You may not know the name, but you certainly know his movies. Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is responsible for such classics as “Show Girls,” “Flashdance” and “Basic Instinct.” He joined us for the 4th stop of the College Tour at Cleveland State University.
AN EMIGRANT from Hungary, Eszterhas has written 14 movies and several books including “American Rhapsody,” “Charlie Simpson’s Apocalypse” (nominated for the National Book Award in 1975) and “13 Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State.”
Prior to his career in Hollywood, he was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine and a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
A lifelong smoker, Joe was diagnosed with throat cancer a couple of years ago and lost most of his larynx. Now he has a new mission: Stopping Hollywood from glamorizing smoking. In a recent editorial in The New York Times, Eszterhas wrote “A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star onscreen is a gun aimed at a 12- or 14-year-old.”
As one who glamorized smoking in his own movies, Eszterhas admits complicity in the deaths of untold numbers of human beings. In that same editorial, he made a deal with God: “Spare me, I said, and I will try to stop others from committing the same crimes I did.”
We’ll spend the hour with Eszterhas discussing his new crusade, who’s on board and how Hollywood is responding to it. A political observer as well, Joe will give his thoughts on the Bush administration and Hollywood, post 9/11. Join us for this unforgettable night.
Hardball with Chris Matthews and Joe Eszterhas will air live at 9 p.m. ET/8 CT from Cleveland State University, Waetjen Auditorium. The show is free and open to the public. The Waetjen auditorium is located in the Music and Communications Center on the campus of Cleveland State University, 2001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio. Click here to visit the Web site.
Cleveland Plain Dealer article
A recent editorial
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READ THE COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT TO OCT. 9 AT CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITYCHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I’m Chris Matthews from Cleveland State University. Tonight the HARDBALL “College Tour”. For a full hour the Hollywood screenwriter behind “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” on the fast track, living the fast track and now saying he has blood on his hands. Joe Eszterhas, our guest tonight. I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s play HARDBALL.
Well, it’s a sick coincidence, but I lost my voice to come to interview you.
JOE ESZTERHAS, HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITER: Well I know you’re a really gracious host, but you didn’t have to go this far to make my voice stronger than yours.
MATTHEWS: Well we’re both going to sound like Wolfman Jack tonight.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about - I want to talk about you for a second here. Here’s a fellow, one of the greatest screenwriters, certainly the best paid in the history of Hollywood. You wrote “Basic Instinct,” a great movie, I thought, but “Jagged Edge” was even better - I love that movie. “Showgirls” metza-metza (ph), amazing career in Hollywood ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Metza-metza (ph).
MATTHEWS: And then - yes and then - and then you learned something about life and death when you got cancer, throat cancer. We’re going to talk about that and movies and cigarette smoking and going back to Bette Davis. Why Hollywood has killed so many movie stars with cigarette smoking, with the romanticization of it from John Wayne to Humphrey Bogart, all those people had cancer, died of it, and sold cigarettes their whole career.
I want to talk about your crusade against that tonight. Let’s take a look at it tonight, HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has this report on the showbiz life and career of our great guest tonight, Joe Eszterhas.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you have watched the movie “Basic Instinct,” it’s a scene you will never forget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There’s no smoking in this building Ms. Trammel (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do, charge me with smoking?
SHUSTER: The script was classic Joe Eszterhas, intelligent, steamy and provocative. At one time, Eszterhas was Hollywood’s highest paid writer, illiterate rock and roll bad boy whose 14 films glorified sex, drugs ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doing some of the finest cocaine in the world, darling. You want some?
SHUSTER: ... and cigarettes. Eszterhas also fought publicly with producers and politicians. In 1995 he argued that some of the misdeeds of the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations were more obscene than anything in an “R” rated movie. At the time Eszterhas was publicly encouraging teenagers to get a fake I.D. so they could sneak in to see his movies, “Showgirls”. “Showgirls” may have been on an on screen fantasy about Las Vegas and naked women, but Eszterhas’ life off screen wasn’t that different.
NAOMI ESZTERHAS: He just had limitless energy. His energy was fueled by alcohol and cigarettes. He’d be ready to go to Pinks (ph) and get a hot dog at 4:00 in the morning, you know, and I was wanting to have been in bed six hours before that.
SHUSTER: Eszterhas didn’t just promote and live a hard partying life, he did it proudly, and he adamantly defended it in the face of critics like Senator Joe Lieberman. When Al Gore picked Lieberman to be his running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign, Eszterhas wrote “Joe Lieberman frightens me. Why should we, an Hollywood voter, donate money to a man who threatens our creative freedom, our freedom of expression.”
But two years later, all that has changed, thanks to Eszterhas’ life-threatening battle with throat cancer. This summer he announced in “The New York Times” that he and Hollywood had blood on their hands and now Eszterhas is crusading to stop Hollywood’s glamorization of smoking.
I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We’re doing this show tonight, Joe, because you’re a real person and a real country, you’re not a politician and I want to quote something from you.
“I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings.” Explain.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well I’ve written a lot of movies with smoking, and the
some of those movies absolutely gloried in the smoking and I wasn’t concerned when I wrote them who would see them and how those movies would especially affect young people. As a matter of fact, I think I was a militant smoker, and I felt hemmed in by a wall of political correctness and I think I purposely and militantly put the smoking scenes in the movies, and of course I wonder now the greatest end because of the nightmare that I’ve been through for the past 18 months, what those movies did and whether they turned any young people especially on to smoking.
MATTHEWS: You know, your screenwriting, you’ve always talked about the charm of evil.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: “Jagged Edge”, “Basic Instinct” ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... the beauty of evil ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... inside that is hell.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: What’s the charm of smoking a cigarette? Let’s start-how did Hollywood create that charm?
J. ESZTERHAS: Well the-first of all, the charm of smoking a cigarette from the point of view of the people who smoked them, and I was one of those people for many, many years, is an amazing pleasure and a hit that some people say, and I’ve never done heroin, but some people say that it rivals the heroin hit, so there is that pleasure. The-it kills you the same way that heroin kills you.
And what Hollywood has done through the years is glamorized it even more, made it sexy, made it sensuous, and dwelled on those pleasure aspects, completing ignoring the fact that Hollywood as an industry, was pointing the gun at young people - pointing a gun at them when they were 12 to 14 years old knowing that that gun would go off in 40 to 50 years as it has with me and ...
MATTHEWS: Why does Hollywood - I mean do movies get sold by cigarettes or do cigarettes get sold by movies? Which is it?
J. ESZTERHAS: Do you mean why does Hollywood ...
MATTHEWS: Put guys smoking cigarettes? I see it all the time now.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well that’s a very complicated question. The part of the answer is that in the olden days, of course, cigarette companies would pay to have their product advertised in movies and to have actors smoke cigarettes. Now ...
MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... cigarette companies ...
MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan used to do it.
J. ESZTERHAS: Now the cigarette companies claim that they don’t do that anymore, although it certainly makes you wonder a bit when an independent production like “In The Bedroom”, you know, seems to focus constantly on Marlboros and almost it turns into a Marlboro ad, whether there was any money exchanged. There’s certainly no evidence for it. A lot of people ...
MATTHEWS: Cissy ...
MATTHEWS: ... Cissy Spacek ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... smoked all through that movie.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes she did, and you even had setup shots, very lighted shots ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... with the packs of cigarettes moving (ph), so it makes me wonder. But I don’t think the main issue is that. I think the main issue is that a lot of the stars today are very addicted, and they simply feel more comfortable smoking as they act. The other possibility is it may be as simple as Bette Davis had a phrase that called it “cigarette smoking acting” ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... where actors always loved props ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... and-so instead of a hat or an umbrella, they feel really comfortable with a cigarette as a prop.
MATTHEWS: It was like an aphrodisiac. They would say let’s have another cigarette on that ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) great scenes, and they’d blow smoke in each other’s face ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... and that was considered sexy.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes. The - you know anyone I think who - that would go through a cancer ward and would see the result of what smoking does, would never, ever think of smoking is sexy again.
MATTHEWS: I’m going to ask a question now. I hope the cameras can catch people now, but I’ll do it verbally, too. How many people here smoke cigarettes? Applaud.
MATTHEWS: How many people got the idea that cigarette smoking was sexy and cool growing up as a teenager watching movies and celebrities smoke?
MATTHEWS: First question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Eszterhas, I’m wondering about, as a nurse myself, that we also have concerns about alcoholism, also about drug abuse, and that use on the screen. But as a movie buff, you also have people doing that for the characterization of the person they’re playing. I mean I can’t imagine Sharon Stone in that movie sitting there having a glass of soy milk, and for us to get that same reaction from her, that same sexuality, what happens when we take away all these vices and then we’re looking up at the screen at characters who are basically clean and maybe don’t have anything about them that we can relate to?
J. ESZTERHAS: I’m not suggesting at all that we take away all of the characters’ vices. I am suggesting that this particular vice is so insidious, so nefarious, and so deadly that simply by glamorizing it or poisoning our young adults, and I think it’s a very separate category, but in no way am I suggesting that we move on from banning smoking in movies to banning drinking, you know, or whatever else we want to do.
MATTHEWS: How imitative are people of movies generally? I mean I talked to you about this before. All Hollywood endings - the bad endings have to be the bad guys to be falling about 50 stories to his death and you have to see his eyeballs as he goes to his doom.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: It’s no good to shoot a guy anymore. It’s not enough.
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Nobody is throwing anybody off of buildings after seeing these movies, but they are smoking after seeing some good-looking celebrity smoke.
J. ESZTERHAS: Right.
MATTHEWS: So what’s the difference?
J. ESZTERHAS: Well ...
MATTHEWS: Why-is that the handiest way to pretend you’re in a movie?
J. ESZTERHAS: The-one of the odd things that’s going on with smoking these days is that in the ’90s, smoking at movies in the ’90s, there were more movies showing smoking than there were in the ’60s. You know the — and of course, that’s at a time when smoking numbers generally the population have gone way down, so you ask yourself why, and I don’t really know the answer to that.
I think that Hollywood is sort of guilty of having a moral blind eye on this subject. While at the same time, you know, being involved in a lot of liberal causes and being involved very militantly, Hollywood is, in fact, guilty of helping to addict people to smoke.
MATTHEWS: Joe ...
MATTHEWS: ... 30 seconds, but give me a picture of what you think the Hollywood people watching this show right now are saying about you and your crusade.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well I was in L.A. a week ago, and I talked to a lot of people, and I was surprised by how warm the response was, and I’ll get into it later if you want, even among studio heads, who said they really, we do have to do something about this.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well that’s an interesting point. We’re going to come back in just a minute after this break. We’re going to have Naomi Eszterhas is going to be joining us with Joe, her husband, and the question I have to ask both of them is, is there really such a thing as Hollywood values, or is that term an oxy moron to begin with?
You’re watching HARDBALL and the “College Tour” at Cleveland State University.
MATTHEWS: On the next HARDBALL “College Tour”, John McCain, he’s a maverick whose first job is senator, but his second job seems to be making life difficult for the president. Is he going to challenge Bush in 2004? We’ll find out when he joins us on the next HARDBALL “College Tour”.
ANNOUNCER: Wednesday night at 9:00 on America’s news channel, MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let’s find out what some of the best minds in America have to say.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with Joe Eszterhas, and we’re joined by Naomi. I want you to have a chance to jump right in here (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Your husband was this incredible guy, according to the thing we just saw from David Shuster. He was out until 4:00 in the morning looking for hot dogs. He had energy. He was on booze. He was on cigarettes. He was hyped up and then something happened. What was it? What was it like?
N. ESZTERHAS: He’s still an incredible guy, and he has lived 10 lifetimes in my one lifetime. He’s a fascinating person. So none of that is gone.
MATTHEWS: He hasn’t gotten boring.
N. ESZTERHAS: No, not at all. If anything, I would say he has more energy. Maybe he burned really bright and then he would burn out, and now he’s always got energy for walks or for the children or for jumping in the car for an ice cream at 9:00 at nigh, and it’s a different direction of his energy, but he’s still just as much fun.
MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about Hollywood, the world you live in professionally. You’re coming out against drugs, against cigarette smoking because it gets kids to smoke cigarettes. It gets them habit-formed and on their way to death, as you put it. Are you ready to take on the rest of Hollywood sins or not, like booze and sex and violence and drugs?
J. ESZTERHAS: Listen, there are certainly a lot of sins to be taken on. To take on smoking and movies is a weighty enough thing, I think, and it’s one I’ve experienced, and it’s what’s caused me to live in-with my voice maimed for the rest of my life. So I will focus on smoking in movies and with the amount of time that I have left in the world, I will do the best I can to stop smoking in movies and also to help people stop smoking, just normal ordinary people who may need help.
MATTHEWS: What about the idea that people would say you’re trying to censor movies because if, as somebody pointed out, the first question, bad girls smoke cigarettes and you show bad girls in the movies like in “Basic Instinct”, and they’re not smoking, you’re not being true to life.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well you know that assumes that all bad girls smoke. I don’t think so. I’ve been around a lot of bad girls who don’t smoke, you know, so I think it’s easy to put a cigarette into, you know, into anyone’s hands and say, well that makes them a bad boy or a bad girl. There are many more creative ways from a writerly point of view to do that ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... than simply with a cigarette.
MATTHEWS: Isn’t Hollywood - and I love movies - a lot of it about a big lie? James Bond walks down a hallway, picks up a stewardess, a flight attendant, I should say ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Right.
MATTHEWS: ... and hauls her into a closet, has sex with her, comes out two minutes later with his pants on, everything’s regular. She’s not pregnant; no disease problems. She just goes back and whistles a tune and walks back to work.
MATTHEWS: I mean that is not what happens in life. I mean women get knocked up in these situations, diseases are transferred, things happen. People - Hollywood doesn’t talk about how bad cigarette smells when it smells like they wake up in bed with somebody who has been smoking the night before.
I mean it doesn’t - I want to get back to the thing you did, because I’m reading your biography; it’s fabulous. Every time you made a movie, you fought with the director or the producer over the ending.
J. ESZTERHAS: Right.
MATTHEWS: What kind of endings did you try to sell? Because it gets to the point here ...
J. ESZTERHAS: Well ...
MATTHEWS: ... true endings or happy endings?
J. ESZTERHAS: No I always try to do true endings and that’s where I got into trouble always because Hollywood wants to do happy endings.
MATTHEWS: Is that what they do with cigarettes? You light up a cigarette; it doesn’t smell. It’s sexy, and it disappears. There’s not even an ashtray in the movie.
J. ESZTERHAS: Sure.
MATTHEWS: There is no ash.
MATTHEWS: The cigarette disappears.
MATTHEWS: It’s magical, and you never say God, you smell like you’ve been smoking all day.
J. ESZTERHAS: They do the same thing that they do in the kind of action picture where you know 200 people are killed and then there’s no pain.
J. ESZTERHAS: Nobody suffers; they go down like ...
MATTHEWS: You said you didn’t like that.
J. ESZTERHAS: No. I think it’s terrible to show that to kids. It’s - I think you should - if you - if you do a piece where something violent happens and someone dies or is badly injured, you must show the pain. You must show how gruesome that death is ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... because if you don’t, then you turn into some kind of comic book and pain, then death, doesn’t have a consequence, and pain doesn’t have a consequence.
MATTHEWS: You’d rather see a really harrowing death ...
J. ESZTERHAS: That’s the way death is ...
J. ESZTERHAS: ... and then I think to put death on screen where it isn’t that turns it into comic book time and there I think by desensitizing an audience, you really do open the possibility that someone is going to kill ...
MATTHEWS: Let’s get to censorship. Joe Lieberman ran for president - now he’s made a number of back flips politically over the years. It’s hard to keep track of Joe Lieberman, but when he was in his crusading mode against the evils of Hollywood ...
J. ESZTERHAS: That’s why we were so ideally matched because a lot of people said it’s very hard to keep track of Joe Eszterhas. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conflict ...
MATTHEWS: So right now, do you think he was right to wage his short-term campaign against Hollywood accesses?
J. ESZTERHAS: No. The-what Lieberman was threatening censorship. What I’m arguing is that if the creative people in Hollywood themselves have a responsibility, have a moral responsibility in terms of smoking, not to show smoking in movies. The people who especially have it in my mind, Chris, who have all the power in Hollywood, who absolutely run the show are the movie stars. No one is going to tell a movie star to smoke or not smoke because they can do whatever they want ...
MATTHEWS: Got you. So they’re the boss.
J. ESZTERHAS: ... no matter who the director is, they are the boss.
MATTHEWS: So we’re talking to them tonight.
J. ESZTERHAS: And-yes, we are.
J. ESZTERHAS: We’re very much talking to them, and one of the things that I wanted to point out tonight, for example, is that women’s cancer rates are skyrocketing. And the-it is one of the true epidemics of our time.
MATTHEWS: Right. I’ve got to go Joe. My mother-in-law just died of lung cancer and didn’t smoke. I know about the problem.
We’re going to come right back. We’re at Cleveland State University right now with the HARDBALL “College Tour”. I’ve got a cold, as you can tell. I’m with Joe Eszterhas. We’re going to talk about his opinion of Rob Reiner and other Hollywood do-gooders and see how that’s changed.
Next week, by the way, the HARDBALL “College Tour” ...
MATTHEWS: ... Fordham University with Senator John McCain ...
MATTHEWS: We’re back with more HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: ... Cleveland State University. I’m with Joe Eszterhas. Joe, since you got the throat cancer, you have a change in different attitude about people like Rob Reiner?
J. ESZTERHAS: Absolutely. Before I would view Rob Reiner as this really annoying pest. Every time he’d come on TV or talking about smoking, I found my blood pressure go up. I just met-really met Rob for the first time last week and told him how much I admire him. He’s done more than anyone else in the industry.
If they gave a Nobel Peace Prize for work against big tobacco, not just in the industry, but also with the California tax initiative, he really deserves one. Other people have also done terrific work. Dr. Stan Clan (ph) at UCSF has made a campaign for years to go after Hollywood with smoking (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: We’re going to come back. We’re going to talk about-the doctors are joining us right now, right after this break, who saved Joe Eszterhas’ life basically. They’re going to be here to talk about the medical miracle that led to his recovery.
We’re also going to talk about - tomorrow night, by the way, we have the “Hot Seat”. Michael Klass (ph) from Cleveland State in the “Hot Seat”.
Back in a moment with HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s go back to school.
ANNOUNCER: The HARDBALL “College Tour”, the most powerful people, the toughest people and the toughest host, Chris Matthews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all due respect ...
MATTHEWS: No, you weren’t showing any respect, so let’s go on.
On the next HARDBALL “College Tour”, John McCain, he’s a maverick whose first job is senator, but his second job seems to be making life difficult for the president. Is he going to challenge Bush in 2004? We’ll find out when he joins us on the next HARDBALL “College Tour”.
ANNOUNCER: Wednesday night at 9:00 on America’s news channel, MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL “College Tour” is in Cleveland State University with Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. How cancer changed Joe’s life coming back, but first the latest news.
MATTHEWS: OK. I’m back here at Cleveland State University with Joe Eszterhas talking about his amazing story as a great Hollywood screen writer who has experienced throat cancer. We’re going to be hearing from his doctors. We’re going to be talking about what he thinks about President Bush, what he thinks a little bit about the war, and he’s written a lot about Bill Clinton. I love what he’s written about Clinton. It’s hilarious, Clinton as a rock star, which is the way we should remember him. Anyway, I have a cold tonight which is ironic but let’s look at this package about this medical miracle on Joe Eszterhas. Here’s David Shuster.
J. ESZTERHAS: You have the Hell’s Angels T-shirts.
DR. MARSHALL STROME, THE CLEVELAND CLINIC: No, you’ve got to provide me with the Hell’s Angels T-shirt. That’s what I need.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Eszterhas will never get away from his past. Two years ago when problems with his voice were dismissed by a Hollywood doctor, Eszterhas got a second look by a physician at the Cleveland Clinic.
J. ESZTERHAS: And he looked at it and said these aren’t nasal polyps.
You have cancer of the throat.
SHUSTER: Eszterhas faced the possibility of losing not just his voice but an ability to swallow. Life on a feeding tube had no appeal, so when a doctor here proposed a radical new surgery, Eszterhas embraced the idea.
Dr. Marshall Strome is the only person in the country to perform a successful larynx transplant. With Joe Eszterhas.
STROME: He was an incredibly driven patient.
SHUSTER: Strom tailored a larynx construction operation to remove the cancer and rebuild the voice box. This is Joe Eszterhas’ larynx before the surgery. This is the larynx afterwards.
DR. DOUG HICKS, THE CLEVELAND CLINIC: But you’ll notice that the tissue has a much healthier look. It’s a normal color pink, and it’s not as bumpy or gnarly as the previous picture.
SHUSTER: But the road to recovery has not been easy. At first, Eszterhas had to breathe through a tube like this in his trachea, even on the warmest summer days.
J. ESZTERHAS: All the flies and mosquitoes are swarming on to the trach because of the wetness on the wound. So I’m trying to get them away them and sucking in a mosquito occasionally. It was really a terrible moment.
SHUSTER: And Eszterhas still forces himself to walk five miles every day, to tamp down the strong urge to drink or smoke again.
J. ESZTERHAS: I began my addiction when I was 12 years old. By the time 40, 45 years later, when it, you know, it threatened my life and maimed me in terms of my voice, I was so addicted that I was smoking four packs of cigarettes a day.
SHUSTER: But now, his commitment to eradicating smoking in the movies is as strong as his addiction once was.
N. ESZTERHAS: I’ve seen Joe take on many battles, cancer being one of them, and the determination that he has, and he won’t stop, he’s not going to make one announcement and write one editorial and go away.
SHUSTER: And as long as Joe Eszterhas still has a voice, he promises that Hollywood will be hearing from him. I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Cleveland.
MATTHEWS: All right. We’re back. I guess that’s a reminder that we have a lot more to fear from cigarettes than we do from Saddam Hussein in our lifetimes, but I want to.
But I want to talk to Dr. Marshall Strom, thank you for joining us, Dr. Doug Hicks. I want to go back to you and have you start this conversation and the doctor. Run through your experience.
J. ESZTERHAS: The-after Dr. Strom did the surgery, the-I had a trach for about three months, and it was an absolutely nightmarish time because I had difficulty breathing with it. I sat and I told Dr. Strom as he was doing his surgery that if he did the surgery and if it worked, my part of the deal would be that I would quit smoking and drinking. I’ve done that 18 months after the fact. But boy, those first six months were really, really difficult for both things and what constantly drove me was that I loved-I-adore my wife, I have four little boys, I have two grown children and I want to see my grandchildren.
MATTHEWS: What was the hardest, to give up the booze or the cigarettes?
J. ESZTERHAS: Cigarettes, cigarettes were much tougher. Booze was tough And I had a real drinking problem before as we discovered in the hospital really, but the cigarettes are much tougher and to tell you the truth, Chris, it’s still day-to-day 18 months later and I’m very humble about having beaten these things so far, and I’ll take it day-to-day for the rest of my life.
MATTHEWS: Naomi, do you have memories of this?
N. ESZTERHAS: Well, I think one of the things that I was struck by was that Joe has the financial wherewithal to go check into some expensive clinic, go into rehab and beat these addictions but he didn’t. He sort of designed his own, you know, sort of rehabilitation at home. And anybody could do what he did. When he felt like having a cigarette after he ate, he would get up and walk. At cocktail hour when he used to have a drink and watch the news, he stopped watching the news. He couldn’t. He couldn’t watch the news and not have a drink and a cigarette. He would walk.
J. ESZTERHAS: I still watch HARDBALL though.
N. ESZTERHAS: He basically chose to live his life as another person for the people he loves because if he wanted to live it for himself, he would have continued drinking and smoking because I know how much I defended his right to do those things because of how much I loved him, and put my own children and myself at risk as well. And he, wanting to live for us, chose to live as someone else, and I think he still misses the person he used to be sometimes, but he’s getting to know himself again.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the patient.
STROME: The patient is incredible. The reality is that giving up smoking is very difficult. I have patients that have a stoma, a hole in their neck after their voice box is removed, you still see them putting a cigarette up to the hole and trying to suck in the smoke, so the addiction is extraordinary, and to be able to give up both at the same time is really a remarkable thing. And when Joe said he’d do it, both Doug and I said no way, yet he did do it.
MATTHEWS: Why did you ask him to make that commitment?
STROME: The considerations are that if you continue to smoke after you’ve had head and neck cancer, the likelihood of both recurrence are greater and second primaries within the head and neck are greater, so that if you don’t, you’re putting yourself at increased jeopardy.
MATTHEWS: By the way you’re at the Cleveland Clinic, world renowned, -
which is right next door here.
STROME: Is there anyplace else?
MATTHEWS: You’ve said it well. Dr. Hicks, what’s the prognosis for the patient, for Joe Eszterhas?
HICKS: Well, he’s talking about day-to-day and in fact that is the issue and you often hear the quotes that a five-year limit is the threshold for “cure.” The reality is that we’re 18 months out and even as that last piece where you saw the tissue, is really is remarkably healed and healthy looking. We monitor that on a regular basis. The prognosis is still a question mark, but he has invested the greatest potential for success by taking those two risk factors and essentially eliminating them.
MATTHEWS: From four-pack a day habit to no cigarettes at all.
MATTHEWS: Let’s go to the next question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, this is a question actually for Dr. Strome. We know that secondhand smoking is dangerous. Are you seeing more cases of exposure, people exposed to second hand smoking?
STROME: Yes, we are. It’s really interesting, Doug and I share a young man that at 20 years of age came to see us because the thought was that he had inflammatory change in his larynx. Never smoked a day in his life. We have a unique relationship and we share our patients and have an opportunity to look at their larynxes as you saw on the video. And when we looked at it, some of the subtleties suggested that rather than just be inflammation in a nonsmoker was probably cancer and the interesting thing about it was he told his mother when he was somewhere between five and eight years old, mommy, please stop smoking because you’re hurting me. If you smoke in a car with the windows closed and you have a child in that car, they’re smoking.
MATTHEWS: OK. Next question, please.
QUESTION: My neighbor has lung cancer, and they cut out the cancer and they put him on the patch and the pill and he has not been able to break his addiction. My question is, how did you help Mr. Eszterhas break his addiction?
MATTHEWS: How did you-the question was-go ahead. Ask it again.
QUESTION: How did you help Mr. Eszterhas break his addiction, did you put him on the patch and the pill, was it just cold turkey?
STROME??: No. You can take that one Joe.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well, the patch was a great help. The walks, you know, I don’t think I could have done it without the walks. I began with a mile, then two miles, and I went up to five miles and I essentially, every time that I felt some horrendous nicotine craving or an alcohol craving in the beginning, I would go for a walk. I would walk in the morning and at night simply to get myself tired a little bit. The cravings would be less intense if I was a little tired. Then I changed my diet completely. You know, I’m from Cleveland, so I’ve always loved sausage and red meat and all of that stuff, so now I find myself not eating any of that, no red meat, no sausage. It’s basically a vegetarian diet with a little bit of fish. I drink quarts of carrot juice, quarts of cranberry juice, endless amounts of water and nothing else. There is one other thing that I have to add, and that’s made it this possible for me, is I haven’t really spoken to God since I was a boy and I’ve rediscovered god and prayer in the process and all of that has come together.
MATTHEWS: OK. We’re going to have to come back in a moment with more with Joe Eszterhas. By the way, if you want to know more about this whole question of cigarette smoking and cancer, Cleveland Clinic’s Web site, clevelandclinic - it’s one word - dot org/hardball. I’m proud of that. We’ll be back with Joe Eszterhas on a general discussion in a moment (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: We’re at Cleveland State University. This is the best, most amazing stop. I think this night will stand out even on the “College Tour,” which was exciting to begin with. We don’t have a politician with us B.S.ing us. We have a real guy here who’s been to America, which separates him from a lot of politicians. He’s been here, and I think this thing is closer to a lot of people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You said something during the break about women, movie stars, great looking movie stars, women and cigarettes.
J. ESZTERHAS: I started making a point earlier that women’s cancer rates are skyrocketing, and we have some women movie stars, young women movie stars, who are smoking in many of their movies, and I don’t want to single names out tonight, but I do want to make a special appeal to women movie stars to, I think, have a special responsibility these days to stop it, not to do it up on screen because the example that’s being set is really an awful example.
MATTHEWS: And they’re encouraging women that they can stay skinny if they smoke, right?
J. ESZTERHAS: Yes. They are. And they’re doing it. There are some young women movie stars who are doing it everywhere, smoking in every movie, sometimes even with placements with a pack of cigarettes.
MATTHEWS: Do they get money for that?
J. ESZTERHAS: I don’t think they do Chris. I really don’t think - I don’t believe that they do. I think they do it because they are addicted and they don’t want to do what they do without the crutch of a cigarette nearby.
MATTHEWS: Next question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Actually, I had a question about the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
QUESTION: How do you explain the dissent in the Democratic party on the means and the whereabouts and, you know, whatever, about what we’re going to do to Saddam. Does it have anything to do with the doomsday scenario of Saddam attacking Israel with biological and chemical weapons, or is it more of a political game?
MATTHEWS: Well, that leaves a few other options I think, but go ahead.
J. ESZTERHAS: Forgive me, I’m still reeling from talking about a very different subject. I’ll pass back to you.
MATTHEWS: Well, I’ll pass. Do you want to take on this, Naomi?
N. ESZTERHAS: No thank you.
MATTHEWS: I think there are so many motives young man, so many motives about this I can’t tell you what people’s motives are, but I tell you, the Democrats are divided on this right down the middle. That’s a fact. Joe, what about, what do you think of George W. Bush?
J. ESZTERHAS: Well, the-I was.
MATTHEWS: We’re obviously not in Cincinnati, right?
J. ESZTERHAS: I was very skeptical when he began, and there have been moments where I think he’s shown absolute leadership, and I think the jury is out, still out. I haven’t made any final decisions on him, but I’ve been surprised at times. I agree with him about one thing absolutely-
George W. Bush said recently that he believed in prayer and exercise. So do I.
QUESTION: In keeping with the fiction that you apparently have penned about Bill Clinton as a rock star, you know, had all the Democratic thinking voters in Broward County removed their dangling chads and it was Al Gore in the oval office as opposed to George W., do you think we would be hearing as much saber rattling as we currently are?
J. ESZTERHAS: Forgive me, I didn’t hear your question?
QUESTION: If it were Gore as opposed to Bush in the White House today, do you think we would have as hawkish an attitude as we do as a country?
J. ESZTERHAS: Hawkish attitude toward.
MATTHEWS: Hawkish attitude towards Saddam Hussein I think he means.
J. ESZTERHAS: I’m not certain. There was the old Al. There was the new Al. There was the Al that was redone. There was.
MATTHEWS: We’ll be right back with Joe Eszterhas (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Joe Eszterhas. Let’s get the next question. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Eszterhas, I’d like to know if you’re going to be making any more films in Cleveland like “Telling Lies in America,” independent films.
J. ESZTERHAS: I’d like to. We did “Telling Lies” here and I’d certainly like to do other things here. We almost did “Flash Dance” here for your information. It was originally set here. And then one of the producers came and came through Cleveland, went to Pittsburgh, and said you’re out of your mind, we should do this in Pittsburgh, you know.
QUESTION: I have a personal reason because I had an opportunity to audition when my agent called me. I happened to be in Los Angeles at that time.
MATTHEWS: Next question. Let’s get another one in here quick, sir.
Young man, hit it up.
QUESTION: Chris, this question is for you. Since Bernie Goldberg’s book, along with Bill McAllen’s (ph) book.
MATTHEWS: Bill McGowan (ph)?
QUESTION: “Coloring the News.” What effect have those had on network news, especially regarding the big three anchors? Name some names and tell us what’s going on there.
MATTHEWS: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you think what you see on TV is prejudiced, it is. Follow your instincts. That’s all I can tell you. Joe, I want to ask you about Bill Clinton, a man who has captured your imagination in print. I loved your book, because it wasn’t anti-Clinton. It wasn’t exactly pro Clinton. I mean, you called him a rapist at one point. That’s not a big selling point, but I don’t know whether you were serious about that but give me your bottom line on this guy.
J. ESZTERHAS: Well, you know, he was the ultimate rock star as president. I don’t think as a result of his presidency we will ever have a rock star as president again. In the same way that we will never get involved in another Vietnam. You know we won’t have another rock star. Certainly on a political and a legislative level, he was effective, but the example that he ultimately left, I think for posterity, tragically, is going to begin with that single paragraph lead with the White House intern.
MATTHEWS: We’re now getting to be a gross-out about this. Isn’t it odd that the guy was politically correct in one particularly weird way. He never lit a cigar.
J. ESZTERHAS: Right.
MATTHEWS: I mean, it’s so weird if you think about the whole story. Not getting into it, but he would walk around at the golf course. He’d be riding around the golf course in the caddy car with an unlit cigar. I said what is it there for? Why don’t you light the damn thing or don’t have. It but then we know the history of cigars with him. It’s weird. What do you make of it?
J. ESZTERHAS: The subject here tonight is smoking and there’s no doubt in my mind that Bill Clinton will stop smoking cigars, will never smoke them again, as a result of what he did with that cigar.
MATTHEWS: Let’s get another question. One more from Cleveland State University.
QUESTION: Hi, Chris. Many people today say that current college students just don’t care or are not as involved in politics as past generations. This is your fourth college visit. Do you see evidence of this?
MATTHEWS: Right here. You care about something that’s real here. You came here to see a local hero and it’s this kind of public policy debate which is real, and unfortunately because of all this war talk, there’s not a lot of talk about public policy debates. You know, we’re still subsidizing-thank you. OK. I’m going to say good-bye tonight but please, the next time we come to Cleveland State, you’re number one. OK Joe, final thought.
J. ESZTERHAS: Please, I beg all of you here. You are bright, attractive young people. Don’t smoke. Don’t kill yourselves. Don’t maim yourselves. Tell your friends. Please don’t smoke.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Next week from Fordham University (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from New York City, Senator John McCain, the following week at Chapman College in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And tomorrow night on HARDBALL, Peter Bergen (ph) and coming up right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this weekend the “CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW.” You can see here in Cleveland. Anyway, ASHLEIGH BANFIELD’s coming up right now reporting tonight from Maryland where investigators continue to hunt for that sniper on the lose in my own neighborhood. Thank you all for joining us here at Cleveland State University (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
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