Did you do this ad because you want to, or because it's worth your while?
A bit of both: I'm a sensible person. But I wasn't concerned about the idea because I trust British Airways with my life. Am I going to worry about my reputation?
It was one of those things that came in out of the blue. My wife used to be in the advertising business, and then spent many years as a PR executive. So I went to her with the script and said: "What do you think?" And she said: "You know, this is a good idea. This is a good script." And then in the event the director's a genius, and I really liked the creative people who put it together. The thing turned out to be a pleasure.
I'm here because I have a tremendous respect for the airline industry, and I have a tremendous respect for the airline industry because I'm here.
How do you honestly rate British Airways?
I was once in a Cessna in Mogadishu in Somalia, taxiing for take-off, when a local fellow ran up beside the airplane, reached in the vent window and tried to steal the pilot's wristwatch.
The most terrifying experience I've had was at a domestic check-in counter in the Philippines during the Marcos era; as I was getting my boarding pass, I saw a sign above the agent's head saying "Please check your handgun with the stewardess". So I'm terrifically fond of BA, because nothing interesting has ever happened to me while flying with them.
Why were you chosen to do this commercial?
I have no idea why, except I was the most annoying American who was available on short notice. Hillary Clinton was pretty busy. Newt Gingrich was also busy trying to get a life. I know that I certainly was annoying to the people who directed the commercial; not for nothing am I known as "200-take O'Rourke".
Isn't it just a little pedestrian to be involved in an advertisement for a middle-of-the-road airline?
In a nice way. I'll be 52 this fall, and a bit of slow walking wouldn't hurt me. The only reason I'll fly a bad or dubious airline is because I have to get someplace. I went down to cover Paraguay after Stroessner fell, and I went on Air Paraguay. It's an eight-hour flight from New York. We flew on a front of thunderstorms coming through the western hemisphere that was the entire length of the western hemisphere.And they allow cigar- smoking on board. It was really a new low in air sickness. I much prefer comfort and safety.
On Lufthansa, for example, I feel plenty secure on the safety thing. But, God, are they strict. I had a great go-around on Lufthansa about 15 years ago trying to get to Libya. The only place you could get a visa for Libya at that time was in Libya. But Lufthansa would not let me get on the plane to Libya without a visa, even though they understood the only place I could get a visa for Libya was in Libya.
It's the first commercial you have done. Have you acquired a taste for the genre?
No, I don't think so; but I did discover that I can't act. I truly can't act. Politics is sometimes referred to as "Hollywood for the Ugly"; journalism is for those of us who act so badly that we can't even run for office. The likelihood of that happening again? For this one quirky idea, I think it might have worked to have me. I can't imagine one other thing that would work.