Richard Alva "Dick" Cavett (born November 19, 1936) is a former American television talk show host known for his conversational style and in-depth discussions and recognized by his Gravelly voice. Cavett appeared regularly on nationally broadcast television in the United States in five consecutive decades, the 1960s through the 2000s.
In recent years, Cavett has written a column for the online New York Times, promoted DVDs of his former shows as well as a book of his Times columns, and hosted replays of his classic TV interviews with Groucho Marx, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, John Lennon and others on Turner Classic Movies channel.
Cavett was born in Nebraska, but sources differ as to the specific town, locating his birthplace in either Gibbon. where his family lived, or nearby Kearney, the location of the nearest hospital. Cavett himself, in an interview with Carol Burnett on The Dick Cavett Show, claimed that Gibbon was his birthplace. His mother Erabel "Era" (née Richards) and his father Alva B. Cavett both worked as educators. When asked by Lucille Ball on his own show about his heritage, he said he was "Scottish, Irish, English, and possibly partly French, and, and uh, a dose of German." He also mentioned that one grandfather "came over" from England, and the other from Wales. Cavett's grandparents all lived in Grand Island, Nebraska. His paternal grandparents were Alva A. Cavett and Gertrude Pinsch. His paternal grandfather was from Diller, Nebraska and his paternal grandmother was an immigrant from Aachen, Germany. His maternal grandparents were the Rev. R.R. and Etta Mae Richards. The Rev. Richards was from Carmarthen, Wales, and was a Baptist minister who served parishes across central Nebraska. Cavett himself is an agnostic.
Cavett's parents taught in Comstock, Gibbon, and Grand Island, where Cavett started kindergarten at Wasmer Elementary School. Three years later, both of his parents landed teaching positions in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Cavett completed his education at Capitol, Prescott, and Irving schools and Lincoln High School. When Cavett was 10, his mother died of cancer at age 36. His father subsequently married Dorcas Deland, also an educator, originally from Alliance, Nebraska. On September 24, 1995, Lincoln Public Schools dedicated the new Dorcas C. and Alva B. Cavett Elementary School in their honor.
In eighth grade, Cavett directed a live Saturday-morning radio show sponsored by the Junior League and played the title role in The Winslow Boy. One of his high-school classmates was actress Sandy Dennis. Cavett was elected state president of the student council in high school, and was a gold medalist at the state gymnastics championship.
Before leaving for college, he worked as a caddy at the Lincoln Country Club. He also began performing magic shows for $35 a night under the tutelage of Gene Gloye. In 1952 Cavett attended the convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in St. Louis, and won the Best New Performer trophy. Around the same time, he met fellow magician Johnny Carson, 11 years his senior, who was doing a magic act at a church in Lincoln.
While attending Yale University, Cavett played in and directed dramas on the campus radio station, WYBC, and appeared in Yale Drama productions. In his senior year, he changed his major from English to drama. He also took advantage of any opportunity to meet stars, routinely going to shows in New York to hang around stage doors or venture backstage. He would go so far as to carry a copy of Variety or an appropriate piece of company stationery in order to look inconspicuous while sneaking backstage or into a TV studio. Cavett took many odd jobs ranging from store detective to label typist for a Wall Street firm, and as a copyboy at Time Magazine.
At Yale School of Drama, Cavett met his future wife, Caroline Nye McGeoy (known professionally as Carrie Nye), a native of Greenwood, Mississippi. After graduation, the two acted in summer theater in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and Cavett worked for two weeks in a local lumberyard in order to buy an engagement ring. On June 4, 1964, they were married in New York and remained married until Nye's death on July 14, 2006.
In 2010, Cavett married business author Martha Rogers, Ph.D., in a small ceremony in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Cavett has co-authored two books with Christopher Porterfield: Cavett (1974), his autobiography, and Eye on Cavett (1983). Cavett currently writes a blog, published by the New York Times, entitled "Talk Show: Dick Cavett Speaks Again." He appeared as himself in various other TV shows, including episodes of The Odd Couple, Cheers, Kate & Allie, and The Simpsons episode Homie the Clown; in Robert Altman's HealtH (1980), and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). Cavett often appeared on television quiz and game shows; he appeared on What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Password, The $25,000 Pyramid and made a special appearance on Wheel of Fortune in 1988 during their week of shows at Radio City Music Hall, walking on stage after someone solved the puzzle "DICK CAVETT." In 1974, Cavett's company, Daphne Productions, co-produced with Don Lipp Productions a short-lived ABC game show, The Money Maze, although Cavett's name did not appear on the credits. In 1987, he appeared with Vanessa Williams, Betty White, and Bert Convy on Super Password. Cavett was the narrator (on camera and off) for the HBO documentary series Time Was. Each episode covered a decade, ranging from the 1920s to the 1970s, and relied on stock file footage and photographs. The show originally aired in November 1979 and ran for six months with a new show each month. Cavett also hosted a documentary series for HBO in the early 1980s titled Remember When... that examined changes in American culture over time. In April 1981, Cavett traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to interview the pop group ABBA on the occasion of their tenth anniversary as a group. The special, titled Dick Cavett Meets ABBA, was taped by the Swedish TV network SVT and was broadcast mostly in Europe. From November 15, 2000, to January 6, 2002, he played the narrator in a Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show. He also had a brief stint as the narrator/old man in the Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods. Dick Cavett is featured in the 2003 documentary From the Ashes: The Life and Times of Tick Hall about the fire that destroyed his Montauk, home and his effort to rebuild it. Cavett's signature tune has long been a trumpet version of the vocalise "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's Candide. The tune was first played at the midpoint of his ABC late-night show, and later became the theme of his PBS show. The tune is also played as he walks on stage during guest appearances on other talk shows. Cavett was present when actor Marlon Brando broke the jaw of paparazzo photographer Ron Galella on June 12, 1973. Galella had followed Cavett and Brando to a restaurant after the taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City. In 2008 Cavett entered the Iraq war dispute with a New York Times blog entry criticizing General David Petraeus, stating "I can’t look at Petraeus—his uniform ornamented like a Christmas tree with honors, medals, and ribbons—without thinking of the great Mort Sahl at the peak of his brilliance." Cavett went on to recall Sahl's expressed contempt of General Westmoreland's display of medals, and criticized Petraeus for not speaking in plain language. In December 2012, for their annual birthday celebration to "The Master," The Noel Coward Society invited Cavett as the guest celebrity to lay flowers in front of Coward's statue at New York's Gershwin Theatre, thereby commemorating the 113th birthday of Sir Noel. Coward had made a memorable appearance on Cavett's ABC late-night television show in 1970 after having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in December, 1969.