Sept 2015

How do you rate “curiosity” on a scale of human virtues – and would it ever occur to you to consider using curiosity as a centerpiece for a book? And would a reader stick to a book in which curiosity is the so called hero?

You’ve come this far—stick with me for a short while.

Brian Grazer, a successful Hollywood producer has turned his “hobby”  into “A Curious Mind,” a highly readable book on that subject.

His hobby? Engaging in what he calls “curiosity conversations,” with the most accomplished people on the planet.

And, dear reader,  if you don’t have a curious enough mind to read further, sad for you – but you have my permission to turn the page.

Just think about the following people, when you consider the value of curiosity:  Salk, Euclid, Freud, Columbus, Jobs, Gates, Edison, Guttenberg, Ford, and of course so many thousands of others. We would still be living in caves and huntin’ and fishin’ and wearing clothes made of leaves and bark – had it not been for people who were curious. (and regarding that small voice I hear squeaking in the background,  “Maybe we’d have been better off,” – I’ll take you on in another column)

“The goal of (my book) is simple,” writes Grazer, “I want to show you how valuable curiosity can be ..and remind you how much FUN it can be and to show you … how you can use it.”

Grazer’s grandma encouraged his curiosity to the point where he was not averse to listening to (read that: eavesdropping on ) other people’s conversations,  which actually is how he became one of the most successful producers in Hollywood, a story he tells at the beginning of the book, that turned out to be the foundation of his career.

Interesting people make interesting stories—and Hollywood is nothing but stories. Grazer’s understanding of this concept sharpened as he moved from “delivery boy” at Warner’s studio to mogul-producer;  “A Beautiful Mind,”  “Splash,” “Apollo 13,”“The Da Vinci Code,” and many more.

For over 35 years, Grazer has been tracking down people “in,” but mostly “out” of show biz with requests for a sit-down talk to last about an hour, calling them, writing letters, badgering assistants, often waiting years for appointments – in order to get their stories, to find out what made them who they are. Mostly, he used their “stories” for his own edification, but often they became the bedrock of his movie or TV inspirations.

“Over time, I discovered that I am curious in a particular way…  in what I call “emotional” curiosity. I want to understand what makes people tick. I want to …. connect with a person’s attitude and personality, their work, their challenges, their accomplishments.” And this is not to negate his broader curiosity about  how things work.

The end of the book has a 27 page listing of people with whom Grazer has “conversed”: well known and lesser known writers, artists, scientists, business moguls, politicians, ‘creatives.’ (my word) sports figures, celebrities, academics, miscreants, “plain” people – you name it.

In the body of the book you will learn who is a “good interview,” and who is a “stonewaller.” You actually get clear insights into personality and motivation, including Grazer’s own.

On a personal note, I thank him for validating my own propensity for being what my family calls, “Mrs. District Attorney,” as I struggle to keep my curiosity about people somewhat in check, recognizing a need for social boundaries. On the other hand, a journalist is a journalist, is a journalist.

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