kottke.org posts about dickcavett

Compartmentalized memoryMay 18 2009

Dick Cavett has been doing a version of his talk show, on and off, for about 40 years. Sometimes he couldn't remember the guests from a show he'd just taped. Johnny Carson couldn't either.

There is still a Cheever show of mine to be unearthed. I wish I could remember what's on it. A worried Johnny Carson once admitted to me that he frequently couldn't remember what was said on a show he had just finished taping. And, sometimes, who the guests were. It's a strange thing, and one I haven't quite figured out.

Johnny all but wiped his brow when I told him it happened to me too, and that a few days earlier I got home and it took me a good 10 minutes to be able to report with whom I had just done 90 minutes. (It was only Lucille Ball!) It's an oddity peculiar to the live performer's divided brain that needs exploring. It has to do with the fact that you -- and the "you" that performs -- are not identical.

I don't know if this is related to separating one's work life from the rest of it, but this happens to me all the time. If you were to ask me tonight what I'd posted to kottke.org today, I doubt I could tell you more than one or two items (out of the seven to nine items I post during a typical day). When I see friends outside of work, they sometimes remark on stuff I've posted recently and it usually takes me a few moments to remember what it is they're referring to.

Finding out that others have this problem is a major load off of my mind...I really thought my memory was going down the tubes. (thx, mark)

Mailer, Cavett, Vidal, and FlannerNov 15 2007

On his NYTimes blog, Dick Cavett remembers having Norman Mailer on his show along with Gore Vidal and Janet Flanner. It was a notorious episode; a perhaps more than slightly drunk Mailer lashed out first at Vidal and then everyone else in the room but couldn't keep up with the jeers and witticisms flying at him from all angles.

Mailer: I said that the need of the magazine reader for a remark he could repeat at dinner was best satisfied by writers with names like Gore Vidal.

Flanner: All those writers called Gore Vidal.

Vidal: I know. There are thousands of them, yeah.

Mailer: There are two or three.

Cavett: Who are some of the others?

Mailer [with a dark look]: I don't know.

Cavett: Who wants to host the rest of this show?

Mailer, years later, told me that it was at this point that "in the face of the Cavett wit and Flanner's deft interruption" -- adored by the audience -- and in consideration of his alcohol content, he realized that he was not being skillful at mounting a sustained argument.

In an interview a number of years ago with Cavett, Charlie Rose showed a clip of the incident:

The video should cue up at the clip in question, but if not, skip to 29:00 in. Highly entertaining reading and viewing.

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