@TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

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jserraglio
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@TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:07 am

NYT —> RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — Everyone wants to ask Dick Cavett the same question, and it is a question that he never wants to answer: Of all today’s talk-show hosts, who is the “next Dick Cavett”?
“Well, that’s an awkward subject matter for me, because I know all of them,” Mr. Cavett, 81, said on a recent sunny Thursday afternoon at his sprawling country house in Connecticut. “I’m not addicted to talk shows. God knows, I’ve spent enough time on them.”
As in Mr. Cavett’s 1960s and ’70s heyday, the country is in a period of turbulence, with racial tensions flaring, protests in the streets, and a fundamental ideological fissure. The hosts who have emphasized substance, who have “gone political,” have been praised and nominated for Emmys.
But “the next Cavett”? Is such a thing possible?
If only.
For three decades, Mr. Cavett was the thinking person’s Johnny Carson, embodiment of an East Coast sophisticate. He wore smart turtlenecks and double-breasted blazers, had more cultural references than a Google server and laced martini-dry witticisms into lengthy, probing talks with 20th-century luminaries including Bette Davis, James Baldwin, Mick Jagger and Jean-Luc Godard.
A Renaissance salon in a rabbit-ears era, “The Dick Cavett Show” was woke some 50 years before the term came into vogue. Viewers tuned in to see Muhammad Ali spout off about the Vietnam War or to see Yoko Ono show her conceptual art in a 90-minute discussion with John Lennon.
Fans of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” would scarcely know what to make of the infamous and chaotic 1971 “Cavett” episode featuring Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, who had recently compared Mr. Mailer to Charles Manson in a New York Review of Books essay.
After Mr. Mailer accused Mr. Vidal of “intellectual pollution” and Mr. Cavett of being “smaller intellectually” than himself, Mr. Cavett suggested, in what was perhaps the original sick burn, “Why don’t you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don’t shine?”
In fact, “‘intellectual’ was a word that always made me go up the wall, partly because I knew how the word is esteemed in the world of television,” Mr. Cavett said, sipping seltzer with orange and munching grapes in his sunroom. “I was called ‘intellectual,’ I guess, because I didn’t know any better than to read the guests’ books.”
Cavett Redux
In the absence of anything like them, episodes of his show have gotten an unexpected second life: not only as boxed DVD sets on Amazon, but also as a nightly staple of the nostalgia-themed network Decades, as well as on YouTube, where Mr. Cavett’s interviews of Marlon Brando, Janis Joplin and Groucho Marx have been viewed millions of times.
“It’s the strangest sensation to be getting the same comments that I got decades ago: ‘I’m addicted to your show,’ or ‘I watch it every night,’” Mr. Cavett said. “I have virtually 3 percent memory of what I’m seeing on the screen. People I would have sworn I never had on — there they are, for 90 minutes.”
Although his last talk show, on CNBC, ended in 1996, he has stayed in public view: making cameos on “The Simpsons” and “Gossip Girl,” attending film premieres and doing guest appearances on late night.
He continues to write, including occasional columns for The New York Times and collaborating on the script for “Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes,” a documentary film directed by Robert S. Bader making the festival rounds and scheduled to appear on HBO next year. The film explores Muhammad Ali’s transformation from cocky boxing upstart to outspoken political activist through the his appearances — more than a dozen — on Mr. Cavett’s show.
Theirs was a close if unlikely friendship that lasted five decades. “Dick Cavett was the whitest of white guys in America,” The Rev. Al Sharpton says in the film. “But he gave blacks that had been considered outside of the mainstream like Ali a chance to be heard, and a chance to say what they wanted to say unfiltered, which was rare.”
One night in the 1970s, Mr. Cavett recalled in the sunroom, the phone rang in his renowned summer house, Tick Hall. It was Mr. Cavett’s wife, the actress Carrie Nye, who was at their place in the city.
“Darling?” she said.
“This ain’t ‘darling,’” said Mr. Ali, who had been invited for an impromptu visit and given the master bedroom. “This is the three-time heavyweight champion of the world, and I’m lying in your bed, watching your TV.”
Mr. Cavett is not watching as much TV himself these days. Unable or unwilling to stay up past midnight, he keeps up with the current late-night hosts’ monologues on YouTube or Twitter, a medium seemingly invented for his verbal parry and thrust. “A. Imagine Donald Trump’s library,” he wrote in one recent tweet. “B. You’d have to.”
(“It usually takes a beat,” he said, smiling.)
Ever ready to try new technology, he is thinking about starting a podcast. “Everybody seems to be doing one,” he said. He sent away for an Ancestry.com genetic test, and was surprised to find he had forebears in South Sudan.
But his new center of mental operations is here, in Connecticut: Mr. Cavett, who has come to think of cocktail parties as “vertical agony,” is selling both his Central Park West apartment and Tick Hall, which is Montauk, N.Y.
The asking price for Tick Hall, $62 million, may read like a misprint, but the house is a crown jewel of the South Fork’s, one of the architect Stanford White’s famed “Seven Sisters”: 7,000 shingle-style square feet on 20 acres of woodland with 975 feet of coastline on a private cove, rebuilt meticulously after being gutted in a 1997 fire.
Mr. Cavett vacationed there for more than 50 years, many of them with Ms. Nye, whom he had met as an theater student at Yale, and who died in 2006.
In 2010, he married Martha Rogers, a marketing consultant and author from Florida and a longtime friend, who found the new place in Connecticut.
“Part of it was to be nearer the city, nearer good medical stuff,” Mr. Cavett said with resignation. But his old summer haunt also now harbors tattoos and nightclubs. “Montauk is a ‘sleepy little fishing village’ no more,” he said. “Well, I guess, fish are still extracted from the sea. But it’s full of places for people who actually stand outside for God knows how long in order to get in and be deafened by music.”
He smiled tartly. “Do I sound old?”
Not in the slightest, actually.
Padding in bedroom slippers past a ballroom that seemed the next best thing to Mrs. Astor’s, Mr. Cavett, always lean and diminutive, looked thinner now in his baggy khakis and plaid woodsman shirt, but still moved with the grace of a the high school gymnastics champion he once was, back in Lincoln, Neb.
The house is still filled with boxes from the move, and the couple has yet to figure out exactly how many rooms it has. “Somewhere between 25 and 50, I guess,” Ms. Rogers said. “We found rooms in the basement about a month and a half ago that we didn’t know were there.”
The house, a 1912 Georgian, towers atop a leafy hilltop past an ornate iron gate. Mr. Cavett, who never knew a name not worth dropping, seems pleased at its celebrity lineage: the film and television star Robert Vaughn and Harry Houdini’s brother both lived there. Houdini, he said, “used to practice his underwater escapes in manacles and chains in the pool,” a fact that delights him, because he was an avid magician as a child.
‘Don’t Do Interviews’
Back in the sunroom, an ornate Italian fountain was babbling just outside, as Mr. Cavett sat in a wicker rocking chair with a serene smile.
As the light poured through three windows, beads of perspiration were beginning to form on his visitor’s face. Who would not be daunted by the task of interviewing the consummate interviewer?
“Jack Paar called me once,” Mr. Cavett said, referring to the early “Tonight Show” host who gave him his first gig. “He said, ‘Hey, kid, when you do your show, don’t do interviews.’ I thought, ‘Did I hear you right? Am I supposed to read to the guests?’ He said, ‘No, no, no, I mean “interviews,” Q. and A. Make it a conversation.’”
But in a late-night landscape rebuilt for clickable clips, unscripted moments seem increasingly rare. “If I were doing a show today,” Mr. Cavett said, “it would not include a nice actress who’s so ‘excited’ about her new movie, and so ‘excited’ about her director, and so ‘excited’ about the costumes. ‘Excited’ is a word that could easily be stricken from the show business vocabulary.”
“For the interviews that endure,” he said, “you don’t get the sense that, say, Katharine Hepburn did another talk show the next night. And then the next night she did another one. So many guests now are on a promotional tour.”
Stephen Colbert, with whom Mr. Cavett has lunched at the Yale Club, is perhaps most adept, Mr. Cavett said, at puncturing the celebrity bubble, “most deliciously when the guest doesn’t realize he’s puncturing it.” (Who else? “I’m crazy about him, I just think he’s really funny and good,” Mr. Cavett said of Seth Meyers. “But I fell into the trap! I swore I wouldn’t be talking about the late-night people.”)
Moreover, while today’s hosts enjoy certain freedoms unimaginable to his generation — like Samantha Bee swearing on air (“Samantha’s very funny,” he said) — Mr. Cavett had the leisurely airtime to explore ideas. He once did a full hour with Ingmar Bergman, the cerebral Swedish film director.
“When we got Orson Welles,” Mr. Cavett said, “I didn’t expect anyone to say, ‘Dick, don’t spend too much time with him, because we got Carmel Quinn, the Irish singer, and she is just in town for one day.’ ‘Well,’ I’d say, ‘she won’t spend any of it here.’”
It was clear from the first taping of “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1968 that this would be a different kind of television entertainment. The guests included Mr. Vidal and Mr. Ali, blackballed from boxing because of his refusal to join the Army and fight in Vietnam. Naturally the topic came up.
“I innocently went backstage to be congratulated, and there was a suit from the network — not a human, just a suit — and the one thing I remember clearly were the words, ‘Nobody gives a” — bleep!— “what Muhammad Ali and Gore Vidal think of the Vietnam War.”
Mr. Cavett went over the executive’s head at the network, insisting that his show wouldn’t stoop to “this chicken-dribble,” and the episode ran, but not as the premiere.
Although Mr. Cavett’s show was provocative, his persona, balancing Ivy League erudition with unflappable Midwestern solidity, has rarely ruffled anyone. Early in his career, Groucho Marx wrote him a letter saying, “‘I think you hit a mother lode with the idea of a bumpkin coming east to Yale, and you should mine that for all you can,’” he said. “And I did.”
Mr. Cavett’s wide-eyed Everyman schtick worked wonders when introducing to a heartland audience a jittery, cane-wielding David Bowie in a 1974 show in which Mr. Bowie rattled on about “black noise,” a concept promoted by the subversive novelist William Burroughs about a hypothetical sonic frequency that is effectively a “noise bomb,” with which “you can crack a city or people.”
“Let’s not give the instructions,” Mr. Cavett said, barely containing a smile.
Mr. Cavett’s unflappable demeanor was tested by a 1971 show featuring Jerome I. Rodale, the publisher and an organic-food guru, which fans continually tell him was unforgettable; strange, since it never aired.
Mr. Rodale appeared along with the writer Pete Hamill that day. Mr. Rodale, whom Mr. Cavett recalls “looking like Trotsky,” was in high spirits during the interview. He brought a dish of asparagus soaked in urine for Mr. Cavett to sample (“Anybody’s we know?” the host joked, before declining) and jauntily asserted that, with his healthy diet, he planned to live to 100.
Shortly after that segment ended, however, Mr. Cavett, who was interviewing Mr. Hamill, heard an eerie gurgle, or was it a snore? He may or may not have said, “Am I boring you?” (Mr. Cavett said he has a DVD of the episode, but he has not watched the footage for years). “This looks bad,” Mr. Hamill whispered.
Glancing over at Mr. Rodale, Mr. Cavett saw that he was stiff in his chair, his back arched, and unconscious.
“The scene shifts, instantly and unrealistically, to me standing at the edge of the stage saying, ‘Is there a doctor in the audience?’” Mr. Cavett recalled. Audience? “Why did I do that?”
Katharine Hepburn, he said, later explained to him that he knew “Is there a doctor in the house” would convulse the audience — though it was an appropriate ask, given that Mr. Rodale died on the set.
Politics and Poetry
Although he could never match the ratings sizzle of Mr. Carson, a fellow Nebraskan, his show was where you went for the steak. At the height of Watergate, “The Dick Cavett Show” featured extensive interviews with key figures.
“People would always beat up on Johnny by saying, ‘When Cavett’s got Attorney General John Mitchell on, Johnny has Charo,’” Mr. Cavett said.
While Mr. Cavett said he loathed Nixon’s politics, he called him “a brilliant, brilliant man” and was cordial to him in person. Years after Watergate, he remembers seeing the former president and his wife, Pat, seated at an outdoor restaurant in Montauk, so he grabbed a menu and, posing as a waiter, began to list the specials: Yorba Linda cream pie, Whittier College soufflé.
“‘Not your best material, Dick,’” Pat Nixon said.
The current president is perhaps the only celebrity over the age of 70 that Mr. Cavett has never met, other than being beaten by him to shrimp in a benefit buffet line years ago.
“I think all people who get to president of the United States must have something wonderful about them,” Mr. Cavett said in a mock-diplomatic tone.
“With that,” he added, “Cavett held a gun to his head and shot himself.”
As afternoon light began to grow golden over the pond that glistened at the base of the hill behind his house, he was showing no hurry to rise from his wicker chair.
“Do you know a poem by Philip Larkin?” Mr. Cavett said. “A strange name, ‘Aubade,’ it means a celebration of the morning. It’s got to be the best poem about death you could ever enjoy reading.” He began reciting:
I work all day and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. 
In time the curtain edges will grow light. 
Till then I see what’s really always there, 
unresting death a whole day nearer now.
“I gave it to Woody Allen,” he said. “About a week after that, I ran into him, I guess, I said, ‘I hope it didn’t ruin your day. He said, ‘Not my day. … ’”
Mr. Cavett and Mr. Allen have been close since their days on the New York comedy circuit in the early ’60s. Mr. Cavett remains a supporter, despite the recent boycotts of Mr. Allen’s work by many in Hollywood over the allegations by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, now 33, that he sexually abused her when she was a child, which the filmmaker has vehemently denied, and never resulted in charges.
“How do these people decide who’s right in this?” Mr. Cavett said.
Friends like Mr. Allen and Marshall Brickman, the screenwriter, are still around, but the man who knew seemingly everyone finds it haunting that so many notables he was once close to “are no longer there.”
Watching his shows, Mr. Cavett said, “the odd sensation about it is there I am sitting with Lucille Ball or someone like that, and it is overlain by the thought ‘One of us is dead.’”
“So far,” Mr. Cavett said wryly, “it’s always the other one.” Because “you never think that will happen to you. That’s something you hear old folks talk about.”
Despite the burdens of age, Mr. Cavett seems to be managing the bouts of depression that have dogged him since he was an undergraduate, when one day “I just couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to get up, didn’t want to go to class, and I couldn’t read,” he said. “It seemed that all the color went out of everything.”
Years later, after breaking out in an agitated sweat shortly after boarding a Concorde for London in 1980, he was taken for electroconvulsive therapy at Columbia-Presbyterian hospital, a treatment he called “miraculous.”
Success was no balm. “One thing you must never say to someone with depression is, ‘What reason have you got to have depression?’” he said. That’s like saying, ‘what reason have you got to have asthma?’” And even his brand of urbane fame, once a thrill, has taken on a different quality. “Sometimes you don’t want to be recognized, and just enjoy a museum or an art gallery. And now, it’s always, ‘Can we take a selfie?’”
Mr. Cavett could tell his fans to stick their smartphones where the moon don’t shine, of course. But he usually complies.
“Or I say, ‘I thought you’d never ask,’” he said. “To make the people standing by laugh.”
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John F
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:25 am

What a pleasure to read this, not least because Dick Cavett is still Dick Cavett and doing well.

One of my favorite Cavett ad libs, when interviewing a guest who (like himself) had grown up in rural mid-America and then moved to the city: "How're you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen the farm?"

Philip Larkin's "Aubade," which Cavett partly quotes from memory, is an extraordinary poem. At my age I sometimes think about my own death, unavoidably, and Larkin's middle stanza is much like my way of thinking:

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says "No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel," not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/ ... 229a6e2f07

But like Cavett, at least as he comes across in this long interview, I don't let it weigh too heavily on me.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:06 pm


John F
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:59 pm

What's introuvable on YouTube - I can't find it anyway - is the show in the PBS series with John Gielgud. What I remember most vividly is when Cavett invited Gielgud to speak a poem, unheard of on American TV, and he delivered A. E. Housman's "On Bredon Hill" from memory so movingly that he reduced himself to tears. This is the poem:

In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.

Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away;
"Come all to church, good people;
Good people come and pray."
But here my love would stay.

And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
"Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time."

But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.

They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.

The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum,
"Come all to church, good people," --
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:33 pm

I did not know, but should have, that an anagram for 'Spiro Agnew' is 'Grow a penis'.

I saw Cavett at a Broadway show once. I didn't say hello.

'

jbuck919
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:54 am

A funny thing about Dick Cavett, and I may have posted this before (sorry). On the NPR series Selected Shorts he read the classic story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber, and as sorry as I am to say it, he was not very good.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:32 pm

Cavett wrote this for Jack Paar, needing a snappy line to introduce Jayne Mansfield:

"Ladies and gentlemen, here they are — Jayne Mansfield!"

jbuck919
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:32 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:32 pm
Cavett wrote this for Jack Paar, needing a snappy line to introduce Jayne Mansfield:

"Ladies and gentlemen, here they are — Jayne Mansfield!"
Now I'm reminded of something else. Don't ask why I saw the Prince movie Purple Rain, but I did. In it there is a group called Apolonia's Six, but there are only three of them. :D

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
Posts: 4832
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:18 am

DICK CAVETT: 'I LOVE IT WHEN THE ICE GETS THIN'

by CAREY WINFREY

Image

If there is one encomium Dick Cavett loathes, it is being told he is the only intellectual on television. ''I spend half my life denying I'm an intellectual,'' he says, ''and can easily prove it.''

But when Sir John Gielgud, the distinguished actor and director, dropped by the Channel 13 studios last July for what turned out to be a four-part interview, one of the first things Mr. Cavett did was turn the tables on him.

''Gielgud is often cited,'' Mr. Cavett says, ''as the exception to the theory that actors are not only often not intelligent but certainly are not intellectual, that in fact intelligence stands in their way because an actor has to be a kind of empty vessel that is capable of being filled with other personalities. When I mentioned his alleged intellectuality, Sir John said, 'Oh, no! I don't know where I got that reputation. I love to read Jacqueline Suzanne and Harold Robbins.' He even denied ever having read Jane Austen.''

Mr. Gielgud will be Mr. Cavett's guest for four consecutive evenings on Channel 13 beginning tomorrow night at 11. Mr. Cavett also reports that on one of these programs Mr. Gielgud expresses palpable frustration at not being able to persuade Marlon Brando to do ''Hamlet.'' Since Mr. Gielgud has directed Richard Burton in the role, Mr. Cavett asked him how Mr. Brando's ''Hamlet'' might compare with Mr. Burton's. Mr. Gielgud's answer: ''I think Marlon would have been more...original.''

Once hailed as an original himself, Mr. Cavett's star went into partial eclipse in the mid-70's. After being nibbled into nothingness by ABC-TV program schedulers, his late-night talk show was laid to rest in 1974.

Following a series of CBS specials the next year, the reviews of which are most charitably described as expressing more sorrow than anger, Mr. Cavett's return to the talk format in 1977 was heralded as something less than triumphant. The Times' John J. O'Connor described the new public-television offering as ''a talk show in the familiar rut of minimum substance surrounded by plugs for guests' latest ventures.'' Ratings were poor. Perhaps too many viewers agreed with the Times reader who wrote a letter suggesting that Mr. Cavett's ''cute and innocent act has been all too noticeable and boring for quite some time.''

Now in his fourth public-television season - and his 44th year - Mr. Cavett appears to be coming back into favor. Recent multi-part interviews with the likes of Jonathan Miller, the late Jed Harris, G. Gordon Liddy, Richard Burton and Harold MacMillan have boosted ratings, attracted new viewers and generated considerable comment. In reviewing the Harold MacMillan interviews two weeks ago, Mr. O'Connor noted that ''Mr. Cavett generally manages to snare most of the most interesting people living in or passing through New York....(He) deserves credit for maintaining the overall quality of his guest list.''

On his part, Mr. Cavett makes no special claims for his low-keyed brand of chat. Asked to define his variation on the theme, he says, ''I just strike more notes on a certain area of the keyboard.'' He takes a benign view of the other practitioners of the genre. ''I don't think I have any enemies among them,'' he says. ''We're all sort of working the same side of the street.''

While he agrees that the program, as he puts it, ''has hit its stride this year in a way that it hadn't before,'' Mr. Cavett still waxes nostalgic for those heady nights of yesteryear when he used to play David to Johnny Carson's Goliath (in this version, Goliath invarably won) in the battle for Neilsen ratings.

''Sure, I'd love to do a talk-show format with variety and the whole thing again,'' he admits. ''Earlier this year, I hosted - I guess that inevitably has become a verb - the (Merv) Griffin show one night, and stepping out to that huge, applauding audience with the live music and the big laughs made me realize just how much fun that is. It would just be wonderful if you could work out some best of two possible worlds. There's no reason why public television, properly constituted, couldn't have its own Carson show. It doesn't have to be highbrow.''

Not that public television, as currently constituted, doesn't have other advantages. ''I doubt if there's anywhere on commercial television, except at 4 A.M., that I'd be able to talk at length to Eudora Welty or John Cheever as much as I'd like to,'' Mr. Cavett points out. ''And it's not only a pleasure for the people who are the fans of those people to see them, but also for the many people who say, 'I've never heard of Eudora Welty, but since I saw her on the show, I've read everything she's written.' So, in that sense, it's good.

''But most of the same pressures and inherent tensions and fears and concerns exist on public television to different degrees. The concern is still the number of viewers and people claiming to know what viewers will want, as if anybody knew.'' An added frustration: erratic scheduling, even on public television. ''Finally, I just told them you needed a lawyer and a secretary to find out when the show is going to be aired,'' he says with a mirthless laugh.

One thing that he misses about days gone by has less to do with the medium than with the times. ''It's too polite now,'' he says. ''I miss the excitement of the Nixon, Watergate, Vietnam years. There were more rogues then, and almost nothing could be said that wasn't controversial or upsetting in some way. Not too long ago, I interviewed Clare Booth Luce and she began by referring to 'remarks you made about my late, revered husband.' I loved that, because I yearn for danger. I love it when the ice gets thin and when it gets a little edgy or prickly.''

After more than a decade of interviewing just about every celebrity in sight, Mr. Cavett is entitled to be more than a bit jaded. But he insists that that isn't the case. ''Just when I come to the point where I say this has got to stop for awhile, something will come up that makes me think this is about the best job you could ever have, that it's ludicrous to get paid to sit and chat with people you'd be glad to be doing it with anyway.''

He counts among hold-outs he would most like to interview: Greta Garbo, J.D. Salinger, Mike Nichols, Frank Sinatra and his one-time mentor, Jack Paar.

Mr. Cavett reiterates his view that his job relies heavily on acting, the profession he first set out to conquer, ''simply because of the artificialities of the host's role. You have to be aware of so many things that you can't possibly be aware of. So, you're almost never sitting there just talking, except for those times when you have a breakthrough and really are having a conversation.'' Sometimes it takes the form of feigning interest, ''not so much out of phoniness but just not wanting to spoil it for the viewer who may be enjoying the person or the show or the subject.''

When his early acting career foundered, Mr. Cavett became a writer for Mr. Paar and other talk-show hosts. Eventually, he turned to performing as a stand-up comedian in nightclubs. ''There's something odd about my career,'' he says. ''I never aimed at being a talk-show host or interviewer or any of that. One night recently, I emceed the opening of the new Metropolitan Center in Boston, and it was back to being a comedian. As I was killing this huge audience and getting enormous laughs, I suddenly remembered that's what I set out to do with a nightclub comedy act. And this audience - some of them - were discovering a talent they didn't know I had. It's very confusing.''

Appearing as Charley in ''Charley's Aunt'' in a Williamstown, Mass., production two summers ago, Mr. Cavett suffered another career-identity confusion. ''They were doing turnaway business,'' he recalls, ''and it was great fun and I thought, 'No, no, this is what I do. The other thing is the act.'''

Are we hearing a hint, perhaps, of mid-life crisis? ''Let me count the ways,'' he replies.

Mr. Cavett has played himself in several movies, most recently in Robert Altman's as yet unreleased comedy ''Health.'' He regards the summer of 1977 that he spent as Tom Courtenay's replacement in ''Otherwise Engaged'' on Broadway as ''among the happiest weeks of my life. I loved every single minute of it. I wish I could have done it for a year.''

He would particularly like a meaty movie role. ''I don't have any illusions about my qualities as a serious actor,'' Mr. Cavett says. ''But I could do a comedy well and I'd love to do it. It was great fun making the Altman movie.''

And if he ever gets a workable idea, he would like to write fiction. ''I'd love to do a screenplay,'' he says, adding that he is tortured by the fact that his friend Woody Allen is bursting with more plots than he has time to put on paper. ''What is the line, 'I have fears that I may cease to be before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain'? Well, with me it's, 'Fears that I may cease to be before somebody gives me an idea to set my dormant pen to work.''
Last edited by jserraglio on Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:35 pm

Thank you - I really enjoyed this. And one point stood out:
"'I doubt if there's anywhere on commercial television, except at 4 A.M., that I'd be able to talk at length to Eudora Welty or John Cheever as much as I'd like to,'' Mr. Cavett points out. ''And it's not only a pleasure for the people who are the fans of those people to see them, but also for the many people who say, 'I've never heard of Eudora Welty, but since I saw her on the show, I've read everything she's written.'"
That happened to me quite a few times while watching the PBS shows. It's how I found out about one of my favorite writers, the Australian/English author etc. etc. Clive James. He was in New York to promote his book "Unreliable Memoirs," and what other TV personality reads such books puts the authors on American TV? More than once.

James returned the favor in his immense omnium gatherum "Cultural Amnesia," which includes a chapter about Cavett. A version of it is online at slate.com, from which this:
Clive James wrote:As a true sophisticate with a daunting intellectual range, Cavett was the most distinguished talk-show host in America, if sophistication and an intellectual breadth were what you wanted. The only persona that he bothered to, or needed to, develop for working on camera was of a boy from Nebraska dazzled by the bright lights of New York. To fit that persona, he would freely help himself to ideas from his range of influences, stretching back to W.C. Fields and beyond. But he also had the capacity to make up great new stuff at terrific speed.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_ ... avett.html

For example:
Clive James wrote:By the time he got to me, in 1974, he had already interviewed almost every household name in America, and he was ready for the more difficult challenge of interviewing someone whose name wasn't known at all and of making something out of that. We were on-air, I had hummed and hedged about my reasons for leaving Australia, and he suavely sailed in with his own explanation: "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen the farm?" The throwaway speed of it impressed me: If he had used the line before, he knew just how to make it sound as if he hadn't... He was by far the wittiest of the American television talk-show hosts, most of whom have always been dependent on their writers.
Incidentally I'm glad to see that "Unreliable Memoirs," out of print with its original publisher, has been picked up in paperback by my old employer W. W. Norton.
Last edited by John F on Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:41 pm

Dick Cavett wrote:I was called ‘intellectual,’ I guess, because I didn’t know any better than to read the guests’ books.
Another great ad-libber was fellow Nebraskan Johnny Carson.

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:52 pm

Clive James wrote:Carson could be spontaneously funny if the guest (or his groveling feed man, Ed McMahon) opened an opportunity—the clumsier the guest, the more opportunities there were—but it was strictly counterpunching.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:06 pm

Dick Cavett wrote:[Johnny Carson] underestimated his intelligence considerably. It is probably having to do somewhat with his wretched mother. Actually that came out on a biography done of Johnny, where he tells about how he got some very, very prestigious broadcasting award. He went and told his mother and she said, “Well, I guess they know what they’re doing.” He was crushed. He was really only happy on the air.
Apparently Clive James bought Carson's estimate of his own intelligence. Add in the fact that Carson was one of the finest physical comedians of the second half of the past century:



To say nothing of his influence on Cavett's persona:



or of his own one-liners:




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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:12 pm

Clive James got his start as weekly TV critic for "The Observer" from 1972 to 1982. Sharp-eyed and sharp-witted, his columns were collected in 3 volumes, still in print. He also did TV himself, ranging from interview shows to the series "Fame" that aired on PBS. No way he could have been bluffed into anything he hadn't observed himself, but of course he didn't watch it every night, and his perspective isn't necessarily the same as ours.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by Belle » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:38 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:12 pm
Clive James got his start as weekly TV critic for "The Observer" from 1972 to 1982. Sharp-eyed and sharp-witted, his columns were collected in 3 volumes, still in print. He also did TV himself, ranging from interview shows to the series "Fame" that aired on PBS. No way he could have been bluffed into anything he hadn't observed himself, but of course he didn't watch it every night, and his perspective isn't necessarily the same as ours.
Amazingly, Clive James is still alive - though we haven't heard from him for ages (which isn't a good sign). And, interestingly, he's very much a conservative by inclination!!

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:45 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:12 pm
No way he [Clive James] could have been bluffed into anything he hadn't observed himself
I wouldn't disagree with James that Carson was a counterpuncher, only that he was, as James put it, strictly a counterpuncher. Like another counterpuncher of some note, Muhammed Ali, Carson also had a devastating right-hand lead.

Cavett obviously learned from Carson, among others. So did Letterman. And Carson himself had absorbed the work of the great comics and vaudevillians of the first half of the century: Benny, Berle, Burns, Jessel, Marx. etc. etc. etc.

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by RebLem » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:47 pm

I remember once Cavett had Benny Goodman on the show, who seemed unaware of the fact that his fly was open. So Cavett said to him, "Please stand up with me, and turn your back to the camera." Cavett joined him in this, and Goodman stood, and turned his back. Then Cavett said, "Now, I'm not going to say which one, but one of us has an open fly!" Goodman quickly zipped up.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:25 am

RebLem wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:47 pm
Goodman quickly zipped up.

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:20 am

RebLem wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:47 pm
I remember once Cavett had Benny Goodman on the show, who seemed unaware of the fact that his fly was open. So Cavett said to him, "Please stand up with me, and turn your back to the camera." Cavett joined him in this, and Goodman stood, and turned his back. Then Cavett said, "Now, I'm not going to say which one, but one of us has an open fly!" Goodman quickly zipped up.
Hilarious, but what male among us has not had an embarrassing moment that way. Fortunately, it has never happened to me when I was teaching. Goodman was peculiar in many ways. First, he called everyone "Pops," including apparently his wife, because he could not be bothered to learn names. Then late in his career he wanted desperately to adopt a classical repertoire instead of, or in addition to, his usual jazz one. I can remember him playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. My father, one of whose instruments was the clarinet, thought this a minor miracle, because it seems that the embouchure for the two types of music is completely different.

As for "Bei mir bist du schoen," I once heard Patti Andrews interviewed and she said that when she and her sisters made their famous recording. It seems that no one could understand it and thought they were singing something like "Buy me a beer, Mr. Shane." I have no idea if their pronunciation is good for Yiddish, but it sure isn't for straight German.



Edited to correct an embarrassing spelling error. I'm not getting any younger, you know.
Last edited by jbuck919 on Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:54 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:20 am
Goodman was peculiar in many ways.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zRwze8_SGk

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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by RebLem » Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:20 am

I remember once in the 1970's, the Chicago public school system cut back on its music programs to save money. They had hearings beforehand with citizens allowed two minutes apiece to say what they had to say. One man in line was offered a chance to jump ahead of everyone by everyone ahead of him, but he declined. He waited an hour in line to make his statement. When his turn came, he said something to the effect of

"My name is Benny Goodman. When I was a child I learned to play the clarinet thanks to Hull House and later the Chicago public schools [specifically Austin High School, which was, later, also my father's high school alma mater]. I want children of the future to have the same opportunity I had, and I think its a crying shame that they won't."

I am not sure I know what a gentleman is, or how to really define the word. But I will gladly assert that if you never jump ahead in line even when offered the opportunity to do so, and if you never forget where you came from, you have taken two giant leaps in the right direction.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by John F » Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:51 am

What a great story - very moving. I read a biography of Goodman and it seems he wasn't always a prince among men - who is? - but in the big things he got it right, such as his attitude toward race in segregated America.

It's true that he relearned how to play the clarinet when preparing to do classical music. My parents had his recording with the Budapest String Quartet of Mozart's quintet, so that's how I learned the music. Many years later, having forgotten the recording completely, I listened to the CD, and was disappointed with their hard and fast approach; Goodman's rerecording with other players is better. But the important thing is not how well he played Mozart or Brahms or Nielsen, but that he played it at all. I'm sure some of his fans were introduced to some of the finest classical music by his recordings, and the more of that the better.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:07 am

Fortunately, New York has not yet abandoned music instruction. Even around here, I have substituted at schools you would never have heard of that have multiple music teachers--band, chorus, theory, occasionally orchestra. I've even done the job rather than accept the usual fill-in sub plans. Believe it or not, I can conduct a high school band. Like most ensembles, they actually conduct themselves and need minimal help. Children need no encouragement to love music. The problem is that it is exhausting. I have never been so tired after a day of substituting, and don't know how the full-time teachers do it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: @TheDickCavett A:"Imagine Donald Trump’s library." B:"You’d have to.”

Post by jserraglio » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:21 am

RebLem wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:20 am
"My name is Benny Goodman. When I was a child I learned to play the clarinet thanks to Hull House and later the Chicago public schools [specifically Austin High School, which was, later, also my father's high school alma mater]. I want children of the future to have the same opportunity I had, and I think its a crying shame that they won't."
More about his early years here.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiaFMZJOUcM

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