I was sent to interview Paul Newman 3 weeks after the Redford on the set of The Natural interview and knew that I had a guardian angel,as I had never met movie stars this famous when I worked for CBS in San Diego.My crew and I went to Malibu where he and Joanne Woodward were staying.I was surprised at some of his personal comments when it came to his wife,his marriage,his career and his love of racing.I want to share some of them.His wife,Joanne, had stared in several movies with him or has been directed by him and this what he said,”She blows my socks off when I am directing her.It can be difficult.It can be easy.If it was too easy,it wouldn’t be any fun.I know when to keep my mouth shut with her.” And on his marriage,”I think our marriage is successful because we listen a lot.I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all cherry pie and ice cream. It can be stormy,impossible, difficult and insensitive,but never boring.”When it came to his career it was all about hating his performance in The Silver Chalice and he was surprise to learn that one the most the famous Hollywood journalists, Hedda Hopper, said in her column that she knew he would be a star from that film.I told him that I had a copy of the article and he asked if he could have it and of course I gave it to him. As for racing he told me”Joanne has an interesting theory.She thinks one of the reasons I started racing is that I was getting bored with acting,and my passion for racing bled back into acting….the lady knows me better than I know myself.”What I took away from meeting Redford and Newman is that really big movie stars are gracious and kind when it comes to doing interviews even when they don’t want to do them.Later in my career, I met the other kind who thought they were a star whose behavior bordered on rudeness,those stories and more are in my book Nearly Famous: Secrets,Lies and Addiction.
My first time on a film set was for the Natural and my chance to interview Robert Redford.I had come from local TV and had no idea what a working set is all about.I wore the wrong clothes including high heels so by the time I sat time down with him I hurt all over and he must have known it, as he was so kind to me, to the point that he stayed longer than he had to.He laughed at my first question which put me at ease,and answered every thing considering that I asked more personal questions than he was use to.There was no publicist hovering.This interview which I never forgot, was personally approved by him. My 3 minute Profile was never played on TV because the one hour special was not approved .Years later I found a fading copy, the video might have faded but not the memory.
I am going to surprise you, I am an addict, and I got that way from eating sugar. Don’t laugh it started with a little extra candy after a meal.As my career was getting more successful in Hollywood,I produced TV programing about movies for local TV stations across the country, I spent more and more time on film sets where there was lots of sugared treats. I just ate and ate whatever was at the craft service table [treats provided for crew on sets] and before I was knew it, I had gained 40 pounds.As the weight came on my behavior became more erratic,more demanding of my crew, rude to people and sometimes angry, I wonder If I was really angry at me for self sabotaging my life,but I did not stop.This went on for over 7 years until I weighted 209 pounds and lost most of my business. Help arrived when I went into a 12 step for overeating. Besides a food plan that included portion control it also made me give up sugar and white flour. And then I detoxed for 3 weeks which made me aware that sugar was more than a sweet treat, for me it was my drug of choice. I lost the weight regained my business and found that I am not alone.
I got fired from 3 talk shows and decided to start over in Hollywood with a lot of credentials and no contacts. What I had was a belief in myself that I was a terrific interviewer. I did press junkets for years and knew that with no TV show I would never be invited again to interview movie stars. Since I was desperate to work, I thought what would happen if I could get a studio to listen to my idea that my single interview could play on many TV stations, which had never been done before. I had a list of 55 TV stations, I called a 100 to get them, who would take my interviews and pass them off as their own. This idea came from my being invited to press junkets where only 50 people could do a one on one interview. Would a studio be willing to test this idea? Initially, no studio would take my calls. After one year of working for people with studio contacts and proving my idea worked I was finally offered my first job from Universal and worked for the next 23 years doing movie star interviews. The 55 stations became 110 as everybody wanted my interviews and then I added the world. Hollywood is tough but don’t be afraid to try something you never can tell what will happen.
I am on my way to Los Angles to do some interviews for my morning TV show on CBS in San Diego. I love movies and their stars so I am looking forward to the short plane trip, limo ride and hotel suite that Fox is providing. It’s early May and this is one of three films that I that I will work on over the weekend. The first screening is arranged for that night with interviews set for the following morning, then more screenings and interviews to follow. I see the film and like it but do not love it, so I only ask questions from the production notes that the studio provides. Since I have never heard of any of the actors I am looking for stories that would introduce them to my TV audience. The last interview for the film is with the star, a really good looking guy with starling blue eyes. Oh so handsome and oh so boring, it could have been my questions, but I cannot wait for the interview to be over. I even look at my watch to see how much time is left and know he has no idea that I cannot wait to leave, as I keep smiling. I have to wait 3 weeks for the film to open and when it does on May 25,1977 it becomes the biggest film of that year. I know you guessed it, the film is Star Wars and the boring star: Harrison Ford.
I am only sorry that the interview was not a better one, I found it later in a grocery bag in my storage locker and still have it. Years later, I sat down with Ford for the film Air Force One and had one of the greatest interviews of my career, this time I did a lot of research and the personal stories just poured out, some of them are in my book Nearly Famous: Secrets, Lies and Addiction. So when they announced the new cast of Star Wars this past week all those memories came flooding back.
I wrote the article below before the Oscars… and guess what? For the first time in a my career as an academy voter I was denied tickets. Could they be related? Read on and let me know what you think.
You might be surprised to know that to win an Oscar takes much more than talent. It takes a strategic campaign. Let me translate. Outrageous budgets go towards lavish lunch and dinner parties to win the favor of Oscar voters. Big publicity budgets go towards new 30 second TV spots, and self-congratulatory magazine and newspaper ads. Does this sound familiar? Could it be that the studios are running a political campaign? Why all the hoopla? Well, Every Oscar win is money in the pockets of the releasing studio and let’s face it, money is king.
The best-kept secret of an Oscar campaign is that competing studios try to destroy the competition anonymously. The cleverest publicist who operates like a seasoned campaign manager will plant stories which ever so subtly throw shade over the successes of competing films. For example in a Huffington Post article about The Wolf Of Wall Street, the article has DiCaprio defending the film for condoning the excessive behavior it depicts, instead of raving about how great it was to participate in the film. Bringing these subtle details about the film to light can make an Oscar voter take a second look which may in turn change their vote.
The moral of this story is you can’t just make a great film and expect it to win on it’s own merits, you have to spend the money, use the publicity machine and plant subliminal messages that will put the golden man in your hand.
I remember how degraded I felt when for the first time in my professional career I was told that the the only way I could work at 20th century fox was to go down on the executive that did the hiring at the division I wanted to work at. I came really close to doing it as I knew that seemed to be the only way to get any major studio work. I didn’t do it and it took 8 years before I actually worked there. I never told anyone about it until I wrote my book and even now I have never revealed his name as he is still very powerful.
The young man, Michael Egan, who came forward with his law suit is very brave as he will never work in Hollywood again.
I know that I was not the first to have sex attached to getting a job but I do know that by keeping quite I did finally did work- tho it took longer.
I wish I had the courage to go public when it happened but I was afraid
I am starting to follow what I learned in New York on how to publicizes my new book Nearly Famous: Secrets,Lies and Addiction. I sent out 20 emails looking for a TV appearances or magazine articles. So far I got 2 rejections but nice ones. One will keep me on file and the other passed me on to another women’s magazine. Fingers Crossed.
I was told by the power players in Hollywood that I created a new way to market films. So It came as a real surprise that I couldn’t figure out how to market my new book. Shhh don’t tell…
Movie Stars & Candy Bars
Hollywood Entertainment Journalist Confesses Secret
In the midst of daily reports about our favorite stars, we have come to associate Hollywood with addiction. “To be an addict in Hollywood was not an unusual thing,” Reba Merrill asserts in her recently released memoir Nearly Famous: Secrets, Lies and Videotape.
Merrill confesses to her secret eating addiction and recounts the painful road to recovery, a road that parallels the lives of many of the movie stars featured in her book. As the addiction wore on, it began to define her and change who she was. “Fear that it would all be taken away, manifested in temperamental outbursts” that she dealt with by consuming mass amounts of sugar. Emotional outbursts began to chip away at her career and personal life.
“Studies have shown sugar turns on the pleasure receptors in our brains, and to complicate matters even further, recent findings indicate that the more sugar we eat, the more of a tolerance we develop. This makes our bodies demand more and more sugar in order to recapture the pleasurable sensation that we are seeking.” (http://www.sugaraddictiontreatment.net/the-science-of-sugar-addiction)
Merrill’s addiction began as a way to cope. After a movie executive offered her work in return for sexual favors, she “started eating candy…and put on a little weight.” A few years later, “heavier than she had ever been,” Reba continued to add pounds during her time with her mother, who spent her last days eating junk food.
Of course her openness about her problem appears only in retrospect. Despite the saturation of the mainstream media with stories about stars and their drug problems, Reba thought of drug addicts as “hookers and thieves.” Reba confesses that “she didn’t know she was an addict because it was only candy, not alcohol or drugs.”
According to Dr. Charles Raison at CNN Health, sugary foods and eating in general activate the same areas as drug use and can stimulate a brief emotional high. However, paired with its long-term depressive effects, the shame of not being able to control one’s eating habits leads to further stress and denial, which only reinforces the reliance on sugar and addictive eating.
Finally, she discovered Overeaters Anonymous, a twelve-step program which dispelled her fears of being alone in her addiction. Groups such as Overeaters Anonymous work to promote awareness and help people like Reba get the support they need. Overeaters Anonymous is a global organization devoted to spreading awareness and creating a network of support and resources. “The program is not just about weight loss, weight gain or maintenance, or obesity or diets. It addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.” (www.oa.org)
Merrill never thought she would get a second chance at the career her behavior destroyed. With a year of abstinence under her belt, she slowly rebuilt her family relationships. Sixty pounds lighter, full of energy and feeling good about herself, Reba’s career took off to even greater success.
If Reba’s struggles sound familiar and you would like to get the help you need and deserve, search “sugar addiction” or visit one of these websites:
Nearly Famous: Secrets, Lies and Videotape shares the story of Merrill’s career interviewing celebrities and behind the scenes life in Hollywood. http://www.openbookspress.com/nearly-famous
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