Just a few weeks ago I got the chance to meet Dick Cavett on the 2016 TCM Classic Cruise. There were onboard interviews with him, he introduced several movies, and he also told amazing stories of Hollywood that spanned the decades. Recently, the Decades network started replaying his old talk shows from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, so even today’s generation may have heard of this fantastic interviewer, writer, and talk show host. If you’re hip to the man, there are a lot of gifts you might want to give or get this holiday. Meet me after the jump for… Dick Cavett!
The man has been around forever in the pop culture world, or at least as far back as the television age. Dick Cavett began his career as a kid in eighth grade working in radio, then worked in theater, met fellow Nebraskans Johnny Carson and Sandy Dennis at a young age before attending Yale, and working as a copy boy for Time magazine. He started blind submitting jokes to Jack Parr on “The Tonight Show,” and eventually became one of his writers. He would later go on to write for Jerry Lewis and Carson in much the same capacity. Then he moved on to his own talk show, and shows.
Dick Cavett had the dubious pleasure of having a talk show in each decade of the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties (on seven different networks), and being serious competition at times with his old friend and boss Johnny Carson. Cavett’s controversial and conversational interview style made him one of the best in the business. He got political when other contemporaries would not, and he often mixed guests together that would naturally not get along, trying to stir the pot, one might say.
His career and body of work is one that spans the ages of entertainment in this country. From the golden era of Hollywood to turbulent sixties to dangerous political climate of today, Cavett has been there, taking notes and causing trouble, all with a sly smile on his face. He’s been a writer, a stand-up comedian, a gymnast, a deejay, an actor… hell, he’s even been the Narrator/Criminologist in Rocky Horror, but most of all, he will probably be remembered as the epitome of a talk show host.
For the readers out there, two recent books, by Cavett, Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets from 2010, and Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks from 2014, tell stories of his adventures in New York and Hollywood, and many of the stars of those days gone by he’s encountered, including Carson, Parr, Stan Laurel, Richard Nixon, Bette Davis, John Lennon, Mel Brooks, and his good friend Groucho Marx, among others.
For those who would rather watch than read, there are a variety of DVD collections available of his shows on different topics.
First up is Rock Icons which features interviews with and performances by Janis Joplin, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Sly Stone, George Harrison, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones. There are nine uncut commercial free episodes of Cavett’s show as it was presented back in the day, so you also get to see these performers interact with other guests such as Gloria Swanson and Raquel Welch.
Other DVDs available of Dick Cavett’s talk shows include collections with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Comic Legends, Hollywood Greats, and a terrific time capsule where he interviewed those being questioned on national television every day at the time for the Watergate hearings.
Check it out, and Merry Dick Cavett Christmas!