Hey Everyone! I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit today.
Whenever I get stuck thinking of an idea what to write about, I think about those who write professionally and never seem to run out of things to write about. I really admire their talent. Today’s post is about celebrating my friend, Tony Wong and his talent as a journalist/writer.
I have had the privilege of knowing Tony Wong for many years. He is probably the most down-to-earth and hilarious person I know. On top of being awesome, he is a great journalist and world-traveler. Currently, he is Toronto’s Star’s television critic. Check him out: https://www.thestar.com/authors.wong_tony.html
Here is a short interview with him:
ME: You have had the opportunity to meet so many people in your line of work, including interviewing celebrities such as Michael Douglas, Julia Roberts, Pierce Brosnan, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robin Williams, Dianne Lane, Donald Sutherland and even Donald Trump.
Do you feel nervous when interviewing them? and how do you stay so down-to-earth and relaxed?
TONY: I’m never relaxed! But I think the beauty of the job is that you get to have some perspective. Before I was the TV Critic, I covered crime, politics (at Queen’s Park and City Hall) and business. It comes with the territory that you get to meet and talk to people who may be on the fringes, as well as the 1 percent. But people are people. I think the important thing is to hopefully listen more than you pontificate. This year I’ve had to ask some difficult questions including to Alec Baldwin on why he allegedly punched out someone over a parking spot incident and to Jeremy Piven on sexual assault allegations. It was also the first time they were addressing these allegations, so it was important to approach with sensitivity. But I think it’s important that celebrity journalism isn’t divorced from the news cycle and that mass entertainment and entertainers have a major influence on contemporary culture and politics. And just because they’re celebrities doesn’t mean they should get an easy ride – or what amounts to a puff piece. It’s important to ask the difficult questions. Sometimes though, you just end up being a fan boy. This year I interviewed William Shatner and I asked him every cheeseball question I could think of. I think I scared him. But he was impressed that I was already a member of his fan club. He reminded me that it came with discounts.
Me: Whenever I see you, I have so many questions to ask, but never seem to have enough time over lunch. How did you decide to go into journalism anyway?
Tony: Well, apart from being the only Asian kid in school who couldn’t add, because my math genes were somehow missing, I always loved writing. I did an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Toronto and a graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson.
Me: When I am writing, I have so many ideas, but sometimes my thoughts are incomplete – thus it is difficult to write a complete piece. What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Tony: I am a horrible procrastinator. I will eat like three cheeseburgers before I start one sentence. Although the problem in daily journalism is that you have really steep deadlines. Sometimes if you are doing a spot news story (Car crash,shooting etc) you literally might only have an hour or even less to file something to meet deadline. So writer’s block isn’t an option then. But if you are working on a longer piece, my advice is just to start writing. Get something down on paper. It might not be your best stuff, but good writing is really in the re-writing. I used to do Game of Thrones recaps and file them at 2 a.m. in the morning and they would get posted online when I woke up. Well, at 2 a.m. in the morning everything you write is just gold. You think you’re Mark Twain and the second coming of Hemingway. And of course, every line you write is hilarious. You’re pinching yourself because you’re so darn on point. Until you wake up and read it a second time. So the moral of the story is, if you can sleep on it, take a day off and come back to the work. It always pays to bake the goods a little more.
Me: Last time we met for lunch, you mentioned that you planned to go camel-back riding and sleep in a tent in the middle of the desert. The most adventurous (and probably most dangerous) thing I ever did was go up a slippery rocky mountain on horseback in Jamaica. What is another super-adventurous thing that you have done recently?
Tony: I grew up in Montego Bay, and that is dangerous! I travel a lot but I’m not super adventurous. Although I went dirt biking in Cambodia this year and half way through thought it was the stupidest thing I ever did because they probably don’t have the best health care if you get a traumatic brain injury. Also learning to ride a bike for the first time in Vietnamese traffic probably wasn’t smart. But seniors tours are probably more my speed.
Every year I used to take a bus tour with my mom, to Orlando, New York, Eastern Canada, etc. One year we went to Quebec City. There was a guy there selling ice cream cones on the boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac. I went to buy a cone and my mom yelled at me: “Don’t eat that you’ll get a tummy ache!” At which point I yelled at her to shut up. And of course, I promptly got a belly ache. Or maybe it was because we consumed two fish burgers each on the bus. Anyway, seniors tour are where I’m headed.
Me: When you used to visit us, every time you would bring us a dozen Tim Horton’s donuts. We would joke that we were like Pavlov’s dogs? Each time we saw you, it was like “Ding!”, salivate and expect donuts! BTW – I know you love junk food too…I’ve seen your Instagram posts! What is your current absolute favourite junk food?
Tony: Wow. I could write a book. I once did a story for the Star where I ate Dollarama food for a week. People thought it was hardship, but that’s what I normally eat anyway, so it wasn’t so bad. My favorite junk food now are Irving’s fried fish chips from Singapore. They are also dusted with egg yolk. Can you say heart attack? It’s like the most delicious thing ever. Also, once a week. OK, a couple times a week I’m at Sumilicious at Midland Ave. eating a smoked meat sandwich. Sumi the owner used to work at Schwartzes my favorite place in the whole world.
Me: Back to writing – do you ever get tired of writing? Do you ever think of pursuing another career?
Tony: Geez. If I could be a professional tennis player the world would be perfect.Unfortunately I’m not sure what I would do. I once tried out for Jeopardy and the test announcer asks who you are and what is your secret fear. And I told them my secret fear was that my boss would find out they’re paying me to watch television for a living.
Me: Tony, the world is a better place with such positive people like you. Thank you so much for your time, and hope to see you soon.
Tony: Thanks for talking to me. By the way, I love your new book [My Great Canadian Adventures], I think more people should discover our own backyard and kids will love a world of literary travel.