Civilized Discourse: An Interview With Steve Allen

steveallen1Steve Allen consented to be interviewed by me, a public access producer newly arrived from Florida.  I received a letter from his secretary. Even she seemed surprised.  She wrote, ‘apparently Mr. Allen has agreed to be interviewed’.  The day of the interview, the camera at the public access station took a fall.  Fortunately, the director of the program had a Hi-8 camera. We took the studio lights, microphones, and her camera to Allen’s office in Burbank (called ‘Meadowlane’).

He was my second celebrity interview.

Hyapatia Lee, an adult film actress, was my first. I interviewed her about being abused and bad advice she received from a Southern Baptist minister.  (He suggested, “Let’s pray for your forgiveness.”)

Meeting of Minds, Steve Allen’s PBS program, had actors portraying great historical figures. They discussed their role in history but also commented on the activities of those not of their era. Watching Meeting of Minds was also an exercise in critical thinking!

Steve Allen endorsed censorship.  This was anathema to me.  One of the questions I asked him concerned his views on censorship.  It wasn’t a surprising question.  My introductory letter to Steve Allen mentioned that censorship would be one of my questions.

dwI’m not an advocate of censorship, but, one thing I’ll say for that afternoon interview, Steve Allen acknowledged my questions. He addressed the reasoning behind the questions.  So few people in real life, celebrated or not, will even take the time to mention you made a good argument even if they disagreed with your conclusions. Hate crimes. Political leaders embracing anti-intellectual values. Abortion.  None of these questions were off limits in our interview.

I ran into Steve Allen on three different occasions a few years after our interview.

He didn’t seem to recognize me, nor did I feel the need to say, “Remember when I interviewed you for about 45 minutes in your office?”

He did consent to an interview with another public access producer at my studio.  I operated the camera.  Still no recognition.

A friend had given me a bag of chocolate kisses. The producer, without even asking, let Steve Allen walk away with my bag.

“Where did my chocolate kisses go?”

“Steve Allen took them.”

The producer denied she gave my kisses to Steve Allen, but I will always have my doubts. 

At least now, I can finally let the dark secret out: Steve Allen stole my kisses!


These days people are more opinionated than informed. It’s tempting to invoke nostalgia and long for the days of Steve Allen, when people in the media actually engaged in civilized discourse. The reality is we can resolve ourselves to informed opinions as opposed to simply being opinionated.  We can pledge to let the scientific method into our lives with the same dedication as a religious devotee.

We can resolve to judge on the evidence and resist the will of the mob. To not be afraid to change our minds if evidence shows we are on the wrong track. To question all things and not be offended when someone questions us. And learn not to be offended by humor.  As Mark Twain and others have pointed out, if you have an unpopular idea, better make them laugh or else they might kill you.

We can let others complete their sentences! The possibilities are endless! 

Let us commit ourselves to reason and to a civilized discourse.

Steve Allen wrote ‘This Could Be The Start of Something Big’, sung here by Pia Zadora: