Gary James' Interview With
Rock 'n' Roll Writer / Interviewer
Maryanne Christiano - Mistretta
She is the author of the new book, On The Guest List: Adventures Of A Music Journalist. (Next Century Publishing) Her name is Maryanne Christiano - Mistretta. We talked to Maryanne about her new book.
Q - "On The Guest List." How many times have I heard that phrase? So how many times have you been on the guest list? How many interviews have you done?
A - Probably like hundreds. I was with The Montclair Times as a music journalist for eight years and I was also with the Aquarius.com and Punk magazine. The Aquarius Weekly and Punk magazine are both in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. So, my work is in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Q - Lucky you!
A - Yeah.
Q - So, when did you start writing?
A - I started really young. I started as a teenager doing fanzines. They were popular in the '80s. That's what I did really early on. I tried doing the office thing for a while, but I wasn't cut out for that kind of work. I needed to do something creative. I just called a couple of magazines and newspapers and no looking back.
Q - You got in that fast?
A - No. Actually it was a long, slow period. I'm a bit of a late bloomer. I got my feet wet by getting in the door telling them I'm a typist, which I am. I type very fast and after doing some typing back in the '90s, then I was able to work my way into the newspaper industry. I told a couple of editors I could write, and once you have one clip it leads to many more. Originally I did have my own theatre column in New York's Westsider newspaper and then it just went to music from there and other things too, not just music.
Q - What other things were you writing about?
A - I did a little bit of hard news, but many features. Also Health. I'm a very, very big Health writer. I had my own column online for a while. It was called "Here's To Your Health". I interviewed many people in the health industry.
Q - You were living where?
A - New Jersey.
Q - Was it easy for you, dealing with the record companies and the publicists?
A - Oh, yeah. They were fantastic because people sent things right to my desk. I was always getting e-mails and interview musts, all kinds of CDs coming to my desk, free passes to shows. I hardly did any chasing, though earlier in the '90s, when people didn't have so much technology with the cameras, I might've had a very good interview with somebody, but their publicity people didn't give a good photograph. It would've been on the cover of the Entertainment section and it only got on the inside.
Q - Did you travel with any of the people you interviewed?
A - No, not at all. Everything was a one-shot deal when they came to our towns actually.
Q - Were you a fan of anyone that you interviewed?
A - Oh, yeah. A lot of them. Probably the biggest one was Tommy James. It was such an honor to interview him because I listened to him since I was a little girl. It was so comfortable talking to him. He called our house and I talked to him for about forty minutes. He was a very, very nice man, very spiritual, very into Jesus. We didn't talk about that too much, but I asked him what it was like to be in the music industry and being a Christian. He spoke very honestly. It was very nice. It was a great, great interview.
Q - Was there anyone you interviewed you didn't particularly care for?
A - I'm not gonna say.
Q - In the beginning, we come to the interview wide-eyed and very impressionable. But as time passes, do you find yourself seeing it as more of an industry?
A - I think with every creative person, you just get to a point where you want to grow a little bit further. I still am a journalist, but not all the time. Occasionally I write for the Patterson Press online. It's like a lot of hard news where I'll actually go into the city and speak to teens and their issues. I love that because that's something that I've never done before. I've always basically worked in a safe situation, but to actually go in a city where there's a lot of shootings and see the positive things that kids are doing, is very, very rewarding to me. When you're working as a music journalist for so long, you just get to a point where you start interviewing a couple of people, the same people over again and you just to do different things, always keeping my foot in journalism because it keeps your chops up, but right now I'm basically staying at home, writing books and doing public speaking.
Q - You're managing people? How did you get into that?
A - I don't even know. When I first started my business I somehow got in contact and become friends with a Mark Twain impersonator. He wanted me to manage him. I helped him out and he helped me out and now he's doing huge shows all over the place. He has a phenomenal career at this point. He recommended other people. Other people recommended people. So I started managing entertainers on a lower scale, ones that had full-time jobs.
Q - Do you manage Rock groups?
A - I'm not interested in doing that at all. I'm happily married. I'm fifty-one years old. I like my hours to be basically 9 to 5. With the exception of lectures, I don't want to be calling places late at night and be bothered with phone calls. So no, that doesn't interest me. (laughs)