There are certain markers in an entertainment writer’s career that let him know he’s ‘made it’. Having a handful of cover stories with A-list stars is a big one. Never having your emails ignored by some of Hollywood’s most powerful publicists is another. But a Meryl Streep story… that’s the Holy Grail. Tarek Hijazi has one of those, and it’s a very, very good one, involving Jack Nicholson, an exclusive party and champagne. Hijazi has the enviable job of traveling the world to meet some of the biggest stars alive today and his writing appears in publications around the world. His recent interview with Beyonce was translated and published in six different languages. We caught up with the jetset journalist extraordinaire to find out all about his one-of-a-kind career in entertainment and to get the scoop on his Meryl story…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I am a third culture kid with a fluctuating accent. My life is a robust blend of sleep deprivation, anxiety, aspirins, and perennial editorial headaches. In a phrase, it’s not all champagne and caviar. I just make it look like a mash-up of Almost Famous and The September Issue.
In a parallel universe, I would be a film director. Maybe a photographer. But most probably Karl Lagerfeld’s pampered cat. In my free time, when I’m not seeking therapy for my aviophobia, I like to ponder the question of what it is that Meatloaf won’t do for love. I don’t like ketchup. I think it ruins everything. Oh, and people should know my first pet was a frog.
What do you like most about what you do?
There are people who are like beacons – people who make extraordinary contributions to the world – and I’m in the fortunate position that I can sit and talk with such people. Of the places been and people met, my life has been one of constantly renewed fulfillments.
What’s been the most important lesson you have learned over the years?
I have learned that people want to be acknowledged. People want to be heard. We thrive on attention. We don’t trust our own judgments, so we seek approval. Only when we are no longer suppressed by our anxiety and fear of rejection or criticism will we live to our fullest capacity.
Do you have any embarrassing celebrity encounters?
Yes, my life is riddled with those. I have a knack for embarrassing myself. Once, at what was supposed to be a small, intimate gathering, I came to the rude awakening that I was completely unprepared and underdressed. There were wall-to-wall movie stars. I tried to pretend ennui as I schmoozed with some of the greats until I realized I was elbow-to-elbow with Meryl Streep on one side, and Jack Nicholson on the other. I panicked, knocked over my champagne and everyone in the room reacted to the noise. I prayed that a sinkhole would open up below me. Staff rushed to the rescue, and Ms. Streep smiled and reassured me it was okay. She was very nice about it. She is a remarkable actress after all.
But that was a long time ago and I’m way cooler now because I am not as fidgety or clumsy around her. And, we talk about reincarnation and stuff.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Coffee. I think I have a rare superhuman tendency to survive on coffee alone. A camera because there is no greater way to immortalize the good things in life. Pen and paper because it’s much easier to jot down notes about interesting stories I come across when getting around.
What’s your favorite restaurant and why?
I enjoy eating at people’s homes. It’s a great way to get a genuine local perspective when you’re in a different city. It’s a social endeavor. Every home is a unique culinary experience. But if I must choose, for now, I’ll go with the Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, NY, for their legendary rib steak, and the Margherita Pizzeria in Gemayze, Beirut, for their dangerously good smoked salmon and cream cheese pizza. I also love food trucks. The Red Hook Lobster Pound makes out-of-this-world Maine-style lobster rolls.
More importantly, however, if my mother had her own restaurant – or cooking show – Nigella Lawson wouldn’t hold a candle to her.