I’m running this old photo partly because Jack Nicholson turned 70 yesterday, and partly because those hundreds of little speckles on this photo (it’s a scan of a print) have nearly ruined it, and it’s breaking my heart. Nicholson was my first big-name interview and the print used to be smooth and shiny and all silvery, and now look at it. Anyway…

25 years ago and very cold outside, as the backdrop suggests.

Here’s a bigger 5000 pixel version. I also have a couple of different scans on my desktop. I tried cleaning this scanned photo with “automatic small scratch removal” on my Corel Paint Shop XI software, and it helped some. I’m sure it can be cleaned up and enhanced even more by the right person operating the right software. If anyone has any ideas, please get in touch.

The photo was taken just after an interview I did with Nicholson on the 33rd floor of Manhattan’s Carlyle hotel, back in January 1982. The article was a freelance piece for the New York Post, and it ran four or five days later. The topic was supposed to be Tony Richardson‘s The Border , in which Jack played a Texas border guard, but we wound up talking about this and that, and particuarly about his then-current murderer image that stemmed from The Shining. (One of Nicholson’s lines in The Border was about wanting to “feed them ducks,” and Time‘s Richard Corliss had written in his review, “Feed them what? Strychnine?”)

We talked for just under an hour. (This was back in the days when they actually let you talk to celebrities for that long.) The interview began around 10:30 a.m., and I remember how Nicholson suddenly popped open a Miller High Life about halfway through. I wanted to be in the same wavelength so I asked for one also…why not?

When I first came to the hotel room door, the publicist, Bobby Zarem, answered and said, “How are ya, Jeff?” And Nicholson, sitting in the living room that was down the hallway and off to the left, was listening very carefully. New York City had been going through a long cold streak and it was in the low 20s that particular day, and I’d just come off the street with a red face and windblown hair. So I told Zarem, “Cold as usual.” And out of the living room came that unmistakable Nicholson voice, imitating me saying “cold as usual.”

Nicholson’s mind would jump the track every so often. You’d be getting into one topic, and before you know it he’d shift into a whole different realm. We were talking about scarves and winter coats for a little bit and he said he’d probably be shopping around for something later that day. “What are you looking for?,” I asked. “I don’t know,” Nicholson replied. “I haven’t known for quite some time.”