Skip to main content

tv   History Bookshelf Jennifer Keishin Armstrong When Women Invented...  CSPAN  September 9, 2021 5:32pm-6:46pm EDT

5:32 pm
20 years ago on september 11, 2001, to large commercial airliners flew into the world trade doubling in new york city. 2763 people lost their lives. a few minutes later american airlines flight 77 crashed into the pentagon killing a total of 189 people. a fourth plane united 93 crashed into a field near shanksville, pennsylvania at three minutes past 10:00 a.m. on that morning. 44. these events as everyone knows were a great shock to our nation and the world. as a small way to commemorate this moment in u.s. history here are some of the -- the c-span network the morning after, beginning at 6:00 a.m.. >> the entire united states to shut down. you are talking to people around the country and around the world
5:33 pm
who were shaken to their roots by this. >> good evening everyone. thank you for joining us tonight for one of her signature events celebrating women's history month with tim and they are just -- jennifer armstrong. i do not read all day and reading his deadly part of my job but this tonight as the other best thing meeting authors about books i love and hearing them talk about their books. if i had to trade jobs with anyone i would trade jobs
5:34 pm
with -- shend worked for over 10 years. she's written six books on television and pop culture two of them on shows like the mickey mouse club. you probably flipped through jennifer's most well-known book. in her latest book jennifer takes a deeper dive kind of people in industry who brought usde television. it should come as no surprise that women were some of the most creative innovative and business savvy members in the early days of television. i'm sure everyone out there recognizes the name betty white. if you've ever been hooked on the soap opera and never heard
5:35 pm
alicia keys played played two pianos at the same time? every wise meddling mother on television should do -- jennifer is going to keep the spotlight on one of the most extraordinary contributions to the development of television and how it impacts how when what we watch m now. if my introduction is all you need jennifer and i hope you order it at your favorite independent bookstore and if you use book you know tonight please point your purchase to jennifer's favorite oak store in new york city and noww, please welcome jennifer armstrong. >> thank you for having me. before we jump into discussing
5:36 pm
the women in the book i have to ask you to talk a little bit about the fascination of -- that we are talking about in the green room. how did you turn everyone's favorite sport paddle surfing into career? >> i grew up in a pop culture centric household and i didn't realize this until maybe college and beyond when i met other people who didn't know everything there was to know about pop culture like i did but they are always records playing or the tv was on and i did a lot with my family. where there was sleepless in seattle with my mom were watching the mary tyler moore show, this is clearly where it started. tv in particular i always tell a story about myself.
5:37 pm
when i was a kid we would get "tv guide" that you would get in the mail. we would get it and i would read it and go through the whole weekend circle all the things i was going to watch that week and then i was ready. that shows you it's not a huge leap to realize i would work in entertainment to write articles and i'd be like who gets to do this and why and how? i did go to journalism school in my early career was not like this. i was a newspaper reporter going to city council meetings writing four stories a day about city council and things like that eventually i made my way to new york city where i am now and i remember my professors in
5:38 pm
college i did say i cannot believe it. i still almost can't believe it and it was almost 10 years ago that i left but through various channels i kept plugging away and they love that i knew how to actually be a reporter and from there i worked my way up and that was a life-changing job for me. i was there for 10 years like you mentioned and all of my a inspiration and work and friends and i was so grateful. we were talking about "grey's anatomy" before we started and i got to be on the set of "grey's anatomy" and i was there constantly. i was in hawaii and -- and i was
5:39 pm
so lucky. that's where i started to focus on television and mostly women in television. that kind of starts me toward writing books about television. i had t an opportunity to write the book you mention about the mickey mouse club and that was on i realized it's a biography but it's not a show. from there books about the mary tyler moore show and here we are. and i had always wanted to be an author really in the grand schemere of things so i was finally got to marry those two aspectsec of myself. >> that is so fascinating and i'm-- so in the oc got to be on the set of "grey's anatomy." i loved watching it was so good.
5:40 pm
>> i was there before they opened the hatch so is really exciting. >> everybody out there watching knows that. it couldn't have been easy to narrow down the -- so tell us how you came to this subject and these women in particular because i'm sure there are many women who. >> the point of the book was actually to show there was his time between 1940 to 1945 that is remembered and what happened was i stumbled on this little apiece of history because i was working on my book about the mary tyler moore show with mary lou and ted wanted to book about a show i find i have to go back 20 years in tv history to understand why it was a big deal and there were two things that
5:41 pm
happened with that research that piqueded my interest and then i filed them away until years later. those two things were one that i asked the creators of the show about the inspiration of mary's best friend rhoda who was also jewish. they named the numbers of a jewish characters from literature and television in the past and one of the influences that came up was her. i thought i have no idea who that is so they told me a little bit and i was fascinated instantly because she was incredibly famous at this time. she was the first successful family sitcom and you cannot overstate it. she was voted the most trusted woman in america after eleanor
5:42 pm
roosevelt and she had a line of dresses and aooha cook look. she had a column where she gave motherly advice and this was the first show that was so successful on television that it was made into a movie. iis even interviewed someone who worked with the movie and she is still with us and i asked did you know her when -- who she was. that just tells you this woman was incredibly famous and i had never heard of her. that was the first thing. the first thing i filed away in my head and the second thing from the mary tyler moore show research the character that had a white played on a mary tyler moore show which was the happy homemaker. a great character and great performance. she hadin a homemaking show and
5:43 pm
she was this very sweet character in front of the camera and wore frilly dresses and the minute the camera went off she was a different person. she was cuttingnd and mean and hilarious so the first part of that character what they said is before we even cast her we describe her in the script as it had a white tie. and i thought i have no idea what you mean. i didn't know her until the 70s and the character so i was like what is sad and i looked it up and it turned out there's a joke about her character from the 40s and 50's when she would be on, she was on a los angeles daytime talk show and she indeed was the sweetest thing and that was her deal and
5:44 pm
you either like it or you didn't but that's the way it was. she would wear these frilly dresses with high necklines so i was like how interesting and that one led me to actually do a little more research and reading about tv at that time and i did start him being into all of these women doing these things and i thought wow i had n idea and that's how i came to this idea and i made a gigantic list and throughout the book i mentioned a number of other women in a paragraph or two to give a nod to them. there were lots of women who didn't quite make it into the narrative. i i went with the golden rules rule about what we can handle and i wanted different experiences of that and i figured if i could get the
5:45 pm
different experiences from these women it would show the whole picture so i had betty white and phyllis who worked in the daytime and gertrude burke who worked in prime-time and gertrude worked in new york and they all had different families situations. betty was single and -- had adopted two children on her own and was unmarried so was different genres per there were women like kate amerson who is successful. i think that is shocking to just because it's crazy to me that we know his name so well or amanda randolph who was a woman who had
5:46 pm
her talk show in the daytime and was like the first i believe in getting this right the first women to be the star of the sitcom. so there are a lot of women who work behind the scenes in from the camera but i wanted to show that and women who very much contributed to their genre. i wanted them all to have some sense of that mansion in their career. >> let's go back to gertrude burton and i'm going to ask the picture to come back up and talk to us about gertrude because you said she was a household name and conglomerate.
5:47 pm
>> i think of martha and opera when i think of her very much ahead of her time and all these women were. she was a workhorse first of all. this woman love to work. she loved what she did. she lived especially for this character mollie goldberg. she created her fourth -- which by the way is no relation. she spent 17 years on the radio and what i love about it she said that's not enoughgh for me. it came down to what i called you have children on a sitcom and they eventually grow up and she had a sitcom and she did a
5:48 pm
broadway version briefly after it ended because she didn't want to end on the radio so she used right away is this dry run and she saw that there was something that was going to happen in the tv world and this was like 1948. she said my god i can reboot this thing and speak in modern terms. i can start out with a young preteen and the teenager on my show. at the age of 50 having had incredible success are ready she used that power and basically i start my book with the but she marched into the office of cbs and william paley the head of cbs and this was a powerful man. he was the guy at the time. she marched right in there and she said i think i deserve a
5:49 pm
spot on your television network. i got through the depression on radio and you owe me. she had been rejected including him once and she was not taking no for an answer. she demanded this and he said let's tryt it. and that's how it started. this is the kind of thing that goes on for her over and over. she really was so dedicated to her work and her character in particular. in some ways it turned out to be somewhat of a downfall for her. really just like she was such a powerful woman and was not afraid to use it in in public she presented this image of an american mother andhi
5:50 pm
behind-the-scenes she loved to dress beautifully and yet she put out a long line of how stresses and have a successful cookbook. she was also a master of her image. >> can you tell us about her show and its premise and were you able to interview any actors in the show? >> the goldbergs was out a jewish family living in the bronx tenants. this is the quintessential one of the first family sitcoms that if you watch the early episode that is what you would recognize it as. the classic in the living room
5:51 pm
problem happens and mom helps to solve that in 20 to 30 minutes you know and the big hallmark of the show just to give you a visual sense these are live shows and debuted it live. that was the technology at the time so it makes for madcap things that they do that's very sued the pants. she'd have to wear three dresses layered andr run out take a dres off go outcome is a new day. she had the signature that she started on radio which is one of the first tv catchphrases. in the tenements there was a window in their apartment and it looked out and she would lean out the windown and yell you who mrs. bloom and the neighbor would come out pop her head out
5:52 pm
the window and they would gossip through the window. it was like their telephone system so that was like people knew that and the other thing she did that was incredible she would deliver the acting she wrote them herself. these ads are riveting i'm telling you. it's my favorite part of the show. she wouldd start out at the window at the beginning of the show and she told the story in her character's voice which was very natural. you would think i wonder what she's telling us? she would start with we are going to the catskills and everybody was really tired though they weren't sleeping well andir very irritable and yu are thinking what is she doing in she'd be like i told them
5:53 pm
about coffee which is decaffeinated instant coffee. 90% of the caffeine was left out the people loved it and then she's turned around to her family bustling around behind her and she would start from there and often she would link the story right into okay we just got back from the catskills and we are all happy now. she sold incredible amounts of sanka which just enhanced or power in the early days. >> i think you just solved the mystery for me why was there so much sanka in my house as a kid? my grandmother was the one that brought it over. >> that's all you need to know.
5:54 pm
>> and coffee crystals, remember those two. we are showing our age. let's move on to the next character. i was gob smacked atma how beautiful how -- and how talented and how story is at inspiring and is a namer did alicia keys -- so tell us about hazel show and what is she doing in this photo? she is amazing. >> she really really is. look atla how glamorous she is. and the looks were alwaysn on point. she's beautiful and she was a big star and she had a couple of
5:55 pm
tricks that she did the people really loved as a jazz performer. at could play two pianos once and alicia keys did it a few years ago when she hosted the emmys. i was literally running around the apartment. the other thing that hazel did when she won the classic so she would start out playing a traditional song and moved on she made it jazzier and jazzier and this was just at the time. people loved it and they were selling it at concert halls across the country and using platforms to advance civil rights was anc big issue for her purr for instant she would not play at segregated venues and she would walk on the red carpet down the middle separating the
5:56 pm
two sides you would walk right back out and she would give interviews than in say i don't know why anyone would want to pay to sit next to someone -- so she was this great figure and abducted and used a platform for that and other great thing about her is she knew a congressman who was his own gigantic star. very charismatic, gorgeous debonair. he was a. she. they had met in harlem and she sawan him preach and he saw her perform and it was all on. it is scandalous beginning because he was still married at the time. all of this just adds to their mystique. they were in ebony magazine all the time and there's an incredible cover story with a beautiful photo of them with their son at the time and the
5:57 pm
headline is my life with hazel scott. he wrote all about how wonderful their life was together. she cooked and she made chocolate cake. she t played the piano and she's gorgeous. it was that kind of thing. naturally for all these reasons the fourth network at that time offered her a chance to have her own variety show so she had to show when first it was in new york city where she lived. she loved it and she could finally stay home with her son instead of traveling all over the country too perform and it was so popular it expanded to multiple nights a week in new york and then finally it expanded nationally and it made her the first person to have a primetime show that went
5:58 pm
national. 1 and this was in 1950. mentioning segregationists it still jim crow south and you know an incredible time to be making this kind of breakthrough. unfortunately it went fast because she ran into the hollywood lack list. she was listed in a channel that claimed to be telling you who might be a communist. they said do what you want and as you alluded to she i think a road glee volunteer to go before the american activities committee. she thought she could clear her name by doing best but really what she was doing was standing up for what was right and she gave us incredibleas rousing speech.
5:59 pm
she was very good with words and it's hard to overstate this woman going before these white men in power and explaining to them what they are doing wrong. and she's completely right. really it's such an incredible story and unfortunately i'll wanted the movie to go differently and have it go like we can't take this anymore and that why can't everyone who fires people because of implied communist ties but instead she goes back home to new york and she's very unceremoniously fired and they don't really say it that way. they can't find a sponsor all of a sudden for her show and it goes off the air and she was very disillusioned and moved to paris not long after. she felt
6:00 pm
there were a number of black in paris by james baldwin and she felt it was better for her.r. maybe that's why wee don't know her name and her contribution to television. we can't find her recordings and that's just a travesty. >> i'm rolling back just a little bit to ask her husband the congressman did he receive any help in that situation? >> i suspect it all goes together. he can't prove any ofwi these things including the firing. it was so hard to prove definitively what caused what. she came home and said i'm going to go talk to them and she said please don't. she knew what could happen but
6:01 pm
ihe couldn't stand by which i think is so admirable. he had a number of enemies and congress over these reasons and i have a story in the book that they found out they were being being -- when they were going abroad and their own fbi was wiretapping them. so i think it probably contributed and it probably made her a target. they did a lot of safor white's work together and she is a woman -- black woman. they were obviously scared of the power that tv was going to have and what starts to happen
6:02 pm
is a women was successfully fired from the show that she was on and once that happened it was a free-for-all biker who can they figure out who to get rid of next so advertisers were very emboldened to demand that the suspected communists be fired. >> deciding we don't like your politics. >> it's crazy and i don't understand and the only explanation i have is hysteria because as a business it makes no sense. she's doing great. it's racism and sexism and fear and everyone is freaking out all of a sudden.
6:03 pm
messi in terms of the a more complicated version of this happens to her tv husband who i, on the same list with hazel scott and general foods he made sanka, hurt commercials are revolutionary but all of a sudden they demanded they fire her. this cat the show off of the air. they had just had a movie version happen and it was supposed to come back in the fall and be paired with this new show called i love lucy and instead it got pulled off the air unceremoniously when it was in the top 10 and they said it was for budgetary reasons but when i looked at the budget it was very similar question by lesser popular shows of its tim. that broke the momentum of her show end of her career.
6:04 pm
she was able to get it back on the air on nbc a little bit later but ended up having to fire -- and the show altogether and all ofof those things and ty were off the air for a while. she had that special chemistry that we recognized as tv stars. they seemed like a married couple and they seemed like s ty had a connection.ep she ends up replacing him twice because she so hard to replace for the first one got sick and the second one is fine but i don't like the later episodes with him nearly as much as i like the early episodes. this is why not everybody knows.
6:05 pm
the early recordings of the show's the early episodes were a very i bad version like a copy f a copy so i think that's way we see an "i love lucy" is reruns. they shot on film for "i love lucy" where goldberg was still alive so just a bad copy of the show. i believe this is a huge factor in the end. they made this critical decision to shoot on film and that through them selves into the streaming era. >> all but that something that struck gertrude at some point. it's so innovative and it's their drive and independent is what the industry didn't like to
6:06 pm
see. >> completely and they are known correlations between the blacklist and working women. in addition to the obvious factor which is that we have a black woman and a jewish woman site think it's fascinating they went after gertrude and her husband. part of it was he had the right resume as it were. if you hung out in certain places they could go after you so they hung out at a place called café society werela hazel played and that actually got shut down by the blacklist but also he was a labor activist. they could go after him but it was a way to go after gertrude takeshi was so popular and beloved. why did they demand that this lady listened to us and do what
6:07 pm
we say and see if it works. i think all of those factors came into play. >> let's talk a little bit about -- phillips who is my favorite in this book and you know why. she's amazing and she's quiet and this is a name i did not know until i saw your book. i taught about hazel and gertrude berg in my classes but not earn a phillips. >> what a powerhouse. she was the only woman who -- he invented the daytime soap opera
6:08 pm
and she'd does radio and her bosses asked her to sell stuff to women. that's what it all comes down to. in both radio and television. she made these domestic dramas and that's what she came up with.- her entire life she used serial the serialized drama and that's what it is. they called that soap operas. it was a denigrating term and a denigrating term and i can tell you she endured lots of bad reviews and i'm not saying that because she was bad at her job but it was reviews and they were all like what with these whiny women with their problems at home? she did things that we would
6:09 pm
still recognize like a dramatic organ music when there's drama right and she loved the dramatic pause often demanding better writers and directors use more dramatic pauses which i loved and also the use of the hangar which you and i were talking about shonda rhimes and i think of that and anything we watch on netflix now how we are so dependent on that cliffhanger and that's why her audiences came back day after day in the daytime. she was very good at knowing her audience. she knew things down to you have to know the story because women may be doing their housework while while watching and you don't want to make it so dependent on this or they will miss something. she brought it from radio to the
6:10 pm
television and she's the first daytimee soap opera ever on television. it was the first one so we learn along the way and eventually came back with a very successful idea which was she brought her massive hit radio soap opera the guiding light of the time and i love this, they brought it in a specific way which was they kept the show going. the spotlighte kept going on radio and tv and then it was simulcast on radio and television. and that was how she had this really big hit. it was not that long ago the
6:11 pm
longest running broadcast show in history because it was television and radio. she went on to have lots of other successful shows and pe of people. she had her fingerprints on both shows and daytime soaps and at one point she is just another one who was really incredibly successful and was doing this whilee raising two children that she adopted on her on as a single woman. [inaudible] >> this is another big thing that is the natural adaption. she was constantly going through her own experience with adoption in a million different ways
6:12 pm
whether it's the surprise reveal of your adopted or a surprise reveal the sister father. she had so many different variations on this and she had one that was kind of heartbreaking where she had a teenage character who said something like you know if i ever leave my earth mother i'm going toer kill her and she ends up doing it in the show. her daughter had said something like that to her. her kids were often k acting out and using the adoption against her. she felt very guilty about her mothering and at one point she said she actually regretted adopting during the show. she was very concerned that she could not give them a father and his haunted her. another thing she did in her soap or was this interplay is she started deliberately making strong male characters.
6:13 pm
she started out with strong women in her earlier shows. some of the women were tough women and in the 50sio interestingly enough along with the rest of the country she really took it in and felt guilty and started saying i'm going to write strong men and strong marriages because i feel personally responsible for the rising divorce rate and there needs to be more strong male role models in the world because she was able to get give back to her kids and her son and that haunted her. >> she's not the one who gave us amnesia. >> that was going on and i'm not sure she did but it was already on some radioki stuff. it's interesting as it touched point of this when she started
6:14 pm
this they were very grounded like very normal job. it was ken might bury her dress for this wedding at i'm going to be in and what shoes should i wear and this is s manlove me? theyey were all in boarding hous and she would have women interacting with each other and you start to realize i have to snap this up to a start to escalate into something she did bring to the genre is having doctors and lawyers and she had a lot of doctors and lawyers in her life but she actually is a contributor to something like grey's anatomy the sense that she saw how she had a pastor so whatow that allowed was peoplee
6:15 pm
would come to the pastor with their problems and it made more sense that they were having dramatic problems. the same thing with a doctor. she brought this idea of the professional and a conduit of drama. >> that makes me think about some of my genre shows in a totally different way. >> exactly. >> essay plus some folks will think of saving the best for last and that's betty white and all those who think about that o white now the first thing you think about his betty white the feisty citizen who just turned 100 the football commercials but look at this beautiful vibrant woman who was a lot sharper than that character you were telling us about.
6:16 pm
>> that is the part that was not based on her at all. i have talked to her and she is as delightful as you want her to be but yeah she was the hot new thing in the early 50's. i really loved meeting her and hearing these stories. this was the young woman to watch. her comedy is pretty good in that kind of thing and she was just incredible. she did this talkshow in hollywood called hollywood on television. theye run five days a week and they would do whatever they felt like it sometimes they talk about the news and they would enterou with each other and they also had commercials for those 5.5 hours. she liked to memorize the
6:17 pm
commercials so that was the one part that was all scripted. it's really fascinating. from there one of their sketches really caught on and she brought it into a sitcom. it's delightful and you can find some clips on it on youtube. she's there from the beginning, man. there are these very silly little plot lines. incidentnd number one with life with elizabeth and then it's just her and her husband this duo. their murder maybe one or two guest stars but often they would do two or three setups and 1/2
6:18 pm
hour. elizabeth wants to learn to drive but she's not going to tell all of her, that type of thing and she is hilarious. they are kind of this -- they do the signature things where the announcer will talk directly to her through the camera elizabeth what you think you arehi doing w and she wouldn't talk to him but the signature line would be like elizabethou aren't you ashamed d she'd go -- and it's just the cutest thing. so cute. totally recommend. at one point she had this talkshow with this insane schedule and the talkshow ended because she was offered the chance to have a national talk show of her own the betty white show in 1954. she was really like you know there were all these stories
6:19 pm
like america's sweetheart and betty white and you should pay attention to her and one of the favorite things i mentioned she was known to kuwait for headlines. she was very sweet and demurrer. like sub when she was clear and managing her own image and took some flak for sometimes. there were reviews of her show and that sort of thing and some were basically disappointed that she wasn't doing this at all times and people would make fun of for a little bit for being so sweet and all that stuff but when i watch these old clips he sang songs. she wanted to be a singer. she wanted to start out being an opera singer. she thing a lot -- sang a lot in
6:20 pm
those days and that's what people did on tv. she was already at that time very shrewd about image management and she has this constant question we are getting into the mid-50's and everyone is suspicious of that. she was divorced twice before this and was living back with her parents after two marriages. she didn't bring it up in interviews. she would just say i just don't have time for husband right now. i just want to give my full attention to him. she did talk a little bit about no one would ask a man where you working so hard and not -- and why are you not married? at the time she was very about.
6:21 pm
i'm not going to get married because i love my career. she later did get married and in one of the great hollywood marriages with al levin. but she had this great marriage later on but she didn't have time and she was clear in what she wanted and what she did want. >> let's take a moment for a couple of questions here. what grounds still remain to be broken by women in tv today? is usually done by men,is to th? >> they are is plenty of room for improvement. there's just so much opportunity and screening. the big challenge now is the numbers are a lot bigger because
6:22 pm
i don't know if you guys have noticed during the pandemic especially there's a lot of television to watch. it's just constant and that's greatt and opens up so many more avenues so i say now is that great how their just wanted to women shows which is how it was but even "sex and the city" here's the latest show and it's like no i was about four white women in a specific situation. a lot of people liked it but it didn't represent a lot of voices. the problem is you don't have, you're never going to have that kind of hit again were lots of people are watching one thing. wewe have had some phenomenon. we paddled little bit of that -- we have had a little bit of that but it's not this big cultural moment.
6:23 pm
it's like they aren't ever going to have the same power that was concentrated in a different time in television. there was something for everyone but i think we need to get more women in. i would say shonda rhimes is doing it but i would like more shonda rhimes'. she's a powerhouse and like richardson was as close as we wouldd get to something like a phenomenon where even if you haven't seen it you know what it is. what is everyone talking about? i have this thing with people of a different time and now i know. but i think more of that power in that situation would be the
6:24 pm
next step i think. >> a question from an audience member listening to you talk about gertrude berg's and her comedy timing what success do you think she would have had him show like "saturday night live"? >> i wish you were here. i recommend to all of you to go watch some clips. she is really interesting on camera because she is not a 28-year-old beauty in the way that likee betty white was at te time. she is not what we would think of, she is not jennifer aniston you know but she has the presence i mean my god. if you read reviews of her work which i quote a lot in the look very funny.
6:25 pm
they didn't even like her version of the goldbergs but gertrude berg one of them does something incredible. the reviewer at the time said allthing like we are children when gertrude berg is on television and i thought yes i can totally see that. i was never in her presence but just seeing her show it didn't matter what she did. having seen her on a number of appearances d on milton berle, they were really good friends and she did a lot of appearances in character and that is the closest we can see a for being being -- and she steals the show from milton berle.
6:26 pm
you don't even know anymore that it's his show. she completely takes over and the camera is on her and she was just -- and that's why she was such a success. >> i love characters like that and i love actors likeit that. anything they are in they elevate everything and they redeem it. >> i was at the caley center which i love and she did the equivalent of -- and it didn't matter. you were just in because and it helps you though she was so -- she could have gotten bigger bigger and she could have done
6:27 pm
anything. she died at a relatively early age but she had two plays in the works when she died. they were already sold-out and she was working on another one. ndshe really had started her career when she died. >> it's hard to think about what we lost. >> i wonder if he would rank or give us in any order the most influential women's characters? >> oh that so hard. that is so hard. i'm going to go to the easiest one first. definitely mary tyler moore. you can't overstate her in terms of women on television.
6:28 pm
the reason is her singleness and herb professional, single professional over 30 living her best life and also see her. she wasn't the first single woman. but the fact that issue is over 30 and she was very independent and was not even in just did in dating. she dated but that was not the main thing. it's about her professional life and making her way alone. when i was at entertainment weekly everyone cited her as their -- and can't get past that. it's all about reaction to her.
6:29 pm
she wasn't the only one but we know a lot about her so i'll let you read about her elsewhere but you know the influence of mary and going forward probably the reason women. >> who started with her show. then i would say, let's see, let me thank. it gets harder as you go forward. you don't a have these mask hits anymore but i think "sex and the city" was bid and carey bradshaw was big and she's the antihero among other things and made it so that women could be super flawed. like a very very flawed
6:30 pm
character and claire huxtable. i know we don't talk about the show anymore but you just can't deny it. also she still out there doing stuff all the time. i think she is the star of the show, i really do. .. of like courage, is like in the last 20 years. you can talk about tina fey, sort of becomes more like tina fey, grey's anatomy, my god scandal olivia pope was pretty big there i would say. >> but unlike a bleat lovable. mess in a good way don't i'm talking about.
6:31 pm
what a crazy show. and i'm just throwing stuff out there now, michaela cole, i made a story this year, i think i think that was not one that shook me. i was watching the show i don't know people seen it, it is a lot too. it's okay if you do not want to watch it too. it's an hbo show over the summer, sometime comedy, sometimes drama, really dark and about a woman dealing with her sexual fall with the aftermath. it's incredible, it is riveting. what i kept thinking as i was reading the book while i was watching it i was just think my god this is blow this woman's mind. if they know i think they would love it. if they would note this is where is going not just the streaming factor but a fact that women could do this kind of thing untilhi this kind of
6:32 pm
story on the medium they were in. i think that was really blow their minds. that's incredible betty white has been there for the whole entire thing. >> we have a questions a a little bit off-topic. one of our viewers wants to hear your take on how kamala harris has been portrayed on television. the news and entertainment shows are they doing an acceptable job of covering for the first black woman to serve as our vice president? >> i have enjoyed the snl 'sthing. that's the main thing i think of of course, impressions you don'tnk think the comment on her
6:33 pm
that's really good spirit and glamorous and in charge. i love the joke they did once it said something like and made for nbc trauma look at the camera with her hair blowing and s they always think about is so accurate. it's a correctly gentle portrayal i think that is really good, it is respectful. we have all heard incidents where the news coverage has gone less than well. i think a lot of places will see how it goes we always get to a point where the administration with the trump
6:34 pm
administration. in retrospect will be interesting to be. >> which i put the tv show before we started talking about even the women you represent in previous books talk about being respectful. while these women were certainly capable of pushing the envelope they always did it was some measure of mindfulness and respectfulness of the topics, turtles and her respectful and her betrayal of, harrisburg there might be elements of the news and we
6:35 pm
know there are no shows were there or not. is that something intrinsic to the weightth women work and mass media, is that a good quality is that a bad quality? >> it's probably good quality i'm into respect. yes of course you stand up for yourself and all of those things. it's never disrespectful in the way i would describe it i would not sibs describe her that way. i think we talked about the book a lot, she was very, very conscience of the way she portrays herself and often she could influence the way other black women were portrayed. she stopped work onhe a movie shee was doing she was in a
6:36 pm
military uniform and auxiliary uniform she looked great their dancers in all black women in her being, they came out and there costumes and dirty i aprons she said no that is not happening in my scene, i will not come back to work until this is fixed, she shut the production down for days that's a lot of money that's not something then joined a lot. is in charge of the studio there told her she would never work in movies again as long as she was alive and that was true. i finally gave in and give them floral dresses cheated thing she's not a singing made a role she had have wardrobe approval but she was very conscious this is a way of being that's both respectful
6:37 pm
although having boundaries and similarly they were all very conscious in their own ways of thinking about procuring a jewish family. she was also thinking about for instance she would have a black guest star on how she was portraying them in her t script. i did think buddy thought about this with himself and she had it in many arthur duncan on his show, dancer who is black. she brought him to national show. she got nasty letters and did not back down fromba that. i felt marginalized could always think about other people who would be marginalized to. otherwise they were going to
6:38 pm
ousted i think there is a little bit of that there. most were pretty skillful for what they thought was right. i work sometimes but notot other times b. >> we've been at this for a little more than an hour. i will close it out by asking you to tell us about a piece of research. i needed so much research for this book. you must about 400 women who would fit in this book. could you tell us something you had to leave out? >> honestly the thing that comes to mind as i really went down this other road was blacklisted, or blacklisted tv has been.
6:39 pm
gertrude did not talk a lot about him what she had to fire him, it was both harmful i'm sorry to end on this note, sold himself in 1955 took an overdose of sleeping pills. he died by suicide and was kind of known as, recognized as a suicide that was due to the blacklist. she really did not talk about this. and one can understand why. i was trying to figure out what happened essentially what the details were. some were available. i ended up going into his archives looking through his letters as well he was funny and very dirty he had dirty sense of humor.
6:40 pm
if anyone is old school knows who is a big broadway star and also sometimes in the 60s just really fun guy. a big, big man and big present. they were best friends. i also went to the archives and was reading as he was going through this. it is not in the book. reading men telling each other dirty jokes and letters the 1950s is a real treat, highly recommended. definitely not concluding that there's a story he was called
6:41 pm
he knew better is not going to mess off gertrude. he had a really funny and dirty sense of humor. it was fun to read those letters of the road i do not inch of down in that book. >> all of these marvelous rabbit holes we find and could not stop yourself. >> absolutely, a lot of their story took place there's a lot of other stuff that went on in her life. that kind of thing as well i was really focused on this time in television. i recommend all of the radicals with the stories, encourage her to the whole lifetime on radio before even got to her.
6:42 pm
there is so much to enjoy about their lives inspiring to. read about them. to it why don't leave us with the name of a woman we should all go, look up and read more about part woman who did not make it into your book may be broke your heart to have to leave her out. >> maybe emerson she was a a htalk show host and amanda randolph i mentioned a little bit but she was fascinating as well and had different philosophies on how to manage her career projection madeha a joke when she got her daytime talk show, she was paid very low i cannot remember the exact amounts. someone asked her about it in an interview. she said for $5 a week what can they expect, hazel scott? she really had a sense of humor and it seems like a very fun woman. i enjoyed reading about her but did not get all of it in there as well.
6:43 pm
>> you'd never know there's plenty of there, there really is. >> thank you so much, jennifer for spending your evening with us. andou everyone, if you are not enticed to read the book looking for when women invented television, please order from for ooyour favorite online platform your favorite independent bookstore. jennifer, this is been aee delight. you and i could go on and on. [laughter] we have to let the folks at home go back to something other than watching us, it may be watching good tv. >> that is right. >> good night everyone and thank you so much for joining us. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
6:44 pm
♪ ♪ ♪ >> weekends on c-span2 bring you the best in american history and nonfiction books. this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks but saturday at nine -- 10:00 a.m. on american history tv american artifacts will tour the flight 93 national memorial on shanksville pennsylvania hearing the story behind the hijacking on passengers who attempted to take control of the plane from terrorists who were headed towards washington d.c. then at 2:00 p.m. eastern on the presidency, president bush oval office address to the nation on the night of september 11. for white house chief usher gary walters recalled events
6:45 pm
within the white house walls after the terrorist crashed into the twin towers at the pentagon. book tv features leaders authors discussant lays nonfiction books. on sunday to 55:00 p.m., we will continue our look back on 911 with historian garrett sign his book the only plane in the sky and oral history of 9/11. at 4:15 p.m. eastern pulitzer prize winning author lawrence wright and his book the looming tower, al qaeda and the road to 911. watch american history and book tv every weekend on cspan2. find a full schedule on your program guide or visit [background noises] [background noises] >> welcome


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on