ELLIOTT: Well, I'm a very lucky guy. What can I tell you. I have been very lucky in this business. I have attempted to just have some fun and to talk to some really great people, both on radio and television. I am, what can I tell you. I have a lovely wife, two kids as well. I take every day in the business as a gift. I step out of this building and I often see men twice my age digging up the street and go, "I'll think I'll go talk to people for a living." It's a great deal.
CJAD: Do you have a natural curiosity? Is that what makes your job so enjoyable for you?
ELLIOTT: What do you mean by that? I'm curious, what do you mean by that? (laughter). Yes I do. I'm fascinated by people. You know, I said this to Tom Snyder the other day. I said, "you know, I really love this talking to people because we have so many terrific guests on THE LATE LATE RADIO SHOW, heard at 11 o'clock on CJAD every night, five nights a week." And he said it's like a post graduate education for free and you get paid for it.
CJAD: I've often told people that if I wasn't doing this I'd be a stalker, because I'd still want to talk to the people I get to talk to......
ELLIOTT: (laughter) Now you're scaring me Peter.
CJAD: ...so this is a lot easier. You do so much. You have a wide variety in the things you do from the radio show to A&E, and looking at some of the things you've done, like hosting classical radio programs....
ELLIOTT: Well, I did here in New York before I did this job. Yeah, I worked for a classical radio station in New York City. A couple of them actually. I sort of fell into it, classical music on the radio. I mean I was in the band in the orchestra in high school so I knew a little bit about it, but I just sort of fell into the format of classical music on the radio and just kept loving it and just kept being at the right place at the right time to be on the air here. It's great. I consider it to be a part of my life in which I enjoy. I consider it a mix. I listen to jazz, I listen to rock 'n' roll and I listen to a little classical too.
CJAD: How does someone who starts off their life in Texas end up in the Big Apple?
ELLIOTT: Well, you know, I always knew that I would move to New York. Both of my parents were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Most of my relatives are here in New York and my Father and Mother moved to Texas because of the Air Force. My Father was transferred to Goodfellow Air Force Base in St. Angelo, Texas. I was born on the Air Force Base. We moved just a few miles west to Midland and stayed there. My parents love it. They're still there as a matter of fact. But I went off to Austin, Texas to go to college, but I knew that I would leave Texas and come to New York eventually. I mean it was easy for me in the sense that I had relatives here and I knew that I knew that I wanted to be in this business we call "show." And it's difficult, if not impossible to make a good living or a big living in Midland, Texas, so I picked up and left.
CJAD: With the show that you do now. The radio program. You get to meet all kinds of people. Is that sometimes awe inspiring to you?
ELLIOTT: Sometimes. You know, most of the time, though, I really feel like a lot of the people are just regular folks. I almost have to gear up the other way and remind myself that this is a broadcast legend or this is an acting great or someone on a sitcom, because they come in...and you know what's great about radio...and you know this from your show I'll bet, Peter, too, is that people don't dress up for radio. I mean, sometimes I do, but my guests rarely do. So when you get somebody who just walks in with their t-shirt or their sweatshirt, they just look like anybody else. And you go, "wait, it's Garry Shandling! It's Hugh Downs! It's Peter Ustinov! But it's just a person and deep down these are people with families and goals and aspirations and troubles and they worry about their money and where the next job is coming from as much as anyone else. And so I just sort of talk to them like a person.
CJAD: What is the major focus of the radio program you do. The reason I ask that is because I am sure there are some people who might not stay up late enough, and shame on them if they don't...and listen to the program and they want to distinguish it from other radio shows that are out there. It's not politically bent. There are more celebrities on the program. How would you describe THE LATE LATE RADIO SHOW?
ELLIOTT: Well I guess the first thing is to say what it's not, and you said that first. It's not a political based show. So much of what's on talk radio these days is about politics. The hosts often times tend to be dogmatic and bombastic and it's not my style and I decided to go the other way. The initial focus of the show was something I had written up called THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS AND TALK. We never used the title, but that was the thrust. My basic pitch to CBS was that entertainment news and celebrity interviews is an enormous business on television and nobody was doing it on the radio. We've broadened it since then from entertainment news and celebrities to people in the news. We also do regular news stories and some issues. But basically it's a lot of great interviews. It's people that you're reading about. People that you're seeing on television. My ideal show, for example, would be last Friday. We had the man who was the main consultant for PBS' Rock 'n' Roll documentary series that just started. So you could hear about it on Friday and the thing started on Sunday. Art Harris from CNN. It was a great show, I thought on Friday, because it was some entertainment and some news. Art Harris, one of the main O.J. Simpson reporters from CNN was our guest. Also on Friday, we talked about the Simpson case and then they had a big CNN PRESENTS: THE VERDICT, which was about the Simpson case. That also aired on Sunday and it aired today. So the fact that you can hear about these two events days before it happened is ideal for me.
CJAD: So you pitch these ideas to CBS and they say, "good idea." How does the meshing of Elliott Forrest and Tom Snyder come about?
ELLIOTT: Well that was a such a total surprise to me, because I pitched the show as a stand-alone show and they went, "good idea! We think it sounds great, let me get back to you." A couple of months go by and they say, " look, Tom Snyder wants to have his television show on the radio. He wants it simulcast. We gotta deal with him first. We'll let you know." Another couple of months go by and they call me up and say, "look, we've decided to do this three hour radio show." And for those who haven't heard the show, this is pretty much what's going on right now. They said to me, "the show starts on the radio at 11 o'clock. 11:06:30, to be exact. And then somebody"..it turned out of course to be me..."goes from 11:06:30 to 12:36 at which time we carry the audio from Tom Snyder's television show." For anyone who has seen Tom and not heard this on the radio, he often says "welcome to the simulcast." That's this show. We simulcast the audio from Tom's television show for an hour. The last 25 minutes they said would be mine, but as it turns out Tom and I do it together for about three nights out of the five. So they came to me with the idea and said, "how would you like to host this radio show and Tom Snyder would be an hour of it in the middle?" And it was just absolutely too good to be true and a matter of fact a dream come true to spend what turns out to be anywhere between one to two hours a week with one of this area's greatest broadcasters. You know it's just terrific to have gotten to know Tom Snyder and to listen to him.
CJAD: Listening to the show on a regular basis, I get to know more and more about you. There was a period of time when seeing you on A&E and hearing you on the radio, I didn't put the two together. I suppose that happens a little bit, doesn't it?
ELLIOTT: Well, you know, it was funny. The first couple of months on the show, the listeners would call in and they would go, "are you the same guy that on.....?" And I would go, "yeah, that's me." It's a great combination. My commitment to THE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK is about 30 days a year. I go in and shoot the Sunday morning show. I host for them BREAKFAST WITH THE ARTS. I go every other Tuesday and we shoot two shows. The prime time show I host for them on Thursday nights at nine eastern called STAGE, we literally shoot a half a year at once over a two day period.
CJAD: I saw one just a couple of weeks ago, I think it was, the one on Warner Brothers.
ELLIOTT: Yes, exactly.
CJAD: Great show.
ELLIOTT: As a matter of fact, this coming Thursday, one of the best ones we're doing this season, which is B.B. KING: LIVE IN CONCERT. Just terrific. Followed by a documentary about Joe Cocker.
CJAD: I suggest to our audience to do what I do. Tape it, because it's up against this program and watch it later. (laughter)
ELLIOTT: I would suggest that too Peter. I wouldn't suggest that anybody watch my show and not listen to you!
CJAD: Now I get an opportunity, listening to the program, to learn more and more about you. I know about your two kids. The fact that your first year of university was the first year of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
CJAD: All these little tidbits I get to learn as the show goes on. But the thing that surprised me from the little bio I had sent to me here was one of the previous jobs that you had, which was training business professionals, sports figures, celebrities and politicians for television and radio appearances, speeches and crisis situations. Does that make you a spin doctor teacher?
ELLIOTT: Well it was at the time. It was a fascinating, fascinating job. We would basically teach business professionals, as you said, politicians and sports figures how to deal with the media. If it meant, for example, a sports figure going on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, for basically a fluff interview, that was a pretty easy thing. But we would also work with chemical companies on how to handle a crisis if something happened at their plant. Once again, it was one of those jobs I sort of fell into backwards and was asked to do it. It was great! It was really fascinating work. Business professionals I found, surprisingly enough, have very poor communication skills overall. They don't really know how to deal with their employees and dealing with the media....it was a terrible turnoff to them. We would ambush them. We would literally come in with the cameras and pretend we were Mike Wallace. Basically, if they could handle us, they could handle anybody. One of the funnier things though, is because we were so tough of them.....sometimes the issues were not that tough. I hope I'm not giving anything away by telling you that one of our clients was The Wool Bureau. So here these clients would come in and we were tough as nails. But in that press conference was, "isn't it true your fabric is itchier then anybody else's fabric." And we would give them a hard time. So, if they could survive us, they could survive the real media.
CJAD: So having had that job and training people in such a way, now you are on the other side of the microphone. You are actual interviewer. Do you not see this coming.
ELLIOTT: Well, you know, actually I was on the talent side before I became a consultant and then I became talent again on the performing side, so actually it has been great. You know why, because when I was doing the work with the media consulting company I would interview different people every single day. And I basically came up with a technique and ability to interview people every single day of various and sundry backgrounds, which is exactly what I'm doing now. I would have never had the confidence or the ability to interview people live on radio for hours at a time as I do now if I didn't have that job. It was the perfect job for me to get on-the-job training on how to be a talk show host and not be on the air. It was great.
CJAD: You came from performing earlier, and one of the things I noticed is that you were on THE GONG SHOW, not once, but twice.
ELLIOTT: You gotta bring that up, don't ya Peter!
CJAD: Oh yes!
ELLIOTT: You had to mention it. Here I am. I'm this professional. I'm working with Tom Snyder. I'm a professional broadcaster and you drag out THE GONG SHOW. No, it was great. I had done this wacky act in my home town and I'll never forget auditioning with this wacky act for this local....it was this thing called the SUMMER MUMMERS and every Friday and Saturday night, hundreds of people would come to this theatre and drink loads of beer and they would do this melodrama. People would throw popcorn and have a great time. And after the melodrama, they had these series of variety acts and I auditioned...you know, I was a teenager...and I auditioned with this wacky act, and I'll never forget the director of evening say, "well, you know, people are going to have to boo at least one act and that's okay, but this could be it." And it turned out that they just loved this act! By the time I went on they were so bombed they had no idea that peeling a banana and eating it to the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY theme was really stupid (laughter). They thought it was the best thing they had ever seen in their lives. They thought this was comic genius, they were so out of their gourd! It was a huge success and they asked me back every year to do it. I was there a couple of weeks ago and they said, "come do the banana! come do the banana!" So, I was out in L.A., I was visiting some friends and this show, THE GONG SHOW, had just started. And if you remember the ads, "if you're in L.A. and have a strange or unusual act call....." So I was out in L.A. and I had a strange or unusual act, and I called them and they invited me on and I got gonged the first time. Then I was sitting at home two weeks later and the phone rang and they said, "we want to fly you back for the nighttime version, which was hosted by who?......for 10 points!
CJAD: The nighttime version?
ELLIOTT: The GONG SHOW was hosted by.....
CJAD: Was it Gary Owens?
ELLIOTT: GARY OWENS! For 10 points!
CJAD: Oooh! I've been watching far too much television!
ELLIOTT: So I went out to L.A. again, Peter, and did the show twice and I didn't get gonged and I got a lifetime supply of RICE-A-RONI.
CJAD: The San Francisco Treat!
ELLIOTT: That was it!
CJAD: Now let's go to the other end of the scale. You're also a Peabody Award winner.
ELLIOTT: It's really great to be recognized for your work. At the aforementioned classical station we produced, I can't remember how many episodes at this point....30 episodes, 40 episodes of a half hour educational show for young people all about all different kinds of music. The show could bounce from reggae to Bach to beebop. We had great guests on the show. It was produced by this really nutty friend of mine who had never produced radio before. It was so outrageous that the Peabody committee couldn't turn us down. Here was a commercial radio station producing a half hour non- commercial radio show about music for young people. We got a Peabody Award for it, which for those people who don't know, truly is one of the highest awards a broadcaster can get. Also a highlight of my life was going to the Peabody Awards. It was at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and David Brinkley was there...it was just great and I'm pleased to have it on my resume.
CJAD: The radio show sounds like it had a very eclectic mix of music. Are you yourself someone who has a very eclectic taste in music?
ELLIOTT: Oh absolutely! Absolutely! As a matter of fact I saw this rock 'n' roll special I mentioned earlier, over the weekend, and this guy, Dick Dale, was the inventor of the surf guitar music. They say his style reverberates to heavy metal. When asked, "where did you get your guitar style?" he said, "by listening to Gene Krupa." Now the fact that you can actually make a connection between Gene Krupa and heavy metal, I think is fascinating!
CJAD: It certainly is. It's not a leap I would have made.
ELLIOTT: I wouldn't have made it either, but I mean, this is what's really great about music, is that it truly is the language that anyone can understand and music is a big part of my life and I think it's a big part of anybody's life. I think it helps your mood. I think it helps your demeanour. I listen to all different kinds of music.
CJAD: Earlier you mentioned the fact that you did this act when you were in high school. Was Elliott Forrest always going to be a performer?
ELLIOTT: You know, it's not my real name. I will admit something to you that I don't think I've even admitted on my radio show before. I was born with the name Elliott Gould, which of course, I could not use. I think there's something about being 10-8-9-14 years old, walking around and seeing your name on a marquee. It says, "this is what you want to do." Forrest was my original middle name and I eventually changed it. Just dropped my last name and carried on with my middle name there. But I think that had a big impact on my. I loved going to movies, and I was involved in theatre, by the time was 12 or 13. I looked around and I said, "hmm be creative, be a performer, talk on the radio, or get a real job!" I don't think so!
CJAD: And as if that's not enough for you, as I mentioned earlier A&E's MONTHLY is out, and you have a lot of interviews in that. I'm looking right now at the September issue where Elliott Forrest talks to Dick Gregory. You get to talk a lot of impressive people, not only on the radio but also in the magazine too. That must be quite a kick also.
ELLIOTT: It's fun. It's fun to put it in print. Often times I'll just sit with people and we'll record the interview and put it into some kind of sense. The October issue that just arrived at my door is actually an interview I did with Christopher Reeve about a month before his tragic accident. We weren't sure whether we were going to use it, because they thought it was a little maudlin, but I wrote a little introduction and I was glad we did because it was quite a tribute to him. It's a kick. It's really great to do the interviews, but it's even better to have it in print. You know, it's great to have radio tapes but it's nice to really see something and to have a monthly magazine piece as well.
CJAD: Can life possibly get any better for you?
ELLIOTT: Peter, it's a funny business. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so I take everyday at a time and that's really all I can do. I mean that's it.
CJAD: Is there something you haven't done that you want to do? A goal you haven't attained?
ELLIOTT: There's quite a few things I haven't done yet, to tell you the truth. I have many proposals in my computer. I would like to do a variation of the radio show that I do now on television. The TV work I do is fun and it's rewarding but it's not very personal. It's something that somebody else produces that I'm a part of. I would like to produce something on my own on television and a television version of what I do on the radio I think would just be ideal.
CJAD: Sounds great! As you're lead-in here on CJAD. What's in store tonight?
ELLIOTT: Oh we have a great show lined up for tonight. We've got Robert Townshend. This is the comedian/writer/director. He did HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE, METEORMAN and THE FIVE HEARTBEATS. And he's on a television show right now on the Warner Brothers Network called THE PARENT HOOD, followed by Will Farrell. This is a new member of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. You've never heard of him. I've never heard of him and right now they're preparing to go on this next Saturday, so we'll find out a little behind the scenes of the new SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE with a new actor. Then Chris Matthews. He's the political guy on AMERICA'S TALKING. Those will be my three guests, followed by Tom Snyder's guests who are comedian Drew Carey and William F. Buckley. And if you want to know a little insider stuff that's kind of fun. William F. Buckley is about twenty feet from me on the radio right now here at the CBS building and then he will go downstairs and go on television with Tom Snyder later on tonight.
CJAD: Well it certainly is a lot of fun listening to the show. Listening and watching, because as you say, you can hit the simultinis with Tom Snyder in the evenings...
ELLIOTT: One of my favorite things!
CJAD: Continued success. I thank you very, very much for talking with us
ELLIOTT: It's been a pleasure to spend time with you Peter, and I want to thank all the listeners of CJAD for tuning in to THE LATE, LATE RADIO SHOW.
CJAD: Continued success, even though as you said on Friday's show that your employers keep changing on you.
ELLIOTT: Yes, you never know.
CJAD: Thank you very much Elliott.
ELLIOTT: Alright, take care Peter.