Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ten Questions Tuesday with Les Roberts

Today Miscellaneous Yammering is pleased as punch to present the lovely, talented, very charming, quick witted and extremely sexy Les Roberts. Les is an author/actor/game show creator/game show producer/tv comedy writer/radio show host/book critic/ man about town. [whew!] He doesn't believe in sleeping apparently…. and oh yeah, he has one of the best looking lady friends that I've ever seen. This man enjoys his life folks, bet on it…… http://www.lesroberts.com/

Les's new book, King of the Holly Hop, his fourteenth book in this very successful series
is set, as are all of the other thirteen [insert the word freakin here in your head] books in the Cleveland area.

Please join me while I vigorously wave my Miscellaneous Yammering rally towel to welcome Les Roberts to today's Ten Questions Tuesday.

K: Good morning Les, thank you for coming in to see me today. I like your ascot, or is that a cravat? I always get them mixed up…but either way? Very James Bond. And it sets off your eyes quite nicely.

L: Actually it's a NOOSE, the kind that cuts off breathing and incurs violently bloodshot eyes---which is why it sets off my eyes so well.

K: Are you ready to get going? Do you need anything else to make you more comfortable? Are you ok with just the two strippers and that snifter of brandy?

L: If this were ten years ago or more, I'd want way more than just two strippers. (Truth be told, I've never been attracted to stripper types. Marilyn Monroe, Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield never really turned me on, although I met Jayne several times and liked her as a person---VERY intelligent and funny. The real beauty that gets to me is in the eyes and face---see my website to find out why.) However, true love throws a wrench into things like that, so the brandy is just lovely---with maybe another one when we get further down into this questioning. BTW, I used to enjoy brandy---cognac, actually---all the time. Now, however, I've cut my alcohol consumption way down. And I NEVER drank when I was writing---or answering questions.

K: Got it…just enough strippers, just enough brandy for now, but leave the bottle….ok then, let's get started.


K: Les, a pretty boy actor type named Saxon was the main character in your first series of books, which are unfortunately out of print because I'd love to have a copy of An Infinite Number of Monkeys...but for your second series of books you chose to go a completely different way. Milan Jacovich could in no way be described as a pretty boy. (see artist's rendition here)

What made you decide to go with a more rough and tumble main character for the fourteen books (so far) in this series?

L: In Los Angeles, practically everyone IS a pretty boy or a drop-dead gorgeous woman, and Saxon was a pretty typical L.A. type, especially since he was also trying to be a successful actor. Now in Cleveland, there's a difference. I've rarely seen Cleveland women who would be noticed very much walking along Sunset Boulevard or Canon Drive (Beverly Hills), even though the woman I've been in love with for ten years (we met in NE Ohio) is very beautiful indeed. Same with men; I've never seen (or noticed) the rare "hot babe" male in Cleveland. Milan Jacovich, 40ish when the series began, is a big, tough-looking guy losing some of his hair, as many Slovenian men do, and walking around with a space between his teeth (so he can smile and spit in somebody's eye at the same time.) Saxon had a hair-trigger temper and was always getting into fights, some of which he loses because he's not nearly as tough as he thinks he is. Milan doesn't get into fights unless someone throws the first punch---and a guy 6'3" and 230 lbs who's big and wide enough to have played offensive nose tackle sure wouldn't make ME consider sucker-punching him. Saxon was something of a "playa," seducing a different female in each book. Milan is nowhere NEAR being a swinger, and from what I hear from readers, they like him because he's a decent, ethical man. He's certainly had his romances---like most people---but the books I write about him are much more about crime and murder and morality and less about screwing. (Is it OK to use that word, or should I substitute "making the beast with two backs" or "scoring" or, God help us for being so uptight, "having erotic congress"?)

K: No, Les, you're fine, you could have gone ALL THE WAY to for unlawful carnal knowledge.. and we would have been fine….well, most of us would have been fine…get that lady in the back some smelling salts won't you?

K: Milan drinks Stroh's beer. Does Milan drink Stroh's because a) it's cheap or b) because it tastes the same [pretty bad] warm or cold?

L: Milan drinks Stroh's Beer because he is a Slovenian, and almost ALL Slovenians in the Cleveland area drink it. I've been writing about him drinking Stroh's for fourteen books now, but never had one myself until last fall when I did a book signing in Mentor and a good friend took me to a restaurant for lunch whose owner was a huge Milan fan and delivered an ice-cold Stroh's to my table for me. I did drink it, and found that while not anywhere near my favorite beer, it wasn't all that terrible, either.

K: I love that in the most recent book Milan goes to his fortieth high school class reunion. Did you enjoy aging the character over the years?

L: He and I aged together. Actually when I began writing about him in 1988 he was a Vietnam veteran (in the book). Who knew I'd continue writing about him twenty years later? So yes, I had to age him, and it has given me an entire new "way to go" as far as a nearly sixty-year old private eye getting into trouble is concerned.

K: I have been known to say that the things that I write are as real to me as the things that I live. And that they are sometimes the same things, thinly disguised. You say that like me, your life bleeds into your work. That what you write you have either seen, or lived already. You have written a lot about the Cleveland mafia. So, if I need someone whacked, do you know a guy?

L: If I tell you I'll have to kill you. Let's just say I have many good friends of the Italian persuasion here in Cleveland, many of whom live on or around Murray Hill, i.e. "Little Italy." I also have many Irish friends, Jewish friends, Slovenian friends, etc.

K: You like pussies. [shut up minions] It's traditional for me to ask about pets. I'm sorry to say that you lost your muse, your beloved cat , Sonny. Is there currently a furry friend under your desk when you're writing?

L: Isabel, whom we rescued from a Michigan kennel, is a drop-dead beautiful Maine Coon Cat---and she wouldn't dream of sitting UNDER a desk---more like on top of it---or in my favorite chair---or in bed. She is the most demanding, manipulative, and loving female I've ever known.

K: You haven't allowed Milan to find true love. Since his divorce, he maintains an attitude of I'm a world weary PI, I carry a gun, I know how to use it and my feelings can't go all warm and fuzzy over some dame because then I could get distracted and get my head shot off. If you ever decided to end the series would you rather kill Milan off or have him ride off into the sunset with a beautiful woman by his side?

L: Milan hasn't found true love because he's so damn stubborn and set in his ways, i.e. there's black (bad) or good (white) and nothing in between. I believe that readers, especially women readers, love him because he IS a lonely guy, and they worry about him. If I fixed him up permanently, he'd lose a great deal of his fascination. But I have no plans of ending the series at all---I'll probably collapse at my desk writing it thirty or more years from now. But I'd never EVER kill him off. He is the narrator of all my books, i.e. he's actually talking to the reader. So if I kill him off, who is telling that last story, hmmm? Think about it, okay?

K: You've worn a lot of hats in your life. Literally and figuratively…you really rock a hat by the way, I've seen pictures….one of your early career moves really fascinated me because I have always been a huge fan of Paul Lynde and also of Lucille Ball. How the heck did you go from producing and writing for Hollywood Squares, regularly feeding Paul Lynde really really hilarious snarky lines to writing for the lovely and very unsnarky Lucille Ball? And since Lucy [if I have the timeline right] would have been single when you knew her…. I know a gentleman doesn't kiss and tell…..but just between us, did you ever see Lucy [lets be delicate here] in a state of dishabille?

L:Have you gone completely insane? Do you think I'd ever tell you WHO I slept with, especially if it's a major movie star but even if it weren't? Listen, kiddo, I firmly believe in not kissing-and-telling---about ANYONE. I have two children, and as far as the rest of the world is concerned, I am otherwise a virgin. Let's leave it at that. However, to somewhat defuse your speculation, Lucille Ball was more than twenty years older than I, and when I knew her she was very much married to Gary Morton, her second and last husband.

K: Speaking of redheads, you worked on the Andy Griffith show for a while, what was Ron Howard like as a kid? Ever pitched him something now that he wears his director's hat 24/7?

L: If I had a bald head like he does, I'd wear MY director's hat 24/7 too. No, I don't pitch movies anymore---I spent too many years of my life doing that. He was the only actor kid I've ever known who was completely normal---and that's why he grew up normal. And extremely talented, too. (I really loved his "Frost/Nixon" film.)

K: Over the years you've had a variety of actors in mind to play Milan in a movie. A) Would you write the screenplay? B) Would you write yourself a cameo and C) Depending on what age you wanted to start Milan out on the big screen, who would be your current choice to play him in a film coming to a theatre near you?

L: One of my books IS optioned for a film, and A) yes, I WAS asked, and I've co-written the screenplay already. B) I haven't written myself a "cameo," but the producers have insisted that Holly and I be background extras in one of the scenes. C) If I had my druthers, my #1 actor's choice to play Milan Jacovich would be Robert Mitchum, but sadly, he's dead---and if he were alive he'd be somewhere in his nineties. I DO have a current choice, but because we are negotiating with actors and directors and things, I dare not tell you his name. It is NOT, however, Will Ferrell, Mike Meyers or Ben Stiller, who have made the three worst films I've ever seen in my life: "The Land of the Lost," "The Love Guru" and "The Heartbreak Kid."

And finally……

K: You're an accomplished Jazz musician [the national women's bikini volleyball team, in tiny bikinis and three inch stilettos, parade waving and smiling hugely, wheel in a shiny black baby grand] would you favor us with a song? And for the print audience [did I mention that this interview was being simulcast in Dolby surround sound?] please describe the number as you play and tell us why you chose this particular piece to share with us today.

L: When I played piano professionally I knew approximately 7,000 songs (no kidding), but I doubt if I remember five per cent of them any more. My favorite song of all-time is completely unknown to anyone except a very few jazz players/singers: "Blackberry Winter" written by Alec Wilder and Lonis McGloohan. My favorite song many people (over the age of 40) have heard is "All the Things You Are" (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II). And then of course, when I was playing publicly and someone attractive walked in to listen, there were a basketful of what I always thought as "successful make-out songs." But I won't go into those here.

[After the applause dies down]

K: Les, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for coming in to see me today. I really had a lot of fun. Here's your Miscellaneous Yammering personalized brandy snifter with the date etched in the side. I'd love to have you back another day. I think we should make this a regular thing. How about you?

L: Like every Tuesday? Like I don't write book reviews for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and attend and review on podcast two feature films every week? Like I don't make about 15-20 speeches every year all over the Midwest? Like editing a friend's novel (for the third time)? Like having a social life? And oh yeah, trying desperately to write at least one and a half books every year? Sure, let's make it a regular thing; I'm just not all that busy.

But seriously, thanks, answering these questions was fun.

K: [looks chagrined] You're absolutely right, what was I thinking?

We should make it every OTHER Tuesday then…..

Read the first two chapters of King of the Holly Hop

You won't be sorry. Then you'll run, not walk to buy a copy so you can find out what happens next.


Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks so much for taking time out of your ridiculous schedule to yammer with me. I really got a kick out of you. You are such a charming man and were a delight to work with on this Q&A.
So, I can count on you to be my Charles Grodin right? Like on Letterman, any time Letterman had someone cancel, Charles stepped up.....

Les? Les? where did he go?...hmmmmm..he must have just stepped out for a minute....

mdvelazquez said...

Loved it. Come back, Les!

Who gave him those track shoes? Who? :-)

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Maria,
He's a great guy. And generous with his time.
Glad you enjoyed it....

Karen :0)

judy said...

I think any interview that results in being told "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you," must be a whopping success. Thank you Karen for another excellent TQT, and Les, I'm off to see if I can find a version of Blackberry Winter on iTunes.

Karen from Mentor said...

Yes, and when said by a man who looks like he could do it? Not taken lightly.....

But his eyes WERE twinkling...so HOPEFULLY he was kidding.... :0)

I found Blackberry Winter and sent it to you via email...

Cat Connor said...

Fabulous interview Karen! (as always)
Throughly enjoyed it - nice to meet you Les.

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Cat,
Glad you liked it. Since you've got two books under your belt already, you could keep coming back as each new book is published for me to interview you too until you have fourteen books in all in one series(tying Les) then we could have an author party. (with tiaras of course)

But wait, there's a problem..by then Les will have published more books... at a rate of one a year or so......hmmm... that wouldn't work...someone do a math algorithm for me will ya? As in a Cat/Les/Books published ratio.....

Karen :0)

Craig W. said...

Great interview, Karen. But don't ever let the phrase "erotic congress" be used again. Too many bad images of politicians ...

Karen from Mentor said...

Lol what is it with you Craig?...everything is just politics or Sex....

Thanks for stopping in.
Nice to see you sir.

Karen :0)

musingwoman said...

Great interview! and your questions are much more interesting than that Bernard Pivot person.

Karen from Mentor said...

Oh that's funny. James Lipton would cringe, but I enjoyed it.


Rachel said...

That was fun. However, I think I should say: On behalf of all Cleveland women, we are offended. To be fair, I've never been to California, but isn't everyone there fake blond and super tan? I'm sorry, bleached hair and skin cancer is just not pretty. PLUS, a Cleveland woman would therefore stand out in Califoria because she has a normal hair color, non-cancer infested skin, AND still manages to look nice.

Tee hee. I fully support that "not telling people who you've slept with" thing. Children deserve to be able to think of their parents as virgins, no matter how much science tries to prove them wrong.

Karen from Mentor said...


You go girl. [that was funny]