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Jul 22, 2015

I’m going to school today and you’re all invited to sit in on a master class with me. Teaching a course on getting the “get” and not screwing it up once you have it will be my guest, master celebrity interviewer and media consultant Elliot Mintz. It’s okay if you’re asking yourself, “Who is Elliot Mintz?” It just means you’re likely from a younger generation, one that didn’t come up in the post-Beatles pop culture of the 1970s.

ELLIOT MINTZ podcast excerpt: "I lived in Laurel Canyon and I received a phone call from my mother. She heard a news bulletin that there was a shooting outside of The Dakota. There were no other details. I dialed the phone number of the (lobby) where the doorman is. I said, 'Hi, this is Elliot. Just calling to make certain everything is okay.' And he hung up on me. I knew then that nothing was okay. I packed a quick bag, booked American Airlines flight 10 from LAX... About 15 minutes after takeoff, I saw a flight attendant emerge from the cockpit and she was in tears. I said, 'Are you okay?' She said, 'They just killed John Lennon.'"

Mintz, to the best of my recollection, first came to my attention for his close ties to John Lennon and Yoko Ono throughout the 1970s and for his continued presence as a media consultant for Yoko following John’s murder. He first entered their sphere as a TV reporter for KABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles where a 1971 interview he conducted with Ono went so well – and was perceived as unusually fair – that Lennon agreed to be interviewed.

But while most people who lived through this era will remember Mintz for his Lennon-Ono connection, he was also quite an accomplished journalist, recording conversations with a who’s who of the era, including Jack Nicholson, Allen Ginsberg, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, Dennis Hopper, Jayne Mansfield and many, many more.

ELLIOT MINTZ podcast excerpt: "What was Salvador Dali like? He was highly theatrical. He was a salesman He was self-absorbed. He knew that he may have been, at the time, if not the greatest living artist, certainly the ultimate artist in the field of surrealism. He was without comparison; he was without competition. He rejoiced in who he was. Dali was effusive; he spoke rhapsodically about Alice Cooper, talked about wanting to get into holograms. John and Yoko had met him a couple of years beforehand; I had spent a lot of time with John and Yoko in the '70s, so being with them was like being with old friends. But having them there for the radio interview I was doing with Dali altered the vibe. From time to time, Dali would say something and you would hear John and Yoko make a comment back. They didn't take the whole thing terribly seriously. I was honored to be in Dali's presence, but it was a terrible interview. I wanted to know whether he took psychedelic drugs. And I wanted to know the thinking behind the masterpieces. I'm sitting next to the creator! But I was just terrible! On the other hand, by Dali's standards, all of his interviews were good because he was in them!"

Oh, and then there is this: he was a student at Los Angeles City College on November 22, 1963, when a guy behind him, future Los Angeles radio personality Roland Bynum, recognized a name and face on the television as someone he knew from the military. “Hot damn! That’s Lee!”

Lee? “Yeah, I served in the Marine Corps with him!”

ELLIOT MINTZ podcast excerpt: "Roland Bynum spent time with Lee Harvey Oswald when they were in the Marines together. They had discussions. I interviewed Roland and took that tape and made it available to the all-news radio station in Los Angeles. Within minutes of it airing, I began receiving hundreds of phone calls; by evening, it was on the network news. I was 21. It was my first 'scoop.' How unlikely that positioning was under the umbrella of destiny. And how sad that my journey began at the death of America's innocence."

No sh!t. His classmate had been up-close-and-personal with Lee Harvey Oswald. That interview – he quickly took his classmate into a recording studio – was Elliot Mintz’s first scoop as a cub reporter. The wild ride was on. But it’s Mintz’s story; I’ll let him tell it.

Key moments:

7:13 November 22, 1963, watching news reports of the Kennedy assassination when a Los Angeles County College classmate recognizes Lee Harvey Oswald, with whom he served in the Marines;

16:33 Interviewing Salvador Dali (accompanied by John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Gala Dali);

42:43 Hearing of the assassination of his close friend, John Lennon, en route to The Dakota Building.

Elliot Mintz Website/Interview ArchiveFacebookYouTube

LISTEN! Keith Elliot Greenberg talks to Mr. Media about his book, December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died