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In Conversation With Jeffrey Lyon, Author, Journalist, Film historian, Film critic
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Thursday, May 6, 2021

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Jeffrey Lyons. Jeffrey has reviewed more than 15,000movies, 900 Broadway and off-Broadway plays. He has interviewed over500 actors, co hosted three national movie review shows—SneakPreviews, MSNBC’s At the Movies, and ReelTalk—in his forty-five-year career continues in television,radio, and print. Jeffrey is the author of Stories My FatherTold Me and the co-author of 101 Great Movie forKids, as well as three books of baseball trivia, Out ofLeft Field, Curveballs and Screwballs, and Short Hopsand Foul Tips.

He has recentlypublished Hemingway and Me: Letters, Anecdotes, andMemories of a Life-Changing Friendship.


Good day Jeffrey andthanks for participating in our interview.

Norm: Whatinspires you? 


Jeffrey: It's actually 50+years as a professional movie critic on TV, radio and in print. I hadan amazing childhood in which visitors to our home included Dr. RalphBunche, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway, JohnSteinbeck, Barbra Streisand, Marlene Dietrich and Joe DiMaggio amongmany others.

All because my fatherLeonard Lyons, wrote THE "must read"  column "TheLyons Den" six days a week in the NY Post, back then a verydifferent paper; i.e. liberal. It was NOT a gossip column; that wasWinchell and others. Carl Sandburg said if there'd been a LYONS DENback in Lincoln's time, we'd really have known what went on.

Three of my ninebooks (nine including my other book which also came out this May 1st,The Boston Red Sox All-Time All-Stars  are about myfather's era in NY and the incredible array of people he knew andabout whom he wrote.

Norm: What do you feelis the most overrated virtue and why?

Jeffrey: "Celebrity,"My father wrote some 12,378 columns and used "newsworthy"but never the word "celebrity" even once.

Norm: Whatdo you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far inyour writing and interviewing career?

Jeffrey:I had a long one-on-one radio interview with Betty Davis, longTV interviews with Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, and conducted PenelopeCruz' first interview in English after helping her get over hernerves by interviewing her first in her dialect of Castillian Spanishwhich I also speak.

When George Clooney cameby my set at WNBC plugging "Good Night and Good Luck,"about Edward R. Murrow, I played a clip of my family beinginterviewed by Murrow for his other show, "See it Now."It's on YOUTUBE) in December, 1955.

When Salma Hayek came byplugging "Frida" I showed her a color drawing Diego Riveradid in a book for my father.

The word got around that Idid in-depth research with questions no one else knows. When I did myfirst interview with Antonio Banderas, I came in humming the musicthey play only in the bullring in Malaga where he'd been an usher asa young man, then did the public address announcement including thead for the local beer. Then I rattled off the names of the tiny townsnearby where he was a street performer; I'd been in those towns. Thelost goes on.....

Norm: Whathas been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’veovercome in getting to where you’re at today?

Jeffrey: TV doesn't likemen with white hair; you get to a certain age and you're gone. Thereare exceptions, but thank goodness for radio, where I still recordand syndicate 5 movies and movie commentaries a week and also 5baseball trivia questions sent to sports stations. 

 Norm: Inyour opinion, what is the most difficult part of the writingprocess?  

Jeffrey: David Niven (whodeserved a knighthood) said "applying the seat of the pants tothe seat of the chair" but I've never had writers' block.

Norm: Whatdid you find most useful in learning to write? What was least usefulor most destructive? 

Jeffrey: I  have noanswer for that. Learning to type early on, I guess in college whenothers did hunt-and-peck on a keyboard. My older brother asked ErnestHemingway how do you write a novel when we visited the Hemingways inCuba. "Keep your sentences short," replied the greatestnovelist of the XX century, and pretend the words are being tattooedon our back. That'll keep your sentences succinct and to thepoint."

Norm: How did youbecome interested in reviewing movies, plays and interviewing actors?As a follow up, how do you live with the way people interpret andanalyze your reviews?

Jeffrey: My godmother was Madge Evans, the MGM star of the 'Thirties"David Copperfield, " "Dinner at Eight") and herhusband, Sidney Kingsley, the Pulitzer winning playwright ("DeadEnd" in which he created "The Bowery Boys" inspiredme.

So did another olderbrother Warren Lyons who was an Obie Award winner for producing "TheHouse of Blue Leaves". I took acting lessons from LeeStrassberg, Marilyn Monroe and Paul Newman and Lee J.Cobb's teacher.

So I came prepared for myfirst job at WPIX-TV in 1970.

I just do my job and moveon to the next movie or play. Mostly movies in recent years.

Norm: What is the mostmemorable interview you have ever conducted and why?

Jeffrey:Bette Davis, Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, Sofia Loren (who'dcooked me a spaghetti dinner when I was eleven in Madrid), RichardBurton (who lived in our building and who I taught how to bunt andthus move the runner along in baseball); Carole Channing, whoremembered me as a boy; George Clooney, George Carlin, Peter O'Toole,old friend Kirk Douglas (four times, and he told me I knew more abouthis career than he knew!) Zero Mostel, and many others.

Also Oscar Robertson, oneof the greatest basketball players of them all, and Luis Tiant,l thegreat  Cuban Boston Red Sox pitcher who had a movie about hislife). Many others.

Norm: Whatadvice can you give aspiring writers that you wished you hadreceived, or that you wished you would have listened to?

Jeffrey:I was lucky; my first job in TV wasin the number one market. Get in print. Save your reviews.Have a resume ready. Read the trade papers to see available jobs.

That's how I learned thatPBS was looking for replacements for Siskel and Ebert and I won theauditions beating out 150 others and we beat them in the ratingsquite regularly. 

Norm: Howdid you become involved with the subject or theme of Hemingwayand Me: Letters, Anecdotes, and Memories of a Life-ChangingFriendship?  

Jeffrey:He and my father became friends around 1937 and correspondedregularly. He trusted my father and would send my parents the firstcopies of his new novels to get their reactions. We were their guestsat their farm near Havana.

WhenMary found her father's body, in fact, she called my father beforethe authorities and he told the world. Then in 1956, I went with myparents to Spain and Richard Condon, who wrote "The ManchurianCandidate" and "Prizzi's Honor" took us to a bullfightand explained it all.

I wastransfixed. Soon after that, Orson Welles gave me a primer as didDaryl Zanuck, head of XX Century Fox, up in Pamplona where he wasfilming "The Sun Also Rises." By 1961, I'd been back toSpain and lived with a Spanish family to learn Spanish to understandbullfighting even better.

Then inJune, 1961,a month before he died, Hemingway, aware of my deepeningknowledge of "the bulls" arranged with his godson, AntonioOrdonez (son of the bullfighter on whom Hemingway based the characterof "Pedro Romero" in "The Sun Also Rises") for meto travel with Antonio for two weeks. It turned into seven summers,and 35 subsequent trips to Spain where we have lots of friends,including breeders and others in that world. Then in 2,000, my son 

Bentraveled with Antonio's grandson Francisco Rivera Ordonez (featuredin two stories on "Sixty Minutes" with the latecorrespondent Bob Simon. viewable on You Tube as "BloodBrothers."

 Norm: What were yourgoals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel youachieved them? 

Jeffrey:It presents an intimate side of Hemingway and the unusualfriendship between these two disparate friends.

Norm: Could you tellour readers something about the book?

Jeffrey:It's a collection of letters from him and interviews andreminiscences and a bit of my adventures with Antonio Ordonez,

 Norm: Whatwas the most difficult part of writing this book and whatdid you enjoy most about writing this book? 

Jeffrey:  it cameeasily to me and brought back a great time in my life and my father'sand gives the reader a sense of Hemingway the man. Ken Burns' recentdocumentary was brilliant, and this book fills out the other side ofhim and his complex persona.

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and Hemingwayand Me: Letters, Anecdotes, and Memories of a Life-ChangingFriendship

Jeffrey: In the book!!!

Norm: What is next forJeffrey Lyons?

Jeffrey: Not sure. I havethat other book about the best Red Sox players at each position,filled with stats, trivia and background about what made them great.Also strange players, odd achievements, etc.

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could change one thing about the world whatwould it be? How would it change you?

Jeffrey: No moreterrorist, foreign and domestic. More people going back to readingbooks, while still enjoying TV, movies and the good aspects of socialmedia.

Norm; Thanks once againand good luck with all of your endeavors

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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