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PEARLIE MAE’S WORDS OF WISDOM

 

Two 1950s record albums by Pearl Bailey illustrate her popularity as a vocalist.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This brief column offers some insight into how celebrities grant interviews to the media to publicize a new movie, book, music album, whatever. Especially to smaller outlets in smaller markets, which the Deseret News certainly was (and is). Pearl Bailey passed in 1990 at the age of 72 but my interview with her a couple of years earlier was a memorable one for me and after it was published I wrote this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, which ran March 27, 1988, under the headline, ’15 minutes on the phone with Pearl is a lesson in life.”

One of the true pleasures of this job is being able occasionally to speak with artists you’ve admired for years, and that happened to me last week when I did a brief telephone interview with Pearl Bailey.

I’ve loved Pearl Bailey since my childhood and it was a particular thrill to be able to talk to her as she gave out a series of interviews for the re-issue of the Disney animated film “The Fox and the Hound” which features her voice.

The publicist informed me that I was to keep the interview to 15 minutes sharp, which I did. But Bailey was someone I could have talked with for hours.

It’s not always like that, of course. There have been interviews with other celebrities that seemed long after five minutes.

And part of that is due to the nature of celebrity interviews. Whenever they have a new movie, TV show, record or book to promote, celebrities have to do so many interviews back to back — whether by phone, satellite or in person — that it must become extremely tiring.

     

Pearl Bailey and the animated character she voices in 'The Fox and the Hound' (1981).

After a dozen or so sessions, talking about themselves constantly, especially with the realization that no one is going to ask a question that hasn’t been asked 12 times already, it’s understandable that they might become bored or restless or even a bit testy.

Still, it’s the real professionals who can pull it off well — making you seem like you’re the first interview of the day — though you may be No. 29.

So it’s better to be among the first three or four interviews than the last five or six.

In the case of Bailey, she did 45 15-minute phoners over Tuesday and Wednesday, speaking from her hotel room in Chicago. She was so bouncy and fresh, however — seemingly enjoying herself so thoroughly — that it’s hard to imagine her becoming bored by it. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Pearl Bailey ever becoming bored at all.

Few celebrities have the ability to seem friendly, homey and genuine all at once. But that’s because few know how to just be themselves.

There are no airs about Pearl Bailey. She is just herself. As she puts it. “What you see is what you get.”

 

Pearl Bailey co-starred in 'Porgy and Bess' (1959) and 'Carmen Jones' (1954).

And how does she manage to seem just as fresh for No. 44 as she does for No. 2?

"I have to do it and I might just as well do it to best of my ability,” Bailey said. “And that’s what life is, honey.”

It’s even fewer celebrities who give you a lesson in life in so short a conversation.

As she hung up Bailey said, “We’ll meet again.”

Well, maybe. But if not, 15 minutes with Pearlie Mae can keep a smile on your face for a long time.