Friday, January 29, 2010

My interview with Cuba Gooding Jr.

I grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska. Every day, I get in my car and travel to Norfolk for work.

The founding fathers named this town after the North Fork of the Elkhorn River. When they submitted the name to the federal government, it was spelled Nor'Fork.

But somebody out east screwed up, thought they were naming the town after Norfolk, Virginia.

That's why it's pronounced Norfork, but it's spelled Norfolk. (We can tell the interlopers from the natives in one word.)

So what does this have to do with award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr.?

Everything, when you work for a daily newspaper that's often confused with the one in a city the size of Norfolk, Virginia.

Before I became the business editor, I was the entertainment editor at the Norfolk (pronounced Norfork, lest we get confused) newspaper. In that position, I interviewed everyone from country stars Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert to celebrities like Weird Al Yankovic and Bill Engvall.

So I didn't think it was odd when our newspaper received a fax announcing the release of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s movie "Dirty" and that he would be available for interviews.

This was 2005. The actor's incredible performance in the movie, "Radio," was still fresh in everyone's mind. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to feature him in the paper's weekly entertainment tab. (Not only that, Cuba Gooding Jr. had been one of my favorite actors since his minor appearance in "Coming to America.")

I called the publicist's number (located on the fax) and told her we'd love to feature Cuba on the cover.

"Great!" she replied. And we planned the interview to take place just days before the big premiere.

Now, all of my celebrity interviews have been done over the phone (with the exception of Max Carl, lead singer of Grand Funk, former .38 Special). I didn't expect this one to be any different.

The day before the interview (four days before the movie's premiere and three days before the paper's entertainment edition is published), the publicist called to confirm our arrangement.

I asked, "Now, do you want me to call him or do you need my number so he can reach me?"

A long pause filled the line before she said: "He's flying into Norfolk tomorrow for the premiere. We can do a face-to-face interview."

Another long pause filled the conversation. At this point, I realized that after several weeks of planning this big cover-story the publicist had screwed up. I was pretty sure Cuba Gooding Jr. was not flying in to Norfolk, Nebraska's tiny Karl Stefan Memorial Airport.

Oh, how to break it to her lightly?

"Um, you do realize you've set this interview up with the paper in Norfolk, Nebraska, right?"

"Yeah, wait...Excuse me? What?" From the tremor in her voice, I could tell what she was thinking: Oh (insert favorite expletive here) I've just (expletive+ed) up big time.

I felt bad for her. I figured there would be hell to pay for promising the studio, actor, producers that the movie would have the cover of the entertainment section of a major daily like The Virginian Pilot, and then not delivering.

Finally, she said, "I think I've made a huge mistake." (Ya think?) And then she became a little short, "I wish you'd have said something sooner," as if I had misrepresented myself.

Hey, you contacted me.

"He will still be available for this interview, correct?" I still had a cover story to take care of. I'd been promised this interview; I was going to make sure I got it.

But it was obvious she couldn't end the call fast enough. "Well, yes. He can still do the interview, but I'll have to call you back with a time."

Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen. And guess what? It never did.

And that's why you can't read about my interview with Cuba Gooding Jr.

But let this be a lesson to all: Always double check the area code.


Eric said...

Does anything like this ever happen to me? Who are you kidding? I get the opportunity to interview stars all the time!

(in my head)

Just kidding. That sucks though, that you didn't get a chance to interview him. I have pretty much liked everything he has ever done, even that somewhat corny one where he pretended to be a gay guy on the boat so he could get the girl in the end.

Aubrie said...

What a weird situation. Too bad, he still could have called you for the interview.

Hey, btw I'm a new follower. hi!

Angie said...

Oh, that's a great story. I've never had anything like that happen to me.

Kat Harris said...

Eric -- I remember that movie. It's not one of my favorites, (that would be Boyz N the Hood. No Losing Isaiah. No wait. What Dreams May Come. No. Outbreak -- meh, you get the picture), but I definitely laughed.

Aubrie -- Welcome and thanks! (I'm pretty sure he never got the message to call.)

Kat Harris said...

Angie -- Hi! Thanks! Your comment sneaked in just before I sent mine.

Jm Diaz said...

Hey, just came across your blog. That was an interesting interview tale... better luck next time?


Journaling Woman said...

Yes this type of thing is my life. Everything is a big misunderstanding.

But I say to you, it's the thought that counts. You tried!

Brandon said...

Wow, that's a hilarious story! I feel bad for the publicist!

MeganRebekah said...

I love that you *did* get to interview Dierks and Miranda. I went to many, many Dierks concerts back when we was getting big, before What Was I Thinking went #1!

Kat Harris said...

Jm -- Nope. I'm out of the world of doing entertainment interviews(for the most part). The last one I did was Joe Ezsterhaus. It was amazing. I ended it on a high note.

JW -- It's nice to know I'm not the only one whose world is filled with these instances. There's never a dull moment. That's for sure.

Brandon -- Welcome! Coincidentally, when I linked this post to my Facebook profile, one of the former entertainment reporters for The Virginian Pilot read this (I know, small world. What are the chances?) and said not to worry because she was certain the paper there made room.

MR -- Dierks actually called my house. I love telling people that. He had just won the CMA (I think) for best new country act of the year, and he had to do the interview on a Saturday afternoon.