Pop culture guru and current co-Executive Producer of “The View” Brian Balthazar’s entertainment roots run deep. In addition to launching the fourth hour of “The Today Show” that features hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Balthazar has made his mark on the entertainment world as a reporter, correspondent, comedian, and editor of the website Pop Goes the Week. Examiner caught up with Balthazar on Sept. 30 to chat about his involvement with Ford’s campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic Mustang, what makes “The View” truly unique, and his personal experience with the legendary Joan Rivers.
How is Ford celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beautiful Mustang?
Brian: I’m excited about this. Ford Mustang has been such an icon over the past 50 years –it’s had over 3,000 references in pop culture– and so what we’re doing is reaching out to people that are like the next movers in pop culture to determine what’s new and next in this country. And so we’ve partnered up with a few cultural institutions to help people re-invigorate their sense of adventure. Among them are ESPN The Magazine, Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos, Mashable, and Zagat Restaurant Guides. They are customizing driving routes for people to enjoy all over the country… to get people back on the road and get the wind in their hair.
We surveyed 1,000 people and 43 percent of them said that there’s an inner voice that says “no” before they try something new, so we thought what better way to combat that than to have these customized driving routes from these partners that know exactly what to try where and what to do where, whether it’s in food, sports, tech, entertainment. It kind of speaks to the fact that we do want to try things. We just have to lose the fear of failure and embarrassment; those were two of the factors that people listed as factors that keep them from trying new things. The Mustang car is about getting out there, hitting the open road, having some fun, and experiencing the joy of life.
Cool! What’s the biggest, baddest thing on your personal bucket list?
Brian: Okay, so I already scuba dived. I went zip lining last week. And I’m a kayaker, I like that. But I think there I could explore more is I’m not super adventurous with food. Like I don’t like an eyeball on the thing I’m eating; I don’t want the head on it and I want to be blissfully unaware of its expression [laughs].
I totally understand! So what kind of food do you want to try out?
Brian: I’m wrapping myself around oysters. I know that doesn’t seem… like that much of a jump, but what we found in this study was that 59 percent [said that] trying a new food would be something they’d be willing to do. The others were travel, which I think makes sense, and also sports, music, and culture. So I would like to try trapeze school… but with my fears of heights, that’s going to take some time. So I’ll start with oysters and work my way up to trapeze school.
I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of falling.
Brian: Exactly! The heights aren’t the problem. I can go as high in a building as you want. We actually just had the 2015 Ford Mustang on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building just a few months ago. There are walls and I can handle that. But the idea of dropping from a trapeze is a little bit more intimidating.
Wait, how did they get a Mustang on the 86th floor?
Brian: They still had not explained that to me. They must have an amazing freight elevator.
Well, sometimes mysteries are what make experiences great!
So you’re the co-executive producer of “The View.” What’s it like to work with those ladies?
Brian: I love each and every one of them, and the nice thing is… the spirit of the show is different women with different points of view, and they have that. Obviously I’m a huge fan of Whoopi and I think Rosie O’Donnell is a great return to the show. Rosie Perez is just a fantastic talent and I think we’re going to see her just kind of explode on the scene. And Nicolle Wallace, again, just a wonderful person, and smarter than smart. She has been there and done it in politics, so it’s kind of nice to have this person who has this real insider’s take on what’s going on in world affairs and political affairs…. That’s something that no other show has. I love the combination. It’s hard getting up really early in the morning, but what a reason to get up! It’s a gift and I’m very grateful for it.
If one of them leaves, do you have anybody on your wish list?
Brian: Oh gosh, you know I don’t…. I’m really planning on these four being here for a really long time.
So one last thing. I feel like I should pay homage to Joan Rivers since she just passed and I know you spent some time with her. What’s the most memorable thing about her, from your experience?
Brian: To me, I think, what was really memorable about Joan Rivers was… I started working with her when I was with “The Today Show” and produced some spots with her. Then she took me under her wing and invited me to her Thanksgiving and her Passover. But what was so interesting about her is that I make it sound like I was somehow unique or special, but she did this with so many people. She invited 30 people to her house for Thanksgiving and Passover and different parties.
And every time I emailed her she’d respond back. I didn’t email her a lot, so I felt a closeness to her even though I can’t say I was an intimate, close friend to her. She treated me like family, and I realize even moreso after she passed that she made so many people feel that way. I was moved to be at the service for her. She was just a lovely person and I think that what you saw on camera was funny and sometimes snarky but ultimately, she was nurturing and really cared about people and really gave a lot to people as well.
Brian: Thank you for asking. It’s nice to have the opportunity to say that, too.
Oh, of course! I figured you’d have something good to say about her and I wanted to give you that chance.
Brian: Oh, and we laughed a lot. I’ll say one memorable thing: I said a joke and she laughed. When Joan Rivers laughs at your joke, you’re like aaaaaah, I’m kinda funny sometimes!