They’re five of America’s biggest mouths — Tom Snyder, Vladimir Pozner, Phil Donahue, John McLaughlin, and Dick Cavett — and on March 8 they’ll squeeze into one studio for a 90-minute CNBC call-in yakfest, The Talk Back America Special. Since we hate busy signals, we phoned our questions in early:
What was your most embarrassing moment on the air?
Snyder: I interviewed a singer named Meat Loaf, and for the first 10 minutes I called him Meatball.
Pozner: On Donahue, Phil asked me a question about my Jewishness and I floundered. I turned pink. I still sweat whenever I think of it.
Donahue: Richard Pryor told me to go f— myself during a show.
McLaughlin: Cavett was interviewing me, and right out of the blue he said, ”You have an enormous amount of body hair. You are hirsute. How does it feel to be so hairy?” I said, ”It feels great.”
Cavett: I told an actor how much I enjoyed his performance on a TV show — he told me the show hadn’t aired yet.
If you weren’t a talk-show host, what would you be?
Snyder: I would own a shop that sells and repairs electric trains.
Pozner: I am other things. I write books. I produce shows in Russia.
Donahue: Probably parking cars somewhere.
McLaughlin: A writer and a lecturer. My most exquisite pleasure comes from crafting a sentence.
Cavett: A talk-show guest.
Have you ever been romantically interested in a guest?
Snyder: Uh, no.
Pozner: Phil Donahue looks pretty good now and then.
Donahue: Sure. Marlo Thomas.
McLaughlin: No, but I have experienced the allure of women like Cheryl Tiegs, Susan Anton, Martha Stewart, Shirley MacLaine, Kelly McGillis, Grace Mirabella, Christie Hefner, and Lauren Hutton.
Cavett: Sophia Loren. You’re dead if you sit in her presence and don’t feel warm all over.
What’s the best restaurant in Fort Lee, N.J. (where most of them tape their CNBC shows)?
Snyder: It’s called the Red Oak Diner, but we refer to it as the Deadwood Inn.
Pozner: The only restaurants around here are pizza parlors. I have to confess my ignorance on this subject.
Donahue: Linwood Pizza.
McLaughlin: My only experience outside the commissary here is the Red Oak Diner.
Cavett: I don’t think I’ve ever ingested anything more than a bran muffin in Fort Lee.
Do you ever have to go to the bathroom during your shows?
Snyder: No, but that’s a very interesting question.
Pozner: We Russians are all trained never to go to the bathroom except at certain times. I can hold out for up to 17 hours.
Donahue: No, but I am semi-pleased to tell you that in 6,000 shows I have walked in front of a studio audience with my fly open only three times.
McLaughlin: No. I always hit the john before the action begins.
Cavett: No. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve never had to sneeze, either. I wonder if there’s a scientific explanation for this.