Sam Donaldson had to admire Rob Hahn's intrepid pursuit of an interview.
Hahn has completed a documentary about the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy — who would've turned 100 on March 29 — and the man behind Hahn Publications wanted to interview the famously crusty ABC reporter, news anchor and pundit. The 30-minute version of the doc, titled "Hi Gene! Meet The Real Senator McCarthy," is being released online March 29 and is being made available to schools for free. The hourlong version is being offered to PBS and other noncommercial outlets. The documentary website is www.higenemccarthy.com.
"Originally Sam said he didn't want to do it," Hahn told me Friday.
"When Rob first contacted me, I was honest with him: Yes, I covered Gene McCarthy for one month. I knew him before and after that, however, I thought I wasn't the best person to talk about him," Donaldson told me Monday. "McCarthy was quite an instrumental figure in 1968, although he in the end didn't prevail."
Hahn told me that, via e-mail, Donaldson originally said he "wasn't coming east. I thought 'I'm not out east anyway.' So I e-mailed him back and said 'I'm willing to come film in Albuquerque,' and referred to a particular story Donaldson had broken regarding RFK's '68 presidential bid. Sam e-mailed Propose a date and time and we'll see what we can do.
"He was everything and more than I expected," said Hahn.
"I hired a videographer out in Albuquerque and she screwed up on part of the audio. We were at her studio looking through it and getting ready to transfer it to my computer so I can take it home that night and there is no audio on one of the files. I can't believe this happened. So I called Sam, and I apologize and said we had a glitch. I didn't throw the lady under the bus."
Hahn wanted to return and shoot for 20 minutes. "He said Nope, I've got a dental appointment. So I said 'We'll see what we can do with this but maybe you can consider reshooting it?' "
Hahn asked if the videographer could return with the questions, which Hahn agreed to also send to Donaldson "and it will take half as much time. He e-mailed back: Send the questions to me," laughed Hahn. "So he basically asked himself the questions, then gave the answers so we got what we needed."
Hahn started the McCarthy project in 1993.
"This is too stupid or funny, take your pick. Talk about letting a project age, huh? I was working at WCCO radio as a producer and thought I wanted to make documentary films. I got a couple of people there [WCCO] and we partnered on the deal, shot a bunch of interviews, including — you'll like this — taking some time away from my honeymoon in D.C. to shoot interviews. Last summer I thought it was time to revisit the project. The tapes we shot were video, and were well preserved."
Hahn met McCarthy when he was a guest on WCCO-AM.
"I said 'You know I'm thinking of a documentary. Have you got any ideas what might be a good topic?' He was never short on ego and said 'My '68 campaign has been overlooked by historians,' " recalled Hahn, who "took that with a grain of salt and, sure enough, it has greatly been overlooked. I figured with the centennial of his birth coming up, this would be a good time to try to get something together."
The first time I met McCarthy was at a party thrown by St. Paul's poet laureate and retired magazine columnist Carol Connolly. (Yes, I still want to do that Q&A, Carol.)
"There's a funny story she told at a memorial service for McCarthy," Hahn said. "She apparently had written a poem for him during the campaign and was getting really ticked as in Can't he at least respond? Finally she saw him face-to-face and said I sent you this poem, you could at least respond. He looked at her, paused, kind of smiled and said, You have very good penmanship."
"I guess he did not like the poem," Hahn laughed.
John Goodman remembered
A group of John Goodman's buddies gathered at the Capital Grille to celebrate the businessman's life Sunday, hours after learning he was dead at 66. The chairman of the Goodman Group, a senior living and health care company, died in Florida days after a heart attack.
Goodman was a close friend of restaurant creator Steve Schussler, who was in tears when I called to check on him Sunday, after another Goodman friend told me about the Capital Grille dinner. Schussler might have been in worse shape on Monday. "I'm not handling this well. He was a really good friend. He never stopped doing things for people. We used to laugh, he's got the million-dollar smile. I used to say "Johnnie G. kiss the ring,' because he looked like he owned the world."
I last saw Goodman at a June 2015 birthday party. One of my most fun times with Goodman was the night I ran into him at the annual Home & Garden Show with his buddies, attorney David Valentini and businessman Charlie Walensky. They encountered me when I was making an unhappy but insistent merchandise return. After I finished that matter, which amused them immensely, we wandered around the annual Minneapolis Convention Center event where they became my entertainment.
The real fun didn't begin until Goodman started negotiating better prices at a booth selling sheets. The more sheets Goodman agreed to buy, the cheaper the price. I finally couldn't resist getting in on the deal. I later told Goodman that when I put the sheets on my bed, I realized why the linens were so inexpensive; the top sheet wasn't properly finished. Of course, you can't really see that when your eyes are closed.
Rest well, Johnnie G.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9's "Jason Show" and "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count. Attachments are not opened.