Q. What are the secrets of successful people, would you say — their traits, their qualities?
A. I believe attitude has a lot to do with it. People who accept difficult jobs and overcome difficulties — I respect the way they do that and I've been influenced by it. Three coaches at Notre Dame made a big difference in my life, not that I played any football when I attended Notre Dame. But Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz — they all made a difference to me and I respected them for their attitudes about life and how they handled loss. Not to mention some of the great show business people that I met along the way, too.
Q. You've always given people a fair shake and allowed them to really shine on your show. How did you do that?
A. You're absolutely right about that, not that I did it so well, but that I tried. The reason I tried is I wanted those guests to look better than they did on anybody else's program. Even though it was just a little simple 9 o'clock in the morning show, yeah, I worked extra hard on that, not only for their value but for our value as well.
Q. Your book shares so many fun stories about people you've worked with over the years — David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Don Rickles, Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, and so many more. What's the secret of being able to get along with so many "big" personalities?
A. Well, when you're in television all your life and you conduct all these interviews, it's like a study in mankind. You're handling all different types of personalities. And so you've gotta make allowances here and there, if somebody's a little more uptight than another person, or somehow a little different. But they're all basically the same. And over the years I guess that has helped me assimilate people into my own friendships.
Q. You say that everybody is just trying to make their own path in life — to find their own way. Why is that so important to remember?
A. I had my years of struggling. Some of my shows failed miserably, and I was upset by it and it dented my confidence. But I never stopped. I kept going for it. And when I returned to New York from Los Angeles, I mean, it was make it or not — that was my last chance. And what a great chance it was, to make it in my own hometown. I knew by that point in my life that I had to be live on television. I couldn't have anybody writing for me; that didn't make sense. I couldn't deliver a joke if you asked me to. It would have to be live and spontaneous. And that's what I was able to have in New York, at 9 o'clock in the morning, and people all over the country seemed to respond to it.
Q. You made it look so easy, too! How?
A. Well, by that time I had kind of mastered it, I think, and whatever came out, came out.
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Maureen Mackey is a writer and editor based in New York.