CNN host, reporter and celebrity Richard Quest is as gregarious, warm and eccentric in person as he is on TV. Viewers are familiar with his intoxicating and hilarious banter on CNN Business Traveller and Quest, not to mention his 20 years of business and current affairs coverage on both radio and television.
So how do you find being interviewed as opposed to interviewing?
I find it very uncomfortable. I’m nothing more than a journalist, and I’m not being falsely modest when I say that. I am constantly uncomfortable; I feel like I have sand in my underpants.
But you’re holding a press conference today, how do you think you’re going to handle that?
I feel like I’m poacher turned gamekeeper. I’m normally sitting in the audience trying to knock the pompous idiot who’s sitting on the podium off his perch. I promise you, it’s one of the most difficult things, when you spend your life trying to get an answer that the person didn’t want to give and now there’s going to be a group of people asking me questions trying to get me to say what I don’t want to say.
So are you used to the whole fame thing?
You’ve just got to remember that people, for whatever reason, are impressed or they’re slightly awed because you’re on television. It’s crap. I can assure you that when I stubbed my toe in the morning I swore like you do. People don’t realize that on television I’m prepared, I’m working. But if I’m going to the tube station in London and somebody recognizes me, they don’t know that I might have just had an argument with my mother, I might just have been overdrawn at the bank, but they expect you to be immediately the person you are on television. And that’s fine, I’m not going to moan about that. I’ve worked 20 years to get here and I’m not going to moan because I’ve finally got there. I’m going to enjoy it. The key to it is just recognizing that the rules have changed.
Tell us a TV secret.
Well, I always wear a white shirt. And there’s a reason for that: It’s for continuity. For instance, two days ago we filmed a piece on the haze. Then yesterday, we filmed the second part and I was wearing a different suit. And I suddenly realized this piece is going to fall apart because the audience is going to think, “Stupid idiot, he’s wearing two different suits.”
So what do you think of our haze then?
I’m slightly surprised there hasn’t been more anger about it. In other countries I’d think they’d probably be more strident. Possibly because they’d be more worried about having it thrown back in their face and losing an election. I don’t know, it’s not for me to say.
Can you introduce us to your travel companion, Sleepy? How old is he?
That’s a polite way of saying, “He’s a mothy old stuffed toy.” He’s about 10 years old. He came from the Travelodge in Philadelphia so I just took him home and he’s sat in my briefcase ever since. He comes everywhere with me.
What will you be doing tomorrow?
SQ 22 lifts off at 11:10am, and for the next 18 hours and 42 minutes I will be flying to New York. During that time I’ve got several articles to write, not least one for Future Summit, about whether I would want to be a space tourist.
So would you?
I don’t know. I’m a coward. I’m scared of dying unnecessarily. I don’t have such an urge to do it that I would believe that my death is justified.
What tickles your fancy?
Food that I like. A nice apple crumble with custard. And there’s nothing nicer than two soft-boiled eggs. I hear you say, “Why does that tickle your fancy?” Because I was looking forward to them. And they were just perfect. So what tickles my fancy on wider issues is something I’m looking forward to that lives up to its expectation. The converse to that is something that I look forward to that doesn’t will send me into a little cloud. A little local haze will appear just above my head.
What’s the perfect breakfast?
Two soft-boiled eggs, three to three-and-a-half minutes, a latte and white toast. Maybe a bagel if I’m feeling adventurous. I have no wish to have muesli. Why would somebody eat rabbit food for breakfast? If I do have cereal, it’s something really unhealthy like Frosties or Coco Puffs. There’s a wonderful American cereal called Cap’n Crunch; it gives meaning to life.
With all your travel, don’t you find it’s hard to get perfect soft-boiled eggs in hotels?
Yes, and room service is even worse because they boil them 15 floors below you and by the time they put them on a trolley, put it in the service elevator, and get them up to you, you could virtually play basketball with them. Allegedly Prince Charles has seven eggs cooked every morning so he can get the perfect egg. I have to say the Palace has denied this.
If you could only bring one thing on the plane with you for a long haul flight, what would it be and why?
What’s the one habit that you stick to, no matter how your routine changes?
I will make sure I make time for breakfast in the morning and clean my shoes in the evening. I find it very therapeutic to clean my shoes for 10 minutes before I go to bed.
So you’ve been doing this your whole life then?
I’ve only be doing it the last couple of months. Ever since I was with Prince Andrew in Kazachstan. At the end of four days I shook hands with him, said goodbye, and he just looked down at my shoes, shook his head, and said, “Oh dear.” I was so mortified that I immediately went and bought some shoe polish, a cloth, a brush and I started doing it. I wrote to His Royal Highness pointing out that he has probably given me a complex.
Do you think His Royal Highness polishes his own shoes?
I was tempted to say, “Polish your own bloody shoes” but I think his answer would have been, “After 20 years in the Navy, Richard, I can polish my own shoes better than you can,” so I didn’t go there.
If you had five minutes to change someone’s opinion about something, who would that someone be and what would you want to change their opinion on?
When people think journalists are trouble or mischief makers, I want to make it clear to them that we have a calling, a duty, a right. In many cases the rights and liberties you enjoy are because somebody fought for them. We’re not doing it because we think it’s fun; we have a duty to do it. Watergate or weapons of mass destruction would never have been found out if it wouldn’t have been for journalists. Would you rather be lied to by politicians or cheated by businessmen?
What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
Go out with friends for dinner, but good friends, not just any old friends. I don’t want 15 people that I don’t hardly know. I want two or three close friends and a good restaurant so we can catch up properly.
How many frequent flier miles do you have?
I’ve just gone over a million this trip.
What is your quest in life?
God forbid I drop dead today, I would like people to say, “He was a gentleman.”