Watching Sandy Hill interview Margaret Trudeau on ABC's "Good Morning America" the other day produced a sensation akin to Oscar Levant's answer when asked if he ever watched Dinah Shore on television. "No," he replied, "I'm a diabetic."
I have not seen so many dimples displayed since Shirley Temple signed her first long-term contract at 20th Century Fox. In the characteristic fashion of the emerging school of gush interviewing, Hill let Trudeau get away with murder.
Trudeau recently separated from her husband, Pierre, who, when he is not minding their three kids, moonlights as prime minister of Canada. She used most of the interview to complain about the treatment she has received from the press.
Here is part of the exchange between Hill and Trudeau.
Trudeau: "I tend to keep the press at a distance, you know, and I don't really react to what they say. I react to what I feel, more."
Hill: "That takes a great deal of strength because sometimes the barbs are very pointed."
Trudeau: Yes, well, not only pointed, they can be very vicious and very hurtful and damaging. But I think 'I've learned a lot of lessons about the press and the ability that they have to use people in order to sell papers and make sensational stories. And I'm very offended, sort of insulted, that they would treat Pierre and I in the way they have."
It was that way throughout the first part of the interview without Hill challenging her once on the matter of who used whom. Did the press really use Trudeau all that much or did she use the press?
No one exactly forced Trudeau to say for print that she had a cute behind and nice legs. Or that she liked to put on a garter belt because it turned her on. No one forced her to stay at the same hotel with the Rolling Stones after she had photographed them at a concert. (She does concede in the interview that staying at the same hotel was a mistake.)
Trudeau is the object of current press attention because she does things that are news. I yield to no one in my anger at what I take to be an increasing tendency on the part of the press to poke around unduly in people's private lives.
But Trudeau did not seek to be discreet about her private life. She flaunted it, in Canada and in the United States. Ad it has not hurt her budding career as a photographer one damn bit. Why did she think she was invited to appear on "Good Morning America" - because she is Canada's answer to Richard Avedon?
She was on the show because she has become a celebrity. And she has become a celebrity because she has conducted herself in a manner that did not quite fit the norms that we associate with the conduct of women married to national leaders.The press did not do anything to Trudeau that she had not already done to herself.
Hill should have called her on that score. That would not have constituted rudness; it simply would have been good interviewing.
But she did not. Apart from one solid question as to whether Trudeau thought she was abandoning her children, she threw puff balls that the lady from Ottawa just plain knocked out of the park.
And in the end, Hill asked Trudeau: "You've been through so much to launch this career, to establish it. Do you think it's been worth it?" And Trudeau answered: "Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I feel very confident and positive about my life."
I don't blame her. With interviewers like Hill around, why shouldn't she feel confident?