Anita O'Day doesn't like being interviewed. And she doesn't watch much television.
So it's funny that her career has taken an upswing after a recent profile by Harry Reasoner on "60 Minutes." Orders for her albums have tripled and people are lining up outside nightclubs to see her -- the same Anita O'Day who knocked out audiences in the '40s and '50s with Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton and who fought her way back from drug addition to renew her artistry.
She appeared in Washington recently at Blues Alley, and fans -- old and young -- were glad to see her again. She takes it in stride.
When Reasoner himself approached her at a New York nightclub about the "60 Minutes" appearance, she asked: "Is it radio or television?"
She continues: "He fell on the floor. Somebody picked him up. I think he walked out after that. I never heard of the show. I don't watch television on Sundays. If I'm working, that's my day off.
"All the old ladies in my building knew about the show. They got very excited. But they didn't see me. That was the week they went to visit their grandchildren."
O'Day, 60, says a TV crew followed her around the country for several weeks shooting hours of tape that was boiled down to 14 minutes.
Ask her about her 16-year drug adiction and you get a cold stare. She does't want to discuss the habit that almost killed her or how she went cold turkey 10 years ago on a Hawaiian beach, burrowing into the warm sand to fight off chills or submerging herself in the cold surf to ward off fever.
"It irks me," O'Day says of people asking about her addiction. "Everbody wants to talk with me about that subject. But when I was in it nobody wanted to help me. They just left me out there hanging.
"You can read about this in my autobiography." (She's just completed work on "High Times, Hard Times," written with George Eells and scheduled for publication in 1981.)
She's sitting in a Georgetown restaurant with John Poole, her road manager and drummer of 27 years.
How have they lasted together so long?
"Who can say?" she answers. "we've both got to make a buck. We know how to leave each other alone. We sure haven't been lovers."
O'Day is even disdainful of the restaurant's dress code. Her hair is in rollers and she's wearing a scarf and sun glasses.
She's stopped eating her avocado burger momentarily. A waitress stops and says: "Can I take that?"
"I'll bit your hand."
"I knew you would."
Next, O'Day is lambasting Georgetown.
"This place is for kids," she says. "That's all I've seen here. I was in a store up the street and they had nothing over size 32 (she motions toward her bodice). I had to ask the girl, 'Where does your mother buy hers, dear?' She told me Lord and Taylor. That's where I'll have to go tomorrow."
She's getting angrier by the minute, displeased with the interview, the restaurant and Poole for hiring a 23-year-old pianist for the Blues Alley job. Why does she dislike interviews?
"Because it's corny," she blurts out. "I haven't done anything. If I hit a hole-in-one, then, okay, I've got something to talk about. But if I don't hit another hole-in-one and I keep talking about the same one, it gets to be a drag. People keep asking me the same questions about drugs, the old songs. I haven't done anythng new.
"I'm tired of this. I'm leaving."