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



August 1st, 2012, by

The month of July showcased a cornucopia of emotions and experiences that sum up life as we know it. As usual, we were lucky to sit down with household names as well as some up-and-comers.

Talking about accomplishments and improvements were writer Joan Walsh and comedian-actor Cedric the Entertainer.

We all have our passions. And we all have different methods in which we strengthen our crafts. Actor Elijah Wood, singer Eddie Levert and architect Frank Gehry discuss how they work on their gifts.

In life, we learn lessons and we hope to share them with the world and leave our mark on history. Environmental activist Erin Brockovich discusses what her parents taught her as a child.

Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran shares his views on the war in Afghanistan. Chef Marcus Samuelsson discusses a tragic moment that ended in irony. In both cases, it’s proven that hindsight can indeed be 20/20. And singer Glenn Frey discusses the mark the Eagles left on history and in the memories of their fans.

Actor Dwight Henry talks about the New Orleans state of mind, which is a result of historical events and a newfound resilience against hardship.

Actress Niecy Nash talked about love, actor-comedian Jimmie Walker talked about fame and NCAA president Mark Emmert talked scandal.

Check out the gallery below to see notable quotes from some of July guests.

All images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

July 31st, 2012, by

Ed Helms and The Lonesome Trio

While you may not recognize the name Ed Helms, the actor and comedian’s face will be familiar from The Office, The Hangover(s) and Cedar Rapids, among many others. But did you know that Helms is also a banjo enthusiast (and he’s also pretty good on guitar)? Apart from playing in the bluegrass group, The Lonesome Trio, which he started with two friends in college, Helms is also the founder of the L.A. Bluegrass Situation, a music festival that had it’s third annual event this past May.

While there are other bluegrass festivals in the L.A. area, you won’t find a more star-studded event than this. According to the fest’s website, “The past two years have featured amazing music and fun from the likes of Steve Martin, Andrew Bird, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, John C. Reilly, Tom Brosseau, Will Arnett, Paul Scheer, Vince Gill and many others.” That’s an impressive lineup of comic talent playing music.

This year’s event featured appearances by The Lonesome Trio, as well as Steve Martin’s Steep Canyon Rangers and John C. Reilly’s “American Song Cycle.” Sounds like a toe-tappin’, knee-slappin’, belly-laughin’ good time to me.

July 30th, 2012, by

I’ve been a fan of Lucky Peach, the American magazine devoted to offbeat food culture (or something like that…let me know if you can think of a better way to describe it) ever since I saw their first issue. There’s a new Lucky Peach out, by the way, devoted to all things American.

Now it seems there’s a new high-concept food-zine in town, or across the pond anyhow, making waves over in the UK. Just in time for Olympic fever and all of its London-centric machinations, The Gourmand is now available in select bookshops and online. But what makes The Gourmand different from, say, Cook’s Illustrated or Bon Appetit? Could be their erotic photo essay on traditional Swedish cuisine (pickled shrimp, anyone?) or perhaps their story on British artist David Shrigley’s new food-themed opera. Or, really, any number of other things save the recipes.

The Gourmand is stepping into a very current and relatively new artistic space, one which Lucky Peach has been encroaching on for a couple of years already. With food becoming a serious cultural force in North America and England, places without deeply ingrained food cultures (at least on the scale of most other societies), it only follows that journals such as these should arise to document the phenomenon, blending cuisine with art, music, film and poetry.

Food culture in both the UK and the U.S. is blooming, turning countries formerly known for their mushy peas and hot dogs into world-leading culinary innovators. But why stop there? Obviously, you can do more with food than just eat it.

July 29th, 2012, by

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not a follower of sports in general, and the Olympics are no exception, for the most part. I can, however, get excited about certain things related to the events, like U.S. gold medalist Ryan Lochte’s grill, for one.

Lochte won gold in the men’s 400m swimming event, beating Michael Phelps and creating one of the 2012 London games’ first celebrities. While Lochte’s athleticism and good looks certainly help (details about how many pizzas he eats in a day soon to follow), it was the addition of custom dental work and flashy sneakers that pushed him into the world spotlight.

Check out Lochte’s swag here, as he sports his diamond-encrusted, stars-and-stripes-emblazoned grills while posing with his gold. While he tried to wear the patriotic teeth covers on the Olympic podium, officials forbade it, threatening to withhold his medal. According to a recent profile in The New York Times, Lochte has over 100 pairs of shoes, idolized Lil’ Wayne and aspires to become a fashion designer. Judging by the star-spangled winged Adidas he wore to his event, he’s more of the Kanye West school of fashion than the Ralph Lauren side of things.

July 29th, 2012, by

As Olympic fever grips the world (this blogger excepted–more on that later) our attention turns to the high-level sport that has united humanity in friendly competition for over 100 years. One story you may not be aware of is that of Tom Longboat, a native Canadian marathon runner considered to be among the top in his sport back in the early 20th century.

Longboat’s story is one of hardship, endurance and discrimination, yet he still managed to become a celebrity in his sport (and one of the first native Canadian celebrities of any kind). After winning the Boston Marathon in 1907, his career came to a climax at the London Olympics of 1908, where he was favorited to win the marathon. Twenty miles into the race, however, Longboat collapsed and was unable to finish.

While Longboat would later beat his London opponents at a subsequent event, he would never fully recover from the blow of failing to complete the marathon on that hot July day. Read more of Longboat’s fascinating story here.

July 28th, 2012, by

Update: Kudos to our past guests who took home 2012 Emmy statuettes: Louis C.K. (Outstanding writing for a variety special, Louie C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre and Outstanding writing for a comedy series, Louie); Kevin Costner (Outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie, Hatfields & McCoys); Damian Lewis, Outstanding lead actor in a drama series, Homeland); and Jay Roach (Outstanding directing for a miniseries or movie, Game Change).

On July 19, 2012, Kerry Washington and a pajama-clad Jimmy Kimmel  announced the nominees for the 64th Primetime Emmys.

Drama series Man Men and miniseries American Horror Story lead the way with 17 Emmy Award nominations apiece.

Here’s a compilation of past guests discussing their 2012 Emmy-nominated roles. While some interviews trace back to 2008 (read: Jon Hamm!), the conversations still discuss the character/series for which a nomination was received this year.

Note: Although we did have past guests Louis C.K. (nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – 2012, as Louie in Louie), Idris Elba (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie – 2012, as John Luther in Luther), Betty White (nominated for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program – 2012, for Betty White’s Off Their Rockers) and Ashley Judd (nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie – 2012, as Rebecca Winstone in Missing), the conversations either predated their involvement in their 2012 Emmy-nominated roles or did not mention the roles or the series.

And presenting…our 2012 Emmy-nominated guests:

Jon Hamm – August 8, 2008
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2012) as Don Draper in Mad Men
In 2008, the actor earned an outstanding lead actor Emmy nod for his performance in the AMC period drama Mad Men, which received 16 nominations for its debut season.

Michael C. Hall – October 5, 2009
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2012) as Dexter Morgan in
The actor compares his Dexter and Six Feet Under characters.

Bryan Cranston – April 2, 2010
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2012) as Walter White in Breaking Bad
Two-time Emmy winner discusses the timeline for his Breaking Bad series.

Ed O’Neill – January 31, 2011
Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (2012) as Jay Pritchett in
Modern Family
The actor compares his success on ABC’s Emmy-winning comedy Modern Family to that of his previous Fox hit, Married with Children.

Don Cheadle – February 21, 2012
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2012) as Marty Kaan in
House of Lies
The co-exec producer of and actor in Showtime’s House of Lies shares what it’s like to play a character that was not written explicitly for a Black man.

Jay Roach – March 2, 2012
Game Change is nominated for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie (2012)

The director and producer of Game Change, the new HBO dramatization of the 2008 presidential campaign, talks about VP candidate Sarah Palin and whether the filmmakers “went soft” on Sen. John McCain.

Matthew Weiner – March 22, 2012
Mad Men is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series (2012)
The award-winning writer-producer discusses the Emmy-winning Mad Men series that he created and talks about the show’s future with AMC.

Damian Lewis – May 4, 2012
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2012) as Nicholas Brody in Homeland
The British actor reflects on portraying American history in Band of Brothers and weighs in on President Obama’s comment on his latest star vehicle, Showtime’s Peabody Award-winning drama series Homeland.

Kevin Costner – May 24-25, 2012
Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (2012) as ‘Devil’ Anse Hatfield in Hatfields & McCoys
In part one of this two-night conversation, the two-time Oscar winner reflects on his body of work and the moment he fully committed to becoming a thespian and discloses the one thing he feels people would envy of him.

In the conclusion of a two-part conversation, Costner discusses his role in the History channel’s first scripted miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, and his band’s companion CD. He also shares his experience of working with the late Whitney Houston and speaking at her funeral.

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 17th, 2012, by

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.


Airdates | Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20, 2012

Hometown | Toronto, Ontario, Canada as Frank Owen Goldberg

Why You (Should) Know Him | He has arguably the most creative portfolio in architecture. You can chalk up Spain’s Guggenheim Museum, Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, Prague’s Dancing House and 8 Spruce Street in New York City and Germany’s Vitra Design Museum (to name a few!) in his résumé. His buildings are tourist attractions all over the world—but his Santa Monica home also attracts a bulk of visitors. Check out the gallery below to see some of his work.

Why He’s Buzzing | In 2009, it was announced that Gehry was unanimously chosen to be lead designer of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial after a closed competition of 44 entries.


  • His grandfather gave him his Hebrew name “Ephraim.” He only used it at his bar mitzvah.
  • Gehry studied at Los Angeles City College while working as a truck driver in L.A. In addition, his list of odd jobs includes being a radio announcer.
  • He failed his first art class on perspective in college. He retook the class to get better results.
  • After attending Los Angeles City College, Gehry attended the University of Southern California. He graduated at the top of his class with a bachelor’s in architecture in 1954.
  • In 1956, Frank Owen Goldberg changed his name to Frank O. Gehry at his wife’s suggestion.
  • He served in the U.S. Army with Leonard Nimoy.
  • In true Canadian fashion, Gehry is a hockey fanatic. So much so that there is reportedly a hockey league in his office. In 2004, he even designed the World Cup of Hockey trophy.
  • He is a Distinguished Professor of Architecture at Columbia University. He also teaches advanced design studio classes at Yale’s School of Architecture.
  • While his reputation is that he makes an effort to stay within clients’ budgets, the downtown Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall project went $174 million over budget.
  • He made a guest appearance as himself on The Simpsons in the episode “The Seven-Beer Snitch.” He also lent his voice on Arthur.
  • Fish play a big part in Gehry’s design. Several buildings, a jewelry line, household items and sculptures are modeled after a fish motif
  • He holds multiple honorary doctorates from universities all over the United States and Canada.

Selection of Honors/Awards

1947   Elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects
1989   Awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for Architecture
1994   Recipient of The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize
1995   Received the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award
1998   Awarded the National Medal of Arts
1999   Awarded the AIA Gold Medal
2000   Given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
2004   Awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for public service
2006   Was inducted into the California Hall of Fame at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver
2007   Received the Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology from the National Building Museum

Selection of Works by Frank Gehry

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

July 15th, 2012, by

One of the most hotly discussed shows on TV right now is AMC’s hit Breaking Bad, starring Bryan Cranston, about a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth to pay his medical bills. In the beginning that’s why he was doing it, anyhow. Over the past 4 seasons, we’ve seen Cranston’s character, Walter White, transform from a mild mannered suburbanite to a murderous drug kingpin who will do anything to stay alive and protect his interests.

White’s transformation is one of the most compelling elements of the show, and, at the end of last season, he had seemed to sink to a new low, the details of which I won’t reveal now in case you haven’t seen it. If you have–lily of the valley!! In any case, the slow-burning final scene of the last season was a cliffhanger among the best of them, and it’s been a long wait for fans to find out what happened.

The wait is over Sunday night, as the show returns to AMC for a new season. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a handy catch-up. If you have, here’s Cranston talking with Tavis in 2010 about Walter White, the show and what makes it so, um, addictive.

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