Cosby gives emotional interview

GOOD MORNING: What else did Bill Cosby tell CBS’ Dan Rather? A lot, says Rather, who will air the remainder of the 2-hour interview. Rather conducted the interview last Sunday in the performer’s dressing rooms at the Astoria Studios, where Cos tapes his TV series. The interview was to have taken place Tuesday evening, but Cos decided to get Rather out of a Knicks game he was watching to unload his heart and conscience. Rather admits the call was so sudden, he was accompanied by a single camerawoman, with Dan carrying in the equipment and taking care of sound. As a matter of fact, when Cosby saw him arriving with the gear, he thought Rather was the crew man. This will be Rather’s first appearance on “60 Minutes” (where he was a regular until ’81, when he became evening news anchor) since he interviewed President Clinton after the GOP convention. “I’m glad to be back,” he said. As for the interview, veteran newsman Rather said, “I was honored. And I told him so afterwards. It was extraordinary. Afterwards, when I was driving home, I thought to myself: I’m going to get a call, ‘Mr. Cosby phoned to say “I’ve changed my mind — don’t air it.” ‘ ” Rather says that in the final airing, Cosby “is Cosby at his best — telling about the difficulties, the problems the effects of TV, billboards, etc. on children. (People forget Cosby earned his Ph.D. in education.) He doesn’t want the murder of Ennis to be used in any frame of reference to the O.J. case.” Rather says Cosby was eager to talk and eager to move on to the other (“rendezvous”) subject. “I wanted to put the questions to him gently but he was anxious to talk. I said to myself, if he doesn’t want to talk about it, I won’t. That’s all there was to it, but I think it was good for him, it was good for me and good for the audience.” Rather admits he was concerned about how much time Cosby would give him, but Bill went on and on. “He could not have been more generous. I could not have done it if I was in his place. Yes, he came close to breaking into tears a couple of times. He’s hurting deeply.” Has Rather heard from Cosby since the airing of Part I Tuesday evening? “Not directly — but we understand that he is relieved.”

MIKE WALLACE IS PLEASED that pal Rather got the Cosby interview and that he’ll be rejoining the “60 Minutes” troupe Sunday. Wallace noted the coup will undoubtedly also help Rather’s nightly news rating (although Rather told me he’s long ago given up watching the overnights). Meanwhile, Wallace’s seg Sunday will be “Canada’s Dark Secret” — the story of Canada’s harboring Nazi war criminals for 50 years. “Only one has been deported,” says Wallace, “while the U.S. has deported 50.” Wallace says private investigator Steven Rambam got the list of over 1,000 Nazis from the Wiesenthal Center here and tracked them down in Canada. “It’s a stunning story,” says Wallace. “You’ll even see some (Nazis) living in a Toronto Jewish neighborhood where survivors of death camps are living!” One of the war criminals interviewed was a member of “a murder squad” The third seg of Sunday’s “60 Minutes” will be reported by Steve Kroft, and is about Irish journalist Veronica Guerin of the Sunday Independent who was murdered last June. She uncovered the criminal underworld and drug lords in Ireland. She is described as “a journalist who died for the truth.”

LARRY GELBART’S “WEAPONS of Mass Distraction,” which HBO starts airing May 17, is “something new to me,” he admitted. It has car crashes, choppers, etc. Howcum? “Because they are part of the news we see on TV every night!” If there’s any notes of similarity between the leads (Gabriel Byrne and Ben Kingsley) and Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner — well, it’s in the eye of the viewer, because Gelbart initiated the project two years ago, “and not as a trailer for today’s events,” he emphasizes. Gelbart was honored at the WGA’s Tribute to the Writer program “for a lifetime of career excellence,” with an impressive list of performers for whom Gelbart’s words have brought fame — and a great deal of fortune (to Larry as well, of course). He admitted modestly, “For all my years as a professional writer, I remain very much an amateur person. However finished a piece of work is, I treat it as one in progress trying to make it shine, trying to teach the words to jump off the page. All of it to win the kind of approval that’s often harder to handle than rejection. I fish for compliments — and then I’m uncomfortable when I pull them into the boat.” He said he is indebted to the WGA, “which is also a work forever in progress!” Of the evening of accolades, he said, “The proper antidote to the relentless, merciless appreciation I’ve been subjected to this evening is for me to begin working on something, anything different — immediately. Believe me, there is nothing in the world like a brand-new project to give you a refresher course in humility. And I’m more than ready for one.” … John Raitt celebrates his 80th birthday tonight at Pepperdine in the Raitt Recital Hall. Family on hand includes wife Rosemary, daughter Bonnie, sons Steve and David. You can bet John will duet with many of the vocalists on hand, who include Connie Towers, Nanette Fabray and, of course, Bonnie. … John Calley hosts Jeanne Moreau at Sony Studios tonight for the work she’s done as honorary president of Equinoxe, in which Sony’s a leading partner. It’s the international screenwriting program that holds summer workshops at Chateau Beychevelle in the French countryside of Medoc, wine country.

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