tv Charlie Rose PBS January 14, 2011 12:00am-1:00am PST
>> rose: welcome to our program. tonight a look at president obama's speech in arizona and his call for more civil discourse with sean wilentz, the princeton professor, ross douthat of the "new york times," and george packer of the "new yorker" magazine. we conclude this evening with a conversation and some music from patti smith. ♪ yes i was free, if i needed nobody ♪ it was beautiful it was beautiful. >> rose: the president's speech and patti smith when we continue
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>> rose: president obama led a community and a nation in grief last night. in a 32-minute address at the university of arizona, the president remembered the victims of last saturday's shootings. he told the stories of all who perished, he asked for prayers for the wounded. he commended those who risked their lives to save others and he urged americans to return to a more civil public discourse. >> at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarizeed at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a they wounds. >> rose: the president also said that nine-year-old christina taylor green-- who was laid to
rest today-- symbolized what american democracy should be about. >> she was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. she saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. i want to live up to her expectations. (cheers and applause) i want our democracy to be as good as christina imagined it. >> rose: the president also shared the news that congresswoman gabrielle giffords had opened her eyes for the first time yesterday. there are more encouraging signs today. doctors said she is able to open her eyes for 15 minutes at a time and can move part of her legs and hands. >> gabrielle giffords remains in
critical condition but as you heard from the president yesterday, it is true she did have spontaneous eye opening yesterday and she's becoming more and more alert at this time period and she's making much more spontaneous movements as we have completely stopped all the medications that might blunt her mental stall us the. >> rose: joining me now in new york the george packer of the "new yorker" magazine, from washington, ross douthat of the "new york times" and from los angeles, wilentz, a professor of history at princeton. i am pleased to have all of them here. i go first to los angeles for a historical perspective. tell me how you saw this. >> well, he did what a president has to do in these circumstances and he did it extremely well. he talked about healing, he talked about civility. there are things he can't talk about which we can talk about but i think what he did was great. >> rose: because it would seem to be political, is that the reason he couldn't talk about it? >> exactly. precisely. he's there as the national
leader at this moment and, you know, there may be time to talk about other things, political violence above all, but for now he did exactly what he was supposed to do. >> rose: which was to be a healer. >> exactly. >> rose: in a sense. express the nation's grief. >> well, and also to talk about public service, to talk about what it means to live the life of the people who were injured and killed. to pay tribute to them. that's important and he did it extremely well. >> rose: i think it's interesting, this is probably the speech... of obama's speeches with his presidency this is the one that's met with by far the most bipartisan acclaim and one reason i think is as sean says, because he did what a president has to do in those circumstances and did it incredibly effectively. i think also a lot of conservatives felt like he said exactly the right things about the link or rather the lack of a link between the political climate in the united states and this massacre. i think there was a sense in
which conservatives felt that he was in a sense taking their side in the debate that's been going on for the past four or five days. >> rose: in what way? >> in the sense that he actually both made a point in the prepared text of the speech and then went out of his way, i think, sort of empathizing it saying that, you know, you can't draw a line between the civility in our political... in our political dialogue and a senseless killing like this one, especially given what we know to date about the mysterious motives of the shooter. >> rose: so, george, where are we now? >> i think what he tried to do was call everyone in public life to the better angels of their nature. and he did in the a very skifl way: by telling us the stories of those who lost their lives in tucson. and whether it was all grounded in biographical fact or whether it was based on our wishes he
turned them into the standard for the rest of us. especially for people in public life. especially nine-year-old christina taylor green. i think the key line in the speech was when he said "i want to meet her expectations. i want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it." that's a standard that is going to be out there and that i think will echo for a while in the minds of people who are in public life. and i think for a while we're going to see and hear a less strident, less confrontational language and posture coming from people in public life. but it'll fade. because presidents don't change the currents of our political culture with one speech. i think it was one of the very best speeches he's ever given. nearly perfect for what it had to do. but what it had to do was of a
moment and i don't think it's going to effect a long-term change in this country. i think it may well improve his fortunes as a politician. >> rose: has there been a moment in our history in which some tragedy and some national grief and some presidential healing has caused a change in the nature of the public discourse? >> ooh, that's hard to say. you go back to the oklahoma city example, for example, and clinton did an extraordinary job there. but things got pretty nasty in washington thereafter. so i think george is right. i don't think that any one president can turn the tide of history quite like that. by the same token, look, the short term matters a lot. and the fact that the president hit the notes that he did i think... and as ross said, conservatives took courage from this but there was a way in which he did the right thing. and that's important right now.
that was the job he had in front of him. whether he can change everything in the long term i doubt it. i think that george is right. >> rose: ross you think nothing will change in the longer run in terms of the absence of civility in our debate? >> well, yeah. i mean i think a certain pessimism is always in order in these things. i do think, though, that we've passed... i mean it may or may not have anything to do with this particular atrocity and his response to it, but we are passing into a different kind of political moment where we just went through two years where the republican party was essentially leaderless, where the republicans had been sort of cast down from the once lofty heights of george w. bush's popularity and the party was confused, there were no leadership figures, the democrats were ascendant, barack obama was a hero and so on. then we had a series of very polarizing debates about high-profile legislation. now we're moving into a moment
where the balance of power is more balanced, i guess, in washington. there are actual leaders of the republican party both in washington and in the states who can sort of claim some space from figures like glenn beck, rush limbaugh and so on. so i think there may be an inevitable sort of depolarization over the next year at least before obviously we get into the heat of the presidential campaign. and i think a sense this moment... it's not the cause of that but it could end up being part of it. but i also think it's important what obama did because i think for the last four or five days you've had a narrative where i think it was very clear that what liberals wanted to talk about in the wake of this tragedy was the idea that figures like glenn beck, sarah palin, and so on had something to apologize for at this moment even if it turned out that this killer-- as seems to be the case-- was not at all inspired by their rhetoric. and i think obama's ability to
pivot away from that message to a broader and more appropriate general call for civility was really important and effective. >> rose: do you think there was too much finger pointing after the incident? ross? >> yes, absolutely. i think that... i mean, i think that the difficulty with the argument that liberals wanted to make was... i mean, i think there was one argument that liberals made was let's poke through this guy's sort of crazed mind and find some place where we can draw some link to glenn beck and so on. so that was one argument. but the second argument that was made was that, well, this g.i. probably had no link to the political climate nationwide but nonetheless this is a moment when it's appropriate to call conservatives to account. and the point here is not... it's perfectly legitimate in general to say well, we need to call glenn beck to account for talking about conspiracy theories or what have you. but by saying that this is the moment to have that conversation
you are effectively trying to tar conservatives with these violent acts. and you're not going to get anywhere with that debate. that's not an argument that's actually going to produce more civility in american live, it's just going to produce more finger pointing. >> i think we misplaced the debate if we're talking about civility and simply about what this particular perpetrator believed or didn't believe. this is the first example in american history-than-of in which a member of congress, a member of the house, was targeted for a premeditated assassination. now, for an historian, that's extraordinary. that's not something to just pass by. we have a long history of political violence in this country. this is the first time this has happened. now, we don't know all the facts about what this perpetrator thought or didn't think and actually that's not the point and i think people are trying to do that and are missing the point. but i think there is a question about political violence. i think there's violence in our
rhetoric out there now that we haven't seen in a long time. i think that it is a good time-- maybe not today, but soon-- for everyone to pause and to think about the character of our political discussions, not about civility, but about violence and those are two different things. >> rose: explain to me the difference, even though it may be obvious. >> civility is a... you can be... lack civility, you can be rude. people often are. (laughs) it's part of american political debate. and maybe we get too rude. but you cross a line when you start invoking violent imagery. when you start talking about taking out your opponents. when you start... when you have rallies where people are bringing guns. when you have... and quite apart from that the actual examples of political violence that have been occurring. the wichita case. a lot of things have been happening lately that are not unlike what was going on in 1996. and i think it is a good idea not to cast blame but to sit and pause and think about the state
of our political conversation that is violent. >> rose: come back to that. >> the shootings in tucson occurred at the end of a period of a couple of years in which a part of the republican party began to turn to the language of armed revolt, the language of overthrowing an oppressive tyranny, a totalitarian regime, in which the second amendment was used not to assert a right only but as a form of threat and intimidation. it was used coyly and it would shift from the right to the threat. people brought guns to rallies, as sean said. congressmen and candidates for congress talked about using violence. this is not a small thing, it's a big thing. and, in fact, there were many examples of violent, intended violence and incitement of violence that have kind of passed under our radar because they've been dispersed and none of them have been anything like this scale. but they've accumulating over
the last couple of years. that was the context for what happened in tucson. and it happened to a woman who herself was the target of someone who vandalized her office, who either shot or threw a rock through the window of her office. and, of course, the famous cross hairs of sarah palin's target map for the midterms. and this woman, gabby giffords, herself went on t.v. to say "i'm concerned about this." i don't know what we could have done. should we have ignored all of that? should we have ignored what gabrielle giffords herself said a few months ago about her own fears and said "well, it turned out this guy was acting from different motives so there's nothing to talk about?" it prompted people to think about what we've just lived through over the last couple of years and to associate it with what happened to her. it turned out his motives were the opaque stew of any paranoid schizophrenic and that to find political cause is a fool's errand and i agree with both
ross and sean about that. but to associate them and to begin to point... it was as if people had been woken up out of a bit of a desensitized slumber and realized just how ugly it had gotten and how obvious it was that something like this might happen and that it might happen in a place like tucson, arizona, and to a woman like gabrielle giffords. to me it would have been bizarre not to point that out. >> rose: ross? >> i just think it's odd that we ended up spending 72 to 96 hours following an awful tragedy talking more about sarah palin and her political map than about gabrielle giffords. and, you know, i... you know, i... i take george's point in a sense, but i think it's also... you know, we can have these arguments and they cycle around about, you know, which party has harbored more extreme rhetoric over this period and that period and so on. i would just suggest i think that people on the left tend to
underestimate the extent of sort of what sounds to people who aren't on the left like extreme rhetoric just as people on the right tend to do the same thing. and i think if you go back to the bush era, i think that there's sort of... i know george has written about this to some extent, the idea that, well, there was some sort of extreme rhetoric surroundsing george w. bush but it was qualitatively different from the extreme rhetoric of glenn beck and so on. i'm not always sure that that's true. i think you can draw some pretty strong analogies between the kind of conspiracy theories that a figure like michael moore propagated surrounding the bush administration. michael moore ended up sitting in a box with jimmy carter at the democratic national convention in 2004. there are cycles in american life and american political life has become very polarized, very extreme, and very shrill. but i guess, yeah, i just come back to sort of the oddness how many people wanted to talk more about sarah palin than about the actual victims in a case that
really ultimate the facts of the case had nothing to do with sarah palin. >> rose: what did you think of sarah palin's response and the use of the term blood libel? >> well sarah palin's response was tone deaf and foolish like most of the things sarah palin has said and done over the past couple years. but sarah palin on the other hand was explicitly... palin was placed in kind of an impossible position, right? you had people saying basically that, well, she needs to say something about this killing that actually didn't have anything to do with really anything that she said and then she said something about it and they said "well, she's trying to steal the spotlight" and so on. again, sarah palin is not... you know, she's... (laughs) she's not a... um... a great states woman, i would say, at this moment in american political life. i think that's fair to say. but i also don't think she's... you know, she's not responsible for what happened in tucson and an awful lot of people wanted to talk as if she was. >> but here's the... i agree with sean about civility and violence, that is the key distinction. but in the middle there's this
area where your language and your ideas are so dehumanizing and delegitimizing of the other side. for example, the idea that george bush might have been behind 9/11. or the idea that the democrats and obama want to kill your grandmother with a death penl. that kind of political talk can incite because it is pushing people beyond the realm where a certain amount of rational discourse can resolve it or hash out a difference to an area where this president has to be removed because he's a threat to our country, to our system, he's a traitor, he's an imposter. that kind of language comes today from sitting members of congress. not that they're urging violence against the president, but they're saying this man's a traitor and an imposter. i say that the has... it's more than uncivil or incivil, it makes politics impossible.
it makes it impossible to disagree with people. and i hope that what obama did last night was to make people think a little bit longer for a while now before they talk in that way. and i think people will watch it. and i think it will be a good thing if they do. >> rose: i have to leave it there. thank you, george. thank you, sean, very much. thank you, ross. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: back in a moment with patti smith. stay with us. >> rose: patti smith is here, poet, singer, songwriter, punk rocker. she is now the award-winning author of her memoir. "just kids" is the story of an extraordinary relationship she had with photographer robert mapplethorpe. he died of aids in 1989. maureen dowd of the "new york times" called it "la boheme" at the chelsea hotel. two hungry artists figuring out whom to love, how to make art and when to part. it won the 2010 national book award for non-fiction and the book is number one on this sunday's "new york times" paper back non-fiction list.
i am very pleased to have patti smith back on this program almost one year after the book was published. welcome. >> hi. glad to be here. do you know what the very first words you said when we first met like, ten, 11 years ago? >> rose: no. >> we sat here or at a table like this and you looked at me and you said "robert mapplethorpe.". what did those words mean to me? and i thought it was so great we're here again. >> rose: where did the title come from? >> it came from... there's an episnowed the book where when robert and i first knew each other we went to washington square park and we had no money but sometimes we would, you know put on our favorite things and walk around the park and a couple, an older couple saw us and the wife today the husband "oh, take their picture, i think
they're artists." because, you know, we were quite dressed. and the husband just waved her away and he said "oh, go on, they're just kids." and robert and i just laughed and i wrote that down in a journal and when i was almost finishing the book i came upon that little entry and i just thought it seemed the perfect title because what i wanted people to know and remember about robert-- both robert and i-- is that we didn't come into the world fully formed. we went through all of the painful evolution and the awkwardness that everyone goes through. >> rose: he wanted you to write this book. >> yes. robert... the day before he died we had our last conversation and at that moment we knew he was diing so i just said to him all right, i'm left behind but what
can i do? what would you like know do to magnify your name? would you like me to write something? can i do any specific thing for you? and he gave specific tasks and then he asked me if i would write our story. and i was actually surprised about that and i said "you want me to? " and he said "you have to. you're the only one that i can write it." and i guess i am because we were young, unknown so i vowed to do that and it took me a long time but... >> rose: ten years. >> it took a little longer but anyway i got it done and i'm sure he's finally happy with me now. >> rose: when did it begin for the two of you? >> well, in the summer of 1967 i left home, i was 20, i came to new york really not por suit of
culture or art, really in pursuit of a job because there was no employment in philadelphia or south jersey. the new york shipyard had closed and there was so many people out of work that no one was gonna give a job to a 20-year-old kid with no experience. so i went to new york because there seemed to be lots of stores and book stores. i came looking for work and eventually collided with robert in brooklyn. just a chance meeting and we just... it was just... it was fated, really, because we met a couple of times serendipitously and then i got into a small jam in the city. i accepted a date with an older man who was probably all of like 30 and because i was so hungry i
hadn't eaten and i had dinner with him and then i became frightened, you know, like what's he going to want from me now? i didn't know how to handle the situation. and he walked me down to tomkins square park and i was so nervous and we sat down and then he said "would you like to come up to my apartment for a congress tile?" and i thought, oh, i'm done. i was so scared i didn't know what to do. and this boy appeared as if the clouds parted. this boy that i had just casually met once or twice and i ran up to him and said "will you pretend you're my boyfriend?" and he said "sure." and i brought him to the guy and i said "i have to leave, i have to go back with my boyfriend." and we ran off and we never separated. he rescued me and we never separated. >> rose: how would you describe the ride with him? the journey with him?
>> it was emotional and loving. i mean, with all the difficulties we had and all of the process of evolution which was sometimes painful. we were like really like the fantastics, the children in "the fantastics" and when the narrator says "i hurter in the process and myself a little bit, too." we both had to hurt each other in order to grow but we had such a deep connection between art and trust that we were very bold to surmount that. >> rose: one critic said this is the best book ever written about becoming an artist. two artists, your story. robert becoming a photographer and you becoming a song
writer/singer. that's what the story is in part. >> well, yes, because the most... you know, of course just like any young people together we had a very sweet physical relationship. we went all the things a boyfriend and girlfriend do. but in the end that isn't what kept us intact. really what kept us intact is we both felt we had a calling. we both pursued that calling and all the different paths it took us on and both of us magnified one another. he so intensely believed in himself and so believed in me that he instilled that confidence in me and both of us felt really... we were so in tune, in kind that when we did a work we wanted the other to see it.
when we leapt to a new place, when we had an illumination it felt truer, more magnifyed in the eyes of the other. and that gift that we had helped us get through all of the usual ups and downs that two young people would have. >> rose: what did you learn about yourself because you were with him? >> well, he gave me confidence. i mean, i have always... i was a tough kid. i have bravado, i could get through illness, i could work, i didn't mind manual labor, i didn't mind tough times. but i didn't have total confidence in myself as an artist or i was very self-conscious, i was sort of a wall flower and he made me feel... his belief in me instilled belief in myself and the confidence and belief that he had in me when he was 20 has
never left me. i have never... i have my ruff times and i have times where i feel a bit empty but i've never lost my confidence. i've never lost the kofs that he instilled in me because he won't let me. that is a great gift to give another person. >> rose: would he have written another book if he was writing a book about the two of you? >> robert didn't write and he wasn't even much of a reader but i think that he would... i can honestly say that i know he would recognize us in that book. >> rose: this is your story? >> yes, because robert always liked... you know, we had various ways of entertaining one another because we had no money and one thing he liked me to do was to recount our story. he'd say "tell me about when we first met. tell the story of this, when
this happened." and i would tell it. so i knew the story. it's our story, it's not my story. it's the story that we wrote together. >> rose: you said this wonderful thing, that art was like holding hands with god. >> yes. he said "when i create art it's like holding hands with god." that was one of the first things that robert said to me when we were quite young and that was... you know, to me it expresses so much of who he was, the depth of where his work went. even if it has nothing to do, really, with religion, although he was brought up catholic. when he was using the term "god" he just means the highest aspect of things. >> rose: the hardest part for you in the relationship were... >> for me?
probably my own restlessness. i mean, of course it was difficult when robert revealed that he was struggling with his sexual identity which no matter what anyone says i never suspected that. there was nothing in robert's demeanor that that alerted me to that. and so that was a great shock to me and something that i had to reconcile. and that did take a while but he was still always himself and he still was always the same to me. really i was... of the two of us the more restless, agitated one. and he had a calmer... >> rose: you were agitated about what? >> i was just generally agitated. just a high metabolic speedy kid
you know? if i was writing a poem i wasn't satisfied. it had to be more physical. the poem turned into a song which turned into performance which turned into electric guitar. i was always... i was always pushing and shing and pushing. and robert had a it will little more elegance. >> rose: and how did you handle... you did in the conversation, didn't you? the idea of sexuality. >> handled... >> rose: well, you had to have conversations about... because the relationship had sex in it, it had commitment, it had bonds, it had everything. >> well it was just... >> rose: and then when he was open about what his own searching words you had to... you had to redefine? >> well, we just... it was... we parted for a while. we parted far while and robert explored that aspect of himself
and i had a boyfriend and... but in the end everything that we both searched, that's why i said we were like the children in "the fantastics." we both went out into the world but we came back because we found the world not so... as beautiful as it was when we were together. so we went... left brooklyn, went to the chelsea hotel and actually attempted to start again and we did for a while. but, you know, i had no understanding, really, i was just 22 or something at a time when we didn't have all the information and... that we have now. and i had no comprehension of the suffering and the sacrifice that robert was making to try to make our relationship... keep our relationship intact. and eventually when i understood
we both had to step aside and say... it was hard for him when i found a new fella. it was difficult for me when he found a new fella. but we were always the same. in the end we found that we were still us. we were still the same people. we had such a world that was worth saving. it wasn't based-- although always magnified. i mean the physical part of any relationship is beautiful. but robert and i always continued our whole life to stay affectionate. he was always affectionate toward me. >> rose: you say that whenever you look at the cover of "horses" you always see not yourself but both of you. >> yes. i see us. because it was just robert and i in the room and it was going to be really... we were both aware
that together something that we did together was going to go out into the world and it was a very... we didn't talk about it. we just knew it and it was a very beautiful moment and that particular picture that's on the cover of horses robert knew what he wanted, very quietly he just asked me to take my jacket off, ied that jacket in my hand, he wanted the white of my shirt but i always have to throw some reference in and i immediately thought of frank sinatra in... i don't know if it's "pal joey" but it's the "joey louis story" where he says "post time" and at the end he throws his jacket over his shoulder. so it was for me a frank sinatra moment. >> rose: and there it is.
so you always said to him i want to be a poet. >> well, robert loved my poetry. robert bought me the first present he ever bought me was sylvia plath's "ariel." and he liked me to read him poetry. he really liked my poetry and encouraged me to perform my poetry. but robert always wanted me to sing. he liked my voice for some inexplicable reason but he did, i used to sing him little songs or a cappella songs or motel songs a cappella. and he always wanted me to sing. >> rose: what this book is about beyond this sort of remarkable relationship which you talk about with great eloquence is also a circle of people there's jimi hendrix. there is andy war hall, there's gregory corps sew, there's janice jap lynn, you can go down
the list. >> sam shepherd, alan ginsburg. >> rose: tell the story about allen ginsburg. you want to go to the automat and get something to eat? you had just enough money to buy it. >> yes, i was in horn and hardarts and i had just the right... 55 cents to buy a sandwich back then and i put the money in the machine and i had, like, an old overcoat and a cap on and they had jacked up the price and i was devastated because i was so hungry and i hear this fellow say "can i help you?" and i turned around and it's alan ginsburg and i was... i didn't say a word. i was too amazed that alan ginsburg was standing in front of me and i just nodded and he paid for my sandwich and a coffee and we sat down and he's talking away about walt whitman and then finally... and i'm eating. finally i said "well, you know, i'm from south jersey and walt
whitman's buried in camden." and he looked at me and he said... "are you a girl?" and it was just like, i thought, uh-oh, there goes the sandwich. there was my first thought. but, yes, so that was my meeting with alan. >> rose: but you had the sandwich and... >> yeah, we parted friends and alan, of course, became one of my great teachers. so you never know how you're gonna meet one of your great teachers. >> rose: and sam shepherd. >> sam shepherd i metz... i saw him perform with the holy modal rounders at the village gate and it was just like a hillbilly psychedelic hillbilly band and i thought this hillbilly guy behind the drums, this guy could be... is what rock and roll needs, purity. he was american but like... he seemed like he was from the coal mining fields or something and
he was also very handsome and i was writing for crawl daddy and i... i went up to him and i said you know... i was telling him i could make him a big star. i was gonna write the greatest article about him and he's playing along, told he his name was slim shadow. and we... we just developed a great friendship and just went on and it took me quite a while to find out he was sam shepherd and i didn't know who sam shepherd was. i didn't know anything about the theater. so sometimes people say there's a lot of famous people in your book but back then... >> rose: they were people you knew? >> they were just people we knew. some of them were sort of famous but fame was a different thing back then. >> rose: you were a bit shy. or not? >> i was socially... if i could get in front of i could stand in front of a thousand people and talk like that but at a dinner
party or a social event i'm still not very good. >> rose: you were going somewhere and jimi hendrix was outside and he just took time to talk to you. >> it was at the opening of "electric lady" where i recorded "horses" later. i was invited to the party and then i got there and i couldn't bring myself to go in and i just sat on the steps and he had to catch a lean in go to the isle of white and was like "what's happening, little lady?" and he was so beautiful. told me all about what he wanted to do with the studio and his homes and dreams. >> rose: he really believed that rock 'n' roll was a universal language. >> yes. he believed that what he wanted to do was to... when he got back from the isle of white gather musicians from all over the world in woodstock and play in fields and let it be a deofny, let it be discordant until the common language was found.
he had the most beautiful... the most beautiful dreams far studio and of course he never set foot in it again. and that's why i still record there and every time we... i'm going to cry, i'm sorry. every time we go in to record in that studio i think of the dreams he had for our cultural voice and do my best to do a good job. >> rose: you share the dreams. >> yes. >> rose: i also want to talk about fred sonic smith. >> (laughs) thank you. well, fred... >> rose: because you had this wonderful quote about him and i think i may have written it down. but it was basically you said he is a king among men and men knew it. >> yes. i decided that... i tried to distill everything about fred in one sentence.
because this was robert's book and to bring fred in, i wanted to give the people fled one sentence and that's the best i could do fred was a beautiful man. he was a very gentle, very kind stoic very somewhat troubled brilliant musician and a wonderful father. he loved his children and in fact, you know, i've thought this book really... i kept my vow to robert and gave the people robert as best as i could give them and the next book i do my task is... i want to give
people some... give the people fred and my late brother. there's... you know, it's a beautiful way to share ideas and also the people that we've lost if we can tell a story that connects with the people because this story could be many people's story in the end. it's about love and growing up and having a calling the ups and downs that we all have. >> rose: did you and robert talk about children? >> not until he was dying. robert loved children. he was one of seven children. he was very good with children. he loved photographing children. and at the end of his life he said... he was looking out the window and he was quite ill and then he said "we never had children."
almost accusingly. i didn't say anything. i know if we had children they would be beautiful children. >> rose: well, yes. >> our art was our children. our art was our children. >> there was also an evolution in his art and his photography. did you accept that? did you say "i don't understand where you are but i know where you are in your head and in your heart and in your art so i just have to..." >> oh, absolutely. i would... i learned that lesson from picasso, from bob dylan, from john coltraine. you don't say "oh, can you stop here, i love the blue period?" you have to... >> rose: where was he going? >> ultimately to himself and then out into the world. when i first met him he was doing very psychedelic work which evolved to more catholic
oriented work. and then he started working with freaks and then it went to sailors and then a more male-oriented work, male-to-male and then to a very... to his very hard core work. but threaded through all of that was also very classical work. robert at the same time he was doing the most difficult of his images was always referencing michaelangelo. he was always looking at august sander or... you know, studying light. i mean, he wasn't just snapping pictures that were... or taking pictures that were difficult. he was trying to present very... well, areas of human consent
that i know very little about but in a dignified or classical way, as art. he wanted to do something no one else did and he felt that no one had taken that area of human consent and presented it as art and he did that. so to me content aside, when i look at robert's work, whenever i looked at any of his work, it was always is it good, is it not good? not is it difficult, is it scary is the work good? is the composition... is it valid? is the light beautiful. and he was always in tune with all of these things. it wasn't just a shock or to disturb people.
it was to present these areas as art. so, yes i tried to stay in step as best i could. >> when... you miss most about him what? his... his kindness. he was so... robert was so good to me. he was so... because really i... you know, i'm a very volatile changing... he always... he was always kind to me. always loving and funny. he was... he was so funny. mischievous, naughty, you know, he was one of the seven kids, he was... he could be a stinker. i miss his smile and i miss all
that he knew of me. he probably knew as much as... of me as any one could. so i missed that. but i have him. i have him. >> rose: you've had other influences in your life e. dylan was an influence. >> yes, yes. >> rose: how so? >> well, probably in every way. i first sold bob dillon with joan baez. >> rose: putting poetry to music is one way. >> well, yes, but it was... and also the responsibility of developing a cultural voice that was also not only humanistic content but beauty. but he also... he influenced me in ways that are so personal the
way i walk, sometimes the way i dresstor way i wear pants, you know. it's just... i was so smitten with him aesthetically as well as his work. also when i was young. >> rose: (laughs) >> it's almost embarrassing. i adored him. i still adore him. but when you're a young girl he was... rimbaud i loved rimbaud so much when bob dylan was alive. >> rose: informs you brought a copy of "illuminations" when you came here, didn't you? >> well, the young bob and author rimbaud have very similar qualities. they have the same defiant gaze. the same defiant look in their eyes. >> rose: what comes out of
this... and by the way this is what johnny depp says "patti smith has graced with us a poetic masterpiece. a rare and privileged invitation to unlatch a treasure chest never before breached." part of the treasure chest is we see people we come to know almost as legends and we see in a sense their... we see their shyness, we see their inspiration. we see their commitment to their art. we see their vulnerability. we think of janice job lynn. >> we're all human. >> rose: there's if janice story you know, the one story that we thought this guy was really interested in her and he went off with someone else and she said i never get the guy. she was very lonely. she was very sweet and very funny and very generous with herself but she had bad luck with fellas and really living at
the chelsea hotel i saw a lot of these people. it's where i lived. they were in my house. it's where i lived but these people were all human beings. the cult of celebrity was not the same then. janice joplin and these people didn't have all kinds of bodyguards. there were no paparazzi, people weren't asking for her autograph they weren't taking per picture. you might look because "whoa, there's janis joplin" and we were all helping to do the same thing. we were all building our cultural voice from an unknown kid like me working in a bookstore and robert taking his first polaroid. >> rose: working at scribners. >> i worked at scribners for several years. we were all doing the same thing.
they were just alittle ahead. and we interacted and learned from one another and i was really lucky. >> rose: this is a surprise to you. guess what she brought? her guitar. what are you going to sing? >> my blanking year. >> rose: all right. ♪ in my blakean year i was so disposed ♪ toward a mission yet uncleared a vancing ♪ pole by pole ♪ fortune breathed into my ear,
the pilgrim sacks are stitched ♪ into the blakean back so throw off your stupid cloak ♪ embrace all that you fear the, this joy will conquer all despair in my blakean year ♪ so throw off your stupid cloak embrace all that you fear ♪ the joy will conquer all despair in my blakean year ♪ ♪ in my blakean year in my blakean year ♪ >> rose: (applause)