Transcript:

Speaker So what are your what are your earliest memories? As a kid, where do those take place and who's.

Speaker My earliest memories is of our house, that one seven oh seven to Montross Drive, now I look at you with me only you drive, which is the name of my production company, and we had a ranch house with a swinging door like a saloon. And I would remember my father just kind of walking into that saloon and we would be sitting at the table. And that was a very evocative memory. My second memory of my father is his office. He was and he is the kind of writer really that procrastinates. And then it is all at the last minute. And he is in the zone and in his office. And I hear I smell a little bit of cigar or a little bit of pipe coming out and and he's, you know, barricaded for a couple of days. And then he emerges with this beautiful piece of writing. So that is a real memory for me.

Speaker And he come out the office and start to try things out on you or on your mother. Frances, how did that?

Speaker I think that he's not on us because we were kids and it was always adult material that he was dealing with or more sophisticated material than we were. But when my mother I think that he did use her as a as a sounding board.

Speaker And so you are a very little girl for all, the family was like 70. Seventy one, so, yeah, this is so what did you actually finally see these shows that were on the air?

Speaker I was in junior high school when all the family came out and.

Speaker Life definitely changed after that. It was a great life before and it's been an amazing life after, but things changed. My dad was extraordinarily busy during those years, the TV years. He had a lot of shows on the air, a lot of families, as he says in the book, a lot of families to take care of.

Speaker And but it was incredible because he was so energized, so charged so, you know, at the top of his game. And that was really amazing to see. But always had time for us. Always, always had time for us. Even if we had to wait until eight thirty at night to have dinner, we had dinner together every night.

Speaker Is that right? Yes, that surprises me. Yeah. With with the TV writing schedules.

Speaker And, you know, it was important to him, was important to all of us. So we had actually full dinners with dessert, everything, no matter what time. So that was great.

Speaker So you were in junior high school and that show came on? I was. You have all a memory. You were right there witnessing that demarkation, the whole transition. Yes.

Speaker And what did that look like and feel like? And how did you know something big had happened? I mean, obviously, you were young adult, but what were the signs that things were not going to be the same again?

Speaker Well, you know, your whole life is your home life and you're going to school and you have your agenda. I was a dancer, so I was in class, you know, five days a week. So it would change incrementally for me. It wasn't like it was all of a sudden there was this big change. But I do remember one day going to the studio that was a favorite thing to do, go to the studio, watch a taping. My father and I used to do a routine together. I don't know if you know this, but we did a routine together so we would do that. And then I remember one day leaving the studio and there were people, you know, not paparazzi, but fans who wanted his autograph. And I thought at that moment, oh, OK, that's different. But before that, it was sort of like Dad going to work because he had worked in film before this. So it wasn't unusual to be on a kind of a set. It wasn't unusual for him to be involved in the creative life, but all of a sudden it was like people want his autograph. That's interesting. So that was a change.

Speaker What did you think about the show? Did you do your friends watch it for your friend's parents? Watch it? Did you know something somewhat radical was taking place?

Speaker Not really. I think we were on the low edge of where it resonated. I think it was in people's homes. And I think it was it resonated with their families and their parents. It but in terms of my friends and everybody like the water cooler talk on Monday after that, all the family, that that really wasn't what it was. People were curious and interested and but it wasn't something that they were actually watching because we were watching The Brady Bunch.

Speaker So and when you would go to the set, you would watch tapings of All in the Family. What did you observe? Was your how was your dad in relationship with Carroll O'Connor and the other actors? What was the relationship like between everyone? What do you remember of that?

Speaker I remember busyness, but camaraderie and just really soaking up the creative process, soaking up my father's words and then the actor's interpretation of those words and then his comments about the interpretation. And that whole process was absolutely fascinating to me. I loved it. The only thing I didn't like was that the studio was freezing. That was my the only thing everything else from the set P.A. to the camera person. I loved all of it. It was so interesting.

Speaker Your dad was in a book, he sort of intimates that he was regretful that he wasn't around more because those were those those those big years. But did he sort of what did he when you had boyfriends and stuff? Was he intimidating? Like, how did you how did your sort of social life interact with your dad?

Speaker Well, I think that my mother had a lot to do with the way that my father. Was sort of treated by everybody. My mother was not a great fan of Hollywood and what was happening to my father was really interesting to her, but it wasn't. She wanted to make sure that we all remained very solid, that our family was solid, that their relationships with people that were not necessarily actors are in show business, that they remained solid. So she put, I think, a lid on what could have ballooned into something else. So my father was just my father to all of my friends. I mean, he's just another guy. He did a different kind of a business, different kind of work. But there was nothing particularly special that I would feel when they would walk through the door, where they would go up. You know, it wasn't anything like that.

Speaker So your mom didn't want you guys to become sort of Hollywood, some sort of Hollywood family.

Speaker She was terrified of that, terrified. And and she did every possible thing to make sure that it didn't happen. For example, we move we you know, she would never have allowed us to buy a house in Beverly Hills. She wanted us to go to public school. She was she wanted our house and both of them did. This is absolutely goes for my father as well, because politics and and what was going on in the world were always extremely important to them. So they always wanted to make sure that our house was filled with people who were interesting and involved. So it never really flew off into that Hollywood thing. It was always very much a house of ideas.

Speaker Yeah, that's a good way to put it. It seems like it still is.

Speaker Yeah. Oh, yeah. It never stopped my you know, my dad. My dad is. He's just the most extraordinary learner, reader, thinker, explorer. He will never be done, no ever with analyzing the world and how it works and how people work and people's potential. And he will never, ever be done.

Speaker So was there was there was there a sense of keeping up with your dad in some kind of way, keeping up? No, no, no.

Speaker I, I my father and I are really simpatico. We are both involved and love the arts. And I was a writer. I am a writer. I would never talk to him, of course. But so I he was always very much dad to me. He was the person that I would go to if I had a problem and great advice, a great listener. So no, I was never intimidated by him. I think actually the opposite. I was always trying to encourage him to feel more to feel. Moore, I'm sorry, I'm mumbling, but my father is the most humble person in the world and I wanted him to own a little bit more of who he was and what he had done. And I think it's taken him till just now with the writing of the book and the release of the book and seeing how people react to the book to really own who he is and what he's accomplished. That was not easy to get through to him in those years because I think he didn't want to spin off into some showbizzy life. He wanted to remain grounded and he sort of pushed that all away.

Speaker Well, it seemed like he seemed like a blessing that he never abandoned really where he came from. Humble beginnings, like to just sweep those away like that ever happened and feels like quite the contrary with with him and his work. You were. Born. The same month that your grandfather died, the same week.

Speaker So you never met I never met him, and it was it was a sadness for me, for my childhood, I because the stories were so big, huge stories about this man. And he was larger than life and King Lear and promises made, huge promises made and promises not kept. But I really was sad that I never met him.

Speaker What kind of stories did was it all the way they told it in miring way in a yes.

Speaker The story? Yes, yes. I mean, my father's father was a con man. He was in jail much of my father's childhood, but I didn't know my phone was on.

Speaker I'm going to turn it.

Speaker OK, so you start with my father.

Speaker Yeah, my father's father was a con man and he was in jail most of my father's childhood. But to hear the stories, especially as I was growing up, was this colorful guy who disappointed him, but always came through in some very dramatic fashion, like going to Texas. And he wanted a 10 gallon hat. And it was well, that was a story that didn't work out. But there were other stories where he kept his promises and, you know, he was a swindler, but he was a charming swindler and he was a smart swindler, but not that smart. And so the stories were just really, really colorful. And so I missed him. I miss knowing him.

Speaker Were the things that you that he acknowledged later or recently in the book that things you didn't know about.

Speaker Yes, yeah. Yeah. I'm like I can't remember them exactly.

Speaker But yeah, there were some stories that I had not heard about him before that I was really happy to hear about is that it is it seemed like your dad has wrestled or continues to wrestle with that relationship with his dad and how he had shown itself in the work and in your dad's life.

Speaker Well, I think that the book he had really profound revelations about his family, about his relationship with his father, about who his father was and how he influenced him and his mother as well. So that book was the process of writing the book, which we all encouraged for so many years. It was like a family project and was really like therapy, literally like therapy to him. And somebody in their 80s doing therapy is pretty cool. So he, I think, came to a whole new understanding of his father. And in a sad way. I mean, before that his father was the charming king. And then afterwards he had fallen to a guy who really disappointed his son and who disappointed his family and and led a troubled life. So but in that reality, I think my father understood himself better and the why he took the path that he took and why he chose to do the things that he chose to do.

Speaker What about your grandmother and what you might do and what you got?

Speaker Of course I did. I didn't know how we could help this one. You know, she was a simple Jewish mom, just a simple Jewish mom. She was I mean, I and I mean this in a loving way, not the most interesting person that you're ever going to meet. And she was not a great mother because she was very critical. My father has legions of stories about her and how negative she always was.

Speaker And that was sad.

Speaker I did. I think he had one revelation about her in the book, which is that he always thought that he wasn't sure what the. Oh, he always that Ahmad was sort of my my own mother. And then he realized it. Mom was more who he is because God was so political and so involved in what was going on around her, and that's really him. So he had that revelation about about that show.

Speaker So so let's talk about your mom, what it seems like they have come from. They come from similar beginnings. Is there some crossover with the early days of your mom and your dad?

Speaker There's crossover, but my mother's childhood was Dickensian. I mean, she had a very, very tough, tough life.

Speaker She you know, I don't know if you want me to go into detail about it, would you like I would like to.

Speaker I think she's a this is the thing. She's a fascinating character, a huge part of your dad's life. Sadly, she's no longer. Yeah. So I am relying on you that I whatever you can tell. Sure. I want her to be in the film.

Speaker OK, thank you. I appreciate that. Really. Oh well I appreciate that so much part of the story.

Speaker So whatever you can bear telling me, I, I love talking about my mother. She's she's been gone for almost 18 years, so it's really bizarre.

Speaker But my mother had a very difficult childhood.

Speaker She was adopted when she was about 18 months old by a couple who where the father wanted a child and the mother did not. So he she was she was treated terribly by her mother, but her father adored her. And then when she was 12, that adored father killed himself. It was the Depression. And he put himself in the garage and that was that. And then my mother's mother remarried a man who abused her. So the first 18 years of her life were horrible. I mean I mean, you can't even describe it. And how how you survive that is. A big question, but then she moved out, she she was alone in the world at 18 and she moved to New York and had a series of jobs and found her way.

Speaker But it was a really, really, really rough start for her and.

Speaker Yeah, I guess the crossover crossover would be the sense of abandonment, of course, on completely different levels.

Speaker Yes, sense of abandonment, sense of of not having parents who are really there for you because the mother was not remotely there for my mother and would be very verbally abusive. The lack of connection. Yes, there was a connection to the father, but then that went away and then their father issues. So they had a lot in common. They had.

Speaker Their sense of humor, they make each other laugh harder than anybody, my mother would roll with laughter and everything my father said they had a wonderful connection spiritually and intellectually, but they had a difficult marriage. And my mother, who was bipolar and was not diagnosed until she was 50, which is very problematic because if you have a lifetime of trying to get through that illness without any help, then by the time you're diagnosed at 15, it's there's not much that can be done. So they had it. They had a very tempestuous relationship, a lot of highs, a lot of lows. And but they had a wonderful intellectual connection.

Speaker What is that noise? It was.

Speaker OK, the bin Laden, OK, I haven't heard that so far, so I just a few times, but. All right, let me know. Um, could you start with, um, they had a very tempestuous.

Speaker Yeah, they had a very tempestuous relationship, a lot of highs and a lot of lows. But they had a wonderful intellectual connection and would talk and talk and talk and and I miss that when they split up. I really did.

Speaker What did she what did they find so funny about?

Speaker My my father's funny, just funny, and she found him to be hilarious. She had a huge booming laugh that she really reserved for my dad because he made her laugh harder than anybody. But, you know, like one of your favorite things to do and your child is making a parent laugh. So making my mother laugh was one of my favorite things.

Speaker She sounds like a real character.

Speaker She was a real character. But like, you know, like many bipolar people, she was an incredibly creative, amazingly smart. She was an absolute force of nature. She was a feminist who. Changed the lives of many women. She wrote her own magazine, which which was an incredible thing to do at any time, and she was really a force to be reckoned with.

Speaker She really was.

Speaker How did you. Your mom, having come from such an unhappy home and abusive and your father having come from a happy home in many ways with all the arguments and the he remembers at the top of the stairs and. I imagine they were would want to shield their kids from the unhappiness or the yelling or the arguments that would ensue, was it ever acknowledged that they did it happen in front of you? Were they how did they feel about bringing that sort of conflict into the house? And they brought it.

Speaker They were not shy about that, about conflict. They were not shy about conflict. They brought it. They were you know, when I when my mother passed away and I was in therapy, I had a dream about my parents and I dreamt that they were the Twin Towers. That's the metaphor that I used in my dream. And and they were they were both incredibly and my father still today larger than life, people who had a lot to say and their emotions were large. And where do you release them? But at home. So that's what happened in my bedroom was above their their bedroom. And it was often times a noisy place, but that was the down part. And then in the other part we would sit around and laugh and talk on their bed. So it was a lot of everything. And obviously it was enough of the good stuff to to make me a very happy person and to last all those years, 30 years, one thirty five.

Speaker I mean, a huge chunk of the. Yeah, yeah. And did you how did they tell you the story of their meeting.

Speaker Because I read this old article about your mom and she describes a certain way and tell me what you know that I know that they met at a party and there there was chemistry and then but they were pretending there wasn't. So that there was a there was a date in which my mother arranged that her friend would be fixed up with my father, but she knew that was not going to be a match.

Speaker And then there was another guy that was going to be fixed up with her. But by the end of the evening, my mother was with my father. So she, I think, finagled that whole thing. And they had a really interesting.

Speaker Very huge connection from the very beginning and were extremely jealous and possessive of one another and things like stand. Let's talk a little stockage for that day and age. My father tells the story and forgive me, Dad, if I'm wrong, but I believe that my mother was going on a business trip because she was a buyer and my father dropped her off at the airport and. She went in the gate and then behind her was a really great looking guy, and my father was absolutely convinced that they would get together on that plane. I mean, you know, and that was the whole scenario from start to finish was running on his mind. He could barely walk to the car. He was so upset, so old school. The old school. Yeah. Old school jealousy.

Speaker Yeah. How did your your I mean, it's it's it's a shame because so many people I've met had parents who were later or never diagnosed as bipolar. It's only I think in our generation now, even in the last 10, 15 years, where it's something that's quickly recognized. People talk about it and they're not ashamed of it because it's not their fault. Yeah. And I think about all I hear all these stories of people that just didn't know what was wrong or blamed or just were considered recalcitrant or difficult and it wasn't their fault. And it's one of those things which must be. Very difficult to live that way, and you're it sounds like this is one of those cases.

Speaker Yeah, I wonder I wonder all the time what my mother would have accomplished if she didn't have that illness. On the other hand, she said to me a couple of times, you know, when I go, if they come, if they develop a cure for manic depression, don't let them do it because she loved the part of her that was the manic part of her because she was so creative. She feels that a lot of great artists and it's true, a lot of great artists were bipolar. So she thinks the world would be at a loss without without that messed up gene. It's probably true. It's probably true. Yeah.

Speaker But people you know, Rachmaninoff dedicated his second piano concerto to his therapist. Oh, that's interesting. He was known to be I mean, it's true a lot of but so much of the suffering that one has to go through. How did your dad deal with you and you guys deal with these ups and downs, this illness?

Speaker It's terribly hard. I mean, it's extraordinarily hard because you don't know what you're going to get when you walk in the door. So I would come home from school and I would have no idea if my mother would be in bed or or at her typewriter or out. I had no idea what I would find. And not nor did my dad when he walked in the door. So it was a very tough road for all of us. And and there was no medication. There was nothing to temper anything. And it was horrible for her.

Speaker Horrible. Did you see him receding more into. Or not receding spending or a lot of engaging more with the television family and with work as a way to not have to deal with this.

Speaker I think that's an excellent question. I don't know the answer to that question.

Speaker It certainly seems convenient, but I think my father is a genius and he had a lot to say to the world and he wasn't going to say it just all in the family. So there was opportunities to say things in other ways and other forms. And he took those opportunities. I don't think it was to escape the house or the difficulties at home. I think it was more because he had so much to say.

Speaker And you know what, it is a convenient, easy, reductive. Yeah, it's I don't really think that's what we all work is great escape because it's interesting and fun, right. For all of us, even if you're not escaping someone at home, you know what I mean? Yeah. So I totally you. So it sounds like your mom was an extremely intelligent person, incisive and not suffer fools. Like.

Speaker Oh, my God, no. She would say, OK, look, maybe there should be a little lighter or I mean, she was she had an opinion on everything and everybody and how they looked. And I mean and she said it all. She said all. She made a lot of enemies because she was so blunt, but she made a lot of friends because people like honesty. So how'd that go over in Hollywood? She was not a fan of Hollywood and a lot of Hollywood was not a fan of her. She she was I think it was a combination of really not liking it, really hating to be the wife of really feeling demeaned by that. And also, I think there was envy. I think that my father was having this dynamite career where he really could explore everything that was inside of him. And my mother had so much to say and didn't couldn't really figure out how to say it.

Speaker So there was that combination of envy and and then, you know, wanting to stay arm's distance anyway.

Speaker That's interesting. The only part I mean, she sounds so creative and maybe as creative as her husband to.

Speaker Yeah, but, you know, those were the 50s in the 60s and it was still traditional. You know, my mother first started out doing she was an unbelievable I thought my mother was good at everything she did.

Speaker And she was an amazing seamstress and she would make clothes for my sister and I. And then she became a gourmet chef. And, you know, she was so she really did everything to its utmost, but in traditional roles.

Speaker Did she at some point ask to not be introduced as.

Speaker Norman's wife, I don't know, because there is this article I read an interview with her when she started a magazine and there is some mention of like not exactly that, but like being irritated to not even be interviewed.

Speaker I would have by her first name even. I would not be surprised, of course, that would bug her. That would absolutely book her. Yeah. Yeah. She she had a chip on her shoulder about that, about my father having it so much easier, she thought, than she and having some more opportunities than she did because she was a mom. And and, you know, certain things are expected of mothers that are not expected of fathers, especially in that generation. So she she was angry and very frustrated about it. And it wasn't until later in her life that she found the creative outlet less that she needed through writing, through becoming coming sort of a public person. She found what she needed them.

Speaker Do you remember when your mom took the turn towards serious feminism and Betty Friedan?

Speaker I know that she was totally her world was totally turned by The Feminine Mystique, and then after reading that book, she read everything she could read and became involved in local feminist movement and then ultimately more and more of a national way. But my mother was not the kind of person who could, because of her illness, really maintain relationships and maintain that that kind of focus that you need to really become a leader of a movement. So she was always on the side, but doing whatever she could.

Speaker And how did that seep into your household or into you, the daughters, you and Maggie and also your dad? Did you talk a lot about the feminist movement? Were there to be people that came over that?

Speaker Yeah. Yeah, I know it was a part of everything, really. And my father is a humanist and a feminist and then everything else. And so they were totally simpatico on that. And then we are the children of of of feminist. And so we are there for feminists because we were so incredibly. Um, what's the word I'm looking for affected by by their passion, of course, and.

Speaker I know your mom, but sounds like models based on your mom.

Speaker I think it's funny because I thought so, too, and now he seems to think it's based on him into, as I said, in terms of her politics and in some of her opinions and feelings, there is definitely my mother in that character, but primarily I think through the actress, through Bea Arthur, Bea and my father were extremely close to each other for years. And in the four of them being her husband, Gene Sachs and my mother and father were were great friends. But there is a similarity in. Between me and my mother, in terms of personality, in terms of, you know, manner of speaking, even tone. And so I think that's where it comes out, is I think the writing, the ideas and the thoughts are really my dad. But my mom comes out in the acting with your mom. Friendly with me. Yes. Yeah. They were all really good friends at one period of time.

Speaker Sad that she's so sad that she's gone.

Speaker I know so many, so many, I mean, my poor father, every day, every week there's somebody close to him, writer, actor, director. Doesn't matter. He well, he has had such a big life and such a beautiful life. But so many people are leaving now. So sad for him.

Speaker So many. I mean, Maya Angelou, it was I guess, you know, when we're preparing to make this film, start creating lists of who to talk to and. Like so many people who. Died tragically, died there. I mean, it's really yeah, it must be what's it like for him to talk about?

Speaker Oh yeah, we talk about it a lot because when my father's ninety two. Right. So he's outliving everybody now. And that generation of people that he grew up with in the business, the writers, the Larry Gelbart of the world, and you know, a lot of them thankfully are still alive today, the Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and all of that. But so many of them have gone. So I call him on the phone. We talk three or four or five times a week and I call him and I can always hear it in his voice when he when something's been lost. And he, you know, I can hear that, you know, it's a terrible, terrible feeling he has. But that comes from having been lucky enough to have had such a rich life and such incredible friendships.

Speaker So to forces, this vibrant person got shows in preproduction to consider.

Speaker Face mortality in some kind of way, it's terribly hard, it's terribly hard. I mean, he has so much to say and so much to do.

Speaker And so many stories to tell and the world is changing and he has comments about it all the time, you know, I'm sure you read his blogs in The Huffington Post. He. Yes. You know, he. Has a lot of feelings about the way things are going now, and he doesn't want to stop saying them, so he will be he will go kicking and screaming, I'll tell you that.

Speaker Absolutely. And he's an excellent help. Knock on wood and.

Speaker Everything else, yeah, OK, you have a heart out, meaning, yeah. How much more time do we have? It's for a half an hour or two thirds.

Speaker OK, great. You have three. I have. I can leave at three fifteen. OK, and that's real. That's real. OK. You know, sometimes I have my niece's show I feel even must be there.

Speaker And if you did and I just want to because it'll skip around a little bit more. Thank you. That.

Speaker I'm really a big fan of your dad getting to know him in a totally different way as as someone trying to tell a story. So it's. There's the energy is something that really inspires me, like having to chase them around and somehow being tired and it's really weird that how weird is that?

Speaker Really weird. I honestly and I have seen my father live his life.

Speaker I have never understood how he does it. I don't understand how he does it today. He but God bless and God bless that he has so much opportunity to to meet people. It's really all about connecting. It's all about the ability to run around and meet people and and hear different people's stories.

Speaker That is something that he you know, it's it's his favorite thing to do.

Speaker What is this?

Speaker Resurgence. Is there a resurgence of his relevancy? It's not like he's ever been irrelevant, but. There seems to be some winds blowing. Yeah, what do you think that is?

Speaker I think it was the book. I do. I mean, I think that he has always been active, involved with the last many years, have been in projects that are ah, he was a businessman for a long time in the music business, in the film business. And he wasn't such a public personality. And, you know, then but with the book, he has gotten a lot of attention. He's been on well, I can't keep track of his schedule. I wish I could, but he is everywhere, all over the place.

Speaker And I think people are listening to what he has to say and realizing that he's still such a relevant voice, has still has so much to talk about. And on the other side, for him, it's been an extraordinary opportunity to see what he's meant to people. He can't believe it. He'll have a 17 year old African-American girl come up and say, you changed my life. I want to be a showrunner because of you. I mean, and then there's the eighty nine year old woman who says, you changed my life. All the family, my husband this, my grandmother that. So he's has this ability right now, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people are coming up to him and telling them how he's changed their life. What a gift. What a gift.

Speaker Russell Simmons told us then, he said good times was for white folks, Jeffersons was for us black.

Speaker He's like, that's how we want to see ourselves. He's like, and I learned how to walk and my dad learned how to walk by watching George Jefferson. I mean, this is Russell. You know, I know what with passion they talk. Yeah. They own it themselves.

Speaker Yeah. That he's blown away by all of that stuff. He really it's that is such a joy for him because he got a lot of.

Speaker You got a lot of whatever in flight, we're just getting a lot of those days for. Oh, my goodness, they criticized everything on those shows. He didn't have enough black writers. He didn't have enough black ideas. He didn't have enough of this. And what's a white person doing?

Speaker Writing about black people is no business doing that. And for him to see that it not only registered, but that it changed people's feeling about themselves and their potential and what they could do with their lives, I mean, that is like the greatest thing for him.

Speaker It's been interesting because we talked to James and we talked to Marla. We talked to it's it's been really fun to hear about those conflicts and how they were resolved and how they felt that they were representing the entire race. Yeah, that was unfair, but it was real. And these voices have not been seen on primetime television. So there you have it.

Speaker Yeah, there was a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. I think in particularly the black actors felt it was a lot of pressure on them. They wanted to get it right.

Speaker Absolutely. And it was hard to do that. So that was really his his career dovetails with a lot, obviously with a lot of major national pressing issues that are still relevant today. That's also the thing we're talking about. Race again, finally sort of.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, yeah. We are talking about and we're still pretty much where we were before. We haven't come that far. Yeah.

Speaker So I have to ask, I'm sure it's very, very painful, but I need to ask about the tragic incident with your mother and if you could tell me your memory of that.

Speaker It wasn't my fate, the are you talking about a suicide attempt? OK, thank you. It wasn't like there were several. I just want you to know, but I think I know the one that you're referring to.

Speaker If there's others that you think are more important, you tell me.

Speaker I don't know. Well.

Speaker That was my mother attempted suicide when I was a junior in between sophomore and junior year of college, and it could not have been more dramatic because she had rented an apartment and nobody knew where it was. Nobody had the address, but she didn't come home one night. And the story about my father running around Los Angeles looking for my mother and trying to to pick up on every lead. It was really very dramatic. And then he found her and she survived. And it was an extraordinary time of picking up the pieces. A tremendous amount came out about what was going on with both of them after that happened. She was in the hospital for I feel like it was 10 days afterwards recuperating and a lot of that. They aired a lot of baggage. And I think we're able to to move through it. But it was very, very traumatic for everybody, obviously, since this case was a slow dissolution of a marriage over years.

Speaker Is that what was happening?

Speaker Well, I think the suicide attempt had. Was probably triggered by a couple of things. One was the dissolution of the marriage. The other was her children leaving home because it happened when my younger sister was going to college and and then the bipolar illness, I think that that was of just a triple whammy, that that was hard for her to get through. And I'm sure there were other things going on that I didn't even know about.

Speaker When your parents decided to. Separate that I know they came back together from seemed like a minute and then they did what what was were you rooting for them? Obviously. Did you what were you observing at sort of those those final years there? Did they were they trying to make a solid effort to stay together?

Speaker I was rooting for it. I was so naive. I wanted it to work. My sister thought I was out of my mind, my younger sister. But they used to say to me. We will always be together and I believe them. I really did, but they didn't belong together after a certain point. There was so much difficulty in the marriage that, you know, they were better off apart. But for me, I always I was always rooting for them. I was grateful that when I got married, they were together in that little brief period and that after we got married, they separated for four. Good. But I do I will tell you a story which shows you how strong images are for four people. My parents, this was probably well now maybe 20 years ago. And my parents have been divorced for a long time.

Speaker My father had a son from with his with Lynn and my parents were both coming to see me, but separately. And somehow they ended up seeing each other in the lobby first. And then I walked in and I walked in. I saw them talking and I thought to myself, oh, there's mom and dad talking. Of course, that's. That's what I know. That's my reality, and then it hit me. Oh, wow, how unusual was that? They were talking, but that first thing was, oh, there's mom and dad talking. So I don't think no matter what age you are, you ever lose that kind of childlike fantasy of wanting your parents to go off into the sunset happily ever after.

Speaker It's just totally innate. Yeah. Did they. Then their fences resolve their differences.

Speaker Yeah, and not enough so that they had a cordial relationship and my mother always asked about, you know, has been doing my my brother. So, yes, they they came to an understanding that was that was great.

Speaker Tell me about your mom's autobiography. And was that helpful to her or to anyone and.

Speaker What were your thoughts like, her autobiography was difficult because it was so honest and and as all autobiography autobiographies are, including my father's, it's a person's interpretation of their life. So.

Speaker I think it took me it's a very thin little it was one of the first memoirs really that that started. I feel like my mother started the whole memoir movement, frankly, where you didn't have to write a tome. You can just write a little memoir. And it was small, but it probably took me a year to read it because it was hard. It was hard for me to get through. It was very honest, it was painful. And then there were things that was were her interpretation that I just knew couldn't possibly be true. So I think it was written for her. She she wanted to say certain things she said about your dad in that book.

Speaker Not much.

Speaker She left, she didn't say some, she didn't say terribly nice things, so, you know, she left out a lot of the great stuff because of whatever frame of mind she was in when she wrote it and before she passed away was there.

Speaker Did she and Norman speak? Did they see each other anymore? How what happened?

Speaker They saw each other rarely on if there was a wedding or a birth or that kind of thing. They saw each other, but through myself and my sister, but they didn't see each other. My mother was living in New York. My father was still in Los Angeles and he had a new family. So how did that how did. But but I want you to know, when my mother died, my father was devastated. He really was. I mean, they were great friends. They had thirty year history. They raised two daughters, a million memories, and he was devastated when she died.

Speaker Look, that is very, very well reflected in the book. And it's something he talks about. It's something I mean, I think that was very, very clear that that something broke.

Speaker I mean, that that that relationship was like you have once.

Speaker Yes, it was. Yes, it was a very it was an unbelievable connection. Truly was.

Speaker We have that one sounds like that was a unique for his life, that was the love that was there. I don't.

Speaker It was a different connection. I mean, I think Lynn is the love of his life. And my mother probably was the there was a different connection there. I can't characterize it, but it was very strong.

Speaker Sound like she was the intellectual equal or the intellectual playmate and sparring partner.

Speaker Yes. Yes, she was.

Speaker That's very exciting relationships. Yeah. And how was it for you and your sister when you're a much younger woman enters the picture that you with no windows, windows, everything knows all about it.

Speaker You know, it sucks. You know, it's very, very hard. It's very hard when your father marries a person that you think is too young for him. Now, I was lucky in that she was at least reasonably of a reasonable age. It wasn't like she was eighteen. But I remember a couple of weeks before they got my dad and I were at dinner and I said to him, Dad, you know, can you marry somebody more your own age like like Barbara Walters? Can't you just marry Barbara Walters? He goes, I don't love Barbara Walters. I love Lynn. So what can I say to that?

Speaker That's that's the end of that. Oh, my God. You might be the only person who's ever said, why can't you marry? Like, I think it's never been said. It's so weird that I totally get it. Yeah. So you were literally still trying to talk about I mean, I would be doing the same thing with my dad.

Speaker I mean, you look all you want is for your parents to be happy, right? That's really what you want. And I knew that he was happy with Lynne and I. And clearly, I wasn't going to talk him out of it because he was madly in love. But it was it was a tough one.

Speaker And I knew they were going to have children. And that was hard for me. I was married at the time and trying to have children. And then my father got married and tried to have children. And they always had children were able to have children before me.

Speaker So as I'm going through all the steps to get pregnant, my father is getting pregnant. So it was a very interesting time in my life. And when you say interesting, you mean it? Yeah. When I say interesting, I mean, it was really, really difficult.

Speaker I remember sitting at a cafe with my father after two years of in vitro treatments for my second son. And we were sitting and my dad said, so guess what, we're pregnant.

Speaker And I said, oh, that's fantastic. I'm trying to do my best actress. You know, I'm so happy for you. That's incredible. And he goes.

Speaker It's twins and I almost fell into my soup, but so that was the difficult moments, but the amazing moments and the crazy thing about it is that it's all worked out so amazingly well and that my children are great friends with his younger children.

Speaker We travel together all over the world and have for many years the I adore my brothers and sisters, Madeline, Brianna and Ben, and and it has enriched our life. That's the most amazing piece on that story. It's completely enriched our lives. Yeah.

Speaker So I'm going to more even more dynamic.

Speaker Yes. And as my father always says, bring it on. He bring it on. More kids more. That's what you bring it on. More guests, more dinner, guests, breakfast. Bring it on. That's him.

Speaker What is that? That characteristic is so it's very it's very unique.

Speaker He loves people, loves it, doesn't matter if it's the cab driver, if it's the president of the United States, if it's it doesn't matter who it is. He is fascinated.

Speaker And and we'll listen and is intrigued and will help and like hung out with presidents, met everyone, but still has this wondrous, like legitimacy, he seems like. He's always startled and he doesn't seem at all.

Speaker You never, ever, ever husband never lost that childlike view of the world, childlike view of people. The taxi cab driver I was talking about, he put her through college. So, I mean, he has been mentors to thousands of people. Tell me about the thousands of this driver. Again, I'm not going to remember the details, and it's too good a story. So you should get the details from him or somebody else. But he he met a woman. She had, I believe, grown children. And they talked about what she was going to do. She said she really wanted to do something with her life. And he then they kept talking and she needed money for college and he gave it to her. But that's not the only person he's helped in that way. He's helped. Literally thousands of people with his advice and with his money is the most generous, and one of the things I did learn from the book was that, I mean, I knew about many, many people that he's helped along the way, but he has such incredible relationships with people that he has corresponded with. So he goes to a place he loves, the place he contacts the director or he contacts the writer. He goes to an art installation. He loves it. He contacts them. And then there's a relationship that forms. So he has friends and relationships with people. The tentacles go everywhere. And that is something that I didn't know. You didn't. I didn't. I mean, I knew that he had you know, I knew that he affected a lot of people, but I didn't understand that it was his outreach, his reaching out and saying, I loved what you did. Let's talk about it. Come in. I'd love to meet you. That, you know, taking being aggressive about it and saying I'm doing I'm going to enrich my life by surrounding myself with people who impressed me and who I can learn from. And always being on that, you know, that path to wanting to know more than his house one day and breakfast.

Speaker And there's like six poets somewhere like. Spoken word guy. And they're all hanging out with Norman. That's Norman, they was legitimately they they were equals. They had a lot of talk. And that's just doesn't happen to other 90 year old white dudes.

Speaker Yeah. And I have to say that I think that having a young family, being married to Len and having children who are not just now twenty and twenty seven babies, I hope I'm right. I think that's kept him young and it's kept him really connected to that generation and understands that generation really better than most 92 year olds and is interested in that generation younger.

Speaker What was the three brothers, Dick, you have to look at? Oh, it was such a it was it was just something I treasured because it was just something that we did together.

Speaker What do you say, the three brothers? Yes.

Speaker So my father is in a room, let's say he's one of his tapings and he looks at the audience and he's trying to make them laugh. So he says, I have a joke to tell who wants to help me tell it? And I raise my hand and I come up and he asks me my name and I said, my name is Kate. And he says, I don't know you right now. You don't know me. So I let help me tell a joke. And he says, So pretend we meet on the street. And I ask you, have you got any brothers? And you say, yes, I have three brothers. And I say, are they all bald and all sorry, it's the other way around. And then you tell the joke, then he tells the joke, so the whole reason why this joke happened really was because I screw up every time. So he I don't know how funny this has always been all these years, but I have certain lines I screw up again and again, and he gets more and more angry with me for getting it wrong. And then finally I get it right and then he forgets the joke.

Speaker So that's the whole shtick right there. I'm glad you went through that, because we do have the SNL moment where you can always cut into it.

Speaker If people are confused for your talking points, and I got it wrong, it's the other way around. It doesn't matter. It's hard to explain. Yeah, I. Did you ever see things that happen in your house, things you had said to your dad or boyfriends you had had or whatever show up on his shows?

Speaker Yes, that's what I did.

Speaker I, I you know, people take credit for a lot of different things, and I my proudest thing to take credit for, even though I'm not sure he would give it to me, is that I always wanted Archie to say I love you to Edith.

Speaker It just I just wanted that so much. And and he did, in fact, create a show where that happened. And I feel a part of that. I wouldn't say I, you know, was the major part, but I feel a part of that. The character of Julie on one day at a time was named for my best friend Julie. And then there were certain plot points in in one day at a time and more that that were very reminiscent of things that happened in our house.

Speaker But it's not like some shows where people take every little thing and then they just bring it to. He was much more creative and I think so.

Speaker Tell me what this is supposed to be.

Speaker What is a Sunday dinner? This was a show that was written by my father, I think about his relationship with Lynn and about their sort of May, December romance and a spiritual element that that always, I think, was present in my father, but was fairly dormant. My mother was an atheist and there was not a lot of religion in our house. And through his relationship with Lynn, that spiritual side of him, which is extremely strong, sort of came to the surface. And that is the dynamic between those two characters is really about him falling in love with this part of her that that allows him to learn a little bit more about about that spiritual side of himself.

Speaker What did you think of the idea of of sort of writing a show about this relationship between his family?

Speaker You know, I think you get to a certain point and you feel like you just like I said, you just want your parents to be happy.

Speaker And my father is a creative person and I have always known that about him. And if this was the next thing he wanted to talk about, that was fine with me. And in a little interesting thing, I worked for my father during this time. My happiest days in my in my work life was when I was working for my father. I was a development associate and I was involved in the casting of that character.

Speaker So I you know. There was no feeling other than, OK, this is what he wants to do, this is what he wants to say and and, you know, I was on board. So you helped pass the bills? Yeah, I was. I was in the room, shall we say, when he did the casting.

Speaker I it was funny. I knew about the show. I know it was something it was not successful. But then we saw that clip and it was like, wow, he really is bringing stuff.

Speaker Yeah. He tried. I mean, it was a great idea. There's so many shows that did not make it that were really wonderful ideas.

Speaker What were your feelings when you saw your dad really move into the political realm a little bit away from entertainment for a while, it seems like. Were you. Was that something that you saw coming that supported you then, a natural?

Speaker Yes. Yes. My father has read The New York Times every single day of my life in the exact same way, in the exact same position. So he is like, well, you know, it's always like this. And he's kind of turning like this. And this is my feeling. But he so so what was going on in the world was always a topic of discussion in our house. What was happening that day? Current trends, my parents together talking about everything he was, you know, deeply connected to the country. He was deeply patriotic. His service in World War Two, which he didn't talk a lot about when we were kids, was very important to him. And so I always grew up knowing, knowing that he was a, you know, a patriot of the greatest order. And I admired it. So when he started People for the American Way, that seemed a completely natural extension of that. And it was addressing something that he considered to be a real fear, which was the religious right. And although I was, you know, concerned because he was wearing so many different hats, I thought that. The world needed this organization for sure, so I was thrilled that he did it.

Speaker And. Do you feel like the. Was the religious right something you talked about? He was getting more and more concerned?

Speaker Yes, I mean, you guys were discussing he you know, he used to agitate himself, I think, by watching them and well, whether it be Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. And when he was younger, he wrote about it in his book. It was Father and I. I don't Isikoff Lynn. I don't remember if I knew that I cocklin. So I he he could I could not listen for one minute, but he would listen and listen, listen, because he wanted to know what they were saying, what they were feeling. Obviously their their opinions were valid and and they strongly felt as his. So he always wanted to know the whole conversation. And so Sunday, I don't know. I'm sorry. So then he put people for the American way, came about because he was researching the religious right for a movie that he wanted to do called Religion, I believe, about somebody like Jerry Falwell. And that's actually how he met Lynne and they began their relationship.

Speaker Yeah, but he was he was determined to to try and. Provide an alternative to what he saw as being a very, very frightening movement.

Speaker And he was the only person they were the only people to stand up officially and say so, yes, it was like it was like the elephant in the room. Yeah. What's happening to our country?

Speaker Yeah, right. And that's what I love Liberty was about, you know, because the the, you know, religious right. And the Republicans had sort of taken the flag as their own. And my father said, no, no, no, the flag belongs to all of us. And that's that was the genesis for I love liberty.

Speaker Sort of like taking back the language. The Republicans were so good at inventing language like right or pro-life, which means we don't like life. Right, exactly. They are of the Moral Majority. I mean, they're so good at those, like appropriating words that used to be for all of us. Exactly. Yeah. Were you involved with this decision to buy the declaration or what did you think of that move?

Speaker I heard about it out of the blue that he was, you know, in an airplane circling, trying to buy the Declaration of Independence. And and then the idea for the road trip where he was going to take it to all 50 states, I thought. You know, best of luck, you know, my father has come up with ideas where you go, well, best of luck, and it just seems like it couldn't possibly happen. And the next thing you know, it's exactly what's happening. And there are long lines everywhere they went and people were touching the case that it was in and jumping on it. And and there was a multimedia presentation that went with it. And it was fabulous. And it was one of the prouder things my dad has ever done. So and it was fun for us. I remember he took it to my son's school and that was great fun. And stories about him hiding it under the bed. And it was it was a it was a great time. And as a matter of fact, when he sold it, we all got together as a family and we had our last dinner with and invited several friends who had been involved in the road trip. And we said goodbye one one at a time. We had our moment with a declaration and said goodbye. So it was a great chapter.

Speaker It sounded like it's when I first heard about it, I thought, that's a harebrained idea.

Speaker I know. But honestly, my father just sees things a little bit ahead and then we all catch up.

Speaker True. Saying, What's this secular church and have it in movie theaters and and. Oh, yeah, right. When he first told me about it, I was like, it's kind of harebrained idea. And I'm kind of like, I bet he makes that up. Yeah, I know. I know.

Speaker So what kind of grandfather is.

Speaker He is a fantastic grandfather. I wish that there were more time. He's a busy man and my kids are busy, too. I'll just speak for my own children. But he is a I could not wish for a deeper connection between my two sons and my father. He wants to be with them. He enjoys being with them. He's completely invested in what they do and how they do it. There is great love between my father and my two sons and I couldn't be more grateful for that.

Speaker What do you think you're this is a difficult question to answer, but do your best. What do you what would you. Well, I have one question for you. Did you use to tell you the story about his grandfather? What did he tell you about his grandfather? Growing up, writing letters.

Speaker Oh, yeah, that that wasn't true. Yeah, what is? Where did you find out that wasn't true at some point when he was writing the book? When my father was writing his book, he went into therapy. Now, imagine that person in their mid 80s deciding, selectively deciding I'm going to go to therapy. That's pretty amazing. So he went to therapy and he started digging a lot of stuff up. And part of it was that he came to terms with the fact that that story about his grandfather, my dearest darling, Mr. President, and that beginning of his awareness of being a citizen of the United States and being a patriot, that was not his story. So that was a shock to me. And I felt such pain for him. But it was good that he got it and he understood and he moved through it, but I felt sorry for him that he had to let that go.

Speaker Very much so. What did he.

Speaker Why did you do it? Why did he do it? Why did I do? Why do you tell that story?

Speaker I think that there are certain iconic things in a in a person's childhood that you never forget. I think my father forgot a lot about his painful childhood, but I think there were certain moments that he did forget. One of them was that story. And I think he just took it as his own because it I think it it established a connection, a real connection between him and somebody in his family, which he really didn't have. And another iconic moment was his uncle, who would flick him a quarter whenever he saw him. And that was the that was the single thing that drove him to want to be that uncle who had a quarter that he could just flick like that to to a nephew. So those are the things that drove him and made him the person that he is today. So I think he appropriated that.

Speaker As a connection, you know, it makes sense, you create things you wish had happened to the people you wish you'd known. Yeah. One more question. Yeah, that's OK, screw my niece.

Speaker No, I am a terrible person. Like I'm like, oh, oh, is that funny? No, no was three 16.

Speaker It's OK, I, I have some buffer. OK.

Speaker OK. Oh, yeah, what what what did he tell you about the bombing raid, the real and why didn't he talk much about it? And and did you learn later that what was it that he was trying to keep from?

Speaker That is a mystery to me. I used to this moment. I don't know why he didn't talk about World War Two, because it was such a pride. It was. So there must have been so much pride. He was such a he flew fifty seven missions, fifty two sorties, sorties, I believe. I don't know the statistics. I think those are them. I I don't know, in my in my my father in law's case, when Tom Brokaw's book came out of The Greatest Generation, he the floodgates open and he hasn't stopped talking about it since my father. It was a part of his life that that, I don't know, maybe didn't make quite the impression that you might have thought it.

Speaker Well, he's a pacifist, so there's something that flies in the face of that comment about killing Nazis, which he.

Speaker Right, I mean, he obviously was passionate about going about serving, about making sure that our country was safe. He wouldn't have had it any other way. He had incredible experiences. He had amazing bonding friendships. He started his show business career in the Army by doing those those shows. So a lot happened in those years. But he doesn't it's not a it didn't make the impact that you might have thought it would. Yeah.

Speaker I mean, he's getting all this attention is all these stories, he does speeches, he gets awards, he's in the mix, he's on the move. Are you do you ever sit back and are listening to something or watching something and say, I wish they knew or they don't know X about him or I wish people knew this about him? Or do we know everything about Muhammad Ali? Something you wish that you think that maybe needs to be said to remember.

Speaker I think that people know a lot about him, especially now. He his brain is so solid and the things that come out of his mouth are like it's like poetry. I would say that. As a father, he sort of managed to juggle and still be there for us, not always, and he's right, he wasn't there a lot. But whenever I needed him, he was. And ultimately, I think that that is what matters. So he I am as enamored.

Speaker Of my father and I am as blown away of my father and I idolized my father as much as the next person, and and that has never, never gone away. So not a lot of people can say that about. I know, but I can and I say it proudly and it's true. He I. Yeah, I'm so incredibly lucky to have been his daughter. It's it's ridiculous.

Speaker He's pretty lucky. Seem like a pretty nice daughter. No, I try. This is really, really great.

Speaker Thank you. You guys, you must be bored to tears. Oh, OK. Thank you.

Kate Lear
Interview Date:
2015-03-11
Runtime:
1:11:51
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Kate Lear, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 11 Mar. 2015, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1049
APA CITATIONS:
(2015, March 11). Kate Lear, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1049
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Kate Lear, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 11, 2015. Accessed January 27, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1049

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