• Jennifer stole my heart
• Mariah took me up and away……and left me cold
• Little Debbie invited me up to her room
So there we were, on 52nd Street, outside the now-shuttered Roseland Ballroom. It was 1999 and budding movie star Jennifer Lopez was throwing a party for the launch of her first CD, “On the 6.”
It was a hot June night; she was hot, sweet, composed and super-friendly. We were there to do a live standup on CNN’s Showbiz Today. I had seen her co-starring with George Clooney in “Out of Sight” a year earlier and was impressed with her acting. As the producer back in the studio counted us down in my earpiece, I put my arm on her back to draw her closer. Thanks to her bare-midriff outfit, my hand landed on soft, warm skin. Her perfume was intoxicating. It was all I could do to concentrate on not turning the live shot into a fawning, stuttering on-air melt-down. She was an upbeat, engaging interviewee; she was a pro. And luckily, for those few minutes at least, so was I.
Then there was Mariah Carey. You’ll find no photos of me with her here. (Although, as you’ll see, it was a photogenic assignment.) I wasn’t a fan of her music. To be honest, the music of Jennifer Lopez didn’t do it for me, either. I’m old school; I like singers who can write songs, not pop artists who ally with teams of producers and songwriters to turn out chart hits. But, hey, my job at Showbiz Today was to report on and interview all manner of musicians and music. Sometime in the late 1990s my crew and I went to Sam Goody’s record store on 6th Avenue to shoot video of Mariah Carey signing copies of whatever new CD she was releasing. From there, we followed her to La Guardia Airport, boarded a private jet she or her record company had chartered and interviewed her as she flew to Chicago for another in-store CD launch party there.
I don’t remember anything from the interview, although I imagine I did ask her about her recent separation or divorce from Tommy Mottola, her record label head. He was not a universally beloved figure in the music business, another reason I didn’t hold Mariah in high esteem. An interview with a huge pop star in her private jet – you’d think – would be something of a career highlight, but no, the starkest memory I have was when we landed after midnight at Chicago’s Midway airport. The afternoon in New York had been hot and humid and a line of thunderstorms blew through while we were shooting the in-store. Behind it was a cold front and we had to run a couple hundred yards to reach the private aviation terminal in a howling, frigid wind in the lightweight clothing we had been wearing in the afternoon.
The flip side of a pop star like Mariah Carey, in my estimation, is Vanessa Williams. I interviewed her more than once and she was always friendly and vivacious. And of course the, “I’m sorry, I have to ask this” question with Vanessa was not about her being the first woman of African-American descent to win the Miss America pageant. It was about how she was forced to resign after Penthouse magazine bought and published some old nude photographs of her. Vanessa wouldn’t dodge the question, she was frank and forthcoming and obviously knew she’d be asked about it forever. She was a trouper.
I think my introduction to interviewing chanteuses came at Good Morning America, in the person of Debbie Gibson. Sometime around 1987-88, after she’d burst on the scene as a teen pop sensation, GMA sent me and a crew to her home on Long Island, where she still lived with her parents. We actually videotaped the interview in her bedroom. Her teenage-girl’s bedroom! Everything pink. Stuffed animals of all sizes in row after row on her pink-bedspread-bedecked bed. Hats hung everywhere. She collected hats. When we moved out to the living room and took a picture in front of the family piano, she loaned me a hat.
I ask you now: in this 21st century, do you think a morning show producer would send a 40-something male reporter to interview an 18-year-old girl in her bedroom? I’ve got to say that would be, well, creepy!