In the late-'60s and '70s, Dick Cavett asked the tough questions, and his guests - Groucho Marx, Norman Mailer, Salvador Dali and dozens more who normally didn't make the rounds of late-night talk shows - were more than happy to oblige with the answers.
Friday night, it will be Cavett's turn to take the hot seat when he comes to the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington to share stories of his years interviewing power celebs, and to chat about his new book, "Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets," with special projects curator Jud Newborn.
Cavett, who divides his time between Montauk and Manhattan, shared his memories of "The Dick Cavett Show."
Which celebrity was your favorite interview?
If I were forced to answer, it would be fairly easy to say Groucho meant the most to me. And Hitchcock, he was a wonderful guest. I don't know why I was nervous about interviewing him.
Well he did make some scary movies.
Maybe that was it. Just the thought of Hitchcock can produce a gooseflesh patch. . . . We only missed one line on the air, which he probably wouldn't have said on the air, but I will let you have it. During a commercial break . . . he said "Grace Kelly, the most promiscuous woman I've ever known."
Was there an interview that didn't go the way you hoped?
Early on, when I had my daytime show on ABC, I was nervous about Bill Buckley, whom I hadn't met, and I proved to be right. At one point I said, "I'm not familiar with that," and he said, "You don't seem to be familiar with anything." . . . And I didn't have the wherewithal to say, "Oh, I'm familiar with everything." But here I was new at my job, desperately nervous. He was formidable. And it's amazing to me that from that we became very good friends.
Who was the celebrity that got away - the one you wanted to interview and couldn't get?
Frank Sinatra. I probably could have gotten him if I'd pressed a little harder. I can't imagine why I didn't. We got on well the few times we met. I think I also may have dropped the ball with Cary Grant. . . . I can still hear Cary Grant over the phone saying "Oh they'll find out how dumb I am."
How did you get so many stars to talk to you so freely about anything?
By creating the comfortable atmosphere that Bette Davis complimented me on, saying how I was a gentleman and how she felt safe in my hands, which led me to say the only thing you could at that point, which was "How did you lose your virginity, Bette?" And she said "I'll tell you," when the laugh finally subsided. "I waited till I married . . . and I don't recommend it, it damn near killed me."
WHAT Interview with Dick Cavett, plus book signing and auction for "Dick Cavett Show" DVD sets.
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington
INFO $30, $20 members, 800-838-3006, cinemaartscentre.org