Saturday, November 25, 2006
IT'S ALL DICK CAVETT'S FAULT
Last night I was up all hours watching DVDs of the Dick Cavett Show (The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons). It's a special collection of episodes (1969-1970) featuring rock stars. One of many great things about the show is that, according to intuition (and unlike just about every talk show today), Dick Cavett had the musicians perform, and then they would come right over and sit down and talk. Usually there was not even a commercial break for them to wipe down and go to the bathroom. And it wasn't the kind of empty small talk you get on regular shows. They'd sit for an hour and really talk, like real people. A lot of the discussion seemed to have to do with the basic day-to-day realities of their jobs. And he'd have all the guests stay, of course, even as new guests arrived, so they had to interact much like people at a dinner table. The mix of people seemed to be pretty good, too, and at times the questions were pretty blunt. At one point he's got Janis Joplin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Raquel Welch sitting in a circle, and he asks for a quick show of hands of who remembers their childhood as happy. Janis Joplin says she can't remember anything from her childhood. Everyone laughs, but it's actually pretty chilling. A lot of the things she says are like that. She says she remembers certain people's "vibes," and the way she says it is — well, you know something happened. She says she'd never go through it again; it was hard enough the first time.
There are three episodes with her on the box set, all from right before she died. It's pretty crazy: It's a snapshot of a person in motion, in youthful turmoil; someone who's being forced to be an adult when you get the sense she is equally burdened trying to get over her past. That's the hardest thing about being in your 20s. (At least it was for me.) You're just barely getting out of the hardest shit ever, being a child and a teenager, and you're reeling from what you've been through, and suddenly you're supposed to take on all the responsibilities of being an adult at the same time. It's like a second adolescence and in some ways it's actually harder than the first.
In any case, watching these DVDs was a real revelation. I've never seen such a cool talk show. Or heard one on the radio, for that matter. This is the way to do it. If I were trying to start a new talk show on TV now, this is what I'd do. And it would feel so new — and it would be so old. And it would only work on cable. Too smart for network TV, too hip for PBS. This is the kind of quality celebrity journalism that proves such a thing is possible. It makes me wonder about Conan, who has every bit the intellect and gravitas (if I may) of Dick Cavett. Is this kind of show he's thinking about whenever he belittles his own show?
One episode had a big fancy network newscaster guy who was retiring (Chet Huntley) to go live in Montana. When asked why he was retiring, he said that (among other things) he felt like everything was happening too fast, and people were required to speak about things too quickly, and wanted to have the time to sit and think about things before speaking about them. It's so true, and obviously this particularly speedy cycle in history hasn't ended. I won't see it in my lifetime, but I do long for a time when communications technology stops changing so quickly. I'm tired of the innovation, and I don't see it improving my life anymore. Phones are great; computers are great. That's it. There should be less focus on convenience of communication and more focus on quality. I can see the convenience value of the ipod, but when it comes to music, my heart doesn't generally prioritize convenience over quality.
blah blah blah,
PS: Yes, Joanna, the Bride and Groom mural (see below) is still there, thank heaven. There must be some kind of budget for preserving it, because it seems to be in better shape than a lot of murals in the area. I found a really neat short history of the mural here. This short history confirmed my memory that the mural had originally said "Monarch Bridal Shop" on it. The man in the mural is Carlos Ortiz, the owner of the Monarch Bridal shop, who commissioned the mural. Later, I guess after the store closed, another tenant in the building put the name of his store on it. Some people. I tell you.
So, the mural is on the building at 242 S. Broadway. It's on the north-facing side of the building.
PPS: I really enjoyed this blog entry by another writer who recently watched the Dick Cavett DVDs named Danny Miller.