Dick Cavett is a famous American TV personality, best known for his talk show, ‘The Dick Cavett Show.’ He has interviewed several famous personalities, such as Marlon Brando and John Lennon, and has discussed controversial issues, which has earned him wide viewership. As a youngster, he was a good gymnast and had learnt magic to entertain his friends. He discovered his acting talent while in ‘Yale University’ and changed his major from English to drama. He started his career as a stand-up comedian in Manhattan, doing minor roles, till he impressed Jack Paar and became a member of the team that produced ‘The Tonight Show.’ He appeared as himself in the award-winning movies ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Forrest Gump.’ He also acted in the ‘Broadway’ play ‘Hellman v. McCarthy.’ He married actor Caroline Nye McGeoy, who died of lung cancer later. Following this, he married Martha Rogers and has two stepchildren from Martha’s previous relationship. Cavett has suffered from depression since his freshman year at ‘Yale University.’ He has undergone long-term treatment for his condition and has improved with time. He has co-authored the book ‘Eye on Cavett’ and his autobiography, ‘Cavett.’ He currently writes a blog titled ‘Talk Show: Dick Cavett Speaks Again,’ which is published by ‘The New York Times,’ and is a respected personality in the entertainment world.
Childhood & Early Life
Dick Cavett was born Richard Alva Cavett, on November 19, 1936, in Gibbon, Nebraska, US, to Erabel and Alva B. Cavett. Both his parents were educationalists. He belongs to a mixed European heritage.
He attended the ‘Wasmer Elementary School’ in Comstock, Gibbon, and later graduated from ‘Lincoln High School.’ His mother died of cancer when he was ten years old. His father later married Dorcas Deland, who was also a teacher. The ‘Dorcas C. and Alva B. Cavett Elementary School’ was dedicated in their honor.
During his high-school days, he directed a Saturday-morning radio show and played the lead role in the play ‘The Winslow Boy.’ He was a state gymnastics gold medallist and the president of the student council of his school. He also worked as a caddie at the ‘Lincoln Country Club' and performed magic to make pocket money. He won the ‘Best New Performer’ trophy at the ‘International Brotherhood of Magicians’ in St Louis, Missouri.
He soon joined ‘Yale University,’ where he directed and acted in the university’s drama productions and participated in the programs of the campus radio station, ‘WYBC.’ His success in the field prompted him to change his major from English to drama in his senior year. During his college years, he picked up various odd jobs and met many stars to acquire first-hand information about the entertainment industry.
During the early 1960s, he lived in a small apartment in Manhattan and did minor roles as an “extra” on ‘The Phil Silvers Show.’ He also acted in a film for the ‘US Army Signal Corps.’ He worked as a copyboy at ‘Time’ magazine, where he met the host of ‘The Tonight Show,’ Jack Paar, and impressed him with his comedy lines. He also met popular comedian Stan Laurel of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ fame and won him over with his talent.
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Cavett was appointed as the talent coordinator for ‘The Tonight Show’ and met many stalwarts of the entertainment industry, such as Woody Allen and Groucho Marx. He gave the introduction to ‘An Evening with Groucho Marx’ at ‘Carnegie Hall’ and also wrote for ‘The Tonight Show.’
In the mid-1960s, he started performing stand-up comedy at ‘The Bitter End,’ a nightclub in New York City’s Greenwich Village. He also did some commercial voice-overs and appeared in the popular TV show ‘What’s My Line?’ among others.
In 1968, he signed a contract to host the ‘ABC’ show ‘This Morning.’ The show turned out to be too sophisticated for the morning audience and was shifted to prime time and then to the late night slot.
After having established himself in show business, he started hosting his own program, ‘The Dick Cavett Show,’ which was aired on various networks from 1968 to 1996, in different formats. He is best known for his talk show stint on ‘ABC’ from 1969 to 1974. He earned the reputation of hosting “a thinking man’s talk show” and received positive reviews from critics. He often spoke on controversial subjects and engaged people with conflicting views.
In June 1971, he featured the erstwhile presidential candidate John Kerry and veteran John O’Neil in a debate on the Vietnam War. The debate went against the pro-war side and angered President Nixon, who wanted to get Cavett out of the way but was not successful in doing so.
He has featured many stars, such as David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, in his program, and a number of clippings from his shows have been used in movies such as ‘Annie Hall’ (1997) and ‘Apollo 13’ (1995). He has also appeared as himself in many TV shows and has played a few cameo roles in serials.
Cavett has narrated the series ‘Time Wars’ for ‘HBO’ and has also hosted their documentary series ‘Remember When...,’ which studied the changes in American culture over time. He has also appeared in many game shows, such as ‘To Tell the Truth’ and ‘The $25,000 Pyramid.’
His early works include writing jokes for Jack Paar and Jonny Carson on the ‘Tonight Show.’
His own talk show, ‘The Dick Cavett Show,’ has been aired from 1968 to 1996 on various channels.
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He has co-authored two books, namely, ‘Eye on Cavett (1983) and his autobiography, ‘Cavett’ (1974).
He has appeared in two ‘Academy Award’-winning movies, namely, ‘Annie Hall’ (1977) and ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994).
In 2014, he appeared in the ‘Broadway’ play ‘Hellman v. McCarthy.’
Awards & Achievements
He has been nominated for 10 ‘Emmy’ awards, of which he has won three.
He was inducted into the ‘Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame’ in 1991.
Cavett met Caroline Nye McGeoy while studying at the ‘Yale School of Drama’ as an undergraduate. They worked together in various theater productions in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and later got married on June 4, 1964. Unfortunately, Caroline died of lung cancer in 2006.
In 2010, he married Martha Rogers in New Orleans. He has two stepchildren from Martha’s previous relationship.
Cavett has suffered from depression since his freshman year at ‘Yale University.’ He was treated by Dr. Nathan Kline in 1975 and has improved steadily. However, he had to undergo electroconvulsive therapy after he broke out in a cold sweat once, just before a take-off, in a Concorde.
His signature tune on TV is the trumpet version of ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ that is played when he walks onto the stage.
He currently writes a blog titled ‘Talk Show: Dick Cavett Speaks Again,’ which is published by ‘The New York Times.’
He was the subject of the 1993 documentary ‘A Patient’s Perspective,’ produced by the ‘Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association.’
In 1981, he interviewed the pop group ‘ABBA’ in Sweden on their tenth anniversary, and the show, titled ‘Dick Cavett Meets ABBA,’ was broadcast by the Swedish TV network ‘SVT’ across Europe.