On Feb. 23, 2011, shortly before my Walter Payton biography was released, I did this interview for Chris Jones’ website, Son of Bold Venture. I’m not sure why, but something about the experience inspired me to start my own Q&A series. Just for kicks and giggles.
Around that time, we (as a family) were watching a whole lot of Wonder Years episodes on Netflix. The kids got into it, and I really got into it. The show was a staple of my youth, and to see the episodes again (after years and years had passed) simply reinforced the greatness of that program. It also, however, got me wondering: What ever happened to that person? And that person? And that person? Specifically, I was curious about the whereabouts of some of Kevin Arnold’s girlfriends. Not Winnie Cooper—who went on to become a pretty well-regarded mathematician. But others: The psycho stalker. The hottie. The snob. What became of these girls-turned-women? Where were they now?
So, with those two forces (Jones’ Q&A and the Wonder Years) I Googled Wendy Hagen, who played Julie, Kevin’s overly controlling girlfriend for one episode. As luck would have it, she ran a wonderful website, Totally Desperate Mom, that detailed her life as a child actress, mother and devout Christian. I fired off a quick e-mail, asked if she’d be up for a quick interview, and she responded warmly.
On March 23, 2011, Wendy Hagen debuted as the first Quaz. It remains one of my favorites, and Wendy has remained a friend.
I didn’t know what would happen next. I thought maybe I’d squeeze out five or 10 Quazes, then sorta grow tired. But it kept going. And going. And going. The goal was never to sit down with, oh, Lady Gaga or Madonna or Barack Obama. No, I wanted to do quirky, fun, cool, interesting, obscure, abstract, faded, rising, young, old, weird, cool. It couldn’t be all sports, it couldn’t be all politics, it couldn’t be all actors or musicians. I didn’t want everyone to be a person I agreed with. And I didn’t want everyone to be a person I disagreed with. I came to think of the Quaz as a weekly fortune cookie—you show up, you never know who or what you’re going to get. It could be Bruce Kulick, former KISS guitarist. It could be Laurie Berkner, beloved children’s singer. It could be a key Tea Party official, a man whose young son died of cancer, a former Major League All-Star, the chairman of the National Nazi Party. Hell, it might even be my my high school bully. Or another guy named Jeff Pearlman.
That goofy randomness has turned the Quaz into one of the true joys of my life. I love tracking people down; I’m thrilled when folks say Yes! The idea that I can ask people anything I want, circumstances be damned … and that they’ll answer. Well, it’s just wonderful.
Anyhow, next week the Quaz turns 200, and I’m offering up a little contest. Take a guess who the person is. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first one to get it right receives signed copies of my last three books (Showtime, Sweetness, The Rocket that Fell to Earth) and—when it’s available—an advanced copy of my next book (release date: August 2016). Here are four hints:
A. He’s a famed 80s figure.
B. I live in California, and did the interview in person.
C. He’s not tall.
D. It’s not my wife.
Good luck, and thanks for reading …