tv Biography Media Political History CSPAN August 10, 2019 1:30pm-3:06pm EDT
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] >> night were watching american history tv. every weekend beginning saturday at 8:00 eastern, we bring you 48 hours of unique programming exploring our nation's past. american history tv is only on c-span three. >> next, from purdue university, biographers talk about their subjects in political history. jr, jimlude sammy davis and tammy faye baker, and muhammad ali. this talk was part of a two-day conference called remaking american political history. welcome. thank you for attending our discussion on this beautiful friday afternoon. i will have to compete with the outdoors. and hopefully will convince you that you have made the right
choice hanging out with us to biographiesedia and in political history. between the four of us we have written at least 17 biographies, it might be more than that, i was losing count because randy roberts had written so many, more than half of our total number. we have a lot of experience in this genre, we have been drawn to it and have an affinity for it in some way or another. panelists.oduce the as i introduce each of you, if you could spend a minute or two telling the audience, what was it that drew you to biography? what is it that you love about the genre? first we have larry, professor and -- in the graduate acting program in the new york university of the arts with an affiliate in the graduate musical theater writing program. he particularly interested in
the history of broadway and comedy, and has written the biography of richard roberts -- richard rogers and several other books. his most recent is a documentary film, sammy davis jr.: i gotta be me. what has drawn you to biography? >> i maybe a little different from the rest of the panel. my venue is entertainment. in entertainment, you are dealing with a public persona of performers, what they sang, danced, acted, and what happened behind the curtain is fascinating as you try to make sense out of what a performer did publicly with what were his or her motivations in the context of the time. change.nds and taste particularly in american entertainment to make them in or out of favor. i have already -- always been interested in that dialectic
between on and off stage and hopefully when we talk more about sammy davis jr, that's more persuasive. >> thank you. professor at the history department at the university of missouri, columbia. he's interested in religious history, particularly methodism. he was also on my committee when i took my comprehensive exams and when i wrote my dissertation . so i'm glad i'm asking you the questions this time. he has written biographies on jim and tammy faye baker's evangelical empire. can you tell us about it? >> thank you emily, and thank you for putting this together. do you still only a paper? >> no! >> i imagine. enke. i don't think of myself as a biographer and never thought of
myself that way. in my mind i don't research or write any differently than when i do biographies versus anything else. i think the advantage that biographies have is that it lends itself to the good story -- to a good story well told. you can reach a broad audience with the story that has a lot of human drama. that's not a bad thing. i think that is what drew me to writing what turns out to be biographies. emily set i wrote a book a few guy who i think is endlessly fascinating, important, and nobody read it. and i sat back after doing that and i thought this is a lot of work. if i'm going to do this, i'm gonna write about topics i care about and i think are important.
and's when i did the jim tammy faye baker biography. [indiscernible] >> oh so i need to start over? thank you. and randy roberts is the professor at the history department at purdue university, he is particularly interested in african-american in sports history. he's written biographies of mike tyson, john wayne, charles lindbergh, joe lewis, jack dempsey, ronald reagan, joe namath, a team biography of the pittsburgh steelers. his most recent biographical
works as blood brothers, the fatal friendship of malcolm x and muhammad ali, and a season in the sun, the rise of mickey mantle. could you tell us about your interest in this genre? me,his is perfect for political history and biography, popular culture. i have seen myself as working at the intersection between political history, political culture, and popular culture. performers, like you. actors, athletes. but i've never been interested in writing a book about an athlete who was just an athlete, or an actor who was just an actor, somehow they have to engage in a wider political culture, like john wayne or muhammad ali, they clearly became iconic, and you could tell their politics, if i talk to someone about john wayne, their attitudes on john wayne
will usually tell me a great deal about their politics. or their attitudes on muhammad ali will do the same thing. thinking a quote, about how i could tie these things together, how can i tie politics, this is a political conference, with biography and popular culture. so i found a boxing quote i wanted to read to you. it was to turn tony -- to turn two ton tony, before he fought joe lewis, he fought in feldman on george washington's birthday. he's trying to build up the fight, and he wants to say something about american history , something about american politics. with the crucial questions of his day.
this is the quote. true, itbly this is came from a journalist, we will say. he's trying to say something about george washington, and build up the fight at the same time. he said, it's high time the south came to know and love washington as we know when love him north of the equator. why can't we forget the civil war and its petty grudges? washington may have freed the slaves, but he also invented the lightning rod. let the north and south class the hand of friendship on old hickory's birthday and try to get there early. so anyone who could conflate road washington, abraham lincoln, andrew jackson, and benjamin franklin is truly the sage of orange, new jersey. and i have more on biography but maybe we can get to it as we go along. and i am emily raymond, a professor in the history
department at virginia commonwealth university. my area of focus, until now, has been hollywood in politics. i've written biographies on blackon heston, and celebrities in the civil rights movement called star for freedom -- starved for freedom. i did not think of myself is going into the biography genre. i wanted to write about charlton heston, this was my dissertation topic. when he was the president of the national rifle association -- but i also knew he had been involved in democratic administrations and the civil rights movement before he came to the gun because and supporting republican candidates. i was fascinated about his that set, and what about american political culture. i started with that.
in my next book i had no intention of it being a biography. it was just going to generally be about celebrities in the civil rights movement. but the more i looked at it, the more it became very clear that there were about six who were really leading figures in the civil rights movement and they deserve to be recognized as the earliest, most consistent, most effective celebrity supporters. i decided to turn it into a group biography with this leading six at the forefront. now my next book is going to be a dual biography. i've come to really love the genre, because it's a great way to look at these fascinating people in american political culture, and the dynamic tapering to making change, in particular. that is my spiel. out,ss one thing to point
is that biography has a lot more variety than people think. a lot of people think it's a book about one person. but randy's book, blood brothers, is about malcolm x and muhammad ali. the book on ptl is about jim and starved forand freedom is a group biography. it does not have to be about one person. what i wanted to ask you all, what other ways can there be thanvariety to biography might first meet the eye? two quick things. i'm also a documentarian. half of my work has been nonfiction publications and have my work has been filled. obviously on film if you're doing sammy davis jr, you have a
whole different canvas to work on. use performances in juxtaposition to other performances as a way of creating tension. ae other thing, i worked on companion book to another six-hour documentary series i did called make them laugh, the funny business of america. it was essentially american comedy from chaplain to sarah silverman. the director and i realized that if you are going to do a film -- i did a companion book and wrote the documentary episodes. but if you were going to go ok, here's american comedy, let's start in 1906 with charlie chapman, buster keaton, mae west, your first hour would entirely be silent, black-and-white, and people would stop watching.
aboutorced us to think the taxonomy we wanted to create in terms of gaining biographical figures together. we realized in america there were six great comedic archetypes, situation comedies, geeks and nerds, wiseguys, political satire. physical comedians. each generation turned out their own version in a way that really reflected the demographics of america. one way to do that was an .pisode with the wiseguys it's groucho, but not the marx brothers, and red fox who took on that tradition and eddie murphy who took on that tradition. rethinking way of categories and group biography that would give it more spark,
rather than simply doing things chronologically. they were chronologically in a completely different rubric. interesting way to bring variety to the genre. any other thoughts? >> what was the question? there's more variety to biography than i think we first think of. people think it's about one person and you chronologically go through their life. that's the formula. what other formulas have you tried? biography ise dual an interesting approach. it is certainly the one that i used with muhammad ali and that i x, and the book wrote with johnny smith on blood brothers. the number of the books i have
done, have been not a full biography but looking at a person at a particular time. a crucial time in their life. i have done the full biography, and if you do someone like john wayne, a person's life is not interesting all the time. it's a fact. it's not crucial at one time. take one segment, what you think might be the most crucial, and dig deeper. tell us a wider story then you could if you did the full beginning to end biography is a way to approach it. >> and that's what you did with mickey mantle's biography. host: it's the right -- >> it's the rise of 56. >> before 1956. he was a failure -- if he could
have been a failure. a failure in terms of expectations, he came up to the yankees into spring training. he was hitting the ball over the moon when they were playing during the daytime,. everyone said yogi berra and all of the players on the team said he's going to be the next to maggio. the next babe ruth, the next lou gehrig's. everyone expected him to perform immediately like garrick, dimaggio, bruce. they were great, but mickey would show signs of brilliance, greatness, but he would get injured, he would not hit in the clutch. bullying him, he was solitary, mad, uncommunicative. then he has a breakout season where he wins the triple crown
and becomes the mickey mantle of met -- of legend. and that is where you end the book. extent, i think what i've done with biographies is .ore group biography and that fully interesting people out when they are interesting. times when jim and tammy are the most interesting people in the room but other times when they are not. of biographytage is that it allows you to weave a hey narrative -- to weave a narrative that's interesting. but it's not just to tell the story of someone's life, it's to make larger points. to draw out a story that transcends them, even if they are at the center of it for a large part of the time.
one of the most common critiques i have heard about biographies is that it's one -- from that standpoint it might feel like it does not have the same intellectual have ---- intellectual have to heft, as opposed to voting patterns of a certain time. how do you respond to that critique? that is just one person? >> it's tough to make that a generic statement, because people become interesting and different times forward. people --ck on certainly in the theater when we did the broadway documentary, there were people who were fascinating in their time and lost to history, like ethel waters, a great african-american performer, the most highly paid
entertainer in new york city, and mae west who was arrested and sent to rikers for violating decency acts, and they faded away. then the world changes in their stories are interesting again. i think a great biography has velcro. forward and it will pick up a life in a way, and when we worked on the sammy davis jr documentary, it was shocking to me, as somebody who knew him, he was a venn diagram. on one level he knew ethel bill waterson. archie bunker, and eddie cantor. wase intersection of lives tremendous. his life was revelatory of when he lived. that's what we always look for.
sammy davis jr was one of the most challenging subjects i ever came across. he was contradictory, and someone i really had to wrestle with to try to figure out how to characterize. the way you do it in the film, by giving him these different categories, activist, entertainer. >> singer, impressionist, hipster. we tried to categorize the chronology of his life in the guises that he took on, or felt that he had to take on, for us to haunt him in his life. i think entertainment is like sports. you are choosing what songs you are singing, what plays you will act in. those have tremendous circumstances. you had the ball out of the
ballpark or you don't. you are looking at these things going on simultaneously but as a performer you are looking at the choices they make. what are they choosing to portray. what are they choosing to be about. that is such a vacuum of the time in which they live. davise footage of sammy when he was five years old, tap dancing. and three months before he died, tap dancing. within that bracket you can accomplish a lot if you are clever. >> i would say the jim and tammy faye baker book is not just about jim and tammy faye, right? >> no. it's about the entire organization and events. weightyness of biography, i don't see how it
would suffer in comparison to other nonfiction writing. if your sources are good, you can tell a rich story. your political history is often the history of the aggregate. biography's history of individuals. excitement to biography, joy to it. if i could tell one story of a biographer i like, a guy by the name of richard holmes, has anyone heard of him? he was in english biographer of the romantic period. he did a thick book on shelley, a tube biography on coal rich -- he did a thick book on shelley. he wrote a book about robert
louis stevenson, before he with kidnapped, dr. jekyll, and treasure island, and those books. he read this book, and robert a donkeyvenson took through the appellation region of france. he was intrigued by the beyond graffiti -- by the biography of robert louis stevenson, who was moving to his mid-to-late 20's. he had not written anything strict calvinist parents, when are you going to get a job? when are you going to do something with your life? and maybe richard holmes felt the same way, is there a life in poetry? all of the angst a 19-year-old would have. robert louis stevenson was going through a love problem,
relationship problem, maybe holmes was, i don't know. but he decided to reproduce the donkey.ns but with a very stylish hat. he starts off sleeping under the bridgehe crosses over a to a place called langone you -- langonia. he can smell garlic in the crush fruit from the stalls, children are coming out and playing. people are taking walks. and he has this overwhelming that he isnition, going to meet robert louis stevenson. he is serious. this is the 1960's, what else brought that on i don't know.
but he has this premonition, he starts pacing the streets and looking into the cafes, the saloons, the hotels, he's looking for him. bridge,the river, the and then he sees another bridge. crumbled,dge that is ivy-covered, does not span the river anymore, washed out, that is the bridge that robert louis stevenson came in through. it acts as a metaphor for what we do as a biographer. reach thoseg to subjects, trying to talk with the subjects, we are interrogating people who are no longer alive in many cases. we talked to friends if they are recently departed are still around, we read the sources. an all-consuming
, butrsation with people sometimes i'm not sure it is a one my conversation. people will see other biographers, every biographer i've spoken to -- something went dental has happened. up, theyments show seem to stumble across something. it shouldn't happen, but it does happen. there may be a two-way conversation. you are shaking your head -- sammy of the things about davis jr, in particular, about 89, he, when he died in owned more money to the irs than any individual in american history at that point, meaning all of his stuff was locked up. this was pbs, lawyers, heirs,
whatever. finally his adoptive son said he had two storage lockers in burbank, do you want to see them? so we got on the flight right now, we will be there in six hours, don't go anywhere. packrat,gh, he was a no pun intended, kept everything. he had all of this stuff which was like el dorado for us. we were doing all of that, then we were playing interview las vegas for jerry lewis. i'm sure you know this, but if you have gone through any scrapbook and you have yellowed leaves detritus on the ground. after two days in this storage locker, the floor was like a tickertape parade. there was so much of this on the
floor and all of a sudden i was picking stuff up and there was this card. serious -- seros, which was where he made his big break. it was the kind of thing you find on a table. these were his notes the night -- this isy davis jr the night that jerry lewis saw sammy davis jr.. the next day we took it and we were able to say to jerry 68is, have you seen this in years? and that allowed him to talk about it, i remember it like it was yesterday. and he gavecame in me this advice and it changed my life. this golden ticket was just lying there. >> sammy made it happen.
a two-way conversation. wanted to talke about was the use of media as source material. and as evidence. the kind to talk about of media you consulted, and what insights they gave you. do you want to start, john? >> sure. one of the fun things about doing the project was that i got to speak to living people. which i have never done. i did get my comeuppance, sometimes you find out the living are less cooperative than dead and what the they will and won't tell you. the other fun thing was the range ofthe newspaper sources, l transcripts. i learned that good trial
transcripts, a good prosecutor does half your work for you. more than half, because they can compel people to say under oath things that they do not want to say. trial transcripts and video. in this case, jim and tammy lived their lives on the screen, so does week. it is similar -- so to speak. it is similar to your story, over 20,000 hours of their television show was in the hands of a private collector, and i started trying to find this. at one point, the guy called me up and offered to sell me 20,000 had inf videotape he four tractor-trailers. it ended up going to the assemblies of god archives in springfield, missouri, and i got to use it there, which was obviously a much better home for it, but i am not sure how to address your question. the range of sources, and a lot of them were media.
was one of the great things about working on this. you work with people who have lived their life in the public eye, they leave a big footprint. there is a lot to work with. >> did you watch all 20,000 hours? >> know i couldn't, and it is probably good that i didn't, because it is seven hours, 24 hours a day. the 1970's and 1960's was on a variety of different film medias, including two inch quad perplexed tape, -- druplexflects -- qua tape, and the archive could only afford to digitize a few hundred hours at a time. i think i only ended up with 300 to 400 hours in the end. they let me select what to digitize out of the collection,
as far as we can tell, but the vast majority of it still sits there, slowly decomposing. >> randy, one of the things about your brother's book, you and about how muhammad ali -- had a strong relationship that was underappreciated and in some cases, it was actually in the public eye. you went back to old media sources -- can you talk about that? >> yes. it wasn't in the public eye. here you have muhammad ali, before he is muhammad ali, when he is cash is clay -- cassius clay, and he wants to become the heavyweight champion of the world. he needs malcolm x., and he is influenced by malcolm x. and you can see him start to embrace the nation of islam.
isthe word gets out that he a black muslim, that he is a member of the nation of islam, he is probably never going to get a chance to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. he is going to be toxic at that time. taxing is going through a period -- boxing is going through a period that has all sorts of problems. they do not need a champion who is aligned with a movement that in the 1960's was considered a hate movement. johnny smith and i, we worked on it together, we were able to find an incredible amount of material on malcolm giving speeches and mohammed ali giving speeches -- muhammad ali giving speeches, and one of the things we were able to construct, we would watch malcolm say something, use a metaphor or a story. shortly afterwards, you would see muhammad ali using the same story, the same metaphor or
example. the great thing about muhammad ali, he was a wonderful person, if you told him something, if you told him a story, the next day he would tell a story, tell it again, and 30 soon you would think he was the origin of the story. he would tell it better than anyone else would tell it. he was great at telling stories. using that medium. was good. was good.hat medium and john wayne, there were roughly 200 films that he made, and you could see him progress, his art progress, his character progress. that iconic individual, how it evolved over time. i have one more story and it is an interview story for the john wayne book. again, it was a serendipitous moment. to get an interview with a woman by the name of mary st.
, who was john wayne's personal secretary his entire career. she had never really been interviewed by anybody. she was living in kansas city at that time, right outside of insas city, and said oh, don't know, i don't know anything more than anybody else .nows -- ok can we come out and talk to you? ok, sure. we show up at 9:30 in the morning and i start asking questions, and she said no, no. i do not want to answer questions. let me just talk. let me just tell you, tell us a story. it was like therapy. clearly she was in love with john wayne -- not romantic, she just admired the guy, nothing salacious. she was on every set with him, she was his personal secretary,
she went on every set. and you have actors that are performing in the movies on set, then you have people behind this set, hairdressers and makeup people who have nothing to do all day long except gossip. , whoe knew every gossip was sleeping with who in hollywood at this time, what was going on, it was incredible. i took her to lunch, she kept talking, took her to dinner , she kept talking. the first interview lasted close to 17 hours. [laughter] i had all material that not -- it allowed me to see john wayne in a different way. i am rambling, i am sorry. >> i wants to pose this to the rest of my panelist. we interview people who work with people, we interviewed jerry lewis, but billy crystal, who not only went on to impersonate sammy davis on
television, but actually opened for him for many years. they had this backstage knowledge. i find the people you interview, it is important to go in there knowing that you know more -- you may know more about them than they do, and not necessarily to say oh, this is the horses mouth, as it were, so therefore i will hear everything unfiltered. sometimes, the more you throw stuff out, the more you contradict them, you get more interesting stuff out of them. >> do you sometimes find that your best interviews are people that are not used to being interviewed? if you interview celebrities -- you ask questions -- i remember when i dealt with jack dempsey. i would ask him a question and it would remind him of another question, and he would never answer the question, but give me a soft answer i have heard many has before. their persona. but like a makeup artist, they are not used to being
interviewed. sometimes i think you get better stories. do you find that? >> sometimes. i also think if you have some sort of documentation you can present them with. i did american masters on richard rodgers, who had two daughters that were very successful in their own right. he had written something in his biography that said if i kept working with larry into the 1940's, i would have ended up being crazy or being an alcoholic, or both. and in fact, we know that he was both. i read that quote to his daughter -- what do you make of hymn writing that in his autobiography? she said well, he did become both. the fact that he could write that he wasn't when he actually was, and we had to put it in a drink take before he opened a big show in 1954, block, blah, blah. if you have something they wrote or said earlier, it can pose a disjunction.
you wants to create some sort of improvisation out of people, because that is when the best stuff comes out. >> so the key is when you interview somebody, really do your homework. know what you are looking for. sometimesg pictures helps, going to an actual location and seeing what they think about it, what they remember, or contradicting them with something that somebody else has said and have their reaction, so that way they are not arguing with you, they are trguing with the person tha you brought in the quote about, so it is not confrontational. >> people's perceptions have changed, and whose experiences would be interpreted differently now, they will tell a different story than maybe they told 30 years ago. what i have in mind is, one of the best interviews i had for the ptl book was jessica hahn. story in theher
late 1980's and the early 1990's. but that was the way different time that her story would be looked at, especially post me to movement.etoo it offered an entirely different take from all of this evidence, interviews and videos i had of her from 30 years ago. it is wonderful to dive back into the story 30 years later in an entirely different context. and someone who had lived thinking about that for 30 years, and someone who is thinking about how it changed. >> another thing that all of our subjects have in common is that they all seem to bring something new to the media landscape. something exciting or something different, something revolutionary. could you all talk a little bit about what that is? our work on it or the subject
we have written about? >> the subject you have written about. >> annalee, she is quite modest about it, she appears quite wonderfully in our documentary and is able to able to compartmentalize contributions to the civil rights movement, when he was pushed out of the spotlight after he died for complex reasons. harry did not speak to us -- did you speak to harry? >> i tried. >> yeah. if you are doing semi-davis, junior and talking about someone for whom the spotlight was breakfast, lunch and dinner. so it is like your 20,000 hours of videotape, we had almost too much material. but in a visual documentary, which hopefully you will get to see, if you know you have , we hadg in the back
we didrformances that if not know we had them, we did not know that we could license them, digitize, and show them, we would have to write about something else. you do not want jesse jackson, quincy jones or whoever to say oh, there is a night in 1972 in chicago, i will never forget it, we have to have that footage. we have the footage of his groundbreaking performance on "all in the family." we were able to build our interviews back from that, but again, i am talking about documentary biography, which is a visual and auditory medium. i would say that sam is davis -- sammy davis, jr., john wayne, muhammad ali, sometimes you deal with people who are in embarrassment of riches, and the question is what to leave on the cutting room floor, whether it is a book or a documentary. >> and it is harder when you are
writing about performance than when you can just show it. as far as media source material and how sammy davis, junior brought something new to the media landscape, i think the most valuable thing for me was his appearances on variety shows , which in and of themselves do not sound that exciting, because they are usually just a few minutes and they are kind of in and out, but he in the 1950's was on at least -- this is what i could count -- 47 different variety show appearances. by seeing a number of them -- they are not all available -- but by seeing a number of them, i was able to realize that he brought something really new to television. most network programming was very stereotypical in the way that it showed african-american on television programs, like a sitcom. on these variety shows, he could come out and be himself and joke
around and have a familiar relationship and a semi-intimate relationship with the white people on the show that really that you integration just weren't seeing on network programming. that is how americans got to know sammy davis, junior. -- sammy davis, jr. most people do not go to nightclubs, they saw him on tv. he became so familiar and beloved, that is one of the reasons he was able to be a very effective civil rights activist. so his constant variety show presents, without that i think -- presence, without that i think it would have been a lot different. >> but daniels says in the documentary that him being embraced by a white performers, in some cases literally, was like a hand reaching out to an entire community.
based on knowing that we have that footage to show, we interviewed a number of black critics and professors who grew up during that time, and they said to me some of the most revelatory things we have on idea if- you have no you were an african-american family in detroit, atlanta, or new orleans, you would call each other up on the phone and they, oh my god, sammy is on the eddie cantor show, and everyone in the community would gather around, because it was so rare in the so rarebecause it was to see a black individual on a network television show. so you find it is important to stretch the canvas a little bit and say, like his performance. he sings really well here. black audiences felt about that in 1954 and get that context as well. >> to know that he was on was not enough. , and steve see it allen does too, mop his brow,
and they are like friends. it is very effective from that standpoint. john, what about jim and tammy? what did jim bring that was new to the media in the 1970's and 1980's? >> one way to describe it, the story has three layers to it. most people's entry points to the story was the sex and money scandal in the late 1980's. but one of the things you can do in telling that story is jump back earlier. why were these people celebrities? why did anyone care about white? -- why did anyone care at that point? there were a few revelations, the first one in the early 1960's, 1970's, baker created a new kind of christian talk show. he and tammy were smalltime pentecostalists, in the south,
and they would watch -- in the . 1960's. they would say, why can't someone do that, but christian? wasis first innovation creating this new format, the christian talk show that looked the tonightlot like show with johnny carson, it later looked like opera, it was innovative and something new. lateecond was in the 1970's, they figured out, because the small uhf station they were broadcasting in charlotte from was owned by ted turner, and they watched ted turner put his station up on satellite. they, in effect, created the first private satellite television network a year before espn went on the air. and it was innovative and dramatically expanded their audience, and it also produced a
tremendous amount of money. and that led to the third innovation, which was really their undoing as well. baker wanted to create a christian disneyland, and so he built heritage usa. in 1986, they had 6 million visitors. it was the third biggest theme park after disneyland and disney world. of theseave all innovations, a lot of them, and they revolve around media, the talkshow and the satellite network. and this is kind of what built them up to the point where the sex and money scandal mattered. but that is the entry point for most people. the service you can do is sort of pulling it back and telling that story that leads up to that. layer isink the third to further step back and say, why does any of this matter? what does this say about american culture and american religion? >> did other evangelicals
pattern themselves after him, with the satellite network and the television shows? >> yes, they did. actually, he was with pat robertson before he launched his own ministry and help create the 700 club, then he was in southern california and helps create the trinity broadcasting network. ande were many competitors people doing more or less the same thing. but as all of this is sort of developing and swirling around, they are one of the people at the center of the story. and they are just fun. i mean, tammy is endlessly engaging. everybody loves tammy. that is what i found out doing the book. she was someone that just, everyone loved her. she continues to have this in during following and present -- this enduring following and presence. >> they are discussing doing a
broadway musical about her. >> i think christian shadow it has one. with has one.eno i did a special on this, and it ended up being the best rated program for the station in a year. it pulled in the most humorous. -- most viewers. >> because of you. [laughter] >> and don't you say in your book that they sort of created, in a way, the first reality show? they are on tv so much? >> they did. yeah. their show was originally two hours a day. they did it unscripted. jim refused to script anything. the production people, and i talked to many of them, never knew what was going to happen next. and viewers tuned in because they love that. was sloppy and
ridiculous, but it was always unpredictable and fun. people tuned in just to see what would happen next. part of thewas undoing as well, the unscripted nature and how he started selling shares to heritage usa in a way that no one had approved in the organization? >> yeah, exactly. jim said anything and everything on television. when he finally went to trial, prosecutors were able to pull out the pieces he wanted. they were things he had said, and they were inappropriate and they were fraudulent, but he had said just about everything. if you wanted to find him saying anything on any topic, you could find it. >> because he was on for hours on end? >> yeah, unscripted. >> what about us, valley? -- what about, dolly -- what about muhammad ali? what did he bring to the table? type had a stereotypical
of athlete, the mickey mantle type of athlete. very few words, noncontroversial, you don't deal with politics, you stay away from everything controversial. muhammad ali was controversial. the day after he wins the title, conference, he announces that his name is no clay, he isus going by cassius x. then he is a member of the nation of islam, and he is going by -- he is political. he was a little bit ahead of his generation. he comes out against vietnam before it is a popular stance to take. so he completely changes the landscape for an athlete. thatanges the landscape
athletes have today, where they can take political positions. most of them don't, but they certainly can, and some do. >> i think that is an interesting then diagram, -- ise what we are talking am going to sort of in faye intoy lob tammy the entertainment category, but typically these are roads that have such tension when the wires get crossed, and we worked for a long time on a documentary we could not get made called actors in america, the offstage history of actors in america. 1865 is thein april most famous actor in america, and he was doing repertory in boston. when he finishes that show last night, frederick marshall's comes in, and they say, do you know about what you are rather did -- federal marshals come in and they say, do you know about
what your brother did? he is escorted out by federal marshals and was retired for five years from the stage, because he was a performer, and one of the greatest political incidents in american history's built into his lap. there was no precedent for how to toggle between those two things. worldsly, we live in a with basketball athletes and the post muhammad ali world where inletes are comfortable and some cases expected to be political. but in the entertainment world, it was to be avoided at all costs. davis said look, in the era of people who said literally, i do not have any prominence to make statements about this. i sing, i dance, i act. world --, until harry belafonte said, you have
to come down. gone davis, jr. had not across the mason-dixon you know what happen if you did, and he had to be dragged into selma kicking and screaming by harry belafonte. we know sean penn, susan sarandon, people like that gravitate towards a political stance easily, comfortably, and passionately. but that is not the extensive history of this country at all. those were lines you did not cross. you did it in peril of your entertainment career. of the things muhammad ali did when he was cassius clay, he was one of the athletes who was fabulously aware of the camera. he would do anything for publicity. he reppo a tree down at the bit to rent in greenwich village. he was really interested in --
>> saying a musical number on the ed sullivan show. musical lp.ut a he wanted to get in "life" magazine. life was big. sports illustrated was good, boxing magazines were good, but how do you get in "life" magazine? a photographer was taking pictures of him for "sports illustrated," and this photographer had "life" magazine pictures. muhammad ali new he took underwater pictures, he had done an underwater spread for "life" magazine. cassius clay says you know, i work out. i have a new workout regimen. it is underwater. it develops the tension and the punching better -- you ought to take pictures of it. the guy comes down with his underwater camera, his scuba diving gear, caught trails of
bubbled water coming out, and that endse great shots up in life magazine. cassius clay had never worked out underwater in his life. he could not swim. but he knew this was a way to get a new audience. the camera was important to getting a new audience, to spreading his name. think that is something important on these topics have in common, their relationship with the press and how sometimes it could be adversarial or sometimes it could be the celebrity playing the press, and other times it would be more of the opposite, where the press is playing them. mantle, ali, and mickey you talk a lot about sportswriters and what you saw, what they viewed as their role in terms of their subject. >> that was all media, too.
the 1920's, 19n 30's, 1940's, 1950's, up to the 1960's, the sports writer of the place -- sports writer was supposed to say what happened at the event. it is to build up the athlete. the athletes are godlike. etchede people like against the bluegray, the october sky, all of that thing. have a new's, you group of journalists. they called themselves chipmunks. what they do, they realize that people are seeing the fight on television. is all across america. the events are all across america. they need to get into the locker room and they need to tell more -- not building them up as athletes, but showing what they are really like.
we have a new form of journalism that is kind of an expose journalism. the landscape is changing, and muhammad ali comes into the world when that landscape is changing, and he is perfect. the chipmunks love him. whereis a great story, someone is interviewing muhammad and he is just spectacular. he is talking a mile a minute, giving the reporters everything they want, then joe lewis shows up. joe lewis said virtually nothing. he is a quiet guy. but all of the old sportswriters the oldimmy cannons, sportswriters go to talk to joe lewis. sportswriters says, where are you guys going? the story is here.
they said, joe lewis, you don't understand. you should have seen him when -- this is a new generation. >> but it is fascinating, because that is what i grew up with, the complicity of the that theyathlete, have more real a state in the media. they can show the fights now, so they do not have to be done on the microphone. i was always fascinated by the complicity between cosell and ali. and they must have worked out something that was mutually to their advantage in their relationship. >> no question about it. they both understood that the other was helpful to their career, was creating a larger thing. of course, all was probably more important to cosell then cosell was to ali, but they were in acts, really.
it was always an act. and they used the same routines over and over, your hair looks like a horse's tail or something like that for cosell's to upee. an analogy between that and the rat pack, sinatra and sammy davis, there were these public events that were magnified private events. sammy davis idolized sinatra, and in many ways, sinatra was better for sammy davis been sammy davis was for sinatra, but they had something that went on behind closed doors. they were able to sort of e into something that was considered a great double act in american entertainment. >> i listened on your radio station, and sometimes the rat pack will be there, sammy davis junior, and in an unbelievably condescending way that
dean martin and sinatra would treat sammy davis, jr. -- are 20 minutes in the documentary about that. to fill you in if you do not know, the rat pack were two anlians, a jew, and african-american that converted to judaism, and the son-in-law of the president. a lot of their humor was very --d-hitting, it was because because sammy was not only black, but the youngest of the had, was physically short. he was picked on a lot, and dean martin used to pick him up, and would like to thank the naacp for giving this tremendous award. oh, cut that out. ha ha ha. does not comey down on that side, because whoopi goldberg and billy
crystal, who are a sensitive to that, that is the way it was. of deant see the clips martin being told he was a about anti-italian jokes sinatra, but because of the world in which we live, the sammy stuff has bubbled to the surface. and it is interesting, with cosell and ali, it is a bit of a devil's bargain. ew that this was the biggest platform in america. playing with sinatra and getting access to all of that was the golden ticket to his career, and they genuinely loved each other, but again, the world spins around and i am sure, there are all sorts of things that are racially sensitive in our history that are looked one way when they happen, one way 30 years later, and another way 30 years after that. you have to be caught the tip of the way that ball is bouncing. cognitive it is -- be
of the way that ball is bouncing. describe jimyou and tammy bakker's relationship with the press? >> before the scandal, their biggest contact point was the charlotte observer, and that was a hostile relationship on both sides. again, it is the kind of relationship i do not think would happen today, between that kind of local newspaper and this enormous ministry, christian ministry and theme park right in their backdoor. right outside charlotte -- backdoor, right outside charlotte. everything changes when the scandal happens in 1987, and the highlight of this, they go on nightline with ted koppel, who was inordinately influential at the time. influential at a
time. it was the highlight of koppel's career, and he was criticized afterward for being too soft on them. wrote that he had "all the philosophy of an overweight house cat." koppel was on there, and they treat him really gently. they do not bring that up at all. he gets to reinterpret his interaction with jim and tammy. it proves that though nothing else, people did not know them, koppel did not have how to handle them, but they new media. they spend their entire careers on television. they knew how to handle television. they pretty much eight him alive that night. -- ready much -- pretty much ate him alive that night. [laughter] >> as biographers, we always have to grapple with the public
versus the private, and how much in these interviews are they really telling us about their private lives? one thing i found so interesting in your book, we could tell how stressed tammy faye was based on her makeup. [laughter] >> yeah, her makeup. it was really a mask that she wore to distance herself from the public. and all of the staff said, we could tell every day what kind of a mood tammy was in. the thicker her makeup, the worse her mood. i think that is -- >> you can almost use that as a source. >> sure. >> crosscheck what is going on in her life and see what kind of makeup she is wearing that day. [laughter] >> you actually could, and her hair. if she was wearing her natural, usually shorthair later in her career, or if she was wearing one of the big wakes she off -- big wigs she often wore.
the big wig was not a good day. [laughter] >> sort of stressful. >> exactly. [laughter] >> the other thing our subjects have in common, they were only somewhat interested in politics, or sometimes not interested in politics at all, but they still came to play an important role in political culture in the postwar era. so that is kind of my concluding theme before we turn it over to audience questions. larry, in the movie -- >> yeah, you hit the nail on the head. that is one major trajectory of telling his life, which he grew self segregated as you could be in america. not only was he black, he was an entertainer. when he managed to hitch his wagon to the magic that was the rat pack, the rat pack through
all of their weight behind john f. kennedy. we have some very wonderful, i think, commentary about how the rat pack represented a group of ethnic people coming together to support a young president. know, once the inauguration ball happened, sammy was actively disinvited by the white house because kennedy did not want to incur the wrath of some southern democrats he had dragged on board reluctantly. and sammy was totally disillusioned. i said,ragged, as somewhat kicking and screaming into the civil rights movement, but i think you might concur towards the end, certainly by the time martin luther king is assassinated, he is out on the front lines. fact, to emilie, in uncovered the information that he in-kind or out of his
pocket contributed more to the civil rights movement than any celebrity. then nixon comes along and starts today go bright, shiny things in front of him. an ambassadorship, speaking on the half of -- on behalf of of the black population. would you like to come to the white house and stay overnight in the lincoln bedroom? good to me,sounds and throws himself quite forcefully behind the nixon administration in 1972 and 1973. goes to visit vietnam on the administration's behalf, and is so tone deaf to his own community that the reverberations, i think, were felt for the rest of his life. that is when the documentaries started. performers are not excellent barometers of political taste or political action, and often find themselves quite thrown into the
wind, or back and forth on the boat depending on the shifting tides of the popular opinion of today. in a way, sammy's story is kind of a bit of a warning story about what happens when people who are frankly out of their league politically embrace causes that they may not know the deep consequences of. >> yeah. he was drawn more through personal collections then political ideology. thanrsonal collections political ideology. and after being shunned by the kennedy administration, you can see, how after he developed a relationship with nixon, he would be rooting for him. but it had such a devastating reputation on his reputation as an activist -- effect on his reputation as an activist. >> his reputation as an actor.
>> and before i came along and looked at his work as a civil rights activist early, it undermined his historical action . he was not interested in politics, politics played to him, then he played an important role in the racial and political culture. the same way with the bakkers. they were not interested in american politics, but they were on the front lines of this evangelical political culture in a way. >> this is one way this story can be useful today. throughout most of their careers, jim and tammy were very politically naive. they did not start with much of a political agenda at all. 1970's, they have a big following and they become attractive to politicians because they control a big audience. goes to the carter
white house, rides in air force one with jimmy carter, interviews ronald reagan on camera when reagan is running in 1980. in one sense you could say well, they are politically important. the problem is, if you start there and say these people are primarily political actors, you misunderstand them entirely. they are not political actors. the politics were a secondary thing. bakker loved about politics was the celebrity value of it, right? ride on airwant to force one or be photographed in the white house, shaking hands with the president or having lunch with the first lady? was their primary interest. the reason i say, i think it is -- inmative today formative today -- when people look at the so-called religious right and evangelicals, they say, these are political organizations. let's start there. if you start there, you
misunderstand them. sure, they might have a political involvement or a political footprint, but you will never understand them if you start there and say, this is all about politics. certainly in this case, it was not all about politics. the politics were secondary. did their scandal, the sexual and financial scandals, did those scandals hurt the religious right politically? >> that is a pretty broad category. it certainly hurt televangelists, and they weren't the only ones. swaggart,t -- jimmy roberts, at the same time they had their own meltdowns in a similarly spectacular fashion. it changed the way -- in the case of evangelicals, it changed the way they interacted with politics. but it didn't really
reshapes the context, because they were not primarily political organizations. their demise as an organization does not have any affect on that, because that is not what they were primarily about. ok. randy, one of the things that i learned from your book, the nation of islam discouraged politics. discouragedvoting, -- >> it is a separatist movement. they are not trying to reform america, they are trying to separate from it. be ahat allowed them to little less controversial. going backh, it was to the 19th century. they are going back to marcus nationalisting a organizer, and at that time when cassius clay is coming into the picture, malcolm x. is beginning to talk of that. malcolm x. is saying look, we
have to do something in the civil rights movement. we talk a good game, but we are not doing anything. a moretarting to become controversial. famously, after john f. kennedy he still says,, say nothing. the preachers of the nation of islam, do not make assassination of this. this is a revered man to not say anything. of course, malcolm x. did. this is just chickens coming st.e to roo this doesn't make me sad, this makes me glad. and of course, he is officially silenced by the nation of islam. cassiuses clay -- now clay is confused as to who she should follow. does he follow the nation of islam, the conservative separatist movement, or welcome, being pushed -- or malcolm, the nationd out of
of islam, starting a movement that would be more orthodox in terms of the civil rights movement? political, no question about it, but he was a boxer before anything else. he was like john wayne. duringyne does not serve world war ii. he becomes the image of the world war sailor, american liar in world war ii -- american flyer in world war ii, but he never enlisted. after the war, his interest in politics was, to generalize, two things. war hero.came a cold most americans adopted the cold war position. number two, he could not stand america taxation policy. change.d to he moved from being a democrat to being a republican. but people talk to john wayne, he did not talk about politics. he talked about movies.
but you get that image of john wayne that is attached to western iconography, and you throw it into the republican party, and it is a pretty heavy brew. >> it is interesting, because johnny mathis actually said during birmingham, he said, do not ask me about that. i am just an entertainer. i am wondering whether those in thisds, it certainly generation, are kind of a meaningless paradox? or 1960's the 1950's you could get away with saying that, but i think that is a meaningless thing to say post davis,d ali, post-sammy post a lot of people, but there was a time in american history where that was a position that you could take, and now it is just not possible. [inaudible] is the media. everything in our politics has changed post-ali, and i know
nothing about sports, mind you. i only know entertainment. but these platforms are so large and they need so many people, and they need to you -- they meet so many people, and they .eet you you could control when you were on camera. now you are interviewed, you say something, someone picks it up backstage, in the locker room, and you lose control of your narrative. in 1967, 1968, three huge movies -- "guess who's coming to russia with love, and --. but the movement has passed him by. he goes from being a great hero but- not an uncle tom, unsympathetic. open itnk it is time to
up to audience questions, if anyone has anything they would like to ask. oh, we can bring you the microphone, yes. >> oh, great. this is a fascinating panel. i greatly admire this john rose -- this genre. i teach at purdue. it strikes me, it is a very -- genre,g gernr because how do you tell a story of someone's life with the necessity of making an argument that intervenes in debates, that reveals something new? how do you do that? is it explicit, is it implicit? you we've argument and analysis with narrative when you are telling a story of an individual's life? >> ok. >> go ahead. >> that is a biggie.
>> it is a biggie. >> to tell the story of a person's life, to tell john wayne's life, he made 200 films, as i said before. didcannot go one film -- he this film, that film, that film, you have to search for a larger meaning in that life. why was he important? why was he iconic? focals he politically a point of america in the 1960's into the 1970's, and the 1950's, beyond that. you are just telling the full story. to tell his jr. -- story without telling the story of race in america would make no sense. you would just be telling an entertainment story. you have to engage. they all meet at that point that theid earlier, where cultures meet. you are telling the life and you are telling the meaning of the
life. to me, that contextualizes it. thatmight be stories cultural historians are interested in. >> i think you have to be passionate about your subject. you do not have to love them all the time, but you have to be passionate about what they went through, because you are spending a lot of time with that person or persons. the only other thing i can say in terms of documentary work i have done, it is something i call heavy lifting or double duty. there is something that has to be made -- i have not read the book, but i should and will do -- the green berets, or sammy be me," orotta singing "suppertime," a song written about lynching for which is also33, unimaginable. but you need to find moments where their life represent or interact with something that has
a larger medical -- larger metaphorical value. and you get to be utterly subjective. you get to decide that this song is more important than that song, because it says more to me personally in 2017 or whatever then something else. >> as if history is not subjective. >> right. [laughter] >> it'salso objective. also subjective. >> i agree with my fellow panelists. there must be a larger reason why you want to write this story. you can't throw in absolutely everything you know in a nondescript hodgepodge. reason yout is the can have more than one interesting biography about the same person. people come with different interests, they come with a
different basic point they want to make and certainly pull together the evidence that moves that story along. an earlier book that i have written was on jack johnson, the first black heavyweight champion in america that won the title in 1908. if i had a larger point i was interested in -- i was interested in his life, but he is the heavyweight champion during the progressive era. this is an era where the highest lynchings in america were, race south, all these racist southern governors. a larger question i am asking, was there progressivism for black americans? what was life like for a black american during this progressive era? you are connecting with a historical -- historiographical question. >> i agree.
one of the things that made sammy attractive to us, the title of the documentary, "i gotta be me." i knew you were born of caller, youow -- born of color, can't help that, but why did you decide to be jew? he made his own decision, and the identity politics strike me now. some of the most passionate topics he can come up with. that is bubbling up in 2019 and it makes it a great lens through which to see someone from another time and place. like 50 years ago tonight, tonight, the great white hope won the tony award for best play. that is about jackson. ago, that story was interesting to people, at the end of the civil rights movement, about jack johnson. it isst-ali, post-davis, interesting in a different way. alsothink it is
interesting to try to measure the impact of the subject and try to build an argument. with my stars for freedom book, i found out pretty easily how people raise money or how many benefits they did, but then trying to figure out well, how did that help the civil rights movement? what exactly did they bring to it? and trying to build an argument about that overall impact. and in a similar context, how they brought it to hollywood and helped change the culture of hollywood. started, it allowed black actors, and that is the only way they employed african-americans. these stars for freedom went back to hollywood and started pushing and hiring on their own, becoming producers or directors are going, saying, we
to hire african-americans behind the scenes. that was a way for me to try and think about that. it is a good way to construct a narrative and an argument at the same time. any other questions? ever done aof you biography of a scientist or another intellectual figure? >> i have not, no. >> no. >> how would that be any different? the kind of writing you are describing? >> i have read biographies of scientists. celebrity, most of what we have dealt with, i think all four of us were dealing with celebrities , high profile individuals. now, there are celebrity think the too, but i questions you would ask -- number one, you are trying to explain what they did. you are focusing on them. you are interested in
the individual. who were they? what made them tick? what did they do that was important? if it was important, how are they perceived? mind"vie "a beautiful that came out, which is kind of a narrative of a mathematician, of a scientist, and it was an utterly compelling too,and a compelling book, that one all kinds of awards. all kinds that won of awards. i think we are asking similar questions. this gentleman's question right here, i want to ask you about process. the process of developing the argument and constructing the narrative. which comes first, usually? of course, you have these
wonderful stories, you have the anecdotes, you have the things .ou want to put in the book does the story and the argument, come after- argument you put in the main points that you wanted to make, and then you start to work on the, how it all fits together. you, from myl point of view it is an inquiry. when i was seven or eight, i saw sammy davis, jr. .e was this goofy jester he did all of these silly, goofy things. two years later, i went to the public library and looked in the original cast album section, and there was a record called "golden boy," and it was an album about the civil rights movement, which had never existed, in the 1960's and done
in the 1964. here was sammy davis, jr., singing about being a black man in love with a white woman in the 1960's. here was the alpha, here with the omega. before i was 11, i was like, how can that be the same person? how can that be? that was a question that was always in the back of my mind for four or five decades until i had a chance to work on this documentary. how you reconcile that person's life? i think you are always trying to grasp -- you have to find a good question in that person's life that seems to be unreconciled. jackie gleason is a compelling subject. how could this lovable guy be such a monster to everyone you worked with? you have to find something you want to wrestle with and it flows naturally from that. >> i began with an immersion.
you have to immerse yourself in her life area one author when he started the multivolume biography of lyndon johnson, he did research and he would work closed days as it was sunday. every day after he worked, he would go to the hill country which was not that far from interview someone who knew johnson from the area. on the weekends maybe he would interview to people. and i said i don't understand these people. he's going to be hill country which was extraordinarily poor. he was from new york city. , we have tois wife
move to the hill country. i have to live in that land and understand these people. i will never understand johnson unless i understand the people. his wife said can't you write a biography on robert mulligan or napoleon? we can go to paris. he read all of the other biographies on johnson and said nobody understands what made him? what makes them tick? be hill country, living in the hill country, suddenly he was living there and you would talk to him. they would tell them things they would not tell them before when he was just a new yorker dropping in and asking questions. you started off immersing --rself with sammy dangerous sammy davis junior. was interested in boxers when i was young. there is a personal interest
that factors into this. i think you need to start with some big compelling reason that you want to do this. some big compelling question you want to answer. after that, it all evolves together. i think an interesting exercise if you could ever get authors to show it to you would be their first proposal for any book. it never looks anything like the final book. your ideas change as you get into the sources and it starts with a central question. >> i think our time is up. thank you to the panelists. >> sammy davis junior is playing at 3:30 down the hallway if you want to see that. [applause]
>> tonight at 8:00 p.m. on lectures in history. female activists in the 1970's civil rights movement. women were instrumental in helping to organize and put the marks together, the event was truly dominated by men. venezuela and ecuador over the course of the 50 year. after 1776.time the age of revolutions. >> at 6:00 p.m., eyewitness accounts from inside the white house during the apollo 11 lunar landing.
we stayed in the cabinet room throughout the day. the windows were dark. we were into nighttime. at 4:15 in theed afternoon than the astronauts did not walk until later. >> explore our nations passed on american history tv every weekend on c-span3. in 1970 nine a small network with an unusual name pulled out a big idea. let the viewers make up their own minds. topan opened the door washington policymaking for all to see bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. a lot has changed in 40 years but today that idea is more relevant than ever. on television and online, c-span is your unfiltered view of government so you can make up your own mind. brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. tv,ext on american history
three former flight controllers and engineers discuss the design and development of the lunar module and how it operated during the apollo 11 moon landing. this panel was part of an event hosted by space center houston to mark apollo 11's anniversary. and happy lunar landing day. [applause] it's great to have you all here. i am the chief operating officer here at the space center houston. we are a smithsonian affiliate. world's first certified autism center as a science center. we believe very much in equity, inclusion, accessibility, and we take that honesty great badge of honor that our staff has had extra tin