On January 9th, I posted a blog about questions I would ask Josh Mankiewicz if I ever had the chance. He was gracious enough to respond to my questions. So I’ve posted his responses below. Read and enjoy! I also responded to a couple of them. Those responses are in red:
Do you ever misspell your last name? Do you always have to spell out your last name? Have you ever given it to Starbucks and seen how they spell it?
I never misspell my name. I neve misspell anything because (1) I was a spelling champion in the 5th grade and (2) since then, autocorrect has been invented, I am however impressed that you can spell Mankiewicz. Many people cannot. Even fewer (many in the customer service business) cannot pronounce it. I have never given my last name to Starbucks since they frequently seem to have issues with my first name.
Full disclosure: I did Google the correctly spelling but I have now spelled several times that I don’t even need to Google it! So yay for memory skills! I’m curious though how one could misspell “Josh”, but I’ve gotten pretty much every name but my own at Starbucks so I just no longer ask questions.
One time, someone contacted you from The Paley Center for Media regarding an event. Now, I don’t want to force you to play favorites but wasn’t that person just the best customer service person you have ever spoken to in your entire life?
I love the Paley Center. I’ve been part of some very fun events there, including one in which Henry Winkler recognized ME and came over to say what a huge fan he was. Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met in Hollywood.
If we ever speak on the phone again for that reason or any other, please say hello.
I wish I could remember the event I was calling for. I know I was calling to check RSVP’s and it may have been the event where I also had to call Carl Reiner and he said, “I don’t have time for this crap” and then hung up on me which I consider a career highlight. How many people can say Carl Reiner hung up on them?
How many times have you interviewed someone and it took all your strength to not start yelling, “you lie! Liar!” at them. Professionalism or not, that must take a lot of self-control and will-power. How do you restrain yourself?
Sometimes the people who are lying are more fun than those who are telling the truth. Everyone deserves to be heard in our stories and the idea is that the audience can make up its own mind after I challenge them on the perhaps weaker or less plausible parts of their story. Sure, sometimes they’re lying. Only rarely do I say that; usually –as many have pointed out– my face gives me away.
Why so much anti-freeze? How many stories have you done where this is the go-to for criminals? It just seems like every story involves anti-freeze. It makes me a little afraid of anti-freeze.
Everyone has access to antifreeze and its very effective. Until recently it tasted sweet so it was easier to slip to someone. And it’s almost always deadly. It’s easy to buy; the clerks at AutoZone look at you funny when you ask for arsenic.
Creepiest story you’ve ever done? What stories have stuck with you long after you’ve done them?
Creepiest? Look up Skylar DeLeon.
According to Wikipedia as well as his Murderpedia page, Skylar DeLeon was a child actor who appeared on The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1994. He joined the Marine Corps at age 20 and was given an other than honorable discharge. He is currently in prison after the brutal killings of Thomas and Jackie Hawks on their yacht. Their bodies have yet to be found. I did see this. It was incredibly creepy. Skylar also enlisted the help of his wife and while he was in jail, awaiting his trial, he was charged with soliciting a fellow inmate to murder his father and his cousin. DeLeon is also accused of murdering John Jarvi who lived in Anaheim and was found dead in 2003.
What are your thoughts on How to Make a Murderer? From your experiences in interviewing, what are your questions? Thoughts?
Haven’t seen MaM. Probably won’t. We did that story a few years ago (not me) and unlike that doc, we told both sides. There’s a lot more to that story that doesn’t make him seem as innocent.
I’m also starting to wonder about his guilt. The documentary is clearly aimed to make people think he is innocent but there’s evidence that was left out. Teresa Halbach was apparently creeped out by Steven Avery after he greeted her just wearing a towel and refused to work with him. According to the New York Daily News, Steven Avery had to use his sister’s name to get Halbach to his property. He lured her there, why would he do that? I think if he didn’t kill her, he knows exactly who did.
What’s the most difficult story you’ve ever done?
Difficult? Any story when you’re talking to the family of a victim. Those people never get over it and it’s very hard to see anyone in that kind of pain. There is no such thing as ‘closure’ and an arrest, guilty verdict, or death sentence very often does not allow people to move on the way many think or hope it might.
What goes into making a special? How long does each one take? Do you have to constantly change stuff and re-edit as new information comes along?
These take a long time. I started shooting last Friday’s episode Plot Twist three years ago. Usually it takes us a month or two. Less than that and we are really under the gun, usually we bring in extra people for that. And yes, they’re changed for new information often, sometimes only hours before you see the broadcast.
Plot Twist focused on the murders of Army Vet, Sam Herr, and his friend, Julie Kibuish. Sam was killed by wannabe actor Daniel Wozniak. If you have not seen this episode, please do. Skylar DeLeon might be creepy, but this guy is right up there. Daniel’s motive was that he needed money for his wedding to fiancee, Rachel Buffet. Daniel killed Sam in order to steal his savings and lured Julie to Sam’s apartment to kill her so he could set it up to look like Sam had killed Julie and then vanished. Daniel is currently in prison and Rachel is facing prison time if the court finds that she knew what was going to happen. The OC Register reported on January 22nd that Rachel Buffet did indeed appear in court and she could face up to three years in prison if convicted of being an accessory.
Are there any stories you refuse to report on? Any stories you just don’t want to touch?
We don’t do cold cases without an ending because the audience really didn’t like them. Apparently you all like to know how it comes out. Too bad, because we could give law enforcement and families some help now and then. We usually don’t do stories in which the victims are kids.
What has been your most favorite memory or most wonderful moment over the years of doing these specials? What stands out? Funny? Sad? Something someone told you?
So there is my fake interview and things I’d like to know before I tune in for the next Dateline Special. Whether or not these questions are answered remains to be seen….or does it? Wait…what?
I loved seeing Eric Glisson and earlier Scott Cannon get out of prison after being exonerated. I loved telling the story of Tamika Huston, whose family couldn’t get her missing-persons case on tv because she wasn’t white and blonde. And I loved the story of Jon Counsell who was told he would never walk again and then did, was told he’d never fly again and then did that too.
Below are some links to those stories: