At 73 years of age, and acknowledged as one of the great television interviewers of the talk show genre for close to the past half-century, we have come to accept that there are some indisputable truths about Dick Cavett: he’s a real stickler for the proper enunciation, usage and spelling of words, as he relates in the hilarious Introduction about his maddening intolerance of people in very responsible positions who simply refuse to pronounce words correctly, most notably G.W. Bush and his insistence on continuously pronouncing the word ‘nuclear’ as ‘nu-cu-lar‘; he absolutely despises the aforementioned Bush’s administration and the war they dragged our country into, in some very insightful (and brutal) pieces in the book, the contents of which were written between 2007-08, when the incredible circus leading up to our last election was at a fever pitch, through a brief period after President Obama took office; he gushes, and worships, and writes shamelessly and extensively about Groucho Marx, his obvious hero and a frequent subject of essays throughouthis book; Dick Cavett is also fully aware of his propensity for ‘name dropping’, though not ostentatiously or unnecessarily, just as a matter of course from his experiences in interviewing many of the most legendary icons of the 20th Century (John Wayne comes in at a very close second behind Groucho in Cavett’s estimation).
Often characterized as a blander, intellectual and sometimes boorish version of the great Johnny Carson (another very close friend, and subject of a revealing portrait in one of his articles), Cavett is definitely an acquired taste, as his ratings demonstrated throughout, and he didn’t (and doesn’t) possess the unique charisma that might have made him a much more popular talk show host in the 1960’s and 70’s, which he would be the first to admit. However, the stories he shares in this collection are fascinating at the least and outrageously hilarious at their best, and there isn’t a dull moment in the book.
Cavett not only relates his many encounters with entertainers, authors, and intellectuals, but also provides some wonderful recollections of his childhood, including his lifelong love affair with magic and the wondrous joys of being a young boy growing up in Nebraska.
Considering that the time span in which Dick Cavett was publishing his weekly online essays, there are a surprsing minimum of ‘at-the-moment’ entries concerning the upcoming 2008 election and its immediate aftermath; I thoroughly enjoyed reading these few articles, as my tolerance for the butt-headed administration had reached its absolute peak at this same time.
So I recommend this if you want to read fascinating stories including such luminaries as Jack Benny, Katherine Hepburn, Richard Burton, Marlon Brando and a dozen other entertainment icons, plus the equally bizarre and engrossing story of the guest who spoke of his continuing good health at such a late age, only to actually die during the live filming of Cavett’s show after he had moved down a seat or two for the other guests on that program. (This particular show was never aired, though Cavett has fun in his re-telling of the many viewers who approached him and absolutely swore they had seen the actual show)
NOW, while it probably isn’t in the best interest of potential readers of this book, or even to those reading this here review – I happen to have some specific pet peeves of my own, as Mr. Cavett has expressed some of his, albeit more humorously than I could, and this particular one just rankles me beyond the maintenance of restraint I’m currently capable of: THIS IS NOT A “NEW” BOOK BY ANY MEANS, but rather a compilation of Cavett’s weekly online posts for a site I can’t remember now, readily available to any online reader who was ever aware that this column existed, a category of knowledge I myself was not familiar with.
Cavett shares a couple of harsh opinions about the publishing industry (most specifically that they drag their heels when it comes to actually distributing certain books, such as his autobiography from a few years prior. But for whatever reason, the fact that this is a COLLECTION of previously published online articles is not specifically mentioned at all – not on the jacket front or back, not in Cavett’s own ‘Introduction’ that begins the book, nor on a single page throughout. And this “oversight” just happens to bug the hell out of me.
‘Talk Show’ is a good, fulfilling read, neither too long or short, and I recommend it to those who like reading about up-close and personal ‘encounters of the celebrity kind’. But the deliberate obfuscation that this stuff has seemingly been previously unavailable is simply pointless – from a marketing standpoint, first off; to the online Cavett fan who flips through the book and immediately recognizes the distinct familiarity of this body of work; and most of all, pointless to a reader such as myself, who enjoys the book on its own merits but still feels insulted by the publishers, who conveniently neglect finishing a sentence like ” …and has been contributing weekly articles to the online site –” with a comma, and continuing, “..of which this book is a collection of.”
So anyway, thanks for letting me get that out of my system, and check out the book if you’re a fan of its content – that is, unless you’re too damned offended to bother taking the chance, which would also be perfectly understandable.