Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Firstly, I'm a big fan of your work...'

I must be the worst journalist ever. Especially interviews. When I interview someone, I give them the most sweetheart questions you can imagine. It’s like I’m the ZBC interviewing Bob Mugabe.

Bands, property developers, beautiful women, men who picked up 28 bricks in one go… I just can’t bring myself to give them the third degree.

Part of it’s because I like to see the good in people. The other thing is that sometimes these people are famous, and you’re a fan. So you end up starting your interview with AKA going, “Dog! That Jealousy joint is the bidniz, yo!” And it doesn’t get particularly probing after that.

It’s never good to be in awe of your interview subjects. It doesn’t make for very challenging discussion. Verbal blowjobs, more like.

That was me and George Foreman when the big man, a two-time world heavyweight boxing champion, author and entrepreneur, swung through SA punting his Fat Reducing Grilling Machine.
I grew up idolising the men of heavyweight boxing’s golden age. Ali, Frazier, Liston, Foreman, Ken Norton, Gerrie Coetzee… I had their posters on my wall all through childhood. And I was a wild-eyed supporter when George came back to become the oldest-ever heavyweight champ at the age of 45.

So the chance to interview Big George was like an opportunity to meet my ultimate hero. It was like Noeleen  getting to interview Oprah. Danny K interviewing Michael Bolton. Like Young Nucho interviewing Lil’ Wayne. Tbo Touch interviewing Akon. Floyd Shivambu interviewing Julius Malema. Jub Jub interviewing Coolio.

I spent two hours preparing questions for that Foreman interview, but looking through them just before our chat, I saw they were the most sycophantic set of praise poems I could possibly have come up with.

“In your legendary 10th round knockout of Michael Moorer…” I began. “Your ingenious grilling machine…” was my follow-up. “You had Ali in trouble during the Rumble in the Jungle…” was the cherry on the top.

As far as verbal blowies go, I was on my knees before Big George, with a bib on.

History shows that George Foreman was outwitted and outboxed at the Rumble In The Jungle and knocked out for the only time in his career. It was like asking Ard Matthews, “As an expert on the national anthem, do you prefer to go to a high C in the third verse?”

George was so impressed with my hagiographic line of questioning he gave me a free Foreman Grill and we took a photo.

I managed to restrain myself from asking him to autograph it, but the Farlam Commission this was not.

It wasn’t just the imposing physical presence of Big George, it was his sheer star power. If celebrity culture hadn’t taken over the world, I would have had a chance, but I’ve been brainwashed.

Sure these “celebs” are all just normal people doing jobs, but contemporary entertainment and news culture has led us to believe that they’re supernatural beings, worthy of only worship and ego massage for the joy and loveliness they bring to our lives.

Luckily, probing, investigative journalism is going out of fashion, along with printed paper, ethical politics and musical instruments. There does seem to be quite a call for praise singers with my particular skill set, though, so we live in hope.

Perhaps I can become someone’s publicist. Brief the interviewers before they meet my client. I’ll be all, “No questions about the court case, or who they’re dating, or that thing on Twitter. Ask about the reality show. And the album. And the clothing line. Of course you can get a Facebook pic.”

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