Was this surprising? 'Well, ' he said, 'it's a curious thing. A lot of people who have been o' />
Dr Brian Edwards said, "I hate being photographed."
Was this surprising? "Well," he said, "it's a curious thing. A lot of people who have been on television hate being photographed. It's the frozen moment, I think." I couldn't think of anyone who did like having their picture taken, but he might have. When he was an egomaniac. "Even when I was an egomaniac, no. No, I've never liked it."
He didn't hate being reminded that he was an egomaniac. He reminds me that he was really only famous for about two years, when he was the bastard Gallery interviewer.
Then he savaged, among others, poor old Rolf Harris, so perhaps it's like talking about another person.
He says he's embarrassed about Rolf, but that didn't stop him seeming to remember that Rolf was reading a "mildly mucky magazine".
He later told me he spent so much of an interview looking at his interviewee's cleavage that he didn't recognise her at the theatre the next night, so you'd have thought he and Rolf might have got on.
He is very easy to interview. Was that a surprise? Yes and no. The yes part is because he and his wife, Judy Callingham (she arrived as I was leaving and said, in a low growl, "you be nice to him") train people to be interviewed by journalists.
And of course he was first that nasty biting man on Gallery, then that nice white knight on Fair Go, then that sympathetic, empathetic man on National Radio. In short: there's nothing about interviewing that he doesn't know and now teach.
He is also famously argumentative and this week got into an argument with another famously argumentative journalist , Bill Ralston, who also now trains other people in how to deal with journalists. Of course they both now have blogs, and blog about the media.
If I annoy him, he will no doubt have a go on his blog, so I'll get in first - that old trick - by saying that would be the predictable thing to do.
I'm betting he hates to be thought predictable, so, there. And if that sounds childish, it's a trick learned from him. He said, about the Ralston row: "Well, he started it. Nah, nah, nah." Then, "Well, he wants to question my qualifications. My qualifications for what I do are impeccable." Hardly anyone can go from the playground to the pompous in a breath. Some may not admire this; I did.
I'd asked about his blog entry: about the tawdry Michael Laws story of some text messages and so on, sent between him and a woman with whom he'd had a brief relationship, and whether Laws did the right thing in getting in first by putting out a statement once he got wind the story was going to break.
It took us a while to get to this because neither of us are strangers to digression, for one thing, and for another I'd said I couldn't figure out whether he admired Michael Laws or not. He does (this may or may not be unpredictable) because he thinks he's "brilliant" and funny and "hugely intelligent".
But he doesn't like the way he writes. "I think there's a sort of requirement of columnists to be outrageous." This is suggests a manufactured persona, which leads you to wonder how much Edwards manufactured his.
"Well, what can happen to you in this business, is that you can become the image that is originally imposed on you." But he was originally "a soft, happy-go-lucky interviewer with an Irish accent", who "did all these stories about shell collections and spoon collections and concrete ornaments in gardens and loved doing that." Really? "Yes. That was one of the happiest times of my life. Soft, friendly, nice interviewer. Smiley, even. Ha."
He says he always tells the truth and so I must believe him. I think even he is incredulous, though, at the idea of a smiley Brian Edwards.
His countenance counts against him there. He has a thin smile which creeps slowly up his face and has left his lips by the time it reaches his eyes.
Which is not a value judgment (I don't want him bearing one of his bloody grudges against me); it's just the way his face works.
On grudges, I idiotically asked who he is bearing one against, and he said: John Roughan (my Herald colleague.) I handed him that one. But I'm not quite so stupid as to help him out with his grudge by repeating any of it.
Anyway, nobody can say anything about him that he hasn't already said about himself. He has said he watched himself , many years later, interviewing on Gallery and got something of a shock. "I was very still ... very cold looking."
He says now that he became trapped in his on-screen persona, but how much of it was true? "Well, I am not a demonstrative person. I'm not a sort of warm cuddly person." He was cuddling a cat when he said this.
He will later tell me that this particular cat is "needy". I don't know whether this is a criticism. He was horribly needy, for applause and fame, but thinks he might be cured. "You get over it. Or maybe you just become a bit more confident, I don't know."
He said, "I'm most approachable when I'm drunk." I was trying, and failing to imagine him drunk. I said, "and how often are you drunk?"
"Very rarely," he said, so don't chance your luck should you see him out somewhere. He doesn't like parties. He prefers small dinner parties with his friends. Who are his friends? "Oh. Well.
Do I have to tell you that?" I assume he was joking. We both knew the answer to that: I had no way of making him. He told me the name of one friend: Michelle Boag. He says she is "a wonder woman" and I'm sure he really means this. But I'm also sure he enjoys the reaction, which is that his leftwing friends say: "'How can you be friends with that bitch'?"
He likes the element of surprise. Having spent his interviewing years analysing people, the idea of people trying to figure him out would, you can see, be an amusing one. I asked if, when he was "absolutely a prick", he enjoyed being awful.
He said he enjoyed being "fast. I had a fast tongue. I'm a Muldoon really, in my personality. I'm a counter-puncher. You know, Muldoon would say he was a counter-puncher. You hit me; I'll hit you harder." Yes, well, we knew that last part, but: Brian Edwards, life-long Labour man, comparing his personality to Muldoon's?
Perhaps it's not so incongruous. I had wondered if he'd recognised something of himself in Muldoon - I meant the combativeness, the bravado, the fear of being seen to be less than in control - when he interviewed him. "Not at the time. But on reflection, yeah. And I got to know Muldoon best after he was out of Parliament, when he became an extremely sad and depressed individual. Judy and I both got to like him quite a lot."
It's hard to know whether he cares if people like him at all. I admit to a certain amount of dread at the prospect of interviewing him, for the obvious reasons. That he was surprisingly easy to interview is annoying in another way: he's supposed to be prickly. He restricted himself to correcting my diction, once, and to noting, with glee, a tried and failed, interview technique.
I'd asked him, because he was convicted of possessing and cultivating marijuana, in 1988, whether he still smoked dope. If I can't imagine him drunk, I most certainly can't imagine him stoned. He said: "No." I didn't say anything for a long moment.
Neither did he. I asked a supplementary question: "Why did he smoke dope?" He said: "You've got the technique: waiting after the answer. Something else may come up. It's a good technique." Yeah, well, sometimes it works. I didn't have high hopes of it working with him. "Ha, ha. No."
He refused to answer any of my questions, no matter how I put them, about this line from his blog: "I can say that he [Michael Laws] did exactly the right thing. I have been in a similar situation myself, although the circumstances were different and had no sexual context."
What did that mean? "No. I can't talk about that." In the end I said, as he is the expert: "So, what am I going to do with this, Brian?" He said, "you'll have to do what you want to do." He says he doesn't want to hurt anyone by repeating this story, but it was widely reported at the time, (and is hardly a scandal.) And, he shouldn't have hinted at it so coyly, which he concedes.
So, the short version is this: He was standing for Labour in Miramar and at the time was married but had left his first wife, and was living with the woman he still calls his second wife, although they never married.
The Truth newspaper phoned him to say they were going to break the story: implying, he argued, that he had misrepresented his marital situation for political benefit. He sued Truth for libel, and lost. And he had contacted another paper, in an attempt at damage control.
But he lost! Which is not a very good advertisement for his argument, surely? "You're absolutely right. It's funny you say that, because I actually thought of that afterwards! But on the other hand ... no, there is no other hand!"
His own advice here might have been: If you have lost the argument, give in, gracefully. I was rather pleased with myself at the time. Now, of course, I realise that in giving in, he shut me up. Do I need to mention he can, with the greatest of ease, be maddening?
He said, "I'm actually fun!" Why did he feel the need to tell me this? "Because so often in interviews you have to talk very seriously about things, and in fact, if I wanted to really enjoy my day, I'd sit back and watch back-to-back sit-coms."
He'd really have liked to be a stand-up comedian. Could he have been? He is sometimes rude, but never, he says, cruel. Unless you've been cruel to him, then watch out.
He once wrote something rude, but not, he says, cruel, about me. As I don't bear grudges, I am not going to write anything rude about him (there is the higher moral ground to consider. Also, I'm scared of his wife.)