Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ed Asner on Jack Bannon, Pearl Harbor, and labor unions (interview outtakes)

Edward Asner portrays FDR in Dore Schary's one-man stage show on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 pm at the Fox. Tickets: $27-$47. Visit or call 624-1200 or 325-SEAT.

Bobo has a Q&A with Asner in tomorrow's Inlander.  (He talked by phone from his office in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.) Some passages that had to be cut:

A fuller version of Asner's rant about liberals who don't support unions:
Being a liberal is the easy way out! [Long pause. Is Ed Asner going to start ranting? Yes, he is.] When you see what liberals do today when there are union troubles, it makes me want to puke. I don’t think conservatives would ever allow their members to ignore one of their causes in the same way. Liberals whine and go on and on without the slightest realization of what it is that union members do and what the basis of unions is. Let me put it this way: When we’re in negotiations and struggling for a contract, your ability to strike is your only weapon. So in the middle of a strike, to attack your leaders and tell them, ‘Don’t you dare strike’ … well, that’s a total betrayal. I’m referring to the recent strike by the Screen Actors Guild [of which Asner was president in 1981-85]. 
I mean, the ignorance that’s allowed to prevail… The so-called crimes of unions are broadcast by corporations and the media all over. The average working man doesn’t have the foggiest idea that the wages he’s working for, even if he’s not a union man, are still determined by the union. Are you following me?
A union bus driver is making a certain wage. A non-union bus driver will work for less. But his wage is based on what the union driver is making. If there was no union, then that non-union driver would be making even less. 

A couple of questions about Schary's script for FDR and how it's not merely hagiography:
You portray FDR, warts and all — including his mistreatment of Eleanor so he could have his mistress Lucy Mercer and his attempt to pack the Supreme Court. Anything else?
The two you mentioned, and Pearl Harbor. We can’t deny the total mobilization of forces beforehand.

My parents were both conservative Republicans, and they always preached that FDR knew in advance about Pearl Harbor and maneuvered the U.S. into World War II as a way out of the Depression. Your reaction?
I want it known that I don’t claim to preach the absolute truth in this play, and I lightly skip over the warts.
When I deal with Pearl Harbor, I deal with the fact that we were in negotiations with Japan — I’m quoting from the play now — “with a 10-point agreement with our pledging to stay out of Indochina and their promise not to attack us in the Pacific. And they turned us down flat. But we were able to break their code.
We didn’t know their navy was headed for Hawaii. But our air and naval forces were on the alert.”
And then he gets a phone call that Pearl Harbor has been attacked, and then a subsequent call that the Arizona and the Oklahoma have been sunk.
And I ask [as FDR], “What the hell were those planes doing on the ground? They were warned three days ago!”
From what I’ve heard and read, Admiral [Husband E.] Kimmel was the one who evidently seems to have failed to execute that kind of total alert.
I don’t know.

A couple of questions about Jack Bannon (and the 27 years since Lou Grant was cancelled):
Thirty years ago this month, in the middle of your run on Lou Grant [the drama about an L.A. newspaper that was spun off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and which Asner starred in for five years], you shot an episode with a guest star who was married to one of cast members on Lou Grant
Oh, you mean Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon. Yeah, they’re comin’ to the show in Spokane.

Would you have predicted that Jack would end up actively involved in small-town theater way up here?
Never. Jack was a stud-muffin at the time. But he is such a beautiful actor, and I think that being part of the rat race was the last thing that appealed to him. I’m not surprised that he moved up there. We had a happy family there on Lou Grant for awhile, I can tell you.

[ photo: Ed Asner at ]

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At October 16, 2009 12:58 PM , Anonymous Rebecca said...

Thanks for the extras. And if we get to vote, I say that Jack is still a stud-muffin.

At October 18, 2009 3:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Bobo, how was the show?


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