With John Donvan it is a trifecta: friend, colleague and neighbor. We worked together at ABC News, where he his body of work as a correspondent is prolific, especially for "Nightline" in its most seismic years with Ted Koppel in the anchor chair. Our friendship endures. He lives not much more than a couple of blocks away in Georgetown. He's a good neighbor. He's a lovely writer and a pro storyteller, too. When it seemed right to do a Q&A Cafe with me for the publication of "Innocent Spouse" he was my first choice for turning the tables, and happily he accepted.
But for this Q&A, John is the guest, to talk about all his many roles in life but in particular to focus on his book about Autism, In A Different Key, written with Caren Zucker. We taped it at The George Town Club in March 2016.
I can't say this January 2008 Q&A Cafe was one of Robert Novak's last interviews, but it was in the prime of his last year before being diagnosed with brain cancer, which would claim him in August 2009. He was conservative, controversial, thoughtful, difficult, interesting and a force in Washington for years, especially during the time partnered with Rowland Evans writing their syndicated column and newsletter, the Evans-Novak Political Report. He was a regular on TV. He played a significant role in the Valerie Plame affair, and that's discussed in this interview. (Note: Plame also appeared at The Q&A Cafe)
There is an interesting, if harrowing, story behind my interview with Kojo Nnamdi, the iconic host of his own DC-centric talk show on WAMU/PBS public radio. The Q&A Cafe interview that is linked to here was a second try, because our first attempt, taped at The Georgetown Ritz-Carlton, ended abruptly in near disaster. Just as we started to roll tape the heat of the TV lights unleashed the sprinkler system, which gushed with such force it started knocked equipment onto the stage where we were doing the interview! Everyone ran for the doors. Kojo and I sat still in shock. There was damage to the room but fortunately no people were hurt. We were not invited back by the Ritz and founded our new home at The George Town Club, where this interview at last happened. Kojo is terrific. Enjoy it.
While The Q&A Cafe was at Nathans, we taped one show a week. That was the standard until Nathans closed and we moved to the Ritz Carlton Georgetown and started doing the show on a monthly basis. This is one of the Nathans shows, taped in January 2008. The guest is Connie Schultz, who may be known as a "Senate wife" (wondering in '17 if that term still exists?) -- married to Sen. Sherrod Brown -- but especially in Ohio and beyond, and here as well, she is better known as an acclaimed syndicated columnist, and that was the reason for this fun and interesting conversation. While with The Cleveland Plain Dealer she won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Connie is also an author, including ... and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man.
The timing for this April '08 interview with Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr was quite timely -- the Post had just enjoyed its most recent experience with winning Pulitzers! It was a victory lap Downie and also teeing up his retirement from the paper. It also was a taping of the show where we attempted a very lame version of signage. #fail. Its cute to see the little sign, though. We were always such a homemade interview show, very much in the mode of Wayne's World. Proud of that, actually. Grand was not my goal, only a good conversation in a bar.
A rare reverse view of the set, showing the other end of the room. We did the show once a week and taped at lunchtime, and thus had to pull blackout shades down on the windows that faced M Street.
WITH TUCKER CARLSON AFTER OUR INTERVIEW IN NATHANS BACK ROOM.
We're back from a week off and ready to resume daily postings from The Q&A Cafe archives. Our last series was chef interviews. Now we'll switch to media interviews. There have been so many and going back to the start of the program, even before it was on TV, which is why, sadly, my interviews with Art Buchwald, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, and Christopher Hitchens are not recorded. I have an audio recording of Tim, but that is all. Nonetheless, there's a trove of interviews with broadcast anchors and print journalists.
Tucker Carlson appeared soon after the show started to be televised on NewsChannel 8 and DC Cable. This was long before his FoxNews career. In fact, he was working for MSNBC at the NBC studio on Nebraska Avenue, which is where the interview started. He'd just come off being a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, and he gave us the behind the scenes scoop.
We talked politics, too, of course. It was 2008. A lot going on.
It was May and we were freezing! I love this pic from my Q&A Cafe interview with Patrick O'Connell, founder, chef and owner of The Inn at Little Washington. We go so far back that Patrick once confessed he sat behind my older sister, Susan, in high school in Camp Springs, MD. The journey of life brought us together years later and a lasting friendship formed. Patrick and his then-partner Rinehardt Lynch were the witnesses when Howard Joynt and I married in Upperville, VA, and both are godparents to our son, Spencer. It goes on and on, but most of all I am a devoted fan of the culinary haven he created in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and his charm and integrity. It was a delight to have him be my guest at a special Q&A Cafe taping, at Tudor Place Museum House in Georgetown. It was to have been a warm and sunny May day, but like any spring day it surprised us with a last blast of wintry wind and rain. We persevered and had a marvelous conversation. I hope you'll find it warms you.
We taped this Q&A Cafe with George Stephanopoulos soon after the economic collapse of September 2008. It meant a lot to have him as a guest, as we were/are friends - dating back to the Clinton campaign - and also because I had worked for "This Week" when it was known simply as "the Brinkley show," as the guest producer/aka booker. His memoir of working with Bill and Hillary Clinton, All Too Human, remains one of my favorite political books.
Interestingly, mid-interview, George received a phone call he had to take. It was the White House, I think. We stopped the taping, he slipped into the bar to take the call, and then he returned and we resumed. The audience loved it.
Trivia: later, keeping it in the family, Ali Wentworth was a guest. She is a marvelous actor and comedian and also George's wife. Too bad they did not appear together -- which is something I did do with some other "power" couples: Chris Matthews and Kathleen Matthews, Connie Chung and Maury Povich, and Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn.
btw, every network Sunday show host of that era appeared at The Q&A Cafe: Tim Russert, and his successor David Gregory, and his successor Chuck Todd (now my boss), and Bob Schieffer.
Simon van Kempen, on the right above, is unique in the Real Housewives universe as during the few seasons his wife, Alex McCord, starred in "Real Housewives of New York" he became a central character (one of the first husbands to do that), and was also quite controversial. He came to Washington to appear on The Q&A Cafe just as Bravo announced production of the "Real Housewives of Washington." In the photo we are joined by two members of that soon to be notorious cast, Paul Wharton on and Mary Amons, but in fairness to Paul and Mary the notoriety came principally from two other cast members, Michaela and Tareq Salahi. (Who, btw, also did a Q&A, and I'll post that tomorrow. For now, here's Simon:
Way back in the 80s I had the privilege of producing a live TV show about food and the star guest was Paul Prudhomme. Charlie Rose was the host. I recall the experience in my New York Social Diary column today.
|REPOSTED FROM NEW YORK SOCIAL DIARY|
Because I worked in network news for much of my career friends ask what I think of the Brian Williams scandal, and how it could have happened. The better question is why, and the answer puts blame as much with the industry, and the culture of fame, as it does with Williams. It’s the inevitable derailing of a direction in the news business, especially broadcast news, that began with Watergate and the incredible fame that hit Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and begat more fame for countless other previously anonymous journalists, especially in regard to television.
Before them there was some Washington journalism fame, but nothing on a scale of the post-Watergate era. It quickly went from cluelessly innocent to quietly corrosive. If you saw “Broadcast News,” and remember the anchor “Tom Grunick” played by William Hurt, you get my drift.
|I was a producer at CBS News in Washington at the same time director James L. Brooks and his team were in town making that movie. They were very present at our bureau on M Street, and in our lives. Though the script was written, Jim continued to work on details. I remember one particular lunch with him at the Hay Adams where he asked me a series of questions about techniques used in shooting a field interview and alternative options to certain “cutaway” shots. It’s a point that’s critical to the film’s plot, and to Grunick’s veracity.
I also recall parties with the cast, and some of us joking with William Hurt that with his “looks” he could score an anchor job in a heartbeat. And then there was Albert Brooks, my idea of a heartthrob, who played the hard core, by-the-books reporter who lacked the star power and charisma to make it in the anchor chair. Just characters, right? Maybe not.
|The funny thing is back then, mid-'80s, coming off the Walter Cronkite era at CBS and with the Tom Brokaw era in full flower at NBC, we laughed off the film’s premise — that just being likable and charismatic and attractive was enough to get the big job, and so what if you skirted the truth a little bit here and there; it was all in the service of getting a point across; about the story, but also about the anchor’s empathy and sincerity. “This couldn’t happen,” we’d say to each other.|
|Jim Brooks, a network news veteran himself, saw more clearly what was happening and got out in front the way Paddy Chayevsky did with his script for “Network,” the decade earlier and equally prescient movie about TV. Watch these two together and then examine the Brian Williams saga. Oh, and maybe also check out the last decade of reporting on the White House Correspondents Association dinner. (My friend Patrick Gavin is directing a documentary film about this event, which has the potential to be revealing.)|
|What happened in the aftermath of “Woodstein,” sometimes with subtlety, sometimes not, is how suddenly having a byline was a gateway to celebrity, to having an agent, book contracts, possibly a network retainer. Being on TV, local or national, meant you might get tapped to play a TV reporter in a movie. It became about the fame. The line got very fuzzy between news and show business. It became not unheard of for interviewees to want the autograph — or a selfie with — the interviewer. In addition to the money and attention, the more famous reporter was endowed with skills and talent that didn’t land on unknowns.|
The modern era anchor exists in a bubble of unchecked adoration. Until they mess up, and all the toys are taken away, except for a payout on a pointless contract.
Brian Williams wanted to live up to the image of being Brian Williams, and why wouldn’t he? If he didn’t achieve and maintain those heights he risked becoming ordinary, a ratings drop, and losing his job.
By inflating the facts, which is what he apparently did, he fulfilled that image. Fame fanned him with approval. It’s easy to get lost in the adoration of fame, especially if you don’t necessarily have a strong sense of self-worth, and the risks are the same regardless of whether the famous person is the star of a half hour sitcom or a half hour news broadcast.
Brian Williams got lost and his industry, in disruption itself, can’t help him
New to the reality TV genre this season is "Southern Charm" on Bravo. It's the first reality show for and about old money. I checked it out because it's shot in Charleston, SC, and I love Charleston. It also features a lot of good looking homes and people. But the characters in the cast are entertaining, and one of them is thinking about coming to Washington as a United States senator. The first season is wrapped, with a "reunion" show still to air. Here's more about in my weekly New York Social Diary column.
The Q&A Cafe was born in a saloon, Nathans, in 2001 and today it returned -- if not exactly to a saloon at least to a conversation at a bar. We taped the show at The George Town Club, with guest Kojo Nnamdi, and it went beautifully. We sat on barstools and talked; a talk show in a bar. The audience in particular were happy and said it reminded them of Nathans. There will be more soon. Stay tuned. Also, check out the show, next Friday night at 8pm on Comcast channel 16. When it's up on YouTube I'll post the link here on the site.
Happy New Year. I'm delighted to announce our first Q&A Cafe of 2014 will be an interview with Kojo Nnamdi, host of WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdi Show and all-round notable broadcaster, commentator, interviewer and Washingtonian. The date is Friday, January 31.
There are a few things you need to know about this show, especially if you are a regular member of the audience. Per usual, it will be at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown hotel (not West End). The start time, however, is delayed due to Kojo's radio schedule. We will begin seating at 2pm and start the program shortly after. The menu will be Charcuterie & Cupcakes. The price is $40, plus tax and tip. This is a change in price and structure requested by the hotel. It's a Friday - so come, eat, drink and have fun. I guarantee a good show.
Here's a little preview from a Washingtonian interview with Kojo.
For reservations, please phone the hotel at 202.912.4100. You will want to make the reservation with Heather Foster. Or send her an email: Heather Foster.
I'm hoping you'll be open to this change in time and price. I want to keep The Q&A Cafe going, and depend on your support to do that.
As always, I'm grateful to the Ritz for hosting us, to District of Columbia Network (DCN) for broadcasting the program, and to Georgetown Cupcake for their continued sponsorship.
The Q&A Cafe is in its 13th year. In that time more than 300 notable individuals have been interviewed. You can watch a selection of past programs here.
I really like doing this gig, but want to remind all watchers that this is broadcast live at 6:15 am, which necessitates waking up at 4:45 am to get to the studio on time and transformed into something nearly human. The streets are empty as I drive up Wisconsin Avenue and they are still empty when I drive back down to go home. Refreshing in a way, but only the birds are waking up.
We're actually taping an episode of The Q&A Cafe today, but it's in studio and without an audience. It's a spring/summer preview of fashion, food and the arts for DC. I'll let you know the air date asap, but it's likely to be this Friday, April 26. The guests are colleagues from Washingtonian, discussing their beats: Kate Bennett on fashion, Sophie Gilbert on the arts, and Jessica Voelker on food and restaurants.
Our next Q&A Cafe taping at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown is on Thursday, May 9, when the guest will be Christopher Kennedy Lawford, grandson nephew of JFK, as well as an actor, author, activist, drug addict and alcoholic, who has been in recovery for more than two decades. He has quite a story to tell.
Seating begins at noon, the fee is $38 covering all costs of lunch, soft beverages, tax, tip and dessert from Georgetown Cupcake. For reservations please call the hotel directly at 202.912.4100 and speak with Esmaralda Prifold or email her directly.
Matthew Morrison, star of "Glee," was in town tonight as the main event at the Washington Performing Arts Society's spring gala. He put on a show that ended up as a dance party for 600+ guests at the Ritz Carlton West End. More about it on Monday at washingtonian.com, but for now here are some photos of Matthew, starting with the VIP reception, then the show, and at a small private after-party where he sipped the Jameson's he first asked for on stage. btw, he's s sweetheart. Zero attitude, loves DC, and takes the time to talk to everyone and pose for pics.
Marriott International chairman J. W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr., will be the guest at our next Q&A Cafe on Tuesday, April 9 at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown hotel. We will discuss his life and business and his new book, "Without Reservations," which will also be available for purchase and signing. Please make a reservation and join us. Seating begins at noon, the fee is $38 -- covering all food, soft beverages, dessert from Georgetown Cupcake, tax and tip. We wrap by 1:3o, at the latest. To make a reservation, please contact the Ritz at 202.912.4100, or email Esmaralda Prifold.
Coming on Thursday, May 9 - Christopher Kennedy Lawford.
This was just one of those mornings. They happen in television and usually on a Friday. It may not show on the air, but the teleprompter wasn't working and there were time constraints, but Andrea Roane, Mike Hydeck and I still covered a bit of territory. It's too bad we didn't get to include Megan Mullally's visit to DC, but we did get to discuss the behind-the-scenes of President Obama's dinner w/ senators at The Jefferson. All in a pre-dawn morning's work.
Woke at 4:45 am today to be at WUSA-9 for debut of a new segment we're trying out -- "At Large with Carol Joynt." We discussed two recent stories from washingtonian.com -- Tempest in a Tweezer and DC Represented in the Westminster dog show -- plus a few seconds on Kevin Spacey's "House of Cards" mini-series. I think it went well; it certainly went fast. I was home and back in bed (though not asleep) by 6:40. We will do it again next Wednesday and, hopefully, every Wednesday thereafter.
If you missed the appearance (gee, your weren't awake at 6:15?) watch it now:
Here are a few glimpses behind the scenes at the show:
Here's the most recent episode of The Q&A Cafe, my interview with DC Mayor Vincent Gray. Note the comments about CFO Natwar Ghandi, who shortly thereafter handed in his resignation. Note also the comments about whether Gray plans to run for re-election, and reaction to his potential running mates. There's nuance here. And, yes, we discuss the whole DOJ investigation, too. So, there's a lot.
Met for drinks this evening with my friend Brian Noyes, owner of Warrenton's Red Truck Bakery. Look what he brought! A box of cookie weapons. This is precisely how I never start the calorie reduction I always plan to begin TONIGHT or TOMORROW. Clearly this will be TOMORROW, because what's better than being curled up on the sofa with a box of Valentine's cookies while tuned into the red carpet arrivals at the Grammy Awards?
I plan to scrutinizie the talent to see whether they disobey the new rules. i.e., no side boob, no nip slips, and "adequately covered" genital "regions." That's regions discrimination, I swear. How'm I gonna get dressed to go out at night in DC if these rules make it to our shores? DC needs nip slips, side boob and inadequately covered genital regions. Ha. Angelina Leg, too.
BTW, when GR's are inadequately covered, try this trick that's out of fashion in 2013 but was popular with the ancients - pubic hair.
The Q&A Cafe, now in its 17th year, is on hiatus until the autumn, when we'll have interviews with Tom Sietsema and Brian Noyes, among others. For now, please enjoy the show each Friday on DC Cable, channel 16, and on YouTube. The two most recent interviews were Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and Patty Stonesifer. For more information please call 202-333-9330.
Visit this link to view our archive of broadcasts: The Q&A Cafe on YouTube
Emmy-winning CBS News producer, talk show guest wrangler, published author, host of The Q&A Cafe, print & digital journalist, filmmaker, photog, and former saloon owner. Read more...
Here is information for my popular memoir Innocent Spouse...
MEDIA: For book-related inquiries, please contact my agent, Laney Becker, at 212-243-8480