Last Friday, I interviewed my Father about his experience in 1965 as a Newsweek reporter in Selma Alabama.
The next day, at my urging, we watched the Ava Duvarnay’s film “Selma”. Here is my follow up interview with him immediately after the viewing:
Me- “So Daddy, as a work of art, how was the movie to you?”
Joe- “Well see, I’m of a different generation. In truth, having been there, as you say, it was very dramatic. But this over did the drama from my point of view. But that doesn’t speak for a generation that would get a lot out of it.
There was no falsehood but that LBJ thing did give him a bad rap.”
Me- “You interviewed George Wallace right?”
Joe – “Oh yeah, I knew him real well…”
Me- “What did you think of his portrayal in the movie (by UK actor Tim Roth)?”
Joe-“I didn’t know that was Wallace. How did you know that was Wallace? (my mother Embo giggles at this) The real Wallace was more colorful than that guy (Roth) was. Wallace was a piece of work. He was a real tacky fella…”
Me- “The southern rock band Drive by Truckers have a song that sort of debunks the myth stereotype of Wallace as the southern racist when, in the end, he got the black vote.”
Joe- “Well the myth is simple. He was a segregationist then he saw which way the thing was moving, that the blacks were getting their power and he said “We were wrong” (in 1971). You know what he did, he couldn’t run a third term so he ran his wife who had tuberculosis! He was a tacky fella! (laughing).”
Me – “Do you think Marshal Frady wrote a more accurate portrait of Wallace than this director?
Joe- “The movie making was first rate. But when they said Johnson wanted to help the poor with the war on poverty but turn away from the blacks…he wouldn’t have done that, his heart was in that thing (the civil rights movement). Now he was a liar about that gunboat thing ….”
Me- “Oh, the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam?”
Joe- “Yes, a lot of Americans died”
Me – “Back to the movie Daddy, the director told Terry Grose that she was more interested in truth than in facts. But when Hoover suggested to Johnson that he could break up King’s marriage by revealing tapes of his infidelity, was that inaccurate ?”
Joe- “No, they were pushing that on the reporters and we thought that was none of their business. No, that was good movie making, there’s no question about that. But to me, it overdramatized what was already dramatic. This kind of went over the top. The trouble with movie making and reality is they don’t use the same rules.
Now what you gawn to do with this interview, you gawn do this with the AJC, they gawn pay you?”
Me – “Well I’m gonna pitch it. If they don’t want it, I’m going to put it on my blog.”
Joe – “Yeah ok.”
Here’s a shot of my father on assignment for Newsweek in Cuba in 1957 during the Cuban revolution