It's the Oscars, and Rob Silverstein, Access Hollywood's executive producer, has the mike. Usually, he's behind the scenes. But tonight, he's all over the red carpet. He spies movie star/bad boy Colin Farrell and immediately gets in his face. "Colin, how are you? What's going on?"
Finishing his interview, Silverstein has a final request of the star: Pointing to the crew of Entertainment Tonight, arch-rival of Access Hollywood, he implores, "Don't talk to them." And incredibly, Farrell complies, breezing right by the ET
camp on his way into the Kodak Theatre.
That's Silverstein's take-no-prisoners approach to the cutthroat world of entertainment journalism. Whether Access
correspondent Billy Bush is playfully throwing fake snowballs at ET
correspondent Maria Menounous on the red carpet or the shows' publicists are placing snarky items about each other in the New York Post, both are engaged in a fight to the death.
And Silverstein, who cut his teeth in sports, loves every minute of it. A short, strong, bull of a man, his force field is electric.
"It's constant action, baby. Action, action, action," says Bush, who can imitate his boss to a tee. "In my entire career, I've never been blessed with a great leader. I always considered myself completely capable. But I've found in Rob someone who knows much more than I do and whose opinion I choose because he's always right."
duel over audience, but Paramount's ET
has the advantage. The first entertainment magazine on the air, it boasts better station distribution and overall ratings. "This is so competitive, and I can't win completely until our station list is as good as our competition's," says Silverstein. "But I can kick their butt in every other way, and they should feel the same about us."
Just check out Silverstein's scoops: Eight straight days of interviews with rapper Eminem when he was white-hot. The interview with the then-engaged Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Being the first and only show to send a crew to the Survivor
island before the show even aired.
Credit sports for his competitive edge.
While a student at the University of Maryland, he drove into Washington on weekends to produce sports spots for Mutual Radio. That gig continued after college, when he sent his résumé to legendary radio owner Robert Hyland.
After interviewing, he heard nothing for a week or two—so he sent Hyland a telegram: "I'm ready to make the move to St. Louis at any time. Stop. Awaiting your call. Stop. P.S. Go Cardinals."
At 6 a.m. the next day, the phone rang. "We'd love to have you at KMOX," Hyland said. "When can you be here?" Silverstein promptly replied: "Tomorrow."
He spent the next few years producing sports out of St. Louis, with frequent trips to New York to produce a weekend CBS Radio show. One of Silverstein's KMOX colleagues was sports announcer Bob Costas.
Silverstein continued to produce Costas's Sporting News
even after moving to Los Angeles to produce Fox's Front Page
What Costas remembers about Silverstein, besides the fact that he was "almost as much of a performer as he was a producer," is that he knew all the dialogue from the Honeymooners' episodes. Silverstein was fond of telling his on-air talent, "All right, you're on the air," mimicking Art Carney in the "Chef of the Future" episode when Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden character got stage fright.
"Sometimes, I miss doing sports, and I treat entertainment like sports," says Silverstein. "There are winners and losers and games at night."