Ray Martin’s Favourites (Victory) is a collection of standout interviews from the TV journalist’s career, as well as a glimpse behind the scenes, revealing how these interviews came together. Martin spoke to Bookseller+Publisher.
You’ve interviewed many of the stars, including Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Don Bradman. Have you ever been star struck?
Very rarely. In fact, out of thousands of interviews probably only twice. Sir Donald Bradman and Audrey Hepburn—a strange double, I must admit. I’m a cricket tragic but I never got to see The Don play. When I first met him at his Adelaide suburban house he stood up and stroked an imaginary cover drive, illustrating a point about batting technique. I was absolutely mesmerised. Audrey Hepburn I had fallen in love with when I was about 15 and saw her in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When I was the ABC’s New York correspondent in the 1970s, I used to walk past the iconic jewellery store and imagine Holly Golightly and her cat, as in the film, just sitting on the steps. Then on The Midday Show I got to meet and interview Audrey. She was still a classic beauty, with sparkling eyes and the best cheekbones in Hollywood. I told her of my teenage love affair, she smiled and purred, ‘It’s never too late …’ So I kissed her on the cheek. How dashing was that?
Which interview was the hardest to secure?
Sir Donald Bradman. How I ended up with that exclusive is almost worth a book in itself. I guess my half-hour interview with Prince Charles after his split with Diana was a coup too. Then the interview with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating together was something quite special. Even 20 years later it’s still my favourite political interview. It’s also a fascinating insight into the two men.
Your book also reveals some of the behind-the-scenes action. Can you share any gossip?
We had an American rock legend stoned off his face when he came on to sing; an Australian movie legend overloaded with chardonnay; a British legend who had a personal water-taster (just in case someone tried to spike his acqua minerale); an English guest who forgot or deliberately decided not to wear knickers on The Midday Show and the TV audience noticed; and a Spanish heartthrob who made sure we didn’t film his bald patch. Then there was Pamela Stephenson who tried to take my trousers off on camera, and Richard Marx, who was too cool to admit that he’d once written a country song for Kenny Rogers. Even after a viewer sent in a copy of the album he still denied it was him. I’m not going to tell you who they were—except for Pamela and Richard. You’ll have to just wonder.
Tell us about some of the ‘ordinary folk’ who made it into this book?
They’re all ordinary in their own kind of way—even Don Bradman, who almost drowned three times because he never learnt to swim. There was the drover who spent an agonising night in the fork of a tree during the high-point of a Queensland flood—with his kelpie dog and a huge snake. Then there was Werner Von Braun, whose rockets put man on the moon but was as enthusiastic as a kid playing with fire crackers; Jane Fonda who wanted to talk about God and Dustin Hoffman who just wanted to talk about sex. Ronnie Biggs, the most celebrated of the Great Train Robbers was an ordinary Cockney bloke, who was one of my favourites. He just wanted to be a carpenter living in Melbourne. Doesn’t get much more ordinary than that.