While watching episode five of HBO’s documentary The Jinx, I was overcome with journalistic déjà vu. About a third of the way through the episode, I heard the voice of veteran NY1 correspondent Budd Mishkin reading words from a voice-over script I’d edited nearly five years ago. I instantly recognized it as a portion from a 2010 profile I’d produced about real-estate mogul Douglas Durst, back when I was the producer of NY1’s interview series “One on 1 with Budd Mishkin.” Minutes later, my jaw dropped when I saw a few seconds of footage that I’d edited for that same segment — Douglas speaking about his alleged-murderer brother. Apparently, it’s the only extant news or documentary footage of Douglas talking about his brother.
We’ll get into the odd little story behind that footage in a second, but first, watch NY1’s clip of Douglas’s full comments about Robert in that interview here.
I had pitched the profile in early 2010. The show’s mission is to create short (usually six- to eight-minute) documentaries about prominent and influential New Yorkers, and as of 2010, it had been a little while since we’d done a profile of someone in real estate. We reached out to Durst’s reps, and they were very game to make it happen. We couldn’t get any access to him at home, unfortunately, but we were given a few hours to hang out with him at his office in the as-yet-unfinished Bank of America building in midtown.
In preparing for the interview, I told Mishkin that we should ask about Robert but that we should probably tread lightly, because I’d read that he doesn’t like discussing his brother. So when we arrived for our morning interview, we planned to have one or two open-ended questions along the lines of, “Do you still have any kind of relationship with your brother?” and “How do you feel about what has happened with him?” However, just minutes before the interview began, Durst’s communications official pulled me aside and said we shouldn’t ask Douglas about Robert. I was a 24-year-old television rookie at the time and didn’t have the guts to push back, so I told Budd that we’d been asked to avoid questions about the alleged killer.
But God bless Budd Mishkin: He wasn’t going to take that kind of (admittedly mild) bullying. About midway through the sit-down portion of the interview, he gently told Douglas that we’d been asked not to talk about Robert, but that he would like to bring him up anyway. Douglas said that that was fine, and Mishkin respectfully asked our questions. Douglas, his voice slightly quivering with emotion, gave the answers you saw in the video above. When he was done talking, he paused to indicate that he had no more to say, and we moved on to the next set of questions. He was in no way resistant, and to the Durst Organization’s credit, we experienced no pushback afterward. We aired the profile just after 8 p.m. on November 29, 2010, and that — I thought — was that.
Little did I know that we had become a tiny part of history, much less a portion of one of the most-talked-about television series of the past decade. As they say: Only in New York.