In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Most people know Australian native Rick Springfield for his huge 1981 hit single “Jessie’s Girl,” around the same time he starred on General Hospital as Dr. Noah Drake. He followed up that song and role with a few more hit singles, a variety of acting gigs, and a career that still stands 35 years later. Last year he made an impressive return to the big screen alongside Meryl Streep in Ricki And The Flash. This year he’s just released a new album Rocket Science (which debuted higher in the charts than any of his records since 1985) featuring some songs he wrote with Rascal Flatts. He’s currently in the midst of his “Rick Springfield Stripped Down” tour, in which he takes the stage solo with a variety of guitars and some stories from his memoir Late, Late At Night; he’ll follow that up with a tour with his whole band this summer. The 66-year-old is a longtime friend of The A.V. Club, offering a remarkable acoustic Fleetwood Mac song to our Undercover series, contributing an extensive interview, and even doing a Random Roles last year on his acting roles from the original Battlestar Galactica to True Detective. What’s left? How about a fun round of 11 Questions?
1. What’s a question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Rick Springfield: “Please tell me in detail about your high-end Star Wars collection.”
The A.V. Club: Oh, because you have a high-end Star Wars collection…
RS: I do.
AVC: What is your favorite thing in your collection?
RS: Head Man. Because he’s so rare—he’s not even in the movies. It’s a bootleg; it’s a Turkish bootleg. And that’s the only bootleg that is valued by collectors. It’s Turkish and he’s the rarest of the rare. There’s only two known carded examples and I have one of them. So I looked a long time for that sucker.
AVC: Wow. How much would that be worth on the open market?
RS: I have no idea. I think quite a bit. Probably five bucks if you’re asking anyone else, but if you’re asking a collector, it could be 20 grand.
AVC: When did you start collecting those?
RS: When the [first] movie came out. I was a toy freak but I was past the age where I would actually open them up and play with them, so I just bought them and kept them in the packages, and that’s how they became worth something, which was in the packages, pristine condition. Which mine were because I didn’t play with them. Every other kid tore them apart and lost the weapons.
AVC: Isn’t there that little piece in the middle, that if you don’t punch that out so it could hang on the hook, it’s worth more that way?
RS: [Laughs.] Yeah, that’s part of the pristine condition. It gets pretty silly, actually. I mean they’re badly painted, badly made, crappy figures, but you know, there’s something cool about them. And I think a lot of it is a great artwork and I feel like the first, second, and third film stuff—that was really all I was into.
AVC: So you haven’t rejuvenated your collection for the new movie?
RS: No, I don’t buy new stuff. I don’t collect them anymore. It got kind of old but I really have basically all the super rare ones you can get from the ’70s and early ’80s, and that’s really the only ones I’m interested in. I mean I love to look at them, but there’s no collector value to them so I wouldn’t buy them for that. I’m not into just buying them for the toys factor anymore. [Laughs.]
2. If you could ride a giant version of an animal to work every day, what animal would it be?
RS: Wow. How high were you when you thought that one up?
AVC: Some of these actually came from some of our readers, I think.
RS: [Laughs.] I’d like to meet the guy that came up with that one. Wow. A giant animal. Probably a T. rex?
AVC: Ooh! That would be cool. Very intimidating.
RS: As long as he was tame, that would be awesome. He would scare the shit out of people and they’d sure get the fuck out of your way if you’re riding a T. rex to work.
3. What movie have you seen the most?
RS: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick. I’ve seen it about 20 or 30 times and I’m just blown away by it every single time. It’s amazing. The first time I saw it, I kind of sat through it and went, “Oh, this is really slow.” And then it just gradually grew on me and I realized what an amazing piece of work it was and how deep it was. You know, there wouldn’t be a Star Wars if he hadn’t come up with that amazing way of building… you know, before him it was silver pointed spaceships with fake fire coming out of the back of them. That was what a spaceship was. He was the one that started the whole, real-looking space vehicle thing, and the realism of being in space. And it was like Arthur C. Clarke, and I’ve always been a big Arthur C. Clarke fan.
AVC: Cool. I bet most people don’t know you’re this much of a sci-fi guy, but it all makes sense.
RS: Well, yeah. It is sci-fi but it’s also the whole evolution of humanity, which is pretty amazing.
AVC: Are you into any of that conspiracy stuff like UFOs, Roswell…?
RS: There’s part of me that is and there’s part of me that isn’t. And I think it’s probably the same part that collects Star Wars toys. But I think there’s more going on, you know, obviously I’m into the whole Kennedy assassination thing. I haven’t met anybody yet that said, “No, Oswald did it, without a doubt.” So that was kind of the start of it for a lot of people: “If they didn’t tell us the truth about that, then what else could they lie about?” I think that kind of set a lot of people off, right there.
AVC: Did you like other Kubrick movies too, or is that your main one?
RS: Yeah, yeah. He’s my favorite filmmaker. Dr. Strangelove, I love; Clockwork Orange I’ve seen about 15, 16 times. Yeah. He’s just amazing. The most brilliant filmmaker of all time.
AVC: I feel like Lolita always gets kind of lost. I think it’s hilarious.
RS: Yeah. That’s a scary one for some people, I think, if they say “Yeah, Lolita’s amazing,” you know, it’s like, “Pervert.” But it was brilliant, because the book, to me, is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Because the book is less sensationalist than the movie, but it’s more about a kind of a real love story and it’s very freaky. I mean, you couldn’t write a book like that now. They probably wouldn’t publish it.
AVC: In college I took a class where we talked about Lolita as a metaphor for America or something…
RS: I don’t know. I think that’s one of those conspiracy theories that someone thought too long and hard over, you know?
4. What’s a stupid thing you incorrectly believed for a long time?
RS: That Santa Claus was real.
AVC: Aww. How old were you?
RS: I was 7 when I found out. I was crushed. And I actually said to my parents, “Do I have to thank you now for the presents at Christmas?” And my mom said, “Yes, you do.” [Laughs.]
AVC: How did you find out?
RS: Some kid told me at school. He said, “You still don’t believe in Father Christmas, do you, you baby?” And then I went and asked my big brother and he said, “Nah, it’s bullshit.” So it was a bit of a drag. And I remember that was the Christmas that, when I was opening them, I’m going, “Wow, these aren’t really from Santa. That sucks.” [Laughs.]
5. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard about yourself that isn’t true?
RS: That I was gay. I actually had a gay magazine in the ’80s call me and say, “So, when did you first realize you were gay?” I said, “Umm… I’m… not.” And he goes, “No, of course you’re gay.” It was about a half-hour conversation with this guy, trying to convince him that his source was wrong. [Laughs.]
AVC: That probably happens to a lot of celebrities.
RS: Yeah. That does happen a lot. The other one was that I was dead, which was kind of disturbing.
AVC: When was that?
RS: Oh, I don’t know. Like about the ’90s. Someone posted something or someone’d written something somewhere that I died. A little premature.
AVC: Just a little!
6. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
RS: Chocolate-covered bees.
AVC: Nice. Where was that?
RS: I bought them at Ralph’s, actually. In the ’70s. Ralph’s, the grocery store. I was experimenting with food and I bought ants and I bought chocolate-covered bees… That’s about the weirdest thing.
AVC: I thought it’d be something crazy from Australia. Something from the Outback.
RS: No… Everything in the Outback, if you eat it, it’ll kill you. So you can’t really do that. [Laughs.]
AVC: There was a weird thing in the ’70s with insects. They were going to be the new protein source.
AVC: Glad that didn’t pan out.
6. What was the first concert you ever went to?
RS: The Beatles. 1964. I was 14. I got tickets to see them in Australia. They’d come here because “Ticket To Ride” was a new single. So that was the first one I actually saw, and I screamed like a 12-year-old girl. It was awesome.
AVC: What else do you remember about it? Were they already a big sensation? Were you able to hear anything over the screaming?
RS: They were really big stars, and all the Australian acts that opened for them were still locked into the whole ’50s rock ’n’ roll: leather, combed-back hair, you know, electric blue suits and dance steps. Then The Beatles came onstage and it felt like they were from another planet. They looked so different, and so cool with their hair combed down, and those Cuban-heeled boots and their matching dark suits, and then all those amazing songs just started coming out. I wasn’t prepared for it, but my mouth opened up and I screamed for the whole 25 minutes. [Laughs.]
AVC: Who was your favorite Beatle? Who was your go-to?
RS: Paul was, because he was everything a guy wanted to be. He was great looking, he had an amazing voice, he wrote all the songs all the girls loved—an incredible musician, you know—he was the real deal. Even then, I knew that about him, because I was a fledgling musician myself and I knew how amazing what they were both doing was. I mean, I’m a huge John fan now, but as a kid it was Paul… probably it was a boy crush thing as much as anything. I don’t know, maybe I am gay. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you get to meet him eventually?
RS: Yeah, I’ve met him a couple times actually. And yeah, it was pretty awesome. It was amazing. I think that was the most nervous I’ve ever been, meeting him for the first time. I was like, “Oh my god, here he comes, here he comes, here he comes, oh my God, it’s him!” It was that whole thing.
7. What’s the most interesting opportunity that you’ve gotten through your work?
RS: There are some good highlights. I think experiencing that first No. 1 record was pretty amazing. We were rehearsing and I’d been trying for 10 years and had nothing, and then all of a sudden, “Jessie’s Girl” was No. 1 and we were rehearsing to go out on the road. My manager, Joe Gottfried—who owned Sound City, which is how I got involved with the whole Dave Grohl thing with Sound City—came in, walked into the rehearsal room with probably the cheapest bottle of champagne you could possibly buy, and said “We just went No. 1.” And it was a pretty amazing feeling. Suddenly I felt everything was possible then.
AVC: And you had no idea the song was going to do that well? It just came out of nowhere?
RS: Yeah, I had no idea. I didn’t even think it was a single—shows you what I know.
AVC: What were you going to pick as the single off Working Class Dog instead of “Jessie’s Girl”?
RS: I thought that “Love Is Alright Tonight” would’ve been a better first single; “Everybody’s Girl” I really thought was a good single. And there were a couple of different songs that were being played; it was just the first time that had ever happened in my career at that point. It was back when DJs played songs: If they heard a song on an album, they’d play it because they liked it. It wasn’t, you know, “Here’s your playlist of 12 songs, don’t deviate.” It was guys that loved music and picked songs and made hits, and they made “Jessie’s Girl” a hit, because it wasn’t released as a single and they started playing it and they started getting phone calls. So the DJs found “Jessie’s Girl,” which wouldn’t happen today.
8. What embarrassing phase did you go through?
RS: Probably the Fred Flintstone outfits in the ’70s. For some reason I got it in my head that I should wear a loincloth and fur boots when I was playing live, and that was a really good look. And it wasn’t.
AVC: No, you didn’t.
RS: Yep. There are photos around, you can—
AVC: I’m Googling right now.
RS: Yeah: “Rick Springfield Indian outfit” or “Fred Flintstone” or “caveman outfit.” Some of those. I have photos of it. It was like ’73, ’74. Pretty horrible. Actually one of the photos, it was a night in ’75, I had this “Indian” outfit, made with rib bones, breastplate, and this big long silver cape. And I wore it once. And the caption under the photo was, “the things some people will do to try and become famous.” [Laughs.] They’re around somewhere.
9. Have you ever stolen anything, and if so, what?
RS: Oh my god, yeah. Are you kidding? Guitars, records, books… I used to go into a second-hand bookstore, I’d buy one book, and I’d stack about 15 under and just walk out. And I did this so many times I had about 200 books in this big cardboard box and I’d stay home from school and I’d read. That’s what I did all day. I hated school so I’d stay home from school and I’d read, and that’s where I got my education. Because I read Robert Bloch and H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth and all these amazing writers, and I used to steal the books—because it was fun, and because I didn’t have the money.
Also, I’d steal guitars. We’d go in with an empty guitar case and, you know, this was before video cameras and security cams and everything so it was easy to do; you’d go into a record store and just stick a 45 under your shirt and walk out. If you got caught it was no big deal, you’d just give it back to them and run for it. But yeah, I stole a lot of stuff. I stole a lot of stuff as a kid.
AVC: Where did you grow up in Australia?
RS: All over the place. My dad was in the Army so we got shipped around every two years. Mainly Melbourne, but we also got shipped over to England when I was about 9, we lived there for a couple of years, which was awesome. Got to see Europe and England, before, you know, while it was still good old England before the floodgates opened and every great city changed because it became a melting pot. I see that in Melbourne, it’s just… But England was incredible at that point. It was just as The Beatles were breaking out. They were playing, they played in a city called Guildford, which is about 10 miles from where I used to live, when they were just doing their first tours after they’d come back from Hamburg.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met?
RS: Well, it’s a tie between Elvis and Paul McCartney. It depends on who you ask, I guess.
AVC: You met Elvis?!
RS: Yeah, I met Elvis on a plane, in 1972. My manager, actually, at the time, was Steve Binder, who directed the Elvis comeback special for NBC. So I was going back and forth from Australia because I didn’t have a permanent visa, so I had to fly back and get another visitor’s visa and fly back to America. I was doing that for a while. I got on the plane one time and I was in the back of the bus but I walked past the first-class section—it was stopping in Hawaii because he was going to Hawaii—and there was Elvis, and he looked amazing. You know, jet black hair, and he was thin and had this powder-blue leisure suit on, and he came back [to coach] before the plane landed and went up and down the aisle signing autographs. I wasn’t a big fan at the time then—I am now but I wasn’t much then, I was more a fan of The Beatles—but I had a girlfriend named Allison and I said, “Hey, would you sign this for my girlfriend Allison?” And I said, “You know, Steve Binder manages me,” and he said, “Oh, I love Steve, Steve’s great,” and had a little conversation with him. It was pretty cool.
11. Bonus question from Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen: What would you most like to try filling a bath tub with and getting into?
AVC: And now you get to come up with a question for whoever our next person is.
RS: Okay. How about, do you believe Oswald was the sole shooter in the Kennedy assassination?