel (01:06:50):

And so, you know, and so what, I mean, I took this to, to all different levels, you know, I mean, it was really amazing. So that was another story. So that all these stories happened. I thought about the penguin. The penguin who's, who's was blamed the bat or the penguin caused the pandemic, right. The virus. So I said, I wrote a story as a Pangolin, you know, don't blame me, <laugh>. Don't blame me. I didn't do it. It was like, another one is about, I, I had a line called, I think I'm being poisoned. And, and the next line is, I think it's Vladimir Putin who's trying to poison <laugh>. And, and this was, you know, last year. And so, um, I, I got into, you know, all the different kinds of people who were being poisoned, but I, this character developed and it's a funny story, but the, I, but that's what I've been doing. So I've been writing those things. Re

Fritz Coleman (01:07:37):

Wait before we go, cuz we're way over time. But I, I want you to read us one, you also are a poet and you've got a book of poems. Pick a shorter one about one of your people and we'll close out with a poem. Well,

Louise Palanker (01:07:47):

No, he has to do the poem and then his recommendation. Oh,

Fritz Coleman (01:07:50):


Larry Grobel (01:07:50):

Recommendation, right. Uh, here's one about Luciano Pavarotti. Okay. They came like gustapo to get Lucio Pavarotti out of my house. These suited record executives on album signing schedules. But Luciano liked the Chinese tacos, rice balls and sushi. So told the worried eyes to let him swallow the lines will only get longer <laugh>. They pace made calls wondered what was he doing in this canyon house, muttering how hard it had been to find him. But Luciano liked the chicken salad and mini shrimp dumplings and stayed while entertained by my daughter's tricycle tricks, ah, before changing shirts, exposing mohu layers of grand opera chest, finally following his gustapo into the mile long limo to face the music <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (01:08:41):


Fritz Coleman (01:08:42):

That's so beautiful. And you're writing about him in your book is wonderful. And, and, uh, you know, people criticized him for be being too pedestrian. But the truth is, I think he expanded the awareness of opera more than any other single person on the play.

Larry Grobel (01:08:56):

Oh, absolutely. Uh, he, look, he had the greatest voice. Yeah. He, I, when I was researching Pavarotti, I got everybody, I got the records of everyone, everyone, you know, Caruso, it's scratchy, you know, it's old time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but no matter who you listen to, you re, when you heard Pavarotti, you knew it immediately. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, no. And I would do that with friends, I'd say, bring 'em up. I said, here, let me put on this person, this person, this person, this person. I didn't tell who it was, who's the best. Everybody went with Pavarotti <laugh> when they, and they didn't, they didn't

Louise Palanker (01:09:23):

Know. Okay. So we're recommending what people might wanna, uh, enjoy. And what have you and your wife and your family been watching, reading or listening to lately?

Larry Grobel (01:09:33):

Okay. Um, we Billions. Yeah. We watched succession. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we watch, um, my brilliant friend, um, I

Fritz Coleman (01:09:42):

Haven't seen that.

Larry Grobel (01:09:43):

Ozark? Ozark. Ozark. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, SHA Shameless, well, we, we got into Shameless went to the Seth and series, you know, I, I don't know where I'm gonna find the rest, but it's, shameless is pretty good. Righteous gemstones is kind of amusing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> is, um, David Letterman and friends, it's good. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, uh, comedians in Cars. Oh, uh, scary phones. That's very, that's good. When you want to get that last 15 minutes, you don't wanna go to bed yet. You put on one of those, you know,

Fritz Coleman (01:10:09):

<laugh>. Yeah, absolutely. That's a great selection.

Louise Palanker (01:10:11):

And then, you know, four hours later you're still watching them.

Larry Grobel (01:10:15):


Fritz Coleman (01:10:15):

Gotta tell you. Yeah, go ahead. I just wanted to say in closing, Larry, that, um, it, it said that, that a a a full life is a life with, which is an accumulation of many experiences. Yeah. And I can't imagine anybody who's had a fuller life than you, both professionally and just personally, really amazing stories. And one hour doesn't do it justice, but it was Sure, a pleasure to talk to

Louise Palanker (01:10:43):

You. And you, when you talked earlier about, you know, actors or performers, people that you interview, some of whom are only interested in talk, talking about themselves, and then some of whom are very interested in hearing about the lives of other people. I think that that's you and that's a far more enriching life.

Larry Grobel (01:10:59):

Well, thank you. Before, I mean, you asked me about books, so we just wanna quickly, this is a book I picked up, called Down to the Crossroads. I just got it. And it's about the Meredith, Mississippi March in 1965. And I was there. I I Wow. Was on that march. I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, and I didn't know that they, someone had written a book about it. So I'm looking in the book for, you know, what it was about. So that was, that's fun. That would've been nice to talk about. It's too late. And there's another writer that a lot of people don't know. I'm not sure if either of you would know Thomas Bernhard. Um, this is called Wood Cutters, and this is Concrete, uh, he's, he was a born in Holland, an Austrian writer, uh, wrote in German, died in 1989. And I found these, this, these books very, very interesting and very, you know, in, in, in a way that you, you haven't read a book like it, you know, I mean, it's about a guy w wood cutters. He's going to a party, a dinner party, uh, for an actor. The actor is late. All the people are there. He sits down in a chair and he has an in, in a monologue about all these people and what, how much he hates everybody. You know, it's really, it's,

Fritz Coleman (01:12:03):

I I like it.

Larry Grobel (01:12:04):

Yeah. It's, it's one of those things where you're reading it and he repeats things, you know, kind of a repetition, repetition. Not quite Gertrude Stein, but, you know, it's, it's, he's, he's, he's moving it along. And I was like, uh, I had a good time reading that, and that's why I got Concrete, which is another one that he did. Um, so it's just, just interesting to, to be turned onto something you may not have known about. Well, if

Fritz Coleman (01:12:26):

Anybody consume so much, all of Larry's suggestions, we want you to reach out to us. We're gonna send you a

Louise Palanker (01:12:31):

Reward. Those are awesome.

Fritz Coleman (01:12:32):

That's great. Anyway, thank you so very much, Larry. What a great

Larry Grobel (01:12:36):

Discussion. A pleasure. It was a pleasure. Thank you. Nice to meet you both. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Fritz Coleman (01:12:40):

I know we're gonna get some great reviews for this show. This has been packed with so many wonderful stories. But if you'd like to go through our back catalog, go to Media Path Podcast. We have 88 episodes, and you'll pick one in there that, uh, broaches a topic that you're interested in. Please, uh, listen to it and then send us a review because your reviews we can use to, uh, to get more of an audience. And I just wanna say, uh, before we go, Weezy, we, we wanna say a word about our friends in Lithuania. We have some listeners in Lithuania. And Lithuania is one of the three small Baltic states, Lithuania, Lafayette, Estonia, and, and their beautiful capital Vilnius. They spent 20 years under Soviet rule. And, and there was a great worry in Lithuania right now about what Putin wants to do after the Ukraine against nato. And it might have to do with the Baltics. They've got 2.8 million citizens on edge right now. If you live in Lithuania and you, your family is part of this anxiety, we want you to know that we love you and we send our hearts out to you. And we would love for you to communicate with us via our podcast Media Path podcast and tell us how you're feeling over there because we would love to share your story with our listeners.

Louise Palanker (01:13:56):

Yeah. If you take a little movie and email it to us, uh, email it, a little film, uh, to media path podcast We'll feature you on our podcast and we would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter, or we are at Media Path Podcast and on Facebook or our show is Media Path Podcast. And our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Weezy podcast community. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. We would love to know what media you have been enjoying. You can contact us at our social media or email us at media path podcast We want to thank our wonderful, fascinating guest, Larry Grobel. Our team includes Dina Friedman, Francesco Desmond, John Maddox, Sharon Bello, bill Fiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise Lanker here with Fritz Coleman. And we'll see you along the media path.

Fritz Coleman (01:14:51):

That was amazing, Larry. We could have done two hours,

Louise Palanker (01:14:55):

So we'll put all the links in our show notes so everybody can just click and find everything that you've been talking.

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