Richard Alva "Dick" Cavett

portrait of Dick Cavett
Attending premiere at New York City, photo by Nick Stepowyj (7 April 2010)

Born: 19 November 1936, Gibbon, Nebraska

Cavett's parents, both school teachers, had moved three times by the time he started kindergarten at Grand Island, then three years later they moved to Lincoln, where there is now an elementary school named after them. Dick was producing a live Saturday-morning radio show in the eighth grade, before leaving for Yale he was doing magic shows on stage. He acted and produced in radio drama at Yale, changed his major from English to Drama in his senior year, and after graduation played summer stock in Massachusetts before moving to New York. There he had a string of low-level jobs including copy boy at Time, anything that would give him the chance to hang around stage doors and meet stars. He read a newspaper item that said Jack Paar had a constant search for material for his opening monologue on The Tonight Show, so he wrote some jokes, put them in a Time envelope, and arranged to run into Paar in a hallway of the RCA Building. When he was in the studio audience that night he heard his own material worked into the monologue, and Paar suggested he send more, then hired him as talent coordinator but became a writer. His modest approach allowed him to develop lasting friendships with a number of his show-business idols, including Johnny Carson who replaced Paar and kept Cavett on as a writer. Starting on ABC in 1968, Cavett had his own talk show, serving as the "thinking man's talk show" but running third behind Carson and Merv Griffin. In 1971, the pioneer of organic gardening Jerome Rodale was interviewed on the show and seemed to have dozed off after telling Cavett that he expected to live to 100, but he had actually died of a heart attack on the set, the episode was not broadcast. Over the next thirty years, Cavett's show moved to CBS, PBS, USA, back to ABC, and CNBC. He currently is writing a blog for the New York Times. He has suffered from depression since his freshman year at Yale, generally treated successfully with drugs and one session of electrocompulsive therapy, which he describes as "miraculous", but his syndicated radio show was cancelled after only two weeks in 1997 when a major depressive episode caused him to simply not show up for taping.

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