Reminder Publications' managing editor G. Michael Dobbs pitched his new book, “15 Minutes with: 40 Years of Interviews” to an engaged audience at the White Rose book store in downtown Holyoke on Friday evening, February 27th, 2015.
His interviews have been featured in not only Reminder Publications, but also the Valley Advocate, and on his '80s program for the now defunct Holyoke radio station, WREB.
The title of his book, according to Dobbs, comes from the average amount of time a reporter gets to field questions to a subject. Dobbs describes the interview process as a compromise.
“Most of the time,” according to a post on his blog, Out of the Inkwell (outoftheinkwell.blogspot.com), “when a journalist has some time with someone famous there is a purpose attached to that interview and invariably that subject has something to sell. A book, television show, a movie, a new record or a political objective are probably the most common reasons for anyone mildly famous to want to speak with a reporter.
“And the interviewer,” he added during the book talk, “is there to get the quote needed for the story.”
While informative, the book talk was more of a stand-up comedy act.
“When I was a child,” said Dobbs, “my mother tried to keep me away from comic books and horror movies and Mad Magazine and anything else that would quote-unquote 'corrupt' my mind . . . Unfortunately, for my poor Mom, she did not succeed.”
One of his earliest interviews would be with William Gaines, the founder of Mad Magazine. “He had this life-sized bust of King Kong's head staring through his office window from outside.”
His career first started when he was in College in 1975, when he learned of “fanzines,” small, independent, home-brewed publications of the editor's favorite subject. “I realized that there were others like me, who were into animation and horror. These were my people.”
The first big interview for his fanzine, dubbed “Inertron” (Out of the Inkwell), was with Buster Crabbe, who starred in 1936's “Flash Gordon” movie, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond. Other interviews over the years would include author Ray Bradbury, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, and the late Leonard Nimoy, who brought his photography to an art gallery in Northampton.
“A guy at work asked me if I was going to ask Leonard questions about Star Trek, and I thought, 'This is Leonard Nimoy! He's probably answered every Star Trek question on the planet!' . . . I just talked to him about his photography.”
The connections with his subjects go beyond the interviews. “[W]hen I learn that someone I've interviewed has passed it's actually quite profound for me. I realize how lucky I was to have an opportunity to speak with them. Joan Rivers, for example, was about a nice and gracious in person that a reporter could hope. Her death was such a shock. Naturally the people who have passed who played a key role in my life as a fan have meant a lot to me: Clayton Moore, Jonathan Harris, Jack Mercer (the voice of Popeye) and Vincent Price, for example.”
While Dobbs got to interview celebrities, he never lived the life of one.
“I always tell young journalists wanting to start out, 'Don't be afraid to have something to fall back on.'” He recommends bartending as a good skill to have.