I read that you were precocious and knew from a young age you wanted to be a journalist. Do you consider writing for the Air Force newspaper, the Japanese newspapers or something else entirely to be your first big break?
I was precocious in the sense that I came from a family of readers and had a cousin who was an instructor in literature at Boston College, so I was actually reading things like Dante at age seven and eight. I also read two Boston newspapers, cover to cover, every day. By the time I was about ten, I knew that I wanted to be a journalist. One of my first big breaks was joining the Air Force and being plucked from a job I was never meant for – being a ground radio/radar repairman – and designated as the editor for a squadron newspaper. By this time I was in Japan, I was fluent in Japanese, and started writing for English-language editions of huge Japanese newspapers like Asahi Shimbun and the Yomuira. That led to my first really big break – I was sent to cover a storm in the city of Nagoya in central Japan from our Tokyo office and the story exploded when a huge tidal wave swept in over the city and left thousands dead and many thousands more homeless. My stories ran on page one for more than a week and, if they’d ever known how big the story was going to become, they never would have sent me. From there, I went on to work on wire services and newspapers in the Far East and Europe before joining The National Enquirer. By the way, when the Air Force tested me I made Category One, the highest grade, but when I asked if that meant I could get the job I had asked for – journalism – they told me the test showed clearly that I had no talent for writing, and that’s how I ended up in the electronics job I was totally unfit for. I can barely do long division.
Do you get the chance to speak Japanese very often now?
Yes, practically every day. I am married to a Japanese woman – although I speak to her as little as possible. LOL!
Can you share a bit with us about interviewing Sean Connery?
Sean was no cardboard movie hero. He was a huge man, with great strength and did not suffer fools gladly. He picked up one journalist friend of mine bodily and nearly threw him across a room. But Sean and I connected because I was well-versed in martial arts, and after interviewing him in Tokyo on the set of “You Only Live Twice,” I was watching one of the martial arts scenes being filmed and made a couple of offhand suggestions. Sean immediately called over Cubby Broccoli, the legendary producer of the “Bond” films, and told him they should follow my advice. They not only did – they hired me to work on the movie as a press liaison with the Japanese government and the “shadow government” known as the Yakuza, the Japanese gangsters. Sean and I kept in touch a bit over the years in London and Hollywood. He is a great guy, but don’t piss him off.
I’d heard that about him…
What about the band Samurai you formed in London with your friend, the Japanese actor/singer? What exactly did you do other than promote?
My best friend in the world was the Japanese singer and movie star Mickey Curtis. Mickey was a mixed-blood Japanese/English guy who was Japan’s first-ever rock ‘n’ roll singer. The Japanese press initially referred to him as “the mad howling dog!” They’d never heard rock before and it shocked them. Mickey and I were the same age, we met one day, hit it off instantly and made a pact: He spoke really good English, and I spoke pretty good Japanese – but we taught each other hip slang in both languages. Even though I was a journalist, Mickey thought that I should be doing comedy – in Japanese. He correctly predicted that the shock of hearing Japanese issuing from my white face would crack up the natives, and he was dead right. Next thing you know, he’d hired me to work on one of his rock ‘n’ roll tours as emcee/comedian/singer. It was the most fun I’d had on two feet in my life. Incredibly, Mickey is still one of Japan’s best known stars and I’ve still got my National Enquirer byline.
Did you enjoy your radio show on KABC and working with Howard Stern?
I loved my radio show on KABC, I was thrilled to be a nationally syndicated talk show host with Westwood One on 140 stations and as host of the TV show I created “National Enquirer TV!” Working with a radio genius like Howard Stern was challenging and great fun. To this day, people hear my voice and say, “Oh my god, its Mike Walker! I’d recognize that voice anywhere. I loved playing your ‘Gossip Game’ every Friday on Stern.”
Which do you think is more difficult to write, fiction or non-fiction?
I‘ve never been asked that question before. After giving it some thought, I think they are both equally difficult. A writer, as you probably know, is someone who finds writing more difficult than the average person does.
What are the less obvious differences and similarities about writing for the National Enquirer and writing a book?
The genesis for this book was a Hollywood personality saying to me, half-jokingly: “Oh, you gossip columnists – you are all vampires!” I suddenly had the thought of how valuable vampire skills would be for someone practicing my trade. Vampires, even when buried beneath the Earth, can hear the whispers of the living quite clearly. Wouldn’t it be great to listen in on whispered conversations from just 100 feet away in some Hollywood nightclub. And what fun it would be to leap off the balcony of my Los Angeles pad and fly through the night skies with brief stops to hover near the bedroom windows of, say, Scarlett Johannson. . . or Tom Cruise! The idea amused me. I sat down and started writing it – with no publisher in mind. I wrote this exactly the way I wanted to write it. It amused me, and it also gave me a chance to talk about how I do my job – using my fictional gossip columnist – Clark Kelly of the National Revealer. Clark had carved out a killer career as Hollywood’s most-feared gossip columnist while hiding his own dark secret . . . NEWS FLASH:
Dude’s a vampire!
Once you establish a main character who is a vampire, you are already half way down the road to fantasy/paranormal – which is actually how my job somehow feels.
Do you currently have a WIP you can tell us about?
I do have a work in progress, but if I told you what it is, I’d have to kill you – vampire style.
Hmm, possible follow up to OUT FOR BLOOD…
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?
Yes, I’d like to write an epic poem. I’ve already started, in fact. It’s all about the pounding jungle telegraph of gossip – the transmission of naughty tales that travel all around the world and teach us about human nature and exactly how much aberrant behavior the tribe will condone before it condemns.
Do you have a favorite author or genre?
My favorite genre, as you might guess, is spy novels but there is nothing I won’t read. And I could never name a favorite author – there are so many, starting with Dante Alighieri, of course – but here’s a shout out to James Lee Burke’s “Tin Roof Blowdown.”
Describe your perfect day, please.
The phone rings. An impeccable source is on the line, finally answering the question posed in the opening sentence of my book, “Out for Blood” – “Is Tom Cruise gay?” (Not there’s anything wrong with that!)
Dubbed “a one-man media conglomerate” by New Yorker magazine, Mike Walker became Tokyo’s youngest-ever foreign correspondent.
After launching his iconic gossip column, The National Enquirer’s #1 feature, and his show on CBS radio nationwide, Walker became weekly co-anchor on TV’s Geraldo and guested on such top shows like Nightline. After writing and hosting two successful MGM-TV specials, he created the daily series, National Enquirer TV!
Mike became the only reporter ever to write two bestsellers on one story when his books on the O.J. Simpson trial hit #1 and #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Dubbed “The King of Gossip” by Publisher’s Weekly, he played his weekly “Gossip Game” on The Howard Stern Show for a record 16 years.
He’s lectured at distinguished journalism schools at Columbia University and UC Berkeley; and received a prestigious invitation to become a Fellow of Ireland’s legendary Trinity College, Dublin.