Summer 2010 Press Tour
PIONEERS OF TELEVISION
Mike Connors, Actor
Robert Conrad, Actor
Linda Evans, Actor
Martin Landau, Actor
Nichelle Nichols, Actor
Steve Boettcher, Executive Producer
Mike Trinklein, Writer and Producer
August 4, 2010
The Beverly Hilton Hotel
© 2010 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All rights reserved.
All TCA Press Tour transcripts are prepared immediately following press conferences. They are provided for your convenience and are not intended as a substitute at press conferences. Due to the speed with which these transcripts are prepared, complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Brings back a few memories. Good
afternoon, everyone. I'm Steve Boettcher. I'm one of
the producers of PIONEERS OF TELEVISION. Thanks for
allowing us to be here. Thank you very much.
Today we honor the pioneers of television, both on the
screen and in this room. But before we bring them
out, an important announcement we'd like to make.
We're proud to tell -- the next season, this coming
season, that PIONEERS OF TELEVISION will have a
brand-new host, a man who himself is a television legend,
an actor who tied the record for playing the
longest-running character in television history. Of
course, it's Kelsey Grammer. We appreciate his great
talent, but we're even more encouraged with his
enthusiasm for pioneers of television and this
project -- Kelsey Grammer, our new narrator for
PIONEERS OF TELEVISION.
Our quest is to bring you the people, the entertainers
who conquered a new medium and brought joy to
millions. This upcoming season offers four brand-new
episodes focusing on the icons of science fiction,
crime dramas, local kids television, and westerns, and
we have five of the stars here today to talk with you
about those formative years. But first, here's a
quick reminder of some of their early contributions.
MIKE TRINKLEIN: Today, we're honored to have five --
Today we're honored to have five icons of America
television here with us on this stage.
ROBERT CONRAD: (Holding up sign to his chest, showing
MIKE TRINKLEIN: I'm Mike Trinklein, and I'm one of the
producers of PIONEERS OF TELEVISION, and I have the
great privilege to introduce them to you. I'll be
brief because I know you know them well.
Ladies first. Nichelle Nichols began her career as a
singer touring with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.
Gene Roddenberry cast her in the break-through series
"The Lieutenant." Her standout performance there
earned her a place in Roddenberry's next project. You
probably know it, "Star Trek." It was the first time
on television that an African-American woman played a
role other than a servant. One of Nichol’s biggest
fans, as you saw, was Dr. Martin Luther King, who
personally encouraged her to stay on "Star Trek."
She's appeared in numerous "Star Trek" films, had a
recurring role on NBC's "Heroes" and served on boards
at NASA and the National Space Society, Nichelle
Next to her, or in the middle, is Linda Evans. Linda
Evans starred in one of the most popular series in the
1980s as Krystle Carrington on "Dynasty." But her
breakthrough role came a bit earlier on a classic
western "The Big Valley" with Barbara Stanwyck, the
only TV western with two women in major roles. Linda
Evans also guest-starred on a wide range of classic TV
Series, from "Bachelor Father," where she played a
young girl with a crush on John Forsythe, to "The
Untouchables," "Rockford Files," even "Mannix." And
she cooks, recently winning the competition on the
reality series "Hell's Kitchen," Linda Evans.
Mike Connors -- Mike Connors is best known for playing
the title role in "Mannix," a classic crime drama that
revived the genre in 1967.
MIKE CONNORS: (Hand gesture, firing imaginary gun.)
MIKE TRINKLEIN: Produced by Bruce Geller, "Mannix"
ran eight seasons. He also starred in "Tightrope," an
unconventional series with a distinctive film noir
style. Later, he starred in "Today's FBI." Along
the way, Mike Connors did guest shots on many of TV's
most memorable series; "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun - Will
Travel," "Maverick," and "Perry Mason." What you may
not know is that Mike Connors very nearly replaced
Raymond Burr on "Perry Mason." Ask him, Mike Connors.
Robert Conrad -- Robert Conrad burst onto the --
NICHELLE NICHOLS: (Standing up.)
MIKE TRINKLEIN: There he is. Bursting once again.
Burst on "Hawaiian Eye." That was his first big
series, but it was his role as James West in "The Wild,
Wild West" that would make him a household name.
Later, Robert Conrad starred in "Baa Baa Black Sheep"
and won rave reviews for his role as a French trapper
in the miniseries "Centennial." He also starred in
"High Mountain Rangers," "A Man Called Sloane," and
others. He did guest shots on many iconic series from
"Mission: Impossible" and "Maverick" and "Columbo" and
even "Mannix." He even co-starred -- even hosted
"Saturday Night Live." Today, he hosts a very popular
radio talk show. Robert Conrad.
And Martin Landau. Martin Landau's career began in
television's Golden Age on shows like "Playhouse 90"
and "Omnibus." He was Gene Roddenberry's first choice
to play Mr. Spock on "Star Trek." Instead, he chose
to work on the other side of the lot as Rollin Hand on
"Mission: Impossible," a role that made Martin Landau a
household name. In the early 1970s, he starred in the
innovative science fiction series "Space: 1999." His
movie roles won accolades. He remains a busy actor
with recurring roles on "Without a Trace" and an
especially memorable part in "Entourage" as the
determined Bob Ryan. Martin Landau.
Those are our panelists, and now I turn it over to
you. I'm done and time to talk to them.
QUESTION: For whoever would like to take it on the
panel, at the time you were making these series, did
you feel like you were pioneering television or did
you realize the impact much -- only much later?
MIKE CONNORS: Who are you asking?
QUESTION: Anyone who would like to answer.
MIKE CONNORS: Oh, okay.
ROBERT CONRAD: Oh, I thought when I was first on
television in black and white for Warner Bros. for
$315 an episode that I'd end up a millionaire and
pioneer, but that didn't happen. All I can say is I
was so happy to have been surfing during "Hawaiian
Eye" and horseback riding during "Wild West" and
flying airplanes during "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and
being next to these beautiful women. That ain't bad,
huh? Works for me.
MARTIN LANDAU: When I first started in television, it
was back in New York, and it was before tape. It was,
you know, Kinescopes and live television, literally,
and we felt we were pioneering because there were
about 25 sets in the country.
And so -- but then again, with "Mission: Impossible,"
you know, the government -- some of the alphabet soup
in Washington used to call and say, "How do you know
about that?" And it was all fiction, I mean, things
that were way ahead of our -- you know, I played a
chess champion with a computer the size of a
television set, when, in fact, to have that capability,
you'd have to have an entire floor at the IBM building
at that time; today, in your pocket. But in the
sense, yeah, I felt we were pioneering in areas that
were -- had not been traveled before.
MIKE CONNORS: You know, I think Marty will agree with
me. Early on in live television, I think it was
matinee theater --
MARTIN LANDAU: That's right.
MIKE CONNORS: -- an hour at noon. It was interesting
because the chairs that you sat on were about so high.
And when you sat, because the cameras weren't that --
when you sat you went (indicating) and sat on a chair
here, because the cameras wouldn't go up and down and
around. So -- there were a lot of things you did in
those early days that, yeah, they were pioneers.
There were new inventions every day. And today, what
they've got on television is just unreal. In those
days, we did all the action live. You drove the
cars. You did the fights. You fell off of buildings.
Today it's all done in front of a blue screen. So,
yeah, when I look back on it, I remember I was tired,
and we invented a lot of things.
MARTIN LANDAU: That's exactly right.
QUESTION: This is for Linda. "The Big Valley" seems
to have stood the test of time more than a lot of
westerns of its day, and it's -- was rerun on Starz
recently, and Jessica Lange is doing the movie version,
I guess, and I think Jack Nicholson is -- his daughter
is playing your character. I'm just wondering what you
think, why it stands the test of time more than some of
the others -- because it was “soapier” or more modern in a
LINDA EVANS: Well, I think Barbara Stanwyck certainly
was the big draw.
ROBERT CONRAD: That's what you think.
LINDA EVANS: Well -- and I think that they created a
very interesting family that appealed to a lot of
people, and it was just good watching. It was good
westerns, and I don't know. I think -- I didn't ever
really watch much TV. I never have. So I can
honestly say I really haven't watched "Bonanza" and I
don't -- I don't know why people choose which show to
QUESTION: For the actors --
NICHELLE NICHOLS: I think that, to answer that first
question also -- that I think there's a very
interesting question of did we know that we were
pioneers. I think not.
But I knew that something was very, very different in
Gene casting me as -- on the command crew, fourth in
command, as Lt. Uhura. It was rather interesting to
me to be cast on the show because I came up in musical
theater, and somehow I was, like, really on my way to
break through and do all of the things that I really
wanted to do on Broadway. And I took "Star Trek"
because I thought it would be a nice adjunct to my
resume, and I'd get to Broadway quicker and as a star.
And -- and suddenly -- and I still think that way, but
"Star Trek" interrupted my career.
And I kind of got stuck there. As a matter of fact, I
even tried to leave after the first year, the first
season, because I thought, “Oh, this is going nowhere
And I told Gene I was going to leave the show on a
Friday evening. And Saturday, that next day, he said,
"Please don't leave. Don't you see what I'm trying to
do here?" And so that -- that next evening, as fate
would have it, I was being one of the guest
celebrities at an NAACP fund raiser. And one of the
fund raisers came up to the dais and said,
"Ms. Nichols, there's a fan. There's a person here
who says he's a big, big fan of yours. He's your
biggest fan." And I thought it was a Trekkie, and so I
said, "Sure." And I stood up, and I looked across the
room, and there was Dr. Martin Luther King walking
towards me with this big grin on his face. And he
reached out to me and said, "Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your
greatest fan." And he said that -- that "Star Trek"
was the only show that he and his wife, Coretta, would
allow their three little children to stay up and
watch, because while they were marching, every night
you could see people who looked like me being hosed
down with a fire hose and dogs jumping on them because
they wanted to eat in a restaurant. And I think it
was just a encounter that started out. But the marches
began and here I was playing an astronaut in the 23rd
And when I told Dr. King I was leaving the show, I
never got to tell him why, because he said, "You
can't." And he explained to me just what I've just
said and that what Gene Roddenberry had done with
producing "Star Trek" was to establish who we were in
the 23rd century. “Here you are on the command crew in
the 23rd century, fourth in command while we're
marching.” So we are there and what we do today is the
And so I went back and told -- he told me a lot of
other things that were so complimentary that I blush
to think of it, but he was dead serious. He said,
"You're part of history, and this is your
responsibility even though it might not have been your
So I went back and told Gene Roddenberry on Monday,
because he'd asked me to think about it over the
weekend, and if I still wanted to leave he -- I would
have his blessings. And I went back, and I told him
about Dr. Martin Luther King. And Gene Roddenberry
was a 6-foot-3 guy with muscles. He was a big
hack-nosed guy. He was a -- had been a motorcycle cop
and flying hero in the second world war. And he sat
there with tears in his eyes. He said, "Thank God
that someone knows what I'm trying to do. Thank God
for Dr. Martin Luther King." And I told him if he
still wanted me, I would stay, and he took out my
resignation and had -- and it was all torn up where I
had given it to him. And he put it in the drawer. It
was all torn up, and we were friends. And I stayed and
I've never looked back. I'm glad I did.
QUESTION: For any of the other actors, can you talk
about a signature -- could you talk about a moment or
a signature story from any of your series that stands
out still today?
NICHELLE NICHOLS: We can't hear you.
QUESTION: A moment or a story from one of your
signature series that still stands out today, some --
a favorite memory.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Well, I just told mine, so --
QUESTION: You did, yes. So anybody else have one?
MIKE CONNORS: When they called and said you're picked
up for another year.
QUESTION: Anyone? Linda, anything from you?
LINDA EVANS: Well, I loved working with Barbara
Stanwyck because she was such a powerful women in the
industry, and I loved that she did her own stunts. I
mean, Mike says the guys did the stunts, but very few
women did their own stunts, and she was extraordinary
in her position for stunts.
And I remember the first time she said to me, "Well,
you know, we're doing the burning house next week, and
I'm going to do it." And the producer said, "Well,
would you mind being in the -- you know, not using a
stunt double because you should be there if we're
going to shoot her?" And so I thought, “Okay, well,
how dangerous could this be?” And all of a sudden, I'm
tied up, and the house is on fire, and the flames are
licking, and I'm thinking, “Oh, gosh, we could
die from this.” And once in, in fact, she got a
concussion from an earthquake that we had in the show.
And she just was strong. She was not afraid to break
convention. She loved doing things that were unique
for her time. And I felt very privileged to be there
with her when she did these things.
MIKE CONNORS: And I also think -- I've heard from
many people that worked with her -- that she was
probably one of the most loved actresses in the
industry. Isn't that right?
LINDA EVANS: Well, she was respected by every crew
that she every worked with. She knew the name of
every crew member. She'd say, "Hey, Sam. How is your
dog? Richard, is your mother doing okay?" She was a
real people person. She never put herself as a star.
She never pretended that whole star system. She'd
say, "Audra, show up on time and know your lines.
Don't make any trouble." And because of her, I know
that I was a professional all my life. I can honestly
say, I was never late one day in my life in working
ever, ever, ever because of her. She was an
extraordinary mentor to me and really helped me
understand what it was to be a professional.
MARTIN LANDAU: You know, what Linda is talking
about, and I guested on that show playing --
actually, in those days, if you weren't in the
series, you were the bad guy, and I played a lot
of those. But I also played Chiricahua Apaches,
and I played a lot of Mexican characters, and on
that show, I played a Hispanic character-driven.
And I worked with Barbara, and she was amazing to
work with. I mean, she was, first of all,
accepting and generous, but I found that, you
know, in those days, I mean, what I was doing in
those days would be politically incorrect today.
I wouldn't be playing Native Americans. I
certainly wouldn't be playing Chicanos and Hispanic
characters. I think, if I did, there would be
picket lines outside the studio. But in those
days, it was all kind of you never knew what you
were going to do when you were guesting. In fact,
when they showed those brief bits of the shows, I
was practically on every one of them. I wasn't on
"Mannix" because --
MIKE CONNORS: We were shooting at the same time.
MARTIN LANDAU: -- it impossible to cross the way
at the time, and I worked with Robert, too. In
fact, he beat the hell out of me on that show.
ROBERT CONRAD: You had it coming.
MIKE CONNORS: You know, getting back to what you
were saying, I think I can speak for all of us.
We were all very lucky. We started at a time
where we had the opportunity over the years, both
in motion pictures and television, to work with
some of those big stars, who I call real stars --
the Cary Grants, Joan Crawfords, and the
Stanwycks, and the Gables, and that, to me, is
what stood out in my life is those times that I
worked with those real stars, their attitude, the
way they carried themselves, the way they did
things. It was really a lesson that I feel sorry
for the young people today that never had that
chance to see what it's really like and how you
should be, because a lot of the young people don't
really appreciate where they've been and where
they've come, and I think I'm speaking -- when I
say that those were great experiences working with
MARTIN LANDAU: Again, I was a New York actor from
the theater, and I came out here with a play, and
the next thing I knew, I was on a set with Alfred
Hitchcock directing Cary Grant, James Mason, and
Eva Marie Saint --
MIKE CONNORS: Great picture.
MARTIN LANDAU: -- "North by Northwest." I was
amazed, again, at how giving those people were and
how professional they were and how trained they
were and disciplined and down the line. You know,
I worked with a lot of wonderful, wonderful
ROBERT CONRAD: I was Juanito, the
MARTIN LANDAU: What did he say?
ROBERT CONRAD: Juanito.
MARTIN LANDAU: Juanito?
ROBERT CONRAD: That's right. I had to fall off a
horse, and if the part was offered to me today,
I'd play it again.
Now, having said that, sitting next to this lovely
lady, who told me about her commitment to her
race, I think it's courageous. I didn't know it.
I love you for it. Sammy Davis [Jr.] threw a party for
me, a dinner party for me, and the reason he did
it was because I was, according to Sammy,
responsible for integrating the series "Wild Wild
West." And he got up and made a little speech,
and then I got up and said, "Sammy, sit down."
And he said, "Why?" I said, "Well, one reason,
I'm taller than you are, and the other reason is
it didn't happen like that." I hired some guys
that were African-American that were qualified,
period. I never thought about it for another
reason, and I was given credit for something that
I probably wasn't entitled to. So I had to
straighten it out. Now I want to share this with
you before this is over. I have the privilege of
being on a show that attracts five and a half
million listeners every Thursday from to 3:00 to
5:00, crntalk.com, Robert Conrad, and it's played
eight hours. It's the weekend with Robert
Conrad [PM Show with Robert Conrad], and I have these
people as my guests every show, and it's a delight. I
retired from the business by choice. I ran my own
company for 20 years. The only other actor that ever
owned his negatives, and he only owned a partial part
of those negatives was Mike Landon. I directed. I
produced. I wrote. I starred in, and I hired all
my friends, family, and also my dog.
When I was trying to pitch at one of those
horrendous meetings that you go to at the network,
and I was saying, "You know, I was in this movie,
and Richard Brooks," and the guy stopped me right
away and I said, "Pardon me?" I said, "Well,
Richard Brooks, he directed," and he said, "Who is
Richard Brooks?" I knew I was in trouble.
Richard Brooks is one of our great directors, and
that's what the industry is. Pitching is hard. I
get headaches afterwards, and it's all kinds of
politics, and for these people, us, to achieve the
success that we have, being honored by PIONEERS OF
TELEVISION, I thank you for that. I thank Mike
and Jennifer Horn who are with me on CRN and Erin,
the vice president, for coming, and I thank you
people for coming because it's a great honor to
us, and they don't know it, but I'm going to get
their agent, and every one of them is going to end
up doing my show.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: You've got me.
ROBERT CONRAD: I've got you, baby, for sure.
That's it. I'm done. Anything?
QUESTION: Is there any show on the air right now
that's been on over the last decade or so that
you've been a really big fan of that you've wanted
to either be a cast member when you were younger
or guest on now? Anybody on the panel.
MIKE CONNORS: Well, you're asking is there any
show that we watch that we'd like to have been on?
Is that what you're asking?
MIKE CONNORS: Well, I'm a frustrated song-and-dance
man, and I'd love to have done the comedy shows
ála "Everybody Loves Raymond" or that type of
show, I'd love to have done it. But in our
business, once you're kind of type-cast as a
certain type, it's very difficult to switch. They
just can't see you as a comedian or whatever when
you're supposed to be a tough guy or vice versa.
However, I used to love doing -- and I think
Martin if you -- The Dean Martin Show, Bob Hope,
Frank Sinatra -- doing those shows with Jonathan
Winters and all were great pleasures, those
variety shows that are no more. And to get up and
do bits and sketches with those guys and gals was
just terrific, and those are the type of things
I'd like to have done.
MARTIN LANDAU: Those were fun shows. I mean, I
did "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Smothers
Brothers Show,” and the Johnny Winters show in
those days, and they were really a release and a
great deal of fun. But I also have recently -- you
know, I did "Entourage." Doug Ellin had written
that role for me, and there was only one script,
and it was a three-episode arc, and he kept
saying, "Do you want to do it?" And I said,
"Well, let me see the next script." And he says,
"It's not written yet." I said, "Well, then write
And then he took me out to dinner, and I said,
"You know, if there's three shows, can I see how
it ends?" "Well, it's not written yet." And I
said -- well, anyway I read three of them, and I
loved it, and I did the show with those young
guys, and it was a lot of fun. Then I also worked
with Anthony LaPaglia on "Without a Trace" playing
his father, who he didn't get along with, as a
character-driven -- and who also had the beginnings
of Alzheimer's. So I did a number of those over a
couple of seasons. So I've kept my foot in the
QUESTION: For the actors, I just wondered, we've
come through a period now, where the anti-hero has
been the big fascination on television. "The
Sopranos," I guess, would be the biggest example.
Do you see a return to more of the action hero
shows like "Mannix," "Mission: Impossible" that we
once enjoyed -- "Hawaii Five-0" is a new show this
fall. Do you see that pendulum perhaps swinging
back to the kind of shows that you did?
NICHELLE NICHOLS: I think so. I think you see
more ensemble shows like "CSI" and that has good
writing to it. I also see a trend or an
opportunity for, not just one African-American on
a show, but shows that are produced and written
by. I'm the executive producer right now on a
film that I know is an Academy Award -- maybe two or
three characters in it. It's not all black. It's
not all white, and I'd like to see more of that.
It's called "Omaha Street." It's really about
loss and pain and rising above that. It's about a
woman's strength that she moves through her pain
to help a young man who has known nothing but loss
in his life since he was 6 years old. So it's all
about life, the beauty of it and the pains that go
with it, and in this case, about redemption. It's
such a beautiful story, and I'm determined to have
it produced. We're in preproduction, and I think
if we -- I really admire people like Jada Pinkett[Smith],
who produces her show that she stars in, and you
have an array of characters. They look like all
of us, and you can look on television today and
see yourself. That's something that a gang, going
back to my beginning, of Dr. King said, “It is so
important that you're on the show, showing the
future because little girls can look on that show
and see themselves.” And I didn't know. I thought
he meant just color-wise, but young women of all
colors have come and said to me, "Because you were
on there, I became an engineer because I believed
I could." There's a woman who has eight
televisions -- eight radio shows, eight -- what
are those things that gives you television?
MIKE TRINKLEIN: Stations.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: -- Stations, and she told me some
years ago when she just had one that, because of
Uhura, she thought she could and so she did. And
it just, to me, confirms that what people see and
what little children are looking at, they're
believing it, and that's why I think that we
really need to -- a lot of the reality shows are
making young people think that's the way it is.
And I think we maybe have to start taking TV back
over and the images that are out there that are
representing us. I'm lucky enough to have twin,
well-educated brainiacs who are writers too, who
happen to have what I think is going to be an
incredible and the finest of that reality shows
can be as opposed to the lowest form.
QUESTION: Just to sort of follow on this, part of
the appeal to some of the action stars was that they
kind of were politically incorrect. You know,
they smoked. They drank. They were womanizers.
Do you think --
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Well, they're all up here.
ROBERT CONRAD: You've got that right.
MIKE CONNORS: Wait a minute. If I get your
question right, you want to know if it will make
that cycle and what makes it so?
QUESTION: Well, would "Mannix" be a hit today?
MIKE CONNORS: Well, I think it's the thing that
has made motion pictures or entertainment popular
all of its life. What made the western popular,
what makes the crime show popular, what makes good
drama, and that is the public has somebody to pull
for or pull against. That's the basic, I think,
of television is you want to root for somebody or
root against somebody.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Yeah, heros.
MIKE CONNORS: And I think the writing in those
days was just that. It was very separated.
Today, with all due respect, there's some very
good stuff on television, but so many of the
writers get so clever with their writing, that you
don't know who you're pulling for or for what or
what's going on.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Or why it's not --
MIKE CONNORS: You turn to your wife and say,
"What did he say?" you know, and I think that's a
problem. You've got to have a definite feeling,
"I'm with her or against what's going on there."
That's my opinion.
ROBERT CONRAD: Who is Jada's husband?
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Will Smith.
ROBERT CONRAD: Didn't he play me in a movie or
You're right about crossing over. Now I'm going
to play Martin Luther King.
MARTIN LANDAU: What we're talking about here are
character-driven pieces. I mean, most of
television, in those days, was
character-driven. You got to know the
people, and you wanted to spend time with them.
The same thing exists in motion pictures. It's
harder and harder to get a movie made today that
is character-driven. If there aren't any
car chases or fireballs or characters climbing up
and down buildings, it's very hard to get the
movie made. I have a movie coming out in
September with Ellen Burstyn, which is an
older-couple love story. It took us a year to get
the right distributor for it because --
MIKE CONNORS: (Pinching Martin Landau's cheek.)
I didn't know you cared.
Love story, I'll be very interested when Marty
talks about a love story.
MARTIN LANDAU: And it's a picture that took
awhile to get a distributor who really cared about
the movie, and it went to festivals and was
received well, but none of the big distributors
wanted the movie. And maybe we were two old
folks, and anyway, it's finally going to come out
in September, and we're pleased with it, and the
people understand the movie. And, again, we're
talking about getting to know people on the
screen, and, you know, I mean, I don't know much
about "Spiderman" other than the fact that he
climbs -- you know, hangs off buildings.
QUESTION: A couple of questions. First one is
sort of a simple one. Martin, was that you
fighting with Robert Conrad on that little clip?
MARTIN LANDAU: Yeah, it was. Technically, he
beat the hell out of me.
ROBERT CONRAD: That's right. He lost.
MARTIN LANDAU: I lost. I mean, Robert was very,
very handy in those. I mean, really handy.
ROBERT CONRAD: Thank you.
QUESTION: And for Linda, why do you think Barbara
Stanwyck went and made a TV show? I mean, she was
arguably one of the leading actresses of the first
half of the 20th century. What do you think drove
her or motivated her to make a TV show? Back in
those days, it wasn't exactly as popular for
feature actors to do TV as it is today.
LINDA EVANS: I don't think she was afraid of what
people thought. I think that's one of the
characteristics about her that I just loved is she
did what she wanted to do, and she loved to act.
She loved to express herself. And it was a medium
that was opening up that she could be the
matriarch in the family, be a powerhouse and show
women that she could be in charge of this family
and kick ass with everybody on the show. I think
she just loved it. I think she loved the
challenge of it.
QUESTION: For the producers, a lot of these shows
have had retrospectives before or genres where
we've had these actors on stage tell their stories
before, but some of the stories that we hear in
this are unique. Can you talk a little bit about
your process of whether the conversations you
have with the actors, to try to mine fresh stories,
are things that the audience doesn't already know
about these shows that we've loved for 50 years?
STEVE BOETTCHER: Is that for us?
QUESTION: The producers.
MARTIN LANDAU: What was the question?
STEVE BOETTCHER: The question is basically why is
PIONEERS so great of a show? And why is it
different than other shows?
You know, I think what's different is we're trying
to drive a program that's not the history of
television. It's character-driven, to get
back to what you said (indicating Martin Landau)
and tell the inside stories. We do extended
interviews with our pioneers, and that's really a
goal of ours is to get to our pioneers and have
them be part of this program and sit down for
hours and hours of interviews, and then it's -- I
guess it's the research that we do going into the
interviews to remind them of moments early on in
their life when they were in a certain program or
beginning their career and those kind of things.
So our goal is really all about the pioneers and
getting those inside perspectives.
MIKE TRINKLEIN: And hey, you know, "Wild Wild West"
without Robert Conrad, it's not "Wild Wild West." And
that's true of every single show up here. These are
people who made you want to watch. The scripts were
fine, but really it's the people, the pioneers. And
that's what we're trying to focus on, are these
individuals and their ability to really connect with
an audience in a way that is really special.
MARTIN LANDAU: You know what amazed me? Just a few
minutes ago, you suggested a story that I told maybe,
I don't know, 15 years ago.
STEVE BOETTCHER: 22 years ago.
MARTIN LANDAU: 22 years ago. He said, "Do you
remember telling that story?" And I said, "Yeah, but
how do you know it?" He said, "I know a lot about
you." And obviously you do.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Charges have been dropped. I've
MARTIN LANDAU: But the story, if you want me to --
STEVE BOETTCHER: Please do, please do. It's a --
MARTIN LANDAU: When I was doing "Mission:
Impossible," a Russian journalist came on the set, and
said, "Mr. Landau, I'm from Pravda, and I would like
very much to talk to you." And I said, "Well, that's
fine." And we arranged an interview. And he said,
"You know, before we start, I want to tell you,
Mr. Landau, it's very embarrassing." I said, "What's
embarrassing?" He says, "I live in New York, and I'm
a correspondent, and I" -- "my son is" -- "he speaks
English without an accent, unlike me. But it's very
embarrassing." And I said, "What's embarrassing?" He
said, "My son says to me the other day, 'Pop, how come
all the bad guys talk like you?'"
That's the story.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Yeah. But it wasn't Russian. What
was the language? It wasn't Russian.
MARTIN LANDAU: Well, it was Slavonian.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Correct.
MARTIN LANDAU: We made up names.
ROBERT CONRAD: Can I ask a question? Are my
daughters here? Did they -- no, okay.
MARTIN LANDAU: -- were fighting Cold War.
ROBERT CONRAD: No, I'm not paying that American
Express bill. The hell with that.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Another question right here.
QUESTION: Just wondering about the -- first of all,
for Linda, the notion of a remake of "The Big Valley"
with Jessica Lange. Do you have any thoughts on that?
And for the rest of the people, how big were -- how
important were ratings back then, or stressful? Did
you look at things week to week and "Oh, my God, we've
got to take Robert Conrad's shirt off again to spike
things"? Or was it sort of a different level of
pressure? But first, Linda, about --
LINDA EVANS: Where are you? I can't see you.
QUESTION: Right in the center here.
LINDA EVANS: Oh, there.
NICHELLE NICHOLS: Oh, there.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Yep.
LINDA EVANS: All right. Well, "Big Valley" being
made into a movie with Jessica Lange has got to be
just amazing. I'm -- I think she's an incredible
actress. She -- only she could probably pull off
Barbara Stanwyck's character. I think she's going to
be amazing. And I think it's very beautiful that
they're going to bring something -- a western like
that back to the public. I'm looking forward to
seeing how they are going to take the fact that
everything is action today into a show that really had
very little action. I'm thrilled that Lee Majors is
going to be in it, and I think it's beautiful. I'm
sure that every show that's up here is going to be
made into a movie at some point because --
ROBERT CONRAD: You're right.
LINDA EVANS: -- these were the shows that people
ROBERT CONRAD: Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. Conrad?
ROBERT CONRAD: Speaking.
QUESTION: I'm over here to your left if you care.
ROBERT CONRAD: I do care.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
ROBERT CONRAD: I came out two years ago.
What's the question?
QUESTION: I want to touch on two areas with you.
First, "Battle of the Network Stars."
You were legendarily -- just legendarily competitive
in that show.
ROBERT CONRAD: Thank you.
QUESTION: Also, your relationship with television
critics, it was kind of hate-hate, I think. We had
-- lot of dialogues. You were very blunt about
expressing your opinions and what you thought of TV
critics. So could you touch on those two areas, just
any reminiscences on "Battle of the Network Stars" --
ROBERT CONRAD: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and is all forgiven now between you and
ROBERT CONRAD: No.
The first question was did I like working with women
on the "Wild West" show?
QUESTION: No. "Battle of the Network Stars."
ROBERT CONRAD: I know. "Battle of the Network
Stars" got me a million dollars.
I got into an argument with Telly Savalas, a
legitimate argument. And I did this (makes a fist).
I did that. And Bill Livingston, the president of
Eveready, said, "Did you see that guy on TV? Did you
see that guy that was going like that (making a fist)
on national TV?" And the next thing I knew, they
showed it six times during the football championship,
and I went, "I dare you. I dare you to call it,"
whatever. And thank goodness for "The Battle of
the Network Stars." You know, one of the things I
noticed is how competitive the actors were, because I
was an athlete prior to being an actor. And I saw
Farrah Fawcett and another beautiful girl -- I can't
remember her name -- and they didn't have pants
on, and they were rehearsing for running
around the track on bikes. And these women were doing
it. And I thought, "Gosh, that's how competitive we
really are," because it's a tough, tough, tough
business, acting. And I've got three daughters that
are -- two daughters that are in it, and one's --
NICHELLE NICHOLS: That are not here.
ROBERT CONRAD: I know. No American Express. We did
Now, as far as the critics are concerned, I -- I find
it interesting. And I want to be brief because I want
to hear what my friends here have to say because
they'll be on my show Thursday. In any event, no, I
think critics are entitled to an opinion. But I've
become really a wonderful actor the older I get. It's
bizarre. I'm becoming a great actor in rerun. I
think the fact that I took my shirt off and, you know,
was a macho man offended many, not me. You should
have seen my dressing room.
But in any event, I've always liked the media. My
mother was a PR agent, and she also had a radio show.
And I think that media is entitled to their opinions,
and I just don't think they're right sometimes. And I
want to be able to say that. And I'll give you the
bottom line. I want all of you media people to
understand one thing: It is all about ratings. Make
no mistake. I would stay up all night waiting for
those ratings to come in. "Did we make it? Did we do
it?" And I did that for 20 years, and at the end I
couldn't do it anymore. And I told my daughter -- we
still had a commitment at CBS -- I said, "We're done.
Dad wants to shut down the office. It's been a great
run. We're done." And then I did this radio show for
two to four weeks. That's all it was going to last.
It's going into its third year. And I don't like it;
I love it. I never met an actor I didn't like, and to
be able to interview actors on national --
international television -- radio, because it goes to
Europe, is delightful. The answer to the question
about critics? You're entitled to your opinion.
You're not right most of the time --
-- but you're entitled to it.
QUESTION: Question for Mr. Connors. In the
introduction, it was said that your show redefined the
detective genre. And it would certainly seem that
after "Mannix," detectives on television had a little
more of an attitude, a little more sort of sense of
mischief to them. And it sort of pushed it in a bit
of a different direction. When you watch detective
shows now, and even maybe cop shows now, do you feel
like you and Joe Mannix kind of have a little bit of a
fingerprint on all of them?
MIKE CONNORS: Yes. I don't want to sound -- what? --
egotistical or anything, but what we decided when we
were doing "Mannix" is that that character was going
to be more like the average human being, that he could
cry, he could get emotional, a pretty girl could take
advantage of him and make a sucker out of him, and all
of the things that happen to us every day and never
shown. So that's what we set out to do, is to get rid
of just that hard one-way private eye that was
cynical, tough, threw away those great lines that
everybody wished they could say, and make him a more
realistic person and make the show as real as possible
without going overboard. And I think that caught on.
So many people said to me over the years, "We love the
fact that you would get emotionally involved with
people and even show the results of a tear or
something." And I think a lot of that took hold. And
the sense of humor. Jim Garner, you know, he had
such -- with that "Rockford Files," such a great sense
of humor and a reality about that show. And I think
there was an era there where the shows -- the private
eye shows, the detective shows took a kind of a
switch, and I'd like to think that our show was kind
of one of the forerunners on that, yes. I think it
made a difference.
QUESTION: And have you had any favorites in the years
since that you've seen on TV that you really thought,
you know, "This guy or this woman has really got it"?
MIKE CONNORS: Well, just recently. What is the
fellow's name that's on -- "Mentalist," is it?
QUESTION: Simon Baker?
MIKE CONNORS: What's his name?
QUESTION: Simon Baker.
MIKE CONNORS: Yeah. He has -- there are certain
people that just kind of stand out. They're a little
different, offbeat, just a little different. But I --
now first thing I look for is -- besides news, is one
of the old great movies. Even though I've seen it
before, if that's on, that's what I want to see. So I
don't watch that much of the serial shows anymore.
QUESTION: A then-and-now kind of question. I like
what Mike Connors was saying before about he was
privileged to be part of working with such great
stars, feature stars, and Martin Landau talking about,
you know, falling into working with Alfred Hitchcock
and Cary Grant and all. You all have such a
tremendous respect for those that went before you. I
think that's lacking with performers now, for the most
part, that they don't have a sense of their history,
those who went before them that they can learn from.
Now, for each one of you starting -- and briefly,
please -- Marty, would you start by saying what one
bit of advice would you give today television
performers, not -- can't call them stars yet, but a
performer, that they could learn from you?
MARTIN LANDAU: Well, you know, I'm involved with The
Actors Studio. I run the West Coast Actors Studio
with Mark Rydell. The New York Actors Studio is run
by Ellen Burstyn, Al Pacino, and Harvey Keitel. And
we stand for -- to get into The Actors Studio, you do
a series of auditions. Dustin Hoffman will tell you
he auditioned nine times before he got in. He's
actually lying. He only auditioned six times.
But when I became an actor, it was about doing
theater. I was in New York, and television was in its
infancy. What I've noticed over the years is the
different attitude about the theater, about acting,
and about what drives an actor -- a person to become
an actor and the seriousness with which -- you know,
we all have senses of humor, and we all helped each
other in odd ways back in those days. When you'd run
into an actor, and you'd tell him, "There's a reading
going on, and I'm not right for it, but go and get
that part." And that sort of thing, that doesn't seem
to happen anymore. Actors become actors today to
become television stars, which was the last thing in
the world -- I mean, we did television to supplement
our -- you know, again, it was early days of
television. But we were 3,000 miles away from film,
and we were thinking about doing a play on Broadway in
which the actor -- the curtain goes up, and the actor,
for two hours, is not in anyone else's hands but
himself. The director's work is done. The
playwright's work is done, and the actor -- so it took
a certain degree of skill to start with and extreme
talent, when people like Monty Clift and Marlon Brando
and Jimmy Dean, who was a very close friend of mine,
came along, you saw individuals who were very devoted
and very gifted. There's a different attitude amongst
young people today.
QUESTION: Can I jump to Linda and for the actresses
out there? Because you walk into a room; all eyes go
on you. You have that charisma, the glamour,
old-Hollywood glamour. What advice would you have for
young actresses today to capture that magic?
MARTIN LANDAU: Well, I would still say --
MALE PANELIST: She's asking Linda.
MARTIN LANDAU: Go ahead, please.
LINDA EVANS: When you say "capture the magic," I
think if there was a formula, there would be --
everyone would be doing it. I never wanted a career.
I was discovered. I was shocked as anyone that my
career has lasted as long as it has because it was not
a driving force, like he's saying. There are people
who live and breathe acting and studying and for the
art. I somehow have just gone through my life and
retired and come back and retired and come back. I
think the thing that has worked for me is that I
never -- I never wanted to be a star. I never needed
that. I just put myself wholeheartedly into anything
that I did, was as professional as I could be. And
life just led me in different directions where -- I
was saying earlier that when I went up for "Big
Valley," I didn't even go up for "Big Valley." It was
a movie that they were doing. And the director said
to me when I read for the movie, "That's the worst
reading I've ever heard." I went, "Whoops, okay." And
I got up to leave. He said, "But you have a quality.
Come back here. I want to talk to you. We're doing a
project called 'The Big Valley.' Read it." And by
the grace of God, I did the show. So it's not so
simple. I have no experience, the way you have, of
the industry. And everybody's individual. We're not
going to be able to say to anybody else how to do
life, how to do your career. It's just the way we've
each individually done it.
QUESTION: For Mr. Connors. We were advised in the
introduction to ask you about almost taking over for
Raymond Burr on "Perry Mason," so I'm asking.
MIKE CONNORS: You want to know what happened there
MIKE CONNORS: Well, it's the same old story. Money
came into the business. Raymond Burr -- they wanted
to renew his contract, and he was giving them a bad
time about money. They wanted to give him so much.
He wanted more than that. So they came to my agent,
and they said -- I had done a guest spot on it at one
time, and they said, "We would like Mike to play
Raymond Burr" -- "to play the character" -- what's his
MARTIN LANDAU: Perry Mason.
MIKE CONNORS: -- "Perry Mason in one show. And if we
don't settle with Raymond Burr, we'll give Mike the
series." And so my agent told me. I said, "Hey, that
sounds great." But I later found out that they did
that because they knew if word got out that they were
hiring me or any actor to do that part, that Raymond
Burr would be a little easier to deal with. And sure
enough, he came around and signed the contract. And
they said to me, "Thank you very much. You served
your purpose." So that's what it was all about. Had
he not signed the contract, I may have ended up being
Perry Mason, but he signed the contract.
QUESTION: How do you compare the residuals from back
in the '60s, '70s, and '80s to today?
ROBERT CONRAD: (Laughing.)
NICHELLE NICHOLS: By the weight.
ROBERT CONRAD: That's a heart attack.
MIKE CONNORS: What was the question?
ROBERT CONRAD: Who wants to answer that one? Me as a
producer, do you want me to answer it? Today the
economy has changed significantly, and actors are
being well-rewarded for their art because it's a very,
very tough business. And I applaud those actors that
are making a million dollars an episode. I go back to
thinking when Jack Warner was paying me $315 a week.
I could drive on the lot. I had my own parking, my
own dressing room -- God, I wish I knew you (referring
to Linda Evans) then -- anyway, my own dressing room
and a gym to work out in and to study acting. So it
worked. I liked Jack a lot. I respected him. But
today these actors are being well-compensated, and I
I was offered a series six weeks ago. All I had to do
was say yes. They were going to do it, unfortunately,
in New York and/or maybe Toronto. And I'm finished.
I do radio, and I love it. I could not be happier.
And I think I've made that perfectly clear to all of
you. And before this all ends, I want to thank you
for the interview, and thank you for coming.
STEVE BOETTCHER: Can we move -- I think Phil is
giving me the sign to move to the reception right now.
We can continue our conversation in the reception.
We're right next door in the Terrace Room. And let's
all meet there and continue on.