tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 22, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight part one of a conversation with actor robert blake following his acquittal on murder charges. he was found liable in the death of his wife. tonight robert blake opens up on the details of his criminal and civil trials. and their impact on his life. we're glad you have joined us. part one of our conversation with robert blake right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to
economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: before his murder trial made headlines from the world, and robert blake was known for his starring role in the detective series baretta and the popular "our gang" series. in 2001 in his life was changed following the murder of his wife bonnie lee bakley. he was later acquitted.
in 2005, and he was found liable of a wrongful death suit which resulted in a multimillion- dollar penalty. less than a year later he was a bankrupt. tonight he speaks about his murder trial and the civil judgment led left him bankrupt. he started by talking about his personal history with our historical and studio. >> you have no idea how weird this is. i will give it to you briefly. i started working here back in 1938. in the 1950's, i must have made 15 or 20 pictures here. rumble on the docks, the turbo gained, the caribbean story --
korean story. i just found out they are going to close this joint. i do feel like the ghost from lot 3. it is really weird. i got into a fist fight right there with timothy and he started crying because i broke his mickey mouse watch. over there i was back there with a girl doing what i was not supposed to be doing what they were looking for me. this whole studio is strange like that, the ghosts come pouring in. that is what happens when you get old. that is the story of that. tavis: i was told you came here an hour early just to walk around and see the place. i realized that this lot was not that i'm familiar to you. it is strange that on our last
day -- we are moving to a new studio for our ninth season. a brand new studio in new everything for our ninth season. you come back and you spend all of the time here in the 1930's. >> my whole life is weird to start with. somebody asked me, i cannot imagine what it might -- must be like to be me. i take a little piece of it here and there but when i wrote that thing and started looking at it and saying, did i do all that? i am 78 years old but that is like 150 years' worth of stuff. of the times when i should have been dead and wanted to be dead, god always said is not yet.
have something else for you to do. tavis: i got a chance to read this book. i wanted to go through it and get to the history because you are 78 and you have lived more life and the rest of us. i want to get into all that but i want to start with of the things that some people, whether you like it or not, some many people are going to remember when you are no longer here. whenever that is. for this murder trial. i want to address that and then get to the rest of the richness that is your life. no one should be defined by one thing in our lives. obviously your life cannot be
talked about with addressing that issue. >> you do not have to go anyplace else. i'm not here to sell the book. i do not have a record contract. it was cool that you took my phone call. that is why i'm here. it was simple and it was easy. i was up for murder and i spent one year in a cement box and everybody says, how did you do that? you could ask me that about anything in my life. that biography is about to god. and i'm not tough but god has always had some kind of plan for me, you know? i was not supposed to be born. the coat hanger did not work. i have been here ever since.
i have not done anything since i was acquitted. when i was acquitted, barbara walters put me on a plane and i spent 20 minutes with her and since then i have been wandering around. wandering around the country. tavis: since you were acquitted and talked to barbara walters, you have not talked to anybody, all of these years later, why now? why decides to open up? >> it has been a process. i felt terrible about being in this town. the other day i saw the location roster. when somebody dies you say he is on location. that is how you deal with it. every year there is elizabeth taylor and when i die, will ibm the roster or don't jell birds
belong there? -- jailbirds belong there? i could not handle anything after that trial. i was $30 million in debt from some crazy civil trial which i should never have done. i was suicidal. i did not give a damn, if i drove off a cliff it would be fine with me. i started driving. as soon as i got out of the town, i found out there was a whole lot of people out there that loved me. they were like my family. i could wind up in moab, utah and somebody would say hey, grab a stick. i stayed out there for a lot of years. breaux, -- broke.
somebody, i live in a little apartment in the valley. next to me is a woman who is a computer night. she to do anything on a computer. she wrote the book for me. she says you do not have to travel. you can stay and deal with the people. get a facebook. she built this thing for me and pretty soon here were these people. toulouse, minnesota. what was it like -- was he a friend of yours? i started talking to them. not back-and-forth talks. if you want to know about the little rascals, i wrote a few pages and gave it to them. pretty soon it got weird because they started talking to each other and commenting.
i don't have many people skills. i do not have any social skills. all had -- i have done was work. everything else, i'm faking it. i could not deal with that. i did not know who i was talking to, somebody from illinois. i said shut this thing down. i kept on writing. i have no intentions of writing a biography. i have turned down a lot of money when i was a big shot on beretta. i kept writing. pretty soon, i went into my closet and had three or four boxes i had not opened. they were of pictures. i took the pictures and i stuck them together and that was that.
you want to talk about the murder trial. tavis: i believe you as you say when you got around you ran into people who were fans of yours. i was a fan of yours. my father was the biggest baretta fan. i did not spend a lot of one-on- one time with him. i am one of 10 kids. the one thing we would do was watch that. but there are people in public opinion, not to be confused with your not guilty verdict. in the courtroom you are not guilty. in public opinion, there are people that think that robert blake did something. he may have killed someone. how the process people coming that way about you?
i process know that it at all. i have never lived a life based on people's opinions of me at all. it is real simple with me. what you think of me is not any of my business. what i think of me is not any of my business. what scott thinks of me is everything. if i am right with the creator -- we do not have to call it god. somehow or other robert blake got here. if they would have $15 for frank sinatra's mother, i would not have caught him. a coat hanger work. i hit the floor running when i was 2 years old. i was dancing on the streets for
nickels and dimes and i have been that way all my life. tavis: you are at peace with god. >> you are getting a little weird now. that is a weird question. your supposing that maybe i did something. tavis: i am not suggesting that. >> i did not do nothing. the cops knew that. that is what -- why they put me for -- in jail for a year. i was supposed to die in there. you want to do a year in a cement box by yourself? with nobody? tavis: if you are, to your point, at peace with god, what ever happened, why do you think -- i have asked my own question. why is he got on your shoulder allowed to to go through that? >> i do not think he allowed me
to go through it. tavis: he allows everything. >> i believe that there is evil in the world. there is an evil force. that stuff floats around and sometimes it lands on you. you do not know how long it is going to be there. i have no conviction was a beautiful child should die of cancer. i have no conviction white tragedy is lot of some and not of others except to say that if all there was was god, we would have have an honors 1 million years ago. there must be evil forces. it is not unnatural that 6 million people need to be cooked. tavis: i believe when god allows us to go through things, there
are lessons to learn. if he is all-powerful and can do anything, there must have been a reason. i'm curious if you have thought about it. why did you go through that? order the lessons? >> i loved my father with all my heart. he killed himself. i took care of him all my life. when i was a kid, he used to lock me in closets in the dark. maybe that is why i survived in that box. maybe that is why i am sitting here. they put me in a cement box with no bail for a year and they all have their book deals in place. anybody who dies in jail is guilty. they knew i was innocent. all of their technical stuff proved i was innocent. we had tapes or the guy said,
those guys got their tokyo's and got famous. this is my turn. but i did not die. of course i was acquitted. i was innocent. you cannot get a book deal when a guy is innocent. tavis: the record is clear. you were found not guilty by a jury. the jury said they did not think the prosecutor made its case. they did not make their case. after, this civil case, you are ordered to pay $30 million. what did you make of that? >> i will tell you specifically. when the trial was over, i got
my heart broken. i got my soul broken. i wanted to die. i tried to kill myself. don't ask me what it was. something i would not wish on my worst enemy. i was broke at the end of the trial. the whole world to love to me because they knew i was innocent. there were 9000 people waiting there. i had to wait 20 minutes for them to stop cheering. i was the king of the world. but i committed suicide. when you have no money, you don't go through a civil trial. i had to mar money. you say to the judge, i don't care. make up your mind. what a real say, judge. fine with me. god has wonders to perform. i don't owe anybody anything.
that is another story but it is true. tavis: do you regret having gotten on the stand? >> it would not have made any difference. i would have lost anyway. tavis: but you would not have been added 1/4 million dollars. >> if i did not hire a lawyer, no judge would have found me guilty. i was found guilty because if you're on the jury, how are you going to get your name in the paper if you find robert blake not guilty? everybody had their moment in the sun. there should not have been any trout. there was no reason. i was broke. i had no intention of doing anything else. i am broke camp. -- now.
tavis: i want to get your take on this, i suspect there are folks who may not agree with you. >> take their point of view. whoever there are. tavis: what your view is of our criminal justice system now you had to go through it a couple of times. what do you make of it? >> is pretty much like the rest of humanity. it is the best and the worst of us. because people are in trouble and frightened and lost and things are going wrong, it affects everything but there is the banking system or the criminal justice system. there is no morality. the point is to get through college. i know a guy whose wife is
taking his tests. let me go back for one minute to how i survived. i was in there for a year. there was a judge who kept me in there. he could have put me on the ankle bracelet. i have sat for three years. i did three years under house arrest. he could've done that the first day i was in there. why did he keep to me and say no? i am not a criminal. i never did a day. i was honorably discharged from the military. the police let me because i was baretta. why did he make me stay in there? i say so. now what happens? barbara walters, to a miracle, caught in that jail and it her interview.
i could talk to you for 12 hours about an issue, how got caught her -- her into the jail. she went in and did the interview. it was on the air. the next day i was on the ankle bracelet. he took one look and said he is going to die and i don't want to be his executioner. cops't mind doing what he want me to do. he let me out the next day. the next day i was on the ankle bracelet. if that is in god, tell me what. of course i wanted to die. i did not care. >> in retrospect, what would you say to me? >> there is no retrospect. tavis: how would you describe
this part of your life, your time in jail, on the ankle bracelet, the criminal trial, how has this impacted your life? how have you navigate your way through it? >> i do not believe i have navigated myself through anything. if stress was going to kill me, i would have never gotten out of the womb. i am 78 years old. i am not supposed to eat red meat. i drink a quarter of in a clear day. god has been watching over me since i was conceived. this 10 years that i have been through, the good news is you cannot kill a soul.
you can kill a man. you can cook him and eat him. but you will choke on his salt. and every day for the rest of your life, you will choke on his soul. those cops and that judge, and don't get me wrong. the drug to went through the criminal trial save my life. the first to judge tried to kill me. the second to judge saved me. i have no qualms about humanity in total. yes, you run into garbage all of the time. so far, it is easy to say, i am tough and i made it through. i am wise. i did this or of that. i haven't done any of the scenes.
i don't know how to do anything except for four. i am not even good at this. i am better entertaining. i do not have this kind of skills. whatever plan god has for me, it is still in effect. those tenor 12 years, it breaks my heart cannot get it back again. i would rather be me than the guys who did what they did to me. they have to choke on my soul. i sleep good. every night i said, and did we do the best we could? he says, go to sleep. we are ok. those people who put me in that box, the people who wanted to get their book deals, what are you holding in your hand? my book. not to their buck. -- not their book.
that is worth everything in the universe to me. that means me and the boss or on the right side. i would have died in that cement box. just when i was going to die, the boss says you are not dying. wake up. i have been on the edge of that of this 1 million times. tavis: tomorrow, more of my conversation with robert blake and the tv fame of "baretta." >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with actor robert blake on life before and after his acquittal on murder charges. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where
walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. thank you.