-- Jack Gray, 360 Associate Producer
Bhutto traveled to Boston for a speaking engagement in the spring of 2005, I knew immediately that I wanted to book her for the nightly news program that I produced. She had not been in the headlines for some time, but to me she was still a big "get," as we say in journalism, especially for a local program.
I submitted my interview request through an intermediary and was thrilled when I heard back that she had agreed to do it. I would need to provide transportation for her, I was told. It was not an unusual request for most guests, though I was a bit surprised that a former head of state -- especially one as controversial as Bhutto -- wouldn't be traveling in her own secure convoy.
Nevertheless, I called the limo company we used and booked the biggest SUV they had, figuring she would be traveling with a large entourage. She was staying at the Hilton or the Sheraton in downtown Boston -- I forget which. The show was live so I was very worried about her showing up on time. A producer always prefers to have a way to contact a guest directly in case of emergency, but I was told, "Benazir
Bhutto does not carry a cell phone." Maybe it was because explosives can be detonated remotely via cell phone or perhaps she simply didn'
t want to give out her number -- I didn'
A colleague asked me, only half joking I think, about whether I was going to hire security guards to be at the television station. No, I said, I think we're all right. After all, this was during the time when Bhutto was living in relatively peaceful exile in Dubai and London.
On the appointed night, she arrived -- much to my relief -- on time. To say Benazir
Bhutto had presence would be an understatement. The famous face, those piercing eyes, the flowing gown and traditional head scarf -- she was a combination of gravitas, international panache and feminine beauty unlike any I had ever seen in person.
To my utter surprise she had no bodyguards with her, only one personal aide. I explained to her the format of the program and the topics that we hoped to cover. I hung on her every word. For a young journalist with ambitions of covering important world figures and events, her charisma and accent were intoxicating.
Hardly a diva, all she asked for was a cup of tea and access to a room in which she could touch up her hair and make-up. Later she would ask me one more question -- where could she buy a DVD for her children? They really wanted to see Jim Carrey'
s movie, "Lemony Snicket'
s 'A Series of Unfortunate Events.'" Benazir
Bhutto, just your average mom. I think I recommended she go to Best Buy. I wonder if she ever did.
As for the actual interview, it went off without a hitch. It was everything I had hoped it'd be --compelling, substantive and relevant. She made it clear that returning to Pakistan, despite the dangers she may face, was a top priority. When it was over, I escorted her from the studio to the front of the building, thanked her and said goodbye. With that, Benazir
Bhutto climbed back into the rented SUV and disappeared into the dark New England night.