Dick Cavett Donates Thousands of Hours of Interviews to Library of Congress

Dick Cavett interviewed Woody Allen on his ABC late-night talk show

His collection features chats with Ali, Bowie, Brando, Capote, Hendrix, Hepburn, Hitchcock, Jagger, Joplin, Mailer, Mantle, Olivier and Welles.

Dick Cavett, whose interviews in the 1960s, '70 and '80s made for some of the most fascinating moments in television history, has donated 2,500 of his talk show programs to the Library of Congress, it was announced Friday.

His erudite collection totals nearly 2,000 hours of programming — about 78 days' worth of viewing — and features more than 5,000 guests being interviewed, many of whom were usually shy about appearing on talk shows.

They include Muhammad Ali, Woody Allen, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando, Ingrid Bergman, Mel Brooks, Truman Capote, Noel Coward, Duke Ellington, Helen Hayes, Jim Henson, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Myrna Loy, Norman Mailer, Mickey Mantle, Groucho Marx, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Perkins, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Mort Sahl, Charles M. Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Gloria Swanson, Gore Vidal, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams and Joanne Woodward.

And then there were the '60s rock 'n' roll acts: David Bowie, Cher, Judy Collins, David Crosby, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, John Lennon (and Yoko Ono), Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell and many others.


"I still have to convince myself that I actually interviewed and knew all of those incredible people," Cavett, 80, said in a statement. "Looking at the archive of my shows now is simply overwhelming for me. I'm thrilled that the Library of Congress will be the permanent repository for the collection. When I see one of the old shows now, my first thought is, 'What is that starstruck kid from Nebraska doing with whoever the genius of the moment happened to be?'"

A three-time Emmy Award winner and 11-time nominee, Cavett, a former writer for The Tonight Show, spent decades as a talk show host, most notably on ABC from 1968-75 and then on public television from 1977-82. He also had programs on CBS, USA, CNBC and HBO. (Cavett, through his company, Daphne Productions, owns the talk shows.)

"Dick Cavett turned interviewing into an art form," Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. "He could talk to anyone, and his ability to listen and make the fascinating people who sat across from him more relatable guaranteed his place in television history."

Highlights from the collection include:

A confrontation between writers Vidal and Mailer about Mailer's misogynistic tendencies and Vidal comparing him to Charles Manson; 

The widow of Lee Harvey Oswald talking about watching John F. Kennedy's assassination on television; 

Miller describing being blacklisted because of his protests against McCarthyism and the writing of The Crucible; 

Baldwin talking about the negative perception of black activism and his view that integration is a euphemism for white superiority; 

Bacall revealing her best-kept secret as a young star in Hollywood — her Jewish heritage;

And Salvador Dali appearing in 1970 opposite Lillian Gish and Satchel Paige.

The Library of Congress also is the home of collections from other showbiz notables like Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Ernie Kovacs & Edie Adams, Danny Kaye, Johnny Carson and Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz.