Friday, January 19, 2007

Once the conversation with Teresa Earnhardt started, I thought it went pretty well

LOS ANGELES – You’re a NASCAR beat writer from Charlotte, N.C., the hometown of racing.
For six years, you’ve been trying to get Teresa Earnhardt for an interview. The door finally opens, and all you have to do is fly across the country to walk through it.
You arrive a night early. You arrange to have a cab pick you up an hour early to make sure you get to the interview on time. You spend all day doing background work and thinking out your questions. You finally get ready and go out to meet the taxi.
Then, after 25 minutes and two red-faced conversations with your hotel staff, who assures you he’ll be here in five minutes, the taxi arrives. Now, you’re cutting things close. The map says it’s 11 miles to where you’re going, though, so you’re OK.
But then, the cabbie decides to take the freeway. I know nothing about driving in Southern California, but it’s 4 p.m. and I know I am in trouble.
You make a frantic phone call. I’m on the way, don’t leave me hanging. But the person you’re calling doesn’t have his cell phone on.
Six lanes of traffic, and while it never actually stops it moves at a glacier’s pace. Forget the meter, since the company is paying, but it’s a good thing the cabbie said he’ll take a credit card.
None of that will matter, though, if you’re not there on time. You were instructed to arrive by 4:30. At 4:35, the cabbie is letting people over in front of him in the left-turn lane. Thousands and thousands of taxi drivers in the world and I find a courteous one now!
Finally, two mild strokes and $49 later, you pull up in front of the hotel where you’re supposed to do the interview. You have no idea where you’re going inside, but first the driver has to figure out how to get the credit card thing to work.
Finally, you catch a break. Somebody who recognizes you and knows why you’re her sees you walk in and says, “This way.” One floor up, I walk in and I’m still 15 to 20 minutes down the list.
This is why I smirk at people running in airports. Who needs the stress?
Never mind, of course, that it’s already 8 p.m. back at your paper and they wanted your story an hour ago. Never mind that you’re about to finally getting ready to talk to somebody who you’ve been trying to get to for years, and you know you need to try to slip in a question or two that people have been warning you away from for a week.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that it’s almost certain that Teresa Earnhardt has wanted to throttle you for things you’ve written as recently as 10 days ago.
Man, this is an excellent job. The fact is, though, that Teresa Earnhardt could not have been more cordial in the 13 minutes I was allotted. She answered the questions she wanted to answer and that was certainly her right. I hope that she doesn’t think it went too badly and that maybe, somewhere down the road, we can talk again for a little longer and cover a little more ground.
This time, I think I’ll drive.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

David, glad you made it to the interview and was able to talk with Teresa. Hopefully flying 3000 miles and dealing with all the stress of LA will be worth it in the future.

Looking forward to more of your comments on "Dale" (the movie), and plan on watching when its in the Tampa Bay area.

Have a safe trip home, and enjoy the media tour! Shirley

Anonymous said...

I fine it sort of funny that when I read your post it sounds like you were going to meet the Queen. I think it is great that Teresa was cordial to you, but I think it even better that this hometown southern lady had the upper hand in this conversation. She answered what she wanted how she wanted, and could have ended it when she wanted. It sounds like she cares what people think or her and her organization, but also sounds like she sees this as a family thing and not just business....and she will handle it the way she wants to....kind of like a mom would do. Although the media will certainly try to pull it out of her, I hope she keeps the family part personal as it should be. Let them keep the tabloid crap out in L.A.
Mike

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing what we all want to do, David--get the information from the source itself, not all the "spin" from the many layers of DEI press reps. Keep pushing on this story for us!!! And tell your editors that this is the reason I subscribe to the Observer--because you guys DO go the extra mile!!!

Texman said...

was this interview @ a KFC or buffet?

Anonymous said...

David:

Thanks for getting the interview.

Somehow, I feel that Teresa is in full damage-control mode, after Junior made some of their dirty laundry public. I understand it's a business, but I could never get over Jr. having to buy his own naming rights from my mother, err...stepmother.

I think Jr. sees her for what she is, his father's third wife, and an uncaring step mother who won the lottery by marrying his dad.

At least he has his siblings.

Anonymous said...

I am very much left with the impression that Ms. T says little because there's simply not much to say. Having her control the questions is common practice in entertainment, sports promotion, and politics, and is no measure of her business acumen and hardly qualifies her as a "Southern lady." What are her qualifications to run a corporation? Honestly, don't we already know the answer? Her comments about the rainmaker in DEI, Dale Jr, show how little she knows about corporate governance and public relations. If she were an executive in any other corporation and made those comments about a top client, she wouldn't have finished the work day. If Dale Jr walks, the dollars walk, and fans will follow him...not her. DEI needs leadership desperately to diversify and stay competitive, and to keep Dale Jr. in the stable of drivers. That's simply Business 101. FYI - before any of ya'll start hollerin', I don't work in the racing biz.

Anonymous said...

Hey Teresa...look up at that sign on the building...it says D E I, not T E I. You might also want to check your toast in the morning, and see what side of the bread your butter's on.

Anonymous said...

Teresa is a lot like Dale. She says what she wants to and does what she wants to. She understands business, and family. God bless her!
Who thinks Jr is a saint?
Right, keep the tabloid stuff somewhere else!

Anonymous said...

Her comments about Dale jr. struck me as enormously foolish. Dale jr. is the driver who could do the most damage to his owner's organization by leaving it.

If Gordon or Johnson left Hendrick, or Kenseth left Roush, that would be rough. But those organizations are so well established that they would find a way to get by (if Stewart left Gibbs, I'm not so sure). In recent years, DEI has teetered on the edge of becoming a second-tier outfit. The 8 car, easily its best, is just too inconsistent to win a title right now. Its other teams are afterthoughts. If jr. left, the sponsor and souvenir money would as well, and they'd be locked into also-ran status for the foreseeable future. As in, celebrating when a car finishes on the lead lap.

They'd probably close the racing operation after a few seasons and just concentrate on marketing Dale sr's image.

Anonymous said...

I guess it really is a big deal when TE gives an interview! Two posts about getting the interview, and hardly and info about the context OF the interview. (Or did I miss that somewhere)?
She really must be the Queen!

Anonymous said...

Teresa is one beautiful, smart woman.
She has my admiration and support; as if she needs it!
Jr needs to win some races!

mark said...

David you got me! I thought this was an article about you interviewing The Queen. Instead I read about the "agony and the Ecstacy" of getting an out of town interview. Keep up the good work?

Anonymous said...

Were you able to understand what Ice T was saying with her speach impediment?
How much did she charge you for the interview Poole? There HAD to be some kind of financial gain in it for Ice T.

Keep up the good work buddy.
3Dog