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Robin Leach Interview


(SD) 1. Thank you for your time! You seem to be quite the busy man these days. What brought you to Las Vegas and why?

(Robin Leach)
(Laughs) Well that's a long time ago now. That's 11 going on 12 years. I originally came out to do a project. I was with the Food Network after we ended the run of Lifestyles [of the Rich & Famous]. I became one of the founding fathers of the Food Network.

Meeting with all of the chef’s day & night that were appearing on the Food Network, it became obvious to me that the chefs were becoming stars just like touring rock bands. They were in such demand that I thought that a series of celebrity chef restaurants tied in with the TV studio here in Vegas would be a good creative enterprise to become involved with. That’s what really brought me to Vegas.

Then having landed here and working with the chefs to go in with their celebrity restaurants at the hotels here, I discovered there were many other areas of Vegas you could use television knowledge in. Up until that point television had sort of been a feared factor as it were in this city. So we thought of bringing television productions to the city and a friend of mine, George Maloof, who is the owner of the Palms, brought in the first MTV reality show to the city; Real World at the Palms. That started everybody coming in here from Jerry Springer to Oprah Winfrey and you name it. Vegas has really become a busy little TV location site; which is of course great to help promote the city. At the same time, we started doing this, (and I don't know if you've seen it) The blog, which sort of exploded and is now on; four different Vegas websites, The Sun newspaper, Las Vegas Weekly Magazine, and a show business magazine just called Las Vegas. That keeps me pretty busy, all those things.

I have a mobile TV studio here in Las Vegas and we have the great advantage of a fiber optics business, which means that any production company that wants to get their signal out from any location in this city, to anywhere in the world, literally, to London or Sydney, Australia will travel on our fiber optics system. Fiber optics being state of the art at the moment for television transmissions; means that someone speaking on the strip is in England in 1.2 seconds.

(SD) 2. Growing up, what was one goal that you aspired to achieve in the world of communications and have you conquered it yet in your profession?

(Robin Leach)
I always think the best is yet to come. If you don't think like that, I think you get stagnant and you stand still without moving forward. No, it’s very strange because it's a question I ask a lot of people are: What is your goal? What was your goal? And how have you achieved it?  

And I have to tell you that as a kid, my only goal, because I didn't know any better, was to work for my local newspaper. I thought that was the end all and be all of a dream. Instead of going on to a university I joined the local newspaper; thinking that you got your start literally from the streets and not from a class room. Having arrived at my local newspaper, it didn't take too long to find out there was city called London where there were bigger newspapers. Three years after I joined my local paper and got my proficiency exams in; journalism, law for journalism, shorthand, writing, economics, all of that, I joined The Daily Mail. Only then I suddenly realized there was a world out there of other places. So, at twenty-one, I flipped a coin, heads for America and tails for Australia. Luckily it came up heads for America.

When I came to the United States without a job and joined The Daily News, I suddenly discovered there was a thing called television which eventually would be the way to really tell stories with dramatic video and live feeds, live satellite feeds. It's been a process of not having goals, but finding new goals at each stage of the journey. I still think there are goals out there even though I don't know what they are yet and I think that's what keeps you fresh and active.

(SD) 3. You initially began your television career in Los Angeles (KABC-TV) and New York (WABC-TV). What was the single most important lesson that you inherited from the early days of reporting?

(Robin Leach)
When we were graduating journalism in Great Britain, lots of young journalists, the age 16/17, were taken away for a weekend to have the final examinations. One of the main segments of that weekend was to go out into the town we found ourselves in and come back within 2 hours with a story that was a blockbuster and write it within 60 minutes of us returning. So it was a 3 hour time trial to find the best story. As luck would have it, or whether saying you have a nose for news, or whatever, I wound up knocking on the door of a house and interviewing the lady there who turned out to be the war time secretary of Britain’s hero Sir Winston Churchill. She'd never ever talked to a journalist before that day. Not only did I pass my journalism proficiency test, but I also made a lot of money as a freelancer selling the interview.

The first day of working for my local newspaper I was thrown out into the street and was told to write a feature titled “On the Street Where You Live,” the editor literally threw a dart into a map of the town of Harrow and where ever the dart landed, you got sent to that street on a Monday morning. You had to find a story and return by Monday evening and write it. It was sort of a sadistic exercise on his part, but it was also great training.

That very first day that I went to work at fifteen years of age for my local paper the dart landed on a street and I went to it. It was pouring with rain, so I went in to an apartment building figuring if I couldn't work the street because it was pouring with rain I could work the hallways of the apartment building. I figured that the people who lived on the top floor would have the most expensive apartments and the very first door that I knocked on belonged to a man name Leslie Bricusse who was in the middle of writing a musical for Anthony Newley called “Stop the World I Want to Get Off.” and voila that was my story. Full circle three years later, I was given the same exercise to do for graduation on the proficiency; Amazing.

(SD) 4. Many people know you from “Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous” which ran for 14 successful seasons (1984-1995). What inspired you to create the luxurious format of the show?

(Robin Leach)
When you think about it, we were the first reality show. Unfortunately reality shows have gone down hill since then. We were on just before Geraldo decided to open Al Capone's safe, which was the next reality show.

We started Entertainment Tonight and I had moved over to launch Lifestyles because I thought the people really wanted to see how show business stars lived their private lives. It had never really been done before where you took cameras into someone's bedroom boudoir & home to talk about how much they spend on furnishing it, what their hobbies and interests were, and how many cars they have in their collections, and what other acquisitions that they had made to make their private lives more enjoyable. That had never been done before. I thought it was a good idea. Everybody thought that I was mad and should be marched off to a hospital with people in white coats and I know the very first night we aired our first two hour special we had a hit on our hands because every critic without fail slammed it as the worst form of television that could ever be invented. (Chuckles) We have a big hit on our hands.  

(SD) 5. Can you recall any outrageous or most memorable moments from your time as a host on The Surreal Life: Fame Games?

(Robin Leach)
The most outrageous was, of course, the angry outburst by Vanilla Ice when he thought he'd been betrayed by adult star Ron Jeremy. He broke up the entire set. I swear a cymbal was flying directly at my head which was why I ducked and dove to the floor. It took three maybe four of the production personnel to wrestle Ice to the floor and calm down his rage- but he broke one man's wrist in the melee. The good thing is that months later, Ron and Ice patched up the feud when Ron got to explain what he hadn't done that Ice thought he had! The most memorable part of Fame Games was not the ugly blue 60's tuxedo I wore each episode for the game show element although I will never forget how hideous it was! But the final moments of the series when it all came down between Ron and Baywatch beauty Traci Bingham, I remember thinking the critics would have a field day if Ron won and she didn't. But then he goofed and she turned out the winner so I didn't have to sweat it after all.

(SD) 6. With all the various events in town, how do you determine which ones to cover for Vegas Deluxe?

(Robin Leach)
I have a really great editor and a great photo team, so it's not really one person. All I have to do is report it and write it. I don't have to do the photos, I don't have to do the video, I don't have to do the physical act of posting to the website.  There is a team of people in the back of me who take care of the really extensive nuts and bolts as it were.

In making story selections it of course two fold, you go by your gut feel about any story involving any celebrity. We are very, very protective of the stars that work here, play here, & live here. Hard news is hard news. Feature news is fun news. Sitting at a Copy Desk of any newspaper or any news organization you really get to the point of knowing it by gut instinct and you don't become repetitive. So, as much as the temptation is to do a story six days a week about Kim Kardashian you can't, you mustn’t & you don't. So, you rotate the big names as they break and make news.

(SD) 7. What do you respect and cherish about your professional relationships with megastars such as Celine Dion, Cher, and Rod Stewart?

(Robin Leach)
I try to keep all my star contacts as good acquaintances. They can trust me. I've been in this business for 50 years. That song writer who was doing the Newley song I told you about, Leslie Bricusse, he is still a good friend of mine to this day. I've maintained acquaintances and maintained a good reputation in the time that I've been here. I'm very respectful of mega-stars who must have their own space and must have their own privacy. I think that it's healthy to have what I'll call a professional friendship, a professional acquaintance. I'm not one of them, I still regard myself as; the story teller, as the reporter, as the link between reader or viewer and the star.

(SD) 8. When you’re not in Las Vegas working, what other projects are you involved in and where do they take you?

(Robin Leach)
I always spend July in Italy and I always spend all of August down in La Jolla, California. (Those are the two hot months in Vegas) I do that because it is ten months of pretty intense work, almost around the clock.

I do a lot of charity work, I don't have to talk about it, but I do a lot of charity work. I tend to involve myself as a hobby in my work because I love food, I love chefs, I love restaurants. It's always been a great joy and delight to me. I count many of the big name chefs as friends of mine. So, it's great to go visit their restaurants and do tastings with them. I love fine wines and I would say that between charity and food and work that pretty much takes care of 24/7.

(SD) 9. What’s next for you and what do you look forward to doing in 2012?

(Robin Leach)
Again, going back to that answer I gave you about goals. I don't actually have any targets. If things come along that are of interest to me then I'll find a way to tackle them and perform them, but I have nothing other then what I'm doing at the moment on my plate. I want to expand what it is that we do for the city of Las Vegas; for the strip, it entertainers, and its residents.

I think that we've seen grow. Its news stories are used every day on radio stations websites across the country. I look at it that I'm a very lucky individual to live in Las Vegas which is the entertainment capital of the world. It is the fine dining capital of the world. If I'm the loud speaker or the loud voice to promote what goes on here to the rest of the world, so be it & I'm very content at doing this.

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