Dick Cavett has been a leading cultural voice since the 1950s, as an actor, a writer for Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show,” and eventually creating “The Dick Cavett Show,” where he interviewed everyone from Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon to F. Lee Bailey and Katharine Hepburn. On March 23, Cavett will conduct a live Q&A with actress Blythe Danner at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Cavett recently moved to the magnificent Sunset Hall estate, once owned by Harry Houdini’s brother and actor Robert Vaughn.
What brought you to Ridgefield?
Having acquired this house here, it seems like the appropriate place to be.
How do you like it?
People keep telling me that I say Richfield. I deny that. Ridge-field. It’s a terrific place. I have seen the Playhouse and the Prospector Theater—the place with the fantastic chandelier.
I’m recording this, by the way.
Disregard everything I’ve said. This is not even me.
Your voice is very distinctive. You can’t fool me!
That’s right. No one has ever been able to do my voice.
How do you like your new house?
Harry Houdini was here when his no-talent brother owned this house. Someone told me neighbors used to sneak into the bushes and watch Houdini perfecting his underwater escapes in the swimming pool.
Do you still perform magic?
We were at dinner and my wife said: Do the trick you did on Jimmy Fallon’s show the other night. I got the rope out and then I couldn’t remember a few of the moves. If you don’t do it everyday, the fabulous muscle memory does not kick in.
Do you wander around the house?
Being strange as I am, I haven’t gone into certain rooms, just so that I can say: “I haven’t seen every room in the house.”
You got your start writing jokes for Jack Paar. Tell me about that.
I read that Paar worried about his monologue. I was a copy boy at Time. I wrote a couple of pages of items and went to the RCA Building and here came Jack, from the men’s room. “I wrote some material, Mr. Paar.” I managed to get into that night’s show. After a few minutes of his monologue he pulled out a folded paper. He ad-libbed a few of my lines. I felt like lightning went through my body. Then he invited me to write for him. The only reason you and I are talking right now comes from that moment.
What were some of the jokes?
Well, there had been some pirate ship in the news. And Paar says, “I’ve been thinking about the passengers hearing over the loudspeaker, ‘This is your pirate speaking.’”
What will you be doing at the Ridgefield Playhouse?
I don’t know but it’s with Blythe Danner. We go way back, when we did theater together in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She’s wonderful. Once, during a rehearsal, she started to sing Marlene Dietrich’s “Falling in Love Again,” in German. So I joined in—in German.
Maybe you should do that at the Playhouse.
I’m sure people would love that.
What will you talk to her about?
Well, we won’t be meeting there for the first time. When we were in Williamstown, she had her adorable, beautiful daughter. Everybody would stop and expel air. Now she’s much taller.