The following interview was originally published on USOUNDS in 1998, but was first published on September 30, 1991, in a now defunct French magazine published by Henri Lenouve called “Les Penses.” Due to popular demand, we’ve rerun the interview in this issue. The translation is not perfect (we let our intern, Ricky Santari, who’s taken French I and II at the local community college, do the translating). Ric was not available for consultation.
Les Penses: Ric, why are you in Paris right now?
Ric: I’m working on a story about a group of mysterious French writers who frequent a little-known café in a back alley of Montmartre. They carry on notoriously heated discussions in as many as five languages which span the greatest philosophical and theatrical works in human history. There is always a group of local residents that come to the café solely to witness this extraordinary real-life drama.
Les Penses: I have never heard of such a place.
Ric: Well that’s understandable, I just followed a lead I picked up in a Bangkok bar from a childhood friend of mine who runs a French restaurant,
Franky Li. In my opinion, their discussions represent the intellectual hub of the planet.
Les Penses: I must know the name of the café.
Ric: Sorry, that would be a breach of my journalistic religious beliefs.
Les Penses: Religion?
Ric: Yes, for me my life work, journalism, is both art and religion. Some would say those are one and the same, but they are not. The art is the passion; religion is the moral guide that keeps me involved yet respectful of the story.
Les Penses: Your critics would say (and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but they are numerous) that you get involved in a story in a way that no real journalist would.
Ric: I reject that. While it is true that I don’t hesitate to become an integral part of the story itself; to feel the heartbeat of the story you must take the heart and put it inside yourself – and then devour it in one
Les Penses: I am intimitately familiar with all of your published work – can you give me the best example of this?
Ric: Well, I can give you a few. For instance, when I was in Uganda covering the chaos that followed the fall of Idi Amin, I joined arms with a group of rebels in the southern province near the Kenyan border. Here I was, straight out of high school, involved in a fervent movement. I was supposed to be observing and writing what I saw, but I couldn’t resist the
temptation of joining a cause that I believed in … I can’t explain it, it was something in my comrades’ expressions that made me realize they were the
truth, the light….anyway, as you know, the story became one about me: a blond haired naïve young high school student in one of Africa’s most
volatile power vacuums. At this point I had an epiphany: the journalist must not be a passive observer, but an active participant. This is the only
way to truly get into the hearts and minds of those who you write about.
LP: But what about the fame that followed it?
Ric: The fame. Yes, the fame. I’m afraid it was a necessary step in my rebellion against conventional journalism. My fame was not similar to say, Walter Kronkite; I was more of an oddity, a curiosity to be probed and talked about late at night by drunken idiots worldwide. But the fame became part and parcel of my persona. It allowed me to access avenues previously unimaginable to someone like me. I could confront my subjects on one of two
levels – as a typical unknown journalist, or as “Ric Befara.”
Les Penses: I know our time is up, but let me say that I am a great admirer of your work, and I hope the trial turns out in your favor.
Ric: I will be acting as my own attorney….