tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 23, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, part to with our conversation with actor robert blake. he opened up about his murder charges in the civil case that left him bankrupt. we explore the life and his childhood fame as a member of the little rascals a a p pmeme memetata t tm on thebrbrt.t. are glad you j jnene ussoror part two of our exclusive conversation with robert blake. >> 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: last night, i explored the details of robert blake's murder trial and the impact on his life cents. tonight in part to, he opens up about his life before the trial had a book he has written about his show business career. i want to go back to the very beginning, you reference to it earlier. but for the fact that your parents could not afford a $15 payment to the mother of frank
sinatra to cover the had already paid her twice before that. >> if they had a $15 to pay frank sinatra's mother, you would have been aborted. >> twice she layton led -- laid in bed for two weeks bleeding. a coat hanger -- i don't even have a birth certificate. i was born sometime between september 10 and 30 days after that. i didn't get a birth certificate until two years later and it was a forgery. the truth, this very who briefed here, you can cut all this out, i don't know what kind of time we are on here. two brothers, tell me and jimmy. my mother was in love with tony.
she was a virgin. if you marry me, we will have sex. he said, we're going to have sex now. she started going out with tunney's brother, jimmy. she married to jimmy and move right across the street from tell me. now she has two kids and she is still waiting for tunney because she loves tony. she starts going across the street and fooling around with tony. after two abortions, she says, i want to tell me. she goes over there and she gets pregnant by tony. she says, you have to marry me. tony says, to hell with you, he gets his girl and moves away and gets married. that is my real father. and jimmy, his brother, he hates me. because he knows that she has been fooling around with money. she hates what is within her belly because she hates tell me,
but i got here anyway. i am talking about a life that is nothing but miracles. do you want to know how i got "in cold blood? bnl how that artists -- he took all the credit for it, everything in my life has been done, the fine-tuning has always been the boss. i am rowing a boat, but the boss is doing the steering. tavis: there is one word of this wonderful acting career that your fans know about, this whole career hinges on one word. it was your ability to say one word as a child that the other child actor could not say. >> confidentially, it's thanks. tavis: at two years of age, you could say the word "confidentially." >> to what i was an extra at
mgm, i knew that if you talked, you got more attention. see what it says, my whole life is what i did for love. i took care of my father, a crazy drug that used to knock me out. i would drink with him, he would teach me how to box. tavis: hughes started drinking and smoking at age 5? >> before that, they started putting why not a rag at 6 months old. nobody cared if i live there died. you don't have to do much to be cute, but i was talented. nobody ever had to teach me how to perform. i sang songs, danced on the sidewalk, people threw money. they also gave money to the monday and i should have killed that monkey. he didn't have to do nothing.
when they would come out in the morning and say that we need 20 kids for the little rascals, i will dance on both of my shoes and they got me in there. as soon as i realized if you talk you get more money into got attention, i said, watching this. >> racism was alive and well then. they tried to keep you away from your friend, buckwheat. >> no, buckwheat was my best friend. i don't know what it's like to be black but i am sure know what is like not to be white. at mgm, there was white and it was everybody else. the had a couple token mexicans at the time because of the good neighbor policy. rich folks were buying of mexico and they had a few of those. when i got there, buckwheat was
my friend because my name was gubetosi. we got to be very good friends, we did a lot of cool stuff together, and when i became bobby blake, dig this. the boss of the studio was a russian jew with an accent. he sat me on his left and set up was going to be in a movie. my parents didn't do it, me and god did it. they said you can't be mickey gubatosi. you're bobby blake. you're one of us. those were his words. "now you're one of us." i moved out of the little rascals and moved to elizabeth taylor. i love her with all my heart.
i became a white kid. what i was in new jersey, i lived in an italian community. we were number one, the italians were the best people in the world. jews were human beings, but they were second-class human beings. they push carts, they bought pots and john, and those were jews. black people were sub-human. they had weird names for them, and i was italian. those people, those are jews. if i did it right, i've got to go over to the couch and punched that the love and he would h sayheit the jew on the head. i did not know what he was talking about, but that is where that was at. at mgm, it is upside down.
i am at the bottom. and guess who is at the top? the jews. and buckwheat is underneath me. but we -- i loved him with all my heart. we were gangsters together. we've broken the candy machines, we stole cigarettes, we did stuff together that when i go to heaven, he is going to look at me and fall on the floor laughing. tavis: you mentioned liz taylor, she passed away earlier this year. >> she was the same age as i was, we could not read or write. once upon a midnight dreary while i ponder weak and weary over many of clinton's curious volume of forgotten lore. there became a tapping as if someone gently tapping at my chamber door. she loved edgar allan poe.
we would go on the porch in the rain and she would read edgar allan poe to me. i have a weaker brain. i am severely dyslexic but i also have brain damage because my father used to knock me out. i don't use my eyes, i use my years. if i listen to you, i know you inside out. if i lucky you, i get confused. if i don't play them for two weeks, i forget the courts. i can still hear them and to sing them, but i can't play them. i have learned to type 20 times. tavis: how do you learn your lines? >> she used to read the edgar allan poe and i read it back to her. another kid was supposed to test that day and he could not test the they came to the little rascals and said, we need somebody who can learn the lines quickly because he has to test
with of the leading lady because the kid who was going to star in the movie is sick. mrs. carter said, he can do it. he said, he can't even read. she said, give me the pages. she read the pages to me and said, give me the page is back. i gave her the pages back, everybody's dialogue. after i tested, they called the other kid and said the stay home. that is how i got to start and a movie, and that is how i became bobby blake. light-years have worked for me all of my life. my brain is a weird and brain to start with. and when i tell you i have no social skills, i mean that. life is a rehearsal. your performance is real. that is the story of my life. tavis: maybe it is not weird,
maybe it is gifted. >> in some ways. but that is okay, because i am still here. they haven't opened up my chest yet, i am still walking, i am still dancing, i still enjoy looking at the ladies. it is located be here. if i leave, i have had no regrets, brother. i am telling you, it has been a ride. whoever gets his seat better buckle up because this is a bowl. tavis: both nights in this conversation, you have laid out your life story, in is a story in a very real way. the story of your life is a story of not being wanted. not being wanted by your
parents, being forced to change by studios. >> natalie wood was my best friend. michael was that way. michael could never get enough. the whole world who loved natalie. it was never enough. in a sad way, i have to admit that it is that way with me. that i still feel lonely, that night, and even if i and then somebody's arms. if you don't connect in that way, the magic of the birth canal, you spend the rest of your life -- there is a place like natalie, like so many others i have known. we sort of hook up with each
other. if anybody is like me, i will find them. and you spend the rest of your life trying to get that woman that is supposed to love you to take you to her breasts and say, i am glad you are here. welcome to the world. tavis: i am curious about this. how do you create a life that you build, that you advance in life, when from the very beginning, you don't feel wanted. from the very beginning, you don't feel loved. >> the indomitable spirit that god gives you. i believe your soul is separate from your mother. i believe your solis separate from everything. i believe that nobody can kill your sole exception you. and that what some people have
called incredible luck, some people have called the indomitable spirit, some people have called amazing grace. some people say, robert, you were born in a state of grace. i don't know which of those is true, but i know that it is true of all the people that i know that are like me. natalie had to be a movie star. and it never was enough. but that's ok, because there are other gifts besides parental love. can you imagine what it is like to be eight years old at the same, i am going to get that job and i am going to be a movie star. that is what i said what i was 8 years old. i don't care who has the movie, i am going to get that job. when i read "in cold blood," to hell with all the men, i am
doing that part. it only has to work one time and you know there is something larger than you in life. how can i be 78 years old and not be dead? how come i hit still work and i haven't eaten vegetables and 20 years? feed the vegetables to the cow and i will eat a cow. every time i go the doctor, she shakes her head. while you were watching "beretta," i had red man in my i was smoking cigarettes. buckley died very young, everybody i know died very young. tavis: i can't let this conversation and without talking about "beretta." one of the greatest team songs
and the -- theme songs. >> i wrote those lyrics. yous: don't do the crime if can't do the time. don't go ahead with -- to bed with a price on your head. >> there's a lot. the tragedy is, people to a series ha. you can follow this. you do a series on the way up or on the way down. peter faulk started doing a series, and jimmy garner did the same thing. i was a movie star. i was working in great films with great people, and i went and did a series. with no reason in the world to do it. i have done things like that all my life.
so far, so good. the guy that jumps out of the empire state building, i don't know why i did "beretta." i had other movies to do and i had other movies i was cooking. electra glide in the blue was a very successful picture. michael eisner was a big deal. he said, i want that guy in a cop show. a universal call me and i said, ok. we don't have time for a pilot. abc was like, the bottom of the barrel. michael eisner was buying whatever the hell he could find on the streets. if he is sukkur enough to do a series, i am going to buy him. if i am on my game, if i am really small and, as god as my judge, you can give me the
telephone book and i can make the whole world cry. if i am cooking, and nobody ever taught me how the act or make a movie. i was writing on the weekend and shooting them on monday. i directed half of them. why don't you take any credit for anything. that is another pathetic story. i told everybody my father was a genius. spencer tracy taught me how that act. i would sit on the stage and watch him. when he did judgment at nuremberg, i was sitting above him on the catwalk through the whole movie. i can tell you stories about spencer tracy. i was 5 feet above him on the catwalk all the way through a judgment at nuremberg. but we have his place and that he liked to go and i had my places, so we would share. we both wanted to go see the midgets on the yellow brick road
because we were taller than they were, and that was cool. and they were all drunk and i knew how to drink. i did the show and everybody was taking heat their head, this was crazy. abc is a disaster, they have 13 shows on the air and they have nothing and i said, watching this. tavis: what made it work? >> i.m. magic from the time i was 2 years old. when it comes to show business, i take a backseat to nobody. i am sick as a dog, i am crazy, but i was born with it. it is not a craft, it is magic. i am not putting you down for using that word. people who use the word kraft, a jackson pollock knew his craft. well, you know, it is magic.
creating something is your relationship with what created you. you create something with what created you. if you don't understand that, don't walk up to the easel and start painting. if you think your the painter, you can learn some technical stuff, you can learn how to get the plane off the ground, but -- tavis: the gift flows through you. >> exactly. why am i watching this dancer instead of the other. they are both doing the same moves, but i am drawn to the magic. sick and soso troubled, i probably would have had a completely different life. i may not have even been an actor. i might have been a musician. tavis: i was about to ask you
what you might have been. >> i could not get enough of the musicals at mgm. the one to ask me who i am, i am gene kelly? second-best to spencer tracy, but i am gene kelly. nobody taught me how to dance, i just danced. clark gable dance that his screen tests, but if you were good enough, you started acting in the didn't dance anymore. so i got to be pretty good at acting in the stock and dancing, but i loved to watch gene kelly and all of those dancers. hailed at the same thing. coffee, coca-cola, camel cigarettes, and baby ruth. i wanted to be right there in the middle of that. there was something spectacular about dancing, about being able to make your body do something
beautiful. i don't mean just yoga or something, dancing is the most primitive form of art. i was always mesmerized, particularly by gene kelly. i could tap dance, and anybody can tap dance. it is a mathematical fang. but when you can move had hypnotized people, just with your body, that is fascinating. tavis: we have about two minutes left here, it has been a wonderful conversation. you said that maybe three or four times, if i were so sick, i know what you mean by that. let me ask whether or not at all these years, you ever sought therapy. >> i have been through a lot of different kinds of therapy. i spent 30 years with one shrink
and a published books for henhouse -- him. i spent 30 years with that dunce. i don't think there is anything wrong with therapy. i believe in therapy -- in group therapy. i think like if you are an alcoholic, dolan to a group with alcies. like cures like. that is why i was hooked up with natalie, elizabeth, michael. there is such a thing as one on one therapy, but if you have been sexually abused, and emotionally abused, how you go where your people are. and there should be a therapist there, too. but like cures like.
if you are broken on the street, who is going to help you. the guy standing next to you that is broken on the street. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] -- tavis: you can access the full videopbs.org. good night from loss angeles and as always, keep the faith. >> 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 26-time grammy winner allison and a special performance from union station. >> 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