He initiated glasnost, but now Mikhail Gorbachev is taking his openness to the media to a new extreme — the anchor's chair.
In partnership with Zolzer Television, a Munich-based production company, Gorbachev is going to be the anchor and chief editor of Secrets of Power, a documentary series featuring world leaders. He is even calling in some of his former cronies. Several world figures have committed to participating including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Pope John Paul II, former President George Bush, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany's foreign minister when the Berlin Wall came down and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
"Mr. Bush is very much looking forward to the interview," Jim McGrath, spokesman for The Bush Presidential Library Foundation, told ABCNEWS.com.
Though drawing from a completely international guest pool, the show will be produced entirely in English. And with the help of translators, Gorbachev will host the show and conduct interviews with these and other world figures.
It's the Contacts
"[Gorbachev] has special contacts and can provide special information on the scenery of the times," Hebef Thorsten, a spokesman for the project said.
But rather than interview guests in a studio, Gorbachev will visit the guests on a location emblematic of their contribution to history, or their personal life.
The project will take Gorbachev and Genscher near the remains of the Berlin Wall; Gorbachev and the Pope to St. Peter's Square; and Gorbachev and Bush, to a pow-wow in Houston, Texas.
The program will also show the leaders behind the scenes, in their private moments — Gorbachev plans to visit their kitchens, wine cellars and personal offices.
There are even plans for Gorbachev to go fishing with some of the featured guests. And when Gorbachev interviews George Bush, the two have plans to take in a baseball game and some Texas barbecue.
A Hands-on Host
Plans for the project have been in the works for over a year and shooting for the first six installments should conclude in September or October, with the show to go on-air in late 2001 or early 2002.
Right now, sales representatives for the projects are working to find international distributors for the show, with broadcasting countries soon to be announced.
A spokesman for the project said American distributors were actively being looked for.
Each 50-minute show will feature an interview with a key world figure and offer a re-creation or presentation of events from the leader's career.
According to a statement released to ABCNEWS, "[Secrets of Power] will demonstrate to what extent personalities influence decision-making processes in politics, and show what the crucial moments were that led to the resolution of conflicts."
Gorbachev is very involved in the project, even from the planning stages, according to Thorsten. When Gorbachev interviewed Hans-Dietrich Genscher on a recent shoot, Gorbachev was very hands-on.
"We can contact him nearly all the time. We have meetings every month, so contact is quite close," said Thorsten.
And contact may continue for the foreseeable future. Zolzer Television has the trademark rights to the "Secrets of" name and may launch Gorbachev into assorted projects as time goes on. So Gorbachev may mix with rock stars and recording behemoths for "Secrets of Rock" and ace sportsmen and Olympians for "Secrets of Sports."
But for now, Mr. Gorbachev is keen on using his contacts and knowledge to make the primary series a success — as well as a good time.
"He is really a performer in front of the camera," said Thorsten. "He is not [David] Letterman, but he is really fun. He is a real talent, a showman."