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Getting in Touch with the Famous
by Tara Farmer

Your heart is racing as you walk into Planet Hollywood, your interviewee is *hopefully* there already. You tell the hostess that you have reservations before searching out your subject, and adrenaline rushes through you as you spot him. His signature chin juts out as he rises to greet you.

"Mr. Travolta," you say, greeting him with a hearty handshake.

"Please, call me John".

Hey, it could happen, if you start building your clips file in celebrity interviews and profiles. What's that you ask? How to go about doing this? Well according to Pam Felp's who's had the chance to chat it up with the likes of Don McLean, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Meat Loaf, Judy Collins, and many more, "It's about being polite, yet insistent".

You'll first need a slant, then you can start calling the celebrities publicist. "For musicians, there are directories listing such things as personal manager, booking agent, record company, etc.," reports Felp's, "You can call any of these and they'll get you to the right person. For the non-musical types, I've usually done stories involving them visiting a specific city for a show or event; in that case, I contact the venue's publicist and they'll gladly hand over the contact info."

Felp's suggests contacting an agent or manager first before contacting any editors. It creates a better relationship, and will pay off in the future. Says Felp's, "Asking [publicists/agents] before you pitch to an editor certainly helps give them a feeling of being involved, rather than just being the doorway you're walking through to get to their client."

To help get through the red tape of scoring a time slot, Felps warns, "Don't treat [publicists] like the welcome mat in front of the celeb's door, and never take the stance that they ‘owe’ you this interview or that you ‘have’ to have it. Show that you've done your research and know the subject. Be professional -- you can admire their client, but don't gush. You don't want to sound like a stalker with a pen."

After you score...

Once you've managed to anchor a time slot, you must decide how you're going to conduct interviewing. The most cost effective, obviously being the telephone. But remember that you won't be able to see your interviewees reactions to your questions. In person is more expensive if you have to splurge for your own expenses, but you may get the best story -- the whole story. Don't forget about e-mail, which has opened up a whole new dimension in interviewing.

Take heed to Felp's hints about the actual interview:

* Study up.

* Get your questions ready.

* Know what direction you're going in, but also be flexible enough to let the interviewee ramble -- you end up with some great stuff that way.

* Don't waste time going over info that's in their bio or every other story you've ever read.

It's inevitable, you're going to be nervous, but remain as professional as possible. With this, I leave you with Felps's last words of wisdom, "Treat [celebrities] like people, not like just another story."

© Copyright 1999, Tara Farmer

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