Full EpisodeNorman Lear: Just Another Version of You

With unprecedented access to Lear, his work and his massive personal archives, <strong><i>American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You</strong></i> combines stories from his turbulent childhood and early career with his groundbreaking TV success (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude) and social activism. The documentary also features colorful stories from Lear’s family, friends and collaborators, including John Amos, George Clooney, Alan Horn, Bill Moyers, Rob Reiner, Phil Rosenthal and Russell Simmons, as well as cinéma vérité moments with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham.

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♪♪ -Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

[ Laughter ] -Norman, that hat, that chapeau you're wearing -- Now, is that your favorite hat?

You're known to wear hats.

-In the world, this is my favorite -- not just my favorite hat -- This is my favorite garment.

-Why do you wear that hat?

-When I was writing television shows, I picked my head, and I lost all my hair.

I had picked all my hair away.

[ Both laugh ] -♪ Whippoorwills call ♪ Evening is nigh -Do you sing, Norman?

-I sing very well.

-What's your favorite song?

-♪ You see a smiling face, fireplace ♪ ♪ A cozy room, Molly and me -♪ Just Molly and me -♪ And the baby makes three -This is me?

-♪ We're happy in my ♪ In my blue heaven ♪ Just Molly and me ♪ And the baby makes three ♪ We're so happy in my blue heaven ♪ ♪ We're happy in my -♪ My -♪ Blue heaven ♪ We're happy in my -♪ In my -♪ Blue heaven -How about that?

People think, you know, that, turning 90, maybe you change, but it's everybody else who changes.

Suddenly, I'm extremely wise, and everybody's asking me for advice, and I am sometimes applauded for walking across a room.

But the sound and the fact of 90 has got everybody believing I'm some kind of special intelligence.

♪♪ But, I mean, I think about it now as wondrous, what I got to experience.

-You know what I like about you, Archie?

-What's that, Maude?

-Nothing.

-I have never been in a situation in my life, however tragic, where I didn't see some comedy.

-Norman Lear has changed the face of television, and at least 120 million Americans watch Norman Lear shows every week.

-Oh, no, sir, Master Jefferson, you done showed me the way!

-Stop it! Stop it!

-Say 'please.'

-We've gone from straight comedy into something else, and that other thing is satire.

And it's never been done on television before.

-I'm telling you that whites should only dance with whites.

You don't believe me, look at the movies.

-Do you have a quick answer for the people who say the show reinforces bigotry?

-Yes, my quick answer is 'no.'

-That's the quick answer?

-I gravitate to subjects that matter, the things that people talk about, and I think America has responded.

I think human beings are just a little foolish.

That knits us all together.

[ Applause ] Isn't it amazing?

I've lived my life moment to moment, day to day, and even though I appear 93, I never lost my childlike view of the world.

-Norman!

-[ Laughs ] Hi. -Oh! Hello, friend.

-Oh, how are you guys? -Hi.

Are you ready for tonight?

-God, I like you.

-Take your time.

Please think about this. Make this -- I need it to be long but brief, heartfelt.

[ Laughs ] [ Cheers and applause ] -He has been around approximately forever.

He is 92 years old.

He has spent the last six of those years writing his memoir.

It is called 'Even This, I Get to Experience.'

Ladies and gentlemen, Norman Lear.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Yo!

-You guys know each other.

There is a mutual admiration society.

-Do we know each other? -Right?

-Yes.

-You have called 'All in the Family' the best show on television, ever.

-I think so.

My son's name is Archie. [ Laughs ] [ Laughter ] -You both talk a lot about where you came from, about your upbringing.

You talk a lot about your dad.

Archie Bunker, you have said, bears no small resemblance to your dad.

-Mm-hmm. -True?

-We're good to go.

'When I was a boy,' pickup one.

-When I was a boy, I thought that if I could turn a screw in my father's head just 1/16 of an inch one way or the other, it might help him tell the difference between right and wrong.

♪♪ My father was extremely outgoing and affectionate, but the underside of his good nature was not admirable.

Herman Lear was a man of supreme optimism.

He went out into the jungle each day with a shoeshine and a smile, pledging to come home, his fortune made, in 10 days to two weeks -- tops.

My father was about to take a plane to Tulsa.

He was traveling on some kind of business.

'Monkey business,' said my mother, who sensed the men he had fallen in with were not to be trusted.

'Herman, I don't like this,' she told him, but Herman, as always, knew better.

'Jeanette,' he screamed, the veins in his neck bulging, 'Stifle!'

And off he went.

The next time I saw him, he had a hat in front of his face, and he was manacled to a detective, and they were coming down the steps of the courthouse.

Nobody explained to me.

Nobody ever talked to me, explained to me.

My father simply went to jail.

At 9, I was forced to become an adult.

But that kid still existed inside me... well through my life, if not to this very minute.

I asked my mother, years later, 'Where the hell were you?

How come I have no memory of you?'

And, inevitably, the discussion would end with, 'Please!

Oh, please!'

I was shipped off to an uncle, lived there for a while.

Shipped off to another uncle, lived there for a while.

And I wind up with my grandparents.

But I had to pay my own way.

♪♪ -Hurry! Hurry! Step this way!

The strangest sights on the island!

It's just starting, so hurry, hurry!

Look them over. The lady without a head!

They're all inside!

-I held three jobs at Coney Island.

I used to take photographs.

I had a photo booth, and we sold a lot of pictures.

But I remember the, 'Hey! Hey!

You ought to be in pictures, little lady.'

[ Laughs ] That was the spiel.

I was obviously a striver.

I needed to be a good provider, because that's what my grandparents' generation admired the most, is a good provider.

Oh, I wanted to be that.

[ Chorus vocalizing ] -When did you get your first break in the business?

-Not long after I was here.

I was living with my wife and my little girl in one little room behind another home in Hollywood.

And I had met a fellow by the name of Ed Simmons, who was married to a cousin of mine.

And he wanted to be a writer, and our wives went to a movie one evening, we were babysitting, and we wrote some material together.

They came home, and we went out and sold it to -- We sold this parody that we had written for 25 bucks, but it was $25 like that, you know, and for having fun, for having a good, good time laughing and working.

And then we decided we would continue writing.

[ Typewriter keys clacking ] -Touch, and you can adjust fine-tuning to suit your taste at any time.

-'The Colgate Comedy Hour,' starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

-Are you ready?

-Ready. -Ready.

-It was the beginning of television, and Ed Simmons and I became the writers on 'The Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis Colgate Comedy Hour.'

-Dean and I -- well, I especially -- love the crew.

They've been so kind, I pour my heart out to them because they're wonderful to me -- -I'm sorry. Is everything all right in there?

I'm sorry, Mr. Lewis, but we seem to -- -This is Mr. Lear, one of our crew members, and -- -Are we all right? I'm sorry, Mr. Lewis.

But something's gone wrong in there. We're off the air.

-We're off the air?! What do you mean, 'We're off the air'? Why are we always doing things that aren't right?! -We're on! We're on!

-Here's one of our technicians that has been with us for four years.

Isn't that right, Norman?

Get the mike boom out of the way!

-♪ Some people say a man is made out of mud ♪ ♪ A poor man's made out of muscle and blood ♪ ♪ Muscle and blood and skin and bones ♪ ♪ A mind that's weak and a back that's strong ♪ ♪ You load 16 tons, and what do you get? ♪ ♪ Another day older and deeper in debt ♪ ♪ St. Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go ♪ ♪ I owe my soul to the company store ♪ -'The Ford Show.'

-You might call it a comedy show.

-The following is brought to you in living color.

-♪ I picked up my shovel, and I walked to the mine ♪ ♪ I loaded 16 tons of number-9 coal ♪ ♪ And the straw boss said, 'Well, bless my soul' ♪ ♪ You load 16 tons, what do you get? ♪ ♪ Another day older and deeper in debt ♪ ♪ St. Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go ♪ ♪ I owe my soul to the company store ♪ -It's every tobacco company in the business.

[ Helicopter blades whirring ] -People were dying in Vietnam.

[ Machine-gun fire ] Nixon was escalating the war.

And we saw the demonstrations outside the White House.

We saw the demonstrations on college campuses -- the anti-war movement, but exclusively on the evening news.

You just didn't see that in the distraction that passed as prime-time television.

-This is all taking place in a period of time where we were at probably our greatest change, socially.

We were in the midst of a revolution of talking about ideas.

Mainstream television was one of the last things to jump, and the first person to force it over that hill was Norman.

-You and your bloody wars.

Eh? You and your bloody wars.

I mean, look at you. Look at you!

-If ever there was a time in history of this bloody country when we needed a war, mate, it's now -- a war to get rid of most of them.

-You're mad! You know that?

-Mad?

[ Indistinct arguing ] -I was living in England, and that's where I saw a show called 'Till Death Us Do Part.'

I sent a tape back to Norman, and I said, 'This'll blow your mind.'

And he was the one that came up with the idea.

He said, 'Well, why don't we do it in America?'

I said, 'Geez, we get this on the air, it'll be a miracle.'

-The show was about a father and son.

The father was conservative. The kid was progressive.

And I thought, 'Holy, how did I never think about that?

That's a terrific idea.

I lived that with my father.'

So I went with that relationship and never had reason to regret it.

-Anything interesting in the paper?

-Yeah, 200 arrested at Vietnam Day Peace Demonstration.

200. They should have thrown the whole bunch of them in the can.

-Well, I think they just don't like the idea of America fighting an illegal and immoral war.

-Well, if they don't like it, they can lump it... take it down the road and dump it.

-What are you -- You're saying 'America -- love it or leave it?' -That's right.

'Cause this is America, land that I love.

-Well, I love it, too, Mr. Bunker, and it's because I do, I protest when I think things are wrong.

-And stand beside her and guide her... -The right of dissent is the principle upon this country was based!

-Through the night with the light from above.

-Listen to me. It's in the Bill of Rights!

-God bless America, you dumb Polack!

-You're prejudiced! You're prejudiced!

-My home, sweet home.

-Not anymore! I'm leaving!

-♪ God bless America -You're prejudiced!

[ Door slams ] ♪ My home, sweet home ♪♪ -There's a reason Richard Nixon put Norman on his enemies list.

To be able to talk about real life and real issues, forget how controversial they are -- They're real.

That's what's so relevant.

That stuff didn't happen in sitcoms.

-I mean, it was, you know, as we used to say, it's too hip for the room, you know?

I mean, it was just too smart and too different and too edgy, and, you know, we thought, 'Oh, goodbye, and good luck.'

And the fact is, CBS was nervous about it.

They put on a big disclaimer saying, you know, essentially, 'We don't have anything to do with this show.'

-The headline is ''All in the Family' introduces the world to foul-mouthed Archie Bunker.

CBS rolled the dice last night with a new situation comedy, 'All in the Family,' which will either be the biggest hit of the season or the biggest bomb.'

So, here you go.

That's what it says.

Eight. We did eight seasons.

-You know something, Archie, just because a guy is sensitive and he's an intellectual and he wears glasses, you make him out a queer.

-I never said a guy who wears glasses is a queer.

A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes.

A guy who is a fag is a queer.

-You know, you're right, Archie. You're right.

The British a bunch of pansies -- pansies, fairies, and sissies.

And the Japanese are a race of midgets, the Irish are boozers, the Mexicans are bandits -- -And you Polacks are meatheads.

-We promise we'll get to our guest here in just a moment.

Yes, ma'am. You'll stand, please?

-I raised four children, got through them when sex was coming into its own on television, and now I have a 5-year-old granddaughter, after seeing 'All in the Family,' asked me to explain to her what is a vasectomy.

-Yeah. Um, can I just... Uh, so?

-So it's getting a little difficult.

-Yeah, but you're intimidated by the question.

-Yes, I am.

-Okay, I'm not asking -- Huh?

Well, hang on a minute. Excuse me just a moment.

Yeah. You want to stand, please? -Absolutely.

Why can't you explain it?

What's wrong with a vasectomy?

I mean -- -Oh, wait a minute.

[ Applause ] -The way I look at it, television can be broken into two parts, B.N. and A.N. -- before Norman and after Norman, right?

He's the most influential producer in the history of television because of this gigantic change that happened when 'All in the Family' hit the air.

-CBS News presents 'Look Up and Live.'

Today, 'Laughter: Hurt or Heal?'

-I have to say, I have to feel that the laughter hurts, that the repetition of these stereotype terms that we thought had died tends to be hurtful and harmful to the public good.

-Well, Mr. Lear?

-I've heard all these epithets.

If they had died, where had they gone to?

Do you really believe that 'All in the Family' resurrected them from death?

So, my mission is to entertain.

I chose to entertain with what I consider real people.

♪♪ -As everybody knows by now, there's a television series on the air about a lovable bigot.

That's how they always refer to this show and the character that my next guest plays.

His name is Carroll O'Connor.

Will you welcome the Archie Bunker?

[ Applause ] How do you do? See what happened to me?

-While you said 'lovable bigot,' I don't know about the lovable part of it.

We're presenting the story of a man who's basically a pretty unhappy guy.

You people may laugh at him and enjoy him, but you mustn't.

Look at Archie as a man who could be getting a lot more out of his life if he didn't have these burdens on him and these things that have poisoned his life.

-I loved theater.

I was attracted to people who performed before a live audience, and Carroll O'Connor walked into a room, sat at a table, we said our pleasantries.

We didn't get off the first page before I knew, my God, this was Archie Bunker.

But Carroll is an Irish Catholic liberal, and he was carrying this role on his shoulders, in his body, in every piece of his being.

So his responsibility... I mean, he had a lot riding that I didn't have.

I wasn't playing that character.

And so I knew shortly into it that he would likely be unhappy with the script every time.

Carroll would challenge me at the end of a reading -- 'This isn't gonna play. This isn't gonna work.'

But there was a particular episode where everything took place in an elevator... ...and a woman's gonna deliver a child while they were inside it.

-[ Moaning ] -Shh.

-Geez. I don't think I can get through this.

-He didn't think that could happen.

He wasn't gonna do it.

I wasn't gonna do it if he wasn't gonna do it.

There was not gonna be a show.

Oh, he had his lawyer, his manager.

Everybody that could be involved was involved.

-Carlos, Carlos. -Sí, sí, sí, sí, sí. Okay. -All right. Hold my hand.

-I think it's the baby. It's coming.

-Oh, no, no. Listen.

We're gonna be downstairs in a couple of minutes.

Now wait, wait! Hold-o! Stop-o!

-It was so, so crazy, but, of course, the crying would take place someplace below him.

He would look out of the corner of his eye, and the camera would be on his face at the birth of that child, and it was gold.

It was platinum.

-Ain't it supposed to cry or nothing?

[ Baby crying ] That sounds kosher.

-Come see my son.

-You got a little boy.

-What do you think Carroll O'Connor is doing right now?

You know, I can't help but think about that.

Does he know this is going on?

Does he know how -- oh, God -- how much I think of him?

-♪ Boy, the way Glenn Miller played ♪ -♪ Songs that made the hit parade ♪ -♪ Guys like us, we had it made ♪ ♪ Those were the days -♪ Those were the days ♪ And you knew who you were then ♪ -♪ Girls were girls, and men were men ♪ -♪ Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again ♪ -♪ Didn't need no welfare state ♪ -♪ Everybody pulled his weight -♪ Gee, our old LaSalle ran great ♪ ♪ Those were the days -♪ Those were the days [ Applause ] -Are you wearing your hat on the show?

-I am. I am. Oh, yeah.

-So I won't do too much up here. -Nothing up there.

-Okay.

I have to say, I love all your shows.

-Oh, thank you.

I certainly love this one.

-[ High-pitched voice ] ♪ And they knew who you were then ♪ [ Laughter ] [ Normal voice ] Come on. You raised me.

How are you, young man?

Nice to see you.

-Tell me, what would you like me to say?

-You can talk about whatever you want to talk about.

You've earned it.

It's just such a pleasure. I can't even believe.

You know, I used to sit in my house.

You know, back then, there was nothing to watch.

You know, people didn't have DVR.

They didn't have any of that stuff.

And when 'All in the Family' would come on, it was the greatest, just the best.

-I mean, that's the way we feel about the Jon Stewart show.

-This one? -Yes!

-So in some ways, I'm raising you.

-Yes. Isn't that life?

-Cycle of life, man. Cycle of life.

[ Cheers and applause ] Where I think I learned how to process complex thoughts, things that I really cared about through the lens of comedy, was watching Norman Lear shows.

-What could make me prouder?

We were all serious people.

Comedy was our business, but there was something on our minds.

♪♪ The news that to be a Jew in America was to be different had come to me shockingly when I was 9 years old, just before they sent my dad away.

-Re-creation 1-A, take one.

A-mark.

-When I was a kid, I spent a lot of hours listening to a crystal radio set.

-All right, Jake, let's go.

Two of you men come with us.

-They might do something to Uncle if we don't hurry.

-And I'm alone with this crystal set one night, and I hear a voice, a fellow who was known as Father Coughlin.

-I distinguish most carefully between good Jews and bad Jews.

In all countries, Jews are in the minority, but a powerful minority in their influence, a minority endowed with an aggressiveness and initiative.

This is attributable to the fact that Jews, through their native ability, have risen to such high places in radio and in press and in finance.

Perhaps this persecution is only the coincidental last straw which has broken the back of this generation's patience.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Ladies and gentlemen, you have just listened to Father Coughlin delivering one of the outstanding addresses of this year.

-[ Sighs ] God.

How the... did I understand that?

But I did. But I did.

It just... It never left my mind.

Never, ever, left my mind.

[ Sirens wailing ] It was a Sunday morning, I was at Emerson College, and somebody came scampering down a fire escape to tell us that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

You were automatically excused from service if you were in college, so I didn't have to, but I wanted to be known as a Jew who served.

I wanted to battle. I wanted to bomb.

I wanted to kill.

♪♪ I was the radio operator on a B-17.

I was closer to the bomb bays, so I would look down to see them dropping and report to the pilot, and I remember still, watching those bombs go down, hundreds of them, and think maybe the bomb could miss the target and think, 'I don't care.'

You know, 'If it just killed, I don't care.'

-Well, look at us.

[ Laughter ] Hi. [ Grunts ] -Come and sit. Come further into the house.

-Further in.

-It was right after the war, but it was very kind of Carl.

-You know that this is 61 years ago you're talking about?

-Yeah. -You may be right.

-You remind me, getting out of the Army, first thing I ever saw you in -- 'Call Me Mister.'

-Yes, yes.

-And I've been trying to find the senator song.

-♪ Nothing is too good for the man ♪ ♪ Who fought for the man who saved the day ♪ ♪ Through the muck and the mire ♪ ♪ Through the flack and the fire ♪ ♪ The military magic did its work ♪ ♪ From the foreign shore, he is back once more ♪ ♪ Duddley-di-di, di-di ♪ Still a jerk -[ Laughs ] I love it.

Very good.

You remind me of the Jews in the mountains.

You want a bit? Do you want a bit?

Jews came to the mountains to get out of the heat of New York City, and a lot of them died.

What killed them was, they all loved a song called 'Dancing in the Dark.'

-Everybody did.

-And this is the only way to sing 'Dancing in the Dark.'

♪ Dancing in the dark ♪ Till the tune ends ♪ Waltzing in the dark ♪ Soon ends ♪ Dancing as we're dancing in the dark ♪ That's how high it goes. -Yes.

-Jews... ♪ Dancing in the dark Already trouble. Already -- ♪ Till the tune ends ♪ We're waltzing in the dark ♪ And it soon ends [ Loudly ] ♪ And we can face the music together! ♪ ♪ Dancing in -- -♪ Dancing in the dark [ Camera shutter clicks ] -What are we doing here? What are we doing here?

-If you think about it, I mean, that group of people was basically responsible for everything that you laughed at in the second half of the 20th century.

They were friends.

I mean, it was my mother and father, Mel Brooks, and Anne Bancroft, and Norman and Frances.

♪♪ -I know that they met at a party, and there was chemistry.

By the end of the evening, my mother was with my father.

-Frances and I hit it off very quickly, and we hit it off in every way very quickly.

And it remained that.

-My mother was a feminist who changed the lives of many women, and they had a wonderful intellectual connection and would talk and talk and talk.

-ERA!

-When do we want it? -Now!

-What do we want? -ERA!

-Frances was very much engaged in the women's movement, and I, as the father of three daughters at that time, also.

So we all became feminists.

-Mrs. Naugatuck. I would like a word with you.

-In a moment, madam.

Just when I've set the chairs up.

-My husband can take care of that.

-Oh, you can't let a man do that, ma'am.

That's woman's work!

-Woman's work?

Mrs. Naugatuck, in this house, there is no such thing as woman's work or man's work.

There is no discrimination between the sexes.

That's what tonight's party is all about.

-Oh, blimey. Another Vanessa Redgrave.

-I prefer to think of myself as a tall Jane Fonda.

-People think that I am Maude.

I'm not Maude.

Bea Arthur is Maude.

And because she and I are both tall and dark and strong and Jewish, many people think that we're alike, and in some respects, Norman has taken episodes in my life and put them into episodes on the screen for 'Maude.'

-It was the height of the women's movement.

That's what fueled the whole thing.

So that's where 'Maude' took off, which was wonderful, because then we could tackle any subject imaginable.

-And can I trust you to keep a secret?

-What is it?

-[ Breathes deeply ] Vivian... I'm pregnant.

-You're kidding.

-Vivian, at age 62, I'll be the mother of an Eagle Scout!

-Look, there's only one sensible way out of this.

You don't have to have the baby.

It's legal now. -You know, she's right.

It's legal in New York State. You better give that a thought.

-I have given it a thought.

Oh, I don't know.

I don't know. I just don't know!

-And she left out a shot. -She left out 'That's what I admire most about you.'

-Oh, no, no. I don't mean for it to, but, I mean, there's your beginning, and here's your finish. -Oh.

-I mean, that's where you're falling apart.

-Yeah. Okay. -Let's try it.

-Yeah.

-The euphemism for censor was 'program practices.'

And the program practice department simply didn't want to deal with abortion.

[ Indistinct conversations ] From Friday to yesterday, this thing has escalated.

-Yeah. Well, I just want... -But I understood intuitively that if I gave in to this silliness... ...I would lose battle after battle after battle following.

-What's your beef against the networks?

-I spend hour upon hour arguing with censors about the tiniest things.

The network often takes the position that 'Norman Lear and the others in the creative community,' I mean, 'how can they do this?

How can they bite the hand that feeds them?'

I consider that the creative community are the hands that feed.

-And they're biting your hand. -And they're biting our hands.

-Just tell me, Walter, that I'm doing the right thing not having the baby.

-For you, Maude, for me, and the privacy of our own lives, you're doing the right thing.

-I love you, Walter Findlay.

[ Telephones ringing ] [ Busy signal ] -If you'd like to make a call... -Your beloved, our beloved, Beatrice Arthur!

[ Cheers and applause ] -That episode of 'Maude' got 17,000 letters and 65 million viewers.

And there wasn't a single state that seceded from the Union.

[ Applause ] -Thanks for coming on our show, Mr. Lear.

-Please, Bob, it's Norman.

-No, no. When I address the man who owns the industry I work in, I say 'mister.'

-Don't exaggerate, Bob. Do you realize I don't have a single show on this network?

-Well, I think you're a little too brave for NBC.

They canceled 'Flipper' because he refused to wear swim trunks.

♪♪ -What was new was that we were engaging in reality.

They're ordinary subjects in family life where they affect people, and abortion, I mean, there's much more political correctness now than there was when we were on a playing field where we hadn't played before.

Anyway, they're telling me I got to run.

-I'll let you know when we're on air, sir.

-Okay. I'm happy to see you again.

-Hi, Norman. -Hey. How are you?

-Good to see you. -Good to see you.

You all right?

-This is a television camera.

Here's Norman, and here's Bea.

Just think what Norman Lear will be able to do with this.

-Does it worry you, the kind of spying that could go on?

-Yes. -The kind of lack of privacy that could come from all of that?

-It does bother me.

-Now all of the eavesdropping... -Well, that's exactly what he was talking about.

-There is a tendency for people when they get older to stop asking questions, and they're not learning anymore.

And Norman, I can guarantee you, the conversation will mostly be him trying to ask questions.

He's interested in people and life, not just in telling stories, but interested in humankind.

♪♪ -When I was about 13, 14 years old, it cost a nickel to ride all day on the subway.

When the train slipped into 125th Street Station, you could almost reach out to touch the tenement windows.

They were largely black families, and I related to it somehow.

My bumper sticker reads 'just another version of you.'

And that is my belief.

We are just versions of each other.

-214, take three, mark. [ Clapboard clicks ] -♪ Good times -♪ Any time you need a payment -♪ Good times -♪ Any time you need a friend -♪ Good times -♪ Any time you're out from under ♪ -♪ Ain't we lucky we got 'em ♪ Good times -There weren't any African-Americans on TV at that time to speak of, with the exception of, well, 'Amos 'n Andy.'

If I wanted to see someone that looked like me on the screen, it was usually Sidney Poitier in the movies.

That was about it.

-James! Honey, what happened?

Did you graduate?

-Has a pig got knuckles?

-Oh! -[ Screaming ] -Well, this is supposed to be a party!

Let's get it on! -Oh, James.

It's beautiful. -Ain't it?

You are now looking at a skilled laborer.

No more busting my back on the loading dock at Brady's.

This means good pay, good jobs, and goodbye, 79-cent muscatel, and hello, $1.50 champagne!

[ Cork pops ] [ 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' plays ] -The vibe couldn't have been better going into the show.

Everybody was enjoying themselves.

Everybody was having a great time.

Then something changed with the adult players... [ Music stops ] ...because a sense of responsibility to their audience, to their race, descended on them.

-Esther, in the first act, you're the one who says to... to Thelma... -Mm-hmm.

-...'What's the matter with -- If you don't have the same interests, honey, there's something wrong.'

I mean, in effect, that's what you're saying.

You recognize that they don't have the same interests.

-No, I'm saying that it's not necessary to have the same interests.

-Well, I don't follow.

She's upset that she doesn't have the same interests, so you say, 'Okay.'

-There were lines that were dropped on you that were meant for you to say because you were black.

And I had to see behind all of that foolishness and say, 'No, no, no, no, no. I can't say that.'

But yet, some of the things I was saying in the beginning -- -Yeah, but to do that is to ignore completely what's happening. -Right, right.

-And it's... -Esther and I both had assumed the responsibility of being the first black family on TV, and I was worried about what people would think.

I didn't want to be seen in a role that was gonna disparage and denigrate a black family.

I wasn't gonna do it.

I wanted it to be right.

-She's the fuse that sets off Kid Dy-no-mite!

-Once he said 'dy-no-mite,' there would be a space of maybe half a page, 10, 15, 20 seconds, which can be an eternity in television, where the writers wouldn't have to write.

'Just let him say 'dy-no-mite,' and we can coast for a while.'

-Well, I don't know about Kid Dy-no-mite!

It grates on my nerves.

I couldn't stand it.

To make him the most popular black in America, in these United States, was... a way of putting us all down.

-Greetings from The Chicken Shack!

-I insist that you can have comedy without buffoonery.

[ Indistinct conversations ] -Oh.

-Okay.

-Oh.

-John ain't here. -Why?

-He's sick, but he'll be in tomorrow.

So we have a guy who's been standing in.

What's his name?

-We had to do the show for 26 weeks, and it had to be good.

But we couldn't deal with this reaction of actors being upset with the script all the time.

It was extraneous to the needs of a show that had to be done every week.

-Thelma? Where's Thelma?

-And so I sat everybody down and said, 'These are decisions I'm gonna have to make.

I'm not black, but I am a father, I am an uncle, I am a brother, I'm a son.

I'm all of those male things that John is, and I don't think there's any difference.

You guys know the language, the behavior, the... But we share the same feelings.

-He said, 'John, don't take this quite so seriously.'

He said, 'You've got a wonderful role.

Enjoy it.'

But I was taking it extremely personally, to the point that the writers got tired of their lives being threatened over jokes and scriptand punch lines.

My thing was, take the crap out, or let's fight.

♪♪ [ Knocking ] [ Tape rewinding ] -♪ Revolution has come ♪ Time to pick up the guns -One day, three members of the Black Panthers stormed into my offices at CBS, saying they'd 'come to see the garbage man.'

'Good Times' was garbage, they said, and on they ranted.

Shows nothing but a white man's version of a black family.

-Who you supposed to be?

-I'm Michael, J.J.'s brother.

-The character of J.J. is a put-down.

Every time you see a black man on the tube, he is dirt poor, wears...clothes, can't afford nothing.

We got black men in America doing better than most whites.

-Get yourself together, blood.

We got to move.

-I said, 'Hold on, hold on, hold on.

Okay, let's talk.'

And that may have had as much to do as anything else with the, 'Why don't we make 'The Jeffersons'?' -♪ Fish don't fry in the kitchen ♪ ♪ Beans don't burn on the grill ♪ ♪ Took a whole lot of trying ♪ Just to get up that hill ♪ As long as we live, it's you and me, baby ♪ ♪ There ain't nothing wrong with that ♪ ♪ Well, we're moving on up -I wanted to get off my chin, but whatever.

-♪ To the East Side -♪ Moving on up -Cream.

♪ We finally got a piece of the pie ♪ -'Good Times' was, you know, it was cool.

I mean, it was an insight into a loving family.

You get to like them, get to speak like them.

'Good Times' was for white people.

For white people to get to know them and maybe sympathize with them, maybe love them, maybe see them in the street and want to talk to them.

'The Jeffersons' was for black people.

Aspirational, angry to some degree -- 'The Jeffersons' represented the American Dream for black people.

-Oh, hi. -Hi.

-Uh, George, this is Diane Stockwell.

Diane, this is my husband, George.

-Do both of y'all live here? -Uh-huh.

Some place, ain't it? -Yeah.

I didn't know the Jeffersons had a couple.

-A couple of what?

-A maid and a butler. You two.

-Butler? -What?

-Yeah, they must be real rich.

-Hold it, Diane.

We the Jeffersons.

-[ Coughing ] [ Laughs ] -You're right, Louise -- He's a great joker.

-I don't remember the first time I saw George Jefferson, but I do know what I got from him.

He taught me how to walk.

George would poke his chest out, let you know -- 'I ain't no punk, and I'm as good as you.'

It wasn't even necessarily out of anger as much as it was, 'This is real.

Are you blind?'

-George, why do we have to fight so much?

If we have a problem, why can't we just talk it through like Tom and Helen? They don't fight.

-They don't fight 'cause they're scared to fight.

-What's that supposed to mean?

-You know damn well what it means.

If you two ever really started going at one another, inside of five minutes, he'd be calling you ... -Don't say it. -nigger.

-He said it.

-It was so progressive then.

It was such a smart, insightful, and important dialogue.

And Norman Lear was part of the healing in what he gave us.

-As a producer of television shows, I and my fellow producers are constantly testing and experimenting with new concepts.

-Hello, Norman.

-Ah, Weiskopf.

Tell me, sir... what is new with the new series?

-The father is a union organizer.

-A union organizer.

-The mother is his boss, the president of a large steel company.

-Mm. -But the father is proud, and they live on his money. -Mm-hmm.

-Now, the daughter is a nun, and their son is a gay state trooper.

♪♪ -Norman is a hell of a salesman, and when he's got that selling light on, he's hard to say 'no' to.

And, of course, he's a fountain of ideas.

-See that glow? -What glow?

Do you mean the waxy yellow buildup?

-What do you mean?

It is a little yellow, isn't it?

♪♪ -Norman was enjoying a hell of a run.

At one point, he had 6 of the top 10 shows on the air.

It was a house of hits.

I mean, he's irrepressible. He's unstoppable.

-Well, I want to congratulate Norman Lear.

I understand that he just sold his acceptance speech as a new series.

[ Laughter ] -'Mary Hartman,' 'All in the Family,' 'The Jeffersons,' 'Maude,' 'Good Times.'

Some people are saying Lear is doing too much, he's spreading himself too thin.

Why so much?

-Why so much?

-Action.

-Fella, you're 10 times the man I was.

[ Laughter, applause ] -Once more for the boss. -Oh, geez.

-Hey! -Hello!

-Boy, Norman's always in here, man.

-Okay. -Okay, cast.

-Good to see you.

We don't have to nail down a story this meeting.

[ Intercom buzzes ] Oh.

I'm sorry. Hello?

Good night, love. See you tomorrow.

-Goodbye, and thank you. -They just sent her over.

-I had a show on the air. I had another show on the air.

Yes, no. Bep-bep-bep-bep-bep.

It required another ear.

So I grew another ear.

It required a broom up my butt so I could sweep the floor at the same time.

I love the expression '...or go blind.'

I didn't know whether to...or go blind.

[ Laughs ] There was a moment when I had five families on the air and one in Encino on Mooncrest Drive.

The families on the air needed me for every breath they took.

The family on Mooncrest Drive seemed to get along just fine with limited me.

I think I was too busy struggling to be a good provider.

♪♪ -My dad was extraordinarily busy during those years -- the TV years.

He would be in the zone and in his office, barricaded for a couple of days.

And then he emerges with this beautiful piece of writing.

He was so, you know, at the top of his game.

But my mother was not a great fan of Hollywood.

You know, certain things are expected of mothers that are not expected of fathers, especially in that generation.

So they had a difficult marriage.

At some point, my mother rented an apartment, and nobody knew where it was.

Nobody had the address.

But she didn't come home one night.

-I was going from building to building.

It was a small apartment, entirely furnished by its owner but for some photographs and a rug I recalled us buying years before in Morocco.

Frances was lying on it.

And her [Sighs] Frances... Choking back a scream, I'd reached for a pulse I could not detect while the super called 911.

In the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai, the first doctor to see her said she was just minutes away from leaving us.

When I left the hospital, Frances was in a private room and out of danger.

She was manic-depressive.

We -- It was... We didn't know she was manic-depressive until she was 50.

And our marriage was so -- We were having such a difficult time.

She wanted to move to New York.

I didn't want to move to New York.

And, at some point, she left.

-Around the time that Norman and Frances split up, Norman sat up and said, 'I have an announcement that I want to make.'

-The great Norman Lear, the king of situation comedy, leaves, and without a whole lot of notice.

And he asked me to come over and basically take over the shows.

And for me, it was as if the Pied Piper said to me, 'I'm leaving.

Here's my flute.

Good luck.'

-Norman, why are you quitting the business of television comedy?

-Well, I'm not so much quitting the business as leaving it.

But we figured it out, and it comes to 16 television series and 700 hours of prime-time television.

It's hard for me to say the words, it stuns me so.

And I've loved it.

I've had a marvelous time doing it.

I just want to exercise some other muscles.

-I was not thinking I was leaving the entertainment business.

I was thinking it's all the entertainment business.

♪♪ -♪ Onward, Christian soldiers -I'm sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals and the perverts and the liberals.

It's time for God's people to come out of the churches and change America.

-We have a threefold responsibility.

Number one -- get people saved. Number two -- get them baptized.

Number three -- get them registered to vote.

-Looking at the things that Jimmy Carter supports, I'm not sure that Jesus Christ... well, I that Christ would not support that platform.

-Praise God. Let's be happy about this.

-We've got to raise up an army of men and women in America who call this nation back to moral sanity and sensibility.

I call that the moral majority.

-♪ Amen -Ready? Any time.

-It isn't the Moral Majority.

It is the religious New Right.

The Reverend Falwell is very good at what he does, and he somehow manages to push himself so far to the front that attention must be paid.

I was concerned about what I was seeing on television -- the proliferation of TV evangelical ministers mixing politics and religion.

Thundering with the Bible!

You know, calling this a Christian nation and waving it like it was a bomb or a bomb threat.

So I thought, 'I want to take the flag and the Bible back for all of us, and the way I know how to do it is television.'

[ Cheers and applause ] -I'm the one that they're singing about.

Yeah, I'm the Stars and Stripes Forever.

Star-Spangled Banner.

You can call me Old Glory, but let's just keep it simple.

Just call me Flag.

Oh, say, can you see? Okay.

A little flag humor.

You know, I'm 204 years old.

People say, 'Flag, how do you stay so young?

Is it jogging?' No.

'Is it tennis?' No.

It's waving.

[ Laughter ] -Norman was gonna do a comedy movie about the rise of the religious right, and then he realized that it was much deeper.

This was not just a movie, and this wasn't just something that was funny.

And that's why he decided to retire from his successful television shows to really devote his life to activism.

The Constitution's ban on the establishment of an official religion and its guarantee of the free exercise of religion are clear and unchallengeable.

The separation of church and state, pluralism, and free debate, and the struggle against intolerance -- We must nourish them all if we are to preserve the American way.

-It was in the fall of 1978 that he told me he was gonna found People for the American Way and told me what the substance of the organization would be, what its purpose was.

And I said to him, I said, 'Look, Norman, you're a wealthy Hollywood Jewish liberal.'

Those who will, and do, disagree with you are powerful entities themselves, and you could be headed for a rough ride here.

-I would like to know if Mr. Lear believes in God.

Perhaps he does, but there are many of us, after so many vicious, distorted attacks against Bible-believing Christians, who wonder maybe he's on an anti-Christian kick.

-You are not opposed -- Let's clear up a popular misconception.

You are not opposed to fundamentalists getting involved in politics.

-No. Oh, not at all.

I'm not opposed to any American anywhere speaking his mind or her mind at any time.

-Does it bother you to be viewed as you are by some as the embodiment of anti-moral, anti-Christian America?

-Yeah, well, of course it bothers me, but it bothers me far more when hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans are persuaded to vote a certain way, or it's suggested that if they don't vote a certain way, they are demonic, satanic.

They are in league with the devil.

They are not one of God's people.

Jerry Falwell sent out a mailing in which he called me 'the number-one enemy of the American family in our generation.'

That's a quote.

And I started to get some death threats.

So it was serious stuff.

♪♪ -George Orwell said the most important thing is to see what's obvious and tell us about it.

And that's what Norman did.

He became the first purely American response to an un-American strain of bigotry.

I cannot, you know... I cannot overemphasize what a patriot this man is.

-An original copy of the Declaration of Independence is making news -- sold at auction yesterday for more than $8 million.

-Jesus, you don't have room for this story.

I mean, there's no way.

-He didn't call me and ask me, 'What do you think, pal?'

He called me and said, 'Guess what!

I own the Declaration of Independence!'

And I said, 'Norman, I thought we all do.'

He said, 'I'm gonna make sure you do.'

-He pulls out this big glass thing, and there's the Declaration of Independence.

And you're like -- I can't believe it was for sale somehow.

But he felt he had such a responsibility to make sure that kids saw it and understood from where they came and what this meant and what these people were fighting for.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Go, U.S.A.! -The Declaration of Independence is right here in Utah and will be available for viewing throughout the games thanks to Norman Lear.

♪♪ -So, sweetheart, how does it feel to be married to a man 25 years older?

-It makes a difference now more than it used to.

-Did you tell them how the sex gets better and better and better?

-Oh, especially the one in the spring, right?

-[ Laughs ] -I was doing my dissertation on fundamentalism at the time, and when I heard about People for the American Way, I was just very interested in what he was doing and what that was all about.

I was like, 'Norman Lear.

I thought he was short and bald.'

You know, no, I didn't expect him to be as tall as he was and kind of as handsome and charming.

But we went out for lunch, and that's sort of where it all happened.

It was very clear to me that I wanted to have children, and I said, 'When you marry a younger woman, it sort of comes with the territory.

So you have to decide.'

-I remember sitting at a café with my father, and my dad said, 'So, guess what.

We're pregnant.

And it's twins!'

And I almost fell into my soup.

-♪ A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air ♪ ♪ The monkey thought that everything was on the square ♪ ♪ The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off of his back ♪ ♪ The monkey grabbed his neck and said, 'Now, listen, Jack' ♪ ♪ Straighten up and fly right ♪ Straighten up and fly right ♪ -Yes, I have my son!

-I see me in that camera.

-♪ Cool down, Papa, don't you blow your top ♪ ♪ Ain't no use in diving ♪ What's the use of jiving?

♪ Straighten up and fly right ♪ Cool down, Papa, don't you blow your top ♪ ♪ Fly right -Good night, sweetheart. [ Smooches, blows ] [ Cheers and applause ] -[ Breathes deeply ] Um, okay.

I have this class at my school.

I remember this one girl saying, 'You know what?

My family is so weird.

My dad is 67.'

And all I remember myself saying is, or thinking to myself is, you know, 'My dad's 80.'

[ Laughter ] My dad has been a senior citizen ever since I was born.

[ Laughs ] I knew my father was older than most -- than all -- very early.

I liked it.

I feel like it's kind of a cool thing to have in your pocket.

He's the most important person in my life, for sure.

-Oh, I don't do refolding. I'm sorry.

-Completely... [ Indistinct conversation ] This next one's gonna be completely... -Here, guys. Fold them.

[ Laughter ] -Wait, wait, wait.

Which word had three syllables?

-'Even This, I Get to Experience.'

-Little word. -Me.

-'Even this...' -That's two syllables.

-'The man who' and 'hat.'

-It's a book. -It's a book.

-Oh, yeah. It's about... -'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat' -Yeah. [ Cheers and applause ] -Wow, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

-Amazing.

-Whoo-hoo!

-That's a good -- That's a good name.

-My family is the greatest joy in my life.

But I look back over the years, and I think I realize that each of us is responsible for our own happiness.

And that's the great journey in life -- learning that you have to find the satisfaction yourself.

[ Sighs ] It's hard to be a human being. [ Chuckles ] Remember, you heard it here.

It goes back, in my life, to a grandfather.

If you got a minute, I'll tell you about my grandfather.

My grandfather loved this country, stood holding my hand so tightly it hurt on street corners when a parade went by.

And I'd look up -- When the flag came by, I'd look up at his face, and a tear would be coming down his cheek.

And he wrote Presidents.

He was an inveterate letter writer to Presidents, and every letter started with 'My dearest, darling Mr. President.'

My immigrant grandfather.

He was a man who wrote the President every single month of his life.

He used to write, 'My dearest, darling Mr. President, don't you listen to them when they say such and such.'

And every letter started 'My dearest, darling Mr. President.'

[ Laughter ] 'Don't you listen to them when they say such and such and so-and-so.'

And when he disagreed with them, the letters started the same way -- 'My dearest, darling Mr. President, didn't I tell you last week...' 'I wrote you. I said that you should...' But he got answers.

Every once in a while, I would run down the three flights of steps, York Street, New Haven, Connecticut, and there's the little white envelope that said White House.

[ Echoing ] White House.

He got letters from the White House.

And my 9-, 10-year-old heart would just... [ Tapping chest ] I couldn't get over it.

That wasn't true.

I made that up.

I had a great friend.

Arthur Marshall was his name.

And he had a grandfather who wrote the President 'My dearest, darling Mr. President.'

I adored that, and I guess out of some need, I adopted it.

Or, more honestly said, I stole it... because I think now I just needed that father figure, and if he didn't exist in reality, he certainly existed in my head.

I did what I had to do.

You know, I needed that -- to believe in that, and I did.

♪♪ -Will you stifle?! Yeah, you.

Gloria, you married the laziest white man I ever seen.

-Did you ever think that possibly your father just might be wrong?

My old man used to call people the same things as your old man, but I always knew he was wrong.

So was your old man.

-No, he wasn't. -Yes, he was.

-He wasn't. -Your father was wrong.

-Don't! -Your father was wrong!

-Your father is the man that comes home, bringing you candy.

Your father is the first guy to throw a baseball to you... and take you for walks in the park, holding you by the hand.

My father held me by the hand.

Oh, hey... my father had a hand on him, now, I'll tell you.

He busted that hand once, and he busted it on me to teach me to do good.

Hmm?

My father, he shoved me in a closet for seven hours to teach me to do good, 'cause he loved me.

He loved me.

Yeah.

How can any man that loves you tell you anything that's wrong?

-[ Voice breaking ] Oh, son of a bitch Was that good.

[ Sighing ] Oh.

♪♪ Meanwhile, my father was about to take a plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

'Herman, I don't like this,' she told him.

'I don't want you to see those men.'

That was just past my 9th birthday.

This had to be the moment when my awareness of the foolishness of the human condition was born.

-Straight ahead for me.

[ Camera shutters clicking ] Straight ahead for me.

-This is Norman's book. -Hello, hello.

-It's such an honor to meet you. I'm... You don't even know how I feel about you.

It's beyond the beyond.

-Like all of you, I've known the voice of Norman my whole life, and his voice was in my living room, on every night, when I grew up.

And the whole time, we were laughing.

Do you know how hard that is?

Do you know how...hard it is to make people laugh?

To tackle big issues get big ratings?

It's so hard that people don't even do it anymore.

[ Laughter ] [ Cheers and applause ] Please help me congratulate the winner of the PEN Center U.S.A. Lifetime Achievement Award... Norman Lear.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Thank you.

Here is where I am today -- a nonagenarian in what the doctors tell me is excellent health looking down my arm and wondering, as I peck away on my computer, what my father's hand is doing hanging out of my sleeve.

My family, nuclear and extended, brings me nothing but joy.

I go to sleep each night, anticipating and delighting in the great taste of the coffee I will be drinking the next morning -- something I have done almost 30,000 times.

And having looked back with new eyes on all the lives I've been so fortunate to have led, I've learned, as hopefully you now will, who I was as I scrambled to get here from there.

Even this, I get to experience.

[ Cheers and applause ] I thank you.

Oh.

Let's go to the wrap party.

Like any good film or any good play, you don't know what's there until you get to it, and isn't that what we're talking about when we're talking about life?

We, none of us, know where it leads.

-Here he is, at 93, thinking about, 'What's my next big hit?'

I mean, he doesn't think death is the last act.

-All right, let's get to...work!

[ Woman laughs ] ♪♪ My name is Norman Lear.

[ Cheers and applause ] Laughter, you know, just has to add time.

You know, if lifting weights or running, you know, can add time, oh God, how laughter can add time.

Laughing, myself, and watching others.

That was my life.

Oh, yes.

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