Getting the Magic Johnson interview was tough, says Connie Chung. Doing it was tougher.
"It was painful for me," says Ms. Chung, whose "Face to Face" special airs tonight on CBS (10 p.m., Channel 11). "Every question was intensely personal. With most interviews, personal questions come much later, if at all. I've always been uncomfortable asking them."
CBS' Chung -- the only TV type to interview Exxon Valdez captain Joseph Hazelwood -- was relentless in landing the former L.A. Lakers star for his first prime-time conversation since his announcement last month that he's HIV-positive.
Trying to out-hustle the competition, Ms. Chung, 45, was on a plane to Los Angeles a few hours after Mr. Johnson's media conference Nov. 7. Late-nighter Arsenio Hall got him first, the next night. Despite being one of Mr. Johnson's pals from her L.A. days, Ms. Chung was told no.
Undaunted, she camped out at his agent's office and made a long pitch. Then came weeks of working the phones. Finally, Mr. Johnson agreed. The piece was taped at his home last Wednesday.
Says Ms. Chung: "He was totally honest and straightforward. He owned up to every criticism, every controversial issue. He didn't duck the tough questions and he wasn't pained by them. He said he was morally wrong for his [promiscuous] bachelor lifestyle."