Dick Cavett still has a lot to say
Dick Cavett relishes receiving instantaneous feedback to his opinion blog.
“Half the fun is reading what people say, even if it’s ‘goodbye forever Mr. Cavett. You don’t like me because I’m fat.’”
A collection of Cavett’s last three years of blogs on the New York Times website, “Talk Show,” has just been published. And Tuesday night, the 74-year-old will be appearing in conversation in L.A. with his friend, writer-director-producer Mel Brooks (“Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers”), presented by the Writers Bloc at the Saban Theatre.
“Talk Show” features a treasure trove of memories from Cavett’s Emmy Award-winning shows on ABC (1968-74) and PBS (1977-82), which featured guests such as Katharine Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Groucho Marx, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Richard Burton, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Jean-Luc Godard and Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox.
He also penned acerbically comic columns on the 2008 election, homing in on the Republican leadership. But no, Cavett said recently on the phone from his New York apartment, he never heard back from any of the politicos.
“I don’t think I missed any message on my phone from Sarah [Palin] or John McCain or President Bush,” he says, laughing.
Not all aspects of the book are funny. Cavett is very open about his battle with depression. “There are still people, sadly, who will not go into treatment,” he offers. “In some cases their insurance policy will stop. There are not very many airplane pilots who are going to admit to it, although in some sense the percentage of those suffering from depression among them has to be the same as the general population — unless, of course, high altitude inhibits it. We know that isn’t true. In a way, it’s easier to talk about it once the first person responds to you talking about it, saying, ‘You saved my dad’s life.’”
There’s also a lovely remembrance of finally meeting one of his boyhood idols, John Wayne, for a special while the Duke was making his last movie, 1976’s “The Shootist.”
Wayne was anything but a rough-and-tumble cowboy type. Instead, he talked to Cavett about the works of the British playwright-actor Noel Coward. Not only did Cavett find Wayne to be well read, but also “so charming, so accessible and easy to talk to and delightful. I wondered at the time if I was going to convince anybody this was true. It was best summarized by Woody Allen. I said to him, ‘What can we learn from this?’ He said, ‘That he’s an actor, not a cowboy.’”
Maddox’s appearance in 1970 was one of the most incendiary in the history of the series, with the governor, a segregationist, walking off the stage.
“I refused to apologize to, as he put it, ‘All the people of Georgia who I had called bigots,’” says Cavett. “We argued back and forth. Finally, I said, ‘All right, governor’ — as he threatened to walk off — ‘If I called anybody a bigot who isn’t a bigot, I apologize.’ Lester saw through that. There was a huge laugh and applause and he stayed a little longer and then he left. But being a politician and knowing the value of television time, as I said the next night, he walked off a scant 88 minutes into a 90-minute show.”
Novelist Truman Capote of “In Cold Blood” fame had shared the stage with Maddox that night.
“Afterwards,” Cavett said, “he admitted having gone down to Georgia and gone to Maddox’s notorious Pickrick restaurant. Then Truman said…"
Cavett breaks out into a dead-on impression of Capote’s distinctive high-pitched voice: “I tried the fried chicken and it wasn’t finger-licking good.”
‘Dick Cavett With Mel Brooks’
Where: Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Price:Info: For tickets, go to https://www.ticketweb.com