Hollywood go-to guy

By David Knox on March 9, 2011 / Filed Under News 20

For 8 years Nelson Aspen has been Sunrise‘s Hollywood go-to guy.

From his earliest role a child actor to his current position as an entertainment correspondent, he has racked up nearly 40 years in show business, including 10 years with Britain’s GMTV before a one-off Oscars interview with Sunrise led to a regular gig.

Currently in Australia, he tells TV Tonight he is an unashamed fan of showbiz.

“It’s a good thing that Entertainment has become just as much a headline in the newspapers as Politics, Sport, Weather. It’s not hidden in the back of magazines anymore, it’s viable news. When my 86 year old dad isn’t watching FOX News he’s asking me about Angelina Jolie,” he says.

But having observed shifts in reporting, he resists the urge to adopt a sensationalist tone.

“Unlike some people in this culture of showbiz reporting I grew up in the business, I celebrate showbiz, I like it and have respect for it. These are my colleagues, friends, neighbours, peers,” he says.

“I don’t deal in the contempt of show business. I don’t revel in bad news. If you’ve ever watched me you’d know I don’t do that. I like show business, I don’t wish it ill. A lot of people report on stuff with a devilish glee in misery.”

But what happens when there are trashy celebrity stories that become big news? Aspen is pragmatic.

“(US commentator) Keith Olbermann used to say ‘Stories My Producers Are Forcing Me to Report.’ There are some things you have to talk about because they are news, whether it’s a YouTube clip or a Tweet, but for me it’s in the approach,” he says.

“If I have to talk about something that’s not palatable I’m pretty clear about the fact that it’s not palatable.

“The nice thing about Sunrise is I’m here to give opinion, so I can wag my finger at bad behaviour and cheesingly refer to myself as ‘Uncle Nelson.’”

Currently visiting Australia for only the fourth time, ‘Uncle Nelson’ says he has built up a great rapport with the Sunrise crew, especially Melissa Doyle, despite the tyranny of a distant satellite link.

“There was some little connection that Mel and I had and it just worked. Then they invited me back and it went from once a week to once a day and at one point it was three times a day. It’s just been a very happy union,” he says.

“For the first few years they would see me and I didn’t see them. I didn’t have return vision. A lot of the times with this sort of thing you don’t have return vision so you have to make love to a piece of glass. But so much of what I do is referring to vision and clips so I couldn’t do it without the return vision for Sunrise.

He currently files similar stories for Ireland’s RTE afternoon line-up and  TVNZ’s Good Morning, previously filing for New Zealand’s Sunrise.

“Dealing with Aussies is always such a pleasure, it’s just effortless, but the time difference was very appealing,” he laughs.

“The irony is I go around the world saying ‘Good Morning’ but it’s never actually morning for me!”

Aspen says Sunrise frequently enables him to break news simply by virtue of its broadcast time, including reporting the deaths of Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson on the same day.

Acknowledging the passing of Hollywood greats is integral to him even when it isn’t always apparent to younger Producers.

“I’ll say to my Producer we’ve got to talk about Jane Russell’s passing. You may not understand why she’s important, but let me explain why. Her sexuality changed motion pictures,” he insists.

“When Deborah Kerr passed I said ‘Give me a minute to talk about Deborah Kerr.’ If that scene on the beach in From Here to Eternity hadn’t been shot, the whole pushing of the envelope in sexuality wouldn’t have existed in films. These are the things that excite me.

“I got the last interview with Tony Curtis because I actually stayed in touch with Tony Curtis. I break all the stuff with Zsa Zsa Gabor because I’m friends with Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

For his latest book, Dinner at Nelson’s : Cuisine and Conversation with the Showbiz Guru (“the ‘showbiz guru’ was not my idea but ‘Cuisine and Conversation’ was”) he has published recipes with an eclectic array of industry friends.

“My recipes are very simple and the more complex ones are guest recipes,”he says.

“I just picked up the book and called some friends and said ‘Let’s have a dinner party in a book form so you can share your showbiz stories with the readers.’ Most people have heard my showbiz stories.”

The book includes recipes from Tony Curtis, Carole Lynley, James Denton, Carolyn Seymour, Richard Quest from CNN,  Mindy Cohn from Facts of Life, Mimi Kennedy, agents, managers, casting directors, and even Lassie‘s veterinarian.

“So you have all these fascinating characters from the world of showbusiness gather around the dinner table, virtually.”

Sunrise airs 6am weekdays on Seven.
Dinner at Nelson’s is on sale now.

20 Comments »

  1. Jack! March 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm -

    Love Nelson … he has the right balance of attitude and knowledge and definitely shines as a genuine person, not driven by ego or excessive self importance.
    Nelson really leaves all the others for dead … particularly Richard Wilkins who has passed his use-by-date.

    He definitely deserves his own show ….and he looks bloody fantastic for his age!

    Maybe they could get rid of Kochie and replace him with Nelson???
    Ha! Ha! Ha! I like that idea!!! … less finance and more entertainment … winning idea!!!

  2. John March 10, 2011 at 12:30 am -

    So nice to see how much Nelson is loved by us.So maybe one day 7 could offer Nelson an interview style show in the vain of In The Actors Studio,but with Australian talent.Thats my idea anyway.
    And while i’m on it,once 6pm & the “3rd news show in a row” program has bit the dust we could see an entertainment style show at 6.30 with Angela Bishop?
    And can i suggest Ten that you move the news to 5.30 so you can cover all bases & have Deborah Knight & Sandra Sully co hosting.Please move Bill Woods from the bulletin,he is so (sorry) wooden.And stop the tock tock tock.Have you not had complaints about this?Very disturbing sound for a night shift worker.Can’t watch Ten news anymore……

  3. milk crate March 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm -

    nelson is the best on australian tv. the ones they have on ‘today’ are unwatchable.

  4. Tasha March 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm -

    @Goonies
    I always see Nelson on at around 6:53am-ish.
    I love to see him in the mornings, feeding me daily gossip goodness :)
    Is he doing a signing in Sydney?

  5. Chris March 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm -

    Nelson is a class act and clearly passionate about his subject.

  6. Mac March 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm -

    Love Nelson – he’s such a down to earth decent bloke who’s not OTbloodyT like so many other showbiz reporters. You can’t buy chemistry like what he has with the Sunrise crew. And glad to see he’s a reader of this blog, too! On ya, Nels! :)

  7. Goonies March 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm -

    What time does he come on Sunrise now? I used to catch him before I left for work but, alas, no longer.

  8. Paul March 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm -

    I like Nelson because he’s (as it’s been said) the down to earth version of all the others on Nine.

    I do remember a few years back he Used to be like that, all screaming and campy, but since he toned it down it’s been a breath of fresh air :)

  9. Guy March 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm -

    Great interview David. Nelson is way above the Wilkins and Reids of this world. He seems like a very down to earth person. Sunrise really do have a good person here. He is my favourite show biz person from around the world and i have seen a lot of these reporters and call them “Fake and Over the Top” personalities. Why do they do this? Its stupid. Nelson on the other hand tells it like it is.

  10. tricky March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm -

    Nelson is awesome i think he is, no wait he Is my fav showbiz reporter a really great guy an informed intelligent man who loves the industry and not just the gossip. I love how he knows about old Hollywood and not just the new Hollywood. It’s great to hear that being a lover of all Hollywood generations myself. Great interview David, as always. *****

  11. Kylie March 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm -

    Great interview!

    We love Nelson in our house – he’s the best Entertainment reporter going.

    Love your work too!

  12. Bernadette March 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm -

    He seems like a sweetheart, he is the only thing I miss since giving up on Sunrise several years ago. I thought I was going to pop a blood vessel if I listened to David Koch’s ill-informed moralising for one more second and my mornings are much better with music but I do miss Nelson’s take on the entertainment buisness as he didn’t just report gleefully on the drunken goings-on of Brittney/Paris/Lindsay et al. Good for him , good for you for interviewing him – wish he had his own show so I could hear him without Koch et al.

  13. garry March 9, 2011 at 10:40 am -

    What a great interview David. Nelson really is a good showbiz reporter and I have noticed his distaste when having to report on the scandalous issues of showbiz. Definately 100 percent better than the guy on Today show, who is just way over the top. Keep up the good work Nelson.

  14. catherine March 9, 2011 at 10:13 am -

    The good thing about Nelson is he isnt loud or really over the top like Richard Reid is. He doesnt have that annoying voice.

    I enjoy Nelsons segments and its good to see him out here and doing some charity work raising money for the floods.

  15. dee123 March 9, 2011 at 10:13 am -

    Clearly a billion times smarter & classier than Willkins & Reid.

  16. Kenny March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am -

    But Nelson, Richard Wilkins scooped you on reporting the death of Jeff Goldblum. Love your reports and your presentation. Why is it that your counterparts on Nine have to shout and scream so loudly that we just need to open the window and we can hear them screeching all the way from LA?

  17. Ian March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am -

    I always enjoy Nelson’s segments. Fortunately they are on at a similar time as the showbiz on the Today show so I can turn over watch Nelson & then turn back to Today!

  18. Craig March 9, 2011 at 7:25 am -

    He’s way better that the guy on Nine/Today.

  19. John March 9, 2011 at 6:27 am -

    Nelson appears to be a very down to earth,genuine & loving man.
    I think that comes across without question.
    Sunrise really do have a great team & format going.
    Sadly Today comes across as a gentlemens club with a couple of “shelias” thrown in for good measure (no offence meant girls).

  20. Nelson Aspen March 9, 2011 at 5:22 am -

    Thanks again for the interview, David. All best wishes to you & your readers. Love your work!

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