Why I want to interview John Barrowman.
I’m currently sitting at my desk in tears. I’ve been trying to write a blog post for nearly an hour and all I have is this lousy sentence. I can’t seem to get out of my own way today to write anything.
I knew I wanted to be an entertainment journalist when I was 12. I wanted to interview singers and actors, writers and directors, filmmakers and authors. I never dreamed of covering election nights or breaking the next scandal. Nor have I ever been interested in being a part of the paparazzi pack. I just wanted to sit down and ask these incredibly creative people how and why they do the things they do.
In my early teens, that desire was met on good days with a pat on the head and the words, “Well, journalism is a good field. Maybe you’ll get to interview the Prime Minister one day.” On a bad day, they were met with outright ridicule: “Be realistic: Bruce Springsteen isn’t going to talk to you.”
As I got older and people realised I really didn’t want to interview the Prime Minister, ridicule became the most common response, along with rolled eyes and condescending looks that made it clear that I was delusional. So, I did what seemed to be the obvious thing to do: I abandoned that dream. I got a degree in languages, I chose a career in management, I got married, I had children, and I got on with the business of life. I grew up.
Fast forward to today: I’m 50, I’m divorced, my children have grown into pretty reasonable human beings, I have a significant other whom I love and whom I’m confident returns the sentiment. In my late 30s I opted out of management and became a print journalist, starting out as a junior in a weekly agricultural newspaper. I went on to become the editor of a business newspaper and eventually a corporate IT magazine. I actually did interview the Prime Minister. More than once. Wrote on some very important subjects — like the Herceptin debate in New Zealand, on election wins and losses, and on Steve Jobs death which came just as I took up my role editing the IT magazine.
I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t enjoy my work — because I did. Writing makes me happy. Writing is where I am able to be myself. Writing is home. I just didn’t want to be a political, business, or IT journalist. All of those things do interest me, but only in a very passing way. I really wanted to start writing about the creative people who have always inspired me — Bruce Springsteen, Steven Spielberg, Carrie Fisher, Stephen King, Patti Smith, John Barrowman, Jensen Ackles … to name but a few on a really long list. The problem was none of the magazines I approached was interested in a middle aged woman with no formal qualifications in the field. So, I quit my job and went back to school to get a degree that fit better. Which is how I ended up celebrating my 50th birthday, last December, with the news I had completed a double major BA in Media Studies and English.
In fact, I celebrated by doing two things. First, I wrote a novel — because hey, why the hell not? Then I applied to do my Masters in Media Studies. It occurred to me that if I could freelance as a journalist and write my thesis on the impact of fan behaviour on source texts and creators — that would tick almost every box on my list of “dream career steps”. And if I could get the book published … well … cherry on the cake and all that.
So let me tell you how the reality has played out. I’ve applied for 58 media and communications roles this year — I’ve not been asked in for a single interview. I’ve pitched almost every magazine I’ve heard of and the silence is deafening. If I was doing this in person, I’d be wondering about my deodorant. I’ve met resistance within the local media studies field about my thesis. And within my network, as soon as people found out I was back on that long lost trail of “interview and write about entertainers and creators” out came the head pats (I’m 4’11” — head patting is easy) and the “oh, your little crushes are so cute” and yes … “what makes you think they’ll want to talk to you?”
First of all, I’m 50 and cute stopped being an appropriate adjective nearly 40 years ago. Secondly, why wouldn’t they talk to me? When I was writing about the Prime Minister or the CEO of our largest exporter, you thought I was brilliant. The only thing that changed was my subject material.
Here’s the thing. John Barrowman is a talented artist with an impressive career. That is inspiring — especially for people in creative careers. I know I find it inspiring. He’s an active and highly visible campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights — and that is inspiring. He has a successful relationship and marriage with Scott Gill — and as someone who is divorced, that is inspiring. He has a great relationship with his fans — and for someone who is preparing a thesis on that very topic, that is inspiring. So yeah, I want to interview John Barrowman.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make it happen, despite an editor trying to organise an interview and my pitching several publications, none of which were interested. Barrowman and Gill arrived in New Zealand yesterday afternoon and I have tickets to Armageddon for a photo op and autograph on Sunday. I’m supposed to be working on my thesis. And all I’m doing is sitting at my desk, feeling disappointed in myself. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I don’t have what it takes. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe all those people patting me on the head, calling me cute, and rolling their eyes are right. I don’t know.
I just know that one of the top three people on my dream interview list is in my city and I can’t make it happen. It seems that the questions I want to ask, the stories I want to write don’t matter to anybody else — and maybe they’re right. I just hope someone asks them — because we need people like Barrowman in the world and we need to know how and why they do what they do — to help us do what we need to do.