BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Sally Bedell Smith, author of the new book "In All His Glory" about William S. Paley, I'm looking at a review by Pat Guy in USA Today, and these are his words, "For despite his many gifts, Paley was cruel, insecure, petulant and greedy as well as a hypochondriac, scene-stealer and a womanizer."
SALLY BEDELL SMITH(Author, "In All His Glory: The Life of William S. Paley"): Well, I think in the context of 615 pages you can find all of those adjectives. When I set out to write this book five years ago, what I wanted to do was show this man in the round, to really show him as a broadcaster who had enormous influence over a medium that had a great effect on our lives and also to show him as a man. What was most intriguing about him is that his own personal identity was so bound up in the identity of CBS and the Tiffany network.
LAMB: What got you interested in him in the first place?
SMITH: Well, I'd been covering broadcasting since the mid-seventies, and he and David Sarnoff were the two pioneers of broadcasting. I thought I knew a lot about him, but it turns out I didn't know nearly as much as there was to find out. He, from the very beginning, was masterful at public relations. One of the first people he hired when he bought into the struggling network that became CBS back in 1928 was the father of public relations, Edward Bernays. He guided him very carefully in those days and taught him to develop an image for CBS that would distinguish it from NBC which was far larger and stronger than CBS.
One of the important components of that was a commitment to public affairs. For the most part, CBS was putting programs -- CBS Radio this was, of course -- was putting on programs that were pretty middle-brow and pretty ho-hum. It had the good sense to develop this public affairs commitment that was very good because it mollified the regulators in Washington who were leaning pretty hard on the emerging networks then. They were fearful of their power. So, it gave them a good impression. It also created a good impression in the audience and it rubbed off on Bill Paley as well.
LAMB: Did he cooperate at all with you?
SMITH: To a limited extent. He had a history of trying to impede people who were writing books about him because he had this very tightly controlled image for so many years. He wrote a book back in 1979, a memoir, that was pretty much of a press release. It was very sanitized, and it lacked any vibrance much less acknowledgement of foibles or insights or anything like that. There are other authors who had tried to write about him, among them David Halberstam, and he worked very hard to try and block what they were doing.
When I came along in 1985, he was the first person I contacted, just because I didn't want him to think that I was out there skulking around in any way. To my surprise, he agreed to have lunch with me twice back then. We went to one of his favorite restaurants. These were very important for me, not only because we had long conversations and he gave me details about his history and his sort of quotidian details of his life that were useful for me, but it was also very important for me to sit across a luncheon table from him and to sense the charm and the magnetism that so many people talked about. And it was this overwhelming enthusiasm and kind of attentiveness and charm, so I had to get that kind of measure of the man.
The late Irene Selznick, who was a friend of his for more than 60 years, compared him to a set of tightly coiled springs, that he just had this kind of pouncing energy all the time. So anyway, we had these two very pleasant lunches, and he at the same time was considering doing a second volume of his memoirs, which was a sort of classic defense when faced with somebody who was embarking on a project over which he didn't have any control. We were sort of dancing around that a little bit, but I made it very clear to him that I wanted this to be my project, that I didn't want him reading my manuscript or anything like that, and so we moved away from that pretty quickly.
At the end of the second lunch, in his usual charming way he said, "You know, if we have four more lunches like this, you'll have my whole book." Then as I went along, I would call his friends. The personal side of his life I knew very little about. From covering broadcasting since the mid-70s, I knew quite a bit about the broadcasting side. His personal life was something of a mystery to me because he always liked it that way. He was public on the one hand, but very mysterious about the way he lived his life. So, I would call his friends, and they would dutifully call him and he would actually say to them, "Well, do what you feel you should do." Some of them who weren't accustomed to dealing with writers to begin with stopped right there, but very few. Most of them decided to talk. What their motivations were, I can't guess, but he didn't try to actively impede them.
He did tell his children not to talk because he was very reluctant to have details of his personal life -- his family life -- get out. As I did my research I realized why, later on. So, from that standpoint, he didn't give me much trouble. One person who did refuse to talk to me was Henry Kissinger who was really a friend late in life of Paley's. But he went along with Paley's wish that he not talk to me until after this supposed second memoir was completed. But Kissinger did something that was actually quite wonderful -- he invited my husband and me to dinner at his house one night. We walked in the door of his apartment, and Dr. Kissinger was standing there and he said -- I can't begin to imitate his voice -- but he said, "I've served you your subject on a silver platter."
In the other room was Bill Paley along with Larry Tisch and along with a whole bevy of his favorite social friends. It was three glorious hours of seeing him in his most natural habitat and how he related to those people and how he would put his arms around two women at a time. It was worth 10 interviews. There was a very poignant moment at the end. At that time, I guess he was 85 and had just succeeded in recapturing the chairman's job from Tom Wyman who was the latest of his chosen successors through forging an alliance with Larry Tisch. He was determined at that stage to show his vigor. At the end of the evening, he was standing there. He'd been having a lot of trouble with his back and had been sick at various times in the previous year. He was standing at the foot of the staircase holding onto the banister, determined not to be sitting down, but to be projecting this air of a vigorous man. The whole evening from start to finish was revelatory for me, and I was very grateful to Henry Kissinger for giving me that glimpse because I'd seen him. I'd seen Paley in other places, but this was the most natural setting.
LAMB: One last thing, from Pat Guy's USA Today review -- these are his words now. He says, "Smith," meaning you, "a former media reporter for the New York Times, recounts time after time that Paley snatched credit for program ideas or business plans, even the selection of artworks for which someone else was responsible."
SMITH: That was a pattern, and I hadn't realized it much until -- it just was an accumulation of details. I talked to something like 275 people and did nearly 700 interviews. It was a pattern that emerged in interview after interview. On the business side, we're talking about, and even in the case -- I'll address the artworks part because it's fascinating. It had to do with his first wife Dorothy who he stole from one of William Randolph Hearst's sons, Jack Hearst, by chasing her all across Europe until she finally said yes. She was an absolutely beautiful woman who taught him a great deal about art and about high society, and she gentled him and she taught him the social graces. She was the one who had a background in art and really instructed him in the early days on what paintings to buy and directed him to art gallery proprietors and dealers who could advise him.
On that side he did in his own book kind of claim entire credit for it. On the business side, it goes all the way back to the very beginning and in the beginning of his interest in radio when he and his father were still in a cigar business together. His father and his uncle bought an ad on a little struggling radio station in Philadelphia while Bill Paley was away on vacation. Paley came back -- he was the head of advertising -- and he was quite furious at them for having done this. At the same time, some friends of the Paley family were buying into this network that became CBS, and they had proposed that Paley be the president of this network because he was young and energetic and dynamic. He said at that time, "I don't want anything to do with this little pipsqueak network." But his father did ask him to supervise a network show that the cigar company that they owned was going to sponsor, and so Bill Paley ended up going to New York and overseeing the show.
This was his first exposure to the world of radio and to the world of show business. He was absolutely captivated by it. He also saw the power of radio to sell products to the American public, and that was what caught him -- that power. When it came time for him to have an opportunity to invest himself, to take over the stake that the friend of the family had had, he leapt at it. The son of the man from whom Bill Paley bought his stake, who I interviewed when he was in his mid-80s, still couldn't get over it. He said, "I don't understand why Bill Paley had to say that he was the one who discovered the power of radio on his own, that he was the one who bought the ad on the little station in Philadelphia. I think he would have been a much bigger man had he acknowledged that he'd made a mistake in the beginning, and that he did see eventually the power of radio, that he had been persuaded and turned around and had become a convert to it."
LAMB: Here's what the cover of the book looks like. It's called "In All His Glory: The Life of William S. Paley," written by Sally Bedell Smith. He died when?
SMITH: He died on October 26th  at age 89.
LAMB: Reports have it that the galleys on this book were around in mid-summer and that he might have seen it before he died.
SMITH: Well, those reports are, for the most part, incorrect. He was away, actually, for the entire month of August. Even though his health was failing -- and this was so characteristic -- he was determined to go to Europe and visit his friends because he loved all of his British friends and his friends in France, and this was a very important part of his life. He did go and spend the month of August there. He, by that time, was having a great deal of trouble with his vision and was totally unable to read anything. He had a reader who would read things to him every day. The reader was instructed not to read the book to him.
There have been reports that somebody else had tried to read the book to him, although his ability to comprehend things and his short-term memory were so acutely diminished by the late summer and early fall, he couldn't even recognize a friend from one minute to the next. It was tragic. I just don't think that he had the ability to comprehend much less to retain anything that was read to him by that time. So, I don't think he actually had any knowledge of the book's contents.
LAMB: How many books have you written?
SMITH: This is the second book.
LAMB: What was the first one?
SMITH: The first book was a book about the three networks. It was called "Up the Tube," and it was a look inside the network decision-making process at all three networks by tracking the career of a man who was then considered a programming genius, Freddy Silverman. It was really a look at the 1970s as the kind of last burst of competitive frenzy among the three networks at a time when they still dominated viewing in America in a way they certainly don't now. It was just at the point where cable and videocassettes were about to break loose and erode their power so considerably as they have for the past decade.
LAMB: Don Hewitt, CBS, Westmoreland, TV Guide -- that fit into your life somewhere.
SMITH: That did fit in, back in 1982. I was the co-author of an article in TV Guide called "Anatomy of a Smear," which undertook to really dissect a broadcast that CBS News had put on, disputing the enemy strength totals during the Vietnam War. It caused, as you know, a great controversy and ended up in a lawsuit that Gen. Westmoreland filed against CBS. It really had nothing to do with this book. There was one thing that I found out in the course of researching this book which might have changed the course of that case, and it was that after the article came out and CBS took it very seriously because it relied on a lot of internal documents from CBS.
The irony has always been to me that the tip about the fact that something was awry in that documentary came from somebody within CBS who was very disturbed by what had gone on, and we were able to get access to a lot of documents that corroborated that. So, they had to take it very seriously at CBS, and did, and commissioned one of their top executives and producers to do his own study, which bore out basically everything that had been said in the TV Guide piece.
At that stage General Westmoreland asked for time on the air to discuss this and rebut it, and CBS was considering it. At that time both Frank Stanton and Bill Paley came to the executives at CBS and said, "This is what you should do: You should rerun the documentary, and then you should have a talk show after that in which General Westmoreland and the other aggrieved parties are represented along with people from CBS. You should just let that show run as long as everybody wants it to, until two or three in the morning or whatever it is, and that way you would lance the boil and get rid of this." And they, for whatever reasons, decided to ignore that advice which was very wise. The upshot was that he filed suit.
LAMB: How long did you work for the New York Times?
SMITH: I was there for three years.
LAMB: Media writer.
SMITH: Media writer.
LAMB: Why did you leave?
SMITH: I left to write this book. I knew that I couldn't work there full-time and do the kind of reporting and research that this book would require. And it was a wise move.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
SMITH: I grew up outside of Philadelphia.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
SMITH: I went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts and then got my masters at Columbia Journalism School.
LAMB: How did you get interested in the media?
SMITH: Well, it was somewhat serendipitous. When I came to New York I worked for a foundation for the Carnegie Corporation and got interested in writing while I was there and decided on a career in journalism and went to the J-school as a way of getting an exposure to all aspects of it in a short space of time and then went to Time magazine after that and then TV Guide and then the New York Times.
LAMB: Do you like book-writing better than all the rest?
SMITH: Well, I have loved writing this book. It's been a wonderful stretch. It is a book about the broadcasting world, but it's also a book about the social world that he inhabited. He was a kind of mid-Atlantic man. He had a lot of interests and friends overseas. It was a look at the social history of this country, too, because his age spanned the century. He was born in 1901, and he was there at lots of important periods in our history -- sometimes in very unusual ways. When you think of the 1930s, you always think of the Depression, and when I explored the life that he and his friends led in the 1930s, it was a luxurious, sybaritic life that was so far above the hardships that everybody else was going through at the time.
LAMB: Your book has a dedication in it, "To Steven." Who's Steven?
SMITH: He's my husband. He's an executive editor at Newsweek.
LAMB: Do you have children?
SMITH: We have three children, yes.
LAMB: What are their ages?
SMITH: They're 11, 15 and 6.
LAMB: And you've done all that in the middle of books.
SMITH: Yes. But writing a book -- even though it was an enormous amount of work and it required doing it every day -- it was very manageable because I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule. It made possible getting involved in schools and spending more time with them.
LAMB: Leading up to this interview there were several newspaper articles about the memorial service that was held in New York for Mr. Paley. As I was reading it and I was reading your book at the same time, I said I wanted to ask you about the things that people are saying after the man's gone. First of all, were you surprised? Did you go to the memorial service?
SMITH: I didn't. I didn't think it was quite appropriate because this book -- although I feel very strongly that it acknowledges his greatness and his contributions throughout the book -- that there is a lot in there that is critical and that there are things in there that I uncovered that are less than admirable, some unpleasant, and things that people who know him from only one standpoint have a hard time accepting. The biographer in this instance -- or in any instance -- should be in a very special position because you do have a chance to see this person in the round, with the benefit of having talked to some 275 people who knew him in many different ways, and to try and synthesize all of that took me about two-and-a-half years to begin to size him up and to begin to make judgments about him.
Some of the judgments are tough, but he was a tough man. People who knew him best, who've been calling me up and writing me notes in the past month, have said, "You captured him. You captured the man behind the icon." Now, when somebody dies, of course there's a period of mourning and a period of eulogizing that's entirely appropriate, so much of what was said at that memorial service is understandable and entirely fitting. It's not often that you hear eulogies that mention the dark side as well as the bright side.
LAMB: By the way, in the Washington Post piece -- I don't know if you read this; this is the piece about the memorial -- it said, "Unmentioned publicly but something of a subtext was the exhaustive and demythologizing new biography of Paley, "In All His Glory" by Sally Bedell Smith, 80,000 copies of which were hitting bookstores just as obituaries were being written for its subject. The Paley it portrays was a nastier and less visionary character whose inability to yield control to a successor led to a much-diminished CBS."
SMITH: Well, I think that's true. That really cuts right to his fatal flaw, I think, which was the inability to give up control. He was a very unconventional executive from this standpoint, that his image was so bound up in the company, that he could absent himself for long periods of time and allow his second-in-command, Frank Stanton, to run the company day to day, to be the chief executive officer. Paley would swoop in and do things that he wanted to do, take responsibility when it suited him. But by and large, he didn't spend a lot of time there, particularly in the first decade-and-a-half. When he saw how powerful and profitable television had become in the mid-'60s he swooped back in and tried to seize -- and did seize -- control from Frank Stanton and forced him out at retirement age, but it was a time when Stanton was fully capable of leading that company for another five to 10 years.
After that there was a series of successors, and each of them was chosen not for any kind of expertise in broadcasting but because Paley sort of liked the cut of their jibs, and they had certain attributes that he admired. During that period while these men were trying to learn on the job, he tended to undermine them. Instead of bringing out the best in them, he tended to bring out their flaws, and they inevitably failed and he pushed them out. The upshot, of course, was that he lost control of the network to a man that he didn't choose, Larry Tisch.
LAMB: This is not Larry Tisch you're going to see.
SMITH: That is not Larry Tisch. That's Arthur Taylor who came in second after Stanton left. The first choice was a man named Chick Ireland who is not pictured in the book.
LAMB: Who is this over in this picture?
SMITH: That's John Backe, who followed Taylor.
LAMB: You go up here to the top above that. Is that Frank Stanton? Yes, it is.
SMITH: On the right, yes. That's Frank Stanton.
LAMB: And if we go over to the other side, Jim Aubrey.
SMITH: That's Jim Aubrey.
LAMB: He was a particularly interesting story.
SMITH: He was a fascinating story, even more interesting than I realized going in. He took command of CBS right after the quiz-show scandals in the late '50s, early '60s, and was a handsome, dynamic, highly intelligent, hard-working man who had enormous charm, and Paley was charmed by him. But he filled CBS with the kind of programming that did not exactly conform to the Tiffany Network -- programs like "Green Acres" and "Petticoat Junction." So while he achieved a great deal of profitability for the network, it was cheap, and he was not interested in doing what Stanton and Paley had always believed was necessary, which was to kind of tithe, to sprinkle the schedule with programs of quality -- cultural programs, news programs. Paley was distressed by this, but he allowed him to take control of the area where Paley had always been most involved, which was programming. He was enthralled by Aubrey and his charm and his ability.
Aubrey, as he gained more and more power, became more and more arrogant, and it was Aubrey who kicked Jack Benny off the air when his ratings slipped. Jack Benny, as everybody probably remembers, was not only a close personal friend of Paley's, but he was the man who really helped catapult CBS Radio into first place after the war when Paley stole him from NBC and brought along a whole group of comedians who just gave CBS enormous ratings. They shot right past NBC. And so, Aubrey felt that Benny had outlasted his usefulness and kicked him off the air. Paley did nothing to try and impede it, nor did he take it upon himself to bring the news to Benny, which was very hurtful to Benny and their relationship was ruptured after that.
LAMB: You've got a great picture, and I'm trying to -- oh, here it is. Here's a picture of Jack Benny and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Do you remember what year this was taken?
SMITH: I don't. It must have been in the '50s, I would guess, and they were his stars. It's always been said that he had great rapport with his stars, and he did with certain stars. Those were two that he loved to be around because they made him laugh all the time. Lucille Ball was another one. But there were others, like Arthur Godfrey, that he couldn't bear. He thought that he lacked style, and Arthur Godfrey wasn't terribly fond of Paley either. Red Skelton and Paley didn't particularly get along. Paley thought he was uncouth, and Skelton didn't want to have much to do with him. So, he was selective about the stars that he spent time with. Freeman Gosden of "Amos 'n' Andy" idolized Paley, and when he found out where Paley had his shirts and ties made in Paris, he took a plane and flew over there as fast as he could so he could have his shirts and ties made by the same.
LAMB: Who are these two?
SMITH: That's Freeman Gosden . . .
LAMB: Which one?
SMITH: . . . on the left.
LAMB: And the other one?
SMITH: Charles Correll.
LAMB: Amos and Andy.
SMITH: Amos and Andy.
LAMB: Let me go back to this memorial service, and what I'd like to ask you to do is characterize the relationship between the person that is quoted and what the remarks are, to see if there is any disparity here.
LAMB: "My view may be narrow, but I am certain that we live in a better country today, a better world, because of him." -- Walter Cronkite.
SMITH: Well, he never was very close to Walter Cronkite. He got to know him a little bit better in more recent years when Walter Cronkite served on the CBS board. I think what he's referring to is appropriate, because the fact that CBS did have this standard that existed that Bill Paley helped to devise with the help of others in the early days -- a commitment to news and public affairs as part of its Tiffany aura -- was important. They didn't always reach for it, but the fact that it existed, I think, was important to the people who worked for CBS to have it there. They did fall shy of it a lot, but . . .
LAMB: Walter Cronkite's on the board.
SMITH: He is on the board.
LAMB: And it was interesting to read in your book that Edward R. Murrow for about five years was on the CBS board while he was a newsman.
LAMB: How did that work?
SMITH: I think it worked very uncomfortably. He was never particularly comfortable on the CBS board. In fact, he used to annoy other people on the board because he would sit down at one end of the table with Ike Levy, who was another one of the original investors in CBS, and they would kind of crack jokes and pass notes back and forth to each other. Ike Levy would figure out how much each one of Edward R. Murrow's words were worth when he contributed something to one of those board meetings. He never said very much. It was an uncomfortable time, and it was kind of a way of Bill Paley co-opting him.
You have to remember that after the war when Murrow was at his absolute peak, he was a hero because of the way he brought the war home to the American people and the eloquence of his reports from London during the Blitz. And what Bill Paley did with him when Murrow came back home was he made him an executive. He took him and put him in the front office. He was a star player. It was an extremely unhappy period for Morrow. He was very uncomfortable working as an administrator. He did develop some good programs, but it was during that period that he had a terrible falling out with William Shirer when Shirer was doing too many pointed commentaries on the air.
LAMB: The author of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich."
SMITH: The author of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" had gone all through World War II with Edward R. Murrow. They were very good friends. After the war, Shirer did a program on CBS and did take on members of the administration. This was a time, of course, at the height of the Cold War. The blacklisting had begun. The witch-hunting had begun. McCarthy was on the rise. Sponsors were getting very nervous. They were sending letters to CBS addressed to the "Communist Broadcasting Network."
And so Paley was obviously very sensitive to this, and the advertisers were certainly sensitive to this. The advertiser of William Shirer's show came to Paley and Stanton and said, "I don't want him. I want a more neutral commentator on the air." So Shirer was told he was losing his time slot, and he had the temerity to go on the air and announce this, that he was being removed from his time slot because a soap company had this kind of power.
Paley was sitting in his country house on Long Island listening to this broadcast. He was furious at the insubordination of it, and the next day convened a meeting at CBS's headquarters and said, "This man has to go." Murrow, to his credit, tried to defend him on the grounds of loyalty and many years of service to CBS, but Paley would have none of it. Murrow was put in the terribly uncomfortable position of devising a cover story, and the cover story was that Shirer just hadn't been doing his job; he'd been sort of doing his commentaries out of the clippings and he wasn't performing up to snuff. And it tore him up. It was a terrible thing for him to have to do. After that he was disillusioned with the role of administrator and asked to go back on the air.
LAMB: There was some furor back in the '80s about George Will coaching Ronald Reagan. I don't remember the year, whether it was the first term or second term. I was interested to read that Edward R. Murrow, according to you, coached Adlai Stevenson.
SMITH: Yes, he did.
LAMB: Was it known at that time, and if it wasn't, why wasn't it, and if it was, was there the same kind of outrage?
SMITH: No, it wasn't known at the time. These were different times and these sorts of things were done, I guess, more frequently or with less comment. Had Paley known it, I think it would have infuriated him because Paley at that time was very much of a partisan Republican. He was working on behalf of Eisenhower. He worked on behalf of Nixon. He had gone back with Eisenhower to the World War II days, and he was very, very fond of him. When Eisenhower was president of Columbia University after the war -- obviously there was an inkling that he would have political aspirations at that time -- Paley offered him a program on the air where he could just present his views. It seemed to contradict his regulations against that kind of overt commentary, but he was a friend. Paley did have a capacity for rewriting the rules when it suited him, and that was one example. Then when Eisenhower announced his candidacy, Paley was very active behind the scenes as a kind of kibitzer. His very close friend and brother-in-law Jock Whitney was one of the leaders of Eisenhower's campaign.
LAMB: Who was Jock Whitney?
SMITH: Jock Whitney was a sort of great American prince, I guess. You know, an inheritor of a big fortune, and he became a newspaper publisher. He was a sportsman and later became part owner of the New York Herald Tribune.
LAMB: I was thinking more of the International Herald Tribune.
SMITH: And then was owner of the International Herald Tribune after that.
LAMB: And Bill Paley ended up being on that board.
SMITH: Bill Paley ended up being on that board. When Jock Whitney died, Bill Paley bought his stake and shared the ownership of that with the Washington Post Company and the New York Times Company.
LAMB: There's so doggone much to talk about. Let me go back and read some more of this because it fits right into what you're talking about here. This is at the memorial service. "Mr. Kissinger, once Mr. Nixon's secretary of state and now, like Mr. Cronkite, a CBS board member, called Mr. Paley 'larger than life, a man of many paradoxes.' He said that he met Mr. Paley when the latter was in his 70s. For as long as he personally knew Mr. Paley, the CBS chairman was 'impervious to many appeals to intervene with CBS News,' Mr. Kissinger said. 'Bill took the position that the CBS team was beyond his reach because it was different, the best and most dedicated group of journalists that had ever assembled.'"
SMITH: Well, I think Bill Paley felt that way about CBS News. I think he was very proud of it, particularly when it was number one all across the board. But the idea that he didn't get involved in CBS News at crucial times that were important to him simply isn't borne out by the record. Going all the way back to the '30s and '40s, after CBS had devised a set of rules governing commentary, is when the trouble began because in the '30s Paley would frequently give time to advertisers who espoused very conservative views on the air, and at the same time he was currying favor with the Roosevelt White House.
At some point they realized that sponsors liked a far more neutral environment for their messages, and so they said commentary just couldn't be too opinionated or too sharp. When commentators all along the line would go over that line, they would be punished or dismissed. It began with Cecil Brown back in 1942, H. V. Kaltenborn back in 1940. Elmer Davis ran afoul of Paley constantly. Paley said he used to have lunch with him every three weeks to persuade him not to go so far in his commentaries. Edward R. Murrow for a while was a case held apart because, I think, of his friendship with Paley. After the war, Shirer went too far and he was dropped. Howard K. Smith and Eric Sevareid both got into hot water with Bill Paley because they had gone too far with their commentaries. Howard K. Smith had to leave as a result. Eric Sevareid and Paley had a kind of Mexican standoff, and Sevareid pulled back. As a result, he stayed on the network. But at intervals, when it was important to Bill Paley, he did definitely intervene.
In the early '70s it was Bill Paley who abolished instant analysis after Spiro Agnew had highly criticized it, and six months later somewhat embarrassingly reinstated it because some of the people who were privy to the decision at the time said that his friend Averell Harriman had criticized CBS for not doing analysis of speeches, so Paley had gone back.
LAMB: Quick question. If Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith were all liberals and Bill Paley was a conservative, why didn't he just balance it off with a conservative?
SMITH: I don't know. I think he just didn't like having opinion on the network to begin with.
LAMB: So he wasn't upset about their opinion, he just didn't want opinion at all.
SMITH: He didn't want opinion at all. It just so happened that a lot of the reporters who came out of the World War II experience were, I suppose you might say, liberals. It was really their criticisms of the administration that bothered him more than anything.
LAMB: In the memorial service -- actually, I think this is a report afterwards -- "'I met him 35 times, and I never called him Bill until last year,' Andy Rooney was to recall after the service." Did everybody call him Mr. Paley?
SMITH: Virtually everybody called him Mr. Paley. He had an aloof and imperial presence that was part of his mystique. People assumed he did far more than he did, I think, because he had this mysterious -- he was almost like an oracle that people referred to. I was struck when someone told me -- someone who witnessed this -- that once when he went out to visit a CBS station in Los Angeles and was having trouble with his back, an aide was assigned to follow him with a chair. Every time he wanted to sit down, he never even bothered to look around to see that the chair would be there because he knew that it would, in fact, be there.
LAMB: After saying all that all these folks are saying about him, you have a chapter in here that's gotten a lot of attention. Part of it was published in Vanity Fair. The title of the chapter is "The Hedonist." I want to be careful not to characterize the chapter, but it does have a tremendous impact on the reader. I read the chapter from start to finish. How would you characterize that chapter, and why did you write it?
SMITH: Well, I wrote it because everybody who ever talked about Bill Paley spoke about his pursuit of pleasure. He was a man of enormous appetites for food, for women, for high life, for sumptuous vacations. He prided himself on surrounding himself with the best of everything, the most beautiful homes. He had, I can't tell you how many interior decorators working on one home or another. He wouldn't even be satisfied with a fountain pen that wasn't just so. He had an exquisite collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. His pursuit of pleasure, particularly in the highest rungs of society, was very important to him. It was something that was so bound up in his character that it really had to be written about. It also explained, in part, why he could pull himself away from the network for periods of time. He had in his second wife Babe really one of the most beautiful, stylish women ever to cross . . .
LAMB: Let me interrupt before you lose your thought, because I want you to tell us about this picture.
SMITH: Oh, the Capote picture. Well, Capote became friendly with the Paleys back in the 1950s and he was, Irene Selznick described at the time, still "fresh, dewy-eyed Capote." It was before he had turned self-destructive. He was highly celebrated as an author. He was witty and he was sort of a vicious and entertaining gossip. He had a very special relationship with Bill and Babe Paley. He was close to Babe. He had a way of worming his way into the confidence of people, and he became her kind of psychiatrist and her advisor. He taught her what books to read. She taught him how to decorate his apartment. They had a very intimate relationship, and she really told him many secrets about her life. To Bill Paley he was a source of constant amusement. He could be at a dinner party and have everybody just fractured with laughter over his vicious observations about various people.
Babe was the epitome of style. She came into his life after he and Dorothy had separated, although he knew her before, during his first marriage. She was one-third of the fabulous Cushing sisters who came out of Boston, and these were three women who came from a very prominent family. Their father was a pioneering neurosurgeon and a formidable character in his own right. They were all extremely well-bred. One of their nephews told me that their mother operated what amounted to a finishing school at their home in Brookline. They were taught how to be wives to rich and important men, and each of them did marry extremely well. One married Jock Whitney, one married Vincent Astor and one married Bill Paley.
During that period of his life, he traveled a great deal. He had friends with yachts in the Mediterranean, and he would spend a month at a time with them, and friends who were aristocracy in England. He was wonderful company for these people. He entertained them lavishly whenever they came to visit in New York or in his vacation home down in Nassau. All of this was very important to him. But the marriage itself, which I had no real knowledge of before I embarked on the book, was quite sterile because he was very demanding. One thing both of Bill Paley's wives had in common was a constant quest to please him and to cater to his every need. During both of his marriages, he was unfaithful. He had a constant need to pursue women. His first wife was somewhat more philosophical about it, but it pained his second wife Babe deeply. The photographer Horst who knew her from the earliest days said that when he took -- I don't know if you're going to flash the other.
LAMB: Yes, I can show you the other one.
SMITH: When he took that picture, he said he was so struck by the sadness of that face, and she was, underneath her absolutely exquisite exterior, quite unhappy, and the last years of her life when she was ill with cancer was really the first time that she spoke out about it. She was by nature a reticent woman when it came to her personal feelings about such things, but at the end she had nothing to lose, I suppose.
LAMB: How do you know he wasn't faithful to her?
SMITH: By one account after another from people who knew them well.
LAMB: But you tell stories in that chapter about things as simple as a dinner party with some of her best friends, where he would approach them at the dinner party.
SMITH: That's right. He would take names from starlets, or whomever, that he would meet at parties when she was just a few feet across the room. It was a persistent thing, and it continued well into his 80s. One woman with whom he went out in his 80s recounted to me with some bemusement that he loved to reminisce about a time back in the 1960s when he was married to Babe and had an assignation with a woman that he met at the counter at Cartier's jewelry story. Even in the 1980s when he was in his 80s, he was competing for quite a young woman with a rock star, so it was something that extended throughout his life.
LAMB: Let me ask you a question. I don't know that you addressed this, but when we go back at the memorial service, you had Henry Kissinger and Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid and David Rockefeller and all these names, and his son Billy also gave remarks -- all glowing. And here your book is full of another part of this man's life that is certainly not all glowing.
LAMB: Is it your opinion that these people that were praising him at his death knew about this other side of him?
SMITH: Oh, I think so. I mean, I think some of them surely did, because he did lead a life quite apart from his children.
LAMB: I guess what I want to ask is, how do we do that in our society? How do we divide and talk about only one-half of an individual?
SMITH: Well, I think what was talked about at that memorial service was very much a part of the ritual of eulogizing. What's unusual about this is, I suppose you could call this revisionism. Because of the circumstance, the coincidence of timing, it's a kind of instant revisionism.
LAMB: What was his relationship to Diane Sawyer?
SMITH: Well, Diane Sawyer was a woman that he was very interested in romantically. I think her view of him was like some other women I talked to who were seen in his company in the last decade-and-a-half or so. I think she was fascinated by him. He was a fascinating, mesmerizing person to be with. Truman Capote once said that Babe loved, loved, loved him and hated, hated, hated him, but in the end she couldn't help but be fascinated by him. That's a picture of Bill Paley and Larry Tisch right after they forged an alliance to take over CBS and oust Tom Wyman. It was a marriage of convenience; I think you would have to say. They did not have much natural chemistry, and had a somewhat arm's-length relationship throughout that period that they spent together. In the beginning, I think they were sort of jockeying a little bit for power, but after a time it was clear to Larry Tisch that he was the one who held all the power, and Bill Paley, in the end, acquiesced to that.
LAMB: How much money did he have in his estate?
SMITH: Anywhere from $550 million to $600 million. A good portion of that was in CBS stock because when he died he still owned 8 percent of it. Perhaps $200 million of that was in his art collection which was quite fantastic. Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse is the first thing you see when you enter the Paley apartment. When I was midway through my research, I ended up having lunch with him one more time in his apartment at my request. I don't know quite why he agreed to do it, but it was important for me to see those surroundings for him -- to see his art collection and to hear him talk about it. He was kind of inadvertently insightful about it.
There was one moment when we were walking around through the apartment looking at various things, and on one wall was, I guess, a Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a Montmartre madam. She was clearly a debased woman. Paley said that that was one of his favorite pictures. I said, "Why? It's not particularly pretty." And he said, "Well, I think I have an appreciation for it. I can go down the slope as well as up the slope."
That was one of the many contradictions of him, that he could be so rarified and associated with high culture and high society, but at the same time he had a very earthy side to him which may have explained why he could understand mass audience programming. The juxtapositions constantly amazed me because here was a man who could figure out shows that would have a wide appeal, yet by the 1970s he'd never even been to a supermarket. When they bought the magazine Woman's Day as part of their not-always-successful effort at diversifying, he asked one of the men who had been involved in the purchase, "Who buys this magazine, and where is it sold?" He said, "Well, it's sold in supermarkets," and he could tell by the way Paley reacted that he'd never been to a supermarket. He said, "Would you like to come with me and see how this magazine is sold?"
Then he took Paley into a supermarket on the west side of Manhattan, and it was as if he were in a candy store. He'd never really seen it. He sort of stood there, transfixed at the way people walked up and down the aisles and picked things off the shelves and the way women bought magazines at the counter. So, it was another example of how removed he was from everyday life.
LAMB: We're about out of time. Did anybody get real mad at you because of this book?
SMITH: So far not, no. I haven't gotten any angry letters or any angry calls. I'm sure there are some of his friends to whom he was always very dear and generous and who were dear and generous to him. The people who stood the best with him were those society friends whose approval he liked the best and who he wanted to please. They saw him from a very narrow angle, and I think seeing him this way has probably been upsetting to some of them.
LAMB: Sally Bedell Smith has been our guest. This is what the book looks like. "In All His Glory: The Life of William S. Paley." Thank you.
SMITH: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1990. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.