Turn on your television at any moment, and, more likely than not, there he is. Coiffed and designer-clad, every hair and attitude in place, Pat O'Brien could win a gold medal in a new Olympic biathlon of ubiquity and style. When he's not appearing on the 11:30 p.m., Lettermanesque take on the day's Olympics events on CBS (WBAL, Channel 11), he's doing celebrity-style reporting on the games for his other employer, "Entertainment Tonight."
Apparently this correspondent never blinks, much less sleeps -- we were able to interview him by phone yesterday afternoon at CBS' broadcasting center in Albertville, France.
Q: When do you sleep?
A: I'm completely on L.A. time. I go to sleep around 8 in the morning, which is 11 at night L.A. time, and I usually wake up at 5 a.m. anyway. So I really haven't changed anything.
Q: Where did you learn to speak French?
A: Mexico. (Laughs.) Uh, I don't speak French. A couple of research people helped me through that one night [when he spoke some pseudo-French]. So if it came out like French, I'll take credit for it, but if not, then it's their fault.
Q: Have you gotten to meet any actual natives?
A: Yes. I had dinner at a typical French family home recently, with local wines, local foods.
Q: Did you film the dinner for your show?
A: We shot it, but we haven't decided when to show it yet. It was a really nice family that lives two blocks from the broadcast center. It's a big deal to have someone over to your home here, they made up a menu on silk screen. I had leek pie, a salad with goat cheese melted on top, homemade pate, unbelievable Bordeaux wine -- this family collects wine -- lamb, potatoes [here Mr. O'Brien lapses into his faux French, accenting the last syllable]. And some kind of dessert, I don't know what it's called but it tasted great.
Q: Did they know who you were?
A: They had no idea. Which was great because they didn't ask me, 'Is the fireplace real?'
Q: Well, is it?
A: Yeah. Absolutely.
Q: This isn't a good time for you to be away from "Entertainment Tonight," (7:30 p.m. WJZ-TV Channel 13) especially with the Grammys coming up. They said that's usually your story, but John Tesh would do it this year.
A: I'm sorry I'm going to miss it. But he'll do a better job. We've known for several years I'd be gone this February, but this couldn't have come at a worse time. Mary [Hart] just came back from having a baby. Leeza [Gibbons], I heard, just had a baby on Thursday.
Q: She just missed having her baby on your birthday [Friday, giving Mr. Tesh an opportunity to needle him on the show about turning 44]. How did someone with your background in news and sports -- he started as a researcher for David Brinkley on NBC in 1970, reported for stations in Chicago and Los Angeles and landed on CBS Sports in 1981 -- end up on "ET"?
A: All this cool and hip and unflappable stuff people have been writing about me -- I'm not a dumb blond. I'm the sub-anchor, substituting for anchors when they were gone. I just signed another three-year contract with Paramount [which produces "ET"], and I might be doing a new show for them.
Q: Will it be anything like "Pat's Home Video" (a segment on his CBS Olympic show, during which Pat takes viewers along with him to pizzerias or bakeries)?
A: Now, you understand it's a joke, right? The writers [who have been criticizing the segments], they're taking it too seriously. They get an "F" for common sense. It's a joke. So it's kind of fun. In fact, we're starting to call it "Pat's Controversial Home Video."
Q: Some days, the Olympics have been, well, dull. Do you ever have nothing to fill your half-hour with?
A: Even on dull days -- and there are dull days -- we always have something. We've set a standard with rock and roll highlights, and there are always enough interesting features stories to do.
Q: If someone did a feature on you, what would be the rock and roll music accompanying it?
A: I'm a complete Beatles freak. I think there's a Beatles song for every one of my moods.
Q: What's been the most exciting part of the Olympics for you so far?
A: I think today, the hockey team going into the medal round. [The U.S. team, by tying its game with Sweden yesterday, won an easier competitor for the quarterfinal game today.] You can't help but cheer for the U.S. I was born in the USA, what the hell? Maybe I'll wear a flag tie, I've worn everything else.
Q: Speaking of which, what's with your clothes? They're not the usual anchorman look.
A: My mom says they look nice! They're by Joseph Abboud; he did the clothing for us, and I wear a lot of his clothes anyway.
Q: (Random chatter about news he's missing on the home front.)
A: I'll tell you an anecdote I haven't told anybody yet. You get onto things like this, it's like you're in a fishbowl. I'd been clamoring for news from back home, and I turned around and see Dan Quayle. So I said, Mr. Vice President, what's the news? He gave me an update on what's going on, what's going on with Russia . . .