August 1st, 2012, by

One of the great stylists of contemporary American prose, Gore Vidal passed away on July 31, 2012 at his Hollywood Hills home from complications of pneumonia. He was 86.

Born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, the novelist, playwright and occasional actor was found to be, at times, controversial and outspoken on topics in pop culture and politics. He sat down with us in November 2006 to discuss what was then his newest book, Point to Point Navigation, a follow-up to his ’95 memoir Palimpsest. Read the transcript of the 2006 conversation here.

Vidal’s recent passing is the loss of one of 20th-century America’s most important writers.

“Age is just a series of calamities. But being dead is no worse than not being born. I enjoyed not being born. In fact, probably enjoyed that more than I have being born. So, it can’t be any worse. So it’s not to be feared. Death is nothing.”

-Gore Vidal, November 2006



July 18th, 2012, by

Movie theaters all over the globe are gearing up–and have been pre-selling tickets–for expectedly the biggest blockbuster event of the summer (or even year!): the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises.

While the buzz about TDKR started up almost immediately after the release of The Dark Knight, cast and crew were able to keep mum about any details on the third film.

We were lucky to have Gary Oldman, who appeared in the first two films and returns for the third as Batman’s accomplice and police commissioner of Gotham City, Jim Gordon. Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the star-studded cast as John Blake, a young Gotham cop who is also secretly helping Batman bring down the newest villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy). And in a two-night conversation, Morgan Freeman, who plays Bruce Wayne’s business manager, Lucius Fox, joined us and talked about his experiences working on the film.

Check out the three conversations (where the actors were very tight-lipped about TDKR details!) and gear up for the movie event of the summer!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – September 28, 2011

(Skip to 8:06 to hear TDKR details.)

Gary Oldman – December 14, 2011

(You can go to 12:09 to hear his brief mention of TDKR.)

Morgan Freeman – June 20, 2012

(TDKR details start at 07:20.)

July 9th, 2012, by

Actor Ernest Borgnine was instantly recognizable throughout a show business career that spanned more than half a century. He appeared in hundreds of TV and feature film productions, including the popular series, McHale’s Navy, and the film, Marty, for which he won a best actor Academy Award. A World War II vet, Borgnine was still racking up credits in his ninth decade, with voiceover work for The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants, as star of the Hallmark Channel movie, A Grandpa for Christmas and in the 2010 movie Red. Borgnine’s life and prolific career were documented in his best-selling 2008 autobiography, Ernie.

The multilingual actor sat down with us in 2007 to discuss his projects, share stories about his career, and being “the most hated man in Hollywood” after his character killed off Frank Sinatra’s character in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity. Even then, at 90 years old (and offered his driver’s license as proof!), he cracked jokes and displayed true passion for his craft. Watch the conversation from 2007 when the legendary entertainer visited the set to talk about how working helped him stay young.

“Absolutely. I tell you, if you just let yourself, put it bluntly, rot on a chair, you’re gone. But if you keep going and do the kind of work that you like to do and get paid for it to boot, hey, what could be wrong?”

–Ernest Borgnine, 2007

June 4th, 2012, by

On May 29, 2012, President Obama awarded cultural and political icons with the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held at the White House. Among the recipients were past show guests Madeleine Albright, Toni Morrison and Delores Huerta.

The Medal of Freedom ranks as the highest civilian honor. According to the Los Angeles Times, ‘the year 1962 looms especially large in President Obama’s picks: that was the year [Bob] Dylan put out his first album, when [Delores] Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and when [John] Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.’

Madeleine Albright

On January 23, 1997, Albright was sworn in as the first female to become the U.S. Secretary of State, under former President Bill Clinton.

On October 28, 2009, she sat down with us to weigh in on the situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, discuss her memoir Madam Secretary and her token brooches as fashion statements and diplomatic tools. Watch the 2009 conversation and share your thoughts.

“Life is grim, and we don’t have to be grim all the time.” – Madeleine Albright, 2008


May 22nd, 2012, by

On May 17, 2012, it was announced that the five-time Grammy-winning singer passed away after a battle with cancer. The “Queen of Disco” made a name for herself with her hits “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”

Summer sat down with us in 2008, when she released her final CD “Crayons.” Watch the conversation in which she highlighted her career and reflected on whether she was tired of being called the “Queen of Disco,” spoke a little bit of German and discussed what turned out to be her last album, released after a 17-year hiatus.

“I just think people are hungry for what they consider meaty and substantial and I think that a lot of people relate to that music and…it’s attached to so many memories in their lives and in the vernacular of their living that they want to have access to that memory again… It’s all about the moment.”


March 9th, 2012, by

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2012 (March 8), The Daily Beast hosted its annual Women in the World Summit, a three-day event that highlights challenges of the modern woman across the globe. With an aim to showcase the fearlessness of women, and to incite action and involvement, the event included a wide panel of speakers—including past guest and peace activist Leymah Gbowee.

On Friday, March 9, Gbowee welcomed cheers as she discussed her views on the current debates on contraception and abortion. “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.” She added, “Why are these women not angry and beating men left and right?”

Our October 2011 conversation with Gbowee, a columnist for The Daily Beast and one of three recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, details her book, Mighty Be Our Powers, and the struggles faced by women in politics. Her efforts in banding together Liberia’s Muslim and Christian women in peaceful protest paved the way for a democratic election of its first female head of state.

Watch the conversation to hear her personal struggle for women’s rights and share your thoughts.

“Those women who had seen the worst decided we will step out; we will do what we have to do. Even if we die trying, we will do it…Because the one thing I keep saying to the young women and to my colleagues, we’ve left a legacy…but all of those legacies will only be a legacy if we have young women to walk in our shoes when we leave the stage.”

-Leymah Gbowee


February 13th, 2012, by

Newt Gingrich was one of the first political guests to be featured on Tavis Smiley when the program launched nine years ago.

The author, political consultant and 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives cited Ronald Reagan’s 1976 primary as the inspiration for his candidacy as the Republican Party presidential nominee. In the February 7, 2012 presidential primaries, Gingrich raked in 12.8% of voter support in Colorado and 10.8% in Minnesota, but, as of February 8, Gingrich is expected to fall behind contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

In this 2010 conversation, he discusses the public perception that the Republican Party was not the only opposition to its Democratic counterparts, but also an obstruction to passing bills on the Hill. He also discusses the possibility of throwing his hat in the 2012 presidential race.

Watch the 2010 conversation and share your thoughts.

February 13th, 2012, by

Taking a quick stroll down memory lane isn’t a bad thing.

In a world where breaking news changes faster than the blink of an eye, “A Look Back” will offer a chance to revisit past Tavis Smiley conversations. From politicians and entertainers, to athletes, authors and other newsmakers, we’ve got it all. As current events unfold, we will feature relevant guest interviews–straight from the vault.

First from the vault: Newt Gingrich.

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