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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett steps out of the elevator, hangs a right, and strolls into the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, a man on a mission: to participate in the promotion of a PBS documentary which premieres on August 8 at 9 PM EST/PST: Dick Cavett’s Watergate, an examination of the Watergate scandal and its effects on Richard Nixon’s presidency that’s structured around archival clips from Cavett’s late night talk show.


After introducing himself, Cavett can’t resist making an observation about the familiarity of his surroundings: “You know, this is the same lobby where I stood when I was out here for two weeks auditioning to be a writer on The Jack Paar Show.” As has been the case for Cavett on more than few occasions during the course of his half-century (and then some) in the TV business, this observation proves to be only the first sentence of an anecdote.

“I came into the hotel one night and I heard singing,” continued Cavett, glancing and vaguely gesturing at the entrance to a nearby ballroom. “I opened a big door, and Judy Garland was onstage. The lights came on, and there were George Burns, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, and about a hundred more. It was a huge charity thing. You couldn’t see any face that you didn’t know!”

With this brief recollection, Cavett immediately confirms that at least one of his lines during his memorable appearance on The Simpsons was absolutely spot-on: he really does have some wonderful stories about famous people that involve him in some way.

Who came up with the idea of viewing the Watergate scandal through the prism of your show?

You know, I think (executive producer Robert S.) Bader did. I’m almost certain he did. Yeah, he’s the one who’s most up on tapes that I had and stuff like that, so I don’t think it could’ve been anyone else. He just went through the stuff. I think initially he looked at 350 Cavett shows to make the (Shout Factory) DVDs, and then he just finally had to stop looking at them and start making them! But I was stunned to find how much stuff we have. It’s going to be a strain to make it only an hour. There’s so much good stuff. That’s a luxury, because there are so many shows that are a strain to make even an hour.

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Remembering John Lennon

John Lennon was killed 30 years ago today outside his apartment in New York City. Fans around the world are commemorating his tragic death, and we wanted to pay our respects as well. Lennon is one of the signature artists of the 20th century and he and The Beatles will be remembered forever. Lennon was also a powerful advocate for peace. Whatever one thinks about his views or tactics, Lennon was always brutally honest about his views.

We’re getting another glimpse of that honesty as Rolling Stone is publishing the full interview John Lennon gave just days before his death. The recording of the interview was recently discovered by writer Jonathan Cott in his closet. Here are some highlights:

On the tapes, Cott found a Lennon who was still angry at fans and critics who had taken him to task for a five-year musical hiatus, during which the singer devoted his time to raising his son Sean with wife Yoko Ono and decompressing from more than 15 years in the intense media spotlight. “These critics with the illusions they’ve created about artists — it’s like idol worship. They only like people when they’re on their way up,” he said. “I cannot be on the way up again. What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean,” he added in an eerily prescient screed. “I’m not interested in being a dead f—ing hero … so forget ’em, forget ’em.”

With Bruce Springsteen then the face of rock’s future, Lennon expressed fear that the Boss would fall victim to the same kind of pressures as he did. “And God help Bruce Springsteen when they decide he’s no longer God. … They’ll turn on him, and I hope he survives it.”

Our own Will Harris recently interviewed Yoko Ono for Bullz-Eye.com, and he had the opportunity to discuss the recent “Lennon NYC” documentary about John Lennon.

BE: Well, with the program that’s upcoming for PBS, the “NYC” program, putting that together, was it an emotional tightrope, going from “these are such wonderful memories” to “I still miss John.”

YO: (Wistfully) Yeah. It was very, very emotional for me. And I just never thought it was going to be that emotional, because I thought, “Okay, thirty years…” I’ve been doing John’s songs and dealing with it on a business level for thirty years, so it’s nothing, right? But it wasn’t.

BE: What do you think John’s fans will learn about him from watching the new special?

YO: Well, they’re going to learn a lot, actually. They might faint. (Laughs)

BE: Are there any particular moments in the special that really stand out for you?

YO: No, no. Well, the whole thing is very pretty, let’s put it that way. (Laughs) For me, it was, you know. “Is that my life? Did I have that kind of life? Oh, dear…” I mean, I can’t repeat it, I can’t do it over again, but it’s very pretty.

The best way to celebrate Lennon’s life, of course, is to enjoy his music. We like this live version of “Imagine” along with the “Imagine” video taken from the film of the same name. You can see how Lennon and One were ahead of their time, as this is a brilliant music video. We also liked this tribute to John Lennon by Paul McCartney in which he sings three Lennon songs.