Frank Lloyd Wright
9/1/57 and 9/28/57
This interview was recorded in two parts. Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, talks to Wallace about religion, war, mercy killing, art, critics, his mile-high skyscraper, America's youth, sex, morality, politics, nature, and death.
Guest: Frank Lloyd Wright
9/1/57 and 9/28/57
WALLACE: Good evening, what you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris.
WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of one of the most extraordinary men of our time. You see him behind me, he is eighty-eight-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the greatest architect of the twentieth century. And in the opinion of some, America's foremost social rebel. According to a story in Life Magazine not many years back, fellow architects have called him everything, from a great poet to an insupportable windbag. The clergy has deplored his morals, creditors have deplored his financial habits, politicians, his opinions. And we'll get Frank Lloyd Wright's views on morals, politics, religion and architecture in just a moment. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree we feel sure that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast.
WALLACE: And, now to our story. Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright hail him as a man one hundred years ahead of his time. Now, eighty-eight years old, he is still designing homes and buildings which are revolutionary, including plans for a mile-high skyscraper for which he's had no buyers yet. But just as radical as Frank Lloyd Wright the architect is Frank Lloyd Wright the social critic. Mr. Wright, before we go any further, I'd like to chart your attitudes specifically, by getting your capsule opinions as an architect or as a social critic of the following: First of all, organized Christianity.
WRIGHT: Why organized it? Christianity doesn't need organizing according to the Master of it, the great master poet of all times didn't want it organized, did he?. Didn't Jesus say... that wherever a few are gathered in my name, there is my Church?
WALLACE: Therefore you, would just as see... er... just as soon see your religion unorganized?
WRIGHT: Well, that may be why I am building a synagogue in Philadelphia, a Unitarian church in Madison, a Greek Orthodox church in Milwaukee, and (CLEARS THROAT) a Christian Science church in California.
WALLACE: Are you a religious man yourself?
WRIGHT: I've always considered myself deeply...
WALLACE: Do you go...
WALLACE: Do you go to any specific church?
WRIGHT: Yes, I go occasionally to this one, and then sometimes to that one, but my church I put a capital N on Nature and go there.
WALLACE: All right, sir, what do you think...
WRIGHT: You spell God with a G, don't you?
WALLACE: I spell God with a G, you will spell it with...?
WRIGHT: I spell Nature with an N, capital.
WALLACE: What do you think of the American Legion, Mr. Wright?
WRIGHT: I never think of it, if I can help it.
WALLACE: What do you mean by that?
WRIGHT: They're professional warriors, aren't they?
WRIGHT: I'm against war. Always have been, always will be. And everything connected with it, is anathema to me. I have never considered it necessary. And I think that one war only breeds another. And I think I've been borne out by the reading of history, haven't I? One war always has in it, in its intestines, another, and another has another...
WALLACE: Mr. Wright...
WRIGHT: Why be for war? And if you are not for war, why are you for warriors?
WALLACE: We will come back both to organized religion and the American Legion. I'm trying right now just to get capsule opinions as a sort of chart against which to play the rest of the interview. The third capsule opinion I'd like from you, and then we'll go on to other things... Mercy killings, what do you think of them?
WRIGHT: I think it's... if it's mercy killing I am for it.
WALLACE: When you say if it's mercy killing, you mean?
WRIGHT: Well, I think, if killing is merciful why not kill.
WALLACE: If the person...?
WRIGHT: But be sure that it is merciful.
WALLACE: Well, if the person is considerably advanced in age, is at a point where he or she no longer appreciates, understands life, is in constant pain, do you believe the doctors could have the privilege?
WRIGHT: I would never use the means of justification, no.
WALLACE: Oh, you would not?
WRIGHT: No. But I think if they were incurably ill, and suffering intolerable agony, and they could... and there was no possible hope for them, I think a mercy killing would be a mercy killing.
WALLACE: Uh-hum. You think then... that a doctor for instance, who understands the situation, has the right to take the life of a patient under those circumstances?
WRIGHT: As for the right I do not know. Are you speaking legally?
WALLACE: Am I speaking legally? No, I am speaking morally.
WRIGHT: Morally, I think he would have the right.
WALLACE: All right, but that as a background...
WRIGHT: But morally isn't the question, my dear Mike. Morally isn't enough. There is a great difference between morals and ethics. The question is, ethically does he have the right, so far as I'm concerned. Morals are only those of the moment, the fashion of the day. What is a moral today, won't be moral the day after tomorrow and the day after that.
WALLACE: Ethically you believe he has the right?
WRIGHT: Ethically I would say he has the right to end intolerable suffering.
WALLACE: With those...
WRIGHT: If there was no hope.
WALLACE: If there was no hope. With those three opinions as background, let me ask you this if I may. You obviously hold some fairly unconventional, even unpopular, ideas Mr. Wright. What do you think...?
WRIGHT: I'm not aware of it, if so.
WALLACE: (LAUGHS) What do you think of the average man in the United States, who has little use for your ideas in architecture, in politics, in religion?
WRIGHT: Are you speaking of the common man?
WALLACE: The average man, the common man, I think that you have sometimes called him part of the mobocracy - part of the mob.
WRIGHT: He's the basis of it. I think the common man is responsible for the drift toward conformity now. It's going to ruin our democracy, and is not according to our democratic faith. I believe our democracy was Thomas Jefferson's idea. I mean I think Thomas Jefferson's idea was the right idea, but we were headed for a genuine aristocracy. An aristocracy that was innate, on the man, not of him ... not his by privilege but his, by virtue of his own virtue, his own conscience, his own quality, and that by that we were going to have a rule of the bravest and the best. But now that the common man is becoming a little jealous of the uncommon man, as H. I. Phillips wrote the other day, "It's getting to the point where" he said... "Well, what's the punk got we ain't got? He's just got the breaks that's all." Now that's going to ruin the common man, because the uncommon man is his vision. And I believe what you call the common man is what I call the common man, a man who believes in nothing he can't see, and he can't see anything he can't put his hand on.
WALLACE: Would you agree with me...?
WRIGHT: He's a block to progress.
WALLACE: Would you? -- He's a block to progress -- Would you agree with me that a pretty fair share of our audience tonight either can't, or doesn't want to, understand modern art like the paintings of Picasso or modern music, let's say by Stravinsky; possibly they don't even know, don't even want to or cannot understand you. Uh... What do you think of these people who either don't understand or don't care?
WRIGHT: I don't think they matter as far as I am concerned. I don't think they're for me, so why should I be for them?
WALLACE: What do you personally think of Picasso, some modern... no, let's not say Picasso... what do you think of modern paintings that some people say?
WRIGHT: Why not say Picasso, he's a good instance.
WALLACE: Well, he's a very good instance, but what, rather than go specific here, I'd like to talk about modern paintings. Some people say that they look like scrambled eggs, some people say that serious modern music sounds like a bad night in a boiler factory. I would like to know your opinion of modern painting in general.
WRIGHT: All those reactions, and don't you think we all see as we are. And our reactions will be that reaction which is most characteristic of us ourselves. And every time we express a reaction of this sort, we give ourselves away. Somebody said that the museum out here on Fifth Avenue looked like a washing machine.
WALLACE: That's one of your buildings?
WRIGHT: That's one of my buildings. But I've heard a lot of that type of reaction, and I've always discarded it as worthless. And I think it is.
WALLACE: What do you think of Salvador Dali?
WRIGHT: I think Salvador Dali is an immensely clever individual; he's artistic somewhat of an artist, not a great artist.
WALLACE: Uh-huh. Is he...?
WRIGHT: I think Picasso is a great artist.
WALLACE: Is Salvador Dali a great public relations specialist?
WALLACE: Are you?
WRIGHT: I don't think so. Because I've never cared very much which way the public was going, and what was the matter with it.
WALLACE: You said many years ago, that you would some day would be the greatest architect of the twentieth century. Have you reached your goal?
WRIGHT: Well, now I think I never said it.
WALLACE: Well, I've done a considerable amount of reading...
WRIGHT: (LAUGHING) I know.
WALLACE: by you and about you, this week. And I don't think there is a good deal of doubt about the fact that over the years, you have said it not once, but many times. Maybe not... maybe not in that specific form.
WRIGHT: You know, I may not have said it, but I may have felt it.
WALLACE: Uh-huh. You do feel it?
WRIGHT: But it is so unbecoming to say it that I should have been careful about it. I'm not as crude as I am generally reported to be. I believe, like this matter of arrogance. Now what is arrogance?
WALLACE: What is arrogance?
WRIGHT: Arrogance is something a man possesses on the surface to defend the fact that he hasn't got the thing that he pretends to have.
WRIGHT: He's a bluff in other words.
WALLACE: Arrogance can sometimes be a shell to protect the inner man too, can it not, even though that inner man has a good deal?
WRIGHT: Well, it's a pretty brittle shell.
WALLACE: Didn't you, in a sense, suggest that about the teacher whom you loved best of all, Louis Sullivan, did you not say that he was a shell with considerable substance but that he had this arrogant shell of... to protect himself?
WRIGHT: No, that's another one of those things. I never said it. And I don't think he'd had it. I think he was just plain... had great faith in himself that would pass for arrogance. And I think that any man who really has faith in himself will be dubbed arrogant by his fellows. I think that's what happened to me.
WALLACE: In other words this article, for instance, from which I will quote now, Philadelphia Enquirer Magazine, section October 18th 1953, said as follows: "Some quarters have denounced Wright as an impractical visionary and a pompous windbag."
WALLACE: How do you feel about such criticism, Mr. Wright?
WRIGHT: Doesn't affect me particularly.
WALLACE: Doesn't bother you?
WRIGHT: Not a bit. You always have to consider the source from which these things come. Now if somebody I deeply respected had said such a thing I would be worried. I would hurt... feel hurt. But as a piece in a newspaper, blowing into the gutters of the street the next day, I don't think it counts much.
WALLACE: You say that if someone you deeply respected said that -- is it unfair of me to ask you specifically whom you do deeply respect who is on the current scene?
WRIGHT: I respect any man or woman who respects himself sufficiently to tell the truth no matter what or who it might hurt.
WALLACE: And... is it wrong of me to ask you specifically, who you, Frank Lloyd Wright, admire, respect?
WRIGHT: There are so many of those people.
WRIGHT: Where would I begin?
WALLACE: I don't know. That's up to you, sir, or if you prefer not...
WRIGHT: I admired and respected my old master Louis Sullivan, despite of his faults. I think if you are going to admire and respect anybody you'll have to put up with a few faults, won't you?
WALLACE: I imagine.
WRIGHT: I think there is no unremitted... unremitting consecration of opinion to any individual because we all have something to apologize for, don't you think?
WALLACE: All of us, yes. I understand last week...
WRIGHT: For instance, that thing you have in your mouth now.
WALLACE: This cigarette?
WRIGHT: Is that something that you feel like apology... apologizing for?
WALLACE: Not at all, I enjoy it. Can I offer you one?
WRIGHT: That is just the point.
WALLACE: May I offer you one?
WRIGHT: No thank you, I wouldn't know how to smoke it.
WALLACE: Have you never smoked, sir?
WRIGHT: Yes, I've smoked about six months. (CLEARS THROAT) Well, I won't go through the story. This isn't cricket.
WALLACE: Oh, it's perfectly all right. Some do, some don't.
WRIGHT: Let' leave the cigarette smoker his solace.
WALLACE: All right, sir. I understand that last week in all seriousness you said, "If I had another fifteen years to work I could rebuild this entire country, I could change the nation."
WRIGHT: I did say that. And it's true. Having had now the experience going with the building of seven hundred and sixty-nine buildings, it's quite easy for me to shake them out of my sleeve, and it's amazing what I could do for this country. And some magazine has offered me the whole magazine if I design a new capital for the country. It ought to be done.
WALLACE: Of course, you don't really believe that you could succeed in imposing your ideas on what you call the mob, do you Mr. Wright?
WRIGHT: No. I don't think the mob knows anything about architecture, cares anything about it. I think it's going to be many, many years before the mob will ever get near architecture. I don't think architecture is for the mob; it certainly isn't for education. Education knows nothing of it. And very few architects in the world know anything about it.I've been accused of saying I was the greatest architect in the world, and if I had said so, I don't think it would be very arrogant because I don't believe there are many, if any. For five hundred years what we call architecture has been phony.
WALLACE: Phony in what sense?
WRIGHT: In the sense that it was not innate, it wasn't organic; it didn't have the character of Nature.
WALLACE: Well, what in the world, if I may make so bold, is innate or part of our fiber here in America, as a mile-high skyscraper. I'm told that you have had on your drawing board for some months now a mile-high skyscraper, for which you have no buyers up to now.
WRIGHT: Passed the drawing board some time ago. (CLEARS THROAT)
WALLACE: Passed your drawing board?
WRIGHT: And there it is...
WALLACE: Why were you going to build it?
WRIGHT: Because they came to me and wanted me to do the highest... the highest television tower in the world supported by wires. And that was a silly thing, I thought. So being able to build a mile-high building, I said, "Why not build it?"
WALLACE: Well, for what reason? You obviously would not want to build a just as a stunt, would you?
WRIGHT: No, the television tower would be at the top, and here would be a great useful structure, which would make all these silly boxes, they're trying to make look, tall, foolish. You know they had to build two of them in Central Park to take the whole of New York in. And you could destroy all the rest of it, and plant green, plant grass there, and think what you could have in the way of a beautiful city. With two mile-high skyscrapers in Central Park, would it end the agony?
WALLACE: And what would happen, sir, in the case of an atomic attack?
WRIGHT: Nothing. Because an atomic attack would probably do less damage to the mile-high than to anything around the town now.
WALLACE: Are you talking scientifically or is this just a pure hunch?
WRIGHT: No, sir, scientifically. I never talk otherwise.
WALLACE: How do you square such a mile-high skyscraper with your theories on decentralization, Mr. Wright. You're for an end to cities, an end to congestion?
WRIGHT: Not an end to cities, but an end to congestion, yes.
WALLACE: All right. All right.
WRIGHT: And this would help end congestion tremendously. And that was one of the ideas I had in planting one. And then having a great belt... commodity belt around it, where all the trucks and trucking, and commercialization of mankind would take place, say it a mile away. Where everybody would have room, peace, comfort, and every establishment would be appropriate to every man. It's an ideal that I think that goes with democracy, isn't it?
WALLACE: Mr. Wright, you don't have much faith in the mob, and yet I'm told that you have a good deal of faith in the nation's youth?
WRIGHT: I do.
WALLACE: How do you square one with the other?
WRIGHT: Why? Is the nation's youth a mob?
WALLACE: Is it not?
WRIGHT: No. I believe that a teenager is a teenager, and I think that with him lies the hope of the future. Now architecture with us is a matter of the future. We don't have it now. We haven't had it yet, in any very great extent. But we've had letters from teenagers all over this nation, for five, six, seven years, from Maine to Seattle, all over. And they want to know, if... they say they've chosen this architecture I represent for their thesis, will we kindly send them some helpful material. So, we are getting out a little pamphlet now, where we can answer all these letters, and sending the pamphlet to them. Of course they want us to help them write their thesis, but why they have chosen this architecture?
WALLACE: Well let me ask you this...
WRIGHT: Now when they are... a few years from now, fifteen, who are going to build the buildings of the country?
WALLACE: The mob.
WRIGHT: The teenagers. They're not the mob.
WALLACE: What is your reaction when I tell you that the nation's teenagers bought eleven million Elvis Presley records last year. Which... which group of youth do you think will inherit this country fifteen years from now, the Elvis Presley fans or the Frank Lloyd Wright fans?
WRIGHT: The Frank Lloyd Wright fans. Undoubtedly. Why? Because they're on the side of Nature, and the other fans are on the side of an artificiality that is doomed. Do you believe it? I do.
WALLACE: Time Magazine published an article back on November 5th, 1951, Mr. Wright, that has been echoed by social critics ever since. Time said at that time, "The most startling fact about the younger generation today is its silence."
WRIGHT: Its what?
WALLACE: "By comparison with the flaming youth of their fathers and mothers, today's younger generation is a still small flame." It does not issue manifestoes, make speeches, or carry posters.
WRIGHT: Who's writing?
WALLACE: That's Time Magazine's statement and it has been echoed by good many social critics.
WRIGHT: I don't think it's true.
WALLACE: Incidentally, a good deal of the research for tonight, and I am sure that by no means a good share of it is going to be made evident, is a... came from your new book A Testament by Frank Lloyd Wright, which will shortly...
WRIGHT: That's my new book? I haven't seen it.
WALLACE: You haven't seen the...?
WRIGHT: How did you get it?
WALLACE: We got it from your publisher. Here, take a look.
WRIGHT: Oh well, well, let me see.
WALLACE: And from Look Magazine, which is going to be out on the stands this week. It has a fascinating article. Now then, we only have about three minutes left, Mr. Wright, I'd like your opinion of Charlie Chaplin the comedian, and Charlie Chaplin the man.
WRIGHT: Not knowing Charlie Chaplin the man, and only knowing the comedian, I would say that he has given me more pleasant laughs in hours than any other individual living. It's as far as I've gone with him.
WALLACE: You've heard of Charlie Chaplin's anti-Americanism?
WRIGHT: Er... briefly perhaps and vaguely. I don't... What do you mean by anti-Americanism? (CLEARS THROAT)
WALLACE: Sir, if I were to start now answering that question, in as much as we only have three minutes left, chances are that we could talk just about that for three minutes. When you say, what do I mean about?
WALLACE: Well, for one thing, the fact that though he lived here...
WRIGHT: Is there anything more anti-American than McCarthyism?
WALLACE: Is there anything... anything more...?
WRIGHT: Anti-American than McCarthyism.
WALLACE: Well, let's talk about Mr. Chaplin for just a moment. He lived here in this country for good many years, made his living here, and yet refused to...
WRIGHT: Why did he go away?
WALLACE: become a citizen.
WRIGHT: Was he abused or something?
WALLACE: Would you say that he was abused?
WRIGHT: I don't know the details. I wouldn't be able to say.
WALLACE: What do you think of General Douglas...
WRIGHT: I always wondered why he left the country.
WALLACE: What do you think of General Douglas McArthur?
WRIGHT: I think he is a heroic soldier.
WALLACE: A hero ex-soldier?
WRIGHT: Heroic soldier, not a hero ex-soldier.
WALLACE: Oh, an heroic soldier, I see.
WRIGHT: Although hero ex-soldier might do.
WALLACE: That is all you want to say about the General?
WRIGHT: I don't know him. I don't know the General.
WALLACE: All right. Let me ask you this: as an intellectual yourself, Mr. Wright, what do you think President...
WRIGHT: That is not an allegation, and I refuse to marry that girl.
WALLACE: (LAUGHS) What do you think of?
WRIGHT: I don't like intellectuals.
WALLACE: You don't like intellectuals, why not?
WRIGHT: Because they are superficial, they are up top. They're from the top down, not from the ground up. And I've always flattered myself that what I represented was from the ground up.
WRIGHT: Does that mean anything?
WALLACE: I'm trying to figure it out.
WALLACE: What do you think of President Eisenhower as an intellect?
WRIGHT: Well now, don't ask me as an intellect, because how would I know, but he's a hell of a nice fellow. And one of the nice things I know about him is that my wife voted for him and I voted for Adlai Stevenson.
WALLACE: Why did you vote for Stevenson as opposed to Eisenhower?
WRIGHT: It was against my conscience but I thought he was too good for the job. And I was glad he wasn't elected.
WALLACE: But you voted for him nonetheless?
WRIGHT: I voted for him because I thought he would make a good President, but against my conscience because I thought that he was too good for the job.
WALLACE: I understand that you may still design a dream home for Marilyn Monroe and her husband Arthur Miller?
WRIGHT: Why dream home?
WALLACE: That is the word that, er... we have from the...
WRIGHT: Dream home?
WRIGHT: Well, Mr. Arthur Miller has asked me if I'd be interested in designing a house for him, which would mean Mr. and Mrs. Miller, I imagine.
And for Mrs. Miller and Mr. Arthur Miller I'd be very happy to design a house, but they haven't asked me in so many words yet.
WALLACE: Oh, I see. Well, may I ask you one last architectural question? We have just about ten seconds for an answer to this one, Mr. Wright. What do you think of Ms. Monroe as architecture?
WRIGHT: I think Ms. Monroe's architecture is extremely good architecture. And she is a very natural actress, and a very good one.
WALLACE: Thank you very...
WRIGHT: I don't... I don't think she was spoiled by too much training as an actress. Are you going to give me this book?
WALLACE: I'm... (LAUGHS) I sincerely hope that you will autograph it for me.
WRIGHT: I never saw this before! How is it that my publisher gave it to you and didn't show me?
WALLACE: A revolutionary in his life as well as in his art, Frank Lloyd Wright belongs to what may be a vanishing breed. In an age of conformity he remains a defiant non-conformist, he believes in, and belongs to himself. And I apologize to you tonight, or perhaps not, having permitted him to bring to you enough of himself.
WRIGHT: Mike, am I listening to my own epitaph?
INTERVIEW WITH FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (SECOND PART)
WALLACE: Good evening. What you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview, a continuation by popular demand of my interview of four weeks back with Frank Lloyd Wright. My name is Mike Wallace. The cigarette is Philip Morris.
WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of an American whom historians may rank as one of the greatest men of our times. And if they did rank him that high, Frank Lloyd Wright, a proud egotist, would be the first to compliment them on their good judgment. Born in 1869, and now probably the leading architect of the twentieth century Frank Lloyd Wright has also been hailed as a prophet in politics, religion and morality. He's been roundly damned too, for his scathing criticism of American culture. Let's find out why. Frank Lloyd Wright's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree we feel that none will deny the right of this views to be broadcast. Mr. Wright, first of all let me ask you this, you once said, "If I had another fifteen years to work, I could rebuild this entire country, I could change the nation" Now, would you tell me why should you, one man, want to change the way of life of more than one hundred and seventy million people?
WRIGHT: Well, have I said change the way of life?
WALLACE: Yes. When you say, "I could rebuild this entire country, I could change the nation"
WRIGHT: I think the way of life in which the country... to which the country is committed needs that change.
WALLACE: In other words you're saying...
WRIGHT: And I think it's taking place, and I see no reason why with intelligence we shouldn't plan it.
WALLACE: You're saying that practically everyone in the United States is out of step except Frank Lloyd Wright.
WRIGHT: Not at all, not saying anything of the kind. It isn't their job to build, it's mine. And I think they should have a right to look to their architects to... for what they should build...
WALLACE: Well as an architect...
WRIGHT: ...and how they should build it.
WALLACE: As an architect, how would you like to change the way that we live?
WRIGHT: I wouldn't like to change so much the way we live, as what we live in, and how we live in it.
WALLACE: Yes, but you cannot differentiate what we live in, and the way with... from the way we live. We are what we live and when we live.
WRIGHT: We are shifting in what we live now; we don't really live in it. We don't really understand what it is to live in an organic building with organic character.
WALLACE: Well now, organic building, organic character, these are words which the mobo... the 'mobocracy' perhaps would have difficulty in...
WRIGHT: Well, let's say natural, would that suit you better?
WALLACE: I'm still not... I would like specifically, to know what you mean, how would you like to change the way that we live?
WRIGHT: I would like to make it appropriate to the Declaration of Independence, to the center line of our freedom; I'd like to have a free architecture, I'd like to have architecture that belonged where you see it standing, and as a grace to the landscape instead of a disgrace. And the letters we receive from our clients tell us how those buildings we built for them, have changed the character of their whole lives and their whole existence. And it's different now than it was before. Well, I'd like to do that for the country.
WALLACE: When you come to New York, as you did today. And you see... Did you come by air?
WRIGHT: Yes. I came by air.
WALLACE: And you see the skyline of New York, this does not excite you, this does not exalt you in any manner?
WRIGHT: Quite so.
WALLACE: It does not?
WRIGHT: It does not. Because it never was planned, it is all a race for rent, and it is a great monument, I think, to the power of money and greed trying to substitute money for ideas. I don't see an idea in the whole thing anywhere. Do you? Where is the idea in it? What's the idea?
WALLACE: The idea is obviously, as it would seem to me, that a lot of people want to live together, as you point out, to make their livings, to make money, to... to enjoy what this large city has to offer. And I guess from time immemorial people have flocked more or less to one spot to exchange ideas as well as goods.
WRIGHT: But my dear Mike, there was a justification for that. When there was no other means of communication than by personal contact. That's when the plans for this city you are living in now originated, it originated back there in the middle ages when the only way you could have a culture, the only way you could get social distinction or any education from it was by ganging up, but if our...
WALLACE: But you're still...
WRIGHT: ...if our modern improvements, or what shall we call them, advantages are advantageous we can't get it here in the city anymore.
WALLACE: Let's move from architecture to individual human beings; yourself, one of the human beings I'd like to talk about. You wrote this about a fellow architect, and I wonder how much of it also applies to Frank Lloyd Wright. You wrote about your former master Louis Sullivan. You said, "Like all geniuses he was an absorbed egocentric, exaggerated sensibility, vitality boundless, this egotism though, is more armor than character, more shell than substance." What you are showing us tonight, Mr. Wright? Are you showing us more... armor than character, more shell than substance?
WRIGHT: Well, I wouldn't be the judge, you are. What do you say?
WALLACE: I don't know you well enough, nor have I talked to you long enough...
WRIGHT: That's what I thought.
WALLACE: ...to make sense. But so... therefore, I ask...
WRIGHT: How would I know? I can't be my own judge, can I?
WALLACE: Well, yes, I think that each one of us in his own way can be his own judge. Er... every word that you say, you say because you believe or do you say, sometimes at least, for calculated effect?
WRIGHT: I think everybody must speak sometimes for calculated effect, and I wouldn't deny so speaking. But, I have never misrepresented myself, anything in connection with me, consciously or deliberately.
WALLACE: All right, all right, under those circumstances let's move to some specific opinions. In one of your books; “Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture,” you wrote, "We can escape literature nowhere, and its entire fabric is drenched with sex, newspapers recklessly steer sex everywhere. Every magazine has its nauseating ritual of the girl cover, the he-and-she novel is omnipresent."
WALLACE: What's wrong with sex, Mr. Wright?
WALLACE: Then, why do you write what you say?
WRIGHT: It would be wrong with you, rather than sex.
WALLACE: Why do you write what you say?
WRIGHT: I believe in it. I think that's true. And I think that it is because we don't have a religion, we don't have an architecture, we don't have an art of our own, we have no culture of our own, that society is drenched as it is from the bottom up. Instead of getting something from the belt up.
WALLACE: Well, we're a young culture. We're a... we're younger...
WRIGHT: We are not a culture, we are only a civilization.
WALLACE: All right, we are a young civilization that takes time to develop a culture.
WRIGHT: I don't think we are too young because civilization was going a long time with everybody that ever got here. (CLEARS THROAT)
WALLACE: Then, how do you account for the fact? Let's go to motive, to understandings of why? If...
WRIGHT: Why what?
WALLACE: Why we are so preoccupied not with above, as you point, but... point out, but below the belt?
WRIGHT: I can't tell you that.
WALLACE: Haven't you ever thought about it?
WALLACE: You're just commenting upon the fact and not trying to find out the reason.
WRIGHT: I'm not particularly interested in that feature of human character or nature. I think I'll have to leave the upper region of the pantaloons to the people themselves. I've never been particularly interested in it.
WALLACE: In what way, if any, has your attitude towards sex changed over the course of the past sixty, seventy years?
WRIGHT: I don't think I ever had an attitude towards it. (CLEARS THROAT) I don't think I've manifested an attitude toward it. I've taken it in my stride for what it was worth and it seems to me that's the way to take it.
WALLACE: Let's turn to your political views. After a visit to Soviet Russia, back in 1936, '37, you wrote the following in a publication called “Soviet Russia Today.” You wrote, "I saw something in the glimpse I had of the Russian people themselves which makes me smile in anticipation" This was twenty years ago.
"The Russian spirit" You said, "I felt it in the air, saw it as a kind of aura about the wholesome maleness of her men and femaleness of her women."
WALLACE: "Freedom already affects this people unconsciously, a kind of new heroism is surely growing up in the world in the Soviet Union."
WRIGHT: I think so.
WALLACE: You still feel that way?
RIGHT: I still feel that way. And when I came home and wrote that in my autobiography, Alexander Woollcott... do you remember him?
WALLACE: I do.
WRIGHT: Alexander was a good friend of... of our friend, the... the President.
WRIGHT: Roosevelt. And Alec told me that the President had read what I wrote, and said my, "My sentiments exactly."
WALLACE: Well now, you are an individualist, you certainly believe in freedom.
WALLACE: You cherish it. Therefore, how can you explain this enthusiasm for a country which even then, and certainly now, has instituted thought-control by terror, political purges by blood, suppression of intellectuals?
WRIGHT: Do you ever disassociate government and people?
WALLACE: Er... frankly, you're putting this question to me personally, and I... I find it very difficult to disassociate government and people.
WRIGHT: I don't find it difficult. I find that government can be a kind of gangsterism and is in Russia. And is likely to be here if we don't take care of ourselves pretty carefully. A kind of gangsterism, and instead of being something from the bottom up, it's something from the top down again.
WALLACE: But the people have to stand still for it.
WRIGHT: No. I don't think they do. I think the people are unaware of all these things that are happening to them. I don't think that they appraise them at their true value.
WALLACE: But don't governments grow out of people, Mr. Wright?
WRIGHT: It should, but it doesn't. It hasn't in Russia, and it hasn't here, particularly lately. It doesn't grow out of the people's knowledge of what's good for them, and what is the nature of the thing they are in. They are without the intelligence Thomas Jefferson thought would be ours, and a democracy, we haven't manifested it. We can see now mediocrity rising into high places, we can see how Jefferson's unwillingness to... to qualify the vote has resulted in this mediocrity rising into high places.
WALLACE: But we are responsible, I think.
WRIGHT: We are responsible ourselves, but we don't wake up to the responsibility. We don't take it. Where in this... where do you know, and it goes for men or women, who are consciously aware politically, we'll say, are the principles which were declared by the Declaration of Independence, the responsibility for the development of a conscience that it places upon them. You don't find it anywhere, it doesn't manifest in the street, it doesn't manifest in the movies, it doesn't manifest... sometimes in the theater we see a little of it.
WALLACE: Well then, in the days that have gone by since our Declaration of Independence we've gone to the dickens in the hand-basket, but somebody has been responsible and evidently the people have to be responsible. When I say the people, the mob, whomever. People don't arrive at being President, or Senator, or Mayor unless they are elected.
WRIGHT: That is perfectly true that there will be no turn for the better until the people awaken to the nature of the thing that has them in thrall, but this matter is not a matter for a tinker, it's a matter of something that must be grown. And I don't see it growing as Thomas Jefferson thought it would grow by education. I think education has been lax in all this thing, I believe we haven't gone to school to learn about ourselves, we haven't gone to school to learn the nature of things; and until nature study is the basis of our education we'll continue to be in danger communism, of all the -isms and the -istics, and the -ites that you can name.
WALLACE: Well, what's wrong with communism? You just... are free.
WRIGHT: Communism is utterly, from my stand point, wrong, I am an individualist.
WALLACE: You love the people of Russia...
WRIGHT: The whole world knows that.
WALLACE: You love the people of Russia, but you do not love their government.
WRIGHT: That is right. I despise their government, and said so. I haven't had or heard a word from Russia all these years. And it would make them laugh, in Russia, if they ever heard of it, I don't suppose they have, that I've been accused of communistic sympathies in my own country.
WALLACE: Mr. Wright, suppose you were approached by one of your students, one of your apprentices say...
WALLACE: Who felt pessimistic about his future because of the hydrogen bomb, the threat of war, the world's general insecurity, and he came to you and he said, "Mr. Wright, help me to understand, give me something to live by." What could you tell him?
WRIGHT: That's what they're all asking me. And that's what I'm telling them, every Sunday morning, and all the time they are working with me. I don't put a line on a drawing board if the answer isn't there. And they are there, for the way of life we live which is the answer too to this very question you are asking. That's why these youngsters come to me from all over the world.
WALLACE: And the answer is?
WRIGHT: The answer is, within yourself. Within the nature of the thing that you yourself represent, as yourself. And Jesus said it, I think, when he said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." That's where architecture lies, that's where humanity lies, thats where the future were going to have lies.
WRIGHT: If we are ever going to amount to anything it's there now, and all we have to do is to develop it.
WALLACE: Mr. Wright, you...
WRIGHT: Now I don't call that the mob. I call that human nature, and I call that humanity. Now humanity to me is not a mob. The mob is a degeneration of humanity, the mob is humanity going the wrong way.
WALLACE: You have faith in youth, you have no faith in the mob, yet youth becomes adult and turns into a mob. Or do I misunderstand?
WRIGHT: Yes, it may. But that's our misfortune, and that's because they're not properly educated and don't have an opportunity to go right instead of left.
WALLACE: You write at some small length anyway in your latest book A Testament published by Horizon Press, you write about your religious ideas. I understand that you attend no Church.
WRIGHT: I attend the greatest of all Churches.
WALLACE: Which is?
WRIGHT: And I put a capital N on Nature, and call it my Church. And that's my Church.
WALLACE: Uh-huh. You... Your attitude towards organized religion is...
WRIGHT: That's what enables me to build churches for other people.
WALLACE: Well, I want to... this I do want to understand.
WRIGHT: If I belong to any one Church, they couldn't ask me to build a church for them. And because my Church is elemental, fundamental I can build for anybody a church.
WALLACE: What do you think of church architecture in the United States?
WRIGHT: I think it's the cause of great shame.
WALLACE: Because it improperly reflects the idea of religion?
WRIGHT: Because it is a paragon monkey reflection and no reflection of religion.
WALLACE: Let's go to...
WRIGHT: Is that a little bit too fantastic?
WALLACE: No, no, as a matter of fact, no one has asked me, but I heartily agree.
WRIGHT: You can take that to the Universities and take it to the kind of atmosphere in which they administer education for the young, and get exactly the same failure.
WALLACE: Well now wait, wait. I said that I heartily agree, and yet something immediately comes to mind. When I walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral, and I am not a Catholic, but when I walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York City, I am enveloped in a feeling of reverence.
WRIGHT: Sure it isn't an inferiority complex?
WALLACE: Just because the building is big and I am small you mean?
WALLACE: Hmmm. I think not.
WRIGHT: I hope not.
WALLACE: You... you feel nothing when you go into St. Patrick's?
WALLACE: Regret? Because of what? Because...
WRIGHT: Because it isn't the thing that really represents the spirit of independence and the sovereignty of the individual which I feel should be represented in our edifices devoted to culture.
WALLACE: When you go out into a big forest, with towering pines, and this almost a feeling of awe, that frequently you do get in the presence of nature, do you then not feel insignificant, do you not feel small in the same sense that I feel small and insignificant?
WRIGHT: On the contrary, I feel large, I feel enlarged and encouraged, intensified, more powerful, that's...
WALLACE: Let's talk...
WRIGHT: And that's because, why? Because in the one instance you are inspired by nature, and the other instance you are inspired by an artificiality contrary to nature. Am I clear?
WALLACE: You are clear, although I must say that I don't agree because whatever inspires, whatever inspires a feeling of reverence, a feeling of goodness, a feeling of under... not understanding, that's not...
WRIGHT: No, no, now you are on dangerous ground.
WALLACE: Not understanding I say, it's good for the insides, it's good for the soul.
WRIGHT: Maybe very bad, very bad. We are... Our natures are now so warped in many directions, we are so conditioned by education, we have no longer any straight, true, clean reactions that we can trust, and we have to be pretty wise and careful what it is we give up to, what it is we admire, what it is we are inspired by? I dare say that the stevedore's inspired by the prostitute whom he seeks, I dare say that all these things may be good so far as they go because they are necessary. But I wouldn't say that they are what should be, I wouldn't say that they are ideal.
WALLACE: Mr. Wright, what is your opinion of the American Press?
WRIGHT: I think the American Press, once upon a time, was characterized by individuals, great ones, strong men, men with great purpose, strong prejudices of course, but also strong loyalties and convictions. Today I can't see it. There is much trend in what we call the newspaper world. No, that isn't the word, what is the word for this, er... letter press life...
WALLACE: The communications industry.
WRIGHT: Which is... the whole country lives now in the newspaper. Everywhere you go, their nose is in something to read.
WRIGHT: Well, how is it that we became so literate all at once? How is it now, that we are fed, spoon-fed, everything from A to Z, by reading this, and reading that, by this newspaper, that newspaper, this magazine, that one, we don't seem to have any life at all except by reading something. We learn nothing except by reading. What brought it about? I don't know.
WALLACE: Well, you certainly are not against eclectic reading.
WRIGHT: To a certain extent I am, yes. I think you should not read spasmodically, I don't think you should read just for the sake of reading either. I think that if you are going to read, you should read something that'll feed you, build you up, strengthen you, and be what you need to know.
WALLACE: What magazines do you read?
WRIGHT: Almost none.
WALLACE: And what are the few that you do?
WRIGHT: Time was the one I got the most out of, for a long time.
WRIGHT: I used to get the news from Time. But I don't think lately that it's... I've needed it. And I don't think I've read it much lately.
WALLACE: Do you feel?
WRIGHT: I don't feel that I need to get anything of that sort.
WALLACE: Uh-huh. You don't feel that you need the news. You don't feel that you have to be...
WRIGHT: Only the general drift, the main substance of it, but particularities no.
WALLACE: Do you think that you are any less rebellious, less of a radical in your art and life, than you were a quarter of a century ago, Mr. Wright?
WRIGHT: That I'm more so. Only more quiet about it. (CHUCKLES)
WALLACE: To what do you attribute your...
WRIGHT: Lauren McArthur, a very good friend of mine, once said to me, "Frank, here, you don't have to paint your shirt-front red and stand out on the street and holler about this," he said. And I began to think it over, and I think he is right. It is. You don't have to push hard, or talk loud, or in any way get up to defend what you believe in. If it is right, and if it is good, and it is sound it will defend you if you give it a chance. You don't have to push it. I've never pushed myself, I've never turned over my hand to get a client during my life; I have never sought publicity of any kind, I've yielded to it, because Duart Lewis came to me once when I was rolling a reporter down-hill in a kerosene barrel and doing all those things to get rid of him. "Frank" he said, "These boys have to live. Don't you understand? That you're bringing all this down on yourself just because you haven't got the wit to be kind to them and to see that they have to live just as well as you do; and they are sent out here to get something, and if they don't get it, then they get fired." He said, "It takes all kinds, Frank, to make the world" And so I began to give. Here I am giving again.
WALLACE: Yes, you are. And I want you to give, if you will, the answer to just one more question.
RIGHT: Go ahead.
WALLACE: Are you afraid of death?
WRIGHT: Not at all. Walt Whitman is the guide on that; if you want to talk, to consult him -- read him.
WALLACE: Do you believe...
WRIGHT: Walt is a great friend.
WALLACE: Do you believe in personal... in your personal immortality?
WRIGHT: Yes. You get so far, as I am immortal. I will be immortal. To me, young has no meaning, it's something you can do nothing about. Nothing at all. But youth is a quality, and if you have it, you never lose it. And when they put you into the box that's your immortality.
WALLACE: Mr. Wright, I thank you for spending this half hour with us.
WRIGHT: Well, you're welcome, I hope it's been of some interest...
WALLACE: It has indeed.
WRIGHT: ...to whoever has been listening. But I don't know.