In 1969, I attended a disc jockey convention in Nashville where several recording artists were being made available for interviews. Among them was Lee Marvin.
What in the name of Cat Ballou was a movie actor doing in Nashville giving interviews to country music deejays? (Marvin had won an Academy Award four years earlier for his role in “Cat Ballou.”)
It turns out that his new movie “Paint Your Wagon” had a music soundtrack, and a tune sung by Marvin titled “Wanderin’ Star” was being released. He was in Music City to promote the record.
Not wanting to miss the chance to interview an Oscar-winning actor, I arose early the morning of the interview opportunity and showed up at the appointed place.
A large number of my fellow deejays were already in the queue. As I peered down the line, I could see Marvin at the interview table.
He was unshaven, his pre-maturely gray hair uncombed, and he was struggling to keep his bloodshot eyes open. Obviously, this was the last place he wanted to be at this early hour. Most likely, he’d spent some, or maybe all, of the night on Nashville’s then-famous Printer’s Alley, home of numerous nightclubs.
On the wall above the interview table was a large sign that read: Interviews limited to 3 minutes STRICTLY ENFORCED!
The long line moved quickly. As I got closer and could hear my fellow deejays’ interviews, I understood why. Marvin was giving short, blunt answers to every question asked. He would put in a quick plug for “Paint Your Wagon” and his record then stop talking. So the interviews lasted nowhere near the allotted three minutes.
I reached the table and put down my tape recorder. While I prepared to be intimidated by the famous Hollywood Star, Marvin stared at my name tag, which noted my radio station call letters and my hometown of Asheville, NC.
Suddenly, the man came alive. “Asheville, North Carolina, huh? Do you know Robroy Farquhar?”
“Yes,” I answered. “He’s the founder of the Flat Rock Playhouse.”
Marvin excitedly explained that early in his career, he’d appeared in several productions at Flat Rock Playhouse, and Robroy Farquhar had played an important role in the development of his career.
He then started asking me questions about Western North Carolina. He wanted to know if that nightclub on the side of the mountain overlooking Asheville was still there. I told him yes, the Sky Club was still there.
Marvin said that, though he was from New York City, he had a great love of the South. He told me that, in fact, he and his older brother Robert were named for the confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Marvin’s “handler,” standing behind him, whispered in his ear that we’d passed the three-minute allotted time. Marvin ignored him.
When he finally got around to talking about “Paint Your Wagon,” Marvin bragged about the acting of his young co-star Clint Eastwood. He said he didn’t know how much longer Clint would be seen as an actor because his real desire was to direct. Sure enough, a couple years later, Eastwood directed his first movie, “Play Misty for Me.” But, of course, he continued acting.
When I returned to Asheville, I had an almost 20-minute interview with Lee Marvin. And I’d learned that when you can find common ground with the person you’re talking to, conversation becomes easier and more pleasant. I’ve tried to apply this principle in my personal as well as professional life.
By the way, “Wanderin’ Star” became a minor hit for Marvin. He joined the long list of what’s known in the music industry as “one hit wonders.”
Dave Hogan is a retired disc jockey. He lives in Lake Junaluska.