Guests: Jerry Jenkins, Tim La Haye, Bill Rancic
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Pop prophets of doom. They‘re the creators of the “Left Behind” series, America‘s top selling authors.
JERRY JENKINS, CO-AUTHOR, “LEFT BEHIND” SERIES: We believe in the Bible. We believe that it‘s true and that what the prophecies say will happen some day.
NORVILLE: How two true believers decided to spread the good word with fiction and became rich and famous in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise God!
NORVILLE: Why are one in eight Americans reading the “Left Behind” books? From the rapture to the bestseller list.
Tonight, Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins explain the secret of their success.
JENKINS: I think there‘s a God hunger out there.
NORVILLE: Plus how 15 minutes of fame can turn into a lifetime of notoriety. Best selling author Maureen Orth on the importance of being famous.
Case in point...
BILL RANCIC, “THE APPRENTICE” WINNER: This is a great place in the world to be right now.
NORVILLE: Can Bill turn his one season apprenticeship into a career?
Tonight, why are these people famous?
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening.
“Newsweek” magazine calls them arguably the most successful literary partnership of all time. Jerry Jenkins and Tim La Haye, the authors of the best selling “Left Behind” series of books, the biblical end of the world novels that are outselling Steven King and John Grisham.
They tell the stories of people who are left behind after the disappearance of millions of Christian believers, an event called The Rapture. Those left behind must endure seven years of tribulation with plagues, earthquakes and other disasters.
Joining me now are the pair who responsible for this best selling series, Jerry Jenkins and Tim La Haye, two men who work together but don‘t even live in the same cities.
It is nice to see you both. Congratulations.
TIM HAYE, CO-AUTHOR, “LEFT BEHIND” SERIES: Thank you. We‘re having a good ride.
NORVILLE: You are having a great ride. Sixty-two million copies of the series have been sold. What do you attribute it to, Mr. La Haye?
LA HAYE: I think it‘s a God thing. He just chose to get his message through these books.
And besides the times that we‘re in, of course, Jerry‘s excellent fiction. I don‘t do the fiction. I‘m a nonfiction writer. But Jerry takes my work-ups, and he makes them into excellent fiction.
But I think that there‘s a God hunger for knowing about the future. People are afraid, with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and they want to know what the Bible teaches about the future. And that‘s good, because the Bible has a lot to say about the future.
NORVILLE: But you know what‘s funny? I think if you go back in every generation since the book of Revelation was written, 90 years after the death of Jesus Christ, you will find people who can say, yes, this is the prophecy. These events that are taking place right now in the world are indeed the revelation being played out in modern times.
Jerry, why now? When so many other times in history have had equally awful things going on?
JENKINS: Well, it‘s true that for thousands of years, people have expected the return of Christ. And the scripture teaches that we‘re to live as if today could be the day, even if God waits in his mercy another thousand years.
Sometimes we think that maybe God will wait one more day. On his economy of time, that would be a thousand years.
We feel like there‘s more reason to believe that the return of Christ could be in this generation than any other. Because primarily, the return of the Jews to the state of Israel back in 1948.
That‘s—Dr. La Haye often refers to that as a super fulfillment of prophecy and everything is sort of heading toward an end.
We‘re not saying it will be today or tomorrow or even 10 years from now. We don‘t know. Nobody knows. But we‘re supposed to live as if it could be today.
NORVILLE: And one of the things about these books is you‘ve taken the biblical part of the book of Revelation, which Dr. La Haye, I gather you put on paper and then you ferry it off to Jerry. Explain to me, sir, how this collaboration works.
LA HAYE: It works partly because Jerry is a genius and he can almost think my thoughts. When he gets my work-up, somewhere between 50 and 100 pages of commentary and suggestions, and I give him charts and diagrams of what‘s going to take place.
But that‘s the unique feature of this. If you read the Bible literally, you‘ll find that it portrays essentially what we‘re saying. And so many of our readers read it and then they go back to the book of Revelation and say, “Oh, that‘s what it meant by this.”
And the key to understanding the Bible is taking it literally wherever you can.
NORVILLE: And Jerry, you then take the treatment, the ideas, the biblical stuff that Dr. La Haye puts together, and fictionalize it, create character that can act out these parts. And these are character that your readers have clearly become totally immersed in.
JENKINS: Yes. That‘s a very gratifying part of it, is that somehow the fiction seems to be working on an elemental level. People want to know what happens to the characters. They want to keep turning the pages.
I feel like I‘m putting as realistic as possible characters in the way of biblical events. And it‘s great to have someone like Dr. La Haye on the other end of the phone and to have his commentaries right in front of me when that‘s happening.
NORVILLE: You know, it‘s funny. When you look at what public attitudes right now—“Newsweek” magazine has done a survey. We should note that you guys are the cover boys of “Newsweek” this week, which is pretty exciting for you.
Seventy-four percent of Americans believe in Satan. And when you get down into the evangelicals, 17 percent believe that the end of the world is going to occur in their lifetime. That‘s pretty extraordinary.
What is that? One in six Americans think it‘s going to happen while they‘re alive.
LA HAYE: Well, the thing is you have to keep in mind that we‘re warned not to set any dates. So that‘s over that prohibition.
And the thing that‘s interesting to me is that people are afraid that things are winding down.
But it‘s not just Christians. Scientists look at this world and they say, the history, the end of history is rapidly approaching. I have a number of quotes from scientists that say they see no future for this world after maybe 25 or at most 50 years.
Well, I‘m not that doomsday oriented, because the Bible has an optimistic message about the future. And scripture says that people are destroyed by lack of knowledge. And I think people are made pessimistic by lack of knowledge of what the Bible plans for the future. Because God‘s plan for the future is really incredible.
NORVILLE: But when you look at your books, they‘re pretty—pretty depressing. I mean, you portray the Rapture, that period when Christian believers are suddenly snatched away and those left behind are the ones who are going to have to deal with the trials and tribulations. That‘s a frightening time.
And the new book, which is called “Glorious Appearing,” that‘s the final book in the series, is that moment just before the end of the story, the end of Revelation. And there‘s some pretty graphic and pretty unpleasant things that happen in here, Jerry Jenkins.
JENKINS: Yes, there really are. And sometimes I think people think that I made that part up. And actually, that‘s part of the prophecy.
We would all like to read the Bible and just take the parts we like and that sound really pleasant and where Jesus is teaching about love and getting along with each other. And we believe that. And we believe that God is a God of mercy.
But at some point, the scripture is clear. The prophecies say that God will run out of patience and will give this one last chance for people to turn to him and if they haven‘t, by the time of the rapture, then come the 21 judgments from heaven over the seven-year period.
And while those are very wrathful and horrible, our whole point is to say, look. We believe this is actually going to happen someday. We don‘t just want to scare people into the kingdom. But the fact is, if it‘s worth being afraid of, then they should fear it.
I mean, my wife and I raised three sons. We scared them about not playing in the street or playing by the gas grill or playing with electrical outlets. If there‘s something to be afraid of, people need to be afraid of it.
NORVILLE: So you think of yourself more as God‘s messenger, working through these novels that you‘ve written, than a novelist who happens to have selected a religious theme for his work?
LA HAYE: Definitely.
JENKINS: Yes, there‘s no...
NORVILLE: Jerry first. Jerry first and then you.
JENKINS: OK. There‘s no question that we have a message. From the day I met Dr. La Haye, he said he wanted to encourage people who agree with us and persuade people who don‘t. We knew full well we wouldn‘t persuade everybody.
But we want to get out there what we believe is the truth about the New Testament and the message of Christ. And what people do with it is up to them. We don‘t judge them or condescend or look down our noses at anybody who disagrees. We still love them and pray for them. We care about people, but we definitely have a message. There‘s no question.
NORVILLE: And you‘re taking that message, as well, into the cinema. There was a film made from the “Left Behind” series. And I‘d like to roll a clip of it. It comes from “Left Behind: Tribulation Force.”
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is only one person in history who fulfills all these prophecies. And his name is Jesus Christ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise God!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Dr. La Haye, it is kind of interesting to see you men who are doing God‘s work through your novels going Hollywood with the movie business.
LA HAYE: Well, that‘s the way of communication. You work in television. It‘s the most powerful assault on the human mind ever invented, because it combines the eye gate and the ear gate.
And we feel that it‘s important for us to use that medium to get to people with the truth.
But the thing that‘s important about all this, is the timing of the event. When the glorious appearing that you referred to a moment ago occurs, it‘s just at the end of the tribulation and before the millennial kingdom.
And you don‘t talk much about the millennial kingdom. That‘s a time of paradise. A thousand sear of prosperity, of peace, of incredible population growth. And it‘s all going to be a time of blessing.
And the importance of our book says you have to be ready at the very time that that takes place, or you‘ll miss that wonderful opportunity.
NORVILLE: The time has come for to us take advantage of the opportunity for a short commercial break, this being television. But when we come back, we‘ll talk more about the “Left Behind” series of books. My guests, Dr. La Haye and Mr. Jenkins, will be back with us.
NORVILLE: That‘s a scene from the “Left Behind” series.
“Tribulation Force,” which is based on the “Left Behind” series of books.
Continuing now with my guests, Dr. Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins, who are the authors of this incredibly popular series of books. Over 62 million books have been sold.
Gentlemen, I‘m curious. Who do you think your readers are? Are they people who are already Christian believers and just enjoy seeing the prophecies fictionalized in this way? Or are they people looking for a good read and this happens to be the book that they picked up at the bookstore?
JENKINS: Well, the demographic of our readership is really quite broad. We get people from all over the country, from all ages, both genders. And we have heard from more than 3,000 people who have told us that actually they‘ve become believers through reading these.
So we know that there is a vast general audience, as well. “The New York Times” doesn‘t count sales through Christian bookstores, and yet the last six titles of these have debuted No. 1.
So we know—And of course, there are Christians that are buying them in general markets. But there—there seems to be a huge crossover readership here.
NORVILLE: In that regard, Dr. La Haye, in some respect are you guys already preaching to the converted?
LA HAYE: No, I don‘t think predominantly. They‘re the one that get fired up on it. I had a pilot on the—in Chicago yesterday come up to me and introduce himself and say, “I‘m Rayford Steel.” And that‘s the command pilot of our series that‘s their hero. And he laughed because he was an avid reader.
But it‘s amazing to me how many flight crews are avid readers, and they pass it out. And these people get contagious. And I think the best way to sell books is to get readers contagious to where they give it or recommend to others. And that‘s one of the thing that we have going for us.
NORVILLE: I‘m curious about the book of Revelation itself.
Revelation was written by John about 90 years after the death of Christ.
And that was a time when Christians were being terribly persecuted.
Ghastly things were happening to them because of their faith.
And I gather, and you‘re the minister there, Dr. La Haye, that the book of revelation was intended to reassure Christians that, as bad as it was during this terrible period, there was a wonderful life yet to come. Is that a fair assessment?
LA HAYE: I would say you‘re exactly right. God was telling them that they were going through tribulation. We‘ve always had tribulation.
The tribulation, of course, that Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 is yet to come. It‘s the worst time that has ever come or ever will be. And that is yet to come.
After that, if you hang on, those that endure to the end, will be saved. And the opportunity for eternity and the blessings of God, because of those who received Christ personally, and depend upon him. It‘s just immeasurable.
NORVILLE: And yet it can be twisted. And I want to ask but the Branch Davidian cult and David Koresh, who preached an apocalyptic message to his followers, all about the seven seals and the apocalypse and the doomsday to come.
I‘d like to hear your comment about that, Dr. La Haye.
LA HAYE: Well, Jerry is right when he talked about the three kinds of judgments: the sealed judgments, the trumpet judgments and the vial judgments. And they fixated on the seal judgments, and they only got an incomplete story. And then they distorted it.
And you see they didn‘t take the seal judgments literally. They allegorized them and spiritualized them. And if you do that, you can come up with a thousand different meanings for the book.
The book of Revelation was intended for us to take and accept it literally wherever possible, unless it gave an indication that it was to be taken symbolically. And then if you study the context, you‘ll find the reason or the purpose of that symbol.
NORVILLE: And yet, Jerry Jenkins, if you take book of Revelation literally and take the words that you have scripted in your stories literally, one is to believe that if you are not a believer, no matter what religious faith you may practice, if you do not believe as those in your book do, you are doomed to eternal damnation.
That‘s a pretty harsh assessment. A lot of people have trouble dealing with that.
JENKINS: It‘s a very harsh assessment, and it‘s a very fearful thing. And if we‘re true believers and true evangelicals, you know, the definition of an evangelical is one who tells good news. Part of the good news is knowing the bad news.
And our fear is that many people that we respect and admire and love and who are good people—I‘ve often said that some of the people who go are not as nice as the people who are left behind. Because it‘s not about being nice or being a good person. It‘s about whether you have faith in Christ for your salvation.
And we don‘t understand why it is that way. The fact is Jesus himself said he was the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the father but through him.
That‘s something that people need to know about. Whether they agree with it or not, that‘s up to them and between them and God, what happens to them in the end. But we just feel that it‘s important to get that message out.
NORVILLE: You talked about evangelical Christians. In the last election, something like 40 percent of George Bush‘s votes came from the Christian right, those evangelicals who voted republican, voted the conservative side of the ticket.
I want to play an excerpt from a debate during the 2000 campaign when George Bush was asked about his faith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Bush, a philosopher, thinker. And why?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Christ. Because he changed my heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the viewer would like to know more on how he has changed your heart.
BUSH: Well, if they don‘t know, it‘s going to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: It may not have been the most complete expression of what George Bush‘s Christian faith has done for him, but it certainly underscores that that is an important part of his life.
And I wonder, gentlemen, given the success of your books, have you seen the political front coming to you and asking for your support in this campaign or others?
Dr. La Haye?
LA HAYE: Not any more than usual. When you get to this time, Christian leaders are often asked to encourage Christians to get out to vote. And that‘s constitutional. It‘s patriotic.
And I think one of the problems of our society for the last 50 years has been the pacifism idea of Christians that they were not involved in political things.
Then they‘re waking up to the fact that thinking that they can just turn civic affairs over to the nice civic-minded people, who would lead the country to a nice resolution. And instead, it is leading us into moral depravity.
What we need is both parties to have more people that are committed to Christian values.
NORVILLE: And finally, last question for you, Jerry Jenkins, does it worry you that some people think you and Dr. La Haye have all the answers?
JENKINS: It does worry me. Although usually when we hear that, it‘s from somebody else who is afraid that another person feels that way. I haven‘t heard from too many people directly who say, you know, “We took your books as gospel.”
We don‘t claim to be writing holy writ. We study the scriptures as carefully as possible. Dr. La Haye has been studying this for longer than I‘ve been alive. And he, you know, is a careful student. I was raised in this tradition and believe it.
But we want people to go to the Bible and check that out. Go back to their church and make sure that anything we say lines up with scripture.
NORVILLE: Sixty-two million people have bought these books. I dare say a lot of them have gone back to the scripture, just to check and see if your books jive with what they read in the Bible.
Jerry Jenkins, Tim La Haye, congratulations on the tremendous success you‘ve had, and thanks so much for being with us. The final in the series is called “Glorious Appearing.” Good to see you both.
LA HAYE: Thank you.
JENKINS: Thank you.
NORVILLE: When we come back, if you think Americans are obsessed with the “Left Behind” books, there‘s a different kind of obsession we‘re going to talk about in a moment. Can you say 15 minutes of fame? That‘s next.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, whether they‘re famous or infamous, America can‘t seem to get enough of them. Best-selling author Maureen Orth on the importance of being famous, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: My first guest, the authors of the best selling “Left Behind” series of books, have become rich, thanks to their fiction about the so-called End Times, a pretty sobering subject. As such, they‘ve hit it big because of their accomplishments.
Then there‘s Paris Hilton, Scott Peterson, Monica Lewinsky, Omarosa, and the list goes on, all of whom are famous for some other reason. We know the names. But why? What does it take to become a bold-faced name in today‘s time?
In her new book, “The Importance of Being Famous,” author and “Vanity Fair” special correspondent Maureen Orth pulls back the curtain on how the fame industry cranks out celebrities and says it ain‘t what it used to be.
Joining me now is Maureen Orth. Congratulations on the book.
MAUREEN ORTH, AUTHOR, “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FAMOUS”: Thank you.
NORVILLE: You coined a term: the celebrity industrial complex. What in the world is that?
ORTH: Well, it‘s part of where we are right now: 24/7, 24 hours, seven days a week news cycles. A very wired world. Huge media companies that have publishing and cable and network.
And then you‘ve got the people who the camera is focusing on. And they have a huge entourage of people handling them. You now have stylists having publicists.
And there is—there is such a proliferation of places where people can be noticed that people are really being noticed now for things other than talent.
NORVILLE: But people are being noticed that never caught your eye before.
ORTH: Absolutely not.
NORVILLE: Once upon a time, you had to be somebody like Charles Lindbergh, you know to fly across the Atlantic alone in an airplane. Do something no one had ever done.
ORTH: Look what happened to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback, turned in a magnificent performance, and all anybody ever talked about was Janet Jackson bearing her breast.
NORVILLE: And do you think those kinds of acts are accidental or calculated?
ORTH: I think they‘re very calculated. I think if you look, for example, Britney Spears—Madonna kissing Britney Spears at the music awards.
And then what does Britney do when she has a new album out? Well, she gets married for 55 hours.
So what‘s Janet Jackson going to do? Well, I guess she‘s got to show everybody her breast at the Super Bowl.
NORVILLE: And had there not been the hue and cry from that, are you fearful what the next step in the ratcheting up would have been?
ORTH: Yes, I—I really do. I wonder. I wonder, you know—The old movie network where the guy gets killed on camera and says, “I‘m mad as hell and I‘m not going to take it anymore?”
Well, honestly, that movie really is describing what we‘re going through right now.
NORVILLE: And it‘s funny. When “Network” came out in 1976, a lot of people looked at the Faye Dunaway character, it could never get that bad.
And Sybil the Soothsayer has her own television program now.
ORTH: It‘s amazing. It really is. And I think what happens—it‘s a much more serious issue—is that when you have this focus on so much on celebrity, it really crowds out more serious issues.
The whole run-up to the war in Iraq was taken over by Scott and Laci Peterson and Michael Jackson.
NORVILLE: And I remember thinking after September 11 happened, wondering if we in the news media hadn‘t been so focused on O.J. Simpson, on Michael Jackson, on Monica Lewinsky...
ORTH: Monica Lewinsky.
NORVILLE: ... that we neglected to tell the world about Osama bin Laden, to let people know there were entire groups of people who hated our guts and wanted to kill us.
ORTH: I think so much today, even in serious news—look at the way the Pentagon promoted and used Jessica Lynch to promote the war and get everybody to support it.
Here was a little girl from a country town who didn‘t even fire her gun, it turns out. And so when it came time for the big book to come out, nothing that was true about what she had really done—what did they say? She might have been raped.
So they were using rape as a marketing tool. But this is done not just in show business. It is being done by our own government.
NORVILLE: Well, and that was the point of the Jessica Lynch story, that the Pentagon held her up to be the hero.
ORTH: The heroine.
NORVILLE: And she had no role to play in that part of it.
ORTH: Not at all. And she was very brave in her recovery. But she was the subject of this dramatic rescue.
And it was only the foreign media who began to question the story. And nobody tried to correct it. It was on the front page of “The Washington Post.” They didn‘t correct their story for two months.
NORVILLE: Are the American media too culpable? Are we too willing to believe the great pat story and not willing to do the digging?
I think there should be a lot more investigative reporting. My book is 15 profiles of everybody from Madonna to Margaret Thatcher to Vladimir Putin, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson. I have done a lot of investigative reporting to say, who are these people without the spin, without the hype? What are they really like?
And I think it‘s much easier if you cover scandal and just let the celebrities take over than it is to do the real drag, the real footwork of real reporting.
NORVILLE: It is also easier to cover these celebrity, scandal, legal stories because once someone has sworn a deposition, you‘re kind of off the hook as a reporter. Well, it is a sworn deposition.
NORVILLE: They said this under oath. I couldn‘t possibly be held responsible if it turns out to be a bald-faced lie.
ORTH: Well, the other thing is, is that the people like Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant, who can afford big—time lawyers, they are the people who talk and talk and talk and blah, blah, blah, in front of the camera and the mikes all the time. They‘re hired for how good they are in front of the camera.
And the whole idea is to completely shred the accuser, because if you can‘t shred the accuser and make the accuser just seem like a dirtbag, then how are you going to maintain your economic viability as a star?
NORVILLE: Let‘s talk about the Michael Jackson case and just use that as the example. Michael Jackson has been the subject of at least four reports that you‘ve put together for “Vanity Fair.”
NORVILLE: God knows how many hours of television screen time he‘s occupied, whether he‘s dangling babies or being accused of horrible things with children.
NORVILLE: And yet we continue to report. Who is really responsible? What is the epicenter of this? Is it the media because Michael is such an odd looking person to put on the screen that we just fixate, it is like a car crash, you want to look it at? Or is it the reader who can‘t get enough?
ORTH: Well, then you have to ask the question, if somebody who is raised on cotton candy, why do they like cotton candy, if that‘s all they‘ve been given?
Now, MTV has a show, “I Want a Famous Face.” All these kids are growing up thinking that somehow—they see all these people who think their lives are going to be transformed so they can look like somebody famous. I think the media has some responsibility here. But I also think parents have a responsibility to give their kids values. Why do they let their kids look at somebody like Paris Hilton, who got really famous because she made a sex tape?
NORVILLE: And the message of the story is, look how well she‘s doing now. How are you going to tell a kid...
NORVILLE: It‘s like the kid who grows up in the ghetto and you tell him not to be a runner for the drug guy.
NORVILLE: Go work for at McDonald‘s for 5 bucks an hour instead.
NORVILLE: Paris Hilton gets busted on the Internet in this outrageous tape. And now she‘s making how many millions of dollars a year?
ORTH: And there have always been sort of rich girls with attitudes that America has liked. But really, the idea that she‘s being held up as any kind of a model—I don‘t think it is too far a leap to think some of those things that went on in Abu Ghraib prison are a result of people thinking that all of this kind of stuff, if the rich and famous get to do it, well, then why can‘t I?
NORVILLE: So should we in the media, in your opinion, not do these stories? Because you know someone is going to.
ORTH: I‘m in the media, too, you know.
NORVILLE: I know, collective we.
ORTH: I think we should do the stories. But I think, if you‘re going to show Michael Jackson‘s baby dangling over and over again or jumping on the hood of an SUV, why don‘t we talk about how his image is being manipulated or why don‘t we talk about pedophilia? If we‘re going to do Laci Peterson up to here, why don‘t we talk about domestic violence and get past just the easy way of doing the story?
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, more with Maureen Orth. The book is called “The Importance of Being Famous.” It is a collection of some of the biggest names that have been in the papers and magazines.
More in just a moment.
NORVILLE: We‘re talking about fame and what is it like to go from obscurity to instant celebrity. Bill from “The Apprentice” will be with us shortly.
ON SCREEN: “Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.”
NORVILLE: That‘s an interesting quote from Emily Dickinson. Some say that it rings true.
I‘m joined again about by Maureen Orth. She‘s the author of “The Importance of Being Famous.”
I‘m curious, why did you even write this book? It‘s kind of like biting the hand that feeds you, in a sense.
ORTH: I was assigned to do the Laci Peterson case by “Vanity Fair.” And so, when I got out there, I saw all the huge satellite trucks of the TV satellite trucks. And they made so much noise that there was a constant roaring of their generators around the courthouse in this sleepy agricultural town near where I grew up in California, Modesto, California.
ORTH: And then there were all these white tents where all the media talking heads were. And so this whole media bazaar was so crazy and different than the small, controlled picture you saw. And then I went to the Laci Peterson memorial. And her family had more white limos than I remember covering Elvis‘ funeral. And her family has a grief counselor/media booker and a huge entourage of people to keep the whole thing going.
So I decided, you know what? The American public ought to know what‘s going on behind the scenes of these big TVs.
NORVILLE: It‘s funny. Those confabs are called satellite beach in TV talk.
NORVILLE: But you‘re right. We never widen out the shot and show more than just the guy standing there.
ORTH: And the most interesting thing was, Chandra Levy is also from Modesto. And her parents were around at that time. And her mother knocked on a satellite door one day and asked if she could read a poem. And everybody would have killed to have Ms. Levy on the year before. But they told her no.
NORVILLE: But that speaks to the news cycle.
NORVILLE: It change so much more quickly.
ORTH: You‘re there. You‘re gone.
NORVILLE: Monica Lewinsky is another one that you speak about in your book and really sort of encapsulates the whole notion of being famous for being famous.
Well, there‘s certainly nothing she‘s ever done to her credit to be famous. And her actions precipitated two years, practically, of nonstop media attention. At the time, there was this whole threat of terrorism.
NORVILLE: And that‘s become almost what the media bosses want. You tell an interesting story about the days when you were a “Newsweek” reporter. Elvis Presley goes and dies down in Tennessee and you had to beg them to let you cover it.
ORTH: Exactly. “The New York Times” gave Elvis‘ death one paragraph.
I think “People” magazine gave it less than half a page.
And I did. And when I wrote about he may not have died from a heart attack, there might have been some drugs present, people were outraged.
NORVILLE: And that would never happen today.
ORTH: Not at all, not even close. It would be nonstop, 10 days straight, about the death of the king.
NORVILLE: And there are also very few safeguards or boundaries about which one doesn‘t report. And you have in your book the story of Dame Margot Fonteyn.
NORVILLE: The incredible dancer who...
ORTH: Well, I also have a story—yes, I will talk about it.
ORTH: But I have the story of Elizabeth Smart. That was the one place where you thought the media was backing off because she was such a beautiful young girl who obviously had been sexually abused. And so what happens? Her parent come forward and decide they wanted to put out their own movie saying that they‘re going to tell their truth. And then little Elizabeth asked why she couldn‘t star in the movie herself.
NORVILLE: And what does that tell you?
ORTH: Well, what does it tell you? A lot of parents out there have values that aren‘t exactly what I would consider the right way to be teaching their kids.
NORVILLE: So you think the Smarts have handled this completely wrongly?
ORTH: Well, I don‘t think they needed to come out. Why didn‘t they just leave it alone and let the girl recover from whatever it is that happened to her?
NORVILLE: Have you ever in your reporting felt the need to say to someone, don‘t talk to me; don‘t let your child participate?
ORTH: There are times when I have explained to people what the consequences of their action would be.
But when you started to talk about Dame Margot Fonteyn, she was a great ballerina. She danced for years and had thousands of roses at her feet every night of her life. And she—I found her in this little farm in Panama with a tin roof over her. And she was married to a Panamanian politician who had become paralyzed through an assassination attempt. And he was a very difficult guy.
NORVILLE: But she put up with it.
ORTH: Through thick and then.
And she—when he died, his young mistress committed suicide. I thought so much of Margot Fonteyn, who told me that she would never change anything, that she had grown up in the empty hotel room and she never wanted to go back there. And so I didn‘t put it in about the mistress committing suicide. But I don‘t think I could have gotten away with that today.
NORVILLE: Why do you think so many people are so desperate for their 15 minutes?
ORTH: I think they see—I think they learn so much about what they think is important in terms of consumption and having the good life. They think it is what is being brought to them and shoved into their faces all the time on television. And you‘ve got to have other things counter that in your own life to make sure you don‘t believe it.
NORVILLE: But there‘s also a lot of money that goes along with it.
ORTH: Oh, absolutely.
NORVILLE: These tabloid celebs become wealthy in the process.
ORTH: Well, one of the reasons I think that you have to keep getting more extreme and more sexual and more violent to get noticed is because you do only have a much shorter period of time in order to make it. And so if you don‘t do something totally crazy, then it is pretty hard to get noticed.
NORVILLE: Well, we‘re going to have a short break here.
When we come back, we‘re going to be joined by a man who didn‘t take his clothes off, who didn‘t do anything outrageously sexy. He simply won “The Apprentice.” In just a moment, we‘re going to continue our conversation with Maureen Orth and we‘ll be joined by Bill Rancic, the man who won “The Apprentice” competition. And we‘ll talk about what it‘s like to have instant fame.
Back in a moment.
NORVILLE: Back in the 1970s, pop icon Andy Warhol predicted that everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. Today, that is increasingly becoming a reality and it is lasting a lot longer for some folks than 15 minutes, as unknowns become instant celebrities.
For instance, take Bill Rancic, the winner of NBC‘s “The Apprentice.”
He joins me now to talk about the phenomenon of instant celebrity.
It‘s good to see you again, Bill.
BILL RANCIC, WINNER OF “THE APPRENTICE”: Thanks for having me on.
NORVILLE: Congratulations again.
RANCIC: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And, of course, Maureen Orth is still with us. Her book is called “The Importance of Being Famous.”
I want to ask you. You won “The Apprentice.” The whole deal was, you were supposed to get a job with Donald Trump. How can you have time to be on TV with me? Shouldn‘t you be building a building somewhere?
RANCIC: Well, you know, I‘m actually in New York working with Donald Trump one-on-one for the next two months. So I was able to carve out 15 minutes to come over here.
NORVILLE: So this is the tutelage process?
RANCIC: Well, this is part of the learning experience. And we all know what a great promoter Donald Trump is. That‘s lesson No. 1 in my apprenticeship. But I‘m spending a lot of time with him. I was with him the yesterday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. The guy...
ORTH: How much time does he spend a week on camera?
RANCIC: Not a ton, not as much as you would think. And he‘s getting work done. He is able to kind of maneuver his schedule to, you know, plug in the camera time and the taping with getting business done. So it‘s amazing.
NORVILLE: So it‘s compartmentalizing it.
RANCIC: Yes. He interweaves the two. So he kind of incorporates it in his daily life.
ORTH: How important do you think it is to be able to be good on camera for your job?
RANCIC: Oh, I think it is important. I mean, when you‘re talking about big business and promoting big projects like the Trump Tower in Chicago, I think you have to sell the product to the American people. You‘re talking about a 90-story high-rise building in Chicago.
NORVILLE: And how has it been going from being just the contestant on the show and the ramp-up of the publicity to the guy who won? You were my guest at the correspondents dinner in Washington a few weeks ago. And I was blown away by the way people responded to you. I don‘t know what it was like for you, but they were constantly coming up to you and, congratulations. You‘re really great. Or, I‘m glad you won. You were my pick. It seemed a little bewildering, watching it happen.
RANCIC: For me, it was refreshing, because, when we watch the news and we read the newspapers, it‘s all this bad going on in the world. And, you know what, 99.9 percent of the people out there are genuinely nice and were really glad to see that I won this thing. And to me, it was a breath of fresh air to see how supportive really a lot of America was. And I was happy to see it happen.
ORTH: That reminds me, I think that last year‘s correspondents dinner, the big, big, big guest was Ozzy Osbourne. And people couldn‘t get enough of Ozzy Osbourne. And what‘s happened there? The Osbournes went on TV with Larry King three hours after they put their daughter in rehab.
NORVILLE: What does that tell you? That‘s sick, isn‘t it?
And then all these people in the audience were calling in and saying, oh, hey, you guys, don‘t blame yourselves. You‘re awesome parents. Hello?
NORVILLE: You‘re crappy parents if—how many of their kids have gone through—I‘m sorry, Ozzy, but it‘s true.
ORTH: Two out of two.
NORVILLE: Yes. Two of their kids have gone into rehab.
ORTH: Oh, yes, two out of three.
NORVILLE: And that‘s awful. But to go on TV and talk about it
ORTH: But that‘s it.
If your life becomes being on camera all the time and your whole life is on camera, I guess it is just natural two hours after you put your daughter in rehab to go promote your third season and talk about it on the air and have people tell you how awesome you are.
RANCIC: I think you can‘t need it. And I think that‘s what separates
· like for me, I don‘t need it. I had a life before “The Apprentice.” I had a relatively decent level of success. And this is great. And I cherish every day. I wake up with a smile on my face. And if it ends tomorrow, I‘m going to go out gracefully. I‘m not going to be one of these people who is hanging on by my fingernails.
ORTH: Right. Like Omarosa.
RANCIC: Right. Exactly. When it‘s over, you know what? Thank you.
It was a great experience.
NORVILLE: But what is it like being in the same orbit as someone like Omarosa, as Maureen mentioned, who clearly enjoyed being front and center on the camera.
RANCIC: Well, I don‘t consider myself in the same orbit as Omarosa.
NORVILLE: No, but within the show, you guys were all in the same space.
RANCIC: Right. We were in the same space.
You know, she did things. I think her motivation was far different than mine and then a lot of other people on the show.
ORTH: Let me ask you this. Do you think you‘re worthy of all the fame you‘ve gotten?
RANCIC: I don‘t know if I‘m worthy of it. I consider myself to be lucky to be getting it. And I‘m very appreciative for it. But who is worthy of the fame?
ORTH: Oh, people who really...
RANCIC: The doctors at the National Institute of Health who are working on cures for cancer. Those are the people who should do it.
ORTH: Or Olympic athletes or people who really accomplish...
RANCIC: Schoolteachers. My mother was a schoolteacher. And my father was a superintendent. They never got any fame or glory. Yet they touched thousands of people‘s lives. And that‘s really the important people in this country, not Ozzy Osbourne, who can‘t speak because he has done so many drugs his whole life. It‘s terrible.
NORVILLE: And the unsung heroes, the doctors, the scientists, the teachers.
NORVILLE: They don‘t get the fame and they don‘t get money.
NORVILLE: And it is easy to see where people would say, man, if I want to live comfortably, I‘ve got to go be on a reality show and do something wacky.
ORTH: Or get my face operated on or something.
NORVILLE: So that I look like Brad Pitt or whoever.
ORTH: Well, I think the point is, is that parents have to talk to their kids about what real values are, what decency is, and what is important in life, instead of just letting the TV blare all the time or getting these lawyers blah, blah, blah about these cases of people doing horrible things. It really is a responsibility of all of us to speak up for what‘s good.
NORVILLE: Do you feel that pressure, Bill, as someone who won a very high-profile program and are now famous as a result of it?
RANCIC: Well, I think I have an obligation to use this in a positive
manner. One of two things can happen. Either, A, you can go out and run
wild and go to these all these parties and be crazy. Or, B, you can go and
· I spoke at the American Cancer Society black-tie benefit last weekend.
I spoke for the Small Business Administration the other day.
So I‘m trying to turn this...
NORVILLE: What is your message?
RANCIC: Well, I think hope that, you know what, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I‘m not any different than anyone else walking on the street. And I just happened to be put into a very extraordinary situation.
NORVILLE: And, Maureen, isn‘t that kind of the message of fame? This is America. This is a country where just about anything can happen, good and not so good.
ORTH: Don‘t you think it would be much—the message ought to be, you know, stay in school and study and don‘t wish that somehow the camera is going to find you? Try to do the best you can and maybe it will. But to just go on this pursuit of it and to be rewarded like Omarosa is for bad behavior, and to keep getting booked on all these TV shows, what‘s wrong with us to do that?
NORVILLE: Do you think that a TV show that looked for the best kid in America‘s high school would ever find an audience?
ORTH: I don‘t know. The spelling bee does pretty well.
NORVILLE: What do you think, Bill?
RANCIC: I think we‘re giving America what it wants. And the appetite in America right now is for these reality television shows, because people can identify with them.
People could identify with “The Apprentice” because 99 percent of the population, they have to work to make a living.
RANCIC: And they could identify with the show.
And I think you‘re starting to see the other shows that don‘t have as
much substance fall to the side. So I think America is going to have to
raise the bar a little bit and demand better shows like “The Apprentice”
than some of these other ones that are not
ORTH: Eating worms.
RANCIC: What‘s that?
ORTH: Eating worms.
NORVILLE: Well, Bill, I‘ve got to say, you‘ve gotten the lesson of the promotion. I know you‘ve mentioned the Trump Tower in Chicago. You‘ve mentioned the show “The Apprentice” a few times. And I heard you drop your boss‘ name a few times as well. So I think you‘re doing the job.
ORTH: He‘s learning.
NORVILLE: So far, so good, yes.
ORTH: Thank you.
NORVILLE: Good to see you, Bill Rancic, again. It‘s always nice to have you.
Maureen Orth, congratulations on the book. It is a fascinating topic.
ORTH: Thank you.
NORVILLE: Come back and talk more.
ORTH: And I have a Web site, MaureenOrth.com.
NORVILLE: Well, OK. And you will be able to access that from our Web page. You will also be able to check out some excerpts from Maureen‘s book. The Web address is NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.
When we come back, a U.S. Marine is leaving something awfully special behind when he goes to Iraq. It‘s all to help a friend. And it‘s this week‘s “American Moment” next.
NORVILLE: In this week‘s “American Moment,” a U.S. Marine comes to the rescue of a longtime friend in San Antonio.
First Lieutenant Jeremy Duncan and Jason Tully have been best friends since sixth grade. Jason suffers from a rare kidney disease, and doctors had to remove both his kidneys, forcing him to undergo dialysis three times a week. Without a transplant, Jason would die. His family members weren‘t compatible donors, but Jeremy was. The average wait for a kidney is three years. So when Jeremy‘s tour of duty ended in Iraq, so did Jason‘s battle. Jeremy donated one of his kidneys to his lifelong friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
1ST LT. JEREMY DUNCAN, DONATED KIDNEY TO FRIEND: It‘s kind of hokey, the way it sounds, but it‘s almost like fate or God calling me to be a part of this, because it‘s almost like it‘s meant to be.
JASON TULLY, RECEIVED KIDNEY FROM DUNCAN: We joke about it. Like, when he got off the plane, I was like, oh, my kidney‘s here.
JAN TULLY, MOTHER OF JASON: He‘s in the Marines. He‘s been to Iraq, has to go back to Iraq, and he‘s willing to do this for our family? I don‘t know what to say. It‘s a remarkable thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Well, apparently, when duty calls, Lieutenant Duncan is ready for action, no matter where it is. He‘s scheduled to head back to Iraq later this year. That is this week‘s “American Moment.”
Send us your comments and e-mails to us at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com. We‘ve got some of your e-mails posted on our Web page at that same address, NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.
That‘s our show for tonight. Have a great weekend.
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