Parky, Michael Parkinson’s autobiography, is as engaging a recollection of a long career in media and entertainment as I was hoping.
He recalls the seemingly endless list of celebrities he interviewed, including Elton John, Dame Helen Mirren, Jennifer Lopez and James McAvoy, bringing each to life with surprising depth given what sometimes amounts to a few lines. With others, such as Richard Burton, he demonstrates a succinct understanding of the culture that helped him destroy himself. One of his favourite interviewees, a man he met several times over his career, was Muhammad Ali, and he fleshed out such a complex man with insight and articulation.
(It didn’t hurt that he was a complete fanboy for Marilyn Monroe, and while she was before his time, he interviewed almost everyone still alive who had worked with her or known her.)
What I found most interesting was that while he never lost his fascination with the greats of their age and field – from David Beckham to Oliver Reed to Madonna to Oprah – he never seemed overawed of them, either, which is what helps him flesh out these individuals beyond mere fandom. And while he is hardly the most unbiased opinion towards his own professionalism, he seems to have maintained a strong sense of ethics during his career, as well as a strong sense of what will work and what won’t, including refusing Sasha Baron Cohen’s request to do a scripting interview in character as Ali G, and the fact it was only in the twilight years of his career that he was able to interview Madonna because of her insistence at having conditions put on the show, something he never agreed to. His refusal to concede on this matter has no doubt contributed to the longevity and quality of his career.
A great read, rather light-hearted for a work of nonfiction, but thoroughly enjoyable and a rather insightful look into the worlds of media and entertainment, and the frequent points where they intersect.