Mark Dinning is celebrating 15 years working in the magazine industry
Time Out Dubai staff
Get this for freaky: as I pondered what I should write for this column, to be published in our very special issue celebrating 15 glorious years of the Burj Al Arab, something hit me. This week, no word of a lie, marks EXACTLY my 15th anniversary of working in magazines. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Maybe something subliminal was going on in the ideas meeting for this week’s issue. Maybe greater forces are at work (although one thing’s for certain: a decade and a half later, that building has aged a lot better than I have).
Anyway, there I was at the end of November 1999, sitting at a desk near the bins, on an internship at a movie magazine, listening intently as the then-features editor called journalist after journalist, trying and failing to book them to go and interview Richard Harris the next day. Richard Harris! The man was a bona fide legend. Hair-raising best-bud of Burton and O’Toole. A true A-lister. Acting titan.
The calls stopped at about 4pm, the contacts book dry. I took a breath and went for it: ‘I could go, if you really need someone?’ The entire office turned to look at me, like I was on fire. The features editor got back on the phone.
Those greater forces must have been at work back then too, though, because the next morning there I was, in the suite at London’s Savoy that Harris had bought at the peak of his powers and had lived in ever since. He eventually arrived about an hour later, banging on his own door like a banshee, having lost his key (and what appeared to be much of his sanity) the night before.
I was, frankly, terrified – which was something not lost on him. Notoriously difficult to interview, and renowned for destroying unprepared journalists just for the fun of it, I’d spent the entire night researching him, which resulted in a quite horrendous hour of me not actually asking him any, you know, questions, but instead just telling Richard Harris lots of random facts. About Richard Harris.
‘You left Limerick when you were 15, with just 21p in your pocket!’
I proclaimed, proudly. ‘Yes I did,’ he said. ‘You were BORN,’ I countered, like a Frost with a Nixon in his sights, ‘on October 1, 1930!’ He took off his glasses and glared at me. ‘You, sir,’ he said, ‘are an idiot.’ Then, for reasons I don’t think either of us understood, he said, ‘I could murder a pint. Fancy one?’ And over the course of the rest of what turned out to be a very long day indeed, I got what probably still remains one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. That’s the thing with icons; they never really age. RIP Mr Harris. And Happy Anniversary Burj Al Arab.
Mark Dinning is editor of Time Out Dubai. And that’s just the start of what he’s got on Hollywood’s A-list stars.