The Most Interesting People in the World

By Ray McAllister | April 6th, 2015

Richmond has a number of institutions that, frankly, seem almost too good for Richmond.

Well, too good for a city this size. (No sense looking for a fight.) Let’s put it that way.

Jefferson’s Capitol, for instance. An insane amount of history. The VMFA. Medical research at VCU. A thriving arts community, a thriving restaurant scene, historically thriving basketball programs at three universities. And remember the ’93 Braves? All these would stand out anywhere.

And any Richmond short list has to include The Richmond Forum.

You know that guy who does the Dos Equis beer commercials, “the most interesting man in the world”? He couldn’t be.

He hasn’t spoken at the Richmond Forum.

Everyone else has over the last 29 years. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush. Not to mention the leaders of Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Liberia, Canada and the Soviet Union. Or Desmond Tutu, for that matter.

I have to include Steven Spielberg. And Andrew Lloyd Weber. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan. John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Mark Kelly – and Gabrielle Giffords. David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Malcolm Gladwell and Alvin Toffler. And Richmond’s own Tom Wolfe. Dr. Joyce Brothers. (Know who moderated one of her talks? Joe Namath. Too funny, isn’t it?) As long as we’re on sports: Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Cal Ripken Jr.

Who am I forgetting? Dick Clark, for one. Dick Cavett, Oprah Winfrey, Alistair Cooke, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King. There’s Robert Redford, Julie Andrews, Michael Douglas, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Hal Holbrook, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin.

Bill Cosby.

Colin Powell. Condoleeza Rice. Steve Forbes, Sherry Lansing, Rick Waggoner (another of Richmond’s own, by the way), Peter Lynch, Paul Volcker. Ben Bernanke was here in March.

Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, Fareed Zakaria, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Bob Woodward, Ed Bradley. Bill Moyers and Charles Kuralt.

That doesn’t even include a nearly as impressive list of speakers from a predecessor forum, the Richmond Public Forum. Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford took that stage, for instance, which would run Richmond’s president count to five. (Washington and Jefferson were pre-Forum. Besides, their agents wanted too much.)

All of this is by way of asking for your help again.

You may remember last issue I asked for suggestions on what you’d like to see in the magazine or even for your own submissions. Wow! You responded quickly and generously.

That worked so well, this time I’m asking for help on a book. Yes, an actual book. (Next time, who knows? I’ll probably ask you to pay my mortgage.)

It’s a coffee table book, to commemorate next year’s 30th anniversary of the current Forum. Writing about the Forum is a great task. A few years ago, I followed Quincy Jones around for a behind-the-scenes piece in this magazine. Years ago, as a Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist, I got to ask questions onstage of Andy Rooney and Art Buchwald.

With the help of executive director Bill Chapman and the Forum staff, I’ve gone through files, begun contacting many people and come across many, many good stories, photos, letters and objects.

But in the interest of leaving no stone unturned, I ask: Do you know of more stones?

We know there’s a good deal of crossover between BOOMER readers and Forum attendees. Do you have a great story or an item you got autographed? Did you submit a question to or have a chance meeting with one of the speakers?

You could have had a chance meeting. Both Barbara Walters and Candice Bergen, for instance, in mix-ups years apart, were left waiting at the airport. Mikhail Gorbachev, much to the consternation of his security detail, insisted on going out and mingling with everyday Richmonders. Archbishop Desmond Tutu sneaked away to the Arthur Ashe statue.

So what do you have, what do you remember, what did you hear from someone else who could share that story now? Write me at

You might find your name in a book – alongside the most interesting people in the world. ( The OTHER most interesting people, in the world, I mean. You’re cool, too.)

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