Continuing his series of columns, Melbourne radio legend Doug Aiton recalls his interview with Jimmy Stewart
I had watched James Stewart for decades, going back to his early Westerns when I was no more than a child.
To me he was the reason for going to the movies; I simply worshipped him.
So when it was announced that he was coming to Australia to publicize “Rear Window”, and other movies, I was quite excited. Although I didn’t expect to be interviewing him myself.
I was working at the almost-invisible 3DB with Kerrina Watson as my producer. I shouldn’t have been surprised; she managed to get countless “impossible” interviews.
She told me she was going to get him on my program but I didn’t take much notice because I thought we wouldn’t be in the running. So when she said that James Stewart was coming into the studio today, I just looked at her incredulously and thought “I bet he doesn’t!”
Then halfway through the program she wrote on the screen, “after this break I will bring in James Stewart.”
I didn’t even have time to get nervous. Soon the giant figure loomed above me and I found myself shaking hands with my hero.
He sounded just like James Stewart.
He was, obviously, very tall, and very thin. He was ageing but easy to recognize and of course he had this drawl which is unmistakable. He was, in fact, James Stewart but he said “You can call me Jimmy.”
My opening question was quite clever considering my state of mind. quoted him from one of his Westerns where he gets beaten up by two adversaries who depart the scene saying “be seein’ ya.”
Stewart gets to his feet and looks after them, then says “You’ll be seein’ me. You’ll be seein’ me. Every time you bed down for the night you’ll look back into the darkness and wonder if I’m there. And some night I will be. You’ll be seein’ me.”
Stewart looked at me in amazement, laughed, didn’t know what to say but was clearly impressed and from then on I had him in the palm of my hand.
I can’t remember the rest of the interview except that he answered a question about his favourite leading lady by saying: “wa-al, there was a little girl from Philadelphia called Myrna Loy…”
Stewart had an intriguing Yankee accent, much of which was due to him giving two syllables to one syllable words, the second syllable being lower in pitch.
Thus, “Loy” became “Lo-oy”. Even I sounded like him when I said it.
The rest of the interview proceeded well because he knew that I was very familiar with his work, and every time I demonstrated this, he laughed.
We were concluding the interview when Stewart suddenly said: “I could stay longer”.
The news was coming up so I said “we’ll be back soon”, and Jimmy stayed for double the time.
By now, I was feeling that he was just a close friend.
When we finished, he just said “so long Doug” and he eased his way out of my life.
But I still cherish that interview like no other.
About the Author
Doug Aiton was the Drive time Presenter at Melbourne’s 3LO from 1987 – 1997.
He has a combined past of newspapers and radio including a weekly column for the Sunday Age for about ten years. He is married to Judy and has three children.
Now in his 70s, Doug still presents a regular program on The Pulse Geelong.