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The Host of Hollywood

"ET" anchor Bob Goen's easygoing approach gets celebrities to open up.
Joel Drucker
From the Print Edition:
Sharon Stone, July/Aug 2004

(continued from page 3)

It also helped that Palm Springs was an area where many Hollywood producers, directors and agents vacationed. Goen caught the eye of Ray Horl, a legendary game show producer who spotted Goen's potential as a future host. "After my sports job was done, past midnight, I'd go to Ray's house and he'd teach me how to run a show. Basically, it was like hosting a dinner party. You have to make sure the guests all enjoy themselves."

By the late '80s, Goen had fulfilled his dream, hosting the daytime version of "Wheel of Fortune." During that time, he mastered Horl's lessons, even going so far as to tickle his guests to help them relax.

When "Entertainment Tonight" came knocking in 1993, Goen jumped at the opportunity. His years of training—primarily as a host and interviewer, but also as a producer and director—helped him fit smoothly into the job as a correspondent and weekend anchor. To Goen's delight, he was encouraged to inject his own passions into the show. After co-host John Tesh left in 1996 to pursue music full-time, Goen nabbed the co-anchor spot, opposite Mary Hart.

"When I started, they asked me who I most wanted to interview, and I surprised everyone when I said Albert Brooks," says Goen. The comedian-actor, often cantankerous, agreed to spend 10 minutes with Goen on the set of his 1994 film The Scout. Soon enough, 10 turned into 20, then another 20. "He was doing his whole routine for us," says Goen, "and it was wonderful. I think that really helped me get off to a great start."

Of course, despite the pleasures of cozying up to Julia Roberts, Brooks and Jim Carrey (who once apologized for skipping an interview with Goen by sending him a massive box of vintage '60s toys such as Slinkies and Etch A Sketches), there are those whom even Goen can't melt. While interviewing Tommy Lee Jones about the 1993 thriller The Fugitive, Goen inquired about a dangerous stunt. Jones merely glared and told Goen, "We were not in any jeopardy." When Goen pressed for more, a tight-lipped Jones informed him, "We had the best stunt people in the business." Shifting gears, Goen said, "So you're directing." Jones took a breath, folded his arms and glared again. "Just what would you like to know?"

No doubt Goen would agree there are jobs with far more stress. Still, the "Entertainment Tonight" job is never-ending. There are shows to tape each day, premieres to attend, films and shows to watch, articles to read, interviews, news stories—all part of Goen's constant mission to keep informed and sharp for the camera. In the echo chamber of contemporary culture, he's another case of a man with multiple identities: journalist-performer-confidant-interviewer-celebrity. On occasions, stuck in traffic in L.A., he thinks of one of his broadcast heroes, Johnny Carson, and admires the way The King of Late Night walked away from it all and has felt no need to return. But then Goen sees his own face blown up bigger than life on Sunset Boulevard and remembers he's precisely where he's always wanted to be.

Oakland-based Joel Drucker's first book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, will be published this summer by Sport Classic Books.

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