My very first interview ever, in June 1974 for RIAS-Berlin (now Deutschlandfunk-Kultur), was – amazingly! – with the great American playwright Tennessee Williams. My aunt, Sylvia Miles, a well-known New York actress (see photo below with Williams), was friends with him and she agreed to bring us together.
Our meeting is seared into memory. We were to meet at his apartment at the Elysée Hotel on East 54th Street where he lived whenever he was in New York. The hotel stands small, elegant, as if from a bygone era, in the shadow of the modern steel and glass skyscrapers of Midtown East. It was a Sunday evening, 6 p.m. when I rang the bell just in time for Happy Hour. Williams opened up. He was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a bright yellow blazer and sandals. He had a glass in his hand. “Hi, I’m Tennessee. I’m drinking bourbon with ice. How about you?”
Surrounded by pictures of Rousseau, Chinese art, books, antique German cabinets and photographs everywhere of him with celebrities and colleagues, Williams was infinitely polite and patient with the young and very inexperienced journalist that I was at the time.
Tennesse Williams on progress in the Black Movement, 1974
Tennesse Williams on liberation movements, 1974
Tennessee Williams on Women's Lib and the Watergate Affair, 1974
Actress Shirley MacLaine talks about art and politics, 1974
Musician Patti Smith on her audience and creativity, 1977
Musician Tom Waits on marriage, 1982
Margaret Atwood on her image, 1984
Musician Neil Young on acoustic and computer music, 1982
Patricia Highsmith on writing, 1978
Musician Bob Marley on the connection between music and Rastafari, 1977
* Click to enlarge.