bi-weekly portion of my Web Site will feature abridged chapters
from the book StarWords and previous newspaper
columns PLUS inspiring new insights about the stars I have
while it may seem self-aggrandizing to start with me, I have been
asked to do this by many readers. Remember: everyone is a star!
Susan Cantrell Spills the Beans
by Susan Cantrell
Q: Why is this the
first time youíve consented to an interview?
A: Because Iím a control freak and thatís a nightmare for any
interviewer. Plus, Iím a very private person and nowhere near as
generous as the thousands of people Iíve interviewed. Oh, I did
permit Don Bowen at KRML to interview me on air, and he was a
complete gentleman. Still, I sweated bullets and swore never to do
it again . . . until now.
Q: Sorry, Iím
supposed to ask your age. But you can decline.
A: I plead the Fifth.
Q: Suit yourself.
Are you married?
A: I was married, married, and then almost married. And with no
A: Dad once said, ďSusan, youíre a hard person to live with.Ē As
for kids, they adore me. But I decided after years of teaching
English that I preferred to leave them at school at 3 oíclock.
Q: So, did you
major in journalism?
A: Anthropology. I was to become the next Margaret Mead. But,
aside from digging up Miwok and Yokut Indian bones (this is the
most revealing thing Iíll tell you: Iím a Central Valley girl) I
couldnít make any money at it. However, the ďstudy of manĒ was the
perfect background for my career. I got a lot of experience
interrogating every boy and man who crossed my path.
Q: Have you ever
been in therapy?
A: Have been most of my adult life. Aside from this interview,
itís the only time I get to interview myself and plumb my depths.
Q: Why do you get
such a charge out of interviewing people?
A: A handwriting expert once told me Iím a chameleon. He was
right. I take on the persona of every person I interview. An
interview with Joan Fontaine? I end up arching my brow for the
next week. Glen Campbell? I sing ďWichita LinemanĒ for a month. I
guess my interview subject Louis Lebherz, world-renowned opera
singer, said it best. Each person he encounters, whether the trash
collector or Placido Domingo, he sees their spark of divinity. And
it is so with me. I take a good two hours with each of my
subjects, usually over tea and cookies, during which I steep
myself in their life. Oh! The joy of peering into anotherís home,
lifestyle and mental closet is indescribable. I really should take
a cab there because Iím so absorbed that when I leave, I can
barely remember how to drive. Whether itís about a billion dollar
business they built from scratch, how they overcame monumental
loss, rejection or disability, or how they express their passion
on canvas, through dancing, inventing or with boxing gloves Ė I am
immensely inspired by their energy and commitment to excellence.
Q: Are you
committed to excellence?
A: When I review my 20-plus-years writing career, I realize I am.
I joyfully challenge myself to improve. I love fitting the puzzle
pieces of an interview together to form something that readers
will read, at least once, before lining their cat litter boxes or
bird cages with it. One faithful reader, Nancy Welch, a UC
Berkeley grad in world literature, wrote yesterday to say she had
followed my career from day one and, ď. . . your writing has gone
from an awed ingťnue to journalistic excellence.Ē Iíd never met
her, honestly, and I didnít pay her to say that.
Q: Celebrities and
VIPs, who have been interviewed ad infinitum, often say yours was
the most enjoyable. Why is that?
A: Because I was a cat in a former life. My curiosity killed me
nine times until I became a human. Now curiosity fuels my
creativity. Iím always thinking up quirky questions that, when
pondered and answered, reveal to my subjects aspects of themselves
that were heretofore unknown.
Q: Dina Ruiz
Eastwood says her favorite of your signature offbeat interview
questions is: in what ways are you a weirdo? So?
A: Got another two hours? OK, this may be enough: If you pass me
on the ďwreckĒ trail along Monterey Bay, Iím the one riding a
dorky looking bike with extended handlebars. Iím wearing a red
poncho flying behind me like Little Red Riding Hood, and Iím
grinning and ringing my newly installed bike bell.
Q: Sounds more
geeky than weird. Anyway, you say your writing started with
A: Yes. At age six I wrote: ďRoses are red, violets are blue; I
like peanut butter, can you swim?Ē Then, 22 years ago, I marched
into the Carmel Pine Cone newspaper and demanded to write a poetry
column, as I had bi-monthly for The Monterey County Herald (Iíd
also started writing feature articles for them). The Cone wasnít
interested. Instead, they needed a society writer. All I had to do
was wield a camera (my clunky Canon AE-1 in those days), quaff
champagne, devour hors díoeuvres (I eventually learned to spell
it) and brazenly corner celebrities and grill them.
Q: What has this
got to do with verse?
A: Because, poetry is capturing the essence of a person, place or
thing, and my years of writing it had well prepared me for
Q: Who was your
A: James Bond.
A: Sean Connery. It was at the Marvin Davis party during the AT&T
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tourney. I had no problem
interviewing Michael Keaton, Billionaire Davis and his glam wife,
Famous Amos, Robert Wagner, etc. But when I walked up to this
towering paragon of incisive wit and self-assuredness, I was
rendered speechless. It was a non-interview. Another one was Clint
Eastwood. He was on Maui and I was here, with a lousy fever,
wearing a headset while lying in my Bark-a-lounger. I couldnít
type as fast as he talked (I always use a computer) and I was too
shy to ask him to slow down. Man, did I sweat it.
However, it was worth it, because not only will it appear in StarWords, but he also wrote a foreword to the book.
Q: Hereís a
question Iíve always wanted to ask: in what ways are you suicidal?
A: Easy. I do road rage. But Iím working on it.
Q: Yikes! What is
your political persuasion?
A: I get all my political news from Comedy Centralís ďThe Daily
ShowĒ and ďThe Colbert Report.Ē Iím a bleeding-heart tree-hugger
who also has many Republican friends.
Q: Whatís your
A: We never talk politics or religion.
developing the Monterey Peninsula, I say:
a) build underground
b) save the whales
c) make a moratorium on building mansions that no one lives in
d) let Ďer rip
A: All except (d). My God is ďgo out doorsĒ and every time I see
one more inch of our breathtaking Eden paved over, I cringe and
cuss. I also understand (or try to) a parallax view: people have
to have homes; our economy must thrive, etc.
Q: So, youíre a
pantheist and a chameleon?
A: Guilty as charged.
Q: In what ways
are you becoming more enlightened?
A: Character building is more important than anything else because
no one can take that away from you. The ending of my column with
The Herald has been a major transformation. My cat has cancer.
Some of my friends recently died. My financial status is scary. I
pray nobody will sue me for typos when my book comes out. And
while I wish many things, the epiphany Iíve had lately is that
people, things and situations are transient, and you will always
fear their loss. Iíve interviewed a lot of multi-millionaires and
they are not necessarily any more emotionally secure than people
of meager income. Iíve walked enough miles in peopleís moccasins,
Buster Browns or Ferragamos to know: it ainít about money. We hear
this all our lives, but eventually, if weíre open to continual
lessons, we finally get it in the solar plexus.
Q: So what is of
A: Love, patience, kindness, courage, integrity, compassion,
creative expression, to name a few. And I donít mean to be loved.
I paraphrase Gwyneth Paltrow when she said the only way we can
truly experience love is by giving Ė not getting - love. Look at
it this way: Someone can tell you what it feels like to bungee
jump, but you wonít really know until you do it yourself.
Q: Whatís been
your most loving act?
A: My most courageous one: being at my motherís side during her
Q: Do you have any
A: I havenít been tested but I seem to be somewhat dyslexic. But
thatís OK with me since I hear dyslexics are mostly geniuses. I
also have a sleep disorder in which my legs want to dance all
night long. It can wreak havoc.
Q: Speaking of,
are you a dancer?
A: Yes, by myself. Iím a leader, not a follower, and thus I
trample menís feet and waltz them into the walls. I would like in
my next life to be a dancer or tightrope walker because I am such
a klutz. I can liken myself to a ball bearing in a pinball
machine, slamming against the walls of life. However, I think this
goes hand in hand with the fact that my creativity is like a
shotgun of confetti Ė and if you want my essence, thatís it. A
million exploding colorful pieces . . .
P.S. If this interview generates enough interest, there may be a