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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  May 20, 2012 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT

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captioning funded by cbs, and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> cooper: there are more than 40,000 active cemeteries in this country, from small churchyards to sprawling memorial parks owned by big corporations. we think of them as spiritual places, sacred ground. but when things go wrong, they can go very wrong for many years, without anyone noticing. >> i'm not really sure where my dad is. that's the problem. >> simon: we went looking for a place of calm in the middle east, a place not racked by violence, anxiety, torment. not an easy mission these days. but we found one in the unlikeliest of spots-- israel's largest city, tel aviv, bordered on all sides by danger.
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do you ever feel like you're dancing on the "titanic"? >> arik kneller: sometimes. maybe part of the reasons people dance on... on the tables is because they really believe that, tomorrow, tel aviv is going to be attacked. and they really do live as if it's the last day of pompeii. >> safer: meryl streep has a unique gift. she does not just portray a character, she becomes her. >> this is a day to put differences aside. >> safer: ms. streep as margaret thatcher in "the iron lady." she was self-assured and confident... >> oh, yes. >> safer: ...that her way was the only way. >> i have a lot of that. ( laughs ) >> safer: she does not have a lot of patience for shooting the same scene time after time. >> i don't like to go over things, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. i don't like that. >> kroft: i'm steve kroft. >> stahl: i'm lesley stahl. >> safer: i'm morley safer.
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>> simon: i'm bob simon. >> cooper: i'm anderson cooper. >> pelley: i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on this special edition of "60 minutes." wow! who delivered these pizza dipping strips? oh, they're not delivery. they're new digiorno pizza dipping strips. with two sauces? who needs delivery? [ horn honks ] that guy. [ male announcer ] twelve pizza strips, perfect for dipping. it's not delivery. it's new digiorno pizza dipping strips.
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we just had ourselves a little journey moment there. yep. [ man ] saw 'em in '83 in fresno. place was crawling with chicks. i got to go. ♪ any way you want it ♪ that's the way you need it ♪ any way you want it ♪ >> stahl:: tonight cnn's anderson cooper on assignment for 60 minutes. >> cooper: every day in this country, grieving families spend thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars on funerals, cremations and burials. they often have to make decisions quickly, at a difficult time, without doing much research or reading the fine print on contracts.
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and while the bereaved may believe they're dealing with mom-and-pop operations that have been in the community for many years, a lot of funeral homes and cemeteries these days are owned by big corporations, part of a multibillion-dollar industry known as the "death- care" business. the nation's graveyards are a lucrative part of the industry. most of the time, they're every bit as orderly and peaceful as they seem. but when things go wrong, they can go very wrong for many years, without anyone noticing. and for the families involved, it can be a nightmare. there are more than 40,000 active cemeteries in this country, from small churchyards to sprawling memorial parks owned by big corporations. we think of them as spiritual places, sacred ground. but in the cemetery where roxie williams' family buried her father, she can find no peace. she has no idea where her father's body is. >> roxie williams: it's row one and it's lot 16.
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>> cooper: she was 11 when her father was laid to rest here at burr oak, an historic african- american cemetery in cook county, illinois. her mother, a nurse, struggled to pay for the burial. >> williams: it's traditional in our culture to give that last rite. my brother and i ate beans. i mean, we didn't eat because she was so committed to... to making sure her husband was put down in a decent fashion. >> cooper: so, buying that headstone was, financially, a big deal. >> williams: a burden. i mean, a burden. >> cooper: that was in 1978. years later, when she came back to visit her father's grave, she couldn't find his headstone. when she demanded an explanation from cemetery staff, she says they acted like she was confused or crazy and threatened to call police if she didn't leave. roxie williams, however, wasn't crazy. in 2009, acting on an insider's tip, the sheriff's department discovered workers at burr oak had been removing headstones, digging up coffins and dumping remains in mass graves so they could resell the plots.
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it soon became apparent an entire community had been deceived. hundreds of bodies were thrown out over a period of many years without anybody figuring out what was going on. >> tom dart: we first came out here, we found femurs, skulls, parts of jaws just laying out in the open. >> cooper: laying out on the ground? >> dart: oh, yeah. i mean, we found one right over here. >> cooper: cook county sheriff tom dart led the investigation at burr oak. and this was all about greed? >> dart: oh, absolutely. this was all about greed, and overarching that is the fact that these areas are so horribly unregulated, it allows for that to happen. >> cooper: when you say it's unregulated, what do you mean? >> dart: there was no records of anything. there was no records of how many people are supposed to be buried here. we couldn't even find a blueprint of the place. and truly, in any cemetery, do you know, underneath the ground, who is under there? you really don't know. >> cooper: what happened at burr oak is unusual, but the conditions that enabled it to go on for so long without being detected are quite common. most states have few licensing requirements, no on-the-ground
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inspections, not even a hotline consumers can call with complaints. >> josh slocum: it's sort of the wild west out there. >> cooper: josh slocum is executive director of funeral consumers alliance, a non-profit watchdog group. >> slocum: there isn't much regulation at all, and what is there is a patchwork. >> cooper: aren't cemeteries regulated by the federal trade commission? >> slocum: no. and that is a goal that we have been trying to get achieved for a long time. since 1984, funeral homes have been regulated by the federal trade commission's funeral rule. you can think of that as a consumer bill of rights at the funeral home. but those rights stop at... at the cemeteries. >> cooper: under that consumer bill of rights, funeral homes are required to provide their customers with a clear price list and other disclosures. those rules, however, don't apply to cemeteries. in 2004, when lucy perez pre- purchased a burial plot at mt. olive cemetery in chicago for $2,500, she says the salesman told her she'd paid for everything, and she believed him.
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but when her grandson died unexpectedly six years later, she was told the cemetery would not bury him unless she paid an additional $2,550 fee for digging the grave and covering it back up. that was a month's salary for lucy and more than she paid for the plot itself. so, they were charging you $2,500, or about $2,500, for... >> lucy perez: $2,500 to take out dirt and put it back in. >> cooper: did you think about not paying? >> perez: we did. we started thinking about maybe going to see a lawyer and stuff because it didn't sound right. but we were grieving. you know, we had to get my grandson buried. >> cooper: so, even though you... you sensed you were being ripped off... >> perez: right. >> cooper: ...you had... >> perez: we had no choice. >> cooper: mt. olive cemetery may look like a local operation, but since 2006, it's been owned by service corporation international, or s.c.i., the largest provider of funeral homes and cemeteries in north america. s.c.i. is known by the brand dignity memorial.
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last year, the company reported an operating profit of $363 million. what's your experience been with s.c.i.? >> slocum: they generate a disproportionately large number of the complaints that we get from consumers. >> cooper: is that just because they're one of the biggest organizations out there? >> slocum: i don't think so, because the complaints are so similar: high pressure sales tactics, misleading or outright dishonest information given to consumers, double-sold plots. >> cooper: a "double-sold plot" is when the same grave is sold to two different people. that's what happened to julie ramirez's family after her father was buried at s.c.i.'s mont meta memorial park in texas in 2001. they wanted to exhume your father. >> julie ramirez: they wanted to exhume daddy right away. they wanted us to... >> cooper: in order to give the plots to somebody else. >> ramirez: yeah, absolutely. >> cooper: why not just tell the people who hadn't yet buried their loved one that "we're going to have to give you a different plot"? >> ramirez: that was our suggestion. we said, "look, do not move dad. just leave him alone." >> cooper: the cemetery,
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however, moved him to a nearby spot without telling the family. >> ramirez: it just didn't seem fair. that was his final resting place. i can see a person making a mistake, but it's the way they handled it afterwards. >> cooper: moving the body without your permission. >> ramirez: moving the body without our permission, like thieves. >> michael avenatti: i think that this company is driven by profits above all else. >> cooper: attorney michael avenatti has been investigating s.c.i.-owned facilities all over the country. one of his biggest cases involves eden memorial park, a large jewish cemetery north of los angeles. how much does one plot cost, or can it cost? >> avenatti: one plot at eden memorial park cemetery may cost upwards of $25,000, on a per square foot... >> cooper: $25,000 to bury one person? >> avenatti: $25,000. the average plot is approximately $8,000. but when you look at this on a per-square-foot basis, this is some of the most expensive property in california, if not in the country.
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>> cooper: with prices that high, avenatti says s.c.i. had an incentive to squeeze as many customers in as possible. in a los angeles court, he's presented the testimony of groundskeepers who say they were ordered to cram new graves so close to old ones, they had to break existing burial containers and throw human remains into the cemetery dump. >> like, about 200 graves are missing bones. >> cooper: the case is still being litigated. it's not the first involving the company. in 2003, s.c.i. agreed to pay more than $100 million for the desecration of graves at the menorah gardens cemeteries in florida. in april, avenatti was busy gathering evidence at another s.c.i. cemetery. acting on a tip, he put divers in a pond at the edge of the star of david cemetery in north lauderdale, florida. they found engraved stones and what appear to be parts of concrete containers used to line graves.
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s.c.i. declined to give us an on-camera interview, but company executives told us the problems that led to the $100 million settlement at menorah gardens began before s.c.i. purchased the cemetery, and since then, the company has improved its training and procedures. at star of david, which s.c.i. acquired six years ago, the company says it's taking the new allegations seriously but does not believe human remains were dumped in the pond. at eden memorial, where a groundskeeper testified 200 graves are missing bones, the company says it discovered potential problems with only four graves and took steps to notify the families. as for moving julie ramirez's father without permission, s.c.i. says that was against its policy, and it has reached a confidential settlement with the family. in a statement, s.c.i. told us it's "dedicated to providing the highest quality funeral and cemetery services," and added, "while not perfect, we have consistently raised standards in this evolving industry." >> paul elvig: obviously, as a corporation, they're not going
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to have a policy of somehow "work the public over" or "screw the public over." they'd be foolish to do that. >> cooper: paul elvig is a former cemetery operator and regulator, and a leading spokesman for the industry. when you look at what's gone on just over the last two years in a number of places across the country, i mean, do you ever just say to yourself, "what is going on here?" >> elvig: well, i put it in perspective to the volume. when you talk about 6,500 burials and cremations a day in over 45,000 possibly active cemeteries, when we look at that, it is very uncommon. >> slocum: i have no problem conceding that most cemeteries aren't digging up bodies. but there are, every day, ongoing abuses that happen to funeral and cemetery consumers that are not headline-grabbing, and that desperately need attention-- financial exploitation, misrepresentations of legal requirements, pressuring emotionally vulnerable people into believing that the more they spend, the more love and respect that they're showing for somebody. >> cooper: industry representatives say, look, those
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are isolated incidents. >> slocum: oh, nonsense. it's not a few bad apples. it's not isolated incidents. it's... it is embedded in the fabric of the death business in this country. >> elvig: i think any scenario you want to say probably has happened. i don't think it happens on a broad scale. i really don't. >> cooper: is there a lack of oversight of cemeteries? >> elvig: no. i can't buy into that general notion there's a lack of oversight, no. >> cooper: i just don't understand how you can say that. for instance, again, at burr oak, hundreds of bodies were dug up and tossed away for years and years and years. if there had been a regulator who came by, any inspector who'd come by, they could've actually found bones. >> elvig: if they knew where to look. >> cooper: i've been to burr oak, and it's not that hard to find if you're walking around. >> elvig: i... i'm aware of the burr oak situation. i do know that inspection in that state seemed to be lax. and i don't think it is now. it's got their undivided attention. >> cooper: nearly three years after the burr oak scandal, the state of illinois has adopted new laws, but has yet to hire its first cemetery inspector.
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the scandal did prompt illinois congressman bobby rush to introduce federal legislation that would apply the same consumer protections to cemeteries that already exist at funeral homes. but so far, rush has been unable to find a co-sponsor in the senate. >> this is the approximate location of the grave. >> cooper: with the help of the sheriffs' department, roxie williams was able to locate the spot at burr oak where her father's grave is supposed to be. but she has no idea if he's still in it. >> williams: if i had the money, i'd exhume this durn body and they'd have to prove my dad was my dad, you know? but sometimes, you just let it go. i love cash back.
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>> simon: we went looking for a place of calm in the middle east, a place not racked by violence, anxiety, torment. not an easy mission these days. but we found one in the unlikeliest of spots-- israel's largest city, tel aviv, bordered on all sides by danger. tel aviv has been through rough times over the decades-- bloodshed, bombings, scud missile attacks. and today, the situation looks dicier than ever. revolutions, civil wars, islamic extremists are just a few hours drive away in every direction. and if iran ever builds that bomb, tel aviv will be well within range. so anything could happen anytime. but somehow, tel avivians have learned how not to worry about tomorrow. for them, the only time is now.
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and the best place to spend now 12 months a year is the beach. you would be forgiven for thinking this is miami on the med, thousands of miles from the madness of the middle east. >> ron huldai: this is an island of sanity in this country. >> simon: an island of sanity? >> huldai: the island of sanity. >> simon: in this country, and in the middle east. ron huldai, who fought as a fighter pilot in three wars, has been mayor of tel aviv for 13 years. he just started a bike share program. if i look behind you, pointing to gaza, there are hundreds of rockets, katushas, pointing at tel aviv. you look that way, there are thousands of missiles from hezbollah pointing at tel aviv. how do you deal with that? >> huldai: this is our life. what else we can do? when you go out of your home in... in new york, you have the chance to get a car accident. >> simon: yeah, you have a chance to get a car accident. but you know that new jersey
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doesn't have missiles pointing at you. >> huldai: but in life, there are a lot of risk. always. >> simon: always. iran today, iraq yesterday. during the first gulf war, saddam hussein rained scuds on the city. soon after that, the streets of tel aviv became killing zones as palestinian suicide bombers blew up buses and cars and clubs. but the bombings didn't stop tel avivians from going to the beach by day and the bars by night. arik kneller lived through it all. do you ever feel like you're dancing on the "titanic"? >> arik kneller: sometimes. maybe part of the reasons people dance on... on the tables is because they really believe that, tomorrow, tel aviv is going to be attacked. and they really do live as if it's the last day of pompeii, and they want to grab every second of it. >> simon: and many do.
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there are more bars than synagogues in this city of the jews. and remember, tel aviv is not that far from where moses came down the hill with those commandments. tel aviv wasn't always a latter- day sodom. 20 years ago, tel avivians were in the vanguard of the peace movement, cheering israeli prime minister itzak rabin on as he shook hands with palestinian leader yasser arafat at the white house. negotiations began but then stalled, so the activists went home and retreated into apathy. years ago, people in tel aviv were passionately political. they're not anymore. what happened? >> kneller: they're tired. part of it is that they're tired. >> simon: people have said to me that they've become numb. >> kneller: yeah. there's a feeling of stagnation in that sense. there's a feeling that there's not really hope. >> gideon levy: there's no political debate in israel. there's no debate almost about
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anything. >> simon: gideon levy is a columnist with one of israel's leading newspapers. >> levy: it's all about the next vacation, the next jeep, the next restaurant. and the good life in tel aviv enables you to ignore the real questions. >> simon: is it bad taste to bring up politics at a dinner party? >> levy: absolutely. why to spoil the party? why to spoil the party with politics? this ongoing party. who needs it when life is so beautiful, when life is so short, when women are so pretty and food is so tasty? >> simon: and when the economy is booming. the recession has passed tel aviv by. there is low unemployment. everyone can afford the basics, but there are wide income gaps in what used to be a fairly egalitarian society. property prices have soared more than 70% in the last three years.
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rentals are so high, it's said a starving artist doesn't even have a place to starve. but for the elite-- and there are more of them every year-- life can be glorious. wealth is rampant, and yossi vardi has it. he owes it, he says, to making a modest investment in an idea proposed by his young son. they called it instant messaging. that was the foundation, wasn't it? >> yossi vardi: it was early, it was pioneering, it was successful. then, after 18 months, a.o.l. came and bought the whole company. >> simon: how much? >> vardi: according to press, $407 million in 1996. >> simon: vardi is now called the godfather of what has become a vast software empire. tel aviv, this startup city, has more high-tech startup companies than anywhere outside silicon valley. it is so far ahead of the curve,
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you can barely see the end of it. why does israel have so many startups? >> vardi: well, some people say it's because of the military. some people say it's because of the universities, the level of education. some people say it's because of the level of technology. >> simon: what do you say? >> vardi: i say it's a cultural phenomena, and the secret source behind it is the jewish mother. every startup kid here has a jewish mother which drive him crazy, which will push them and challenge them and inspire them. >> simon: and inspire young people from all over israel, and the world, to flock here for the good life. "lonely planet," that hip travel magazine, has voted tel aviv the third hottest city in the world, complete with cops patrolling on roller skates and city officials
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giving interviews in places where american politicians wouldn't dare to be seen. outside a trendy bar, we ran across tel aviv's deputy mayor, asaf zamir. what are you drinking? >> asaf zamir: this is vodka soda, because i'm on a diet. >> simon: and there aren't any people who would be watching you on television and saying, "what the hell is our deputy mayor doing drinking outside a bar at 2:00 in the morning?" >> zamir: this is what i'm supposed to be doing. i've done this... i've been doing this before i got elected. this is my way of life, and most of the young people in tel aviv, we go out every evening. and i think the people that vote for me will find it fine. >> simon: tel avivians love to think of themselves as avant garde. the arts scene is vibrant, new openings every week. fashion is cutting edge, along with music and dance and theater. and compared to the rest of israel, tel aviv is not only more cosmopolitan, but more tolerant.
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people seem to get along-- religious and secular, soldiers and civilians, straights and gays. in a poll published this year, the city was voted the best gay destination in the world. those old closet makers are going out of business, and that's just fine with actress noa tishby. >> noa tishby: it's such a non- issue in israel. that's the thing-- being straight or being gay is a complete non-issue. i mean, gays in the military, what's the problem? >> simon: here it's not "don't ask, don't tell." it's "don't ask, who cares?" >> tishby: who cares? exactly. "don't ask." ask... tell me. i don't care. grab a gun. go fight. i don't care. >> simon: all israelis, men and women, are drafted into the army when they're 18. gal uchovsky did his three years service in the late '70s. today, he is a gay activist and a columnist for one of tel aviv's hippest magazines. in many parts of the world, parents-- definitely including
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jewish parents-- are not happy when their kid turns out to be gay. is it the same here? >> gal uchovsky: no. here, it's a little different because, you know, israel is a war zone. it's been a war zone for many years. it's very hard to raise a child here. they can die in the army. they can die in a suicide bombing. so the whole feeling of an israeli parent is that it's... it's a big war to keep your kid alive till 21. so if, at 22, you come... or any age, he comes and says, "okay, i'm gay," it's not as bad. >> simon: and that chronic war continues. the very week we were there, in the bubble of safety that is tel aviv, less than an hour away, palestinians and israelis were going through their rituals on the occupied west bank-- rituals which have been going on for decades and are as routine as a dinner and a dance downtown. gideon levy says that, for tel avivians, the west bank could be on another planet.
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>> levy: they have no idea what's going on there. this is their dark backyard to which they will never go, to which they have no interest, about which they know so little. >> simon: and tel avivians don't really care. >> levy: not only they don't care; they don't want to care. they really want to close their eyes. >> simon: and levy says they've succeeded. he is one of the very few israeli civilians who has any contact with palestinians. he covers the west bank for an israeli newspaper. and every day, when he gets back to tel aviv from the occupied territories, that's when he's reminded that he lives in a bubble. >> levy: because this is what a bubble is about-- the illusion of the moment, the life for the present and for the very, very short-run future. it can work for a while, until it will blow in our faces. and it will blow in our faces.
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>> simon: for the most part, tel avivians have become fatalistic. many feel there's just not much they can do about anything-- the arab spring, palestinians, a nuclear iran. there's a lot of uncertainty now, of course. but that's all there's ever been here-- uncertainty. do you ever worry that this will still be a home for your great- grandchildren? >> vardi: look, i will not tell you that... that everybody's sitting here like an idiot, "don't worry about the future." we have this damn conflict that i hope we will finish one day. and i hope we will do peace. but in the meantime, look what we created. >> simon: you like it here. >> vardi: i don't like it here. i am addicted to this place-- not only like, i love it. [ male announcer ] knowing your customers
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>> safer: in britain, they honor their distinguished actors with royal titles-- lord olivier, dame helen mirren. the best we can do is nominate them for oscars, an annual hyped-up competition for a glossy little statue. if we did have a royal list, the name of meryl streep would surely be at the very top. this year, she won her third oscar for playing one of the most controversial political figures of the 20th century, margaret thatcher, britain's iron lady-- reason enough to take another look at the many faces of meryl. >> meryl streep: this is a day to put differences aside, to hold one's head high and take
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pride in being british. ( cheers and applause ) >> safer: ms. streep has a unique gift for not just portraying a character, but literally becoming her. on the stage of the delacorte theater in new york's central park, where she first starred 35 years ago, i asked how real it seems to her while she's performing. >> streep: i mean, i'm not insane. ( laughs ) i do know that i'm acting. but you forget about it, yeah. you kind of... you know when you're doing it right, there's a thrilling suspension of the day- to-day and you're in someone else's head. >> safer: on this day, in a london film studio, that someone else is margaret thatcher, dancing with a make-believe ronald reagan, thatcher's fellow cold warrior. >> streep: there you go again. why not?
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>> safer: it's the latest tour de force from streep, a woman of many faces: sophie in "sophie's choice"; as julia child; as the french lieutenant's woman; as the devil wearing prada. >> streep: worried about our careers, are we? >> safer: and now, the iron lady. >> streep: we can restore the health of the british economy, and we will do just that. >> safer: what particularly attracted you to the margaret thatcher role? >> streep: everything. just the opportunity to deal with the deep, buried discomfort that people still have, men and women, with women in leadership positions. >> safer: as british prime minister, thatcher strode the world stage for more than a decade... >> margaret thatcher: the iron lady of the western world. >> safer: ...leaving heel prints on the backs of her own conservative party's old boys
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club. did you like her? >> streep: i am in awe of what she did. the policies you can argue with. but to sit in the hot seat, i can't even imagine having that steadfastness. i'll just have a small one because i'm watching my figure. >> safer: their stories are both about transformation, the actress transforming herself into the politician who transformed herself to outthink, outwork and outwit the men around her. >> streep: one of the things she did was get a drama teacher to tell her how to support her voice... >> breathing in and... >> streep: denis! because her voice was sort of lighter, like mine is. and they taught her to support it and bring it up from the
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depths of her place, where the conviction lies, and to carry it through without a breath until the end of the thought, and then not to give them a chance to interrupt her. >> safer: she was also, love her or hate her, remarkably single- minded and confident that her way was the only way. >> streep: oh, yes, yes. i have a lot of that. ( laughs ) >> safer: it was typecasting, was it? >> streep: a little bit. >> safer: at age 62, meryl streep is still at the top of her game, one of the recipients at last year's kennedy center honors. that's her husband of 33 years, sculptor don gummer, and their children-- a son and three daughters, two of them actresses themselves. there's something i want to show you. on the theory that high school is destiny, we took her back to the days long before she became meryl of the movies. >> streep: oh, this is my high school yearbook picture.
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>> safer: back then, in bernardsville, new jersey, she was just plain mary louise streep. well, not so plain. >> streep: "pretty." "blonde." "vivacious." "cheerleader." "our homecoming queen." "where the boys are." >> safer: where the boys are, indeed. >> streep: oh, god. "bernardian art editor." that's what i was. and the morning announcer. diane sawyer, eat your heart out. >> safer: home movies made it clear-- the camera loved her from an early age. but the homecoming queen didn't care much for the movies of the day. she was fascinated by the classics. >> streep: there was one channel that had older movies, and i loved carole lombard and i loved kate hepburn and bette davis and barbara stanwyck. i like girls with attitude, you know? moxie. there's an old word. >> safer: though she had dabbled in acting, she got serious about it at the yale drama school. that led to an audition with the
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public theater director joe papp. joe papp could be a taskmaster, yes? >> streep: not to me. ( laughter ) >> safer: papp gave her her first break on broadway-- a small role in a period piece called "trelawny of the wells." joe papp asked you if you could do a southern accent? >> streep: yes, and he said, "wait. try... do this southern. can you... can you do a southern accent?" ( laughs ) i'm from not even southern new jersey, you know? i pulled it up out of probably some 4:00 movie somewhere. >> safer: i heard it was from "the dinah shore show." >> streep: oh, yeah. maybe that was it. ♪ see the u.s.a. in your chevrolet... ♪ remember that? >> safer: yes. >> streep: oh, god, wasn't she divine? >> streep: here's where i forgot my lines in "the seagull." ( laughter ) >> safer: soon, she was doing
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the classics on this outdoor stage, competing with airplanes, heat, rain and more. >> streep: quack, quack. >> safer: ducks. >> streep: do you hear that? >> safer: her career took off so fast that, one summer, she did "taming of the shrew" here at night... >> hey, hey, hey. >> safer: ...and during the day, shot two movies: "kramer vs. kramer" and woody allen's "manhattan." she was well on her way. >> woody allen: are you writing a book about our marriage? >> streep: will you leave me alone? >> safer: her range was astonishing. one year, a texan, karen silkwood. >> streep: let's not fight. >> safer: the next, danish in "out of africa." >> bror has asked me for a divorce. he has found someone that he wants to marry. >> safer: she wore spandex for "mamma mia," a nun's habit for "doubt," and a beard, playing a rabbi in "angels in america." >> streep: it always really bothers me when people imagine
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that characters that don't look like you, or have the same accent as you do, are far from you. the great actress sybil thorndike said, "i think we all have the germ of every other person inside of us." and i think we do. >> baroness thatcher, how are you feeling? >> safer: margaret thatcher is 86 now. her daughter carol has written openly about her mother's slide into the darkness of dementia. the film tackles the issue head on. did you have any concerns about showing this once remarkably vital woman having lost it all? >> streep: well, that was the part that most intrigued me. first of all, i don't... i don't feel there's any shame in dementia, in people that suffer it. >> and you're not prime minister
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anymore. >> streep: to tell an honest story about a big life in its ebb, you have to deal with this part of it. >> safer: there's one observation that gets her back up-- when people note that she's played a lot of strong-minded women. >> streep: no one has ever asked an actor, "you're playing a strong-minded man." we assume that men are strong- minded or have opinions, but a strong-minded woman is a different animal. >> streep: margaret thatcher said, ( as margaret thatcher ): "if you want something spoken about, ask a man. if you want it done, ask a woman." ( cheers and applause ) >> safer: wandering the massachusetts countryside near her home, she insisted on showing us what one woman did, clearing the brush so our camera crew wouldn't trip. >> streep: look in that window. >> safer: it's the house where,
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in 1781, a slave called mumm bett intervened when a young slave girl was threatened by the lady of the house. >> streep: and she took a red- hot fireplace shovel and tried to strike the child. and mumm bett saved the little girl and burned her arm all the way up the arm. and that was the last straw. >> safer: mumm bett sued in court and gained her freedom, taking the new name elizabeth freeman. the case lead to the abolition of slavery in the state. by 1790, the census recorded no enslaved people in massachusetts. as for women in hollywood, streep is an exception to the rule that most leading ladies have a short shelf life. four of her most recent films have been directed by women. but one thing that drives her crazy is the snail's pace of movie making-- shooting the same scene time and time again.
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>> streep: i don't like to go over things, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. i don't like that. >> safer: that happens a lot, though, doesn't it, in movie making? >> streep: yeah, but i guess i have less tolerance for it. i like movies that have a little budget, and so they can't do that. >> safer: do you think that movies are better... getting better than when you started? >> streep: i think the acting's better. i think the acting is better than in the classic days, frankly, of movies. >> safer: but if you look at the movies being made, the big movies that are being made are about comic strips... >> streep: well, i don't see those. >> safer: ...or vampires or gross behavior... >> streep: yeah. >> safer: ...all aimed at what, 18-year-old boys. >> streep: yes. that's called the narrowing of the audience. the movie business has worked assiduously to discourage you and other intelligent, discerning people from the
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theater, from the movie theater. they have worked hard to get rid of you, because you don't go then and buy toys and games. >> safer: and then there is the streep enigma, that hint of a "mona lisa" smile, or, as the italians call the painting, "la giaconda." jack nicholson said of you, "it's the giaconda smile, the mystery of meryl that appeals." >> streep: is that a snake? what is a giaconda? >> safer: no, no, you're thinking of an anaconda. ( laughter ) it's the "mona lisa." >> streep: okay. okay, fine. sorry. ( laughter ) all that education down the drain. okay, fine. i thought, "what does he mean?" it's good to have something that is undiscoverable, which, frankly, i think every human being has.
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i don't think i'm that mysterious. but i'm glad he thinks so. >> safer: there's no mystery about why she won the oscar for portraying margaret thatcher. the actress, the prime minister- - no doubt at odds politically, but each compelled to leave their mark. two brilliant performers, two sisters under the skin. did you discover anything of yourself in her? >> streep: no. what do you mean? ( laughs ) yes. of course. my dutifulness, my desire to work hard, my desire to do the right thing, to, you know, be a good girl. all those things i think she grew up with, and so did i. [ male announcer ] it's simple physics...
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captioning funded by cbs, and ford-- built for the road ahead. captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> stahl: an update on a story we aired two weeks ago called "the raptor," where two air force pilots risked their careers to tell "60 minutes" the f-22 fighter is unsafe to fly. this past week, defense secretary leon panetta restricted the planes to flying only near landing strips. he also ordered the air force to speed up efforts to install a backup oxygen system on the aircraft.
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the pentagon has still not discovered why some f-22 pilots become disoriented and exhibit other symptoms of oxygen deprivation. in the mail this week, some viewers have taken us to task for our april 29th interview with former c.i.a. counterterrorism head jose rodriguez, calling us either too hard or too soft on him as he defended the c.i.a.'s post-9/11 interrogation techniques. one wrote, "perhaps ms. stahl's homework should be writing a story on what would have happened if the c.i.a. had done nothing following 9/11." and there was this: "has cbs considered the consequences of broadcasting to a vast live audience a pitch for torture? i'm lesley stahl. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." time for evan and jerry. and, boy... oh, my...
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