“Here’s her office info, just contact her directly.” That’s what the beleaguered-sounding publicist told me after I requested an interview with Roseanne Barr for Penthouse magazine. I was a senior editor there, and while I’d written for the magazine before, this would be my first major interview. I was a big fan of this brash, ballsy comedian whose hit TV show, Roseanne, was as boundary-breaking as she was. I said as much in my interview request, adding that her sensibility and Bob Guccione’s were a perfect fit.
I faxed my “ask” to the number provided. (Yup, faxed. It was 1990.) Soon after, my phone rang.
“Hi, this is Tom Arnold, do you know who I am?”
“Rosie loved your letter. She wants to do the interview.”
(Wow. If only it could always be this easy.)
I flew to California to meet with Roseanne at a place the couple was renting in Malibu. I was excited, and nervous as hell. (I still get nervous before every interview. I guess that’ll never change.) The house was crazy big, with gorgeous beach views. They led me upstairs, where Tom got us settled in the master bedroom, then left us alone (I got to ask him a few questions later).
Roseanne climbed onto the couple’s unmade bed, and it was clear that I was expected to join her. Was this some sort of a test? She sat up against the headboard. Thinking it might be a bit too cozy, even presumptuous, to sit beside her (and preferring to look directly at her while we talked), I climbed onto the bed and sat cross-legged, facing her. I set my tape recorder down between us, and balanced my notebook (in case the tape failed) on my knees.
The lack of lumbar support (for my bad posture), coupled with my nerves, was excruciating. But Roseanne was a dream interview—smart, funny, thoughtful, unfiltered and so engaged she answered many of my follow-up questions before I even had a chance to ask them. We had a great talk and a great time. (The physical discomfort disappeared until I was safely back in my hotel room. Another writer later told me that she’d spokne to him on her unmade bed, as well. I guess it was a thing.)
Roseanne had interviews in both Penthouse and Vanity Fair at the same time, and the Boston Globe wrote that “Penthouse’s interview does a better job of letting Roseanne be her crude and contradictory self.”
Thank you, Roseanne. I’m so glad you wound up being my first.
You can read the Penthouse story here, or by clicking on the photo. Do you get nervous before an interview? How do you calm yourself down (or psych yourself up)? Please feel free to comment!