Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Joel Grey Day

Oscar winner and Broadway star Joel Grey celebrates his 80th birthday today.  Mr. Grey won his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for recreating his celebrated Broadway performance in the critically acclaimed, innovative film version of Cabaret, directed by Bob Fosse.
Co-star Liza Minnelli won the Oscar for Best Actress, Fosse won for Best Director and Cabaret was nominated for Best Picture of 1972.
Mr. Grey was one of the first celebrities I interviewed when I was new in New York City.  A lot of you know that I did not have a broadcast agent.  Nonetheless I managed to get myself from a job in Milwaukee on the ABC affiliate, WISN, to an on-air job at WPIX TV in Manhattan.  It was 1985 and the WPIX morning show, "Best Talk in Town," put me on to do entertainment interviews.  Mr. Grey was booked as a guest, I was assigned to do the interview in-studio and, of course, I wanted to talk about his Oscar-winning performance with Ms. Minnelli in that often unsettling musical drama.
Jennifer Grey's dad (which he is) was born Joel Katz, son of entertainer Mickey Katz.  I asked him something that I personally was curious about in regards to his Tony and Oscar winning role as "Emcee."  How did it feel to be Jewish and on location in Germany shooting a work that shows the increasing evil of Nazi power in 1930s Berlin?  The gracious Joel Grey began his answer with "That's a very good question."  It was then I felt I had a strong chance at distinguishing myself on TV in New York City.  He appreciated the question.  The host of the show complimented me on the question.  The Cabaret location shoot experience did have an emotional impact on Grey, he revealed.  This leads into a point I want to make for those of you who may want to be celebrity interviewers or entertainment reporters:  Do your homework.  Be curious.  Be original.  Make connections between the artist and the art.  Commit to your craft the way a good actor commits to a role.  Don't try to be a celebrity and pull focus.  Be in the moment and let the audience determine if you're celebrity potential.  Too many entertainment "reporters" on TV now seem to spend more time asking us to vote on what they should wear to a red carpet press event instead of doing homework in order to ask questions more inspired than "Who are you wearing?"  Just my opinion.  I wish actor Joel Grey and a very Happy Birthday.  What a wonderful opportunity it was to interview him early in my TV career.

In other TV talk, this morning I heard the word "shocking" used seriously several times on network news reporting that Sherri Shepherd of The View did not make it to the next round of ABC's Dancing With The Stars competition.  She didn't score enough points.
Sherri, an ABC  daytime employee who was a very lively contestant on that prime time ABC show, did some praise-worthy work challenging herself on the dance floor.  She committed to her dance routines.  She made us laugh in behind-the-scenes-rehearsal footage with her partner.  His name escapes me right now.
He's one of the show's buffed Eastern European professional dancers who's constantly shirtless and sounds like he's related to teens dancing behind the Iron Curtain in a "Radio Free Europe" TV commercial from the 1960s.  I love Sherri but I don't know if "shocking" was the accurate word for network news reporters, like ABC's Lara Spencer, to use describing last night's Dancing With The Stars contest results.  "Disappointing," yes.  "Shocking," no.  "Shocking" would've been if George Zimmerman was spotted in the balcony of the audience.  To me, THAT would've been shocking.

About Sherri...I have a prediction about her.  She will do like Mo'Nique, Jamie Foxx and Robin Williams.  She'll be a sitcom veteran who proves her dramatic acting skills in a future project.  Sherri did brief yet impressive dramatic role in Precious, the film that made Mo'Nique a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner.  Sherri's serious work really stood out to me.
Let's see if she makes my prediction come true.  Congratulations to her on making it as far as she did on Dancing With The Stars.  She didn't win the trophy but she won the hearts of millions of TV viewers.

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