So, Mr Sondheim, where’s your sex dungeon?

In the trashcan of Murdoch journalism, you will be hard pressed to find a more obscene interview than the one conducted today in the London Times (paywall) with the 84-year old composer by an intrusive hack called Tim Teeman.

The passage is far off any acceptable standard of cultural interview. Sondheim is plainly upset, but he handles the question – twice repeated – with customary dignity.

Here’s the text:

stephen sondheim

When I met Sondheim in 2012 he spoke about the state of Broadway, having his first non-platonic relationship at 60 and the state of musicals. Yet a couple of Manhattan theatre-addict friends had only one question for me afterwards: “What about the sex dungeon?”

There’s a rumour you have a sex dungeon, I say. Sondheim laughs. “I have heard of this. I don’t know how it got started.” (He ponders one possible source as the critic Martin Gottfried, who died last year.) So you haven’t got one? “No, I haven’t. There is no basis of truth in it whatsoever. It bothers me. What it represents is people trying to put me down and trash me. It’s like saying, ‘So and so’s a drunk’, ‘Who does he think he is?’

“If you go downstairs there’s a washing machine and a boiler. There’s one great thing down there and that’s a cedar closet with all my original manuscripts in it.”

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  • Yes, I’d heard this rumour awhile back but Sondheim has deftly delt with the question. A good template for what to do when faced with an intrusive question.

  • In the States, non Murdoch “journalists” ask Presidents of the United States, “boxers or briefs.” Journalism in the mainstream media is dead and has been for years. At least here, can’t speak for the Beeb.

  • Stephen Sondheim has always struck me as a charming and savvy guy, despite his repeated claims to being awkward and uncomfortable in social situations. I have seen him interviewed on numerous occasions and he always handles weird questions (and weird interviewers) with grace.

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