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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Few Minutes With George Clooney In Maysville

OK, first of all, you can see why I'm a writer and not a photographer. But I thought you'd like to see my view from the red carpet of George Clooney's "Leatherheads" premeire Monday night in Maysville... while you read my account of the evening.

The FAQ when I returned from Maysville was: What's George Clooney like? And here's what I tell people: He's as nice as you'd want him to be. A total class act.

In my 20+ years on the TV beat, I've been to Hollywood red carpet events. In LA, when the stars walk down the red carpet, they wave to the crowds and talk to the press -- then hurry inside the door. In Maysville, Clooney and co-star Renee Zellweger arrived at 10 till 7 p.m. -- 70 minutes early -- and spent at least a half hour greeting the fans. They signed autographs, posed for pictures, and talked to folks up and down the temporary police barricade.

They don't do that in Hollywood. The stars really pleased the crowd, as you can see from my lame photos (we were up against the storefronts, across the red carpet from the barricades. Wish I had a better flash. Oh well...)

After George and Renee had gone the entire length of the crowd barricade, they retraced their steps and started down the red carpet to chat with the media. Clooney and Zellweger -- plus Gov. Steve Beshear, Mayor David Cartmell and George's dad Nick -- stopped and talked with each media outlet. Universal Pictures representatives had promised George would chat for a minute or two with each media outlet, since there was no press conference in Maysville. (George and Renee are doing press conferences in their other stops this week in Duluth (home of the "Leatherheads" fictional Duluth Bulldogs football team), and Salisbury, NC, and Greenville, SC, where they shot the film a year ago.)

George fulfilled his obligation with grace and humor in Maysville with the regional media, and representatives for People and Variety magazines, "Extra," "Inside Edition" and "Entertainment Tonight."

When he saw me, George greeted me like an old friend. I've known him since 1985 -- but hadn't spoken to him in eight years, and hadn't seen him since his aunt Rosemary's funeral in 2002 in Maysville. My first big story as the Enquirer TV writer in 1985 was about George as a regular on "Facts of Life." Every trip to LA I'd look him up, and he'd tell me about his latest regular role on a TV series -- "Roseanne," "Baby Talk," "Bodies of Evidence," "Sunset Beat," "Sisters." I remember talking on the phone with him in April of 1994, and he was telling me that his latest project was "the best thing I've ever done." He had turned down a starring role in a detective drama for a role in an ensemble drama called "ER." And he was right.

As he started to talk to me, the crowd shouted "George!" repeatedly. He turned to the crowd and told them, "Not right now, or John Kiesewetter will get mad at me!" That was pretty cool. Then I had my 3-4 minutes with him.

--About coming back to Maysville: He had always wanted to do a premiere in Maysville, where his father and aunts Rosemary and Betty were born. His aunts started their singing careers here, and his father started in radio. Rosemary premiered her "The Stars Are Singing" in Maysville in 1953. "There is sort of a full circle feeling because Rosemary was here years ago."

--Why now: "I've always wanted to do this. You have to find the proper film to do his, that feels like the right vibe to come back here. We couldn't bring 'Syriana' here. Since it ("Leatherheads") is a movie where they go on whistlestop tours all the time, it seemed like the perfect place to come." (The 1920s pro teams traveled by train to Akron, Ashland, Ironton, Dayton, Cincinnati and other towns with teams.)

--I knew he dreamed of playing football for mighty Moeller HS, which won five state championships in six years (1975-77, 1979-80). He wanted to attend Moeller after finishing at St. Susanna School in Mason. But the family moved to Augusta, KY, when he was in seventh grade. "I got traded to Augusta," he joked. "Gerry Faust was the Moeller coach, and he had great football teams. I would never made that cut."

--On playing football at age 45, with guys half his age, for the movie: "I got beat up.... I got smacked around. It hurt."

After I asked my questions, he had some for me: "How have you been? How's work? Is the paper doing alright? They're not bailing out too, are they?" (His father wrote for the Cincinnati Post, which ceased publication Dec. 31.) I assured him the Enquirer was doing very well these days. We shook hands and he said, "It's good to see you," and moved down the line to speak to Lexington and Louisville papers.

Like I said: He's as nice as you'd want him to be. A total class act. Hasn't forgotten his roots, or the people he's met along the way. Right before the "ER" premiere, George told me that had been able to work steady in LA because "I never got famous from working." His theory was that if you became famous for a role, you get pigeonholed and can't get other parts. He told me: "I managed not to get famous. And you can always work if you're not famous. The minute you're a hit, you're done -- unless you're a big hit. So I attribute it (constant work) to luck. Or shows getting canceled."

Well, he hit it big with "ER." He's world famous. Yet he hasn't ignored the small-town values from his childhood. He's giving back on a big scale for Darfur, and on a small scale to his family's hometown in Maysville. He made it sound in Maysville Monday that helping other people is no big deal:

"People grow up with parents and family who all did that. I'm not in any way unusual, from many of my friends and family in this area that do the exact same thing. I just happen to be a little bit more famous. There isn't much difference."

What more can I say? George Clooney is as nice as you'd want him to be.


at 3/26/2008 11:59 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey John--You might want to wipe the drool off your chin.

at 3/26/2008 12:34 PM Blogger Cicely said...

John did you get any time to speak with Renee?

at 3/26/2008 12:53 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Clooney is usually nice in person because his PR team tell him to be. It's the Clooney away from the cameras that's the real deal and a different story. He doesn't fool me.

at 3/26/2008 1:17 PM Anonymous lauren said...

He sounds like a great guy! I can't wait to see the movie, it will be nice to see him in a comedy that isn't related to the "Ocean's" franchise.

at 3/26/2008 1:19 PM Blogger John Kiesewetter said...

Yes, I spoke some with Renee. She praised Clooney as a director, saying he was able to juggle acting, directing and editing like a seasoned pro. "Leatherheads" was only the third movie he has directed.
Her quote: "At this early early stage in his career behind the camera, to be that accomplished, I just find it so impressive."

at 3/26/2008 2:30 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiese, great piece! I find George politically to be mostly my polar oposite, but I still have a great deal of respect for him, especially what he and his father are doing for Darfur. I have always liked him as an actor though, and he always seens to be having a great time making movies. You could often see that with the cast in the Ocean franchise, that all of them seemed to enjoy working together, and this film comes across as the same way. And no matter what some say, isn't it nice to have nice little places in our community like Maysville/Augusta, and isn't it nice when those nice little places get the chance to put on the Ritz like this? Sounds like you can take the boy out of our city, but you can't take this wonderful city out of the boy, and that at the end of the day is a darn good thing.

at 3/26/2008 4:30 PM Anonymous rms said...

John, great piece! Thanks for working hard to give us your perspective.
Much appreciated!

at 3/27/2008 8:51 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

He seems like a nice enough guy but his support of Obama is a downfall, for sure.

at 3/27/2008 9:05 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 11:59: Are you always so cynical?

at 3/27/2008 11:53 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great spectacle, all this to show his small town roots.(oops, I mean promote a movie to make more money). I bet they they took trains all the way from Hollywood to keep the eco-"carbon footprint" to a minimum. (No wait, they flew private jets instead). I am always impressed with actors political views, just as I am w/ the trash collectors, used car salesmen, or what I would expect someone to think of my political views - it means nothing.
All this hoopla, is nothing more than Hollywood's version of jock-sniffing a pro athlete. The local media was used as a pawn to promote a movie and a staged reception. Great PR team.
I can't wait for the local media to jump on the next local talent that ended up finishing 749th in american idol. I just can't wait for more jock-sniffing!

at 3/27/2008 4:30 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not cynical. Just would like to see some critiquing from a critic, instead of softball questions, and a subsequent gushing column.

at 3/27/2008 5:28 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article John. Your photos are fine, especially the closeup of George. George is the personification of his father, Nick. It's easy to see how his parents helped George to stay grounded and decent.
(PS: Wish it were possible to keep creeps like "Cynical 11:59" from posting. They just bored, childish perverts.)

at 3/27/2008 9:05 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


Considering YOU SCREEN the comments, why DO you let such snarky remarks post and create a smart aleck, hostile atmosphere? MOST MODERATED blogs try to keep things classier and not allow trolling.

just a suggestion.

Also, you EVER going to give an UPDATE on Burbanks retirement? Is he doing ok?

at 3/27/2008 9:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I really did enjoy the article on George. :)

at 3/30/2008 11:15 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

BEFORE the red earpet event, he spent 20 - 30 minutes outside our hotel (the French Quarter Inn) (where his whole entourage was staying ACROSS THE HALL from us )- and signed autographs and posed for pictures with screaming fans who were smart enough to find out where he was staying. He was so close my mom stood next to him with her hand on his shoulder and the burly bodyguard just smiled and let her. VERY NICE PEOPLE. He spoke to everyone who asked him a question and just like his father NIck, he looks you right in the eye when you speak and he LISTENS. Very rare in even a non-celeb. This man was raised by classy people with down hown values. I dont care who he supports for President. He puts his money where his mouth is. Read the TIME magazine article called the Last Movie Star.

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