I know the clips you'll see might be ancient to some, but please bear with me. I grew up in South Central L.A., the oldest of three kids in a working class Black family. Dad was a hard-working postal clerk for the city main post office in downtown Los Angeles. Mom was an excellent registered nurse. By today's standards, both were essential workers. We lived in the curfew area during the Watts Riots of the 1960s, an uprising that made national headlines. Years later, I graduated from a parochial high school in Watts. I was not the guy who society would've picked to interview and have lunch with one of the greatest American actresses in modern history. But I did interview her. I did have lunch with her. And each wonderful encounter took me to a different level of my career. The actress is Meryl Streep. If you get cable's TCM (Turner Classic Movies), she will be the featured artist Monday night, September 21st, starting at 8p Eastern/5p Pacific.
The four movies being shown are A CRY IN THE DARK (1988), THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN (1981), POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990) and KRAMER vs KRAMER (1979). I fell under the spell of Meryl Streep in a downtown Milwaukee screening room. The opening shot of her as the complicated, loving young mother in KRAMER vs KRAMER, cinematography by Nestor Almendros, made me gasp a little. I felt the new actress' presence. I felt the character's pain. I was there to see the movie so I could review it. After graduating from Marquette University, I'd landed my first professional TV job. I worked on Milwaukee's ABC TV affiliate, the first Black person in the city's history to be a weekly film reviewer on a local TV station. I did those reviews on Milwaukee's edition of a syndicated show called PM MAGAZINE. I was a part-time employee.
In 1982, Meryl Streep was holding a mini-movie promotion session one Sunday afternoon in a New York City hotel. She was granting 10 television interviews to talk about her new film, SOPHIE'S CHOICE. Granting only 10 interviews was not a diva move on her part. She was pregnant with her first child and experiencing occasional nausea. Her reduced scheduled was totally understandable. I was selected to fly to New York City and be one of the 10. My interview aired as lead national story on PM MAGAZINE, my wonderful boss promoted me to fulltime status and that was the beginning of the doing the kind of work that got me a New York City job offer in 1985. For me, Meryl Streep was a good luck charm. That same year, PM MAGAZINE also aired my interviews of Ben Kingsley, star of GANDHI and Jessica Lange, star of TOOTSIE. Streep, Kingsley and Lange all won Oscars for those films.
I arrived in New York City in 1985 and did two years on a local TV station. Then I got a great offer from VH1. In 1988, my second year on VH1, the network made me the first Black person to get his own weeknight prime time celebrity talk show. A half-hour vehicle. I loved it. In my premiere week, one guest for one whole show was -- Meryl Streep. Her new film was A CRY IN THE DARK. Not A DINGO ATE MY BABY --- A CRY IN THE DARK. By then, she was a cinema sensation, acclaimed for her dramatic work and the owner of two Oscars. I asked her what it is about acting that sparked her passion. Here's a clip.
Actress/singer Liza Minnelli was a huge influence on Streep's acting style when she saw Minnelli on Broadway in a musical directed by Martin Scorsese. Minnelli played a fading film star attempting a comeback in Las Vegas. The 1977 musical was called THE ACT. I asked Meryl Streep about that. Here's another clip.