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Surreal pop-culture moment: Norman Lear watching Patti Smith - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 3rd 2009 9:01AM
Patti Smith at the TCA tourOne of the things that never gets old about the press tour is that at any moment, you could be in the middle of a blow-your-mind, surreal pop culture moment. That's exactly what happened to me yesterday evening, as the PBS sessions were wrapping up.

Patti Smith had the last session, to promote her biographical movie on POV called Patti Smith: Dream of Life. It was fascinating, as she was pretty open with the reporters about why she let filmmaker Steven Sebring into her life for eleven years, what she likes to watch on YouTube (Maria Callas for one) and all sorts of fun stuff. But I had to leave to interview another legend, Norman Lear, who was there with producer Mark Johnson to promote the documentary Playing For Change: Peace Through Music.

When we were done with the interview, Lear, Johnson, the publicists and I were about to walk our separate ways when we heard music coming from the ballroom. When we open it, we see Patti Smith playing her guitar for the critics, in the middle of her second song. So imagine me and Norman Lear, standing there, listening to Patti Smith.

In fact, Lear ended up sitting down so he could really pay attention to what she was playing (if one of the other critics can tell me which song it was, I will be in your debt). It was just one of those "only at TCA" moments that make me scratch my head and think "Where the hell am I, anyway?"

I caught up with Smith at the cocktail party PBS held after their sessions, and I asked her if she saw Lear there at all.

"That's something I usually find out (about) later, and I go, wow, that's fantastic," she said. "I didn't even know he was there. I can't see because I didn't have my glasses on.

"It's interesting, though because it teaches me something ... I felt, in the course of that song, that something happened. There was a lift ... a certain concentration. And quiet, but a very high concentrated quiet. And I thought, 'Oh, maybe I'm doing a good job. Maybe I'm singing OK.' But I think his presence probably magnified the situation, which is really nice. I mean, he's Norman Lear, for God's sakes. God bless him."

So, either she was BSing me, which I don't think is in Patti Smith's DNA, or she really felt his presence. I'll post the audio below so you can see for yourself if she was really feeling it or not. I say she was.

By the way, that "concentrated quiet" she spoke of might have been the gathered critics in the room turning their heads and noticing what was going on. A few of them mentioned that they saw Lear walk into the room and sit down, and they were as blown away by it as I was.

There you have it: a television legend watching a music legend. With a very humbled TV blogger there in the middle. Only at the TCAs.

Patti Smith on feeling Norman Lear's presence (1:01)

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Jeannine Harvey

Great post Joel! I too was at Patti's session on Sunday and it was indeed one of the great experiences of my life. She has a light and warmth that is inexplicable! Your post captures this beautifully!

August 04 2009 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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