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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  August 7, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT

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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with eric braiden. for decades fans welcomed the young and restless star in their home. few truly know the man behind the character. he's out now with his first book. it's a memoir titled, "i'll be damn: how my young and restless life led me to america's number one daytime drama." eric braiden in just a moment.
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please welcome eric braid enback to this program. he has for nearly 40 years played victor newman an america's number one daytime drama, "the young and the restless." he is out with his first book filled with anecdotes from old hollywood. it is called "i'll be damned." eric braiden, i've known you for
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some years now, i consider you a friend. there are things i learned about new this book that i had no idea b. >> really? >> like the river rafting. and how that got you to l.a. >> that's how i came to l.a. it was the university of montana. on the track scholarship. and to make money i worked in a lumber bill at night. 6:00 to 2:00 in the morning pulling lumber on a chain. i slept an average of four to five hours a night. first lecture at 8:00 in the morning, track & field practice at 1:00 and back to work. so a fellow student came up and said do you want to do a river trip on the river of no return in idaho? i said what the hell is that? he said well, it's the river of no return, the salmon river and we may not return. i said what is the note? he said we're going to do a documentary and go to california. i said i'm in. anything to get out of the cold
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in montana. i escaped it in germany and then in montana. so that's when we embarked upon that trip. the trip we go up and down and made a documentary. and that was shown in l.a. and that was in 1960. so that was a long time ago. when i was really young and restless. >> that's how you actually got to l.a. >> yeah. >> i'm jumping around here. upon arriving in l.a., you had advice from a just brilliant actor and i'm glad that you didn't take his advice. but when marlon brando tells you maybe acting isn't what you want to do. >> it's not because. that he said we have a lot of discussions about german history, about the racial situation in america, about the treatment of native-americans and he said, you know, you're interested in other things. why don't you acting is too
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boring. and i said how wrong you are. i said if you were xwerm an, french, or english, then wouldn't know how to do mcbeth on broadway. what happens in this town for a lot of actors is they get stuck in this movie star syndrome and that makes you cynical. it just is too limiting. and you need to be out in touch with the audience with people who watch your films. i said you're the most influential actor of our generation if not of any generation. and you could -- you're leading example for all of us. you should be on broadway doing hamlet or macbeth or whatever instead of sitting in a big mansion and talking to your neighbor. >> for all these years and decades, how have you fought the cynicism? >> good question. by because of what i do on "the
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young and the restless," we have public appearances everywhere in north america and canada. and i've learned that essence of what we do is to entertain. in the '60s while guest starring on more shows than probably any other actor, i became cynical myself. and devoid of a meaning, of a feeling of contributing something. when i did the first public appearances, i realized my god, what i do makes a difference in people's lives. and that is gratifying. that is important for all of us in this entertainment business. but actors that do night time television or film don't go out enough. this don't realize that they influence so many lives. fundamentally influence them. >> you do though draw a distinction between what you do and who you are, do you not?
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>> completely. >> what is that distinction? >> to be frank with you, i always had a more cynical attitude towards what we do. i love it. i do as best i can. but there is always a kind of cynicism. so when i -- when they say cut, that's the end of the day. i forget about it completely. unless i did a scene somewhat badly. then i think about it. i wish i could do it again. beyond that, i have a very private life. a read a great deal. i'm interested in a lot of things other than the business. mostly politics and history. and a lot of sports. that saves me. sports is what saved me always in my life. >> i saw you with stephen a. smith on espn the other day. >> that's right. >> i thought that was a great conversation. i think a lot of people that don't know that part of you were surprised y is victor newman on
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spin snin. >> i love sports. i love american football. i love basketball. i love track & field and i love boxing. >> enormous respect. i used to box at broadway. it doesn't exist anymore. 108th and broadway does. i must say the most fundamental lessons i learned in those two gyms and the warmth of fighters is enormous. >> you can't set me up like this and think i'm not going to follow you in. so the lessons learned in the gym include -- one or two? >> let me juchl to pose it with those people that have not been in the ring or not in sports and we have someone like that right now in the white house. and, you know, born with the silver spoon if his mouth and mouthing off because he was never checked.
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he was never checked. >> he never got chin checked. >> when you get in the ring, you're checked. your heart goes like this. as henry davis used to say, it's like walking through fire. and it is. and i think men need to be checked. look at hitler. he's not checked. some political leaders were never checked mitch mcconnell. pronouncing to the world that he would not give an inch to obama. many do sports. you learn respect for other human beings of all races, of all ethnic background, of all religions. because they can all check you. so the notion of germany, for example, of hitler germany, of an arian race of such unmitigated bull, excuse me.
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>> let me ask since you went there. it is impossible to know anything about your story much less to read this wonderful text and not come to terms with what it has meant for you even all these years later. we have been born when and where you were. tell me about the role that that particular factor played in your journey? >> it was in the midst of the bombs that they began to throw at germany. and my town in the baltic sea was 96% destroyed. they threw thousands of bombs over that town. and after the war you grew up with simply the task of rebuilding a country that you were born in. you didn't deal with the horrors of the nazi regime until much later, until 1961.
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i saw a documentary in the movie theet eastern the movie was called my count. i said that sounds sick. i thought let me see what that is all about. in germany in the '50s, i left in '59, we had not heard anything really in detail about hitler or his horrors. that friend was a documentary film. i must say arguably the most dramatic moment in my life which ee roused enormous interest about politics and history. and then in a vain attempt to i guess make up for the sins committed by the fathers, paid for a jewish team for the star of david on their chest on the shirt. and during the week i played nazis. just to show that i was not part of that. i was not synonymous with that
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time. i would say most members of my generation are angered by the fact when they come to america that there is a constant immediate blithe identification german nazi. i resent that enormously. the largest, did you know that? the largest group that contributed enormously and fundamentally to what is america. and yet we are often measured by that 12 year period run by that nut case in austria. >> i've been to, if i may, i've been to a few places in my life where i can feel that burden. it was almost palpable when you walk through the streets. i since felt less and less of that. but on the very first trip, i could almost feel the burden that mem still bore that the
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same was true for years when i went to memphis. that city where king was assassinated. you could almost feel. it was palpable. can you feel the burden that people felt that this is the city in which dr. king was assassinated. i heard people say the same thing about dallas after the assassination of j.f.k. what do you say to the persons who still, for whatever reason, feel that sort of burden, that sort of weight? >> go to germany. talks to germans. it's a modern country. it's the only country in the world that has really dealt with this past since. no country has done that more than germany. and they must get credit for that. and they have. by the way, memphis, i remember meeting b.b. king on beal street. >> it's hard to forget.
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modern germany is a leading part of the modern europe. out of that war came something with a silver lining named the european un dwron. although, it is being stressed enormously at the moment by the influx of refugees from the middle east who as far as i'm concerned came in as a result of the bush invasion in iraq. but consequences of that have not been fully understood by most people. most people have no understanding of history. you need to understand history fully. you need to go back to 1915 and they diffied up the middle east between great britain and france arbitrarily. en in 1953, we had a
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democratically elected president of iran. democratically elected. he was dismissed by the cia and british intelligence. they had unimpeded access to oil. we instilled the sha. so the west has an enormous amount to do with a mess in the middle east. en that was exacerbated by the invasion of iraq. where we funneled. ally disturbed the geopolitical bounds that have been created where iraq had been a natural enemy of iran. by removing saddam hussein, we allowed the shiites to take the majority. so now we have iran and iraq as allies. and we created 300,000 sunni terrorists overnight by dismembering saddam hussein's sunni army.
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they joined al qaeda. they joined isis. so we need to remember who is involved in the mess that right now europe is suffering from with the influx of refugees. >> i'm glad you brought that full circle. and it raises this issue for me in part because some of the -- some of the viewers know this already, of course. i got embroiled on this on "meet the press" and the weekend where president trum health care plan made this statement in an interview with bill o'reilly about russia and the u.s. and this is the conversation. he said what do you think, you think we're so innocent? so they jumped all over him for making this ugly comparison between russia and the u.s. and my point on that was the point you're making about a different set of facts here. but my point was that on that one issue, donald trump is right. i quoted my grandmother who said to me all the time, a broken clock is right twice a day. and when he says that we have
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not been so innocent that we've not been so perfect, he was right specifically and about that point. i'm not talking about making a comparison. he was right about. that that's the point you're making now. we're not always perfect. >> i understand. and we have to -- in our tendency to be righteous, that includes great britain and american, france, the allies in the second world war, a sense of righteous name came because of that war. you know when you read the best and the brightest, n. regard to vietnam, huge mistake. based on a notion, you know, perpetrated by the best and the brightest who were int intellectuals. >> who later apologized. >> it's extraordinary. he apologized.
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respect him greatly for. that but based on the notion of the domino theory. one country falls, all the others will fall. underestimating the enormous drive in people to be nationalistic. nationalism in vietnam was more more than than china. they hated the chinese. we don't understand enough about the history. i don't know what happened to the think tanks. they don't research a little bit and realize that the notion of wanting your own nation being proud of it is far stronger than an ism, in this case communism, for example, so, but, you know, america's country we have done so much to this world. all the institutions, the united nations came out of the league of nations. all that was given impetus by the united states of america.
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let's not forget that. >> i just think a true patriot like you, i think a true patriot doesn't excuse the sin of its own country. i think by con fronting that reality, it makes you a stronger country. which leads me to ask, what you think the role of the artist ought to be in this critical moment? clearly, people watching this program tonight see that you are much more than just victor newman on y & r and most other actors this it town have more to them than meets the eye as well. what is the role of the artist in this critical moment in our country? >> we need to speak from the heart. we need to not engage in the conversation in which we don't express what we really feel in the heart. we're doing an enormous disservice to the people that we
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play to. yeah. i think we need to speak out against what we consider an obvious injustice or huge mistake. it's not pointing out enough. the democrats were responsible for sufferage, for the civil rights act, for social security, for medicare, for all the social agendas that we all profit from now. i would like to ask many of the right-wingers how many of your parents are receiving social security? how many of you are receiving medicare? would you like that to go away? of course not. it's -- so the notion of doing away with government, government
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needs to be restrained and constrained, no question. but it does a lot of good. >> there's a legitimate role. >> look at obama's bailing out of the auto industry. and that i must say i wish hillary clinton had done more of to remind people that obama bailed out a lot of workers in the midwest by bailing out the auto industry. and we've been paid back many times, many fold. >> there are others in this town come to mind who not only considered but indeed ran for office, some successfully. ronald reagan comes to mind. arnold schwartz neger comes to mind. you have ever considered giving up victor newman to run for office because you're so connected and passionate about these issues? >> i love california. i love america. no. not anymore at this stage of my life.
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but talking about ronald reagan, you would think that i would disagree with him as far as domestic policies were concerned. i did. but he and gorbachev are the two most important people in the second half of the 20th century and in this book i give a speech for gorbachev. they prevented and almost certain third world war which would have been so klatt cliz cliz mick that we may not be talking right now. i give ronald reagan huge credit for mr. gorbachev. >> i'm tearing down this wall. >> but that was one thing. but his willingness to initiate gorbachev, they met in iceland. they met in geneva. and that was the human side of -- that was the side of ronald reagan that i appreciate enormously and deeply. only he could have done that. >> yeah. >> only he could have done that and met with gorbachev. >> y & r, i was surprised to learn, started out really as a three month stinlt for you. >> yeah. >> how do you take three months
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and turn it into almost 40 years? >> most important thing is the change of story lines. >> yeah. >> and there was a moment which wh my wife nicky on the show played beautifully by her all these years asked me about my background. this mysterious character who rufus and billionaire and she didn't know anything about him. so they came up with a story line that made me stay. i then explained to my wife that had i been left on the door steps of an orphanage at the age of 7. once i did that scene, i said i'm staying. it opened up. i playing nothing but bad guys, bored to tears with it. german bad guys, russian bad guys, every bad guy imaginable. and this opened a whole array of
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possibilities. and i've been there ever since. >> y & r outlasted sox the other daytime soaps. >> yep. >> to what do you attribute that enduring legacy? >> if i knew that, tavis, i would bottle it and create another one. >> i think victor newman has something to do with it. >> i don't know. i'm very skeptical about that always. once actors believe that without them something won't go on, you're in trouble. >> yeah. >> big trouble. >> yeah. what do you hope for fans, victor newman's enduring legacy is? >> i don't know that. i can only talk about it personally. i hope to be in it for a while, longer. many more years, another 37 years. you and i will be young crushes. and it has given me an opportunity to support my
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family, to give them a great life, to put my son christian through school. he is now directing a film. he wrote called "den of thieves" with 50 cent, jackson and butler. it is called "den of thieves." i'm so proud of him, you have no idea. >> i get an idea now. >> i didn't get it before. i get it now. >> yep. >> the book is called "i'll be damned: how my young and restless life led me to america's number one daytime drama." i told my staff when we confirmed that mr. braid enwould be back on the show that we'll get into the book stuff. but in the times that we live, i can knowing him as long and as well as i do that there were so many other things going to come up in this conversation tonight that are timely, given the state of this country and the state of the world. so he did not disappoint. so i hope that you'll get the book and read it for yourself. there is so much stuff koint get to tonight.
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it's a good read. it is climbing. always honored to you have here, sir. >> thank you for your kind words and thank you. >> i'm glad you asked. >> that was very your very important voice. i appreciate it. >> thank you, sir. that's our show. thank you for watching as always. keep the faith. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me for a conversation with bob newhart. that's next time. we'll see you then.
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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. so much talk these days about the fbi, a conversation tonight about the birth of the organization and one of first major homicide cases, the owe sage murders in the 1920s at least two dozen and perhaps as many as a few hundred members of the osage indian nation were murdered during a year long reign of terror. david graham is a staff writer for the "new yorker" magazine. he spent years researching what he calls one of the most sinister crimes in all of american history. the new book is called "killers of the flower moon." we're glad you joined us. a conversation with david graham in just a moment.

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