Sopranos Oral History Delights

Vanity Fair’s extended interviews with Sopranos cast members make for an all-consuming read, with James Gandalfini and Edie Falco expressing mutual admiration and other cast members’ weighing in on the show’s controversial ending. I-nerd felt a bit sad as Steve Van Zandt recalled filming the scene in which his character kills original Jersey girl Adriana. He hated having to drag her out by the hair, roughing her up take after take. We are reminded that hers was one of the few deaths where the camera (smartly, in my opinion) turned away. And remember Gloria, Tony’s unstable paramour? Now you can see her in a group portrait of the rubbed-out (in the print version of the article), noose around her neck, alongside Ralphie cradling his own head. The Sopranos, what a show! The photos aren’t so bad either…Fun, fun reading:

11/14/11: Like books? Like hearing from writers? Consider, in which lively host Brad Listi interviews a variety of authors. Inerd has begun checking out the website, which is loaded with original content (hurray). Inerd hopes the site will minimize up front chatting and opining and get right to the interviews, in the future.

11/14/11: Does anyone handle interviews as well as Condoleeza Rice? Here she is with Jon Stewart, trying to suppress a smile at the memory of creepy Gaddafi’s, um, “fixation” with her when she was Secretary of State. During the interview, she argues that the Arab Spring demonstrates the Bush Administration’s foreign policy prescience, since the goal in Iraq was to institute democracy. Except that the goal was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. No matter, Rice excels at persuasion and continues to be a viable stateswoman. Here’s Rice again at, saying no man, woman or child should live in tyranny.

9/1/11: What a fantastic site for interview nerds far and wide — An enterprising young journalist is compiling 100 interviews with people from circumstances that range from being an amputee to a martial arts black belt to a porn movie actor. The articles resulting from the interviews are sometimes droll and sometimes profound, and they answer the question: what would it be like to be a [fill in the blank]? Nice work.

7/14: Even a hammy broadcast personality like Diane Sawyer could not ruin an interview with kidnaping victim Jaycee Dugard. The young survivor brought a rare combination of strength and vulnerability that made for an honest, compelling interview. Dugard neither indulged in self-pity (though she’d have every right to) nor did she claim to be the victor over her great misfortune.  Instead, she admitted to the many ways her life had been violated, showing sadness but also a determination not to live in the hellish world of her past.

7/6: Presidential press conference on Twitter? It’s true. The New York Times reports that the White House intends to hold a Twitter town meeting. It’s a great way to break out of the stiff and generally unproductive pressers we’ve all come to expect from official journalistic events. One big difference we’ll see with the Twitter questions: they won’t be able to exceed 140 characters. I-Nerd is happy to hear this; she feels too many interviewers set up unnecessarily lengthy and rambling questions. Looking forward….

6/17: We live in an age that forces us to know more than we should about public figures. I’m talking, of course, about former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has foisted his unsavory habits upon us through injudicious tweeting. His situation prompts me to wonder: if I could interview him, would I? Is there anything I really want to know about him? The best interviews are driven by curiosity, not prurience. Good luck to any reporter who tries to get an honest answer out of him in the days or months ahead.

6/8/11: I-nerd really enjoyed the controversial interview between veteran journalist Lynn Barber and Rafael Nadal, which you can see in bootleg form here. It’s got Rafa-holics in a tizzy because Barber doesn’t write worshipfully of the sport’s number one player, who may just be the greatest of all time. In one example, she questions Nadal on his strange pre-match rituals involving precise placement of water bottles and leaping around in his opponent’s face during the coin toss. He seems flustered when she asks if he has OCD but I ask you, what serious tennis fan has NOT wondered if Rafa had a severe case of OCD?

What’s even funnier is when she discusses his compulsive habit of tugging at his underwear (in England they call him the “knicker picker”). She points out that he is paid big bucks to model Armani underwear, so maybe he should try some of their briefs for a better fit. Okay, so the real story here, as Barber points out, is that tennis athletes are highly protected and sports journalists treat them with undue reverence and we don’t really get to know them as a result. It took a non-tennis journalist to show that Rafa is not always noble as commonly portrayed but in fact is human with all its predicaments: he seems to have commitment problems with his girlfriend and defends Tiger Woods of all people. The article offers a frank inside look at the interview processes, in which she wrestles openly with when to bring up tricky issues, what to do when someone contradicts himself, and how hard it is to bring something new to light in a celebrity interview. The good news is she did all these things and more, without being mean-spirited to Nadal (Rafa fans will disagree). If anything, that article is self-deprecatingly amusing. Lynn Barber has spoken openly of the challenges of interviewing before; here’s a video segment she did for the Guardian’s series on good interviewing.

5/30/11. A few thoughts on recent interviews. The 60 Minutes interview with Tyler Hamilton, a Tour de France teammate of Lance Armstrong, was highly compelling for a number of reasons. One, Hamilton gave accounts of doping in relatively specific terms: what kinds of drugs were used and how, plus who procured them and how at least one positive test result was alleged to have been covered up. Kudos to Scott Pelley for being  low-key so that the focus remained on Hamilton, who appeared understandably uncomfortable. He’s liable to be called a traitor by some and a shameless doper by others. Still, it was hard not to feel a bit of sympathy when he disclosed that he would return his Olympic gold medal.

An excerpt:

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