On Thursday night in Charlotte I was laying in my bed at the hotel willing my body to heal itself while at the same time wracking my brain trying to think of questions to ask Tony Stewart.
I was set to interview Tony the next day at the Office Depot in Pineville, a small suburb just south of Charlotte, before he signed autographs for his fans.
I didn’t want to ask Tony the usual questions about his car for the race that weekend, or how he felt about Charlotte Motor Speedway or anything about his team and the usual competition-related questions. I only want to ask people things that I’m curious about. Of course what I really wanted to ask him about was his love life, but since this was my first time meeting him EVER I figured that wouldn’t be the way to go.
Plus, this is Tony Stewart. He’s the most intimidating person, at least to me, to interview. I’ve been at press conferences where he’s cut people down with like two words. I’ve seen people live that Southwest commercial where they ask “Wanna get away???” because they asked Tony something he felt wasn’t worthy of an answer.
So the bar was raised high but I felt like this opportunity was a best-case scenario for me to “be me” and ask the stuff you can’t get away with at a traditional press conference. I wanted to do something different.
Then it came to me. I would ask Tony the ten questions that James Lipton host of the TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” asks all of his guests at the end of each episode. Lipton took the questionnaire concept from French TV personality Bernard Pivot, who adapted it from the Proust Questionnaire.
Anyway, I love that segment of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and I think the answers that people give can be pretty telling sometimes. So that was it, I jotted the questions down and prayed to all of the gods and goddesses that Tony would be in the perfect mood to answer ‘em.
Friday arrived and I was feeling a lot better and felt like I had my sickness under control enough not to sneeze uncontrollably on Tony. I got to the Office Depot store like 10 minutes late after hitting some serious traffic. I hoped I hadn’t missed my chance, but as it turned out Tony was running late too because of all of the heinous traffic. He hadn’t arrived yet, so I was in the clear and I still had the chance to meet him.
Eventually Tony arrived and I got my moment after a local NBC affiliate filmed a short interview with him. This was all happening before Tony took to a desk and autographed stuff for fans, so there was a long line of hundreds of people snaking through and outside of the store waiting for their time with Tony too. But they couldn’t start until I finished with him first.
So I met him and we shook hands and said hello. I assured him that he could be in The Fast and the Fabulous and still be very, very manly.
I didn’t have my usual digital recorder with me and I had tested the voice recorder on my cell phone before I came to the store, but wouldn’t you know it the application decided to give me a lame error message RIGHT in front of Tony Stewart. This was not the time or the place to be having a technical problem. It wouldn’t work, so I let it go and thought that I would just “remember” his answers. ha! Luckily someone handed me a pen and I just wrote everything down as best I could.
Did I mention that I was nervous??
So here are the questions and Tony’s answers:
1.) What is your favorite word? Win
2.) What is your least favorite word? Lose
3.) What turns you on? Fast cars and hot women
4.) What turns you off? Slow cars and ugly women
5.) What sound or noise do you love? Thunder storms
6.) What sound or noise do you hate? Fingernails on a chalkboard
7.) What is your favorite curse word? Shit
8.) What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? If I could be really good at it, a rock star.
9.) What profession would you not like to do? Waste management, working in sewers
10.) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Welcome my friend, have a great time!
I must note that throughout the interview he was smiling and super nice. At the end he was like “That was fast, are there any more questions??” He wanted to answer more of them. You know what that means, he was having a good time! Yay! At that point I felt like I had won. We took a photo together (as you can see below) and I returned to the group of people gathered behind us, Office Depot store staff and PR people. Lisa, my Office Depot PR contact, had to tell me to look up and at Tony because he was in the middle of giving me a compliment. He said that that was the most fun he’d had in an interview in a long time and that it was nice there weren’t any curve balls or anything.
I thanked him and said “Well, that’s what I was going for!” I wanted him to enjoy it and know that I could be trusted. I’m always striving for that when I talk to anyone, especially since I think people aren’t sure of what to do with bloggers anyway. I wasn’t trying to play gotcha with him and he appreciated it. I was, of course, over the moon excited. This was and still is super huge in my book and totally made the whole trip to Charlotte, like, ten times more amazing.
That’s a genuinely happy Tony Stewart standing next to me!