Walking through L.A.'s Staples Center with Kevin Frazier on the night of a Lakers home game can take a while, thanks to the sheer number of people this guy seems to know. He stops to chitchat, crack a joke, dole out a bro hug — it's as if the arena is a small town and Frazier is its kindly mayor. That natural gregariousness is paying off: As co-anchor of the syndicated entertainment news show The Insider, Frazier has become one of Hollywood's most reliable celebrity whisperers. We spent an evening courtside with him to find out how he juggles journalism, gossip-mongering and good old-fashioned star wrangling.
TV Guide Magazine: You went from anchoring ESPN's SportsCenter to working the Oscars red carpet. Explain, please!
Frazier: My dad's a basketball coach. I was a sportscaster most of my career. Then [in 2004] I get this call from Entertainment Tonight. I was like, "This is silly." When I left the meeting, I said, "That's what I want to do."
TV Guide Magazine: You were at ET until 2011, when you moved over to sister show The Insider. What's the post-sports career learning curve been like?
Frazier: I've had to learn about women. Most men — as my wife will tell you — don't observe women: what they wear, their haircuts, their shoes. Those things are important. Now, as scary as it is, I'll see something and think, "Oh, that dress is Marchesa!"
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of your wife... Yasmin Cader is a Yale-educated public defender. Is that a nice palate-cleanser for you?
Frazier: She's really well-read and in a much headier group. You know, a lot of the people she went to law school with are in the [Obama] administration! She chose to do something very noble, and I'm talking about Britney Spears' dress. It's great.
TV Guide Magazine: You have three sons: Shane, 4, Reece, 1½, and Tony, 28. Can you share your story about Tony?
Frazier: When he was born, I was 18 and wasn't with his mother. He was put up for adoption. Almost two years later, I was at the mall and I saw this kid and I was like, "That's him. I know it." So I went up to the lady with him and introduced myself — kind of reassured her I wasn't there to create a stir or anything — and she said, "OK, come by my house." From there we all formed a relationship.
TV Guide Magazine: When you're out and about and you see celebrities you've interviewed, what's the protocol? Do you approach them?
Frazier: No way. I leave folks alone. There are some really cool people that I've bonded with over the years — like Kobe [Bryant] is someone I'll sit down with. But if Brad and Angelina are over there? No. Like they need another person to go over and say, "What's going on? Hey, it's me!"
TV Guide Magazine: In general, do you think stars are entitled to more privacy from fans?
Frazier: We help celebrities sell a product and make them fabulously wealthy. There's a hard side that goes along with it. It's like Demi and Ashton getting divorced: Every day they'd Tweet and invite us into their relationship, so they can't then draw a line and say, "Turn it off when it gets here."
TV Guide Magazine: What happens if there's a conflict of interest between your job and your friendships — like when something goes down with Kobe?
Frazier: I tell them, "We need to talk" — as a reporter and a friend. I'll say, "Hey, listen. Here's what I'm going to report — tell me what's wrong and what's right." Being friends with those people helps.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you avoid getting canned answers from media-weary stars?
Frazier: A lot of reporters don't have conversations — they just fire off questions. I'm going to listen to what you're saying. If you start giving me a pat answer, I'm going to challenge you. That's where my sports background helps, because athletes do it all the time. So you have to stop them... and sometimes they're going to yell back at you. So what?
TV Guide Magazine: Does anybody intimidate you now?
Frazier: I really enjoy encountering a celebrity who's like, "Let's go, you'd better have your A-game on." You sit down with Madonna and she's like, "You'd better have something for me. If you're not ready to dance, I'll eat you up."
TV Guide Magazine: Who gives the best interviews?
Frazier: Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Will Smith are hall-of-famers. When they hit the red carpet, they know exactly what they're going to do, how they're going to do it. Damn, they're good.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it true that you should never meet your heroes?
Frazier: It can be disappointing. Sometimes it's fantastic. I find it's the interviews you really don't want to do that turn out being the most fascinating. I remember going to Paul Anka's house, thinking, "Really? I have to interview Paul Anka?" And he was so cool. He had done so much! He started telling stories about the Rat Pack, about being 15 in Vegas and hanging with mobsters. He was playing his new album for us. I was like, "Paul Anka's the man!"
TV Guide Magazine: How do you wind down at the end of the day?
Frazier: I love to watch Hoarders. My grandmother was a hoarder. My mother's on her way. I'm an electronics hoarder — I won't throw any out. I still have my first T-Mobile Sidekick... old VCRs in my garage. It scares me that I'm going to end up being buried under electronics.