When a person has been doing something for a long time — in this case, 40-plus years — certain events are embedded in your mind, as well as certain things that were said to you and certain information that you were privy to.
Once I did a phone interview with Melvin Van Peebles, the director, screenwriter, playwright, etc. who at the time was in the news for his hard-hitting, controversial, and some say lowdown, movie “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song.”
Van Peebles’ cussing was relentless and he sensed that it was making me uncomfortable. He didn’t tone in down, let alone apologize. Instead he asked harshly, “You Black ain’t you?”
As if cursing and being Black go hand in hand.
The Commodores had a concert scheduled for Cobo Hall one particular night. That morning I was in bed doing some of my best sleeping when the phone rang. I picked up and the voice on the other end of the line said, “Hello! Steve Holsey? This is Lionel Richie. They told me to call you.”
Motown had scheduled a phone interview but somehow forgot to tell me anything about it. So I scrambled for a notebook and pen and quickly got into “interview mode.”
Backstage at the concert, Richie said, “You sounded surprised.”
SPEAKING of interviews and Motown, arrangements were made for Smokey Robinson’s limo to stop by the Michigan Chronicle to pick me up so that we could talk on his way to a radio station. When the limo arrived, I got in but Smokey was asleep! I didn’t want to wake him, but after a few minutes he woke up, groggy, smiled and said, “Hey, man!”
An engaging but tipsy Eartha Kitt spilled champagne all over my briefcase.
Donnie Simpson said that at a certain point he knew it was time to make an exit as host of BET’s “Video Soul” program. After interviewing hundreds of artists, the interviews all started to sort of mesh, particularly during the hip-hop era.
Simpson said rappers would often approach him on the street and mention that they had been on “Video Soul.” He often didn’t remember but pretended that he did.
A FAMOUS actress (and singer), during the first part of our interview in her downtown Detroit hotel suite, suddenly paused and pulled out a joint. She asked, “Do you smoke?” I said no. She responded, “Do you mind if I do?” Again I said no.
During the height of the Tylenol scare, I was interviewing Patti LaBelle at another downtown hotel. She said she had a headache and asked if I had anything for that. I said, “I have something, but it’s Tylenol.” She obviously didn’t care, quickly reaching for the tube of Tylenol in my hand.
One of my questions for jazz songstress Dianne Reeves was, “Would you record a song you did not especially care for if your producer and the record were both sure it would be a big hit?”
A good question, but Reeves didn’t underestand it — at all. She kept saying, “Why would I record a song I didn’t like?” So I just dropped it and moved on with the knowledge than many artists record songs they are not crazy about.
Vanessa Williams was as sweet as she could be and there was not a word of profanity. However, her demeanor temporarily changed when I asked, “How do you feel about people who will bring up the Miss America so-called scandal no matter what you achieve?”
“F–k ’em!” she said without a moment of hesitation.
BETTYE LAVETTE gleefully recalled how Sharon Holland, then-wife of songwriter-producer Brian Holland (of the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland team) roughed up Diana Ross at a popular west side Detroit nightclub, right in front of everybody.
Holland was infuriated by Ross having an affair with her husband, according to LaVette and many other sources.
Famed ventriloquest Willie Tyler said he had to move from Detroit because every time he returned home from an out of town engagement or a tour, he would find that someone that broken into his house.
I had to tell actress-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph that she was annoying me by continuously answering before I had finished asking the question.
Terry McMillan said she was hesitant about being interviewed by yours truly because I am male and she thought I would be among the many guys who felt that her new movie, “Waiting to Excel,” was blatant male bashing. When I told her I didn’t take it that way and thought it was a good movie, she relaxed.
Kid (Christopher Reid) of the rap duo Kid ’n’ Play said that when brown skinned Play (Christopher Martin) is naked “he looks like Tootsie Roll.” (That still makes me smile.)
Richard Street said the main reason he left the Temptations in 1993 was that he learned that founding members Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin were being paid more than the rest of the group.
At one time singer-songwriter Carolyn Franklin was working at the post office. She said her supervisor made it clear that he resented her being there. He felt that, Aretha Franklin being her sister, she had taken a job that should have gone to “someone who needs it.”
Carolyn said, “Aretha doesn’t take care of me!”
News anchors Kathy Adams and Dayna Eubanks never liked each other and the problem started with Eubanks. When they first met at an event, Eubanks was at Channel 7 and Adams was new to Channel 2. According to Adams, Eubanks asked sarcastically, “How does it feel to be at the No. 3 station?”
Ironically, years later they were both at Channel 2. Adams said she told Eubanks, “You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but we have to work together.”
At the conclusion of my interview with Vanity, I asked if she had anything else she wanted to say to those who would be reading the story. She said, “Tell them to love wild!”
I have an idea what that meant.