AS SI'S HOTBOX COLUMNIST, JIMMY JEMAIL, YOU'VE ASKED A LOT OF QUESTIONS. DO YOU MIND IF I ASK YOU SOME?
"Go right ahead, I'd be delighted. I've asked a few million on many a subject since I started in 1921. And I've talked to more than 300,000 people in those 34 years, sometimes as many as 100 a day. So it's good to have somebody else doing the work for a change, even though I've had a lot of fun being on the asking end."
HOW DID YOU HAPPEN TO GET INTO THIS QUESTIONING BUSINESS?
"My first day at work as Sunday watchman for the New York Daily News, the city editor remembered me as a football player and thought he could put me to better use. From then on I was the Inquiring Fotographer. That's one way sports have helped me all my life—from watchman to columnist in one day."
May 1, 1955
I DIDN'T KNOW YOU PLAYED FOOTBALL, JIMMY. TELL ME ABOUT IT.
"I was left half for Brown in '14, '15, '16 and '19, played in the Rose Bowl in '16 and had an All-America mention in '19 even though I was only 5 feet 7 inches, 165 pounds. I was a torpedo officer on destroyers between my junior and senior years."
YOU QUESTION MANY PEOPLE. DO MANY GIVE ANSWERS IN WRITING?
"Almost never. When people write, they get cautious and just don't sound like themselves. I used to have to interview 75 or 80 people for five good answers. Now, from long practice I get that many from 10 or 12."
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO REACH EVEN THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE?
"No matter who they are, they all like to express an opinion. Also nearly everybody recognizes me right away now. But years ago I landed in a psychopathic ward for asking a woman how she enjoyed her first kiss. Stayed overnight too while my paper pretended not to know me. Next day they told the hospital I wasn't crazy—just doing my job."
HOW IS IT ASKING QUESTIONS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED?
"Great. Everybody's interested in sports. For instance, in Vienna a few weeks ago for my nephew's wedding, I thought I'd interview some Russians. I took a few copies of SI with Carol Heiss on the cover to their headquarters at the Imperial Hotel. They were severe and formal until they recognized the picture of the great young figure skater. Then they grabbed the magazine and started talking a mile a minute. Sports make people—even Russians—easy to talk to everywhere."