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The Golden Age of Late Night TV| Margaret Le

Remember when late night talk shows were actually good? Me neither. Now I do enjoy the occasional Carpool Karaoke and Box of Lies, but I was bored of the forced laughter and same old celebrity interviews. Then one day, while searching for Beatles and Paul Newman interviews, I discovered a goldmine: The Dick Cavett Show.

Not only were there interviews of figures including Jimi Hendrix, Orson Welles, and Truman Capote, the show had a certain uniqueness. Dick Cavett had a talent for creating an informal and comfortable environment for his guests. Though he competed with peers such as Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, Cavett distinguished himself as the cerebral television interviewer and facilitated conversations with a wide range of guests on the political spectrum, from the segregationists to liberal elites to supporters and opposers of the Vietnam War. As The New York Times describes the show, “A Renaissance salon in a rabbit-ears era.” One of the more interesting episodes was when he had Hugh Hefner make a guest appearance. Hefner was found nervously fiddling with his pipe while talking to representatives of the women’s liberation movement. Things got heated the moment Hefner referred to them as “girls” and Susan Brownmiller began questioning his willingness to make an appearance with a cottontail attached to his “rear end.” I’d almost compare these interviews to watching a history textbook of 60s-70s opinions. While you do get the hard facts in your U.S. History AMSCO textbook, it has been interesting to compare how society’s views on race, gender, and religion compare today.

If you ever want to watch a blast from the past with some humorous tidbits on YouTube, you’ll have a wide range of interviews from George Harrison talking about drug use and the rockstar lifestyle to Mel Brooks’ impersonation of Frank Sinatra, all found on the historic spectacle: The Dick Cavett Show.

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