I spoke with Norman Lear, the veteran writer and producer behind such hit TV shows as All in the Family and The Jeffersons, at his luxury apartment in Manhattan. He told me he wanted to make sure his kids would never be "desperate for a dollar" -- but what "desperate" meant has fluctuated along the way. "I guess now it’s 60 billion," he deadpanned, adding, "That’s a joke."
Lear's own childhood had a degree of desperation: When Lear was nine, his father, Herman, was sent to jail for selling fake bonds. Lear's mother scrambled to make ends meet. "My mother tried to warn him," he said. "But nobody ever told Herman anything." When his father returned from prison three years later, tensions remained high. "I used to sit at the kitchen table and I would score their arguments," he says of his parents. "I would give her points for this, him points for that, as a way of coping with it."
Now 93, Lear has been married three times, and has six kids -- ranging in age from 20 to 69. That range of ages has presented its own challenges. "My middle daughter was ... hoping, wishing, trying to be pregnant," he says. "And her dad is suddenly married to a younger woman, and in a year’s time or less, she’s pregnant. That was not an easy time."
We spoke about the lessons he’s continued to learn over the years, how he’s managed to bring his family closer together despite their differences, and what he’s anticipating for the final stage of his life.