tv 60 Minutes CBS May 2, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
it's me proof, in a way. [ male announcer ] seed guaranteed to succeed. that's the scotts advantage. captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> in the california desert in a field of mud, is a graveyard that is hard to imagine in america. bricks mark the final resting place of hundreds of human beings, identities unknown. they died traveling to america in search of a life better than their home countries could offer. they rolled the diets in the underworld of human smuggling and lost. their families back home never learned that their journey ended here, in the all-american canal.
>> ho shea andres callinged himself a pilgrim from spain. >> that is liquid nitrogen. >> a chef who arrived here with just 50 bucks in his pocket and a set of cooking knives. >> are you ready for this. because i believe your life is going to change forever. i believe it. >> this going to change my life. >> maybe. >> but these days it's hard to call him anything less than an amazing american success story. >> what just happened? >> ♪ they threw me out ♪ it happened fast ♪ they said please don't let the door ♪ ♪ hit your freckled irish ass ♪ ♪. >> you are watching conan o'brien's legally prohibited from being funny on television tour. he left the tonight show and was replaced by jay leno he has been under legal orders not to give interviews until tonight. >> do you think that jay lobbied for this. >> what i know is what
happened, which is that he went and took that show back. >> do you believe he acted honorably during all of this? >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." >> pelley: for the first time, [ joseph ] my name is joseph and this is my aha moment.
my parents and i, we were in the car, we were driving down the road and we saw some kids sitting on a porch and my mom just made the comment that amongst one of them could be...a genius, this great person no one would ever know. and that was my aha moment. that stuck with me. so as i grew older, what i wanted to do was use my talents and my opportunities to give back to communities where kids may not have those opportunities. try to inspire some children. [ female announcer ] mutual of omaha. proud sponsor of life's aha moments. a deep ache all over. i found out that connected to our muscles are nerves that send messages through the body. my doctor diagnosed it as fibromyalgia, thought to be the result of overactive nerves that cause chronic, widespread pain. lyrica is believed to calm these nerves. i learned lyrica can provide significant relief from fibromyalgia pain. so now i can do more of what i love. [ female announcer ] lyrica is not for everyone. lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. tell your doctor right away if you have these,
new or worsening depression, or unusual changes in mood or behavior or any swelling or affected breathing or skin or changes in eyesight, including blurry vision, or muscle pain with fever or tired feeling. common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain, and swelling of hands, legs, and feet. don't drink alcohol while taking lyrica. don't drive or use machinery until you know how lyrica affects you. i found answers about fibromyalgia. then i found lyrica. ask your doctor about lyrica today. >> pelley: for the first time, beginning this summer, police in arizona will be able to stop
anyone they like and order a check of their i.d. to determine whether the person is in the u.s. illegally. the new powers, just recently signed into law, have re-ignited the national debate on immigration. since 9/11, getting into the united states has become a good deal harder and, for some, much more dangerous. with border enforcement increasing, many illegal immigrants are now attempting to cross one of this country's most important irrigation projects, called the all-american canal. the canal has become sort of a national moat on our southern border. and hundreds of people have perished in its waters. it is a carnage that has gone mostly unnoticed, because many of the victims are buried without their names. in the california desert, in a field of mud, is a graveyard that is hard to imagine in america. bricks mark the final resting place of hundreds of human beings, identities unknown.
they died traveling to america in search of a life better than their home countries could offer. they rolled the dice in the underworld of human smuggling, and lost. their families back home never learned that their journey ended here in the all-american canal. >> pelley: where do they find the bodies? >> dr. john hunter: typically, they'll find them at the drops. so, for example, there's five of these big hydro drops here. drop one-- they found over a hundred bodies at drop one; drop two, they had 60; drop three, 60, et cetera. >> pelley: dr. john hunter showed us the hydroelectric dams, or drops, that catch most of the bodies. hunter is an unlikely activist. he's a physicist and life-long republican, who has spent much of his career designing weapons for the u.s. government. >> hunter: i'm a very right-wing guy. i'm not an open-border kind of person. i just don't believe we should be letting people drown in our backyards. it's inhuman. >> pelley: ten years ago, a newspaper article about rising immigrant deaths caught his attention.
and today, the deaths in the canal system are an obsession. >> hunter: this first picture is a little girl named alexandra, and she drowned saving her older sister's life. this was border agent goldstein. he drowned trying to save his dog. this is one small subset of the american canal. each pushpin represents a person who drowned in this particular location. >> pelley: how many pushpins are there? how many victims? >> hunter: there's over 550 victims, and those are the ones we know of. >> pelley: while the canal is a deathtrap, it is also a lifeline for the nation. it flows the length of 85 miles, just north of california's border with mexico, transporting water from the colorado river to the imperial valley. two-thirds of our winter fruits and vegetables are grown with this water. but half of the people who pick those crops are illegal immigrants. to get the jobs created by the canal, they cross the canal, usually at night, on makeshift rafts or using plastic jugs for flotation.
the water is 225 feet across, 30 feet deep, with almost no rescue lines or climb-out ladders, safety devices that you would find in some other canals. the all-american is owned by the federal government, but its management is controlled by a regional authority called the imperial irrigation district. and for ten years, hunter has been lobbying the elected members of the irrigation district to add safety features. >> shall we pray. >> pelley: they've taken votes, commissioned studies, but done almost nothing. >> amen. at this time, we'll hear public comments. >> pelley: there are hundreds of reasons people risk their lives to cross the canal. stephanie martinez knows one of them. >> stephanie martinez: this is my husband and his baby right now. this is about the last time he saw our baby. >> pelley: martinez was born in germany. she came to the united states as a teenager, became a citizen, and married a carpenter named sergio martinez, who was an illegal immigrant from mexico.
>> martinez: even though we don't look so all-american, we really had an all-american family. we were having a mortgage, and a nice backyard and a tree house for the kids. >> pelley: living the american dream? >> martinez: yeah. it felt american to us. >> pelley: did he feel american? >> martinez: absolutely. >> pelley: martinez built homes. his wife raised the children and taught hebrew school on the side. in 2007, martinez was pulled over for a traffic stop and the police discovered he was here illegally. martinez was deported to mexico. and under u.s. law, there was practically no way for him to obtain legal status once he'd committed an immigration violation. >> martinez: he took matters into his own hand and came and took a bus to the border and called me from there that he was about to cross and there was no one going to hold him from doing that. >> pelley: and what happened to him? >> martinez: they caught him two times. and on his third try to cross, he drowned. >> pelley: you know, many people
watching this interview are probably thinking to themselves, "this is a terrible tragedy for your family, but he shouldn't have come. what he did was illegal and he shouldn't have tried." >> martinez: that is true and i understand that. but i think that once you put yourself in the position... how many fathers are watching this? how many moms are watching this that have a small baby at home? and then imagine that some legality keeps you from seeing that baby. people always say that people should come here legally, and i absolutely agree, but what people don't know, you're not able to do that. couldn't we just put a few lines, just anything like a buoy or something where people can grab onto? deport them all-- i don't care-- but just to put something up so people don't have to die. >> pelley: one of the directors listening that day was stella mendoza, who's been with the imperial irrigation district,
the i.i.d., for nine years. >> stella mendoza: is the i.i.d. supposed to save every individual that jumps into the canal? is that my role as a director? >> pelley: mendoza told us that she worries adding safety features like buoys, lines or ladders would give illegal immigrants a false sense of security. i wonder whether you feel the canal is safe. >> mendoza: the canal is intended to convey water to the imperial valley from the colorado river. it's not intended as a recreation, and so... >> pelley: we're not talking about recreation here. we're talking about people desperate to come into the united states and who are losing their lives in your canal. >> mendoza: i understand that. when an individual decides to cross the desert, decides to cross the mountains, decides to jump into the canal to swim across, they are taking their life in their own hands. they have to be accountable for their actions. >> pelley: in 2007, as the
drownings continued, the board approved climb-out ladders along about one quarter of the canal's length. but they're spaced every 500 feet; a drowning man would be lucky to reach one. john fletermeyer of florida international university is one of this country's top researchers in the subject of drowning. he was commissioned to do a study on the safety of the all- american. >> john fletermeyer: i've been involved in drowning research for most of my life. i think the all-american canal's probably the most dangerous body of water in the united states. >> pelley: the most dangerous body of water in the united states? >> fletermeyer: absolutely. >> pelley: help me understand the dynamic when somebody gets into the water. >> fletermeyer: one, the water's very cold, so that a victim, or someone in the canal, would almost immediately begin to experience hypothermia. the second factor relates to the currents. they go at approximately eight feet per second, which even an olympic swimmer really could not successfully swim against. >> pelley: fletermeyer believes it would take about $1 million
to install buoys and escape lines every 150 feet. >> fletermeyer: with the recommendations that i made, it's very realistic to say that 75% of the drownings could be prevented. >> pelley: and last year, the board agreed to test one of fletermeyer's safety lines. there was supposed to be a test of safety features in december 2009. did that happen? >> mendoza: no. >> pelley: why not? >> mendoza: bureaucracy. >> pelley: fill me in. >> mendoza: it... we're... there's no excuse for that. >> pelley: there doesn't seem to be any urgency here, if you see what i mean. >> mendoza: i understand what you're saying. >> i hope that you guys can start putting hardware in the water as soon as possible, because you have the most lethal killing machine in the country, and it's still going on. >> pelley: john hunter was so frustrated with the pace of installing safety features that he built his own. then, wearing fins and a wetsuit against the cold, he installed his system in less than ten
minutes. the imperial irrigation district removed it almost as fast. >> officer: full name, sir? >> hunter: yeah, john hunter. the appropriate measures are not rocket science. canals have been made safe in the u.s. for hundreds of years. >> pelley: why should the united states spend dollars on safety features in this canal, when the people who are drowning in the canal, frankly, are criminals. they should not be coming into the country. >> hunter: right. if they were serial murderers, it they were child molesters... i'm a right wing guy, i'd say "have at it. let 'em do it. put the gators in the canal," you know. "we'll line it with mines, too, and i'll help you set the fuses on the mines." but they're not. you saw those pictures. alajandra was a ten-year-old saving her 12-year-old sister, so these are not your hardened criminals. >> pelley: in fact, crossing illegally is a class "b" misdemeanor, same as loitering. but in the 1990s, after scenes like this of immigrants rushing border stations, congress beefed up the border, and a california congressman led the charge to build a better fence in san diego.
>> duncan hunter: i'm duncan hunter. we built this double fence here at the mexican border in san diego and reduced the smuggling of hundreds of thousands of people and tons of drugs by more than 90%. the fence works. >> pelley: it did work. the fence channeled illegal immigrants away from the cities and rerouted them to the desert and the remote canal. drownings rose rapidly, from six in 1994 to more than 30 in 1998. that county cemetery we showed you earlier had to expand. there are now 850 bricks in the paupers' graveyards, mostly people who drowned or perished in the desert. former congressman duncan hunter says the fence is a success and now the canal should be made safer. the congressman's brother, john hunter, feels the unintended cost of the fence has been too high. i wonder whether any of this is family guilt that motivates you. >> hunter: well, i have nothing... "guilt," to me, is... is an acceptable phrase. i... i mean, there is... we all love each other in my family,
aside from the occasional fistfight, okay. but i do feel some ownership, because i helped duncan back in the day. >> pelley: if 500 and more americans had drowned in the canal, what do you think would have happened? >> hunter: i... if... if 50 americans had drowned in the canal, this would have been solved a long time ago. >> pelley: last year, there was a massive effort to save lives on the all-american canal. the federal government paid for a project to rescue fish, lifting them over the hydroelectric drops where the human bodies tend to gather. the imperial irrigation district has recently started a yearlong test of a single safety line. if the board votes to install the system that it's testing, it will still cover only a short stretch of the canal that's lined with concrete. so three-quarters of the canal would have no safety features? >> mendoza: correct. >> pelley: and there's no plan for putting safety features... >> mendoza: not at this time. >> pelley: so it's not likely people are going to stop drowning in the canal? >> mendoza: probably.
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[ male announcer ] upgrade to first class investing technology at e-trade. >> cooper: jose andres calls himself a pilgrim from spain, a chef who arrived here 20 years ago with just 50 bucks in his pocket, and a set of cooking knives. but these days, it's hard to call him anything less than an amazing american success story.
he was "gq" magazine's chef of the year, runs restaurants on both coasts, and has been nominated for outstanding chef in america by the james beard foundation. jose andres' personality is enormous, as are his plans to charm america into changing its eating habits. but it's his avant-garde approach to cooking that's really made him famous, and has his diners rethinking how much fun food can be. >> jose andres: eating has to be fun, has to be a social event, but where you have fun that you are relaxed. but at the same time that you are relaxed, doesn't mean that you cannot be putting a lot of thought behind what... what eating, what the food means to you. mini-bar is a window into creativity, that's all. >> cooper: welcome to jose andres's mini-bar, a kind of culinary laboratory in washington, d.c., where i was lucky enough to skip a month- long waiting list for one of just six seats. >> andres: very delicate.
>> cooper: do i drink this or eat... >> andres: drink it. >> cooper: first course, first surprise-- a temperature-layered cocktail. >> andres: this is what we call the drink by the chef. >> cooper: oh, i didn't even realize this was alcohol. >> andres: a cocktail. a cocktail can be made by the bartender. but the cocktail also can be made by the chef. >> cooper: it's great. it's hot, but it's cold. there's cold underneath it. >> andres: already, your taste buds are already being excited, because they are asking themselves, "what's happening here?" >> cooper: what's happening here is molecular gastronomy, a cooking technique that embraces science and technology. jose andres says his 30-course menu is as much about the brain and the eye as the tongue and stomach. listen to his explanation of "the air" floating on top of that caviar brioche. >> andres: it's like if you are walking in fifth avenue and you could open your mouth, and right there in the middle of fifth avenue, you would have that flavor in your mouth-- that's what "air" is all about. >> cooper: so what's that cone all about? >> andres: bagel and lox.
inside has cream cheese, and instead of the smoke salmon has salmon roe. >> cooper: bagel and lox. his dishes are a bite or two with some complicated combinations. for example, i wondered why there was cotton candy wrapped around my seafood. >> andres: cotton candy is the most amazing form of caramelization ever invented by man. you're going to... you're going to love it-- it's going to be sweet and the smokiness of the eel. >> cooper: wow. chef andres' dishes are cutting- edge, so what he thinks about ingredients may surprise you. >> andres: i believe the future is vegetables and fruits. they are so much more sexier than a piece of chicken. >> cooper: you find vegetables and fruits sexy? >> andres: unbelievably sexy. ( laughter ) come on, think about it for a second, okay? let's compare a chicken breast, the best chicken breast from the best farm, with a beautiful pineapple. cut the pineapple. already, the aromas are inundating the entire kitchen--
it has acidity, sour after- notes, touches of passion fruit. >> cooper: all right. you're making me excited. >> andres: come on, and the chicken breast? it's okay, but i do believe today that meat is... is highly overrated. >> cooper: meat's overrated? >> andres: meat is overrated. >> cooper: what... what do you mean? >> andres: well, meat to me, it's slightly boring. hold on, i love meat, too, but only once in a while. you get a piece of meat and you put it in your mouth, you chew. the first five seconds, all the juices flow around your mouth, they're gone. and then you are 20 more seconds chewing something that is tasteless at this point. something like this doesn't happen with a pineapple, an asparagus, or a green pea. >> cooper: how would you describe jose andres to someone who's never met him or never tried his food? >> ruth reichl: expect wonders. >> cooper: ruth reichl is one of america's most respected food writers.
>> reichl: food is going to do things that you never imagined. it's going to come floating at you. it's going to explode. it's going to have textures that you didn't ever think that would be in your mouth. >> cooper: so it's not just a gimmick? >> reichl: it's not a gimmick. it's a kind of magic. it's like a circus of the mouth. >> cooper: reichl says andres started a revolution when he moved to america almost 20 years ago. >> reichl: he was the first person to really start thinking about molecular gastronomy in this country, and what molecular gastronomy says is, "what if we think about deconstructing food?" >> cooper: deconstructing food? >> reichl: deconstructing food. taking the parts of the food you know, separating them, and recombining them in interesting ways. >> andres: new england clam chowder. >> cooper: i love new england clam chowder. watch how he deconstructed my favorite soup... >> andres: look at those clams.
>> cooper: ...and probably america's most traditional one. >> andres: the traditional new england clam chowder, the clams are over-cooked. these ones are raw, already so much better. >> cooper: every ingredient is the same. >> andres: cream. >> cooper: clams, bacon, cream. until he adds the potato. >> andres: a potato mousse. but is the lightest form of potato mousse ever. this is what america is all about. a spanish boy that came 18 years ago actually trying to move forward a classic american dish, new england clam chowder. >> cooper: ( laughs ) wow, it's clam chowder. >> andres: great. my name is jose andres, and i cook for a living. >> cooper: andres' techniques are so advanced, he's been asked to teach a course in culinary physics next fall at harvard. >> andres: one of the things we are trying to do today is to make sure that we are able to feed people maximum flavor with a minimum quantity of food. >> cooper: he's been visiting
the scientists there for years, working to understand the chemistry of everything in his kitchens. and while we were there with him, he spent the better part of a day trying to better understand a complicated emulsion known as mayonnaise. >> andres: we are surrounded by science. everything that happens in our lives, especially food, is a science. finally, what is happening is that we know the why. >> cooper: the whys and whats of high school didn't interest andres too much, so he dropped out and enrolled in a cooking school in barcelona. his big break came when he was hired into this kitchen, where the world's most celebrated chef, ferran adria, trained him in avant-garde cuisine. jose andres left for america and in 1993 opened up this classic spanish tapas bar called jaleo in washington, d.c., where he built a reputation and a following. now the cook who arrived in this country with a few dollars in his pocket runs eight successful
restaurants. his latest, called the bazaar, has him spreading the gospel of spanish-influenced molecular gastronomy in beverly hills. >> cooper: so, that's... that's... >> andres: liquid nitrogen. >> cooper: that's liquid nitrogen. and that's popcorn? >> andres: caramelized popcorn. are you ready for this, because i believe your life is going to change forever. ( laughter ) i mean it. >> cooper: this is going to change my life? >> andres: maybe. okay. that's dragon breath, boy. >> cooper: what just happened? what's happening in the bazaar's kitchen is that andres and his culinary director, reuben garcia, are creating dishes with tastes and textures that have customers doing this. >> andres: when i cook-- i'm not going to lie to you-- i'm very selfish, me and my team. we need to please ourselves. we need to make sure that we are
convinced of what we are doing and eating, and that we see ourselves in that dish we are creating. if i don't please myself, it's impossible i will be able to please you. >> cooper: the bazaar is the only restaurant in los angeles with a four-star review from the "l.a. times," and getting a reservation here is a bit like getting a seat next to jack nicholson at a laker game. while jose andres is proud of his success in sunny los angeles, he is probably prouder of the kitchen he has volunteered at for the last 17 years in this tough washington, d.c., neighborhood. >> andres: i came here as a cook, sharing my time, peeling potatoes. >> cooper: the d.c. central kitchen was founded by robert egger. >> andres: hey. here is the man! >> cooper: he says andres wandered in and offered his expertise just weeks after he moved into town. >> robert egger: we couldn't get rid of him, man.
i mean, he came down here and he was always down here helping. >> andres: i always felt like i have to give back to america what america has given to me. >> cooper: he was drawn to their model: a 12-week culinary training course for people with little hope-- former prisoners, drug abusers and homeless. now they distribute fresh meals daily prepared from one ton of donated surplus food. staffers say they've stopped being surprised when they hear... >> andres: hola, guapa. >> cooper: ... first thing in the morning when the chef shows up to work. >> andres: chefs of america, we should be more outspoken about the way we are feeding america, not only about what i'm feeding them in my restaurant or in the great restaurants of america. it's only 1%, 2%, or 3% of the americans that eat in those restaurants. we should be more committed about the other 97% of americans that don't come to our restaurants. that should be what i hope, one day, will be my little contribution.
>> cooper: the chef has hired ten graduates from the d.c. central kitchen and personally mentored 50 of their interns. he's also helped to raise a million and a half dollars for the program that helps feed 4,000 people every single day. do you see yourself as a spanish chef working in america or an american chef who is trained in spain? >> andres: i see more and more myself as an american chef that was trained in spain. >> cooper: at 40 years of age, this unofficial ambassador from spain is about to open restaurants at the new cosmopolitan resort in las vegas. also in miami, mexico city, and paris. >> andres: thank you so much. >> cooper: but washington, d.c., remains home for jose, his wife patricia, and their three daughters: carlotta, ines and lucia. it's also here in d.c. that the chef who wants to change the way america looks at food offered me one last lesson during last call at mini bar. >> andres: this is a mojito.
>> cooper: that's a mojito? >> andres: that's a mojito. put this on your tongue and it's going to explode. and you're going to find this amazing... take a look. what you see here like a solid thing, you will think actually inside is liquid, because outside is a very thin membrane. but is liquid. and you say, "how we make that?" well, in the end, it's simple. we use a seaweed that we call algae. we use a salt that is a salt of calcium. that one with the other allows us to make things like this-- a spherification. i don't like to tell people about the ingredients i'm using, but they are very natural, normal ingredients, average ingredients. the right use of those ingredients allows me to make dishes like this. >> cooper: i'm trying to resist licking that off the plate. >> andres: hey, cut the cameras off. ( laughter )
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[ laughs ] ♪ oh, land ♪ where my fathers died ♪ land of the pilgrims' pride ♪ from every mountainside ♪ let freedom ring ♪ >> kroft: very few things in this country galvanize public opinion like someone trying to mess around with people's preferences in the bedroom. i'm talking, of course, about what they watch on late night television. and nbc found that out a few months ago when conan o'brien, the newly installed host of "the tonight show," quit after the network announced it was going to push "the tonight show" into tomorrow, and to give its traditional time slot back to o'brien's predecessor, jay leno.
it triggered a lot of bad publicity for nbc an outpouring of public support for conan, and some of the best late night jokes in a decade. conan walked away with a $32 million settlement and a new cable show. and nbc did its best to push him into oblivion, legally prohibiting him from saying anything false or disparaging about the network and from giving interviews or appearing on television until now. if you're wondering what happened to conan o'brien and what he thinks about all of this, you are about to find out. so what's with the beard? >> conan o'brien: that first day that i woke up and was no longer the host of "the tonight show," i remember the first thought i had is, "i am not shaving." and that was my small victory, you know. okay, so i lost "the tonight show," but i'll show them-- i'll stop shaving. >> kroft: this has been quite a year. >> o'brien: yeah. that's it, we're done.
this was a lot of fun. this year has been... is still incomprehensible to me. the amount of stuff that's happened in my life in the last year is... it's going to take me a long time to process it. >> kroft: after leaving "the tonight show" in january and hanging out at his home, trying to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life, he decided the best therapy would be to get out of the house and back to work. he assembled a lot of his old staff, opened a twitter account... >> o'brien: that's the tweet. >> kroft: ...and began planning a nationwide comedy tour, something that he had never done before, and one of the few things he was allowed to do contractually. >> o'brien: see how things play out. >> kroft: we met up with him in seattle. you must have been miserable for the last couple of months? >> o'brien: i went through some stuff. and i got very depressed at times. it was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. and i was just trying to figure out what happened.
when we started putting this tour together, i started to feel better almost immediately. and then this... there is almost no better antidote to what i've just been through than to do this every night. >> ladies and gentlemen! >> riff from seattle, washington, it's conan! >> o'brien: doing this tour though, this is a huge milestone for me. this is the first time anyone has ever paid to see me. ( laughter ) oh, they've paid to make me go away. ♪ on the road again ♪ >> kroft: "legally prohibited from being funny on television tour" has boosted his confidence, kept him relevant, and provided an outlet for him
to explore his anger, disappointment, and anxiety with mostly self-deprecating humor. >> o'brien: ♪ my own show again. i just can't wait to have my own show again. ♪ i'd even take a primetime show that's on at 10:00 anything to have my own show again. ♪ >> kroft: after 40 performances in 32 cities in the u.s. and canada, the tour will wind up next month at radio city music hall in new york, right next door to nbc's corporate headquarters, where this whole late night fiasco was cooked up. >> jay leno: i just want to say, i couldn't be happier. you were the only choice, you were the perfect choice. you have been an absolute gentleman in private and in the press. >> conan rocks! >> leno: i agree-- conan rocks. good luck, next week, my friend. >> o'brien: jay, thank you for everything. >> kroft: less than one year after jay leno handed "the tonight show" off to conan o'brien, nbc decided to cancel leno's disastrous primetime show and move him back into his old time period at 11:35 eastern. conan's "tonight show," which was losing badly in the ratings
to david letterman, was to be bumped back to 12:05 the next morning. was it in the back of your mind that "look, if i don't do that well, they can just pop leno back in"? >> o'brien: i'm a paranoid person. and i think... i'm the kind of person that can come up with lots of negative scenarios. but i remembered thinking that seemed like... that was a stretch, even for me. >> kroft: what followed were some unpleasant discussions with nbc's west coast brass. >> o'brien: it just felt like the tone went very quickly from, "take your time, we understand this is a tough decision" to, you know, "let's go." and that probably helped me a little bit feel like, "you know what? this environment doesn't feel right. and i've been with these people a long time. and i don't like... i really don't like the way this is going." and when it started to get toxic and i started to feel that i'm not sure these people even
really want me here-- let's just... let's just... i can't do it. >> kroft: do you think they wanted you to leave? >> o'brien: yeah, that's crossed my mind. again, i don't know how thought- out this whole thing was. but if they wanted me to leave, it worked. >> liza o'brien: this was just really, really hard for him. it... it was watching someone's heart get broken. >> kroft: liza o'brien, conan's wife, was one of his main confidants and closest advisors during the debacle. did you approve of everything that he did? >> liza o'brien: 100%, yeah. >> kroft: you thought he should've left? >> liza o'brien: absolutely. >> kroft: what do you think of the way he was treated by nbc? >> liza o'brien: from my perspective, it felt like they never really gave him the job; that they said, "we're going to give you this job in five years," and they kept him with the company. and they... they... you know, he said, "i won't go anywhere else,
and i'll keep working for you, and i'm in it for the long haul." and it felt like they... they lost their nerve to really make a change, and... and that was too bad. it was a shame, because it... it would've been great to see what he could've done if he had had their full support, and had some more time. >> kroft: you've got this non- disparagement agreement >> o'brien: do you have a copy, because i haven't read it in awhile. i keep one in... >> kroft: i have a copy somewhere in my bag. >> o'brien: i keep one in my wallet. ( laughs ) >> kroft: you do? >> o'brien: anytime people come up to me-- "hey, so what's the deal with... with jay leno?" "hold on a second." "he's a fine and good man." there we go, put that away. >> kroft: can i assume that this interview would take a different tenor if that agreement did not exist? >> o'brien: no, it... i don't think it would. the biggest thing people come up and say to me in gas stations and restaurants-- i have so many people say this to me: "hey, partner, you got screwed." i don't... and i always tell them, "no, i didn't. i didn't get screwed. i'm... i'm fine. it just... it didn't work out." >> kroft: well, you did get
screwed. >> o'brien: you think i got screwed? >> kroft: well, i think most people think you got screwed. i mean, jay leno thinks you got screwed. jay leno thinks he got screwed. >> o'brien: how did he get screwed again? ( laughter ) explain that part to me. i'm sorry. jay's got "the tonight show"; i have a beard and an inflatable bat. and i'm touring city to city. who can say who won and who lost? i'm laughing because crying would be sad. >> kroft: has jay reached out to you? >> o'brien: no. >> kroft: no calls? >> o'brien: no. i do not think i will be hearing from him. we should get him in here. is he...? >> kroft: we should. >> o'brien: is he going to... is he going to be a surprise walk- on? >> kroft: no, no, no. >> o'brien: okay. >> kroft: but he call... if we... if you know his number, we can... i'm sure he'd come over. >> o'brien: he may have caller i.d. he won't pick up. >> kroft: i think leno would
say, "look, i was riding high. i was number one, and i was still number one when i left." and conan made this deal with nbc, and nbc said, "okay, jay, we're going to take you off the air in five years, regardless of whether you're number one or number two or what." i think he felt like he was forced out by nbc at a time when he was a strong number one and was pushed out the door. that's his argument. >> o'brien: it's hard for me to get inside his head and argue his side of this whole thing. um... i... here's what i can say. i'm happy with my decision. i sleep well at night. and i, you know, hope he's happy with his decision. >> kroft: do you think that jay lobbied for this? >> o'brien: i don't know. but what i know is what happened, which is that he went
and took that show back. >> kroft: do you believe he acted honorably during all of this? >> o'brien: i don't think i can answer that. i don't think... i can just tell you maybe how i would have handled it. and i would do it differently. >> kroft: you wouldn't have come back on "the tonight show." >> o'brien: if i had surrendered "the tonight show" and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well, and then i don't... would not have come back six months later. but that's me, you know. everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things. >> kroft: what would you have done? >> o'brien: done something else, go someplace else. i mean, that's just me. >> kroft: he is equally disappointed with nbc, the company where he worked most of his adult life, and with nbc universal chief jeff zucker, who he has known since they were classmates at harvard.
has zucker called you? >> o'brien: no. >> kroft: you haven't talked to zucker since this offer was made to you? >> o'brien: that's right. you know, at some point, i'm sure i'm going to bump into these people. and, you know, i'm not sure we're going to be... have our arms around each other and drinking beer and singing old irish fight songs. because i don't think they know any. but... but, you know, i... i wish... this is going to sound crazy. i do wish these people well. >> kroft: jeff zucker was quoted as saying, "at the end of the day, the viewers voted." and they didn't like conan as the host of "the tonight show." >> o'brien: can i take back what i just said? >> kroft: you take issue with that. >> o'brien: in my opinion, i don't think that's fair or accurate. but he's entitled to his opinion. i think for anyone to say that the results were in after six
months, that doesn't ring true to me. >> kroft: they said that the... for the first time in history, "the tonight show" was losing money. >> o'brien: i don't see how that's... i honestly don't see how that's possible. it's really not possible. it isn't possible. >> kroft: did you expect nbc to give you more of a chance? >> o'brien: absolutely. i... yes. >> kroft: do you feel like it was a failure? >> o'brien: my "tonight show"? no. absolutely not. >> kroft: conan does agree with nbc's comments that it was a business decision, motivated by money, and he acknowledges that leno had the more expensive contract and would have been even harder to let go. some people have reported that nbc would have had to pay him $150 million. >> o'brien: uh-huh, yeah. so if you look at it that way,
and you're working at, lets say, you're working at general electric and you tell them, "you know, there's this to make that guy go away or there's this," that decision's probably pretty clear. and i think in my gut i honestly believe everybody knows that's what happened. they did what they had to do, and okay, i get it. and the only thing i take exception to is subsequently people saying, "well, you know, conan was losing money and, you know, actually he was murdering cats." what? you know, whatever. >> kroft: last month, conan finally pulled the trigger on his future, raising some eyebrows by signing on to do an 11:00 show for the cable channel tbs and not with a broadcast network. >> o'brien: i do not look down my nose at cable. and i think anyone who does
isn't paying attention to television these days. because it is... this world is changing very quickly. >> kroft: you have $30 million that you didn't have before. you've got a very lucrative new gig on tbs, which has an audience that... >> o'brien: very young audience. >> kroft: custom-made for you. >> o'brien: uh-huh. >> kroft: it wasn't all bad. >> o'brien: that's the point i keep making. it's crucial to me that anyone seeing this take... they take anything away from this, it's i'm fine; i'm doing great. i hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. and i... and i don't regret anything. i do believe, and this might be my catholic upbringing or irish magical thinking, but i think things happen for a reason. i really do. >> kroft: i thought the
lutherans believed that. >> o'brien: oh, my god. it is lutherans. okay... i believe that if i experience any joy in life, i'll go to hell. that's what i believe. and... but you get my point. ♪ they threw me out it happened fast ♪ they said, "please don't let the door hit your freckled, irish ass" ♪ i hung around the house eating frosting from a jar ♪ i got really into "gossip girl" and sleeping in my car ♪ yes, i'll survive yes, i'll survive ♪ yeah, they kind of tried to kill me, but i made it out alive ♪ i've got all my life to live i have so many shows to give ♪ i'll survive i will survive i will survive. ♪
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