In Tune - Celebs: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The lift door opens. I walk into Johnny Clegg's hotel room - a penthouse. The SA music legend is making a call using the speaker phone on his cell. He sees my colleague and I and ushers us in with a nod. We are quiet, trying not to disturb his phonecall. We walk through the rooms, looking for a good visual to set up the video camera. I'm here to film a one-on-one with Johnny about his new project - more about that in next week's column.
Johnny Clegg is a neat man. The penthouse is neat. There is no TV thrown out the window. The couch has not been set on fire. There are no fans curled up on the floor. There are no pizza boxes strewn across the expensive carpets. In a nutshell, it's not a very rock 'n roll experience. But these interviews often aren't. I've had the privilege to interview hundreds of names in a 15-year career. The vast majority of them were incredibly kind, focused and professional. That's what it takes to be successful - hard work, concentration and determination.
Most celebrities are not famous for nothing. I've met many different kinds:
Samuel L Jackson teased me about my accent. I thought Juliette Binoche brushed her knee against mine. I believed for a split second it was intentional but it was certainly an accident. Celine Dion was much prettier in real life than I imagined. Lionel Richie was tall and charming as hell. Great teeth. Andy Garcia left several voice mails on my cellphone after I forgot to call him for an interview. I would play that celebrity voicemail to my friends at braais. Queen's Brian May arrived wearing old baggy shorts and an oversized shirt with slops - I was mightily disappointed that he wasn't wearing platform boots and a leather jacket. Gordon Ramsay sent me on an errand to find a Bafana Bafana t-shirt. Annie Lennox was beautiful, diva, rock 'n roll. I was star-struck over Annie. I pinched myself when Joan Armatrading phoned me, lost in Cape Town. She'd hung on to my number after I produced an interview of her. Percy Sledge was sweet and pulled out a big metal afro-picker to brush his hair before our interview.
Very few have been hard work: Diana Ross hung up on an interview done by my colleague - part of an insert I produced. She didn't like his questions and put the phone down mid-interview. Patrick Swayze made me wait two hours but was super sweet. The worst, hardest, toughest interview I've been part of was a South African jazz superstar. He was rude, condescending, patronising and late. I'd tell you more about it, but he'd probably come looking for me.
Which brings me back to Johnny Clegg. One of the easiest interview conversations I've had. He's one heck of a nice guy. Make no mistake, Clegg is one of the hardest working men in showbiz. He's put his 10,000 hours in three times over. And that's why he's a superstar ... with his old running takkies parked neatly in the corner of his 5-star hotel room.
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