tv Charlie Rose PBS August 3, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
>> welcome to the program. tonight a conversation with spike lee, the director whose latest production is called mike tyson undisputed truth t is on broadway and his fill some called redhook summer. >> it is storytelling and that's why i didn't realize this, that's why i do so many things because i want to tell different stories in diffent mediums. whether it be a 30 second commercial, michael jordan or michael jackson video. or malcolm x, denzel or the two documentaries, two documentaries in new orleans or now broadway, it's all storytelling.
>> we conclude this evening with a look back at the life and words of gore vidal. >> si have done pretty much what i wanted to do. i'll give a little advice out there for those who who worry about their place in the world. always remember that it is no consequceto you what other people think of you. what matters is what you think of them. that is how you live your life. >> rose: spike lee and gore vidal when we continue. funding for charlie rose was provided by the following:
for spike. this summer he is also back to filmmaking. he returns to his beloved native brooklyn in a new movie called redhook summer. variety calls it quote another radically unique entry into the director's iconnoclastic ouvre and also work on a michael jackson anniversary set to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the album bad. for all those reasons and more i'm pleased to have our friend spike lee back at this table. weome. >> how are you doing? >> ro: i'm doin good. >> i see new the morning now. i'm in the gym. >> rose: i will put you to bed and wake you up, you know what i mean. >> that's he a great thing. >> rose: but i see you at baseball games. i didn't know you were that big baseball fan. >> baseball is the first sport my father introduced to me. as you know what is one of the things a father does with his son. toss the baseball. >> rose: or take to you the game. >> my father never took me to baseball games, he took me to knick games. >> rose: so that became the
knick thing. >> yeah. >> rose: but in brooklyn you remember the dodger, don't you. >> no, no i was born-- i grew up, i got to confess, full disclosure, i grew up as a mets fan. >> rose: really? not a yankee fan. >> we hated the yankees growing up in brooklyn, my generation. the yankees of tom tress, stan bonson, horace clark, they were horrible. >> rose: do you like the los angeles dodgers? >> not really. (laughter) >> rose: but you like baseball still. >> love it, love it. >> rose: didn't you catch a ball or something, what did you do? >> what happened was my son jackson who is taller than me now, we were at the yankees game. >> rose: a fine looking young man he is. >> thank you. and mark teixeira was up and i don't know if he put enough pine tar on his batting glove, but the bat slipped out of his hand and
headed towards the cranes, our cranium, our skulls. we both had to duck. the bat handle hit my son between the shoulder. he was all right. so i picked it up and mark teixeira was great. came over, after his at-bat, came over, asked if we were all right. we gave him the bat, he signed it, went to the locker room, signed the bat, gave it to us. and usually the policy is when a bat goes in the stand they grab it from you. but-- i did not catch it. i picked it up after it hit my son's back. >> rose: so you are a yankee fan. >> yes. >> rose: not a mets fan. >> i don't hate them but-- i grew up, '69, that was my-- i mean i ran on the field three times when they won the eastern division, when they won the pant against the braves, and davey johnson won in the left. >> rose: are you a huge sports fan where did that come from your father. >> my father. my father said he was the
greatest athlete ever. there is no footage of this. but he said he was a five-- in high school at least. >> rose: i have forgotten, was he a musician. >> he is a musician, jazz musician. he played point guard in basketball, a quarterback, centerfielder, quarterback in football. i mean he said he did everything. the reason why i'm a film make certificate because of my father and my mother. i mean they-- just the immersion of not just me, my siblings also, we were immersed in the arts growing up. i mean my father at one point was the go to folk bassist. he play for bob dylan, peter, paul an mary, judy collins, odetta, he would go on and on and on. he was the guy, all nothing old recordss hi playing bass on it. >> rose: do you believe that that is the game you get a chance to do your thing, you got a shot.
>> you got a shot. >> that's all you want. >> you want a shot. >> i mean if you are not in the arena. if you don't come to the plate. then you are out of here. but you have got to-- if you get that shot as you know, charlie, you know this better than me. you might get one shot and it is not together, you get that one shot, you're not going to get another one. it's like-- . >> rose: but the thing about you that intrigues me is you have always done so many different things. first time on broadway. >> first time ever. >> there was no doubt that you would do broadway. >> you do documentaries. you still make the kind of movies, redhook is going back to your own roots, so to speak. >> right. >> well, i-- my father always told me don't limit yourself artistically this was something that was pounded into me. not just artistically, because they didn't know i wanted to be-- i didn't even know what a filmmaker did
but they just, my parents knew how important arts is, that is why it pains me today that we go all over the united states of america, the greatest country in the world, no argument, art programs are being slashed. how can we be the greatest, how can we continue to be the greatest country in the world when children grow up in this country, they don't have ability to afford private school, where they're to the being taught art. ty'reo t bengaught music. and there's no gym. that for me that is a prescription for it is certainly a prescription for not reaching your potential and to the doing all that you can. and also not -- >> you can grow up ignorant and you're going to be fat. >> rose: exactly right. i'm with you on that as you know. and all right is-- art sea a way that we in a sense
preserve civilization. it's what is permanent about civilization. >> yes, it's the expression of self. >> storytelling. it's storytelling. and that's why i didn't realize this though, that's why i do so many things because i want to tell different stories in different mediums. whether it be a 30 second commercial, michael jordan. or michael jackson video or malcolm x, denzel or the two documentaries, in new orleans now broadway. it's all storytelling. >> rose: how did broadway come about? >> well, i don't have one of those yet. >> i'm going sign this to you. >> rose: okay. >> i've been thinking about doing broadway for many years. and jimmy neederlander. >> rose: great theatre owners. >> him and the schuberts they run broadway. approached me several times about doing something. and at one point we were talking about doing the
doing making-- doing the right thing into a musical. and then i was told about mike tyson doing a one-man own las vegas. only six nights. i couldn't get there in time. so i called up mike and his wife kiki who wrote the play and they were in poland but they were able to get me a dvd. >> rose: what were they doing in poland. >> making money. i mean the guy's got to make some money. so i mean mike tyson's global. people want him. he's in demand all over the world. so they get me a dvd and i was amazed by it. i said this could work on broadway. >> rose: what amazed you about it. >> his storytelling. and the stories telling. >> rose: so whatoe he do, he tells stories. >> he's does a one-man show. >> rose: about life and things he's seen, things he's done. >> and how he lost it all. >> lost it all and came-- that's a big part of it but the
summation at the end is like, my peeps, my values, my triumphs. and he's in a better place now than he has ever been in his life. he has a beautiful wife, kids, his wife is his partner. she wrote this magnificent, what i feel, play. and i called up jimmy neederlander, i said you should look at this he looked at it, he said let's do it together on broadway. so i am coproducing it and directing it. >> rose: i will come right back to it. here say scene with you and mike rehearsing for the play. >> what's the most classic -- >> that's a bodybuilder, right. boxer looks like he's ready to hit, ready to strike like a trained gladiator. >> good. >> are you scared of white people? i said what? >> are you one of those kinds. >> one of those kinds. >> yeah, i've been around
black fighter, they're afraid to hit white people. i don't got no time to waste, i'm too old to waste my time. >> no, i'm fine. i'm not afraid to hit a white person. that's cool with me. this isn't my first time here on broodway. actually i got arrested on this very same block many years ago. that arrest is one of my defining moments too, right, because if i never got arrested on that particular day i wouldave never went to sparks for detention center in the bronx and if i never went to sparks in the bronx i would have never met my mentor and if i never met my mentor i wouldn't be the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of the world. even though i was 14, i had the body of -- >> there you go, good, mike, good. all that stuff, you can play yourself is better-- better. >> any time you can make fun of yourself, it's good. the audience, they like that. >>rose: so that's you tellinghim to bring himself out. >> yes, i mean i didn't have
to tell him that he's funny and he was referring to his mentor, catskills, new york, who the first time he saw mike after only watching him spar for two rounds told him he would be the youngest heavyweight champion of all time because at the time he had the record before passing. he told him that only seeing him spark for two round os. i wasn't there. >> i will ask mike that i am not going sit up here i tell you what is interesting too. he what. >> very few people on this earth that know more about-- will give you, if you had any fighter will
name their record. when they were born, the knockout o i mean he's an encyclopedia. >> how does he see the bad times, prison, the rape charges? >> he is in a very forgiving place now. >> rose: forgiving whom? >> himself and other people too. he's forgiven don king, which is hard to do. i mean but-- . >> rose: don king did what to him? >> well, they settled in court. but and words, mike tyson will say he robbed him blind. was charging him $6,000 a week for towels. that was-- . >> rose: $6,000 a week for towels. >> uh-huh tough business.
>> it's tough. >> they say if he had lived this would never have happened. >> you know, i really try to-- i really try to stay out of the-- this game. >> rose: oh come on. >> i don't say if he would have missed the layup we would have had our first championship since 1972, '73. >> by the way, i saw-- on the plane the other day. he was great. >> yes. and hopefully he gets a head coaching job. >> rose: me too. >> people i know were going all around. >> you are going go there doing a one-man show-and-tell these stories and will be candid, it's going tooq@ be-- very few people, mike tyson plugged. that are is he doesn't hold anything back. he's to the going to lie to make himself better.
he talks about the horrible things he's done. and he does it in a way so it is the fact that i should have gone to prison for what he did. >> no. he will go, he will put his hand on tencorans and say -- >> and say. >> and say he did not rape desiree washington. >> he says emphatically i did not rape desiree washington. >> and you believe him. >> i believe him. >> rose: because he's honest about other thingses so you think he's honest about that too. >> yes. he says i have done horrible things to women. >> rose: brutal. >> brutal things to women, but this wasn't wasn't the one. >> is he biter. >> no, not at all. >> rose: that's the point. >> he's not bitter at all.
>> rose: . >> he survived it. he is in the best place he's ever been. and you know-- . >> rose: and if you look at we are was in the beginning, before-- he was just starting, and then he, that buster, right. >> well, that's in the play. he did not train. >> rose: exactly. he thought he was -- >> look-- . >> rose: but does he not look back. he says he found a new life and it's me and i understand i had to go through what i went through in order to get where i am. >> a journey. >> rose: a journey. >> a journey. and it is so easy for us to think about successful people. they should not have done that. they should have done that but when you're 20 years old, 20, and you're the youngest champion of the world. i means that's a hard-- . ro: making more money than you ever thought. >> he's from brownsville.
>> rose: having everything thrown at you. >> he's from brounsesville new york. i mean brooklyn, new york. all the guys he grew up with are dead or in jail. in prison. >> rose: what do you think the lesson he learned was. >> i cannot answer that for mike. >> rose: is it in the play. >> yes, it's in the play. but that's a very specific question. i think the answer-- . >> rose: what is the most important answer you've learned in this fascinating life you have lived. >> me. >> rose: yeah, you. >> oh. we're switching up here. >> rose: i'm just keeping you on your toes. >> you always do that, baby. and i thank you for that and my wife thanks you too. she thank you too. the most important thing i have learned is that you have to be happy. dharl charlie, we could read "the wall street journal," the daily news, new york
news, "new york times", "u.s.a. today". someone has a ton of money that blew their brains out, overdose, whatever they did, got a ton of money in the bank. and they ended their life. >> rose: well that and, you know. >> and, look, we all want to be comfortable. but money is not -- it is not the end all. that ain't it. that ain't it. >> rose: sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn that. the other thing that you need, that all of us have to learn too. >> now you say it to me go ahead say it the way you thought it. spike, the other thing you need to learn-- say that please, say that for me. >> rose: what do you think i'm going to say. >> i don't know. that's why i want to know. we want to know. spike, the other thing you need to know. >> rose: no, is you know, you need people. >> yes. >> rose: you need people. >> yes. >> rose: you really do. >> the right people. >> rose: the right people. >> the right people. >> rose: and in the end
you're responsible for yourself. >> got to. >> rose: that's the bottom line. and then, you need people but you need good people around you. >> right. >> rose: because if you get the bad people around you then it's not a good thing. and people sometimes to save their own neck, not tell you the truth because they don't know how will you handle the truth. because you might tell them the truth and your butt might get fired. so they will smile in your face and say boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. >> rose: yeah. >> and then you end up-- . >> rose: the power of people to deceive themselves is huge. let me talk about redhook. >> yes. >> rose: a movie. what is the movie. >> the movie is called rehook, the great novel of james mcbride, wrote color of water. james grew newspaper redhook. his mother and father founded the church where we
shot the film. and this, redhook summer is number one-- another one of my ongoing chronicles of brooklyn, new york. >> rose: right. >> let me try and get it correct. 1986 she will have-- fort green, 1989, do or do, he was-- coney island, crooklynn was-- i'm missing one and now redhook is-- i love-- . >> rose: mall-- mall come -- >> we shut them all over the world. >> rose: so i loved the republic of brooklyn, new york. and this is about a young kid who lives a very middle class life, suburban atlanta, single mom, and being sent to spend the summer with his grandfather who has never
met, who is a baptist preacher who lives in the redhook projects. so it is like reverse migration b this young kid's summer in the hood. >> rose: there is also this. michael jackson. >> right. >> rose: what is this documentary and why are you so excited about that? >> well, i got approached by sony records and the michael jackson estate to do a documentary, documentary commemorating the 25th an verse of the bad album. >> rose: right. >> which is august 31st. the bad album is not really given us just due, i think, many people feel this because it was the album to follow thriller, thriller being to this date the biggest selling album in the history of modern civilization. >> rose: that's pretty good. >> so i'm a big, big michael fan. and i've done some videos for michael before. and they approached me and said spike, we're going to
open up the vaults. i got access to stuff that no one has ever seen. >> rose: like what? >> video that michael shot himself. music, his notes, photographs. they gave me full access to do this documentary on the making the album. and we speak to the people in the studio of michael, the musicians, the record executives and then we have also the people who are young at the time but have influence in michael like justin bieber, kanye, wes, mariah carey. so we have different people and how the album, how and michael affected their life. and this really for me is an examination of michael's genius and his musicianship. he didn't just, so often they do this with a lot of athletes too.
michael jordan just woke up one morning and was a great basketball player. >> yeah. >> all people see is the finished product. >> rose: exactly. >> you just see the finished product. but the great people, the truly greats whether it be sinatra or basy or ella or picasso, michelangelo, they did mad crazy work for years and all you saw, all you see is the finished product. but they did not just do this stuff and it happened overnight and they snapped their fingers and presto changeo an ra ca dab ra, it doesn't work like that. >> rose: i ha probably interviewed more people of achievement than probably anybody alive. >> you got that, i agree. >> rose: and i have never had anybody ever say to me when i say how did you do it, they never say i had more talent, i had more brains, hi more connection. they always say i worked harder. and they believe it because it's true. >> can i say the a word on this show. >> you have to bust your
ass. >> rose: yeah. >> you got to. and charlie, i don't want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy and i'm putting mirx you know, i'm a teacher. i'm a professor at nyu, i have been teaching fill tlm for the last 15 years. and this new generation, they want stuff like today. you got to put work in. you got to put elbow grease. you got to put in study. this day is not going to just happen. and this reality shows are contributing to this. >> rose: i agree. >> this mentality like that you could just go downed corner times square, and what's the guy, foley, the guy, the statue, you know what i am talking about, just stand there, hands up to god, and are you going to be discovered. it doesn't work like that. it doesn't. and these people are delusional to think that it does. >> rose: so the michael jackson documentary.
>> right. >> rose: opens when, when you have it ready. >> we're getting ready now. the world premier going to be at the venice film festival, friday august 31z. >> rose: which is in august. >> august 31st. >> rose: just one question about michael jackson. his genius was -- >> that he was able to take elements. >> rose: music, dance. >> fred astaire, gene kelly, bobs toy, james brown, jackie wilson, sam cook, and then get the whole business thing. he learned everything from under the tut ladge of barrie gordie. he grew up on the motown sow put all that stuff together. all that stuff together, combined it and that's what he did. >> rose: redhook opens when. >> we open august 10th in new york, the rest of the country the 17th of august, 24th. i'm not only i did finance the film i distributed this film myself too.
>> rose: say that again. >> not only did i finance redhook summer. >> rose: you're drnteding it, do you is a distribution company. >> now i do. got to get it done, baby. >> rose: before we go, take a look at this this say clip from redhook summer in which they talk about the world today. >> when you first come up here from down soh, after your wifeied, how come your daughter never come up with? >> she's not saved. i pray for her every day, and night. >> she was my first, raised in the lord's light from the word go. i could turn my head around. she got out there, got turned out and came home with that aids. >> that's not your fault, shirley. >> oh, yes t is. oh, we talk a good game, you know. our generation, about the
good old days when we was young. about the days when you could spank a youngun and tell them something once and they did it. and how we grew up walking the straight and narrow, picking cotton, shining shoes and selling newspapers. and nobody wore their pants low and their dresses high and there weren't no-- around or whatever you call them. our world was so perfect for us. f you and i grew up today watching that tv 24/7 we'd be as foolish as these young people too, more so. >> their morals and their values are low. >> you're a good man. i've been watching you a long time. the suffering and lonely because the world has changed and passed you by. >> but god hasn't. >> rose: not bad. good year for you.
>> thank the lord. >> rose: thank you. >> thank the good lord. >> rose: and keep the faith. spike lee, back in a moment, stay with us. gore vidal died on tuesday from complications of pneumonia. he was 86. gore was an american literary icon and a provocative public figure. he was often described as debonair, aristocratic and irrepressable. charles mcgrath in the "new york times"s obituary wrote mr. vidal was at the ends of his life an augustin figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed. and he was probably right. as outside ego often trumped his el gentriti and razor sharp wilt. he once said there is no problem which could not be solved if people do as i advice. he was born october 3rd, 1925 at the u.s. military academy at west point. he grew newspaper washington d.c. he joined the navy at 17 and began his writer career-- writing career at 19, at 23 he caused a stir
with his novel the city and the pillar exploring what it meant to be gay. ultimately he wrote 25 novels including myra breckenridge and burr, two broadway place, more than 200 essays and a memoir. over the years he engaged in a series of dramatic public feuds with a number of people including truman capote, norman mailer and william buckley. >> you must realize what some of the political issues are here that many-- people in the united states happen to believe that the united states polls-- united states policy is yong in vietnam and the vietcong are correct in wanting to organize their country in their own way politically this happens to the opinion of western europe and other parts of the world. if it is a novellty in chicago it is too bad but i assume the point of american democracy is that you can express any point of view you want. >> shut up a minute. >> i won't. >> and some people are pro nasesi and the answer is they were billion treated by people who ostracized them and i'm for ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot american
marines and american soldiers. i know you don't care. >> the only thing i can think is yourself, failing that i can only -- >> listen, you year, stop calling me a crypto nazi. >> let's not call named. >> i will bo you in the ce, you stay plaster, myra breckenridge, go back to his pornography and stop making allusions to nazi. >> i would like to -- >> you were not. >> are you supporting your own military record. >> mr. vidal, what happened to sharon. >> here he is indulging his eraseable nature in a interview with "60 minutes" for mike wallace. >> mike, i'm so in touch with reality and are you so far off base and i cannot begin to save your soul in these remaining seconds that are left to us. i'm absolutely right in the general line that have taken on what is wrong. this country with the success because of cheap labor and cheap energy,
we're never going have that again. we're going to have to contract. we don't know how to adjust to this we will have to have les gross national product, not more. and we're headed for complete economic crackup. there is no doubt about that. and i can quote you any number of bankers from one end of zurich. >> are you planning to spend your last days with us here in the-- or are you simply going to abandon to us our fate. >> you know, i never, this idea that i'm some sort of expatriot is it is good publicity for those who would like to undermine my views. but i never have been an expatriot. i've been involved in elections and in the life of this country. now i think is the times gets bad, and i see darkness all around me, and i see these disintegrating cities and i watch these frightened people, they're getting scared. i would be very inclined then to return because if there is a disaster, then you have a part to play and i think that if the world is
go to end or at least society as we have known it is cracking up, then it's best to end your days as it were on native ground. >> rose: vidal denied having a softer side saying i'm exactly as a peer, there is no warm lovable person inside, beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice you find cold water. he did, however, once experience true love with a school friend named jimmy trimbull who died at iwo jima. he claimed never to have been in love again for 50 years he lived th his companion howard usein in italy and then los angeles. in his later years his belief in america's rapid declined deepened but his lack of religious faith held steady. he once said because there is no cosmic point to the life that each us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge, all the more reason for to us maintain proper balance what we have here. because there is nothing else, no thing this is it. and quite enough, all in
all. gore vidal appeared on this program many times over the years. here is a look at some of those conversations. >> rose: here is you with tennessee williams has his hand around your shoulder and there is jfk. tell me about the two of them. >> well, we were, i got a call from jackie. i was writing the movie of suddenly last summer in miami. and jackie rang and said you can come up for lunch to palm beach. we were both dying to meet tennessee williams and jack so we came up and this is about 1957. jack is already running for president. but tennessee is very, very vague about who is who. he goes now are you a senator or governor, i can't get this very clear. and i said i'm actually i'm a senator. and he sid then they kept on chatting, and then jack pulled out some guns and he was shooting at a target. and said would you like to
take a shot. >> right on that lawn where the alleged rape case was to take place. >> rose: palm beach. >> palm beach. >> and so jack was shooting away, not terribly effectively and he gave the gun to tennessee. he took it like that, not to call tennessee for nothing, put it like that and wen went-- three bull's eyes. jack said well that's very good. >> it is, considering i was using my blind eye. >> then there's jack going in the house, tennessee said that's very attractive boy. i said tennessee, you cannot cruise the next president of the united states. >> oh, he said, he's not going to be president. he's much too attractive for the american people. >> later i told jack that tennessee had found him attractive sexually and jack said that's very exciting. >> rose: do you-- why did you stop this when did you?
why only age 39. >> well, it was getting so long, i mean i've had a long life, and start, my first book was published when i was 19, 20. so i had been around such a long time. >> rose: so this is part one. >> there will be a part two. >> there might be a part two or there might not be a part two. >> practically everything that happens to you in life, really happens by 25. >> rose: you say that. i want to come back to that point. but you say this is memoir and not a biography, because -- >> because it's the way the memory works. if you break your leg let's say when are you ten years old and you are now 60 years old, and you start to remember the trauma of breaking your leg, this, the interesting thing from the brain people, that you, neurologist, that you don't remember the actual trauma. you remember the last time you remembered. d tat time y were remembering the previous time you remembered. and previous, well each time it gets a bit altered.
hence a-- one thing is being written over another, over. >> right. >> so ultimately your memory is just what you are left with, an old series of layers. and as you investigate it, you say some things are true and some things can't be true. then i checked myself against all these-- everybody i know seems to have had a dozen biographies written about them. i read about myself in these books and that certainly spurs memory as i have to give my side of the case. >> rose: but memoir rather than biography because biography also has to be more factual and memoir. >> and you have to get your facts straight and so on and the dates. i don't even bother with any of that. just if i recollect something, the story i just told but tennessee and the gun in palm beach. that's really what's left of it to me. >> rose: some have said that you used this to get even with trueman ca pote and -- >> that was only one reviewer here in new york city, somebody who should be put out to pasture almost
immediately as we speak. >> rose: put out to pasture. >> well, he's old. >> rose: i know him, he's not that old. he is a nice man. >> come on now, he must be about 80 now. >> rose: he's not 80. >> well, i know he gave washington irving a bad review and that was 1810. no he's absurd and-- . >> rose: did you use this? it's not beyond you to use these mussings and memoirs to -- >> well, it's not beyond anybody to make your case, perhaps. but to answer questions, if you have a:-- opposed as i have potical system as thoroughly and doingedly and continuously, the financial system of the united states, the people who own the media, the people who own the country and they don't like what you say. so they try to ignore you. that doesn't work. they begin to demonize you or trivialize you. >> rose: vow saying "the new york times" want to demonize you and trivialize you. >> in principal.
and for nearly, well, for six books i was blakd out by "the new york times" >> rose: meaning they didn't review them. the wou not review anything in the daily times nor did time nor did news week. i was then driven, and sort of the center of this book, i was then driven, in order to make a living since my books were not being reviewed, i went into television. to movies and the theatre. >> rose: i never realized you wrote the describe play for ben hur. not only -- >> yes, indeed, i did. i didn't get credit. >> rose: with charlton heston. >> he had nothing to do with it. this is what happens when you read this guy in the times. >> rose: rights. >> he says i'm angry at charlton heston. charlton heston to me, i start to smile when i talk about him. i mean he is the-- greatest goose on earth. >> rose: greatest goose. >> yeah, i was denied credit on it he had nothing to do with it. he never knew who wrote the script. the producer knew, and he died. so it was all up in the air
and william wyler, a very nice guy, director, want christopher fry, the other writer. and myself as cowriters. i only brought it up because it ended in great lawsuits and changed the rules of the writers guild of america. heston then wrote about me in his diaries so i make some fun of him. >> rose: what does he say but? >> oh, i don't know, well, he keeps redoing it i don't know what point it is lately. >> rose: new memoirs out. i want to show you two people. one there is jimmy trimbull as he looked the last time i saw him when he was 17 in 1942. what i was not, he was and the other way around. just reflect on this. because this is the heart of this. >> well, we grew up together. an i was 1 week older than he and we went to school together. he was the greatest athlete in the school and i was already a writer. and we had-- one thing we had in common was that we were already as schoolboys,
we were what we were going to be all our lives. i was going to be a writer. by the time he was 17 and graduated from st. albany he was offered a contract with the new york giants as a pitcher, something that has never happened to a 17-year-old before. and by 19, hi my first book was published. we had that in common. and it w kind of wholeness. we are were like two parts of the same person. and then we were separated by time and war at 17. i enlisted in the infant ree and then got sent out to the allow shan islands by which time i was the first mate of the ship. i moved over to the transportation corps. he enlisted in the marines and 50 years ago last march he was killed at iwo jima. so as i said to one interviewer once this is sort of the unfinished business of my life. not that there was anything
of a pur yent nature it-- prurient nature t was two halves of the same soul. which would have a just. i said in the book, hi no idea of growing old with him. i just wanted to go on growing up with him. and he had a girlfriend and he was all set to get married as soon as he got back. >> rose: how are you the mirror images of each other. >> we each saw in the other what he was not. and if there was a sort of balance between the two in the symposium plato writes about it. and he said that yeah,-- at this dinner party and aristophones writes a story that originally there were three sex, her amro diet, male and female. round, must have been rather than unpleasant looking, and they angered zeus so he polit the hema phrodite in half, which means every girl looking for a boy and boy looking for a girl are actually looking for the completion of themselves
which had been by sected by zeus. ditto the case with the male and the female. each looks for the complimentary half to a whole. i don't think anybody does it consciously. i certainly didn't. and i don't think if you search for it you would find it. i, either something like that happens in life and it can be quite unexpectsed with the most unexpected person. then there it is and that to me as i was writing this memoir, it became clear and clear tore me that this was the story i was telling 50 years dead and you know, we writers have great vanity from the great shakespeare down to me. and shakespeare and the sonnets is making it very, very clear that he could make someone immortal that he cared about. i don't know if i can make anyone immortal but i can bring him back to life. which i did. hi researches out there i was greating reports with
marines who served with him in the pas civic, talked to his mother. talked to the girlfriend. and suddenly i have brought a ghost back. and it was rather nice. shall we call it exorcism, i don't know but it was unexpected is so that is what it led me too and rather a surprise. >> rose: you have never met anyone who made you feel the same way, that made you reach this wholeness. >> no. because i don't think i like so many people was always in youth i was into lust. i was not into real entanglements. >> rose: in fact you say that's the best part of it. >> well, lust and the idle encounter was exactly what i liked. jack kennedy liked. tennessee williams an marlon brando. i mention all foufer us because we are more or less con temporaries. and we were both prompt is
coupous to a degree that is not possible in the age of aids but we certainly were. there had been the tension of the war. i don't know what. so neither one of us was looking for completeness. we were looking for the excitement and the adventure. the example of my own family put me totally against marriage. my mother was an alcoholic. and i couldn't wait to get out of her company. and except for one episode where i nearly got married, i was never again tempted so that ruled that out. >> rose: what was that episode. >> well, that was just before i was going overseas and we all thought we were going to be killed and indeed in my case, jimmy was killed. and there was suddenly a great urge which i suppose is biological to pro create before you leave. like a lot of things went wrong and that did not take place. >> rose: you take note of the homosexual and heterosexual, more of the former than the latter but relationships with women as
lovers. >> well, i don't make any labels for anybody. there's no such thing as a home sexual person. no such thing as a heterosexual person, technically i suppose we are all bisexual. but these are adjectives, not nounce. they describe action, yes there is a home sexual action and some people like to commit them all the time there are heterosexual action and people sometimes are exclusively that, sometimes not. >> rose: what you have achieved as a literary figure, as a writer is primarily the force of your intellect or the force of your energy? >> well, energy without which there is nothing. so i was, i am genetically very sound. i come from an energetic family. i came from a family that refused ever to the main line of it at least those that i admire in the family to accept defeat. my grandfather was blind at the age of 10 and he had
vowed he was going to go to the senate which was an important place in those days. and he got there at the age of 38. not being able to read. >> would you read to him. >> i read to him as a kid and was brought up in his house. i never, ever felt sorry for myself because i would think of him. you know, hi two eyes, at least. so i had these examples in front of me of people who had overcome quite allots so i was, that combined with ergyis quite, will get you quite a ways. beyond that you have to deal sort of with what most excites you. and i was really-- they did a retrospective yesterday at the museum, and i was watching some of my old television plays. >> yeah. >> rose: and what did they call what is called a sense of justice. nobody would call anything that today who has a sense of justice today. certainly not the supreme court.
another one is called honor. who on erts would go on about honor. and here i was in my late 20s and 30s obsessed with these themes, justice, honor. what is the state what rights has the state against the individual. what rights does the individual have against the state. and i don't know, maybe being brought up in the house of a populist politician but i knew where i stood very early and i knew what i cared about. and i knew that no one was going to shut me up, not even "the new york times". >> rose: ho far along are you to achieving what you wanted to do and creating what you wanted to create and doing what you wanted to do in this life at 70. >> well, i suppose i would like earlier to have been president. but now i see that it's-- i know too much about it now. it's a pointless job. we talk about the coming election. nobody basically cares about it. because everybody knows the
country is-- nothing works. the system doesn't work. the individual doesn't matter. and i have been president about the time one of nuerous political cousins jimmy carter was the president, something might have been done in the world. but by then everything was blocked, blocked, blocked. so that ambition sputtered out long ago. i thought it was better to reflect upon the presidency and it looks like empire and hollywood, lincoln. so as for the work itself, you do your best. >> what are you proudest of, the novel, the essay, the what? >> i'm not-- i don't know that i'm really proud of anything. >> rose: you don't knoif are you really proud of anything. >> well, no you never do it as well as you ought to do it. i think that in my lifetime i will have made people look at sex and at the american republic in new ways that they would not have looked at these two great subjects
had i not been around. i have changed every now and then i have changed the discourse. just one silly example, 1968, the conversations with william buckley on television at the conntion, very first debate we had. 1968, republican convention, miami beach. i said there is no difference between the two parties. each is paid by the same people. paid for. >> explosion, how you can say such a thing. >> hysteria on every side. >> on every side or you mean about bill. >> oh, bill, i mean hysteria. his ferria is at home, always there but i'm speaking more what goes on. >> rose: you mean it ricocheted off the country, people saying he did it. >> all the difference in the world. >> rose: who is this writer saying that american presidents are for sale and owned by corporate america. >> yeah, and they said you know, party of labor the democrats, the party of the rich, republicans. there is not one single
major politician today who does not repeat what i said in '68. there is fundamentally no difference between the two parties. >> rose: did you like aaron burr the most, was he your favorite of all the people that sort of came together in one way or another to -- >> no set only one that i might have wanted to have dinner with. >> rose: why is that? >> because he was brliant. >> rose: more briment yrnt -- brilliant that jefferson, hamilton, franklin. >> not that franklin. >> rose: not than frank lynn. >> but certainly than the other politicians. he was totally without, in a way he couldn't tell lies. he understood why people did things, motivations. and he expressed himself beautifully. and he is the one you go to if you want to find out really what happened in the election of 1800 when jefferson came to power. and he arranged it for him. at'sheree was interesting. >> rose: if the dual had never taken place, would
america have been different? >> no. >> rose: if hamilton had lived. >> hamilton was totally finished by the time of the dual. he was totally discredited. he tried to overthrow adams who is the head of the republican party as it was then called. and he wanted to be president but he never could be. and he was looking for a throne in mexico like burr. they wanted-- napolitan-- that pollian bonaparte unhinged all of these guys, all about 5 foot 4 just like that pollian. and these two little guys who are done in politically in america, vice president burr is no longer vice president, secretary of the treasury hamilton is no longer in office. he tried to wreck his own party and his own president. and each of them is talking to mexican and spanish officials about the chances of having a coup going down there and taking over mexico. and they were quite serious
in their planning it is just everything went wrong, of course. we have a fascinating history. we have one that was an ininspiration for the whole world, we are now regards as a joke nation that has turned violent, maybe gone crazy and we are held in low regard around the world. >> do you think that a different leadership can change that? >> in fatallistic moments and these are fatallistic times i don't think we can change now. i think we are committed. >you think we're on a steep slide into what? >> well, despotism, despotism, a police state, a militarized economy, armies marching into other countries because of president has an intuition that a terrorist might be living on that country's broadway, yes. it's going to be more and more of this. and no one will do anything
to stop it. >> what do you love about the country? >> it's in the book. >> it's founding fathers? >> well, i like them more than the present leadership. >> it's in the book meaning what, tell me what it is. >> rose: well, there was this sense, well, i'm talking about today, america, 2003. >> i only filter it through the past. to me the past is-- as living as today. if i go around and see the general mess. environment, i mean, ride what horse you want to ride there are so many things wrong, we are so busy prop gandizing ourselves, trying get all that oil and so forth and so on, i believe it's once a-- every day a bridge falls down in the united states. the country is in great disrepair. the schools are a scandal. and poverty is at large.
we're the richest nation in the world theoretically but all the wealth seems to be over here. >> rose: what would you do different in the life that you have lived? >> i can't think of everything. i have done pretty much what i wanted to do. i will give lite advi out there forhose who worry about their place in the world. always remember that it is of no consequence to you what other people think of you, what matters is that you what you think of them. that is how you live your life. >> rose: gore vidal, dead at captioning sponsored by rose communications
IN COLLECTIONSKRCB (PBS) Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on