He and his mother moved to Scottsdale in 1973, and he attended Chaparral High School before studying political science at Arizona State University. Simons volunteered for the school’s television station, embarking on a three-decade career in journalism that included work at KPHO and KTAR in Phoenix. Four years ago, Simons, 53, returned to Channel 8 to host the station’s public affairs program, Horizon. The award-winning journalist has interviewed everyone from Charlton Heston to former President Bill Clinton, but his most memorable moment to date was Governor Jan Brewer’s mortifying memory lapse during the 2010 Arizona gubernatorial debate.
You’ve spiced up a show that some say was as exciting as watching water boil. What’s your secret?
First of all, Horizon is never going to be a program that leads with a car racing into a swimming pool or a double shooting. It’s not designed to do that. It’s a thoughtful discussion of public policy issues. I really do enjoy it because I get to do what I always wanted to do – interview interesting people and talk about interesting things. Maybe that’s what spices it up. I’m honestly curious about what we are talking about.
Who was your most disappointing interview?
My worst interview was with Charlton Heston. He didn’t want to do the interview. He responded to my questions with quick answers, as if he were aggravated that he had to go through with it. It was unbelievable. But afterwards my producer walked into the studio almost sobbing and said it was a great interview. It goes to show, she was such a fan it didn’t matter that he was being a pain in the rear end. It was Charlton Heston.
What went through your mind during Governor Jan Brewer’s “brain freeze”?
It was very uncomfortable. It reminded me of the time I was covering a game in Candlestick Park [in San Francisco] during the earthquake. For the first three minutes, I thought, ‘I don’t know what’s happening.’ Then I realized what was happening and then, towards the end, with the shaking going on, I thought, ‘Is this ever going to stop?’ It was somewhat similar with the governor. I wasn’t sure at first, then I realized what was going on, and then I thought, ‘When is this going to end?’
But you stayed cool. In fact, you have been compared to jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond for your cool quotient.
That’s quite a compliment. I can be somewhat calm and I suppose I am smooth. I don’t want to be the guy with the hair on fire and I’m not going to scream. For better or worse, you’re not going to get that personality out of me, but you will get something of substance out of me. As long as I’m learning something, I have to think someone else is too, without me having to scream and make fun of people and do all the things people feel they have to do these days.
Forgive me for going from substance to the superficial, but how do you keep your hair from ever moving on screen?
For much of my life, my hair has been a crazy person that does whatever it wants to do, and finally, as I’ve aged, it seems like it wants to settle down. Also, after all these years, I’ve learned what mousse is. It’s amazing. Who knew that this stuff existed? It used to be on a daily basis I didn’t know what I was going to look like. Now I have some consistency.
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