Earlier this year, while leafing through a catalog of remaindered books, I spotted a book titled “You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman,” by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mike Thomas. The title comes from a signature line uttered by Troy McClure, whose character Hartman voiced on “The Simpsons.” McClure, a washed-up actor, was reduced to introducing educational films thusly: “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You might remember me from ‘Christmas Ape’ and ‘Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp.’”
I bought the book, based largely on the strength of a telephone interview I had conducted with Hartman a few weeks before his shocking murder by his wife, who later committed suicide in their home.
It took several months and several other books to go through first, but I finally read “You Might Remember Me.” In one sense, it’s tough reading a biography whose ending you already know. But, about two-thirds of the way through the book, as the narrative slowed down to provide more detail into the last months, weeks and days of Hartman’s life, I grew curious. Had my interview with Hartman been found and used by Thomas? It may seem difficult for readers of this blog to believe, but Catholic News Service is not often regarded as a go-to destination for celebrity interviews.
I thumbed through the index. No sign of my name. Oh, well. Then I looked for “Catholic News Service” in the index. And voila! Seeing where it was, I skipped 40 or so pages to get to the material to see how Thomas had used it.
“Strangely, in light of his long-lapsed Catholicism, he conveyed a seemingly renewed sense of religiousness,” Thomas wrote, “or perhaps he was merely tailoring his words for the publication as he tailed his act for a specific venue.”
Had Thomas sought me out, I would have told him there was no tailoring going on. The phone interview was supposed to have been conducted in April 1997, but a representative of NBC -– where Hartman was starring in the sitcom “Newsradio” — called to reschedule, as Hartman was not going to be available on the original date. NBC had made the pitch for a phone interview to boost the marginal ratings of “Newsradio,” and noted Hartman’s Catholic upbringing.
On the rescheduled date, Hartman called at the assigned time. I asked him how he was, and he said, “Fine.” I asked him what had prompted the rescheduling. (Read More)