Insight, laughs, harsh words and praise


Over a period of nearly three decades, I must have interviewed a thousand or more singers, musicians, actors, actresses and others in the arts, and most of it I loved.

However, there comes a time when you pretty much put some aspects of your profession aside while holding on to other parts.

It would not be possible for me to get tired of writing, listening to music, watching performances, etc. But it’s been quite some time since my last two interviews. The artists were New Edition (the reunion period) and Teena Marie.

And just for the record, the first two interviews I ever did were with singer Carl Carlton — he was “Little Carl Carlton” then — and singer/actress Lonette McKee, who was a singer only at the time, although thoughts of acting were probably floating around somewhere in the back of her mind, even though she was not yet 16. Both are from Detroit.

Since we’re in the first month of a new year, it seemed a good time to retrace my steps, bringing to light again some things I could never forget, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some anecdotes are “reruns,” but they are “first run” to newer readers.

AL GREEN, who never stopped eating peppermint Life Savers, was just plain effervescent. Are you always this happy?” I asked. “Yes, I guess you could say I’m bubbling over!” he responded.

Spike Lee, after the interview, asked an unexpected question: “Why do so many Arabs live in Metro Detroit?” (Like I would know!)

Sheryl Lee Ralph really annoyed me because she kept answering my questions before I was finished asking. Furthermore, she borrowed a picture and never returned it.

Usually interviews were done in person, but sometimes they were what we in the industry call “phoners.”

For whatever reason I was late calling Teddy Pendergrass. I apologized, but he said abruptly, “You were supposed to call 30 minutes ago!” — and hung up on me without so much as a “goodbye.” (That was cold and rude!)
CUBA GOODING JR. got a disdainful look on his face when in the course of the interview Oprah Winfrey’s film “Beloved” came up. “I hated that movie!” he said. (Actually, so did I.)

Diana Ross found it mildly amusing (and “cute”) when I dropped my tape recorder, in the backseat of the traveling limo where they interview took place. (Hey, who wouldn’t be a littlenervous interviewing the Supreme diva?)
Laurence Fishburne wondered why people assume that men are automatically interested in sports. He said he had no interest whatsoever.

Hard to believe but true: When he was very young, the extraordinary dancer Savion Glover was so full of energy, motion and excitement that his body literally vibrated like a motor. Multitalented Gregory Hines, who was with him that day, thought it was hilarious.

PEABO BRYSON was so talkative that I only ended up asking five questions for a 40-minute interview!

Fredro Starr, from the rap group Onyx, who played Brandy’s boyfriend on “Moesha,” apparently thought I was really square. He made a sarcastic remark and smirked when he found out that I liked “Forrest Gump.” (Well, the film, which starred Tom Hanks, was excellent — better than anything Starr would ever make.)

One actress/singer from Detroit, whose identity I will not reveal, was smoking a joint during the interview, and asked if I wanted to join her. (I declined. I don’t smoke anything.) Evidently she was comfortable with me because she had known me a long time and was sure I would not include that in the story.

Melba Moore told me that her friend, labelmate and on one occasion singing partner Freddie Jackson, was having financial problems and she wished him well. I printed that and a week or so later received a hostile phone call from Jackson. He denied what she had said, threatened a lawsuit and asked sarcastically, “Have you seen where she lives?”

I dropped a pen while interviewing ANITA BAKER, and because it had rolled under a chair, I had to get on all fours to retrieve it. When I got back up she laughed and said almost incredulously, “You got back up fast!” (Hey Anita, I wasn’t 90 years old!)

Charlie Wilson, formerly of the Gap Band, of course, didn’t want to talk about the O.J. Simpson murder case, but knowing Simpson and having known his murdered wife, Nicole, Wilson said, “That dude is crazy!”

Heavyset supertalented and super nice Cheryl Lynn was tearing up the food during a luncheon interview at Carl’s Chop House. No dainty foods for her. “I’m a meat and potatoes girl,” she said.

A singer from Detroit, whose success was long delayed, said the singer whose memories were the basis for a miniseries about a famous Motown group, was not as virtuous as he was portrayed to be. “I got high with all of them, including him,” she said.

MILLIE JACKSON, despite her outrageousness, said she has always had limits. “I don’t take my clothes off for nobody!” she said. And noting that middle age had brought about certain physical changes, added, “In fact, I done got to the point where I’ve started turning out the lights when I have sex!”

I showed Dionne Warwick a rare, vintage album from the early 1960s that she was featured on. She said, “Can I have it?” (I gave her a polite “no.”)

Big Daddy Kane gleefully recalled that he was paid a lot of money to put his hand in a certain place on Madonna’s naked body for her book, “Sex.”

Comedian Tommy Davidson, at the time one of the stars of “In Living Color,” was amazed and grateful that he had a sold-out crowd at the Palms Theatre when megastar Luther Vandross was appearing the same night down the street at the Fox Theatre.

JERMAINE JACKSON asked me to turn off the tape recorder because he wanted to tell me how much he disliked La Toya Jackson’s husband and manager at the time, Jack Gordon. He also said he didn’t understand how La Toya could pose nude for Playboy magazine with a boa constrictor when all her life she had been afraid of snakes.

I was asking the legendary Bobby “Blue” Bland about some of his earlier recordings and he said, “You’re mighty young to know about those records!”

When asked if she wanted to leave a message to the readers, sexy singer/actress Vanity said, “Tell them to love wild!” (Still not absolutely sure what she meant by that, but I have an idea.)

As the interview was winding down, Aaron Hall, formerly of Guy, was talking about the many virtues of being bald. He offered a detailed explanation on how to acquire and take care of a bald head without going to the barbershop. (I still use part of that procedure.)

Hall was eager to show me how his method works and invited me to feel his ultra smooth head.

That was the one and only time I have ever had my hand on the head of anyone I was interviewing!

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