When I look back on my life for memorable moments, exciting flashbacks come flooding in. One such moment stands out above all the rest in my career before a camera. It was the day on the Snake River in Wyoming when I interviewed President Ronald Reagan.
For the previous five years, I had been appearing on ABC Home Show, a national show that came on at 10 o’clock in the morning across America. I had a weekly segment for five minutes, which was challenging and fun. In fact, going down to Los Angeles every week was like attending an incredible party.
This particular week a producer, a cameraman, and I were assigned to follow a bus tour to Montana, then Yellowstone, ending up on the Snake River. We followed the bus in the car, and wherever they stopped we did a segment for the show. It was a trip full of memories and some exciting adventures, one of which was panning for gold when we were in Montana. Another, when floating down the Snake River, was showing the viewers how to cook a hotdog in a thermos.
At the end of the week, we were off our boat, standing around on the banks of the Snake River, and gathering our items for our return to California. We were just milling about, walking along the bank of the river, waiting for the last of the boats to come in when we noticed a lot of people dressed in black suits and black ties. Some seemed to be talking to their watches on their wrists, and I was curious. I asked my producer who these people were and what was happening. He replied with a smile and with some enthusiasm that it was actually the Secret Service for President Reagan. Then he pointed and said, “That’s his boat, and he’s just about here.”
With a lump in my throat at actually meeting or at least seeing the president of the United States up close, I looked up the river, and I could see President Reagan and Nancy in the front of their boat, just about ready to land. The producer then turned to me and with a grin said, “I have received permission for you to interview him.” I was stunned and in a moment of confusion asked, “What do you want me to say to him?” He handed me the mic and said, “I guess you’ll figure that out.”
I didn’t have time to get nervous. The boat carrying the president of our country was already hitting the bank of the Snake. I walked quickly to the boat, reached out my hand to greet the president and his wife, Nancy, and then asked the only question that came into my head. Gratefully we were standing right in front of the Grand Tetons, and I asked him what he thought of that magnificent view. He very graciously began to chat with me and our audience about how incredible he thought the view was and the time on the Snake had been. We talked for perhaps five minutes. I may have been all jitters inside, but he was at ease and seemed to want me to be. And I was delighted to have had this unique experience.
It wasn’t too many years later that I went to the Reagan library full of Reagan history. I sat in the back and reflected on my brief history with that fantastic man, which was one of the most incredible experiences in my TV career.