You were just talking about voices. One of the voices that one might find on ElliotMintz.com is a very hypnotic voice. I asked you who had made the biggest influence and you said it was him. And this man was Jack Garris. What was Jack Garris like to be around?
Jack Garris was my very first spiritual teacher. He was a remarkable, remarkable man and left behind a series of recordings. He passed maybe 15 or 20 years ago, if memory serves more recently. He was certainly never a super star. He wrote one book that had only modest sales. He lived in the valley with his wonderful wife, Jeanette and he was the one who set me on the path. I would later make arrangements for him to do a radio show every Sunday on the first station I ever worked on, KPFK Radio. He never proselytized, he never sold any faith trip, best of my knowledge he had no specific allegiance to any faith group. He was a scholar who studied the world of spiritualism, metaphysics and religion and had one of the greatest libraries I ever saw on the subject. It was in his garage; he converted his garage into an old library.
It was right next to a little barnyard he had. It was a tiny little house in the valley and he would record his radio shows in the barnyard where there would be geese and goats, he had an open door policy. When he was in the library, the door would be open in case any of the goats or geese or other animals wanted to come in, they would occasionally make sounds or connect on some level. He talked about teaching. They were comprised of dozens of conversations I would have with him and his wife Jeanette usually over a dinner in a place called Reseda, California. He taught me how to question, how to listen, these are of spiritual things. He directed me towards certain teachers, books, philosophies, religion and just asked me to approach it all with an open heart.
Did he ever discuss with you the time that he worked with Cecil B. DeMille?
In passing, he said that during the course of his life, he was briefly a Hollywood screenplay writer. And I said, “oh that’s intriguing. Did you write any movies that I might have seen?” He said, “I worked with Cecil on the Ten Commandments.”
That’s such an incredible thing.
It’s a throwaway of mine over an organic dinner where he taught me how to milk a goat. And I kind of looked up from the soup and I said, “you worked with Cecil B. DeMille and helped write the Ten Commandments for the movies?” He said “yeah, but that was a long time ago” and then he went on to another subject.
Completely disassociated for what some would consider to be a credit, what I perceived from Jack as being a distraction. A lifetime of metaphysical pursuits, if ever there was somebody who was not part of Hollywood, it was Jack Garris, but we all have to earn a living. He never sold anything. He would have classes at his house informally for people who wanted to learn. His only book was called The Wayless Way. People would listen to him on Sunday mornings. He would just sit in front of the microphone in his garage library and he would talk extemporaneously. And then he would do four sides of those programs bringing the tapes to the radio station and they would be played, currently to those who are interested, there is a wonderful radio program called “the Roy of Hollywood Show,” it is broadcast nightly from midnight to 5 a.m. over KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and that program is streamed along with the other KPFK programs on the internet. So you can listen to Roy of Hollywood, who presents spoken arts. He is not a disc jockey, it’s not a talk show, interview with telephones, but he has access to the most marvelous collection of the most intriguing people in the world. Some are with us and some of them have passed and he frequently plays recordings of Jack Garris. So, if any people who visit my website and listen to my conversations with Jack Garris, say, “oh this is cool, I want more,” I would direct them to the Roy of Hollywood Show on KPFK.
Fascinating. On your website, ElliotMintz.com, there’s some information there about many different topics relating to media, relating to publicity, even stuff on there about paparazzi. Something that would occur to me is that you’ve had a lot of interactions dealing with the media going back to your very early days in radio. When you were interviewing people, you no doubt contacted many people who were associated with press agents, publicists, that kind of thing having been a media consultant yourself. You may be especially qualified to answer the question of who is the best publicist? Who is the best PR person you’ve ever known?
Let me think about that for a moment. I never thought of PR as a particularly noble occupation and some of the best PR people where people who just have the position that they would do anything to make their clients famous. They would bend rules, they would lie, in some cases pay off journalists, engage in various behavior that was not all that, I mean there never was a publicist that Mother Teresa would have retained to represent her. It’s a service profession, but like all public relations work is to get people to take an interest in a client or a product. So when I think of people who did it well, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s kind of like thinking that who is the best criminal attorney in the United States? Well of course if I was to pick a name, the best criminal attorney would be the criminal attorney who got his client off even if he knew that the client may have been guilty of what a person has been accused of.
I guess that makes a person a very good attorney, but not always the best people. But I’ve also known some excellent criminal defense attorneys who have explained to me that whether or not the client was culpable of committing the crime, it was still their role to defend them. I understand that a doctor who receives a wounded or injured person who has just been in, I don’t know, a gun fight with the police and in the process may have killed a law enforcement officer and he was shot at, and he appears in the emergency room on a gurney or a stretcher while it’s the role of that doctor, he took an oath to do everything he could to persevere the life of the assailant and I get that too.
Most of my former colleagues were very respectable people and real gentlemen and gentle ladies. I may have liked them as people, but I never cared very much for the profession. There were some superb publicists over at Rogers and Cowan, there were publicists from the old days of Hollywood, who would do anything to make their client look good. Today’s spin doctors and media people, in many cases lack the passion. It’s just becoming too much of… I don’t know, it’s real hard to explain these things without getting myself into trouble by citing examples. I can tell you that today, there’s a man, a friend of mine named Michael Levine, who has been a publicist for 30, 40 years. He is a very, very honorable man. He has represented dozens and dozens and dozens of people. They have won Academy Awards. He had their books in the New York Times bestseller list and he is a person of honor. I’ll tell you what makes a great publicist, it just occurred to me. It’s a person with a conviction of saying no to a prospective client because they know it’s a sham. So if somebody comes, you know, in that hay day of my public relations days and media copy days, if somebody came to me and said, look, I have come up with this new thing that I want you to promote. I don’t believe in it, the thing really doesn’t work all that much. It’s a piece of exercise equipment, it’s a phony diet pill, it’s a handgun that can be made out of paper or cardboard so you can get it through airport security. It’s kind of a electronic cigarette that really may contain some carcinogens. It’s all of these things, but look, I really think that you could come up with a plan and I’ll pay you $25,000 a month to promote it. Well of course, I would say “no” and I probably turn down more people than I have accepted. And I know some other people in media, in PR, who would do the same. That would be my definition of a great publicist.
Well, what about the best interviewers, who does Elliot Mintz say the best interviewers are?
Are or were?
How about both?
Today, Christiane Amanpour, who you see on CNN and occasionally on “60 Minutes” is one of the very, very best interviewers. She is excellent. Her style and her technique is the bar that you have to reach. I think that Charlie Rose does a fabulous job of what he does. Bill Moyers is a man who give us the extraordinary series of the interviews with Joseph Campbell that’s available on YouTube and DVDs or however you get things. I always admired him and I admired his style tremendously. And those are three names that come to mind immediately.
In the old days, I liked Jack Paar because of his natural curiosity. I liked Mike Wallace because he knew how to extract information. He was tough and, you know, certainly wasn’t my style, now, but if you were a bad guy and was foolish enough to sit down with Mike Wallace to try and spin your story about what you were doing, telemarketing boiler room, well Wallace was good in getting to the heart of the matter.
David Susskind was one of the pioneers in television. I liked the way Steve Allen had interchanges and exchanges with people. He was very conversational. In a very underrated category, Hugh Heffner in the probably early 60’s, hosted a program, a television show called, “Playboy After Dark”, where he recreated a living room scene and invited jazz musicians and comedians, people like Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce, and he would engage in conversation. I thought he did a really fine job at that. Those are the ones that come to my mind immediately. It’s also a dying art. Partially because people don’t take the time to listen. Larry King was very non-judgmental in his approach in broadcasting and I liked him very much for that reason. He allowed people to speak, which is why so many people went to see him. One of the criticisms that was lodged against him was that he only asked softball questions, I heard that many times that he, I didn’t know why it was necessary to always ask hardball questions.
An interview doesn’t have to be a deposition. I mean that was something that Mike Wallace specialized in. Chris Wallace does the same, but I think he’s more arrogant. I tend to like conversations more than interviews. By the way, among the five things, and there are only five that I do well, interviewing was one of my skills. They can see that unabashedly, you know, that when it came to that form of exchange, I was pretty good at it.Semnat de Paul Leslie