The new president and CEO of NPR worked for nearly two decades in broadcast radio. But he says it’s his recent experience as a business executive and investor that will strengthen the 45-year-old media organization. A conversation with Jarl Mohn about the future of public radio.
Guest Host: Terence Smith
“All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Sanford & Son,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons.” These iconic television shows all have something in common: producer Norman Lear. The shows addressed some of the most pressing social and political issues of the day. Lear received four Emmys, a Peabody and the National Medal of Arts. In presenting the latter to him, former President Bill Clinton said, “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.” Lear is also politically active — he founded People For the American Way, of which actress Kathleen Turner is a board member. Turner is best known for her films “Body Heat,” “Romancing the Stone” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.” Norman Lear and Kathleen Turner talk about their careers and shared political activism.
- Kathleen Turner actress, director and political activist; her films include "Body Heat," "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "Romancing the Stone."
- Norman Lear Television writer and producer, and founder People for the American Way, produced "All in the Family," "Maude," "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," and "The Jeffersons."
MR. TERENCE SMITHThanks for joining us. I'm Terence Smith, former correspondent of PBS, CBS, and the New York Times, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is out with a cold. Producer Norman Lear has spent a six-decade career addressing some of the most pressing social and political issues of our times. This week, People for the American Way, the organization he founded, is celebrating his 90th birthday, albeit a month early. Board member and actress, Kathleen Turner, will be part of this tribute, and Norman Lear and Kathleen Turner join me in the studio. Welcome to you both.
MS. KATHLEEN TURNERThank you.
MR. NORMAN LEARGood morning.
SMITHI wonder is it just the party that brings you to Washington? You don't strike me frankly as Tea Party types who come to...
LEARIt's also the 30th anniversary.
TURNERYes. Of People for the American Way.
SMITHAnd so what is planned?
LEARSo that -- it's the 30th anniversary that brings us here.
TURNEROur semi-annual board meeting, and the celebration of Norman.
TURNERHe's a good package.
LEARAnd Kathleen had a birthday yesterday.
SMITHWell, there you go. Less -- significantly less than 90.
TURNERYes. Oh, yes. Yes.
SMITHI read an interview with you, Norman Lear, in which you said that -- recently, that you felt the same as you did at 50 or 70. Do you?
LEARWell, in that feelings are not all physical. I feel a good better than I did at 50 and 60 in that way.
SMITHDo you feel smarter? Do you feel smarter? Wiser?
LEARI don't know that I feel smarter as much as I do far more informed.
LEARAnd more sensitive, more understanding.
SMITHYou might remind people how you got into the business of writing the shows, the many shows that you did writing for television back in the 1950s, and exactly how that led to "Maude," and "All in the Family," and the shows that we all know so well.
LEARWell, what really led to "Maude" and "All in the Family," and all of that, I have discovered -- because I'm working on a memoir.
LEARAnd I was nine or ten years old when I ran into -- my father had given me a crystal set. I don't know how many of your listeners now remember the crystal set, but little cat's and a crystal, and I ran across Father Caughlin (sp?) and it hit me right...
LEARI was 10 years old. It hit me right between the eyes. He was one of the early Nazi -- I mean, he favored the building Nazi movement in Germany. He was totally against FDR, and he hated Jews. And I as a little Jewish kid, learned suddenly -- that's the way I learned I was different, and that -- because subsequent to that, my football hero who lived in the next apartment, we were living in New York for a few moments then, basically from Connecticut, but he couldn't get into a couple of colleges because there was a Jewish quota.
LEARThese things came at me, bam, bam, bam, bam, and then for other reasons and other ways, I learned there were people far less -- far more undifferent, or far more different rather, than I was. So the Constitution, the protection of the Bill of Rights loomed real large in my life early.
SMITHLarge and early.
SMITHBut how did that lead then to -- that wouldn't automatically cause one to think you'd go on to write TV comedy.
LEARNo. No. There were -- I grew up wanting to flick a quarter to a nephew because I had one uncle who could do that as a kid of the Depression. He called himself -- he said he was a press agent. I didn't know what a press agent was. But that turned me, when I learned what that was, toward press.
TURNERThe industry of...
LEARAnd through that...
LEAREntertainment and theater and so forth. And I became -- that's the job I wanted, that's what I became. After I served in the war, I became a press agent, and ran into a fellow who wanted to become a comedy writer. So we started together.
SMITHAnd there you have it. Kathleen Turner, how long have you known Norman Lear, and how long have you been sort of comrades in arms?
TURNERWell, I've been on the board of People for the American Way for 23 years now.
TURNERI know. Wow. Anyway, and I was attracted to it, and well, jumped into it really because they came to me, Norman and some of the group, came to me to ask if I would help to illustrate to the crisis that was happening in textbooks in our country, that so many of the school textbooks -- and this is still going on today of course, that are published primarily in Texas, are censored and edited in a way without supervision.
TURNERAnd of course, they had been cutting up "Romeo and Juliet," which to me is a great, great sin. So I was asked to do a reading to illustrate this censorship, and that was it. From then on out I was part of them.
SMITHTerrific. One of the of course big, big hits that you had, Norman Lear, "All in the Family," in 1971. We have a clip from that which it might sort of set the mood. It's -- in this, Carroll O'Connor, who plays Archie Bunker, comes home from work in a great mood. He's been interviewed by the CBS Evening News. He tells his family this over dinner, and you have Edith, that's Jean Stapleton, and his -- and the daughter, Gloria, who is Sally Struthers, ask him some questions, and he argues in this with son who is, of course, Rob Reiner. So let's hear a little bit of that.
MS. SALLY STRUTHERS AS GLORIA STIVICWhat did you say for the cameras, daddy?
MR. CARROLL O'CONNOR AS ARCHIE BUNKEROh, a lot of things, you know. Just on the sperm of the moment.
MS. JEAN STAPLETON AS EDITH BUNKERWhat did you tell them about Mr. Nixon?
MR. ROB REINER AS MICHAEL STIVICI hope you told them the truth.
STIVICYeah, that Nixon's surrendering the country to big business.
BUNKERNo, I didn't tell them that 'cause that ain't the truth. I said Mr. Nixon's preserving the spirit of competition and free enterprise.
STIVICOh, really? How's he doing that, Arch?
BUNKERBy keeping out Jap merchandise and forcing the country to buy American.
STIVICSee, the way Nixon works it, nobody can afford to buy anything.
BUNKERWhat are you talking about? Ain't he took the exercise tax off the cars?
STIVICThat's right, Arch, I had forgotten about that. How many cars are you gonna buy?
BUNKERListen, ain't he trying to keep wages and prices from going up?
STIVICYeah, but not profits and interest rates. Don't you see, Arch? Nixon's controlling the little man and letting the big guys run wild.
BUNKERPlease, he's a big guy. He didn't give himself a raise. He froze himself, too, didn't he?
STIVICOh, yeah, yeah, he's freezing a $200,000 a year and three houses.
BUNKERListen, he knows what's best for the country. That's why he's going to China, Russia.
STIVICHe knows what's best for the country, why's he coming back?
LEARNothing has changed, has it?
TURNERNo. I was just thinking about throwing the country to big business, yeah.
SMITHI wonder if you'd write it the same way today, and by the way, did you ever hear from President Nixon on that little segment?
LEARWell, I made his enemies list.
SMITHThere's some -- that's one form of recognition.
LEARAnd there is a wonderful piece of tape where he raves -- he's talking to I forget which of the assistants, and there's a wonderful piece of tape in which he talks about how the wonderful Archie Bunker was, but why did they make such a fool, he says, of a good man. And I couldn't be prouder of anything.
SMITHKathleen Turner, it sounds like Richard Nixon, doesn't it?
TURNEROh, look, the question is also not just would Norman write such a thing today, because I think of course he would, but would it actually be played on primetime network nowadays?
TURNERThat's an interesting question to me.
SMITHWell, obviously some of the language wouldn't, but some other language would. So things change. You know, looking back on your career, Kathleen Turner, there was the extraordinary film ten years later in 1981 "Body Heat."
TURNEROh, that was the first.
SMITHAnd that was the first. You had been on the stage before that, but that was the first film, and you really burst onto -- into the public consciousness, I think, with that film, and I wonder -- I'd love to hear more about that, but I actually have a little -- I have a little clip from that that I'd like to play, and maybe...
SMITH….maybe you'll tell us what you think so many years -- what is it, 30 years later.
SMITHIn this, you play Matty, the wife of a wealthy business man who starts an affair with a sleazy lawyer. And in this scene they, meet for the second time in a bar and it goes like this.
MS. KATHLEEN TURNER AS MATTY WALKERWhat are you doing in Pinehaven?
MR. WILLIAM HURT AS NED RACINEI'm no yokel. I was all the way to Miami once.
WALKERThere are some men, once they get a whiff of it, they trail you like a hound.
RACINEI'm not that eager.
WALKERWhat's your name, anyway?
RACINEWow. You all right?
WALKERYes, I'm fine. My temperature degrees high, around 100. I don't mind. It's the engine or something.
RACINEMaybe you need a tune-up.
WALKERDon't tell me, you have just the right tool.
RACINEI don't talk like that.
WALKERHow'd you find me, Ned?
RACINEThis is the only joint in Pinehaven.
WALKERYou shouldn't have come. You're going to be disappointed.
SMITHThat's a great line, Kathleen Turner, about your temperature running a little high.
TURNERYeah. I think one of my favorite lines from that film is when she says, you're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man.
SMITHThat film must have had a huge impact on your career.
TURNERBoy, it changed -- oh, yeah. It changed everything. But I think, you know, we really pushed what were then the limits in filmmaking on sexuality, and that's what we wanted to do.
SMITHThis is Terence Smith. More coming up with Kathleen Turner and Norman Lear.
TURNERIt did, it did. It was my first film and I had come back -- actually I had come back here to Washington right after that to the Arena Stage where I was doing "Titania and Hippoyta" in a "Midsummer Night's Dream." And then the film opened and then, gosh, it got kinda crazy for a while.
SMITHSold out some seats, did you?
TURNERI think we did, yep.
SMITHWell, that's terrific. You know, we have some folks sending in emails here. And there's one very interesting one that I want to put to Norman Lear. Patricia writes, "What happened to television in the 1980s? Where did the socially provocative programming go? Was it because of Reagan?" She said she stopped watching. She says, "I admire the way Archie portrayed Americans before the political correctness took over and I am a liberal," says Patricia Huffman. What did happen in the '80s? Do you think there was a Reagan influence?
LEARI think what happened in the '80s started a little bit earlier, but it certainly escalated in the '80s. The name of the game became give me a hit Tuesday night at 8:30 as Wall Street insisted. There's no villain -- there's no one villain here. But as we became more and more married to the notion that a corporation must make more money this quarter than it did last quarter, that had to be at the expense of every other value. And broadcasting, which just another group of corporations now, certainly -- you know, the networks are the least part of the entities that own them.
LEARAnd the name of the game is the news must be a profit center, a big profit center. It didn't used to be when I came into television. And if the show isn't rating -- we gotta find the hit Tuesday night at 8:30 at the expense of everything else.
SMITHI think that's true. Kathleen Turner, do you watch much television?
TURNERWell, what I watch now I don't -- I almost never watch network, you know, CBS or ABC or NBC or anything. I watch HBO, Showtime, maybe TNT or USA. I find that the -- I'm not very interested in the network shows. I find like most major studio films now incredibly predictable, as though I knew the line before they say it. It's formulaic to me now.
SMITHIt is formulaic and yet the more adventurous programming it seems...
LEARI think it's the golden age of television drama.
SMITHRight. And it's -- but it's on cable television.
TURNERIt's on cable, yes.
SMITHIt's on HBO, it's on USA, et cetera.
SMITHAnd some of those shows are really breaking the mold. Are they not, Norman Lear?
LEARExtraordinary. Extraordinary. I -- it would take a lifetime to watch all that's good.
SMITHWell, what do you like? What have you seen?
TURNERSteven Colbert Show, you know, which I just think is one of the most brilliant thing, you know, possible.
SMITHHe is incredibly quick.
SMITHAnd that is a form of what they call -- he and Jon Stewart call fake news, and yet it's news.
TURNERExcept for its -- yes.
SMITHWell, their fake news makes the best commentary on the real news that exists on television today.
SMITHAre there -- but going back to your earlier point, are there dramas or comedies now that you watch that you like, that you think are...
LEARWell, I try desperately to keep up with the "Breaking Bad" and the "The Wire" and "Upstairs Downstairs" -- the new "Upstairs Downstairs"...
TURNERThe Downton -- "Downton Abbey," yeah.
LEARI find I just can't find the time to watch them all. And I ache to watch them all. I tell myself that I will have the complete sets at some point.
LEARAnd I'll have to sit still in one place and I'll spend those years watching these shows.
SMITHHave you watched "Mad Men"?
LEARI'm addicted to "Mad Men," yes.
TURNEROh, now I have to -- I actually got the first season on Netflix, you know, in order to -- 'cause I was way behind. I was so angry I thought I was going to break the television. It just infuriated me. I haven't been able to turn it on again.
SMITHWas it -- what part of it?
TURNEROh, it's so offensive to women. It just -- I just...
SMITHWell, of course.
LEARWell, but that's the way it was.
TURNERI mean, I know, I know, I know, but I can't stand it.
SMITHI mean, this is -- they're depicting 1960, '61, '62. And, Norman Lear, it rings true to you for that era?
LEAROh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, if that was 1962, we are only at 1964 now.
TURNERYeah. We've gone back to 1964.
SMITHI have another clip here and this is from the show that you, Norman Lear, did, "Maude," a very, very big hit that broke some new ground at the time on the issues of abortion and other things. This is from 1972 and it's the first season, a two-parter, "Maude's Dilemma." Maude was the first TV character at that point to choose abortion, which was legal in New York. And Maude's daughter Carol in this segment argues for the procedure.
MS. ADRIENNE BARBEAU AS CAROL TRAYNORYou know, I've been thinking, there is no earthly reason for you to go through with this at your age. You know it, I know it, Walter knows it.
MS. BEA ARTHUR AS MAUDE FINDLAYI don't want you to talk -- just don't talk about it now, please.
MR. BILL MACY AS WALTER FINDLAYI didn't say anything but now that you mentioned it, it's legal in New York now, isn't it?
TRAYNOROh, of course it is, Walter. Mother, I don't understand your hesitancy. When they made it a law you were for it.
FINDLAYOf course, I wasn't pregnant then.
TRAYNORMother, it's ridiculous. My saying this to you, we're free. We finally have the right to decide what we can do with our own body.
FINDLAYAll right. Then would you please get yours into the kitchen?
TRAYNORYou're just scared.
FINDLAYI am not scared.
TRAYNORYou are and it's as simple as going to the dentist.
FINDLAYNow I'm scared.
TRAYNORMother, listen to me. It's a simple operation now. But when you were growing up, it was illegal and it was dangerous and it was sinister. And you've never gotten over that. Now you tell me that's not true.
FINDLAYIt's not true. And you're right, I've never gotten over it.
TRAYNORIt's not your fault. When you were young, abortion was a dirty word. It's not anymore. Now you think about that.
SMITHNorman Lear, that debate in this country is far from over.
LEARYou know, on that show people don't remember -- and this was a suggestion of the network 'cause we had great fights about this, obviously they didn't want it on at all -- but a lovely man, William Tankersley (sp?) was the head of program practices then. And there -- Maude had a friend, we hadn't seen her before or since, who had five children and was pregnant and would no more think -- and was poor, but -- you know, broke. She could not afford this sixth child, but she could no more think of ending that pregnancy than, you know, anything.
LEARAnd she went on and had the -- but understood her friend, who at age 50 and under her circumstances and so forth, knew the child she might birth would not have a reasonable life. And they both understood each other, which I thought was the heart and is today the heart of understanding.
TURNERYeah, I'm chairman of the board of Advocates for Planned Parenthood USA Federation of America. And so much of what we're fighting today is really more an issue of women's healthcare than simply abortion. I mean, we certainly must hold on to a woman's right to choose whatever medical procedure she wants for her body. But most of the attacks nowadays are aimed not just at abortion but truly at women's healthcare and, you know, our overall health system for women.
SMITHYou are now on the stage or have been and will be again playing a remarkable woman...
TURNERA wonderful woman.
SMITH...a late woman Molly Ivins in a play called "Red Hot Patriot," the kickass humor of Molly Ivins.
SMITHYou're bringing it, I believe, to Washington, is that correct?
TURNERI'm bringing it to the Arena Stage. I think we open August 28 and run through October 28. You know, she was so politically savvy and so practical and so funny that I want to introduce this commons sense liberalism, yes, to anyone I can before the elections, so there.
SMITHThere was another outspoken Texas woman portrayed on the stage here at the Kennedy Center not too long ago in the play...
TURNEROne of my best friends, Holland Taylor.
SMITHRight. And she wrote and performed Ann, the story of Ann Richards. And so there's something of a little trend here to Texas women, strong Texas women.
TURNERWell, it seems so. I know. I didn't know she was doing that and she didn't know I was working on Molly. It just sort of happened at the same time.
SMITHNorman Lear, when you look at the different issues that you raised in television programs that you wrote and produced over the years, and if you were to do one now, is there an issue that would jump out at you that you'd want to get at?
LEARThere is and I wrote the script about a year ago. It's about your generation and mine, Kathleen's generation, your generation. I'm assuming we're a three -- any over 55 up to 105, 107, people in retirement, the elderly. And ask me the title.
SMITHWhat is the title?
LEARGuess who died? And I love it. A number of people that related to networks and cable networks and so forth have loved it. Nobody will put it on.
SMITHThey simply don't believe there's an audience for it?
LEARIt's still an 18 to 39 prejudice -- a demographic prejudice, despite the fact that our numbers increase all the time. We probably have the most expendable incomes and we have talent galore.
SMITHAnd a film, "The Best Marigold Hotel."
TURNER"The Most Exotic Marigold."
SMITHI'm sorry, "The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel" is showing that there is an audience for real characters who have real problems in their life and who are not 18 to 34.
TURNEROh, what a cast that is.
LEARBut they're all people for the American way.
SMITHKathleen Turner, how did you get into the political activism that you've referenced here? And what drove you to that and what drives you now?
TURNERWell, I think essentially I was brought up by parents who believe very firmly that it is our job -- everyone's job to be aware of other people's needs, and those who are more fortunate to be able to help others in less fortunate situations. And so that was always an element of my upbringing. When I was 11 I was volunteering in Caracas, Venezuela at an orthopedic hospital, you know, this sort of thing once a week.
TURNERSo it's a natural progression for me but now as I have so much wonderful exposure through my body of work, through my time, you know, of the work that I have done as an actress, I've gotten such a wide range of opportunities to meet people and situations. It only makes it more imperative to me to be involved with issues I believe in.
SMITHI'm Terence Smith. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call us at 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. The theater today, I'd ask both of you this, is in a very tough economic climate. And I wonder how you see it today as something that is breaking new ground or trying to stand pat?
LEARThe question motivates me to give you an answer that is directly related to the question but I think more and more that when the world saves itself -- and it requires saving, and I'm not talking in a religious sense -- the door will be opened by the arts. And the politicians and the policies and so forth will follow, music, painting, architecture, theater. And the best example I know of a gift to sanity in our time is the Book of Norman running now.
SMITHAnd usually successful.
LEARAnd usually successful, but it is an absolute gift to sanity, although 100 percent comedy.
TURNERYeah, something I've never quite been able to understand, when this country started to say that it wasn't important to teach civics anymore, you know, the responsibilities and the rights of being a citizen, that the arts were unnecessary, that this was all luxury that could not be afforded. What I don't understand from this thinking is that what we have from previous cultures that preceded us are the arts. We have the writings, we have the paintings, we have the architecture, we have the music. This is what survives in a civilization. And this is what we should be responsible for passing on.
LEARAnd the man who Governor Romney has chosen to advise him on judicial appointments is Robert Bork who has said of the Civil Rights Act that it was unsurpassed ugliness and has said of the First Amendment that it does not protect music, art...
SMITHAnd the government of course has been, what's the right word, cherry in its support of the arts. And I think that is only more prevalent now in this congress. Coming up, your calls and questions for our two guests Norman Lear and Kathleen Turner. We'll be right back.
SMITHWelcome back. I'm Terence Smith sitting in for Diane Rehm. And I have the pleasure of being in the studio with Norman Lear, the great producer, and Kathleen Turner, the great actress.
SMITHAnd so it is a pleasure to have you and we have any number of people calling in who wanna talk to you. For example, Gail is in Washington, D.C. Gail, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
GAILHello everyone. How are you?
GAILThis is such a privilege for me, I have to tell you. Mr. Lear, first of all, happy birthday. I can't believe you'll be 90.
LEARThank you. Neither can I.
GAILSeveral years ago I was the voice over for your annual gathering here in D.C., People for the American Way. It was so much fun. You were wonderful. Everything was wonderful.
LEARWell, come tomorrow night.
GAILI will come tomorrow night.
GAILDo I need an invitation? I need an invitation.
LEARYou have the invitation right now.
GAILWell, thank you very much. I would love it.
LEARI'm very serious about it. Call People for the American Way.
GAILI will call. Thank you so much.
GAILAnd we really need your voice. Progressives really need to keep hearing your strong forceful voice, so thanks for all your great work. And if I may say two other things very quickly, Kathleen Turner, my husband and I saw you perform on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" As Martha you were fabulous.
TURNERThank you. And, Terence Smith, this really goes back decades. I was an intern at the New York Times, Washington bureau when I was very, very young.
LEARWell, you covered a lot of ground here.
SMITHI'm sure you were an outstanding intern.
GAILI was a good intern.
SMITHThanks so much for your call, Gail.
GAILThank you so much. I appreciate it all. And I will call People for the American Way. And we have the same cause. I'm with the YWCA USA, so we are fighting for the same rights.
LEARGood. See you tomorrow.
SMITHTerrific. Thank you very much. Let's go now to Mike in Dallas, Texas. Mike, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
MIKEHi, thank you. I just wanted to thank Mr. Lear for the many years of great entertainment that he's brought us and helping to make us laugh and helping to make us think, and the wonderful gift of discovering and letting us know about Carroll O'Connor who I still marvel at today. He was one of my favorite actors. This guy could act with just his eyes. If you were to bound up his whole face, he could do the entire production with only his eyes. It's amazing. I loved Carroll O'Connor. And I hope that you'll be around many more years to give us some more (unintelligible)
LEARThank you very much. I wish you to have every hope.
SMITHI'm sure you want that. But tell us about Carroll O'Connor as an actor.
LEARCarroll O'Connor as an actor, it may -- I don't know which came first, the idea to do the great close-ups came from me or it came from his face and my reaction to his every expression. But if you look at "All in the Family" compared to any of the current shows, you will find these faces on giant close-ups all the time where those great reactions came from. Probably started with that glorious face of Carroll's. Interestingly enough, because his name was O'Connor, because he's clearly Irish, everybody said, you have to name him as an Irishman. If it comes up, he's Irish.
LEARI said, no, I'm not gonna make a bigot of any particular race or religion or, you know, it's just not gonna happen. And that's the...
LEAR...magic of theater and good performance is nobody ever raised the question.
SMITHHence the name Archie Bunker which was sort of neutral and...
SMITH...and American and not particularly identifiable. Kathleen Turner, you were a young woman. Did you watch "All in the Family" and enjoy it?
TURNERYes, when I could. Oh, yeah, when I could. I actually had lived outside the country until 18 because my father was a diplomat. So I came back to the United States in '72, '73. So I actually was actually catching up on American culture through "All in the Family." I mean, to me it was, oh, this is what's going on here, because I was so out of touch.
SMITHAnd I believe it was one of those stints abroad when your father was alive and in the diplomatic corp. that you were in London, that you got interested in the theater and...
SMITH...what you saw and heard.
TURNERYeah, when I -- I moved to London when I was 13 I suppose and, yes, that was when it crystallized that I could make a career as an actress, was what I saw.
SMITHLet's go to Rosie in Birmingham, Ala. Rosie, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
ROSIEIt's amazing that both of you are there. Kathleen, before I got to see "Body Heat," there were a young man that came to my job and he goes, you gotta go and see this movie. She reminds me so much of you.
ROSIEAnd I was like, what's the title of the movie? He goes, "Body Heat." And...
TURNERAnd you went, oh, thank you.
ROSIEAnd I'm thinking, okay, what does this woman do in the movie? But I saw it. And every time I see that movie or I've seen that movie, I think, okay, what did he see in her character? But I wanna say this, it's amazing that you are there with Mr. Lear. Mr. Lear...
ROSIE...you may not remember, but many, many years ago I was probably about 15 or 16 and I loved "Maude," I loved "All in the Family," I watched "Good Times" and I sat there and I wrote you a letter and told you, Mr. Lear, I hate "Good Times" because of -- and I gave you all of the reasons why. And it was amazing. I never expected to hear from you. You sent me an application and offered me to write a movie or write a series and send it to you. I never acted on it. But I was impressed that you listened to me. And then I was looking for my favorite station on the radio. And this particular station kinda caught my attention and I stopped. I've never listened to this show before.
ROSIEAnd there is Norman Lear. And I've told people before. I've said, I wrote him and he wrote me back.
SMITHWell, that's a terrific story.
LEARThat's a great story.
SMITHThat's a great story, Rosie. Thank you so much.
LEARNice to run into you again, Rosie.
SMITHYeah, thank you.
ROSIEAnd I wanna tell you happy -- wish you a happy birthday.
ROSIEAnd also to you, Kathleen Turner.
TURNERAnd to let you know, Mr. Lear, I'm 54 now and I have written my first script.
SMITHWell, there you go.
LEARWell, you have an open invitation...
TURNERGood for you.
LEAR...to send it to me.
ROSIEI would love to. If you could -- if you would, tell me how I would be able to do so.
SMITHI think we can do that through the producers on the broadcast and we'll do it.
SMITHThank you for your call, Rosie, very, very much.
ROSIEThank you. Bye-bye.
SMITHI wonder, you both are active in what can broadly be called the progressive movement. What do you think of the state of that movement right now in American politics? We're obviously in an election year. Kathleen Turner?
TURNERAll right. I'll go first. I think in many ways it is as solid as it ever has been. One of the problems with being more liberal, more progressive is we don't organize as well. We're not as rigid as say a tea party group that tells its group, its people what it will think and what it will do. We don't react very well to that sort of thing, so it makes us seem a little less organized, but our hearts are true.
SMITHAnd so message discipline is not the strength of the movement, Norman Lear?
LEARI would say the movement is in certain regards quite timid. Years ago we seeded the best conversation going. What's it all about, Alfie? We seeded God, we seeded values, we seeded moral values, we seeded family values, we seeded all of that stuff to the right as if it doesn't belong to us also. Not belongs to us, but belongs to us also. And we have for too long ignored that best conversation going. And they own it.
SMITHHere's an interesting email from Steve in Charlotte who addressed to you, Norman Lear, what challenges, he asked, did you face by introducing the country to George Jefferson and Fred Sanford? Was it a problem? Was it tough developing black characters and getting them accepted broadly on television?
LEARWell, it was tough to start with. As soon as, you know, the adage, nothing succeeds like success, as soon as "Sanford and Son" and one of the great clowns of the world, Red Fox.
TURNERRed Fox, yeah.
LEAR...lit up that show, it was easier to get "Good Times" on. And when "Good Times" was on, the only reason there was "The Jeffersons" was because the black press was complaining that why couldn't -- why can't we see a upwardly mobile black family. And so they gave us license to create "The Jeffersons." And it successfully...
SMITHAnd a great deal...
SMITHAnd a great deal followed from that.
SMITH"The Cosby Show" and others that came along and portrayed such a family. Here's a call from Amy in Greensboro, N.C. on that subject of investment in the arts. Amy, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
AMYThank you. I just wanted to thank both of you, Mr. Lear and Kathleen, for being the voice that challenges the social norm. But Greensboro did quite the opposite of many municipalities several years ago. They began investing in the arts, theater, music, galleries, and really promoting this and making Greensboro kind of the hub in North Carolina for this cultural and artistic Mecca almost and they have seen measurable increase in economic growth because of this, and wanted to know if you guys knew about it or what you thought about that.
TURNERIs the School of the Arts there?
AMYThere is a School of the Arts.
TURNER'Cause I think I've been down there and done a master class for you all.
TURNERI think I've done a master class there in my travels. But I think you make a very good point and it's very encouraging point that, as you say, becoming a Mecca for the arts has also been economically profitable.
LEARThat's great news for America. How do we get that word out more?
SMITHBut that support for the arts that she is talking about is local and not national.
TURNERDoesn't have to be.
LEARAnd it is also the most healing and nothing brings us together across the globe like the arts.
AMYThank you for your time.
SMITHYou bet. Thank you so much for your call.
LEARThank you for your call.
SMITHWe appreciate it. Kathleen Turner, you've mentioned that, I mean, we knew that you're going to play Molly Ivins coming up soon. Is there another role in shows that you've seen or that you know is out there that you'd love to play right now?
TURNEROh, well, I am. I do have my role -- I do have a role after Molly that I'm already working on because I'm taking the next step in personal challenge perhaps is the right way to say. I'll be directing and playing the lead in my next production which is "The Killing of Sister George." We'll be taking it to the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn.
SMITHTerrific. I'm Terence Smith and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take another call. Nara is in Houston, Texas. And, Nara, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
NARAGood morning everybody.
NARAGood morning. I moved to America about 20 years ago. And one of the first things I kinda discovered America through was "All in the Family" and some of the movies that Kathleen Turner starred in, so she is my idol. You're my idol for many years.
NARABut one of the things that I kind of discovered here is that not so easy access to foreign movies. And in local theaters in you can find very rarely one theater maybe in town that will show foreign movies. I don't know why it is this way that every movie theater -- well, most likely maybe because if it's money making movies more found to be the movies there will show the movie that's making more money. But I would like to see something in America that will bring more foreign movies because there's so many wonderful movies.
TURNERWell, I'll tell you something that I find very hopeful, very encouraging nowadays, is the independent filmmaking that due to a lot of the technology, the development and technology, filmmaking can be done much less expensively and much more -- with much more access to -- and now but the difficulty has always been, as you've pointed out, in the release, how do we get the films out there, be they're foreign or anything that isn't the product of a major studio. Now we have -- oh, I think I just had an independent open and you can download it on iTunes, on ViOS, on On-Demand, on, you know, all -- so access is so much greater now that I think that is most encouraging and will allow for a bigger -- a much wider variety of topics and treatments.
SMITHNorman Lear, do you see that as well?
LEARNo, I agree. I think there's much more attention being paid right now to documentaries and inexpensive films and so forth. My wife sits on the board of the Sundance Film Festival, so I'm hearing a great deal more than other years about the amount and also the value, the excitement around films that come from kids everywhere.
SMITHThat festival in Park City, Utah has now -- I mean, it's the launching pad for a fair number of the films.
SMITHWell, listen, I wanna thank Kathleen Turner and Norman Lear who have been there, who have come in and talked with us this morning, who are here to celebrate his birthday, a very big birthday, and a very big birthday for People for the American Way.
LEARAt the Kennedy Center tomorrow evening.
SMITHWell, there you go. All right. Thank you both.
TURNERThank you, Terence.
SMITHI'm Terence Smith sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Megan Merritt, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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