Later that evening, I found myself reflecting on some of the notable individuals I’ve interviewed since I landed my first journalism job in 2003.
Following are my top five experiences, with the name of the person first, their title second, the media outlet I interviewed them for third, and the date I interviewed them:
5. Carrot Top, comedian/entertainer, Nevada Magazine, November 2006 — You have to hand it to the unmistakable red-headed performer who is still going strong in one of the world’s entertainment meccas, Las Vegas. And he’s still at the same venue, the Luxor, that he was performing in when I interviewed him over the phone not longer after I became the associate editor at Nevada Magazine. The interview is no longer online, but it ran in the February 2007 issue of Nevada Magazine.
4. Jack Nicklaus, Hall of Fame golfer, Sierra Sun, August 2004 — If you say “The Golden Bear” in golf circles, it’s akin to saying “The Babe” among baseball fanatics. Put it this way, Nicklaus was the Tiger Woods of his era, winning a record 18 major championships from 1962-86. In his later years, Nicklaus has made a name for himself as a golf-course designer, and that’s how I was able to meet him in 2004. As the sports editor for the Sierra Sun, I was present for the opening of his Old Greenwood course in Truckee, California. This was more of a press-conference setting, but it was neat to be that close to golf royalty. You can read the story here.
3. Brian Sandoval, Nevada Governor, Nevada Magazine, December 2010 — This phone interview was enjoyable, as Sandoval didn’t put up any walls and was forthcoming on issues ranging from education to unemployment. What impressed me most, though, was his intimate knowledge of the state. This is a man who has made it a family tradition to travel to Ione most years to cut down a Christmas tree. Ione is not exactly easy to get to. He also discussed visiting other Nevada ghost towns and attending events in some of the state’s smaller towns. You can read the Q&A here.
2. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams running back, Nevada Magazine, June 2012 — You can tell instantly in a conversation with Jackson that he’s a down-to-earth athlete who hasn’t let fame get to his head. That’s the impression I came away with, at least, after a recent telephone conversation with the NFL star. His philanthropic activities through his Steven Jackson Foundation, dedicated to promoting strong educational values among today’s youth, prove that he has approached his career through an altruistic lens.
On the field, Jackson has quietly become one of the most prolific runners in NFL history. If he gains 1,000 yards in 2012 — like he has for seven consecutive seasons — he will eclipse the 10,000-yard mark for his career, something only 26 backs have done before him. What’s more impressive is Jackson won’t turn 30 until July 2013, so he figures to have a handful of great seasons still ahead of him. The Q&A with Jackson is planned for the September/October 2012 issue of Nevada Magazine.
1. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears linebacker, Sierra Sun, July 2004 — Interviews are always more memorable in person, which is one reason why this ranks first on my list. What made it even more special is how I was able to organize the interview. At the time, Urlacher was to stay in Truckee for just one more evening, and I was lucky enough to track him down at the high school. He was finishing up a month-long high-altitude training program there, and he also donated more than $50,000 of Hammer Strength equipment to the Tahoe Truckee High School athletics program.
Like Jackson, I was impressed by Urlacher’s easygoing attitude. He answered my questions thoroughly and didn’t treat me like a rookie reporter. It wasn’t like this was a planned press conference. He also showed his generosity by putting on a special two-day camp earlier that summer for Truckee High School football players. You can read those stories here and here.
Honorable Mentions: Louie Anderson (comedian/entertainer), Bobby Julich (cyclist)
My advice if you’re a journalist and find yourself conducting one of these interviews for the first time? Be prepared, ask intelligent questions, don’t act nervous, and have fun. Enjoy the moment.
Now I’d like to hear about your experiences. Have you interviewed any high-profile people for your job? Do you have a memorable encounter with a celebrity? My wife still occasionally brings up the time her and her family shared an elevator with Val Kilmer, during the height of his “Batman” fame. My grandpa would often tell the tale about how Elvis Presley signed his napkin.
What’s your story?