OutSmart interviews Channel 8 interviewer Ernie Manouse
Blase DiStefano: I don’t know how many of the personalities you’ve interviewed are gay (maybe 10 percent?), but does one gay person stand out above the others?
Ernie Manouse: All in all we tend to probably have a little heavier than 10 percent, since so many of our guests are in the arts and creative fields. And we know how that goes…some are gay, some are not, some are open about it, some are not. Tommy Tune addressed it outright in talking about the challenges he as a gay man faced even in the world of musical theater! Anne Rice talked more about her son the writer than anything to do with his “gayness.” Stella Byrd spoke about the issue of taking “gay” out of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime bill and how she held fast to keep “gay” protected or take her son’s name off the bill, because hate against anyone is still hate!
Who are some of the gay people you’ve interviewed?
I usually tend to answer this question more in terms of which guests would have more of a gay sensibility (so as not to be outing anyone), and my list would be as follows: Patti LuPone, Molly Ivins, Anne Rice, Jim Brickman, Jake Heggie, Stockard Channing, k.d. lang, Li Cunxin, Betty Buckley, Stella Byrd, Judy Shepard, Ultra Violet, Tommy Tune, Michael Feinsein, Tony Curtis, Chita Rivera, Linda Eder, Iman, Linda Dano, Stephen Schwartz, Dr. Ruth Westhiemer, Lauren Anderson, Chris Botti.
Was there a common thread in the gay interviews?
I think simply due to the fact that I am gay, that when my guest is also gay—out or not—we come with a shared background that instantly gives us a common thread. I’m not sure most people know that the time I have with the guest is pretty much what you see on screen—they come in and are microphoned, I basically say hello, give them the ground rules for our “reality interview” (we will tape a conversation for 26 minutes with no stops, I come with no prepared questions, and we let the conversation guide us as to what we cover), and when the time is up, they leave. So, for the most part, you see our complete interaction on the screen. The shared gayness gives me a little something immediately, even though it is never spoken. Call it gaydar—it just clicks.
What do you do to prepare for an interview?
That is one of the secrets to making this show work—even though I don’t come with prepared questions, I have to have done my homework. I like to read everything I can get my hands on about their lives—interviews, bios, reviews, critiques of their work, and I like to watch/listen to as much of their stuff as possible. I have been at this since the mid-80s and I can tell you—the Internet has made my prep work so much easier—and faster! That way, when we sit down to actually tape, even though I don’t have “prepared questions,” I have a full knowledge of who they are and the moments of their lives!
If you had to pick your top few favorites (not necessarily gay), who would they be?
Patti LuPone —amazingly fun storyteller who was totally open and honest, and a hell of a lot of fun!
Tony Curtis—again honest and real and fun, plus the answer to the question “Did you really date Marilyn Monroe?” was “I did a lot more to Marilyn Monroe than date her!”
Gene Wilder [coming up in season five this fall]—just so sweet and again real!
I guess I would have to say that my favorites are the ones who are honest and real, the ones who are into the process and are not trying to spin anything.
InnerVIEWS airs on on PBS in Houston on Thursdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. To watch some of the episodes of InnerVIEWS