This week, Ira Sternberg spoke with John Barbour.
Few people in show business history have had as varied or controversial a career as John Barbour.
At 15 he was a Canadian 9th grade drop out. At 46, Barbour became the creator-producer-principal writer and co-host of “Real People,” television’s first reality show.
Prior to that, he was the first on TV to do film reviews on the news. Barbour was the three- time Emmy winning “Critic-At-Large” on KNBC, and for ten years the oft-quoted controversial film critic for Los Angeles Magazine.
In 1970 he was the original host of “AM Los Angeles,” where he won the first of his five Emmys, interviewing Mohammed Ali, Cesar Chaves, and Ronald Reagan, among others; and lost this highly rated show after booking New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison to talk about his investigation into the murder of President John F. Kennedy.
As a stand-up comedian, Barbour released two major albums: “It’s Tough To Be White” with liner notes by Dick Gregory; and “I Met A Man I Didn’t Like” with liner notes by Neil Simon.
In Las Vegas, he was the opening act for Robert Goulet, Bobby Darin, and Dionne Warwick. Barbour appeared frequently on variety shows including “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Dean Martin Roasts,” and “The Merv Griffin Show,’ where Westinghouse signed him to replace Merv.
On his own variety shows in Los Angeles, Barbour gave Redd Foxx his first television appearance, and was known for booking controversial guests such as Frank Zappa and Harlan Ellison. He wrote scripts for “Gomer Pyle” and “My Mother the Car” and “The Tammy Grimes show.”
Barbour was a principal writer-performer on the “Laugh-In” revivals that introduced Robin Williams…where he met and for four years became Frank Sinatra’s private writer, subsequently guesting with Sinatra on “The Tonight Show.” He was also a private joke writer for a number of prominent politicians.
In 1972, Barbour won a Golden Mike for his commentary on the murder of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. He is the only person in television to have won Emmys for both news and entertainment. In 1992, his documentary feature, “The Garrison Tapes” won the San Sebastian Film Festival Award…and has had a million views.
In May 2017 he completed part two of “The Garrison Tapes” called “The American Media And the 2nd Assassination Of President John f. Kennedy.” It has been accepted for 2017 Oscar consideration, and in just a matter of weeks became one of the most watched films on Amazon. Barbour is the only person to whom DA Jim Garrison gave an interview to in the ten years following the Clay Shaw trial.