30 minutes with Pam Grier (or why a big crush doesn’t make a good interview).

Pam Grier: Yep, she's still foxy.

One of the definite perks of being a journalist is every now and then you get to talk to your heroes.    As big as a torch that I’ve carried for the mega-hot Pam Grier,  the opportunity to interview her about her new book, should have been the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition.   Operative words there being  “should have been.

Interviewing Pam Grier for The Root was going to be one of my most memorable moments as a writer.  I had thought of the idea, pitched it to the editor, and set it up.   I was pumped like a kid waiting for Christmas,  but it just kind of ended up sort of blasé, blasé. It’s not that I was anticipating she’d bare her soul to me in a 30-minute phone chat. Maybe it’s just that the anticipation far exceeded the actual event.    I’m supposed to be psyched and pumped at the prospect of interviewing a strong, sexy and accomplished sista like Pam Grier and I was.   Right up to the point when I actually did and then it just seemed kind of–what’s the word I’m looking for?—-routine.

The publicist sent me Pam’s memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts and I gave a read through it pretty fast.  It wasn’t exactly  demanding like plowing through Moby Dick or Atlas ShruggedFoxy is light on the sex symbol stuff and heavy on her love for horses.  There’s even an entire chapter about a horse she rode while in Italy.   Pam really likes her horses and dogs better than some of her ex-boyfriends.

She was friendly and it was  not at all a bad interview, but I quickly found out she was more interested in covering what she wanted to talk about and not what I wanted to ask her. Can’t say I’m surprised. By this time she’s probably done a couple of hundred interviews with dopes like me and been asked every question under the sun about her life, movies and book.

Sometimes you run the interview and sometimes you’re just trying to hang on. Pam was off and running and it was all I can do to keep up with her.   I had my questions written out and I even got to ask a few and have them answered.  Otherwise, it was no big deal.   Just another ordinary interview.   It’s not her.  It’s me.   Maybe my expectations were too high.   I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting a so-so Q&A with the woman who had been the queen of my dreams when she was grinding out blaxploitation shoot-em-ups like Coffy and Foxy Brown and whose poster had graced  the wall of my room when I was in the military.     But that’s exactly what I got; just a routine, run-of the-mill chat that she probably promptly forgot ten minutes after it was over and I doing likewise not longer after.

When it was over I wrote it up, gave it a good edit and turned it in.  The Root ran it and the article got a fair-to-middling response from readers.  Well, you can’t win ’em all.  Some days you’re creating haute cuisine and the next you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   Every writer I know has churned out what is essentially product, nothing more.

The publicist at the literary agency seemed happy enough with the story.  She thanked me and shipped me out via UPS overnight delivery another book to review.   I started out a long time ago reviewing music and books, and I’m not thrilled to be coming back around full circle.  If I do review this new book, a compilation of comic strips by cartoonist Keith Knight, I’ll have to find another publication to write it for.   The last thing I want to do is get  into a rut where I’m covering old ground over and over.

This isn’t exactly suffering for my art.   I’ll gladly cash the check for the article when it shows up in a few weeks.  Next time out the chute though I hope it’s for something I’m actually happy with instead of  an article that isn’t exactly bad,  just kind of blah.   But don’t get the wrong idea:  Pam Grier is still a sexy, smart and very much a real sista.   There’s no diva attitude.  There’s no pretension or air of bored indifference.   It’s a case of being a passionate fan getting in the way of being an impartial interviewer.    My fault, not hers.

Such is the risk when high expectations collide into mundane reality.   If I can’t get satisfaction,  I’ll have to be settle for compensation (and I hate to settle).

An interesting, if not all together involving, read.

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3 thoughts on “30 minutes with Pam Grier (or why a big crush doesn’t make a good interview).

  1. I’m not saying you did, but deep down I bet you are saying to yourself ” how do you fuck that up?”

  2. Funny I did just did this weekend an interview with Pam Grier for http://www.ebony.com (out later this week) and it went great. I was like you really intimidated at first (what man could NOT be?) but the main thing is that I purposedly challneged her or put a spin on several aspects in the book knowing that would get a response from her and it did. She got feisty and defensive at times and that made for a great give and take discussion and I got some really great quotes from her. At the end of our talk, which went much longer than planned, she thanked me and was even making fun of me which was great..

    • Sergio,

      Cool, I’m glad to see that you were able to get a little more out of your interview than I was able to. I think every interviewer tries to establish a good rapport with the subject, but sometimes it just doesn’t go according to script. I interviewed George Benson and I just couldn’t get him to give me anything more than canned, trite responses. With Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist, Philip Bailey, he clearly didn’t want to do the interview and was about as miserable to talk to as if he had just had a root canal without anesthesia. But I’ve had other interviews where we both ended up laughing like old friends. It’s all a crap shoot.

      Please shoot me a link when the interview comes out, Sergio. I’d really like to read it. By the way, is Ebony taking on any freelancer assignments. I have another interview possibility that isn’t quite right for The Root. The compensation doesn’t matter. I’d just like to see the story run. Holla back at me.

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