Mickey Burns: “From The Projects to Profiles: A Memoir”
Mickey Burns, the illustrious and well respected host of the 20 year television show “Profiles” is about to release his informative and interesting manuscript, “From The Projects to Profiles: A Memoir”, his unlikely journey to success as a TV Host in New York City. The book is published by “New Haven Publishing and is available for pre-sale through Barnes and Noble. The date set for official release is November 1, 2019.
Burns inaugurated “Profiles” in 1999, a show dedicated to the intimate interviews with celebrities who often admitted that after having a conversation with Mickey, it proved to be the best interview they ever had. Nearly approaching his 500th episode, Burns has gathered an audience of over 20 million viewers. The program has won various awards and is produced via Quest Media Entertainment.
Burns has spoken to some of the most illuminating stars on the planet including: Joan Rivers, Joan Collins, Dick Cavett, Meat Loaf, Petula Clark, Stacy Keach, Neil Sedaka, Adam Ant, Leslie Caron, Rich Little, Mary Wilson, Davy Jones, Phoebe Snow, Ben Gazzara, Issac Hayes, Eli Wallach, Randy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Scott Page, La Toya Jackson, Taylor Dayne, Leslie Gore, Tanya Tucker, Christopher Plummer, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Foreman, Tony Orlando, Ernest Borgnine, just to name a small few.
“From The Projects to Profiles: A Memoir”, shares Mickey’s journey from the South Beach Projects of Staten Island to an exciting life of celebrity interviews of almost 500 stars. He tells of his involvement in sports, and education and how it helped him leave the projects. The message of the book is that through hard work and relentless determination anyone can achieve success no matter where you come from. His stories are fascinating, inspiring, funny, and intriguing…I spoke with Mickey Burns regarding the memoir….
What originally inspired you to write, “From the Projects to Profiles: A Memoir?”
That’s a great question to start off with. I think it started with an interview from Chuck Barris. He was a TV producer who created The Gong Show, The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game. He created all three and he was the host of The Gong Show originally. When he retired from that, he became an author and he was on the show to talk about some of his most recent books. During the interview for some reason he said to me, “You have a book in you.” I had never thought about it but my response to him was when anyone says something like that, “I don’t think I’d ever have the time or the patience to do it.” He advised me that I could do it and that I should start out with one page a day and by the end of the year you’d have your book. I told him that I never thought of it that way and that it was a great idea. I didn’t follow his advice of course. Once I sit down to write, I write in clusters, 10 pages, 20 pages, like that. I didn’t take his advice, but he motivated me of the fact that I had a book in me, and it was always on my mind to do so. So that’s how it started.
So now you have it in your mind to write a book, but did you act on it right away? What inspired you to actually sit down and begin to write the book?
I think I was toying with it for a couple of years. I kept thinking about what he had said. Then I thought what would I write about? I was wondering if I should write about just the show because we were nearing 500 episodes? I thought no, I grew up in the South Beach Projects, and that had an interesting hook to it, because most people think that growing up in the projects is equated with poverty or the lack of education and all those stereotypes that go along with it. But I think also in my life it had a lot of positives. I wanted to talk about that. The message that I developed then is that through hard work and determination anyone can achieve success no matter how humble their beginnings. Mine certainly was. So now I had a hook for the book. I was able to then talk about all the things that I learned growing up in that environment.
As a fellow author, when I write a book there were favorite chapters that I really enjoyed writing about, was there any particular chapter or topic that you enjoyed most?
What comes quickly to my mind is talking about the beginnings, and what made my growing up in the project environment so valuable later on in life. That was so much fun to talk about. It taught me so much, for instance if you want to get something done, we learned early on that you have to do it yourself. We had no connections, there were no silver spoons from where I came from. You had to learn resilience and independence from the time you were 10 or 12 years old. That was an important lesson because nobody did anything for anybody. At the beginning of the book I write a story about remembering John Travolta walking down the street during the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. He was walking with a paint can and his leather jacket on. That struck a chord with me because when I was growing up in the projects, we all walked that way. No one taught us confidence. We learned that on the streets. That was the same thing with John Travolta, nobody taught him that confidence. He had to learn it. I loved talking about my days there and I knew from early on growing up there that I would go to college. No one in my family had ever gone to college and I would say to my mother “mom what do you think about me going to college?” She would always smile and say “that would be wonderful but I think that you are going to have to earn a scholarship in order to make this happen.” Nobody had any money and financial aid was difficult to come about in those days. I knew from an early age if I wanted to better myself and get an education, then I would have to figure out a way for me to earn a scholarship. What I did growing up there is I used sports as a vehicle for my way out. I became an athlete good enough to excel in high school and get a scholarship to college.
What sports were you involved in?
I was a football player and a baseball player. I was an all-city football player in New York and when I was a senior in high school we were undefeated. I also won the New York City scoring title in my senior year which meant that I scored more points than anybody else. I was quite proud of that. Then I went on to Missouri Valley College after that on a scholarship. That was my ticket out. That made it possible for me to get an education regardless of my economic situation.
Not everybody leaves the projects, so I’m wondering what inside of you made you so determined?
Two things: Number one, I wanted to better myself and I realized in order to do so I would need an education. The second thing, this might sound a little quirky, but I wanted to make my mother proud of me. It’s as simple as that. When I got to Missouri Valley College, the first day we had an orientation. The man on the stage said, “look to your right, look to your left. In four years only one of you will remain.” I said to myself, “I’m definitely going to be the one that makes it.” I couldn’t even fathom the idea of disappointing my mom. That was my driving force.
That’s so sweet.
She was so proud that I had this opportunity, there was no way I was going to fail. I was going to do whatever I had to do. Of course, when I graduated, she and my dad drove all the way from New York to Missouri to watch me graduate. That was the highlight of my life.
I love that story.
When I got to Missouri Valley I thought that everyone there was different.
Different in what way?
The way they talked. Some were from Texas, some were from Arkansas. I had taken this class, speech and drama, in my freshman year. The teacher taped all the students and told me that I had a thick Brooklyn accent. I didn’t even know what a Brooklyn accent was, because everyone spoke that way where we came from. You don’t pronounce your ERs or your TH’s. He gave me some examples and I actually heard it. Well, I’ve been working on that accent ever since. There are also stereotypes that go along with that accent. In the book, I talk about the many stories that led me out to Missouri and what an experience it was for me. One experience was as I said I played football and baseball. We used to go on Spring tours where we would get in the bus and we would go down south to play a different college every day. On April 4, 1968, we pulled off the highway and went to the Holiday Inn to feed the 20 players. We were sitting in a restaurant and all of a sudden we saw a little black-and-white television set and it said “breaking news.” At the same time, we noticed that there were ambulances and fire trucks racing past the Holiday Inn. We assumed that there was either a fire or a serious accident. All of a sudden on the TV set a reporter came on and said: “Martin Luther King has been shot.” It was in Memphis Tennessee at the Lorraine motel. It turned out that it was only three blocks from the Holiday Inn that we were sitting at. I mention that in my book because life is very strange. I had only been in Memphis for two hours in my entire life. It was in those two hours that he was shot and by the time we got back from the tour the country was in chaos. There were riots, fires, national guards, in Kansas City and St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and the country would probably never be the same after that. I often think about that. It will stay with me forever.
What is it about your book in your opinion that makes it stand out?
First, I think that the beginning part of it with the projects and the experiences are inspiring to some extent, and uplifting. If I could do it, you could do it. Aside from that, everybody loves celebrities. I’ve had the opportunity to interview 500 of them. Every one of them has a unique story, or there was something special about the interview that the readers are not familiar with and will enjoy learning about. So, I feel that the combination of the uplifting and inspirational stories and the chapters of my most memorable interviews, and the very selective stories that are not available to people makes the book worthwhile to read.
Can you give me some personal stories?
I remember I had Dion DiMucci from Dion and The Belmonts on. I interviewed him on his 60th birthday. I interviewed him at the Hard Rock café in Times Square. I didn’t know until I did the research for the interview that Dion was on the rock ‘n’ roll tour with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens when they had that airplane accident and they all perished. He was so upbeat and happy until I asked him a question about that incident. He turned totally pensive and actually had a tear in his eye. That’s how engraved that day was for him. He stepped back and he said, “we were riding the school bus. It was a rock ‘n’ roll tour where we would go from one high school to the next, in all the little towns throughout the Midwest. We were in Iowa, and it was the coldest winter in 20 years, and the heater on the school bus broke. We were freezing and Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly started getting sick. They decided rather than ride the school bus they could take a chartered plane to the next venue and get there early to rest up. There was room for four people, so they asked me if I wanted to be the fourth. It was the two of them and the Big Bopper who was like a DJ during those times. Dion asked them, “how much?” They told him $36 apiece. He leaned back and said, “you know I would love to join you, but I can’t afford the indulgence.” $36 just happened to have been the amount his mother was paying for her rent. “If she thought I was using the money for that she would be disappointed in me.” So he decided to pass. He told me that had it have been $40 he would’ve accepted and gone with them. Because it was $36, he just couldn’t do it. They took off, they crashed, they perished and Dion is about 75 years old now. He’s still performing all over the world.
That’s a unique story that I didn’t expect to get, and I write about that in the book. That’s a special kind of thing. Another story concerned Eli Wallach. He’s a master actor, and was in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” and I had him on the show. He’s done 100 movies and everyone knows Eli Wallach. After the interview, he asked me to take a walk with him. I had some time, so I decided to take a walk with him. Here I was walking up Broadway with Eli Wallach. We were walking and talking, and it dawned on me that he was carrying a plastic bag. I asked him what was in the bag. He told me they were an old pair of shoes. He told me he was going to the cobbler to get them fixed. I was trying to be funny and I asked him why he didn’t just go to Macy’s and get five new pairs of shoes. He grabbed me by the wrist and stopped me in mid-stride, and looked me straight in the eye, and said, “I grew up in the depression. Back then we didn’t buy new, we fixed old. I’ve never been able to shake that.” I’ll never forget that. So, the stories in the book aren’t always about the interviews, but what took place after or before them as well.
So you have a lot of stories to tell?
I guess so, but I put as many in the book as I possibly could. I have 500 episodes.
Will there be a sequel?
I never realized how much effort and how time-consuming writing a good book is. I know a lot of prolific writers who write five, ten, fifteen books. I don’t know if they are as diligent with every book as they are with their first. I just put so much time and effort into it that I’m going to have to be motivated again to do it. It was a good two-year process. It took me two years to write the book and then the editing process is another six or seven months. So, will there be a sequel? At this point I’m not sure, but I just know I’m so proud that I got this one done.
Get your copy at Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-the-projects-to-profiles-mickey-burns/1134016159?ean=9781912587261&fbclid=IwAR3UOI_5RDRldB97Ks_T7QLnHu6nSZxl-3l5G2ziNF6LDQR3wb4shDlPmXc
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Mickey Burns Photo by Billy Hess https://www.billyhess.com