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John Fugelsang of ‘Page Six TV’ recalls an encounter with a Beatle

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Actor, comedian & broadcaster John Fugelsang hosts "Page Six TV," which according to Fugelsang, looks at current pop culture events from a fresh point of view. His interview with George Harrison included persuading Harrison to play several songs on acoustic guitar, which proved to be Harrison's final televised appearance and was broadcast as "The Last Performance." Actor, comedian & broadcaster John Fugelsang hosts "Page Six TV," which according to Fugelsang, looks at current pop culture events from a fresh point of view. His interview with George Harrison included persuading Harrison to play several songs on acoustic guitar, which proved to be Harrison's final televised appearance and was broadcast as "The Last Performance." (photo courtesy of Fugelsang via his website)

The New York Post’s provocative “Page Six” gossip section has become a cultural touchstone, and now it has its own daily TV show, hosted by actor and comedian John Fugelsang.

“On ‘Page Six TV’ we take a look at current pop culture events and do it in a smart way with points of view you haven’t heard,” Fugelsang said during a phone interview.

Fugelsang is joined on the show by a panel of entertainment insiders.

“Bevy Smith is a fashion expert, Carlos Greer actually is from the New York Post’s ‘Page Six,’ and we have Elizabeth Wagmeister of Variety,” he said.

A variety of comedians and celebrities join Fugelsang and the panel on “Page Six TV,” which Fugelsang says is very much a comedy show – but not a mean one.

“It was important to me that the show not be mean. I wanted it to be edgy but not antagonistic or hostile to celebrities – except maybe Justin Bieber or the Kardashians,” Fugelsang joked.

The show, which premiered in some markets earlier this year, unpacks the day’s most outrageous and entertaining stories through a lens, which Fugelsang says can be a little cynical but fair.

“When we did a trial run earlier this summer, the ratings went through the roof,” Fugelsang said. “In Detroit, we beat Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert. In Atlanta, we beat ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ That shows me that there is an audience for this kind of show. It’s smart and funny, kind of in the vein of ‘Chelsea Lately,’ ‘The Soup,’ or ‘Best Week Ever.’”

Fugelsang has himself appeared in the New York Post’s epochal gossip column a number of times over the years, the first being in 1997, when he was tapped to conduct a TV interview with a reclusive former Beatle.

“The first time I was featured in ‘Page Six,’ it was when I interviewed George Harrison for a VH-1 special,” Fugelsang remembered.

On his way to London to interview Paul McCartney for a VH-1 town hall-style event, Fugelsang was asked to stay an extra day to interview Harrison, who agreed to appear to help promote an album that he produced for legendary sitar master Ravi Shankar.

“George was my favorite Beatle,” he said. “Like him, I come from a pretty complicated spiritual background, so he meant a lot to me, and I loved his solo career.”

Knowing how rare it was for Harrison to grant an interview at this stage of his life, Fugelsang was extremely nervous.

“I was a terrible interviewer. I was 26 years old – raw and nervous, and George knew it. In a way, I think that nervousness endeared me to him,” Fugelsang recalls of the exchange, which became Harrison’s final television interview.

“I knew that if I just asked about The Beatles, George would become bored and would want to leave,” Fugelsang said. “So instead, I asked about God and spirituality. We talked about meditation and what happens when you die.”

When the special ran in 1997, VH-1 cut out most of the discussion about spirituality and instead featured mostly unplanned musical moments, including a sequence where Harrison performed on acoustic guitar. Fugelsang recalls his surprise when George agreed to play.

“When we started the interview, there was no one with us in the studio. Within two hours, everybody was there – from (music producer) Rick Rubin to the editor of Billboard. One of the guys on the VH-1 crew had his girlfriend with him and she happened to have a guitar with her. We put the guitar in George’s hands and didn’t know if he would play or not.”

Harrison, who hadn’t performed a concert in America since 1974, wound up playing four songs in front of the cameras.

“They were songs that he’d never played live before,” Fugelsang said. “After the interview, George signed the girl’s guitar and then a guy came up and asked George to sign his guitar. George said (adopts Liverpool accent) ‘People ask me to sign a guitar and then it shows up on auctions so I can’t do that.’”

What was originally expected to be a 10-minute interview turned into a four-hour event, which Fugelsang says became a tribute to Harrison upon his death in November of 2001.

“When George died, VH-1 had all of this footage and they ran the whole special. You see George talking about death and life itself with an awestruck 26-year old.”

Fugelsang, who also hosts “Tell Me Everything” for Sirius/XM Insight #121, believes the time is right for “Page Six TV.”

“With the country experiencing ‘outrage fatigue,’ this show gives them something fun that they can watch as a family without fighting about politics,” he said. “It’s a smart show about a culture that can often be kind of silly.”

(“Page Six TV” airs weeknights at 10 p.m. on Eastern and Central Maine's CW Plus channel, a division of WABI TV 5.)

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