John Updike

People often ask me if I ever got starstruck when I was interviewing famous people — and yes, it happened sometimes.

One of those times in early 1994, when I had the opportunity to interview a true literary lioin: novelist, short-story writer, poet, and critic John Updike.

How big a literary figure is he?

Well, John Updike is one of only three writers who have ever won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once.

And both prizes were for books in Updike’s “Rabbit” series of novels featuring Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.

I met John Updike after he’d written an unusual novel called “Brazil.”

So here now, from 1994, John Updike:

John Updike died in 2009 just weeks before his 77th birthday.

Dan Quayle

Dan Quayle was a Republcian U.S. Senator from Indiana. and not a very well-known Senator, when George H.W. BuSh chose him as his 1988 running mate. Quayle took a lot of heat from critics who derided him as an intellectual lightweight.

Bush won that election, and Qualye became America’s 44th vice president.

But the 1992 camapign proved more difficult for Bush and Quayle.

It was in June of ’92 that Quayle visited an elementary school in New Jersey. It wa supposed to be just another routine campaign photo-op, a school spelling bee.

A 12-year-old boy went up the blackboard to spell his word, “potato.” But Quayle “corrected” him, insisting there was an “e” at the end of “potato.”

Things just kind of went downhjll from there.

I first met Dan Quayle about two years later, after he’d written a memoir. And as you’re about to hear, he had a sense of humor about The Potato Incident.

Here now, from 1994, Dan Quayle:

Dan Quayle is now 73. He lives with his wife Marilyn in retirement in Arizona. They’ve been married for 47

Laura Joplin

Photo: Elliot Landy

It’s been almost 50 years since the tragically untimely death of Janis Joplin, whose rock, soul and blues set the standard for a whole generation of musicians who followed.

About 30 years ago, I met Janis’s younger sister Laura Joplin, who had just published a biography of Janis, based largely on a cache of letters her sister wrote, back in the day.

As she told me in this interview, it became a project she needed to do.

Here now, from 1992, Laura Joplin:

Had she lived, Janis Joplin would be 77 now. And, no doubt, still setting the standard.

Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt

It’s not a government job that gets a lot of attention or media coverage.

Photo: National Council of US-Arab Relations

But the office of U.S. Chief of Protocol is a uniquely sensitive position. If done right, no one even notices. But if done wrong, it can spark an international crisis.

Former journalist Selwa Roosevelt — always known as “Lucky” — was Chief of Protocol under :resident Ronald Reagan, from 1982 to 1989. That’s longer than anyone else has ever served in that position.

I met Lucky Roosevelt the year after she left the government.

Here now, from 1990, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt.

During her tenure, Lucky Roosevelt presided over more than 70 state visits and restoration of the historic Blair House in Washington.

In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Lucky Roosevelt a presidential commendation for her government service.

Lucky Roosevelt is now 91.

George Takei

Happy birthday to George Takei, who today is 83.

George Takei
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Many of us remember him best as Helmsman Sulu on the original “Star Trek” TV series, or perhaps as an author or activist or wildly popular and widely quoted and retweeted internet commentator.

George Takei was just four years old when the Japanese empire attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged America into World War Two.

The U.S. government ordered Japanese-Americans into internment camps, and the Takei family of California was among those taken into custody.

I met George Takei in the fall of 1994, when he published his autobiography.

Here now, from 1994, George Takei:

George Takei today is a strong advocate for LGBT rights and is ver politically active. And he has over 10-million followers on Facebook

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger

On a cold January morning in 2009, a US Airways flight left New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

At the controls that morning was veteran Captain Chesley Sullenberger, whom everyone called “Sully.”

Moments after takeoff, the plane ran into a flock of geese, disabling its engines.

Unable to reach any nearby airport, Sully and co-pilot Jeff Sykes safely guided the plane into the Hudson River, where it stayed afloat long enough to get every single persopn off the plane safe and alive.

Sully was hailed as a hero, and a few months later, wrote a book. That’s when I met him.

Here now, from the fall of 2009, Chesley ‘Sully” Sullenberger:

Chesley Sullenberger retired from US Airways in 2010, after a 30-year commercial aviation career.

Today he is a well-known aviation safety expert,

Tom Hanks played Sully in a 2016 movie.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris doesn’t drink coffee in the morning, he has a mug of nails.

Chuck Norris can dribble a bowling ball.

Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

But a book is how I first met Chuck Norris 32 years ago, in early 1988. He had just written an autobiography and was on tour to promote it.

And it was one of the many times in my interviewing career that I wished I could have had a couple of hours, instead of just 15 minutes, with a subject.

1978’s “Good Guys Wear Black” put Norris on the map. You’ll hear how that movie came to be, in this interview, and Norris answers the one question everybody asks him.

Here now, from 1988, Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris celebrated his 80th birthday last month. He divorced his first wife, Dianne, the year after this interview. He remarried in 1998.

He was most recently seen as a guest star on “Hawaii Five-O.”

Sir James Dyson

Photo: The Royal Society

Sir James Dyson will tell you, it’s not eas being an innovator.

Dyson is the guy who, a few years ago, came up with a whole new kind of vacuum cleaner, which he dubbed the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum.

It was a revolution in vacuum technology that upended that well-established undustry.

But as he told me, in our 2004 interview, it isn’t as easy as just building the better mousetrap.

The company founded by Sir James Dyson is still innovating. Recently, the company announced it was building thousands of ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients.

Rev. Robert Schuller

On this Easter weekend, I wanted to share with you one of several comversations I had with one of the most popular of the TV evangelists of his day: Rev. Robert Schullt, creator of The Hour of Power, the leader of a congregation that worshiped in the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.

In 1992, we met for an interview about a new book about his life. It was called “Goliath,” written by his son-in-law James Penner.

Here now, from 1992, Rev. Robert Schuller:

Rev. Robert Schuller died five years ago this month. He was 88.

Rev. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries went bankrupt in 2010, and in 2012 the iconic building was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Today it is the seat of the Diocese.

Robert Blake

Back in the ’70s, Robert Blake was a huge TV star. His career actually began when he was a kid — did you know he was a star in many of those old black and white “Little Rascals” movies?

So it’s kind of sad that many people today only know Robert Blake — if they remember him at all — for his 2005 murder trial, in which he was eventually acquitted in the shoorting death of his second wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.

I mety him many years before all that, in 1986. He was part of a movement called the “Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament,” a grassroots, cross-country effort to raise awareness of nuclear proflieration.

All this was taking place over five years before the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the effective end of what we called The Col;d War.

In April 1986, 34 years ago this week, Blake came to Washington, DC to promote the march — which, at that time, seemed to have stalled. Blake was trying to do his part to keep it alive.

So here now, from 1986, Robert Blake:

Robert Blake has not worked in film or TV since 1997. He is now 86 years old.