It may seem like a dream job as a journalist to interview – either in person or by phone – entertainment personalities like Ricky Martin, Shakira, Eva Longoria or Pepe Aguilar.
Sure, those folks have interesting lives and are constantly sought for their thoughts on various items, ranging from their latest project to their relationships. They may have a movie, an album or another project to pitch.
One needs the other. Publicists need the media. Media needs the access.
In a way, there is a dance here. Sometimes, the dance can get pretty messy.
Q. Has a publicist ever gotten angry with you?
“Sure. Just recently, a publicist called back to complain about a question asking the actor’s weight. ‘I’m going to have to call him back and apologize!’ she complained. Then, she complained that the interview went farther than the actor’s current project. Well, there was gentle banter with the actor and the conversation even evolved into some Spanish, so I doubt the actor was hurt by the weight question he gently declined to answer.”
Q. What has been the most difficult interview?
“It can be very difficult when you’re on the red carpet being elbowed by other journalists while you’re limited to a spot no wider than a size 2 gown sported by the entertainer you want to interview. Plus, you’re given a few fleeting seconds to ask your question.”
Q. Is it easy to recognize people on the red carpet?
“It helps if you know Latin entertainers. At the ALMA Awards in Pasadena in 2001, a photographer for a mainstream newspaper continuosly asked others for names of people like Cristina Saralegui, Esai Morales, Gregory Nava and María Conchita Alonso.”
Q. That’s pretty bad.
“Well, it also works the other way around. At an ABC press junket not too long after that, an entertainment reporter for La Opinión didn’t know who Guillermo, the sidekick to Jimmy Kimmel, was.”
Q. Who’s the best person you’ve interviewed?
“Hands down, it’s got to be Ricky Martin. Thanks to an assist from local promoter David Valdivia, I got a few minutes on the phone with the Puerto Rican artist ahead of his April 2007 concert at the Save Mart Center. Amazingly, he had never heard of the ‘American Idol’ tryout by UC Berkeley student William Hung, whose awful version of ‘She Bangs’ shot him to instant celebrity (and three recorded albums!). Ricky Martin laughed uncontrollably as his assistant played a recording of Hung’s tryout.”
Q. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on the red carpet?
“Actually, it is spotting people from the non-entertainment world who show up unrecognized by the entertainment media. That was the case at the ALMA Awards with Labor Secretary Hilda Solís, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Raúl Yzaguirre, and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodríguez.”
Q. Anything embarrassing ever happen on the red carpet?
“Yes, but not to me. A few years ago at an awards event at the Beverly Hills Hilton, César Millán, ‘The Dog Whisperer,’ showed up with what the media thought were his children. Turns out he was there with his fiancée Jahira Dar and his son. The 17-year difference was what threw the media off. Millán is 48 years old.”
Q. Any other embarrassing moments?
“Yes, but it is basically the Spanish-language media when it shows up at a media event and start snapping selfies with the artists. In the pre-cellphone days, they’d get their photo taken with the artist. Me? There’s only three times I’ve posed for a photo, and one was with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Q. That’s it?
“Well almost. There have been two times where the interviews have taken place inside an artist’s hotel room without the presence of the publicist. In one instance, the female artist was just a teen and it didn’t feel right at first. Those were more than a decade ago. Now, I just avoid them.”
Q. Have you learned any lessons?
“Yes. You never know when an up-and-coming artist is going to hit it big. That means you must pay attention to them. At an ALMA Awards ceremony, a publicist walked into the photo room and asked if they were interested in taking photos of a Disney performer. About half of the photographers agreed, mostly to check out the lighting. Turns out the performer was Christina Aguilara.”
Juan Esparza Loera has been editor of Vida en el Valle since it first published in August 1990. Send comments, suggestions, questions to: email@example.com