THE INTERVIEW YEARS
Many of those who wrote for Interview during its heyday were rich, gay, famous, European aristocrats, trendsetters in fashion, art and culture, or part of Andy Warhol’s inner circle… Torgoff was none of these, and yet from his first article—interviewing the voluble actor Ray Sharkey in the steam room of the Atrium Club—it was clear that the magazine was a perfect fit for him. He had an insatiable curiosity about people and what made them tick, and a way of getting people to tell him things; it didn’t take long before he was on the masthead of Warhol’s publication as a Contributing Editor.
At the time Interview was a portal to the full breath and sweep of the cultural life of New York, and it brought Torgoff into the very nexus of the celebrity culture of the era. He covered the pop music scene with pieces about John Mellencamp, Huey Lewis and Teddy Pendergrass, but the magazine allowed him to branch out into other passions like film and theater. He began specializing in interviewing up and coming actors, filmmakers, and playwrights. He liked to take his subjects drinking at
McSorley’s Old Ale House, with the exceptions of those like Harvey Fierstein and Kathleen Turner, who preferred places like Sardi’s and the Russian Tea Room. Subjects included the twenty-six year old Mel Gibson, virtually unknown in America and just about to come out in Gallipoli, talking quite intimately about how his father had moved his family to Australia to escape the draft for the Vietnam War, and making a certain cult movie called Mad Max that was “quite violent”; Sam Waterston, relating tales of interminable months of cabin fever while living in Glacier National Park during the shooting of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, one of the great flops in the history of motion pictures; and Jeremy Irons, also unfamiliar to American audiences but about to breakout in Brideshead Revisited, sharing his candid experience of working with legends John Gielgud and Lawrence Olivier in the series: “It was strange because Olivier was there one weekend Gielgud the next—and Olivier, who was always the lion, who dazzled with his fitness and his technique and was always proud of that, is now a very sick man. And Gielgud, who was always very effete and quiet and delicate, is a similar age but in perfect health. So strange.”
Torgoff relished such impressions far more than gossip, and beyond pop music and movie culture, Interview allowed his interests to roam completely free. It was an indispensable opportunity for him to delve into the heated geopolitics of Central America with Joan Didion after the publication of Salvador, or to talk about boxing, crime and money with controversial promoter Don King, just as the FBI was investigating him. His cover stories were a case in point: Jack Nicholson after winning his Oscar for Terms of Endearment; the Kathleen Turner of Body Heat, at the very top of her game; Stevie Wonder, in an interview that ranged from blindness to apartheid; and perhaps most memorable of all, Yoho Ono at her most vulnerable, looking back at the year after the tragedy of the murder of John Lennon.