Michael Parkinson on the one interview that got away

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He’s interviewed thousands of people in his seven decades as a journalist but there’s one person that he never got to sit beside.

Orson Welles, John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, there are few famous icons that haven’t sat opposite Sir Michael Parkinson to talk about their lives.

However, as he revealed to The Feed’s Marc Fennell, there’s one mega-famous man that slipped through Parky’s grasp - rat pack crooner Frank Sinatra.

“I would have asked for a five day interview, an interview fest with lots of songs and a big band,” Parkinson said.

But there are reasons besides his beloved voice that intrigued the interviewer.

“There's that thing about the connection between the mafia and him, which is undeniably true,” Parkinson shared.

“People don't understand how famous he was and he didn't need publicity.”

The Feed
The Feed

Parkinson touched on how, nowadays, thanks to the internet, a scandal like a mega-music star being a part of a crime syndicate would have never made it past modern tabloids.

“There was nothing on the internet because the internet wasn’t there! So all they'd ever knew about these people is what the Hollywood PR machine had fed them,” he said.

“It's a mystery to unravel, too, because people don't know their life story. You have an opportunity to tell it in front of them.”

Everybody that you had was incredibly famous but literally unknown, really.

A culture changed

There is one attitude change that Parkinson is happy changed over his decades in journalism - the drinking culture within the industry.

He famously refused to drink from Thursday’s onwards to be prepared for his Saturday show, and with good reason.

“I had a very good friend, one of the best interviewers that I had ever seen, I saw the decline that occurred when he let the drink take over,” he explained.

“He believed he could do a better interview sozzled when he couldn't.”

Parkinson took it as a stark wake up call that kept him from drinking on the job for the entirety of his career.

“When you see the decline of somebody that you have been assessed hero worship, that you adore, then it brings up short,” he said.

“You think, ‘Nah, I don’t want to be like that'.”

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