Short Takes

February is, of course, the shortest month of the year. So it occurred to me it might be an appropriate time to share some of my shortest interviews with you.

Normally, I would get 15 to 20 minutes or more with a given celebrity or VIP. But occasionally, because of the constraints of their schedules, I might only get two minutes, or three, or four.

So here now are some of those short takes:

Gtammy-winner Patti LaBelle, literary giants Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving, Oscar-winning actress Kathleen Turner, and Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick.

Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho rose to prominence in the mid 1990s, with her TV sitcom All-American Girl. Since then, she’s established herself as not only a talented actress but as a standup comic, fashion designer, and social activist.

I’ve met her and interviewed her twice, about her first two books. This interview was the second one we did, and as you’ll hear, her views seem as current today as they did the day we talked, 16 years ago.

So here now, from 2006, Margaret Cho:

Margaret Cho is 52 now, She lives near Atlanta.


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James Cameron

WARNING: What you’re abiyt ti gear is a true story, told by the suvivor of a violent and horrisying attack. You need to know that some of the descriptions are graphic, some of the words used are offensive.

James Cameron was born in 1914 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. When he was a child, his family moved to Marion, Indiana.

It was there, in the summer of 1930, that James Cameron survived a lynching attempt.

He was a suspect in a robbery-and-murder case in Marion, Indiana along with two older teenagers. Both of them were lynched, and died. Cameron was to be the third victim of the Ku Klux Klan-led mob.

They tied a noose around Cameron’s neck, and death appeared imminent. But just as he was about to be hanged, a mysterious female voice was heard, saying Cameron was innocent.

A star local football player then stepped up, removed the noose and saved Cameron.

He did do prison time, but lived to tell about it.

I met him in the spring of 1994, when he wrote a book about his near-lynching.

So here now, from 1994, James Cameron.

In later years, Cameron became a civil rights activist and founded three chapters of the NAACP in Indiana.

James Cameron died in 2006. He was 92.

Joan Lunden

For nearly 20 years Joan Lunden was the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America. Millions woke up every morning to her cheerful, reassuring, and professional presence.

As a journalist, Lunden interviewed presidents and royalyu. She covered the Olympics. She bungee-jumped.

In 1997. she left the show — and was a bit taken aback by what other people assumed she must have been feeling.

I met her just a little over a year aftrer her last brodcast on GMA. She had written a book called A Bend in the Road is Not The End of the Road.

So here now, from 1998, Joan Lunden:

Joan Lunden is 70 now. Since leaving GMA, Lundern has written eight books. And since 2014 she’s been a special correspondent for NBC’s Today Show.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Happy Presidents Day.

Now, if you’re old enough, as I am, you may remember that this day was traditionally celebrated as Lincoln’s birthday. It was transformed into President’s Day in 1971, as part of the move toward more Monday holidays.

In 2005, noted presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose best selling books included volumes about Lyndon Johnson and John F Kennedy, took on a new subject: Abraham Lincoln.

Struck by the political acumen displayed by this simple country lawyer, Goodman titled her book
Team of Rivals.

So here now, from 2005, Doris Kearns Goodwin:

Erich Segal

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend! I thought this would be an appropriate time to bring back an interview with the author of one of the great love stories of our time — Love Story, by Erich Segal.

His book became a huge bestseller in 1970, and even bigger box office movie smash in 1971, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as the star-crossed lovers.

I met him in 1988, when he published his latest novel, called Doctors. But as you are about to hear, Segal was still both honored and haunted by the success of Love Story.

So here now, from 1988, Erich Segal.

Erich Segal died at age 72, in 2010.

Andrew Young

Was the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s a social or political movement? It was, but it was also a religious or spiritual movement, says former Congressman and UN Ambassador Andrew Young.

In a 1994 book called A Way Out of No Way, Young, a confidant of Martin Luther King jr., a former preacher, former Atlanta mayor, told his own story against the backdrop of the movement that he was a key part of.

So here now, from 1994, Andrew Young:

Ambassador Andrew Young will be 89 next month.


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Mildred Muhammad

For three weeks in October 2002, the Washington DC area was terrorized by a series of sniper attacks. Someone was randomly shooting and killing people throughout the district, and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Piecing together scant eyewitness Clues, police began searching for the gunman, and ultimately found, and arrested, 41 year old John Allen Muhammad and 17 year old Lee Boyd Malvo.

Both were eventually convicted, and John Allen Muhammad was sentenced to death.

In the fall of 2009, I met Muhammad’s wife, Mildred. Muhammad had planned to kill her, in a custody dispute over their children, and make her death appear to be one of the series of random sniper killings.

So here now, from 2009, Mildred Muhammad.

John Allen Muhammad was executed just a few weeks after my conversation with Mildred Muhammad. Lee Boyd Malvo is appealing his multiple life sentences without parole, but is likely to spend the rest of his life Behind Bars.

Mildred Muhammad continues to advocate for women in abusive situations.

Bart Starr

Bart Starr with Bill Thompson, 1987

The Kansas City Chiefs are meeting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. The Chiefs were also in the very first Super Bowl, in 1967.

But it was their misfortune that year to be playing the Green Bay Packers, who are led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, as well as MVP of Super Bowl II Ithe following year.

I met Bart Starr in 1987, when he wrote a memoir of not just his years with the Packers, but his college career, his childhood, if you supposed to Green Bay career.

So here now, from 1987, Super Bowl 1 MVP Bart Starr:

Now the NFL hands out the Bart Starr Award, to a player of outstanding character.

Bart Starr died in 2019 at age 85.


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