40,000 interviews - what’s the secret of your interviewing success?
I'm kind of an ad-lib interviewer, I don't over-prepare for my guests, but this forces me to learn and to listen. I try to ask questions that the guy on the street would want to know, human questions, not 'press conference' questions. My approach is always non-threatening and non-judgmental – I try to reach the feelings of my guests. I keep my questions short and the questions begin with 'why'. I am most fascinated with what makes people tick.
You have been at CNN twenty years – do you remember the first show you did and who stands out tallest amongst your remarkable guest list?
The first guest I had on in 1985 was the then New York Governor, Mario Cuomo. It’s pretty tough to choose a most memorable guest after twenty years, but the one who stands out the most was probably Frank Sinatra. I was a huge fan of his and we had a great time.
And who has made you laugh?
Where do you start?! Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, and the legendary, late great George Burns...but no one is funnier to me than Don Rickles.
Who stands out amongst the powerful political figures you have interviewed?
Again, there have been so many. Yitzak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan joined me for an unprecedented and revealing hour-long discussion on peace efforts in the Middle East. Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak was an amazing interview as well. I have had the pleasure of interviewing every U.S. President since Richard Nixon - including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Margaret Thatcher gave an eloquent interview as a powerful woman on the international political stage. Ronald Reagan talked with remarkable candor about his assassination attempt, Ross Perot announced he’d run for President, I spent a fascinating hour with Tony Blair in Washington D.C. and of course many of the interviews in the wake of 9/11 were hugely compelling and memorable.
Who is left to interview? Who are the next scoops?
Prince Charles and Camilla is the next big interview I want.
Do you still enjoy interviewing people as much as ever?
Are you kidding? I still get a kick out of interviewing people. I am fascinated by people and what makes them who they are.
How many interviews do you want to reach before you put away the mike?
I am well on my way to 45,000 interviews, with no plans to put away the mike.