INTERVIEW — TAPE #327, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Russell Bell
J: James Ragan (writer; USC Master of Professional Writing Program director)
J: So, anyway, he allowed me to marry my poetry to the screen.
Q: And what’s the title again?
J: “Balkan Island.” And right now they have — the cast includes people like Olympia Dukakis, Klaus Maria Brandauer, the Austrian actor.
Q: Wow. I’m impressed.
J: And Lee Sorvino.
J: How — I hope you’ll . . .
Q: Well, see, impressing the poetry community is different from the media. (“SO”) Well I guess I should ask you that. (“WHAT”) In terms — you want to really focus in on ‘the poet’ aspect. So what are your dreams in terms of bookings and publicity?
J: Well I mean I would — see, I’ve done a lot of television interviews and I’ve done a lot of newspaper interviews so I mean those will definitely — (“NO”) whatever. I remember when we first met — since I’ve read now for about four Presidents, I think it’s a pipedream, of course, but it’s a dream nonetheless because Clinton has my book. They had sent it to him early on and someone who had been working in that office wanted to have me come there and do a reading. I mean that’s —
Q: So what four Presidents did you read for?
J: For Gorbachev — that one in ’85. And I read for the President of Bulgaria in 1986. I read with Arthur Miller for President Havel. And I just read for the President of Slovenia last summer in Slovenia outside Trieste. And so this seems to be like that’s a hook. I didn’t even give it to me. I started getting introduced this way and I thought, “You know — ”
Q: Do you remember what’s the President’s name in Slovenia?
J: Kocün. Zhizkov is Bulgaria. And President Havel.
Q: Oh right. I know him of course.
J: And then Gorbachev in 1985.
Q: Of course, and his picture’s right on — I saw that on the Master of Professional Writing Program brochure.
J: I gave him that T-shirt and he wore it on the day he resigned so that’s even another story. (small laugh)
Q: So you’re friends with him?
Q: Are you friends with him?
J: Yeah. I mean professionally. I gave it to him and I’d forgotten that I’d given it to him and then on the day he resigned as President—he’s back in now—but in front of the press corps he took off his coat and tie and put on my T-shirt, which has a broken typewriter. And he loved the idea of the writing program so he put it on to tell the world he was going back to writing. Well the deans here and the president of USC had called through the deans to say, “Did you give Havel a USC T-shirt?” And I said, “No, why?” They said, “Well are you sure because —” And I went, “Well wait a minute, yes I did two years ago when we first met in Los Angeles. I did. That’s when he invited me to go to (“NO”) Prague. I did give it to him.” They said, “Well it’s on the front page of The New York Times.” And it was on the front page of The Tokyo Times, the London Times, everywhere. The University got such free publicity but huge publicity on it because it became a very famous photograph and in Prague you can see it in the windows still. They have this huge poster of the photograph that you’re seeing on my (brochure) around because it’s him walking out of the castle with his (“NO”) coat over his shoulder and a T-shirt — President’s resigning. Six months later, they wanted him back in so he came back and he’s still President now. But, at any rate, in terms of dreams, that’s not out of the question because there are people — when I used to read for David Bourne — Senator Bourne used to bring me to Oklahoma and they were very good friends with Clinton. And they were trying to get me a reading in the White House — for Clinton to (hear me) read there. They do bring poets —
Q: I don’t see why not. Enough people have paid to stay there.
J: Yeah. (laughs) But poetry, you see, and I love this quote. I used it in Moscow when I was there on that first — I’ve been to Moscow several times — but I use it. I said, “It used to be that poets moved the minds of kings.” That was true.
Q: Oh that’s — yeah. See — now that I think Clinton would go for. If that was the approach.
J: But here’s what I said. “Poets moved the minds of kings. And in turn kings and world leaders moved the minds of society. That’s really how it used to be.” And when I gave this quote in Moscow, I then said, “But it appears in today’s world there are no world leaders or kings with minds.” And I just accidentally paused —
J: It was a pregnant pause and it wasn’t meant to be — and I got laughter all over this room. All the poets and writers — because President Reagan was our President at the time and they thought I was referring to him.
Q: Oh my God.
J: And I meant this — that there were no real leaders and presidents with minds willing to be moved. And the worst thing that could happen is if the poets themselves stop attempting to move the minds of kings. You see? So it was a very full quote.
Q: Well the smartest people in all the Shakespeare plays were always the fools.
J: Yeah, that’s right.
Q: They were always more kingly than the kings. (“YEAH”)
J: The poets knew how to go at the truth and so this has been the common search that I go for, in terms of why write and just try to make sure the truth is constantly there. So it’s important for Presidents and this President has like — he had Maya Angelou and he had Miller Williams reading at his inaugural. So he’s (“YOU KNOW”) one that probably would open that door with all the right, you know, background. (“THAT”)
Q: That reminds me now in terms of your dedication — I was trying to figure who they were because obviously it said, “for allowing truth to disagree with history’s lies” —
J: Oh those were my brothers and sisters. I’m from a large family.
Q: Oh I didn’t read — oh I thought they were like maybe other literary people or something. (“YEAH”)
J: No. Doesn’t it have “for my brothers and sisters”?
Q: Yeah, it does but I thought they might have been your literary/poet — like maybe —
J: Oh I see what you mean. Yeah. No, those are my real family. (laughs)
Q: Oh okay, fine. Because the names don’t make any sense. (“YEAH”) I mean they, you know, sometimes you —
J: . . . personal dedication to my brothers and sisters.
Q: You have a huge family.
J: Yeah. Thirteen.
Q: Oh my gosh.
J: And four of them have died.
Q: Okay. I thought well maybe — who’s that John — Lennon? I mean you know —
J: No. But that’s good. If people think of it that (way), that’s great. They can sit there and try to figure it out.
Q: Okay well that’s true. It’s good to know that you have a big family. Now what about — I didn’t see information about your family now. Are you a family man?
J: Yeah, I have a wife—married fifteen years—and three children: two girls eleven and seven, and then a three-year-old boy.
Q: And what are their names?
Q: Who’s that?
J: That’s my eleven-year-old. And the seven-year-old is Mara. And then the three-year-old boy is Jameson Jon. His middle name is Jon.
Q: I see.
J: And he’s named after — I didn’t want a junior. I didn’t want anybody named after me but my wife loved the idea that as (I was) growing up, my parents used to call me Jame without the S. And that was my childhood name. Jame. So that’s what we call him.
Q: And so that’s his middle name?
J: It’s his first name. Jame.
Q: And his middle name is?
J: . . . Jon.
Q: Oh I see.
J: It’s Jameson Jon but we call him Jame.
Q: Oh I get it. Okay.
J: And that’s why she came up with that name Jameson. She liked that name and that way we can call him Jame.
Q: And what’s your wife’s name?
Q: A lot of ‘Ra’s in your family.
J: Yeah. Maybe that’s what influenced us to do Tera.
Q: Your last name —
J: Well Tera is named after my mother because my mother’s name was Theresa and my father used to call her Tera.
Q: And where were you born?
J: In Pittsburgh. My brothers and sisters — several of them were born in Slovakia. My parents and about three or four of my brothers were born in Slovakia.
Q: What about — and your parents were from — where are they from?
J: Slovakia. From the eastern portion near Humana. And that’s in the book The Hunger Wall. You’ll see a lot of poems about that and there’s even a dedication — there’s a chapter title called "Humana." I played on the word human. But it’s Humana, the city in Slovakia.
Q: Okay so — I see — Okay, so I’m looking — so the breaks that you really would like are anything that really helps establish your poetry.
J: Well, of course, establish poetry — not just even mine. I remember I talked to Tany. I said, “You know, Tany, the only reason in even agreeing to this —” because I just didn’t want to put poetry into a commercial situation. Because I talked to other colleagues who said if anybody should do this, I should because I’ve already had an international name and I’ve been out there on the international level. And the reason I do it is to break down the borders. It’s a big theme in my writing. You know, I’m out there to break the borders down so that communication is more global. I don’t believe in a local way of doing things. I’ve always — when I was a child I truly believed that I was for the world. Whatever I was going to do—and I didn’t know what it was—was going to be so large that it had to be for the world and, my God, poetry took me there — that you can actually go, cross borders and read to huge audiences and literally change their minds. Instruct them and shape a whole society and so I think the artist has to do that. And I want to get the word artist back in the vocabulary.
Q: And you don’t do — like I guess the most commercial area of poetry is the love poem.
J: Oh I don’t mind doing a love poem. A book down the line will be Glasnost but it will be — it will be love poems but different. I know what you mean.
Q: With a political edge. All of your work seems to be very topical.
J: Yeah, its —
Q: There is some love. I saw some love poems.
J: There are some love poems in there and the word rather than even topical is just universal.
Q: Well there’s a lot —
J: And that’s the word you want to use a lot . . .
Q: You’re a working poet. You want to do something.
J: And I do want to change the world. The Pulitzer rule was that the artist should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And that’s essentially what I’m trying to do with the poetry. I just love the idea that my poems can be translated into so many different countries—which they have been—and that people invite me to come and read. So obviously the borders are important — that there’s a global consciousness and that’s what I want.
Q: Is there a Pulitzer Prize for poetry?
Q: Do you have to have, like, twelve books published before they consider you?
J: No. I was nominated but I wasn’t in the final list. That’s why I never put it in my publicity anymore. I was nominated several years ago with Womb-Weary, the second book, but that shouldn’t go into publicity because —
Q: Of course not.
J: — I’m not allowed to use it because I was only in the top ten. I didn’t make it into the final (“RIGHT”) three.
J: And even though that was a distinction and people — the publishers at that time: “Oh no no, we’re going to play that up. You were nominated. Top ten is being —” I said, “Well — ” (small laugh) I didn’t win it. In any case, yeah, there is a Pulitzer for poetry and I know one writer in Washington says, “No, you’re a Nobel candidate eventually if you keep writing the poetry you’re writing.” So who knows? Maybe down the line.
Q: If people are smart enough to understand what’s in them.
J: Yeah. (“YEAH”) I like Publisher’s Weekly‘s saying, “There’s an intelligence and a music that drives them.” That’s good.
Q: Well yeah. (“WELL”) Okay. (“NOW”) And how long have you been at USC?
J: Sixteen years.
Q: That’s unusual too. For a poet to be in such a position.
J: Right. Running a writing program.
Q: How did that come about?
J: I didn’t pursue it. I was just teaching there when they had three directors in a row. We started in cinema as a matter of fact. We’re celebrating the 25th anniversary now and that’s part of why we’re going to try to get some articles. Tany wanted to get some articles on our 25th anniversary down there too.
Q: Well that’s sort of — see, any kind of hard news is good for some areas.
J: Yeah, right. (“SO”) But I mean I’m even working on — the Los Angeles Times did a big article on our program back in ’85 or so. I’m working on them to get us a big one for the program as well as me and Lusions.
Q: Well that’s good.
J: And I’m sure you’ll help out there too.
Q: When is the 25th anniversary?
J: This year. (“AND”)
Q: What month is it?
J: Well I mean it’s the whole year. We were founded in 1972.
Q: And that’s the Master of Professional Writing Program?
J: Right. MFA — we were an MFA in creative writing. We just changed the word to professional writing. But if you look at the faculty themselves, they’re quite distinguished. So I got into it because these people left and they asked, because I have a Ph.D., would I take it over? And I said, “No, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” (“NOW”) “Six months — you can plug all the holes, you bring in faculty; six months later, if they still don’t have someone, will you take it for another six months until we get a national search?” And I said, “No.” And then I did it — and then my faculty went behind my back and asked the president in a petition to give it to me and no one else. Then, I still said, “No.” (laughs)
J: Sixteen years later, I’m saying, “No.”
Q: Oh gosh.
J: But it’s just the way I’ve run it and tried to build it up to . . . one of the best.
Q: When I was there, Mort Zarcoff was in charge of the cinema department. Whatever happened to him I wonder?
J: He was a good friend, Morton.
Q: Did he die?
J: No, he’s still out there. How many years ago was that?
Q: Oh God — (“LET’S SEE [A]BOU[T]”) seventeen?
J: So you were there seventeen years ago?
J: I came just when you were leaving. I was just coming in when you were going out.
Q: Right. I think it was — (“UH”)
J: And Mort was involved with our program. He was trying to pull us back over to cinema because they had left. When I came, we were already out of cinema and he was trying to get us back.
Q: That’s the Master Program.
J: Yeah, our Master of Professional Writing Program. But any case, that’s what I’ve been doing down there.
Q: Okay, let’s see — and I saw — now the Allen Ginsberg Memorial Committee — is that still in effect or was it just for that event?
J: I just happened to receive that and threw that in there. They wanted me to read in Central Park for something they were going to do. It’s nothing really. There’s no news to it but I think that Tany —
Q: Did that happen?
J: No. But Tany was seeing that as an opportunity of maybe getting behind it herself and making it happen.
Q: Right — oh right.
J: You know.
Q: That would be good.
J: That was something totally different from my Lusions and my books.
Q: So in terms of hard news — obviously the 25th anniversary is some hard news to sort of — sometimes if you have a hook like that, you can then —
Q: So what other — can you think of any other hard news items?
J: I think the reading for the Presidents is — that’s hard news.
J: As recently as last summer, to have read — or actually it was a summer ago — and, let’s see, the film, of course — going into a film. The poet writing the film.
Q: So you’d be good for them to get — (“LIKE”) when things happen internationally and they need a quote from someone —
J: Oh yeah.
Q: You’d be a good one to get a quote from.
J: I do it a lot. I’ve been quoted a lot. But yeah. And major newspapers. But also I’d have to give that some more thought because I’m sure there are a lot of things going on that are hard news that I wouldn’t even think of as that. You would. But —
Q: Right. (“WELL”)
J: — I think the touring, the readings — God, read for how many ambassadors everywhere?
Q: Now who —
J: The China trip. When I was in China. Look at all this news in China right now with the President of China. But I was there right before Tiananmen Square and I was there on a Fulbright and performed all over China with my poetry and was one of the people that had to leave early because they were already trying to get rid of the Fulbrighters because they felt that we influenced the students, the ones in Tiananmen Square. So that seems to be in the news right now. Tiananmen Square.
Q: Where else were you a Fulbright scholar?
J: Yugoslavia. So that explains why they wanted me to do thhs screenplay on Bosnia because I was a Fulbrighter there in Yugoslavia in 1984.
Q: Well that’s definitely great stuff. All this. Let’s see — I’m just going over some of this news. Okay , so in terms of hard news, are you a member of any other committees or organizations?
J: Well, see, I’m sorry I even gave that thing because that was just a . . . I mean you haven’t received my whole thing.
Q: Well I have your bios.
J: I think you need to get all of the stuff I have. I have to just do that for you because when you see it then you’ll have so many more questions. But I mean I’m a member of the Writer’s Guild. I’m a member of about seven or eight different organizations.
Q: I like that Buzz Magazine’s “One of the 100 Coolest People in Los Angeles.”
J: Yeah, there’s hard news. I was one of the “100 Coolest” — (small laugh) and—a big honor for me—the day after I was — see, I came back. My brother had died and I’d come back and I was pretty much saddened by — he was a close brother — and I came back. On my telephone, there were all these messages about how cool I was and I had no idea. I felt like, “Well obviously these people don’t know I just lost my brother.” You know: “I always knew you were cool, Jim.” And this and that. Then, one of them said, “You’ve just been called one of the 100 Coolest in Buzz Magazine, right?” So that lifted my spirit but it was the next day when I received this record from Rhino Records. It was called “In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poets.” Beautiful four CD-set. And I thought, “Wow, what a nice gift someone has just sent me.” It’s poetry going back to Walt Whitman, Frost, Yates — everybody’s on this CD set. And I’m looking at it, thinking, “What a great idea. Way back to Whitman. Apparently, Thomas Edison had recorded him on a wax cylinder. I look and there I am. I’m at the very end. They actually — what an honor this was to include me in this century of poets recorded so that I was in there with all the — (“NO”) Dylan Thomas and the best.
Q: That’s important to include too.
J: Yeah and that’s — I was among the contemporaries that they chose. I guess the five or six or seven. And they used the poem of mine “The Tent People of Beverly Hills,” which I actually read in Moscow. A matter of fact, Bob Dylan was celebrating his son’s birthday — Jacob Dylan, who’s of The Wallflowers — he was there with Bob and we were supposed to get gifts and I didn’t know what to get. And I asked Bob and he says, “Can you give him the original copy of ‘The Tent People of Beverly Hills.'” And I said, “You’re kidding.” So I signed that to him. (“SO”) To this day, I always know where that poem is. (small laugh)
J: Jacob Dylan has it as a gift from me way back in ’85.
Q: But that would be good to include in a news release — the fact that your work includes the CD —
J: Oh that is. I think it’s a big thing because —
Q: Maybe send the photocopy of just the table of contents of that.
J: Sure. Yeah, I’ll give you all of that. As I said, I’m going to do that this weekend. I’m just going to take the time and get that over to you.
Q: Okay, fine. Well, it’s just that — well I’ll go ahead and work on — and then maybe after I see this other material I’ll add to it.
J: Yeah. But I think the idea too that I’m invited all over the world to perform. I’ve read in Sweden and everywhere.
Q: Well after speaking to you, it’s like you should have your own radio show.
J: Well I did that too. (laughs) No, not a radio show but I received a Telly award for doing a TV show called “Poet’s Chamber.” I’ll give you a tape of that.
Q: Okay. Well — “Poet’s Chamber.”
J: I did eight shows. It was on Beverly Hills TV and Bea Silvern produced it.
Q: What is Beverly Hills TV?
J: It’s like a local access —
Q: Cable access show.
J: Yeah. Cable access. And it was very popular and the show won a Telly award, which I didn’t know what it was. When they called me in New York, they said, “You just won a Telly.” I said, “What the hell is that?” Apparently it’s been around since 1980 and it’s for non-network shows. It’s an award for non-network shows.
Q: Is it a nationwide award show?
J: Yeah. And I was in the culture category and I guess I beat out Discovery Channel.
Q: Well that’s very important.
J: I beat out that something there.
Q: You beat out something on the Discovery (Channel).
J: Some, you know — (“DIS”) some other shows like that. Like one show from Discovery and something from Disney or something like that. (“UM-HUH”)
Q: Because sometimes a good publicist can almost act as an agent in some respects. So this kind of information would really help. To know —
J: One of my old students, Sandra Sing Loh, is on “Politically Correct.” I thought well, hell, maybe they want to hear a poet on there. I don’t know how that works. If — I don’t know how far you go.
Q: It’s unusual that poets are that politically astute but, of course, if they haven’t read your poems they wouldn’t know that.
J: No. But I think it’s because I’ve been, as I said, this whole thing of where the poet has to come back and take the responsibility in society and break these borders down.
Q: Once they were the kings of society and now the kings are the kings.
J: They were. Well either the kings — don’t forget —
Q: Or the criminals.
J: — Mitterrand wrote poetry. If you go back, the world leaders — a lot of them even used to write poetry. They were really very wise and —
Q: Not anymore.
J: No, they’re not. It’s all politicized but the poets, the artists have to come to the foreground again. So I want to be one of those, I suppose. (“YEAH”) And I have been and I’ve — it takes a lot out of me to get out there and do it but this is what I believe has to be done. (“SO IT”)
Q: So on —
J: I wouldn’t have agreed to this — Tany will tell you. She had to literally convince me that I should because I thought the one thing I don’t want to do is disgrace poetry or in any way make it —
Q: And plus you’ll see these — anything written about you, you’ll see before it goes out so it’s — you’re in control. (“HERE”)
J: I mean I didn’t even want anybody to know that there was an — how do you say it? A P.R. agent involved with it. So that’s when she says, “Well we’ll make sure that it has to do — the reason you’re even doing this has to do with the fact that you’re doing a film.”
Q: Everyone has P.R. these days.
J: Well not — a poet shouldn’t. I really don’t think so. I mean I feel so strongly about it that I was so reluctant. (“BECAUSE”) The only thing that allowed me to do it was this film. And she says, “Well that’s what we’ll — we’ll also do that so that people will know that that’s really why. You have a new film going and this anniversary of the Program. But the real thing she was interested in was my poetry and putting it out there and helping the new book from Grove. (“SO”)
Q: And what are some of the — I hate even asking this question but Tany told me to. Do you know some of the celebrities who’ve read your poems over the years?
Q: I know. It’s sort of a funny question to ask.
J: Well she knows who they are. At any rate, Goldie Hawn is a dear friend of mine. I even helped her with her poetry. She’s one of my best students. Goldie Hawn. Jack Lemmon. I’ve known him for twenty years.
Q: Unfortunately, this is what people are interested in today. (small laugh)
J: Well — oh boy, I don’t want to namedrop either, you know?
Q: No, I know.
J: Felicia Farr is Jack Lemmon’s wife and she loves poetry. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening I think have my books because I gave it as a gift to their Cathlyn, their child but it does sound like name-dropping. Dyan Cannon.
Q: They haven’t, like, read these at events? (“OR ANYTHING”)
J: That I wouldn’t know. They just — Dyan Cannon because she and I worked on a film together many years ago so —
Q: I know she’s also a big fan of James Kavanaugh.
J: Oh may be.
Q: And I — (“N”)
J: She used to write poetry herself.
Q: See, in all of his books they shamelessly plug (“LIKE”) what stars like — they even have quotes from the stars on the books. Rather than you who has (“YOU KNOW”) other people. (“RIGHT ADVICE”)
J: No, no, I wouldn’t do that. Cathy Lee Crosby — I helped her with her last book: Let The Magic Begin from Simon & Schuster. It sold 100,000 copies.
Q: Isn’t that a sad comment that, perhaps, if instead of having, let’s say, Yevtushenko, on your back cover, if you had Goldie Hawn there more people would buy it. (laughs)
J: Oh there’s no doubt about it. You see, that’s where I’d like to work together with you and Tany —
Q: And make sure that doesn’t happen.
J: Not only that it doesn’t happen but that maybe we can put — you know, I talked with Arum Saroyan, Cubby Selby — Hubert Selby the novelist. They said, “Jim, with you maybe it could happen that poetry will be back out on those shelves in a bigger way.” Maybe I should be doing this. I remember going to a bookstore when The Hunger Wall came out and there was my book. They ordered five. And next to me was Ally Sheedy’s book of poetry. They had fifteen on the shelf, you know? I thought, “Wow, if you’re a celebrity, the bookstores will buy fifteen books to sell; and the poet, they’ll take five. So I looked, picked up one of her books, just turned to page and the first thing I read was a mixed metaphor. She had, “My heart sucks your emotion like a vise.”
J: That was a true line. (“OHH”) “My heart sucks your emotion like a vise.” And I’m thinking how in the world could a vise suck?
Q: Oh it’s sick.
J: The mixed metaphor was published.
Q: And that was on the bestseller list.
J: Probably — who knows? Ally Sheedy doing poetry.
Q: Oh there was another — oh my God. I know. It’s like our culture — people buy celebrities because there’s some recognition there.
J: Well I’d rather — as I said, I want to make it on my own and I want to make poetry have it on its own. There has been poetry — like Yevtushenko was able to do it in Russia and put it out there; then I’ll do it. And as I said, reading for the President of the United States in the White House is not out of the question since I’ve done these sorts of things. Or reading (“NO”) in New York and, you know, whatever’s — the news or doing the interviews. I’ll do whatever’s necessary to put the poetry out there and, as I said, not just mine because I feel strongly just about the fact that people have to start turning back to the artist. Look what we’re doing. We’re cutting the National Endowment of the Arts out. You go to universities and they’re cutting back on their arts programs. I mean “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was a film about that.
Q: What do you think of that?
J: Oh I think it’s horrible.
Q: You think it’s the death of culture, of quality. There’s no quality in life.
J: We could be extreme with an interpretation like that — it’s an extreme interpretation but it’s not out of the question. Art is the conscience. It is. Art is the soul and the conscience of the society and that soul really is the deepest and most integral spirit we can have.
Q: And what’s happening to it?
J: Well it’s gradually being diminished. That’s what I meant about the morally compromised world.
Q: See, this kind of quote would be good — (“THIS — THIS WILL”) would maybe key someone in to have you as a guest to talk about this because everyone has to fill up their airtime and it’s unusual to hear somebody talking on this subject.
J: Oh yeah. Poets and artists must prick the conscience of a society. We have to continually do it. But if you just look at the moral sense of our culture, where you have right and wrong — when I grew up we pretty much knew those polarities. They were very clear to us. Now most of our society lives in the gray area and they’re comfortable there, you know what I’m saying?
J: The rich and the poor try to cheat in any way they can and it’s okay and it’s justified because ‘I’m poor and therefore I should be able to do this. Rob you. Cheat you.’ And the rich for the same reason. (“DO THINK”)
Q: Do you think people in this day and age think that God’s favorites are those that have the most money and look the most glamorous?
J: Obviously in this society, yes. Just as they look at youth and if you travel like I do to China and the rest and you see how they look at age — the respect and the love they have for aged people is not what we have. We’re such a youth culture that for us to even think anything but glamor is beautiful is hard for us. (“WE”) We sell it on TV. We sell it in ads like we sell violence and sex. It’s all out there. I think it will swing back. My sense of the freedom of every individual — I protect it. (“NO”) I don’t have any problems with that. But I just want people to take responsibility for all actions and not blame it on everyone else. We’ve become a victim society. Everybody’s victimized. Everybody’s a victim. And it’s not true. We’ve just convinced ourselves that we’re all victims. We’re all abused. Oh my God. I’m one of thirteen. I was one of seven boys. We had a football team and my dad used to hit us with a strap. We don’t look at our dad as having abused us. I don’t know how he could’ve kept us in line.
Q: (small laugh) (“NO”)
J: I mean I’d never (say), “Look, oh my father — I was abused as a child.” You ought to hear these people. If they got beat or slapped or anything, they were abused. That then takes it away from the real people who are.
Q: So what are the topics that you love talking about most? Obviously, you’ve talked a lot about them today but if you were to go on a talkshow what would you want —
J: Well I’d have to give that some thought and talk it over with you but I mean just off the top of the head, again, putting the power of communication back out there. One of the topics I love has to do with this globalization I’m talking about — the world has shrunk. We have a globalization of economy — (“NO”) economics going on. All these different maps and treaties all over the world but the same things is happening in the arts. I really feel strongly that in the future — and I’m one of the voices out there in front on this — in the very near future, the arts will be globalized in a sense that we will be more aware of what’s being done beyond our borders and that this fusing of voices and the fusing of (“THE AR”) artistic temperaments will become a little more not just as one because I like the sense of a oneness that we’re on this Earth together. (“BUT IT”) This will happen in the social context, cultural — that we’ll be more aware of what’s beyond our own houses and beyond our own cities and beyond our own countries.
Q: Do away with TV and maybe we’ll have a chance.
J: Yeah. There you go. Hey with CNN and with the way we have — I mean we have the op —