WEDNESDAY, JULY 11
Tonight, I conducted the most extraordinary, unpredictable, weird and potentially dangerous interview of my life. Robert Blake is a scandalous Hollywood figure — a bona fide movie star ( he was brilliant in the multiple Oscar-nominated In Cold Blood, based on Truman Capote’s book), accused of murdering his wife Bonny Lee Bakley in 2001. He was acquitted after a sensational court case but then found liable for her death in a civil action brought by her family.
Bankrupt and unemployable, he disappeared for the next decade. And this was his first TV interview since. He arrived in my CNN studio, wild-eyed and aggressive, stared menacingly at me and snarled: ‘We’re not going to have any problems, right?’ ‘I’ve no idea,’ I laughed. ‘Are we?’ He ignored me, instead checking his face carefully in the camera monitor. Things started okay but then, after 10 minutes, he suddenly exploded when I said I wanted to ‘get to the truth’ about what happened to his wife.
‘Are you calling me a LIAR?’ he yel led. ‘ NOBODY CALLS ME A F***ING LIAR!’
And from then on, it became more a gladiatorial battle than an interview. He shouted, berated, cursed (46 times, all of which had to be ‘bleeped’ — believed to be an all-time CNN record for one hour of programming), threatened and ranted in one of the most spectacular meltdowns I’ve ever witnessed from a celebrity.
Bizarrely, he also took to repeatedly calling me ‘Charlie Potatoes’, which I later discovered was a line from the 1958 Tony Curtis movie The Defiant Ones, about a man who struts around like he’s the richest, most successful and popular guy in town. (I know, ridiculous, right?)
Halfway through his demented tirade, Blake theatrically stripped off his jacket, revealing a leather vest. At which point, four of the CNN security team, who’d been watching outside with increasing concern, quietly slipped inside the studio and stood guard behind the cameras.
After the show aired, Twitter blew up with reaction from all over the world.
‘Ah, life is worth living again,’ sighed one of my favourite authors, Bret Easton Ellis, ‘watching the Robert Blake interview with Piers Morgan.’ Actress Mia Farrow said simply: ‘Robert Blake… Ohhhhhhhh.’
The most unlikely commentary came from Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton footballer who nearly died on the pitch last season, and who was watching in New York, where he was on holiday.
‘Very good interview, Sir. He couldn’t handle your questions, especially about his wife. You just go straight to the point, which is good, but sometimes you put people under serious pressure and they find it hard to respond.’
It’s true Blake flipped when I asked him directly if he’d killed his wife. But the strange thing is that for all his craziness I still have no idea if he did or not.
SATURDAY, JULY 14
‘ We have to stop this recent culture of people telling us they’re offended,’ tweeted Ricky Gervais this morning, ‘and expecting us to give a f***.’
I chuckled when I read it, because it’s so true. We’ve become a ridiculously thin- skinned society — liable to mouth-foaming indignation at the merest suggestion of a half- insult. Twitter highlights this curious modern phenomenon every day.
For amusement, I retweeted Ricky’s comment with the words: ‘That’s so rude.’
And then it started. Hundreds of enraged tweets began to pour in from people assuming I was being serious. Half angry that I was offended by Ricky’s call for fewer people to be offended, the other half angry at Ricky for being offensive by calling for people to stop being so offended.
After a while, Ricky, seeing the same reaction, appealed for calm: ‘Pretty sure Piers was playing along, as opposed to really being offended. Keep up twonks.’
‘ No,’ I retorted, ‘ I’m genuinely offended — you’ve just gone too far.’ Which, of course, sent Twitter into a new frenzy of even more righteous fury.
‘Take a joke, Morgan!’ someone raged. ‘ Ricky speaks his mind and that’s the way it should be!’
‘You’ve got a cheek criticising Ricky,’ spat another. ‘You’ve made a lot of money offending people on America’s Got Talent, you hypocrite.’
Others raced to my defence. ‘All that Piers did was speak his mind,’ stated one lady. ‘Ricky was way out of line and Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the last US Presidential election, spent six years as a prisoner-ofwar in Vietnam. He was systematically beaten, abused and tortured until left a virtual broken man.
Today, I finally got to meet and interview him, and afterwards he took me into his Washington office and showed me photos and pieces of memorabilia on his walls.
In a far corner was a framed citation. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. He stopped, his cheekbones tweaked hard , and he said: ‘Somebody sent me this — it’s the original official navy report on my service in Vietnam.’
I read it carefully. It detailed how McCain, often held in solitary confinement, had been exposed to ‘extreme mental and physical cruelties’. But though ‘crippled from serious and ill- treated injuries’, he refused repeated offers of freedom unless prisoners who’d been held longer than him were released too. ‘His selfless action served as an example to others,’ read the citation, ‘and his forthright refusal, by giving emphasis to the insidious nature of such releases, may have prevented possibly chaotic deterioration in prisoner discipline.’
I turned back to McCain. ‘How on earth did you find the courage to do that?’
‘I had no choice,’ he said, his eyes welling up. ‘These men were my friends.’
That’s not true, of course. He had a choice. He just opted for the one that says all you need to know about the man.