Lawrence Grobel, Larry to friends, is a freelance writer who has written 22 books and hundreds of articles for national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Newsday, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Reader’s Digest, American Way, Parade, Details, TV Guide, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Penthouse, Diversion, Writer’s Digest, and AARP.
He has been a contributing editor at Playboy, Movieline, Hollywood Life, Autograph, and many other magazines.
Playboy called him “the Interviewer’s Interviewer” after his interviews with Marlon Brando and Al Pacino; he subsequently made news as the result of his controversial interviews with Gov. Jesse Ventura and former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight.
Joyce Carol Oates has called him “The Mozart of interviewers” and J.P. Donleavy has called him “The most intelligent interviewer in the United States.”
From 2001—2011 he taught seminars on The Art of the Interview, The Literature of Journalism, Articles to Film, and Autobiography & the Memoir at UCLA. He has appeared on CNN, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Charlie Rose.
His latest book is a memoir called You Show Me Yours: A Writer’s Journey from Brooklyn to Hollywood.
The Lawrence Grobel Interview
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Books by Lawrence Grobel
Lawrence Grobel Transcript
Tim Knox: Welcome in to the program, a very special Interviewing Authors today. My guest is Lawrence Grobel. Lawrence Grobel is the man Playboy Magazine called “The interviewer’s interviewer”. Joyce Carol Oates called him “the Mozart of interviewers”.
This is a man who’s written 22 books on celebrities as well as some works of fiction, even some poetry but his true claim to fame probably comes from the interviewers he did for Playboy Magazine with stars like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Barbara Streisand, Cher, Bobby Knight, Jesse Ventura and the list goes on and on and on. Lawrence Grobel literally wrote the book on doing celebrity interview.
The book was called The Art of the Interview and it talks about how he does what he does. He not only interviews these people but he becomes their friend; he gets into the inner circle and sometimes he spends months, if not years, getting the interviews together. This is not a sit down one hour interview. That’s not what Grobel does. The end result is phenomenal.
As I said, 22 books, a lot of celebrity profiles, biographies. He’s even written his own memoir called You Show Me Yours: A Writer’s Journey from Brooklyn to Hollywood.
At the age of 11 years old he went up to an old house that he wanted to see the inside of and pretended to be a reporter for the school newspaper and that really was what set the tone for his entire career, put him at ease with these celebrities.
Lawrence Grobel, “the interviewer’s interviewer”, authors of 22 books including the memoir You Show Me Yours on this edition, part one, of Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Lawrence Grobel, welcome to the program.
Larry Grobel: Well thank you, Tim. I’m glad to be here.
Tim Knox: Glad to have you here. Let’s get this out of the way. Is it Lawrence or Larry?
Larry Grobel: Well I write under Lawrence and there’s even a story about that because it was an editor that when I was in college named James Boyer May; the magazine was called Trace Magazine. He made a claim. He came to UCLA when I was a student there and he made a claim that he published more first time poets than anybody in America. I went up to him afterwards and I said I’m a poet, I’ve been writing poems, I’ve been getting rejected by every magazine throughout high school.
He said, well send me your poems and so I did. He liked one and said I’m going to publish this but you should not use Larry; you should always use Lawrence and don’t use a middle name. He gave me a two page single space letter telling me why I should Lawrence. I figured he must know what he’s talking about and he’s going to publish one of my poems. Sent me a $4 check too; it was my first check. I use Lawrence.
Then when I started writing for Newsday, for the Long Island magazine, it was like Sunday magazine supplement, I started doing all these pieces. The art editor decided that there wasn’t room for the Lawrence in the type he wanted so he made my name Larry. So for Newsday I was always Larry and for my books and everything else I was Lawrence.
I’ve got a schizophrenic kind of name. It’s either Larry or Lawrence. People call me Larry. If you call me Lawrence that means you don’t know me but if you go to my website or if you go look for my books it’s going to be under Lawrence because of James Boyer May of Trace Magazine 40 years ago.
Tim Knox: How did he spell it on the check? That’s the big question.
Larry Grobel: Yeah really, probably spelled it to cash.
Tim Knox: I’m so excited that you’re here. You have spent countless hours with a lot of celebrities. We don’t have to go over your pedigree totally but Barbara Streisand, Pacino, Truman Capote. You’ve been called “the interviewer’s interviewer”, “the Mozart of interviewers”. You wrote the book on this. Do you have any idea how much pressure that puts on somebody like me trying to interview you?
Larry Grobel: Well you know it’s always interesting because anybody who interviews me feels that way in the beginning. Once you talk to me, and you’ll see within five minutes, I’m very easy to talk to. I’ll tell you a funny story though.
The one thing I do remember was there was a Playboy writer. He was doing interviews for Playboy and he asked if he could come talk to me about interviewing. I said sure and he came to my house and he was so nervous. Everybody gets nervous doing interviews. I think you should. I think it’s healthy.
I think it means you’re into it and you’re zeroing in on something. But he was profusely sweating and he was taking napkins. I had drinks in the house or something and he was taking napkins and wiping his forehead. I found myself thinking how does he do interviews for Playboy if he’s this nervous?
I also found myself feeling so sorry for him that I would tell him things to relax him and I would talk. I realized he has a very good technique. That was his technique really. It was the nervous guy and you feel sorry for him so you open up to him. Everybody has a technique.
Tim Knox: You and I we talked before. We had a really nice phone call previously and knowing your background and I’ve read some of your books. I admittedly was a little intimidated but two minutes on the phone with you it’s like talking to a buddy. Is this the way that you get these celebrities to open up to you?
Larry Grobel: Yes and it has nothing to do with a technique; it’s just who I am. I’m a friendly person. I’m a curious person and I’m a prepared person. So when I go into an interview I feel fairly confident that if you’re a decent person on the other end you will see when we get eye to eye, and I think eye contact is extremely important in a good interview, which is why these days when you do these online interviews and telephone interviews you’re not going to get as much depth I think as you get when you’re one on one with somebody.
A person knows immediately when they see you whether you’re an idiot or someone prepared or someone interesting to talk to. Because I’ve had an interesting background, I mean I’ve been in the Peace Corps, I lived three years in Africa, I was a director of a writing program, I created it for Antioch, I taught it in UCLA, I’ve got a Japanese wife, I’ve had girlfriends from other places. If you give me a chance I will tell you stories and hopefully you’ll tell me yours and that’s my technique.
When I first met Warren Beatty – I’ll always remember this – it was years ago in the ‘70s and he was living at the top of the Wilshire Boulevard penthouse. He opened the door… I don’t get dressed up to do interviews. I try to dress according to who I might be talking to. With Warren I wore an African fugu.
So I’m sitting there with this like smock on as a thing and I walk in. The minute he opened the door he looked at me and I could see the strangeness in his eyes. Who is this guy? I don’t know why I did it but I just pointed my finger at him and I went, “Warren,” and he just went, “Come on in,” and it worked.
He ended up inviting me for lunch and to bring my girlfriend and the whole thing. You just don’t know. You never know. To me, the first three minutes are crucial in the sense of it’s going to establish whether or not someone’s going to be really nervous with you or open to you or whatever.
De Niro was a difficult subject. We can get into him. Al Pacino never talked to an interviewer before so he was nervous. When I find someone nervous with me immediately I calm down because I can get into control faster. The whole idea of an interview, even though as you’re going in as being as friendly as you can, is you want to take control of it as fast as you can. You’re turning the tape recorder on. You’re moving the furniture around. You’re getting comfortable and hopefully making them comfortable without them even realizing what you’re doing.
Tim Knox: And you’re such a master at that. You and I talked a little bit more about this. The interview format is so prevalent now, especially online. I do want to go into that but one thing I’d really like to do with you is go back to the beginning. I’ve read some stuff about how you got into the business and I wanted to talk for just a second. You became a writer around the age of 11 because you were curious about an old house. What’s that story?
Larry Grobel: Well we moved to Jericho, Long Island from Brooklyn when I was about nine and a half years old. The development we lived in, Birchwood Park it was called was just getting started. There had been maybe 10 or 20 houses on the street I lived on and the others were all being built.
So we used to get our mail, we had to walk to get the mail and walk to get our milk. Oh we had a milkman actually deliver to us. So there was this house in Jericho that was like a plantation house basically. When Jericho was a potato farm this house existed. These houses, there was the Milleridge Inn; it’s been there since 1670 or something so it was right before the Revolution even. So this was one of those old houses and I was curious about it. One day I decided I want to go inside that house but I didn’t know how to get into that house. I didn’t talk to my parents. I didn’t say anything.
I think I was in the 6th grade and I thought I’ll take a pad and a pencil and I’ll knock on the door and I’m going to tell the proprietor of the house that I’m a reporter for my school newspaper. There wasn’t even a school newspaper. So I did and an old lady answers the door and I tell her and she invites me in and gives me milk and cookies and she shows me around the house. She took me upstairs in her bedroom and there was a bubble mirror there, like a bee’s eye. It had like 200 bubbles in it. It was fascinating. I looked in the mirror and I saw myself 200 times.
She told me that’s going to the Smithsonian and this chair is going here and this is going there. It was really a remarkable kind of house. I just felt elated because I got into this mysterious place and I saw wow you can say you’re a reporter and people will do this, show you around.
That was the very beginning of it. I didn’t continue that. I mean I got my curiosity satisfied with that house but as the years went on I continued to write and when I was 14 or 15 I entered a writing contest that Newsday sponsored on America’s three greatest presidents.
I wrote an essay, sent it in handwritten, 600 words and it won. It ended up there were seven or eight contests that every month they had a different contest, America’s three greatest inventions, three greatest wars, three greatest scientists, whatever. Mine was on presidents and so there were 16 of us at the end of the year from all over Long Island that ended up going out, getting a free trip to Washington D.C. and we were supposed to meet President Kennedy. That was really a highlight and the Senator Javitz was our senator and he headed the FBI. It was a real VIP tour for a 15 year old.
As it turned out Kennedy was in Berlin at that time so we didn’t meet the president but we got to meet Robert Kennedy who was the Attorney General. They put my picture in the newspaper and they gave me a watch. I still have that watch and I still wear that watch. It’s engraved on the back.
So I got to see that writing gave you results and it gave you a type of notoriety, a kind of minor fame I guess but I wasn’t writing to become famous. I was writing because I liked to write and it was paying off. It was a very interesting thing to happen to me when I was 15. Then I became editor of my high school newspaper and it just goes on from there.
Tim Knox: So really at the age of 11 when you went up to that old house just because you were curious, posing as a writer, we could get really deep and say that’s what opened the door for you.
Larry Grobel: Well getting through the door is always the key. I didn’t realize it then but I learned it when I was 17 or 18 years old and I spent one summer; I worked for Colliers Encyclopedia and I worked there for a couple of weeks. After being trained for a couple of weeks they throw you in the field. You go out with about five guys and you’ve got a manager who’s driving you around.
They drop you off in Bed-Sty or in Queens, in some area that’s not too great, and you’re supposed to knock on doors and convince people to buy your encyclopedia. Well I could not get in a door for three days and I worked from 5 in the evening until 10 at night when the guy would pick me up.
So I was going up and down neighborhoods, knocking on doors. Nobody let me in. I had to be retrained so I went back and they said, well you’ll go out with this guy John or something, and he’ll show you how to do it.
I went out with this guy and this guy opened my eyes in a way that I just never would have imagined. We had an attaché case with the encyclopedias in it and paperwork. He would throw it behind a bush.
He would knock on the door without holding anything and when the person would answer he’d say, “Ma’am, I’m authorized to give you a quarter.” At that time a quarter was the equivalent of, what, four or five bucks maybe. “I’m authorized to give you a quarter if you have ice cream in your refrigerator. I’m doing a survey.”
Everybody had ice cream in their refrigerator so of course they said yes. “I have to see it.” They opened the door. He got in. They showed him the ice cream. He said, “I’m going to be honest with you. I’m really not here to give you a quarter for your ice cream. What I’m here to do is give you a set of encyclopedias for free.
I had to get into your house because I have to see; I’m looking for two families in your neighborhood that I can give these books away to and I can see by the Norman Rockwell page from the Saturday Evening Post scotch taped to your wall that you’re an art lover.” He would go on like this and sure enough the idea was you’d give the books away for free but you sell them the library service for 10 years, which was $360. Well that’s what the books cost and nobody ever used the library service.
That’s what you were doing. When you were trained like this nobody ever taught you how to really get in the door. This guy showed me within an hour how he did it. He got into everybody’s house like that. I sold five or six sets of encyclopedias a week and I was making $87.50 for each one so I was doing pretty well.
It was not just that, Tim. It was also what I did was I rearranged the furniture. This was another very important thing I learned and I write about all of this. The introduction to my Art of the Interview book I write about selling encyclopedias as my way in and trying to give this as an example.
But when I would go into someone’s house I would say I have a bad back. I’m 18 years old. How could I have had a bad back? I said I had a bad back. Would you mind if I took a straight back chair from your kitchen to sit in your living room? They never minded of course. Once you do that what have you done psychologically? You’ve rearranged their room. Their home is their castle. They setup their living room exactly what makes them comfortable. You’ve changed it.
You put a chair there that doesn’t belong. They’re no longer as comfortable and you’ve taken control. Once you’ve taken control they listen to you. They’re watching you and it really works. There’s a lot of things about selling encyclopedias that I have applied to interviewing that I think really works.
Tim Knox: So when you got out of school you did go off to the Peace Corps for a while and then you came back. I don’t think you intended to be a novelist. You were actually a magazine writer for a while.
Larry Grobel: I was a magazine writer. I still am a magazine writer. It’s been forever. It’s been since 1970. African Arts Magazine, when I was in Ghana I wrote an article for that magazine. My ambition was to always write fiction. I was influenced by James Joyce and J.P. Donleavy and Norman Miller. I mean I loved reading fiction and novels and I thought wow wouldn’t it be something to be able to write a novel.
Well first of all you need to get experience to write a novel and that’s probably why I went into the Peace Corp, because I needed to get experience in an exotic way. When I came back to the states it just turned out because I had won that Newsday American History contest when I was 15 – I’m now back in the states, I’m about 20 or 21.
I went to Newsday and said I spent three years out of the country. I spent seven months traveling around the world. I have a different worldview right now. They were just starting the Sunday magazine called LI so they said you know anything about aviation? I said not really. Do you like to do research? No but I can learn.
They said they were looking into doing a story on the history of aviation on Long Island. I said I can do it. I went off and I took that assignment.
I didn’t know that the history of aviation really happened on Long Island except for the Wright Brothers and one other major thing that happened. You have so much going on that started in the early 1900’s that happened on Long Island with Lentz and the flight across the Atlantic and all this stuff that it became a really fascinating story for me.
I disappeared for three weeks. I think they probably thought I was never going to come back and I came back with this story. Not only this story but I also found people learning how to fly, people who built their own airplanes in their homes.
I was just suggesting all these other stories and they went ahead and said go ahead; jump out from a parachute. Why not? Learn how to fly. Go ahead. Follow a woman learning how to fly. Go up in a glider, sure why not?
The people building planes do that. So I did all these other stories and I ended up writing five or six airplane stories including the history of aviation and they were going to do it all in one issue. It was going to be like a book almost. It was amazing for my first assignments.
Then the editor who assigned me was an English guy named Clyde James and he got, I think he was too ambitious so they fired him. The new editor came on, looked at the articles I had written and said well we’re going to publish these one at a time.
We’re not going to do it all at once. They made them all cover stories. Over a period of maybe two or three months, because they didn’t do them one in a row; they did it every couple of weeks. I had all these different cover stories instead of one major one. That really got me started just doing that stuff.
Then of course I wanted to get some different credit so I went to The New York Times and I did a story on the bird artist that I knew, opera singer who I grew up with; I grew up with his son. I did a story on my piano teacher, Ted Harris, who wrote for William Carlos Williams, The First President; it was an opera that he did. It was just great stories about people that I knew. They were publishing them.
So I started building up a portfolio of stories and then when I decided after writing for Newsday for a couple years, I decided to come to California and just be a novelist. As soon as I got to California the editor from Newsday called me and he said to me, “We figured a way to get off Long Island”, because all the articles were based on Long Island.
I said, “How’s that?”
He said, “We want to do interviews with household names”.
I said “Okay, that’s interesting”.
He said, “How would you like to interview Mae West?” I said, “Is she still alive?” “Yeah, I think she is.” “How do I get to her?” “How do we know? You’re the one in Hollywood.”
So I started looking into it. I called Paramount Pictures publicity. They told me that she had a publicist. I called the publicist and they got me in touch with Mae West and they knew what Newsday Magazine was so they said yes. My first celebrity interview was with Mae West in her home. She was probably about 80, 78-82, something like that.
Myra Breckinridge had already come out I think. It was great. I was really nervous but the really interesting thing with Mae West was she came out all dressed up with her hair and her heels and whatever and she had these muscle man who was like her boyfriend bodyguard I guess. She looked at me.
I had flowers that I brought her and everything and she told me I can’t use my tape recorder. I asked why not. That really threw me because I wasn’t expecting that. She said because someone once did an interview with her using a tape recorder and they made a record of it, because she had this famous voice. I said I won’t do that. I’ll put it in writing that I won’t do that.
She didn’t know who I was. She said no, no, no, no tape recorder. So I had to take out a pad. Luckily I brought one. Also luckily she spoke very slowly. I was able to write down everything she said as she talked. It was very nerve-wracking but that’s a good way to start. Get thrown for a loop right from the beginning and figure out a way to solve it.
Then interestingly enough, I send the interview to Newsday and the editor calls me up. A photographer came and took pictures of her by the piano and stuff. He says, “Larry, I’ve got the interview with Mae West. Listen, every time you do an interview for us, from now on use that photographer. That’s a great picture. It’s a really great picture.” I said, “Yeah what about the interview?”
He says, “Oh yeah, that was fine but use that photographer.” I realized again what we’re worth. I think I’m doing the big job here and the photographer gets the excitement. I’ll skip ahead for a second since I’m talking about that but when I did the Playboy interview with Marlon Brando and they put it in their 25th anniversary issue and it was like the biggest interview they were going to publish for a long time.
It was a big deal. That took a lot of work. They’re having a big party at the Playboy mansion for this issue and the press was all there and everything else. They had done a search for the… Candy Loving was the woman who was the 25th anniversary playmate of the quarter century.
So anyways, I go there; I’m invited to the party of course. I go there thinking, wow man, I did the interview with Marlon Brando and I’m going to get some accolades here. This is great. All the press is there.
I go to the door and there’s the cameramen and the reporters and I walk up and they’re all taking pictures of Candy Loving, the centerfold. Not a single person was interested in me. I walked in very quietly, never said a word, had a couple of drinks and left. I said well this really shows you where you belong, Larry.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk about your association with Playboy because I think you really were the premium interviewer they had. They really loved your work. How did you get involved with Playboy and was Brando your first interview with them?
Larry Grobel: No, I got involved when… it was my decision when I was doing these interviews for Newsday; I had done Jane Fonda and Linus Pauling and Ray Bradbury and Carol Burnett and Gabe Kaplan. I did about 20 or 30 of these interviews.
They all were 3,000 word interviews so I only needed to go for two hours at the most maybe with somebody, you know Lucille Ball. So I kept thinking what would it have been like if I could have six hours, if I could have two days, if I could keep talking to someone without a time limit?
How far could I go with this? It was interesting to me, the interview. When I first started doing it I wrote 30 questions and that’s all I ever asked. The more I got into it the more I realized wow this is an opportunity to ask somebody anything you want and they’re not going to punch you in the face. You could ask them about their sex life, about taxes, about love, whatever you want and if they don’t want to answer they don’t but what kind of permission do you get in life to do that? You go to a party – you can’t ask somebody about, you know, have you had three abortions or four? You just don’t say those things to people.
When you’re doing an interview you can ask anything. I thought, okay, I looked around and where can I do an in-depth interview? Playboy was really the only magazine that was doing that at that time in the mid-70s. I figured how can I get Playboy to know what I do? I thought why don’t I interview you, Hefner, for Newsday and I’ll impress him and it’ll go from there. So that’s what I did and I did an extensive interview.
He was really there to do an hour with me and I ended up doing seven hours and then I came back the next day and continued. I did the best interview I could. It wasn’t a puff piece either. I published it and it turned out that he liked it enough that he said to his… that year… he always gave a speech to the advertisers at the Playboy Club in Century City.
That year he decided not to go but to use the interview I did with him as his speech. He would print it up and give it out to the thousand people who were at this luncheon or something.
So the publicist of Playboy called me up and said, “Hey Larry, good news for you. Hefner’s going to use your interview. Would you like to go to the luncheon? Arthur Kretchman’s going to be there. He’s the editorial director of Playboy.” I said, “Oh yeah I’d like to go.” All I wanted to do was meet this guy.
So I went and I took with me my portfolio of all the interviews I had done. I had a nice portfolio made for this thing. I’m sitting there just at a seat waiting to meet him. After they had the lunch and everything this guy, Don Rogers, who was the publicist at the time, brings Arthur Kretchman to my table. That’s pretty amazing to me.
I said, “Mr. Kretchman, I would really like to start writing for Playboy. I don’t know how to get into your magazine. I know you only take 12 a year but I think I can do this. Here’s the people I’ve been talking to,” and I show him all this stuff.
He said, “Listen, I don’t handle the interview section of the magazine but you should get in touch with Barry Golson who does. He’s the editor for that.” I said, “Okay, thank you very much.”
As soon as I got home I called Playboy, asked to speak to Barry Golson and I said, “Arthur Kretchman told me to call.” Now, Kretchman was his boss so Golson had to listen to me, right? So he’s listening and says who else have you done? I started telling him. He says, “Who are you after now?” I was after a lot of people and one of the people I was after was Barbra Streisand. He said, “Well listen, if you can get to Barbra Streisand we’d be interested because we’ve been trying to get to her for years.”
So then I called Streisand. Lee Solters was her publicist. I called him up again and I said, “Listen, I’ve been after her for Newsday and she hasn’t done it but if she talks to me I can do a Playboy interview with her; I can take a section of it that’s not used for Playboy and give it to Newsday. Newsday is syndicated in 350 newspapers around the country.
Playboy has got 17 or 19 publications around the world. Barbara only has to talk to me and she’ll reach a worldwide audience.” I put that in. Then I don’t hear anything for a really long time and finally I get a call, “Barbra Streisand would like to see you.”
“Really? Is this business or pleasure?” It was just out of nowhere. They just said, “Come to the RKO Studios at 10 o’clock tomorrow,” and they hung up. That was it.
So I went there and I’m waiting in the waiting room. She was making A Star is Born and was editing that. I’m in the room there and she comes out after about an hour and there were about five people who were behind her, her little entourage. She comes right up to me and she doesn’t say hello, she doesn’t extend her hand.
She just says, “Why does the press hate me?”
That was the first thing she said to me. I looked at her and I saw a Jewish princess that reminded me of my sister. Thank God I had a reference. So I said, “You want to know why the press hates you?”
All I could do is tell her why I hated her, right, because she kept me waiting, because she didn’t respond, because she had an attitude. I went on and on like this. I listed about five things.
Behind her there was this collective gasp from her people. No one talked to her… I mean you got to remember who Streisand was in 1975. She was really the biggest star in the world. I don’t think there’s any female star today that had that kind of cachet that she had. There was something about Barbra that was enormous and she knew it.
Anyway, so she looked at me and said, “Okay, come with me,” and took me into the studio and she’s going to screen A Star is Born. So we’re sitting there just the two of us in these big, red leather chairs and I’m thinking dear God, I hope I like this movie.
If I don’t like this movie she’ll see it on my face and it’s going to screw this up right from the start. So I see the movie and I did not like it that much. So I was really worried.
The lights come on and she turned and looks at me and she just goes, “Well?” It was not very friendly. All I said, the best thing I could have said, I said to her, “You’re going to make a lot of money.”
She just said, ugh, like this and then I said to Jon Peters who was her boyfriend – he came, he comes running down the aisle and says, “Who’s this guy? Who’s this guy?” He was protecting her. He thought I was like some crazy guy. She said, “This is Larry. He’s from Playboy.”
That’s how it began with Playboy. I went to see Barbra. She did not want to do… well what happened was while I was trying to see Barbra, Henry Winkler was also the biggest television star in the world as The Fonz. I convinced Playboy maybe we’ll do a small interview with him while I’m waiting for Barbra so they said okay.
I said, “Henry, I don’t want to do a small interview; let’s see if we can make it the big Playboy interview,” and he says, “What do I have to do? Say I fucked Amy Gittler in the 5th grade?” I said, “Yeah, say that. That’s good.” Anyway, so we got along well Henry and I ended up doing that while waiting for Barbra to come around and that was my first Playboy interview with Henry Winkler, and then came Barbra. Barbra took about a total of 10-12 months altogether from the time I met her to the time we sat down. It’s a long story.
I have a whole chapter in my book, in my memoir, You Show Me Yours, about my time with Barbra Streisand because it’s a very behind the scenes story and it was very complicated. We got into a lot of fights and a lot of arguments, calling at 2 or 3 in the morning. Her boyfriend, Jon Peters, called me to his office.
He wanted to get into a fight with me because he tried to buy the interview back before it was published. I mean it was amazing. I never wrote about any of that before. I didn’t talk about that. So I thought when I was writing this memoir, you know what, this is a good story. I took notes.
I have it all in my journal. So I put that in there. Rather than get into too much detail now, suffice it to say it was a fascinating nine months of my life. I love her too but let’s put it this way – when it ended I gave her a pair of boxing gloves.
It said ‘To Barbra from Larry’ and she looked at me and said, “You see, you should have kept one glove for yourself.”
Tim Knox: You spend so much time with these people. You develop a relationship with them. Talk a little about Brando because what did he say? The best interviews come from silence. How do you interview a guy like that?
Larry Grobel: Well Brando’s the other chapter. I ended my memoirs on Brando. I have the chapter on Streisand and then the chapter on Brando is the end of it. That takes me up to 1980. Again, Brando… I get a call from Playboy saying, “Are you sitting down?” “Yeah.” “We got Marlon Brando to agree to do an interview.”
I couldn’t believe they were asking me because by that time I had only done Streisand, Winkler and I think I did Dolly Parton. I’m not sure if I did Henry Fonda yet but I think Brando was like the 4th.
Because they saw how I persevered with Barbra and it took so long, and I never got paid by the way until the article came out so I think they found, you know, I was young, fresh, willing to work for nothing until something happened and they knew Brando was going to be another Streisand type ordeal so they asked me to do it.
So I got in touch with his secretary and we went back and forth for weeks and months and then Marlon calls me and says, “Can you send me your questions?”
I said, “Send you my questions? I don’t do that.”
“Well then I don’t think we can do this. I got to see the questions.”
I didn’t know what to do so I came up with an idea. Rather than send him my questions, which I didn’t want to do, I sent him topics. I think I wrote six or seven topics – men, women, relationships, social events, environment, politics, the world. I sent him a list of bullshit and I thought if he has a sense of humor he’ll see what I’m doing. If he doesn’t, then well goodbye and good luck.
Anyway, he calls and says, “Larry, were you the one who sent me these? I don’t get it. I don’t know what it means.” I said, “Marlon, what it means is I just want to talk to you about everything.” “No, no, I just want to talk about the Indians.
That’s all I want to talk about, the Indians and the environment. I’ll talk about the environment.” “Okay, we’ll talk about the Indians. Don’t worry, blah, blah, blah.”
When he invites me finally to go to Tahiti to do it I said let me prepare for this by reading every book I can about the Indians, which I do. I read the congressional records. I read all about, you know, I see these movies.
I wrote 400 questions just based on American and the Indians. In between I wrote hundreds of questions about acting and other things. My strategy was to talk to Brando about the Indians until he had Indians coming out of his ears and then if I asked him about On the Waterfront it would be like a relief and he would talk about it. That was the strategy. Remember I’m flying to his island Tetiaroa in Tahiti, so that means I don’t have access to… there weren’t computers then. I didn’t have access to phones. I didn’t have access to anything, my library or anything like that so whatever I brought with me is all I had. I had to be very prepared.
I had to have a couple of tape recorders in case one went bad. I had to have enough batteries and all that stuff because there’s not electricity. I had to be on my toes to do that and I did. For the first three days on his island we didn’t tape anything. He wouldn’t let me. So I’m going well this is great. I would carry the tape recorder with me every time we would go out on the boat, the two of us. We would take walks around the island.
So one day we’re sitting against his hut in the sand and we started talking and I just took the tape recorder out; I wasn’t hiding it. I put it between us and I turned it on. I just said fuck it, let’s see. And he didn’t tell me not to and we just started talking.
He starts talking about the moon. There was a moon out there and he says the moon reminds him of when he was in Morocco and there was a muezzin calling out and saying the prayers and there was this girl there and he was interested in her. He went back to the hotel to screw her and I said, “Was she a Muslim girl?”
He goes, “No, an airline stewardess.”
It was great. We were into it. We started talking and then of course the Indians; I asked him all those Indian questions.
Then when I got back I spent 10 days, 7 of those days we talked on tape and some of those days were six hour days. So when I got back I get a call from my editor who asked how it went. I said well I got a lot of material.
He says, “10%”, and I say, “10% what?”
He says, “That’s all I want on the Indians, 10%.”
I said, “Are you kidding me? 90% of our talk was on the Indians.”
He says, “I only want 10.”
Oh God, I had my work cut out for me. It came out and that interview probably was more important than the Streisand. The Streisand was important because it led to Brando. Brando was important because it led to Al Pacino and everybody else at that time who wanted to hear Brando’s stories and the only way they would hear them is having me being their interviewer. So I got to see a lot of different people, Lily Tomlin and whatever. They all were interested in hearing about Brando.
Tim Knox: That’s really how you got them talking in a lot of cases. You would start telling Brando stories and then they would start talking.
Larry Grobel: Right and that’s a favorite technique. Truman Capote, when I interviewed him, told me that when he went to see Brando he told him all these stories about when he was a kid his mother used to lock him up in a hotel room when he was three years old and she’d go out and drink and get drunk and come back and he’d be crying.
Brando would say, “Yeah, my mother was a drunk too. I’d have to go to the bar to pick her up and carry her home on my back because she was so drunk.”
Well when Capote wrote this article called A Duke in His Domain, this was during the making of Sayonara when he went over to Japan to interview Brando in the ‘50s. He wrote this article and he left all of his stories and just put the stuff in about Marlon and Marlon was really pissed off about that and that’s why he stopped talking to reporters.
He felt that Truman Capote had tricked him, you know, and only wrote his side. 23 years later there I was talking to Brando again and it’s ironic that I ended up talking to Brando and Capote and being able to talk to the two of them about each other. I had a sort of link to those two.
Tim Knox: What was Capote like to interview?
Larry Grobel: He was the best. He was absolutely the best. Well he was outrageous. Capote would say anything and he didn’t care about censorship. He would say things about Gore Vidal and whatever and when you go to publish it the lawyers always had to vet it.
“You can’t say this, you can’t say that. Vidal’s going to sue.”
What was so interesting about Capote is I did it as a television interview for Playboy Cable at first. I ended up talking to Capote for four hours at The Drake Hotel for a TV interview that we only needed eight minutes.
So when we finished I said, “Truman, I feel we just got started. Do you mind if I continue with you for a Playboy interview?”
He said, “Well, alright, if you want to.” So I said okay great. We go back. Every six months I went back to Long Island, went to Sagaponack. I would go out there and I would see him.
I’ve never really talked about this story before but I was elated each time I would spend six hours with Capote at Bobby Vans. There was this restaurant and we’d start around 12 noon and we’d finish around 6. We’d sit at a table of eight, a circular table just the two of us and he would say these great things about everything that he could talk about.
I really envisioned what a lucky thing I have. I’m able to talk to Truman while he’s writing Answered Prayers and James Michener had told me that if any writer will be remembered into the next century it will be Truman Capote if he ever finishes Answered Prayers. I’m thinking he’s like our Proust. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have been with Proust when he was writing his seven volume work?
Nobody did that with Proust and nobody did it with Joyce and here I was with an opportunity to be with a writer who may be writing the Great American novel in a way and I can interview him. I was just loving doing it.
He died unfortunately before I really felt I’d finished with what I was planning on doing with it. What I was doing at the time was for Playboy, for the magazine. I already did the TV one. So I was doing this interview and I was supposed to have dinner in New York City with Barry Golson, my editor and with Christie Hefner.
They were waiting for me. I think I was supposed to be there at 7:30 and I was with Capote until 6:00 getting back from the end of Long Island. It took a couple of hours. Finally I get into the city and it’s almost 9 o’clock. They’re sitting there and ate most of their food.
I came in and they said, “How did it go with Truman?” I said – and I have never, ever said this before and I have never said it sense – “This is going to be the most controversial talked about interview of the year.”
That’s all I said to them and they were delighted, “This is great,” and all that stuff.
Now, I end up writing this interview, giving it to Playboy and Barry liked it but the managing editor of Playboy at the time was Don Gold who I did not know and he did not like it. He told Barry he doesn’t want to publish it. This is the first time this has happened to me, you know, where I’m getting a rejection from Playboy, over an interview that I think is spectacular. Are you kidding me?
He says, “Larry, I just can’t believe this.” He send me Don Gold’s note to him and it was on this small pad with his name on the top. He just wrote, ‘I hate it!’ My reaction was this immediately.
I said, “Barry, I want to buy the interview back. I don’t want Playboy to own it if you’re not going to publish it.” He allowed that so I was able to get it back. You talk about timing. I bought that interview back and I think a week or two later Truman Capote died.
Suddenly my agent calls me up and says, “Larry, you did that interview. New American Library’s looking for a quick biography on Capote,” because they published all his paperback work.
I said, “Well I got this interview.” Next thing I know I got a contract for 10 times what Playboy was paying me. I gave them the book in October and in February, four months later, it was published in hardback and it became a number one bestselling book on The Village Voice list, on The San Francisco Chronicle list, around the country.
It got published in 12 languages. It’s still to this day giving me royalties. It’s just being published in Poland for a second time. Gallimard in France is publishing it again and as a matter of fact, Skyhorse Press has just asked me to republish it here. I’m negotiating with them.
Anyway, you just never know about these things. As it turned out, the Capote interview was to me a very exclusive, very good interview. Why did Playboy not like it? Well because Capote was very bitchy and he was gay and, you know, that could offend certain people and obviously it offended this guy Don Gold.
Tim Knox: Is that what led you to really get into publishing more? You’ve got books on the Hustons, on Pacino. That was the first one that you actually published but then you went on and became quite prolific in doing these biographies.
Larry Grobel: Well as it turned out after the Capote one and I had done John Huston as a Playboy interview and then Scrivener’s was looking to do a big biography on the Huston family and they got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested.
So I got in touch with John and he said, “Well Larry, I’ve got my own book out and there’s been other books about me but nobody’s ever written about my father, about Walter, and he deserves it so I’ll go along with this if my children will.”
At that time he wanted me to meet Anjelica and Tony and Danny so I said fine. I met Tony and Tony just started telling me how much he hated his father and how he wanted to kill him when he was 16. I said oh man, this is great. Then I had lunch with Anjelica.
She had just won the Oscar for Prizzi’s Honor and she said to me, “A lot of families have a lot of skeletons in their closet. It’s like an onion. You peel away layer upon layer. My family probably has more layers than most and I’m not sure I want all those to be peeled away.”
I said to Anjelica, “That’s my job, Anjelica. If I was to write this I would be looking into doing exactly what you’re talking about. If you’re uncomfortable doing it I’m not going to do it.” She said, “Well, my father trusts you so I’ll go along with it as well.” Great and that’s what happened.
The next three years of my life I spent interviewing John Huston and writing this 850 page biography because everybody talked to me. The great thing was I asked John for a letter that I wrote. I wrote a letter saying ‘Please talk to Larry Grobel. He’s doing this thing.’ John rewrote it.
He made it so much better. He made it real. I didn’t know what to say writing it for him. He wrote a beautiful letter, a one page letter, and I sent that letter to Ava Gardner, because he gave me all of his address books for Europe, for Mexico and Canada and the United States. I had all these addresses.
Nancy Reagan, who was First Lady at the time and Olivia de Havilland and Roman Polanski in Paris and dozens of people in London – everybody agreed to see me except Ray Bradbury, who really had a bad experience with John, and Paul Newman and people who don’t normally talk, talked to me.
That book became an amazing project for me and I wish I had another project that was as meaty for that one for non-fiction. That book keeps getting republished. Skyhorse is publishing it in July. I wrote a new ending to it.
I updated it because Jack Huston now is acting and Danny was a director at the time and now Danny’s been in 42 movies. So that’s how that book happened.
Then the Disney owned Hyperion Press decided they want to start getting into publishing and the first book they thought of publishing was Brando, my book on Brando.
They said, “Would you like to do a book like you did with Capote?”
I said, “Yeah, that’d be great.” I had the honor of having the first book published by Hyperion. It was Conversations with Brando and that book has been published over and over again with different companies and around the world.
Then I did a book with James Michener. I asked Michener, “Would you sit still for an interview?” He says, “Well I’m not as sexy as Marlon or as controversial as Truman but if you want to I’m willing to talk to you.”
So for 17 years, Tim, I talked to James Michener. I’d go to Texas, I’d go to New Brunswick, I’d go to Jupiter, Florida, meet him in New York, see him in L.A. and I would just keep talking to him. I love talking to Michener.
He was just a gentleman and very intelligent. That worked out very well but then of course I did this book and University of Mississippi published it and then I put it out as an eBook myself. University of Mississippi wanted to give me 10% of the eBook rights. Are you crazy? That should at least be 50/50. So anyway I published it myself.
I started realizing I could publish books myself. I don’t have to wait for publishers to give me the, “Yes, this we can do and this we can’t.” I want to write novels. I want to write satire. I want to write whatever I want to write. I got all sorts of things in my head I wanted to do and that’s what I’ve been doing the last two years. I’ve been doing it on Amazon, just publishing eBooks.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk about your book because you’ve written all these books about all these people and then you write a book about yourself.
Larry Grobel: Yeah.
Tim Knox: It’s called You Show Me Yours: A Writer’s Journey from Brooklyn to Hollywood. How hard was it to transition from writing about other people to writing about yourself?
Larry Grobel: It wasn’t hard because so much of my journalism was about… I did a lot of that new journalism stuff where I got strapped in and go around Roosevelt Raceway, jumped out of airplanes. I was always doing a first person story in the ‘70s and ‘80s so it wasn’t hard to do that.
What was hard and why it took me… I mean I wrote this memoir some years ago and I put it aside. I didn’t finish the last chapter because after I finished the Streisand chapter I said oh my God, if she reads this I hear the phone call coming. “Larry, I never said that. Larry, why are you so mean? Larry, who said you could write about me like this?”
Then the lawyers would start calling. I knew exactly what was going to happen and I thought, oy, do I need this? On the other hand, I always remembered what Truman said to me. When he lost all his friends because he wrote about the rich and the famous and he said, “Who did they think I was? They invited me on their yachts; they always had me for dinner. Did they think I was just a court jester? I wasn’t a court jester. I’m a writer. I take in what I see.”
I felt the same way. Truman was right. You have to have some kind of internal fortitude to be able to do these things but to also not be afraid to write what you know.
So I wrote the chapter and I was afraid of her a little. I think I saw it was going to cause me a lot of grief and so I put it aside for a long time. Also I wrote a lot about other stuff. I had a very sexually adventurous life and my wife today doesn’t know half the stories and she’s never read my memoir and I dread my children reading it. My daughter’s fiancé read it and he told her, “You don’t want to read this.”
Tim Knox: That brings up the question. Why include that?
Larry Grobel: Well because it’s my life. It’s there, you know. If I had certain relationships with people or if… look, I talk about my wife losing her virginity when we were in Madrid or in Toledo I think it was. It’s a funny story.
Tim Knox: There’s a hell of a difference between Madrid and Toledo.
Larry Grobel: Yes there is. We were in Toledo.
Tim Knox: It’s a great book and you mentioned now that you’re self-publishing yourself through Kindle. I guess it’s kind of a big change from what you’re used to dealing with publishers and especially when it comes to timeline and money but also the control factor.
Larry Grobel: Well the control I have but the money I don’t have. Look, I got six figure advances for the Hustons and I got high five figure advances for all my other books that I published. It was nice to get an advance.
My book on Al Pacino, I earned back the advance before it was published because it was picked up by so many publishers around the world. So I’d get checks for that, you know, that are like well I get a $10,000 check, $13,000 from France.
The book won the Best Book of the Year, the French Drama Guild’s International Book of the Year in 2009. They wanted me to come to Paris to get the award. It was February and I go to Poland. Poland, that’s another thing I could talk to you about because I go to Poland every year to judge a film festival so I know what it’s like in Europe in the cold and I don’t want to go back just to pick up an award so they sent it to me.
Doing the books by myself, you’re eliminating that advance. You’re eliminating the distribution system and also getting reviews. The New York Times is not reviewing my books that are coming out on Kindle. They don’t even know about them. Even if they do they don’t review that.
So it’s a very difficult thing to make that transition when you’ve been writing. I’ve written a dozen books with Scrivener’s and Random House and New American Library and Hyperion. It’s a different ballgame.
And I’m very proud of all the books that were published but I’m equally proud of the books that I’m doing, even if I’m getting a small audience, because I feel that if people know about it, if people saw it going more to their eBook readers, I haven’t even gone yet to CreateSpace yet to put these as print on demand. Why? Well because well you still have to pay to get them done and it’s not that much; maybe it’s a couple hundred bucks for each book but I’ve published 15 books so do I want to put out three grand or something just to have a few people who are going to read them on demand or are there going to be hundreds who want to read them on demand?
I don’t know that answer yet. I’m new to this game. I figured let me first do it this way and let’s see how this works.
I’ve written an article about self-publishing for the Saturday Evening Post they’re going to publish in September I think. Little by little you do what you can and hopefully people will see it.
One of the books I published was Conversations with Ava Gardner and what was so interesting about that is that Ava Gardner… a former student of mine told me that this publisher that they knew was looking for books like what I was doing and did I have anything that I hadn’t published before?
I said, yeah, I did this interview with Ava Gardner but it was never finished. I got 300 pages of transcript with her and then she asked me to write her memoir and I didn’t do it because I was writing the Hustons at the time.
I had all this material so I was going to put it out as a book but then it turns out that at the same time she was talking to me, she was talking to a guy named Peter Evans on the phone, an English reporter, and he died in 2012. Simon & Schuster was publishing his book called The Secret Conversations with Ava Gardner.
So I knew I couldn’t get my book out in time because his was already coming out and I didn’t know what he wrote but I knew what I had. So I just put it out and I was able to put it out at the same time as a Kindle book.
It’s only 45,000 words; it’s very short. I don’t charge very much for it. The Ava Gardner museum just called me up and said would I come be their honored guest at the, they’re doing an Ava Gardner/John Huston thing on October 5th and will I come to North Carolina? I think I’ll go.
Tim Knox: You also do a lot of workshops. I think you have 20 Lessons Learned from Interviewing Celebrities and you have some others. For the folks in our audience that are doing interviews or are interested in the interview format, what’s your best advice to these folks as far as getting started, how to conduct these interviews and really do a great interview and not just a casual conversation?
Larry Grobel: Well I taught The Art of the Interview at UCLA for 10 years and then I do this workshop; I do a memoir writing workshop actually twice a year and I’ve done some lecturing on it. I’ve always felt about interviewing that what you really don’t realize… and I always surprise classes because I would bring in my 2,000 pages of transcript with Al Pacino.
I would just bring that in with me my first day of class. I’d say here’s the interview I did with him transcribed. Then I would show them 120 pages and say here is the edited version of this mound of papers down to this is what I gave Playboy.
I had to edit that down to like 80 pages from the 120 and then here’s the final interview in print. How do you go from one to the other? How do you do it and how do you get that kind of material?
To get 2,000 pages with a major star it means you’ve got to be with them for a really long period of time. How are you going to earn their trust? To me it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to realize that you’re going to have to be very prepared to talk to people because if you’re not prepared after a couple of minutes or hours you run out of things to say.
There are different ways of doing it. I know that Larry King prided himself on not preparing. Mark Maron, who does his podcast, says the same thing. He doesn’t prepare. He just goes in and talks. Well I think that’s great if you can do it.
I feel totally uncomfortable that way. I need to prepare so I will read every book that I can if I’m doing James Joyce or Joyce Carol Oates or Saul Bellow or Elmore Leonard. These are all very prolific writers. I will read 20 of their books.
I can’t read them all but I’ll read about 15 or 20 of their books. I’ll take notes on their subject matter. I’ll think about them all the time, night and day. If any of their books have been made into movies I will see the movies.
I will read any articles that have been written about them and same thing with actors, same thing with politicians, whatever.
So I will have really read… I will know more about that person than that person will remember about themselves. That gives me confidence and I think if you can go in with confidence and if you go in prepared, you’re way ahead of the game.
And make sure your equipment works because I’ve had times where my tape recorder didn’t work or the batteries went dead and I didn’t have a backup. I learned that very early on. What do you do? Well you always have two tape recorders. You always have twice as many batteries and twice as many tapes. You don’t know.
What happens when I interview Barbara Walters and her publicist said, “I’m going to stay here”? Well I didn’t want her publicist there. The same thing happened with Charles Heston and I didn’t want to see a publicist in the room, and Halle Berry the same thing – three times that happened.
With Barbara Walters when I brought up getting a facelift the publicist said, “You can’t ask that question! That’s off the record, blah, blah, blah.” I said, “To me, that’s the answer.” Barbara was very sharp to say to me, “Larry, I just hope you noticed I didn’t say anything; she did.” You don’t know what to expect.
I went in to see Cher once and it was in her studio. She still had a TV show and Ike and Tina Turner were there waiting to see her. So Tina went in first and then she came out and then I go in and just as I was about to start taping with Cher in her dressing room or trailer she gets a phone call and the phone call was from this little girl.
She starts crying, Cher, and I said, “What happened?” She said, “Well this girl on the Make a Wish Foundation asked to see me and I had gotten a doll for her but I haven’t brought it to her yet because I’ve been busy and the girl died.”
She was so really upset by it and I just said to Cher, “Listen, would you like to do this another day?” I had been waiting to see Cher for weeks or months. I was waiting in her trailer for hours and yet I said the moment wasn’t right. She said, “Thank you, Larry. Why don’t you come to my house tomorrow?” Well big difference going to her house in Malibu than sitting in a trailer. I went to her house and that was a better interview.
You don’t know what to expect so you have to be prepared. You have to be willing to go with the flow and you have to really be able to listen. If you’ve got 10 questions that are all in a certain area and that person starts talking and it goes off on another tangent, well if you’re not listening you’re sticking with your questions so you’re not jumping with her; you’re going back to your questions. Wrong.
Go with the tangents. Go where they go off on and be prepared to do that. You can always go back to your questions. My questions are my security blanket. I will come to them. When I interviewed Henry Moore I was so interested in talking to one of the world’s greatest artists that I studied art, I wrote questions, I typed them up and I put them into a small notebook so I could flip it, not the way I normally do it.
I took a train from England down to Forte dei Marmi in Italy to see him. On the train I just kept reading my questions over and over and over. I was just preparing so much and when I got there, there was this little old man sitting in his backyard looking at a book of drawings.
I said, “Mr. Moore, what are you looking at?” He said, “You can always tell great artists by their drawings, not by their sculptures or their paintings.” I said, “Really?” “Yeah, there’s only about 10 great artists – Michael Angelo was one, Rembrandt was one.”
He considered himself one by the way. We just started to talk. I never once took out my notebook in the two days I saw him. I was so mentally prepared for that that I didn’t need that crutch. If I did, it was there and that’s what allowed me to do what I do.
To me, the advice is simple. It’s like the Boy Scouts – be prepared. Be confident. Be as relaxed as you can be but it’s okay to be nervous. Make sure your equipment is good and have a good personality. Be able to go with the flow. Don’t ask the really serious, difficult questions upfront. Unless you’ve only got 10 minutes with a person, save the tax questions until the end. Money questions are more vulnerable than sex questions. You have to realize that people what they least like to talk about is their tax problems and usually they all have them.
Tim Knox: Should you always also keep a quarter in your pocket and ask to see their ice cream?
Larry Grobel: Yes.
Tim Knox: What a great moral to the story.
Larry Grobel: See you listened, you listened!
Tim Knox: Hey I listen to everything. Larry Grobel, wow what a career. You Show Me Yours: A Writer’s Journey from Brooklyn to Hollywood is the memoir. 22, 23 books previously to that. We’ve got to do this again. I still have so many questions. We’ve been talking for over an hour. I’d love to continue this but I appreciate you being on. Where can people find more information about your work?
Larry Grobel: Well I have a website, which is just LawrenceGrobel.com and just go to Amazon.com and write my name and up will come all these books. You can actually look inside all of the books and see 10% for free.
There’s 18 books there or 20 books. I also wrote, by the way, Marilyn & Me, Lawrence Schiller’s book. I wrote a Montel Williams book, Climbing Higher. You can actually read the first 10% of any of these books and see if they interest you. I have two novels out – Catch a Fallen Star and Begin Again Finnegan and a novella, The Black Eyes of Akbah, another one Commando Ex.
It’s a very rhythmic sexy kind of book, and a book of poetry, Celebrity Salad, which is 152 poems I’ve written about celebrities, my little epiphanies about them. I put in 96 pictures as well. You can get that book for like $4.99 or $5.99. It’s like $0.02 a poem.
What are the other ones? 50 celebrity profiles called Signing In. I got a lot of people to sign memorabilia to me and sometimes I got them to do a drawing or something. I write about it and I show the drawings and what they said about it so that was fun.
I did a book called I Want You in My Movie! Al Pacino asked me to be in his movie, Wilde Salome, which hasn’t even come out yet. It’s about Oscar Wilde. I was in the movie but I kept a journal about it and I published the journal.
I published another book called Icons because in Poland there’s a magazine called Trendy that they asked me to do these cover speeches on major celebrities so I did about 15 or 20 of them and I put 13 of them into this book, Icons. It’s with Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, De Niro, Cameron Diaz, Jodi Foster, Angelina Jolie, Tom Waits, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Kiedis, so that’s a fun book. Again, none of these books are expensive.
Everything is between $2.99 and $8.99. It’s been fun. It’s been a fun thing to do. I will continue doing it. I’ve got another novel I want to write. I want to write a screenplay based on Begin Again Finnegan because I like that novel. I think it’d make a great movie. That’s it.
Tim Knox: Maybe on part two we can just talk about the fiction work.
Larry Grobel: That would be great. Oh I left out one book though, The Book of Shmoga. The Book of Shmoga is… I laughed the whole time.
Tim Knox: I just love the title.
Larry Grobel: I know and nobody knows what it is. It’s like yoga shmoga. My wife does yoga. My two daughters teach yoga. Everybody does yoga. There’s 60 million people doing yoga. I would rather watch TV with my remote control and click with my thumb and I say, “That’s shmoga! I’m getting exercise with my thumb.”
Once I thought of that I thought of my uncle saying, “yoga shmoga,” so I got a bunch of books on yoga and I looked at how they did it – yoga for the back, yoga for arthritis, yoga for headaches, yoga for Jews, yoga for Christians.
Tim Knox: Is there really yoga for Jews?
Larry Grobel: Oh yeah. I’d love to read that to you. I’m talking about shmoga for Jews. Shmoga for Catholics and shmoga for Muslims. I had so much fun writing this book and there’s like 42 small chapters, a couple pages each at the most.
It’s my take on the country, the way it is today. I did it that way. Someone in New Zealand read the book and wrote me and said, “I get what you’re doing. I know exactly what you’re doing,” and I loved it. I loved that someone connected with me somewhere in the world. Nobody knows.
Tim Knox: What you need to do, Larry, is do it as an audio book with that accent that you’re doing. It’s perfect.
Larry Grobel: You know, they just did an audio book of the Hustons. They hired somebody. I wanted to do it but Skyhorse hired somebody to do this audio book on the Hustons. It’s 850 pages long. I don’t know how many tapes it going to be or CDs. He’s been calling me because he doesn’t know how to pronounce a lot of words that are in the book. They’re very hard some of these words I wrote. I didn’t even remember writing a lot of those words. I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it. If I read it people would be laughing. “Larry mispronounced all the words he wrote.”
Tim Knox: Larry Grobel, hey man, this has been a lot of fun. We will definitely do it again because we’ve got so much more to talk about. Check out Larry’s website, LawrenceGrobel.com. Why don’t you have Larry Grobel for a more casual website?
Larry Grobel: I should but the reason is because the books are all under Lawrence. I figured if people are interested it makes it confusing but you’re right.
Tim Knox: Alright Larry, this has been a pleasure. We will point people at the website. We will put up links to your books and let’s definitely do a part two, three, four and five.
Larry Grobel: Okay nice talking to you, Tim.
- Lawrence Grobel’s Website: LawrenceGrobel.com
- Lawrence Grobel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LarryGrobel