John Vorperian has spent the last 20 years interviewing some rather high-profile athletes, writers and people in the entertainment industry. Robert Vaughn, Ralph Branca and Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson, to name just a few.
What makes Vorperian’s several thousand interviews since 2002 fascinating is that the vast majority of them were conducted from the studios of White Plains Community Media, the city’s public access channel.
The White Plains resident is the host of “Beyond the Game,” which initially started out as a New York-themed baseball talk show but over the years has branched out to include guests from the three other major team sports, journalists and authors as well as musicians and actors.
What has kept a steady stream of notable people coming on his show? One source for Vorperian’s contacts has been his connection with the Society of American Baseball Researchers and its football counterpart, both of which he has done work for.
But it’s also his ability to have conversations with his guests and raising little-known facts or topics that seem to form a connection.
“I’ll go into areas where most sports reporters won’t, probably because they’ve got somebody in their ear saying keep it on this,” Vorperian said.
One day, former Oakland Raider Pete Banaszak was the guest, a Super Bowl-winning running back who played in the 1960s and ‘70s. Vorperian spent a chunk of the show asking him questions about his high school track career.
That’s part of the inspiration for the show’s title, delving into areas that are a bit off-beat making for anything but a cookie-cutter interview.,
“He was a state shotput champion in Wisconsin where he went to high school,” Vorperian said of Banaszak. “After the interview, he said. ‘That was great, no sports reporter has really brought that part of my life up. I really got a kick out of talking about it.’”
It also doesn’t hurt that each one of Vorperian’s interview not only air on Altice Channel 76 or Fios Channel 45 but are placed on the channel’s website.
“A lot of this is cold-calling and the fact that I can direct people, whether they be agents or PR guys or gals to a website and they can see the episodes and they can find out,” he said.
By his own description, Vorperian is no stranger to public access television. The first incarnation of his show, which was called “On the Record,” started in the 1980s, where he concentrated simply on baseball, and where possible, New York baseball.
After that ran its course, Vorperian, whose real job is as an attorney for the Westchester County Law Department, returned in 2002 with his idea to rekindle the sports interview show.
He approached the executive director of White Plains Community Media at the time, Fred Strauss, who told him he had to put together material for five shows before he would think about putting him on the air.
His first guest was Henry Stein, the author who had written a novel called “Hoopla” that was set in the aftermath of the 1919 Black Sox World Series-fixing scandal.
“These (early) episodes, I was very wooden,” Vorperian said. “It’s learning about how to be in front of the television (camera) and how to perform for viewers, and as the host, you let the guest shine.”
Many of his guests, particularly in the early going, not only had a New York connection but one to Westchester. Stein was a Hastings-on-Hudson resident, and over the years, Vorperian had Branca, a former Brooklyn Dodger, boxing writer and commentator Bert Sugar and the late Valhalla resident Sal Yvars, who came on “Beyond the Game” to talk about how the 1951 New York Giants stole signs in the latter stages of that season to erase a 13.5-game deficit against the Dodgers.
Vorperian doesn’t exactly recall how the show included entertainment. He recalled in separate episodes having Anson Williams and Marian Ross of “Happy Days.” The conversation with Williams centered around his uncle, Dr. Henry Heimlich, and Ross talked in depth about her early career in films.
After 20 years, Vorperian has no plans to stop interviewing of filming episodes, which he does on his personal time, a labor of love.
To view back episodes of “Beyond the Game,” visit www.wpcommunitymedia.org.