tv Book Discussion CSPAN November 1, 2014 9:00pm-10:03pm EDT
the founder's greatest fear that we would forget, it is their reality that the republic cannot survive and lincoln essentially said this in a speech in illinois in the late 1830s when he made the remark that all the armies of the world and all the treasuries at their disposal and could not put a track on the blue ridge or take a drink from
the ohio river. if we were going to fall as a republic in the country than it would be us and we would do it to ourselves. not knowing what happened here in the united states of america from the founding through its travails and its victories, not knowing that it's a recipe for disaster. it's a recipe for ending it not continuing it in giving this generation the hope that it inspired in the past. next is norman lear the popular producer of shows such as "all in the family" and "good times."
this program is about an hour. >> tonight we are in for a great treat. norman lear is one of our nation's great storytellers but until now he has kept his best stories for himself, his own. we are very fortunate he chose to share his life and work with us in his brand-new memoir, "even this i can experience." we all know that norman lear is responsible for some of the most groundbreaking and successful television programs of all tim times. with "all in the family" "good times" mary hartman mary hartman and he challenged everything we thought we knew about class, race and gender and even what it was like to be the character. don draper walter white, every modern antihero can be easily traced back to the painfully human archie bunker. [applause] totally true.
in fact i used to work as a television producer. one time i was working on a reality pilot a real pay your bills sort of job. there's a picture of all in picture of all in the family u hung up in my editors bay. late one night after we have been editing for hours and hours i asked him why that was up there did he like that show? noah he told me i keep it there to remind me that television can mean something. there's no question that norman's work meant something and that it changed the landscape of american publishing forever but he didn't look to change the world through media. his activist work is one of the great passions of his life. in 1981 he founded people for the american way and advocacy organization dedicated to making a famous speech freedom of religion and the right to -- every american. [applause]
it is still a vibrant powerful organization helping people across the country 30 years later. norman lear is a member of the television academy hall of fame. he is. he has received four emmy tzipi body where the humorist art award, the women in film award and the national medal of arts and of course a star on hollywood the hollywood walk of fame. but his career and his deepest life have not been a search for rewards or accolades. it's been a search for truth and meaning. in his memoir he includes a particularly wonderful george bernard shaw quote. this is the true joy in life being used for a purpose recognized by yourself and the mighty one. being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not dispose itself with making you happy. after reading this experience we can all agree. we are in the presence of a force of nature tonight.
joining norman tonight in the conversation as the incomparable jackie lyda. jackie's wit and wisdom is progress for over 30 years as a contributor and host of ncr. mike norman jackie regards as a first and foremost as a storyteller and like him she is endlessly curious and pushing new formats in order to connect with people and ideas. her newest project is a fashion series on npr. the themes is breaking new ground at the intersection between fashion culture and intelligent conversation. these two forces of nature will be in conversation tonight for about 40 minutes. afterwards they won't bite you to join in with questions. ladies and gentlemen please help me in welcoming norman lear and jackie lyda him. [applause]
[applause] [applause] >> will let everyone get seated. as a radio person want to make sure everyone can hear us. norman, hello. sound good? >> nobody heard a word. [laughter] better this way. >> i'm thrilled. >> i've been talking all day. >> is elusive in the middle of our conversation tonight i promise to deputize someone to come up for you. i'm sure we'll have volunteers. it's such an honor and a pleasure to be here with you tonight.
when i called i said yes right away. even though we are competing for ireland at 9:00 in the morning. this book i called it in a tweet today a compendium of wonder. i don't know how -- if any of you have had a chance to read the book yet but the wonders of such a rich lifetime in every way i think for you. >> i could listen to you all day. [laughter] thank you. >> and you don't even have to send a text to your favorite local station. let's talk about you do indeed as the "christian science monitor" says have an expression halfway between being a leprechaun and eight -- max i'd like to ask you about the tidal "even this i can experience." >> i knew right away. i never thought about the title. it just came to me because by
then i had enough wonder in my life to think even this. even this. look at this. and i'm reminded because i'm thinking about it. do you know why all you people are here? you were born all those years ago however old you all are for this moment, for me. [laughter] i was born 92 years ago for this moment to be here for you. [applause] >> one of the things you say in terms of looking at this book is that you realize how hard it is to be a human being. >> it is hard. >> in the book you say i don't
know sometimes if i was living inside of the experience for predicting the experience. can you talk about what you mean a little by that? >> well, the simplest way i can put it and i have a daughter here this evening. kate lear. [applause] >> could you stand up? >> and her husband john is here. john lapook. [applause] and i had to mention that because i want to but the question involves -- what was your question again? >> after rate writing the memo. >> there was a time -- i learned and understood this in the course of writing the book.
i had families on television and i had one on moon crest drive. the one on moon crest drive the kids got up and went to school. i think i drove them to school some time but they didn't need me to drive. they were able to get to school. the ones on television needed me to breathe. they needed me to be alive and that is where i paid more attention. now i don't think that's peculiar to the work i was doing. there were doctors and lawyers and people in all kinds of work whose work dominates their lives and defines who they are for the time they are doing it. i was defined more by what i was doing on the air than what i was doing on moon crest drive.
>> and yet you begin, this is full with details of your childhood and having written a memoir myself like many successful people there is a fascination with this is not a childhood without taking challenges and it begins right away by talking a about your father herman k. lear. the k stands for king lear. i love that. it becomes a prototype for a couple of people in your telephone -- television shows that the kids talk about later but let's stay with him for a while. tell us about k lear. >> he serves time when i was nine years old. he announced that he was going to oklahoma to do something there.
a couple of men my mother had met said i don't like those men are men, don't go with those men. >> you are living on the east coast and oklahoma. >> in connecticut, in connecticut and his reply was finally when they were arguing about it, jeanette stifle yourself. [laughter] and then of course that's where archie got the word. he left and he was arrested the day he got back. he was going to bring me a 10-gallon hat from oklahoma and the day he was arrested there was a picture in the paper folding a hat over his face manacled to a detective, but he was briefed -- away for three
years at a crucial time for a kid. and he persisted following that getting into trouble one way or another and the thing that defined him for me i could not not love him. he had a for life that also defined him and i loved that for life and found that i guess easier to hold onto them the fact that he could be a scoundrel. >> there is a red chair in the family living room that is kind of his spot and you carried that chair in your imagination for
decades. why was this significant? >> well it was a red leather chair and ottoman. there was no television. it was radio and he controlled the radio dial. we used to listen to especially the fights, the friday night fights from madison square garden every week of our lives. my father and i listening to the fights was you know some of the best times of my life. there was an occasion i wrote about the notre dame ohio state game, football and we were notre dame fans and they were 17 or some number behind. they made it up in the last minutes of the game. the two of us were rolling on the floor kicking and screaming and carrying on. somehow the memory of that obliterates, as i think about it
now is obliterates all the pain. >> he was going to get rich in 10 days, two weeks of the most. he squandered some money that he didn't come into. your mother is distance from you. she takes her sister to live with her and you go and live with relatives. the line that struck me to the quick. your best friend was your sweater that you sort of cuddle but, even then it's getting burst out and thank you. you have this great job at coney island, 13 or 14, something like that. >> i was i guess 15 the first summer. i did it for two summers. the first summer i worked for cal mont ocean pool and bathing with your own dressing room.
[laughter] and there was a photo booth that you could step into and get six pictures for a nickel. so it was hey hey six for a nickel, 5 cents. hey little lady do you want to be in the pictures? [laughter] oh and then one of the great lessons in my life that i learned, i worked for, he he was an indian chap who had a big barrel of corn and was selling ears of corn for a nickel or something. i was helping him and he balled me out one day because i was putting the butter on first and then the salt. the lesson i had to learn was if
you put the salt on first it requires less butter. [laughter] and i figured it out and i realized if you live to be 105 you could save 37 cents. [laughter] >> wouldn't you just love to be back in a moment when you were walking along the boardwalk at coney island and some 15-year-old kid is hustling. there's something about this kid you know. when did it occur to you that you needed to be a storyteller? i wish i could spend more time on your childhood but there's a wonderful scene. >> it didn't occur to me that i needed to be a storyteller. it happens. i went from one uncle to anoth another. i loved my cousins. we were close but i was kind of on the dole.
>> the family dole. >> yes, and anyway i used to tell stories and make them lau laugh. i would see films. i don't know how it would happen but i would see a film on a saturday morning and tell the story that afternoon. but i remember there was an actor henry r. nava. this anyone remember henry and woes are here? [laughter] >> near children. >> they were before abedin castillo. they were a great comedy. my god i am old. [laughter] >> they were hilarious and there was an actor in that it just amused "the hill" out of me. he was a sanitation worker and he was upset because he could be losing his job soon because the horses were going in the cars
were coming in and the force who was not there to be. [laughter] anyway i imitated him for my cousins all the time. >> could you spend a minute before we move on on how you got to college, how you got to college. that is for me put your whole life together. you have been listening to father coughlin who was the predecessor in many ways of some of the extreme right-wing talk radio in those days and of course being a radio person that scene struck me with such force because it's the middle of the night. you assembled the crystal radio station tuning in the world and incomes not a voice of love by the voice of hate.
>> my father had brought me this crystal radio set. that was another gift of time making this little thing on a cigar box with a headset. one could move this cat was good pick up a signal. after he was gone i picked up a signal of father coughlin was an anti-semitic anti-roosevelt fdr new deal by the vicious loud g guy. it was the first time i learned people perhaps hated me because i was born to jewish parents. i never got over that. when it came time to go to college i wanted to go. my folks didn't have the money. he was the middle of the depression and they simply didn't have the money. i wanted to go to northwest.
i'm smiling because i have a grandson who just got into northwestern. [applause] his brother daniel is here. [applause] he graduated from pomona last year. where was i? >> there was a contest. >> i couldn't go to college and there was the first american legion oratorical contest. this is back in the days in oratorical. the first prize for the connecticut or new england, i don't remember quite, but the first prize would be to go to emerson college in boston.
i entered. my subject was the constitution and made and my view of the constitution was that perhaps i as jewish the first amendment guarantee of equality might have meant more to me as a member of a minority. that was the general drive of this particular talk and i won. i won in connecticut and perhaps new england but whatever i won i went to college. in the beginning of the second year in december, the seventh of december the war and i just had to enlist. >> a particularly good story to tell in how important i was to
you early on. the squadron that you served with during world war ii particularly distinguished. he did manage to have some amazing entertainers. frank sinatra comes over and bob hope on the tours. i just love the story of you coming home from the war, producing shows as a young veteran and deciding you are going to go to los angeles. they had never heard the first night of their nature new dream the new chapter of your life in l.a. living there with a young family your first wife in her oldest daughter ellen and parks in a hotel and this extraordinary thing takes place. i don't want to give it away. would you tell us? you can't go back to the hotel because -- let me start there.
>> was saturday night. we arrived late in the afternoon on saturday night. i parked my wife and child. she was under two in a motel on lower sunset boulevard and i went out to buy a sunday newspaper early to look for and add. >> for what? >> for an apartment. the whole country knew that los angeles was one of the most difficult places in the country to find a place to live. it was under that circumstance that i was going out on a saturday night just after arising, and i picked up a newspaper and i think it was a hint of a place to rent. i went off sunset boulevard and i was trying to find the street. anyway i came across a retrofitted house into a small
99 seat theater. it was very well-known at the time. it was a stage theater and there was a marquee that said opening tonight. she happened to be my favorite writer, of which i didn't know another. i couldn't get over it and this was my favorite play. i couldn't get over it. there was a guy sleeping up in front and i talked to him and he happened to be the fellow who was producing it. this was his theater. george was his name. 20 years later, 30 years later shelly winters told me she was there that night. and he was interested in the fact that i had come out to be a press agent and he said you know
we couldn't pay you anything that you can hang out here and i am sure you will learn a little something. i was excited about that and then he said i have a seat by the way if you would like to see major barbara tonight. i had to call my wife sitting in a motel in a strange town on the other side of the country with the little baby, a child that i had to go to this theater. and that was as hard or phonecall as i have ever made because she had every right to go nuts, and she did. [laughter] and i stayed and i went to the theater and he seated me in the second row. three seats were taped off in front of me, directly in front of me. the house lights were going down and in walked allen mowbray a
well-known british character actor and charlie chaplin. i had noticed in the book that sidney chaplin and his son, i it was his son when i saw him in a cast. he was in the show and i can't get over it. now i can get over it. when the show was over nobody got up because mr. chaplin continued to sit there. there was no backstage so he didn't go back. what happened was that the cast came out and sat on a little stage in front of him and the rest of us stayed put. he got up and as he thanked them for a great performance he said something to the effect that he never knows when he has had such
a good time. he doesn't believe a simple thank you suffices. so he would like to do something for them. and then i'm sitting there in california and charles chaplin imitates the guy who is intoxicated trying to mail an envelope in a high wind, trying to get to the letterbox in a high wind. [laughter] that was my first taste of california. >> i just thought we all had to savor that one. [applause] >> it's easy to see the title "even this i can experience" makes sense. >> you know there's a saying that you make your luck. luck doesn't just come to you. luck is something you work hard for.
opportunity is something we work hard to be present for her. but there's another quality that you have all the time. i was doing a story about a different successful person last week, the designer arthur scott perrelli who was known for not taking no for an answer. neither do you. over and over with your doing a press agent hearing and you are trying to get -- on his front lawn. it sure was a different hollywood in those days. can you imagine that now? or deciding that you are going to sell material to danny thomas. maybe lots of people don't know about that connection. >> that was the first piece of material. as i said i wanted to be a press agent.
my uncle jack was the only uncle that did that he was the only uncle that i admired. that's what i came out to do and it was the right comedy. there i am again. so we started to write and we had a little office above a delicatessen that we paid $6 a month for. and we would work during the day selling things door-to-door in the neighborhoods and then write at night. we had an idea for danny thomas. the next day on location what we were selling. i called william morris because i read that was the office that represented him on my lunch hour
the way he was never -- mesmerizing. so there were words in yiddish and with the same thing in any of other languages paramount. so his three words were gradations of you know, . [laughter] and he told three stories the first was about a woman with a baby on the floor crying with the cookie in the oven overdone and something boiling and something at the front door. with the second story with
and as it is a part of american culture. >> no. i read the results of a british show called till death do us part and i thought that is my dad and me. how could i not have thought of it myself? and perhaps i didn't go to the british series but i did my version i had did not see the show and i hadn't for many of gear -- years. and then i left with abc with carroll o'connor and jean stapleton and they would not put it on the air because they were afraid of it but they had a right to ask me to make it one year again and they exercised that right they held it for two years i made the second
pilot and again they did not put it on than one year passed then a cbs had it to president and he wanted to reach for something that was different from anything at the time he looked at this pilot, the last one was one years old the first one was three years old the and he said i will put it on. >> host: 1971. >> guest: yes. it went on early january. but you ask about you know, i hate to say it sounds like winning the war. there were small arguments. and that line of dialogue
could cause a network to remove it. and as you know, as we grownups married with children, several of us the writing staff, college graduates among us, we had a good sense. so archie coming in to see his daughter and son-in-law ready to go upstairs obviously to make love he said sunday morning 11:50 a.m.? that white had to come out. but nothing made sense even if they knew what they were talking about what he was alluding to they were
married people what was unreasonable about that? so the point i want to make is i knew the episode could exist without the line very easily but it was not part to understand the five lost an argument i was two's dozens of others just as easily so i had to. i warn the tiny victory that made a big difference. >> host: so make their reality of plays for television so for a long time they've embraced it and use mashed barrier after barrier after barrier then you have seven shows from stanford and sons, i loved
it. night court. [applause] and then watching it with the dvd is. but 20 million people how does that not disorient the creator? >>. >> mike wallace interviewed me some years later introduced me two's somebody who reached 120 million people per year. i did not have those figures i did not think about it. the one time i was entranced with how many people be reached i cannot remember what your the show was on
the air but i was looking down to see lights everywhere and i was able to wonder i hope somebody with a laugh. that was amazing. >> host: should retake some questions from the audience would have a couple of microphones. >> it is my pleasure some comedians like bob hope have stable and those are some just naturally funny off the stage. so in your lifetime did you
think was the most naturally funny or the wittiest comic? >> guest: you mentioned two different things. funny and witty. [laughter] will be there was of a writer. [applause] he was the wittiest man i ever met nobody was as witty as he but funny sanford and son red sox his earlobes were funny his fingernails were funny he could walk into our room to tell your mother stress was on fire and make you laugh. he was a clown.
a true clown. there is red fox in jerry lewis at the beginning of his career was just funny. there was the tendency among some comics to become the pope began to become so wise they know everything and he started that along the way tenures into his career with the key was the pope. [laughter] there are others like that but originally he was not. sid caesar was not witty but
not all of them are funny. >> hello. i have a question with anyone episode that you hail as your favorite? >> guest: what comes to mind because i talked about earlier today is there are two episodes with "all in the family" that were very funny and people say how you get humor out of that? one had edith had an idea for weeks the tissue lost her face. -- because she lost her faith and then at somebody
says what happens to archy when she loses her face then we knew we had the second episode because he falls apart because she has lost her faith in those two episodes is my response to that. >> good evening. thank you i thank you are the first reason they explorer been a net inspiration a juror might number one reason to pursue a of a career in writing. what does it great fun dash
take to be such a great show runner was so many on the air? >> host: how to be a great show runner? and what does it take to keep all of that together? to keep that material you mentioned carroll o'connor was difficult sometimes red fox was difficult sometimes. >> the best advice they gave a writer was to write make sure you know, what you want then you get it.
i don't know a better way to express unanswered. >> host: you have the voice of all your characters you listen to their voice when you're right? >> guest: remember the actor brings a great deal to it to. i wrote archie bunker and caroled inhabited it so he is a product as was mary hart. i did not imagine it at all what archie bunker could be intel carroll o'connor took him. or the same thing with the very heart -- mary hart.
>> host: had not realized carroll o'connor that there was an impasse between new -- you he died relatively young. >> guest: i tell the story we had a difficult time. he was a fabulous actor and gifted it anyways but he was fearful of the role he had to play every week i tell a story of one particular show where he was caught in an elevator with the black dude
reading "the new york times" while he had "the daily news". [laughter] then a latino woman and her husband got on the elevator she was extremely pregnant and the elevator stalls and she panics and a the baby is going to be born. [laughter] on either the "wall street journal" or the news -- and "the daily news" it would take place in one space and carol thought it was terrible. he would not do it it was unthinkable. i was totally in love with the idea of the baby being
born how to explain that? ultimately you show up for the show goes away and he showed up and we've made that and this sound with the baby and the camera on that man's face one of the most priceless moments. [applause] we did not speak much if at all for some time after the show was over. he did archie bunker's place and that was his own thing but he passed away and i went to the house to see his wife nancy and she asked me
to stay until the others left and when we were alone she took me into his den their desk was absolutely in but a letter sitting on top and it was from me i had written three years for years before that salary reran had been difficulties but that was on his desk every day from the day he got it in was there when he passed away. [applause] >> host: we've got your inspiration for good times and sanford and son? >> with good times we had the character from mod.
it was clear i remember now if i wanted to do a show with the black family or fit would be a great counterplay with mod in fact, i would never forget this on me and my shadow they would do it in maude insisted to play the shadow. esther was fabulous we introduced an episode and i think before the show went off the air in california and executive been new york was on the air wondering and
that is out happened. >> directing several of your shows as every betty's favorite episode of mary tyler moore it was for writers or directors is you have several directing credits. did your writing help your directing and how is that possible with more than one aspect of doing the show? >> the first time we did
"all in the family" i think i did it because it wanted to give it my way. i had someone behind me helping me with a camera because on all the shows that were with a live audience 240 people on average sat in the stands it is worth mentioning that one-acters work for a live audience they are looking at that audience is the left -- is the laughter is holding they are holding that there is a reaction you get that because they ride the audience response that was
the signature difference for the shows that we did today as to the question? >> host: is certainly helped with the writing highly directed a couple and working with the directors they improved everything we ever wrote. >> if you compare television today it seems like you can share more but you cannot talk about race or religion or abortion but you tackle those on your shows if you agree? would you attribute that change what we see on television? >> has the fearlessness left
television? >> it is difficult to answer because i not watch a lot of television not that i don't want to but my reading and writing i am doing other things. and i am terribly aware and they struggle to see so many shows that i hear about to have friends that i respect looking at this or that with another scandal you mean you are not watching "breaking bad"? somebody recently said something like a new show called transparent. has anybody here seen that?
what a wonderful opportunity [laughter] i think it is amazon find it. it is one of the great performances of all time. a 50 something and with three grown children who knew from the time he was five years old he should have been a girl and coming out at that age it is jeffrey campbell or in a performance i could never forget that performance. >> host: please keep your questions short. >> guest: and keep the answers short. [laughter] >> many shows have to do
with social commentary or race relations what about the current state of race relations today? >> guest: we need to start again. [laughter] [applause] i don't think we're in a very good place in terms of race relations of lot of it is subtext but that is my sense. i disagree with our president on a lot of things i am disappointed in a lot of things but i am crazy about the fact that he is there i don't think he gets
a fair break as a result of race. [applause] >> so we talk a lot about television what do you hope is the legacy of your life? >> guest: it goes with the title of the book i would wish to help people who live their lives thinking even this because we all experience it to some extent there is no reason why people should not experience it every day they wake up. because waking up is just great. [laughter] >> host: thank you.
>> as you are flying across the country looking down i was living in one of those houses. thank-you. were there any other choices other than carroll o'connor? >> guest: i am glad you asked the question. i have a funny story. he walked into read five lines and that was it. but before that i was in new york looking actors i saw carol for the first time he nailed the role in california but in the course of auditioning actors for the first time i thought i wonder if mickey rooney? [laughter] . .
is a bigot and you don't say this hemap. they are going to kick you into the streets. [laughter] they are going to shoot you dead. you want to do a show for the mac, listen to this. [laughter] vietnam vet schardt lined large dog. [laughter] [applause] you don't forget that. >> it's just three words. i just want to thank you so mu much, so much. [applause] >> hold it one second. i want to thank you so much.