I am nobody. I promise. But I talk to lots of somebodies in my job as a celebrity freelance journalist. I'm happily writing for The Huffington Post now, and that helps the cause but my name isn't Oprah or Katie or Ellen so it's a bit more of a challenge for me to get an interview with the A-List population of actors in the Hollywood community than it is for those high-profile mega-star talk-show hosts.
A-List Hollywood celebs can sometimes get cranky and be self-absorbed, but there are those A-listers who need to be called out for being just plain wonderful. (To put this in perspective, if I were doing a list of the nicest country artists -- an area I covered for over six years -- I'd have to do a "Top 200" list in no particular order.) If you catch the following 11 Hollywood types walking alone on a street where you happen to be standing (walking alone?), you can actually say hello to any one of them without worrying they'll call Bluto -- the beefed-up security guy -- to run interference. They will be nice to you. Count on it. Here's why.
I covered the "K Street" reality show premiere party at The Palm restaurant in Washington, D.C. in 2003 for Us Weekly. I was joined at the hip (on purpose) with "K Street" producer George Clooney for about an hour trying to get some quotes from the superstar. Hundreds of Washingtonians took turns approaching ... surrounding him -- making small talk with this cinematic giant -- to get their Clooney fix. The "Ocean's Eleven" actor never -- not even once -- made an effort to kick my journalist butt to the curb. I've never seen such a commotion, and trying to get in my questions with a mob circling their prey became a surreal challenge. Clooney spent the evening smiling, making nice with every person who walked up to him. Kind. Nice. Gentle. Polite. I can't say these words enough times to describe this man. I will always like him. Always!
John Travolta was filming "Ladder 49" in Baltimore in 2004 when he attended the "Ghosts of the Abyss" documentary screening hosted by "Titanic" director James Cameron. I was stationed in line on the red carpet as Travolta traveled along dutifully answering questions from the press. I had learned that his childhood nickname was "Bones" so I asked him if that were true. He laughed, saying, "Yes, but I fixed that didn't I?" Afterwards he actually spent five minutes with me at a VIP reception just making small talk. Do you have any idea how many times superstars make idle chit-chat with "small-time" reporters at any event? I'm guessing... never. He's the man!
Everyone from Hollywood to Timbuktu knows that Ron Howard is the nicest person in this galaxy. I've interviewed both Ron and his actor/father, Rance, for The Huffington Post so I know that "Ronny" was raised in a household that channeled love and respect for all mankind. Ron spent 45 minutes with me on the phone in 2010 to talk about the 50th Anniversary of "The Andy Griffith Show." When I got off the phone with him, I thought to myself: I just interviewed Opie! And that was OK with Ron, who understood my need to talk to the best kid ever to grace the small screen -- of my all-time favorite TV show -- inside my living room... when I was 12.
Tom Bergeron is what I would call the cute guy in high school that everyone liked because he had a wonderful sense of humor and he knew how to use it. To prove my point, just watch him do his magic on "America's Funniest Home Videos," and "Dancing With the Stars." I interviewed the sexiest man alive over 50 (my opinion) -- for The Huffington Post -- just before he took home his Emmy last September, and the word "nice" is an understatement for this charming human being. If he's ever driving down your street, make a citizen's arrest so you can pull him over and make him talk to you.
You might be a redneck if you like Jeff Foxworthy. Or, you might be a Yankee (isn't that someone from the North?). Whatever... everyone can relate to this southerner's clever redneck jokes. Interviewing Foxworthy was one of the highlights of my career. Just between us, comedians can sometimes be a tough interview, but this Atlanta native could not have been nicer as he actually laughed at one of my jokes (that almost never happens). It didn't sound like fake laughter either. How much nicer could he be?
Would Henry Winkler take a big step backwards if I tried to hug him? I doubt it. He's just the type of guy you'd like to make a move on -- in the form of a subtle hug. Yes, the Fonz was sexy and irresistible, but who's his daddy? Henry Winkler. I've interviewed "The Happy Days" and "Royal Pains" actor twice for AOL and The Huffington Post, and it's just hard to not to want to jump through the phone and give him a reasonable, but gentle bear hug. OK, I'll stop now. I don't need a restraining order, but, my guess is, he would allow the hug. Sooooooooo, nice! Xoxoxo
It's 1987. I'm talent coordinator for an entertainment show on NBC's local O&O station in Washington, D.C. I've booked Billy Crystal months in advance. We did the show live (to tape). The PR guy, who had schlepped Crystal around the entire day doing various promotional interviews (with print and other TV outlets) to promote his live show that evening at a local venue, called me to say that he thought Billy was much too tired to come to do our show at 5 p.m. After I threatened to make it impossible for this PR guy to ever have enough sperm count to sire children of his own, he delivered a very tired Billy Crystal to our studio. Crystal was not only polite and gracious, he was, by far, the funniest man I've ever talked to in my life. I wanted him to be my BFF... and I still do.
Ted Danson (a.k.a. Sam Malone on "Cheers") appeared at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (circa 1988) as the spokesperson for the American Oceans Campaigns. I met him one-on-one in one of the press rooms to talk to him for a little "Chatter" for People magazine. As he entered the room, I introduced myself, and he immediately said: "Pat Gallagher. I think I've seen your byline before." (WHAT? Ted Danson has actually seen my byline?!!! ... That would have been a kiss-on-the-lips moment but I didn't want to scare him. Every writer alive wants someone to actually know their byline.) We sat knee-cap-to-knee-cap as he politely answered all my questions. Big handsome smile. A real charmer... who might just be in my will.
Us Magazine sent me out to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2002 to grab a quote or two from megastar Tom Cruise who was there to attend the three-dimensional Imax feature "Space Station" premiere. He patiently talked to Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, People magazine, The Washington Post, USA Today and on and on and on. As he was approaching me, making his way to the top of the stairs where I was standing, his "people" explained that he had to get inside for the event, which meant I could not talk to him. Dear God! I had to get something! I went after him like a fox in a rabbit hole, somehow managing to get Bluto to let me do a Half Nelson Pin Maneuver on Cruise's elbow as he was walking inside. Cruise turned around, looked at me in such a tender way as I begged: "Please, can I just ask you one question?" He stopped... politely listened: "So, if you were in space for three months -- inside the space station -- what would you miss the most here on earth?" "That's a GREAT question," he offered. (Yes!!!). Then, as he flashed those beautiful pearly whites at me, he politely answered: "Ice cream." You can find his answer on page 30 of the May 20, 2002 issue of Us Weekly. I love you, Tom Cruise!
Billy Bob Thornton
I conducted a phone interview with Billy Bob Thornton in 2009 to talk to him about his new CD "Modbilly" with The Boxmasters. I always tape my conversations so I don't screw up the answers to all of my intellectual questions. About 30 minutes into our conversation, I looked down at my tape recorder and realized it had been turned off (BBT had put me on hold just as we were about to begin to go answer his doorbell, and I turned it off for a "minute"...duh!). My heart sank to my knees, and when I sheepishly explained to BBT that my tape recorder had not been on for the past 30 minutes, he said with a laugh, "I hope you have a good memory." Well, I don't. BBT sweetly said, "OK, let's start over." He allowed me to ask him every question over again and happily reenacted his original answers. He, then, gave me 15 more minutes of interview time. If he ever finds himself single again, I will marry him.
I've never interviewed Tom Hanks but I will one day, I just know it. Journalists talk. I've heard that the "Forrest Gump" actor is one of the nicest people on planet earth (from a couple of others who have had the pleasure of speaking with him, and that's good enough for me). I'm coming for you, Tom. Tell your publicist. Can you put me down for, let's say, March so I can interview you and your lovely wife, Rita -- for The Huffington Post -- about your upcoming 25th wedding anniversary? I know you won't let me down. I'm sure of it.