One of my favorite issues about Britain is Boxing Day. Within the US, we don’t have a reputation for the day after Christmas, which is insane as a result of it has such a particular really feel to it, it so clearly deserves its personal nomenclature. Shifting right here and discovering Boxing Day was like discovering on the market’s a selected title for 7pm on a Sunday, or 5pm on a Friday, as there completely ought to be, and Germany in all probability has this lined.
This week, as common readers know, is my favorite of the 12 months, and never totally as a result of it’s when, as Bridget Jones as soon as put it, “regular service is suspended and it’s OK to lie in mattress so long as you need, put something into your mouth and drink alcohol each time it ought to likelihood to go your approach, even within the mornings”. It’s additionally a time to take inventory of how the 12 months has gone, and the way the following one will look. For some time, the longer term appeared unfathomable. Now that the vaccines are a-coming, that’s not fairly the case – however my job remains to be barely misplaced within the fathoms.
A big a part of this so-called job is interviewing celebrities face-to-face. I wouldn’t go fairly as far as to say that the largest tragedy of the coronavirus was that it put an finish to such encounters, however it’s true that being an interviewer at a time when in-person conferences are particularly banned has felt just a little like being a streetlamp lighter at the start of the second world conflict: time to discover a new talent set.
Within the spring, I used to be snootily sceptical when my editors instructed me I’d now be doing interviews over the cellphone, or some utterly made-up sounding factor known as Zoom. The entire level of a celeb profile is to provide readers a way of the particular person, and how are you going to try this by simply speaking to them over a broadband connection? Additionally – she whines, chucking all of the toys out of the pram – the place’s the enjoyable on this for me? Among the biggest experiences of my life have occurred when interviewing well-known individuals: happening Carl Hiaasen’s boat in Florida, walking around Key West with Judy Blume. I don’t need to knock my entrance room, however making a cellphone name from it isn’t fairly as memorable.
My first Covid-era cellphone interview was with the novelist Anne Tyler. I had low expectations, however I used to be fallacious: Tyler’s delightfulness beamed down the transatlantic line. In actual fact, interviews have been the one factor that I used to be wrongly pessimistic about this 12 months: they’ve just about all been nice, regardless of not being in the identical room.
Higher than nice: they’ve been nice. Interviewing is all about listening, and doing them from a distance has made me give attention to that as an alternative of getting distracted by the externals. Describing fashion editor André Leon Talley’s moderately extraordinary approach of talking – all courtly southern manners with European accents – in all probability conveyed his character no less than in addition to describing his equally extraordinary bodily look would have performed. Speaking to Geena Davis by cellphone late at night time, her in her mattress in LA, me in mine in London, gave our encounter an intimacy I can’t think about we’d have managed had we met in particular person.
The circumstances have additionally helped. Everybody being locked down at residence has been a leveller. There aren’t the standard hierarchies when speaking to Tom Hanks or Ethan Hawke once we know we’re all simply sitting at residence in our pants. This has given proceedings a brand new form of looseness, with celebrities prepared to speak effectively past the allotted time (unprecedented in regular circumstances) and forsake the standard publicist-approved spiel to speak about extra private stuff. If I’d met any of them in particular person, the interviews would have been completely different, certain: however I don’t know in the event that they’d have been higher.
A number of journal editors at the moment are worrying that, vaccine schmaccine, this could be what interviews are like for ever. Now celebrities know they’ll get away with doing them by cellphone and Zoom, how will they ever be satisfied to fulfill grubby journalists in particular person once more? However I feel they’re taking a look at this the fallacious approach spherical: celebrities will do what studios and report labels inform them to do. So the query isn’t, will the celebrities do face-to-face interviews as soon as this pandemic is over – it’s, will I? Sure, I really like having experiences, however do I really like them greater than working with out having to go away my mattress? Very a lot TBD. In spite of everything, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be faffed to schlep to a yoga studio once more, now that I can do the courses by Zoom.
I at all times considered myself as a sociable particular person, the one who didn’t think about it a celebration except there have been 150 individuals invited. However maybe lockdown has revealed my true hermitty self? I’ve actually taken to staying in on the couch each night time like one who was born to it. This raises a doubtlessly greater downside than Covid: if I’m completely, if solely psychologically, locked down, how the hell am I going to do my job sooner or later? Fortunately, a celeb might have resolved this downside: throughout that transient window between lockdowns this autumn, Helena Bonham Carter advised we do the interview at my home moderately than hers, which we did. So, Al Pacino, Madonna, Hilary Mantel? Go left on the newsagent and it’s the blue door in your proper. I’ll see you on my couch.