In 1989, journalist Cree McCree had the unusual, almost surreal, experience of conducting face to face interviews—within a 48-hour period—with both the one-time bad boy of Hollywood and its perpetual Girl Next Door, Dennis Hopper and Doris Day, respectively. Prodded by the recent death of the great journalist Janet Malcolm, Cree revisited her files and found some surprising truths, hidden in plain sight, from these conversations of 32 years ago.
Doris Day and Dennis Hopper never made a movie together. And why would they? America’s dewy songbird sweetheart and the Hollywood bad-boy provocateur were such complete polar opposites that a Google search on both their names only yields a single citation. It’s a quote from Hopper himself, following the success of Easy Rider, which became box office gold in 1969 by flying its freak flag high.
“Nobody had ever seen themselves portrayed in a movie,” Hopper explained at the time, an insight repeated in almost every obit that marked his 2010 death. “At every love-in across the country people were smoking grass and dropping LSD, while audiences were still watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson.”
That wasn’t precisely true. The Day/Hudson romantic pairing of her feisty career girl with his randy bachelor seducer peaked in the early ‘60s, and Day’s final big screen appearance was in the critically-panned comedy With Six You Get Egg Roll in 1968, a year after she turned down the plum part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate that went to Anne Bancroft. But the essence of Hopper’s analysis — which pits Day’s fresh-faced technical virginity against the outlaw persona Hopper began crafting as the screen and real-life sidekick of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, his 1955 debut — paints an accurate picture of the times-they-are-a-changin’ era when Easy Rider roared into town.
What brings Day and Hopper together now? An arbitrary stroke of fate that just resurfaced in my archives.
In 1989, I was assigned to interview this odd couple of film icons by The Cable Guide, the what-to-watch bible for the growing audience of cable TV subscribers, who paid for the privilege of watching recently-released films at home (along with some original programming). It was an especially intriguing conjunction for me, since both stars were personal icons that embodied the massive cultural shift from the late ‘50s to the late ‘60s in my own life choices.
Day’s portrayal of a stylish, sophisticated, self-sufficient New York City career gal in the glamorous Madison Avenue ad industry inspired me to follow that path in college, where I majored in communications, minored in economics, and created a multimedia ad campaign, complete with a catchy jingle, for my junior thesis.
Come senior year, I got stoned for the very first time and did a complete U-turn into the burgeoning counterculture. Instead of pursuing a graduate degree in commercial advertising from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), which sent me to southern Colorado to work with local Chicanos. Post-VISTA, smitten with the land and culture, I founded an ad hoc commune in the foothills of the San Juans that eventually took me to the Land of Enchantment and Hopper’s longtime turf of northern New Mexico. So when Easy Rider hit the screen, I hitched a ride into my own future in that film’s commune scene, and left my proto-Peggy Olson persona behind in the dust.
As a fellow freak, I was pretty jazzed to interview Hopper for a piece pegged to the cable debut of the LA gang picture Colors, starring Sean Penn & Robert Duvall as the odd-couple cops. A box office hit, Colors marked Hopper’s return to directing after he redeemed himself as a newly-sober actor playing a newly-sober basketball coach in Hoosiers and donning a gas mask in Blue Velvet as the menacing huffer Frank Booth.
I was also curious to meet my original role model Doris Day, whose old movies played in heavy rotation on cable. That story was slotted for the magazine’s ongoing series of profiles of Hollywood legends and wasn’t easy to get. Day rarely gave interviews after she left Hollywood for Carmel, CA (where she died in 2019 at 97), and only agreed to talk to me to rally supporters for the cause that dominated the second half of her life: animal rescue and animal rights.
It was a plum assignment, maybe the cushiest I’ve ever had. I flew first-class on The Cable Guide’s dime from New York to Los Angeles, where I stayed on the VIP floor of a Hyatt Hotel. After talking to Hopper at his Venice Beach bunker, I hopped in my rental car and drove up the glorious coast highway to Carmel, where I stayed at the Cypress Inn, a lovely pet-friendly small hotel owned by Day.
Needless to say, jump-cutting from Dennis Hopper to Doris Day was a real study in contrasts, which took a few unexpected twists and turns, just like the Pacific Coast Highway.
As an animal rights activist, Day was totally against using animals in experiments to develop cures for human diseases — including AIDS, which her dear friend Rock Hudson had just died of. She wanted to use prisoners convicted of murder and other violent crimes as the guinea pigs for human drug trials instead. This was somewhat controversial, to say the least, and got picked up as a news story after her modest proposal appeared in The Cable Guide, an otherwise fairly innocuous publication.
Hopper, for his part, was a newly clean & sober elder statesman of Hip living in a futuristic bunker in Venice, CA, that served as a temple for the postmodern art that inspired his own parallel career as a visual artist and photographer. It was a fun, if somewhat predictable, interview, and a real feather in my cap for a writer who’d been heavily impacted by Easy Rider and fell under the thrall of Hopper’s deranged Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.
During the course of that California trip, I kept an oral diary of my own perceptions (and misperceptions) of the interview process. Recorded late at night in my hotel rooms, where I’d been raiding the mini-bars, it was sparked by my bedside reading: the late, great Janet Malcolm’s article in The New Yorker, which became The Journalist and the Murderer. That still-controversial book opens with this notorious line:
“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”
Granted, Malcolm’s primary case in point — Joe McGinnis’s takedown of Jeffrey MacDonald, the convicted wife-and-family murderer McGinnis skewered in his book, Fatal Vision, after befriending him as an ally — was a matter of life and death, not a celebrity profile for a TV magazine. But it got me thinking about my own complicity in the kabuki theatre that almost any interview entails.
Witnesses at the McGinnis trial included writer William F. Buckley, who said it was common practice to befriend a subject to get them to talk more. And he’s right. That makes the exchange more human, and sparks an intimacy that often encourages subjects to say more than they originally intended to. Which is gold. And when you interview people who deal with the press all the time, they usually have their guard up.
Dennis Hopper definitely did. At the time we spoke, I thought the interview was going great. It was only when I transcribed the tape that I realized he was giving a polished performance as Dennis Hopper, man and myth. Because he’d been playing Dennis Hopper all his life, which literally began on the wrong side of the tracks in Dodge City (talk about a sign from the gods!). As a boy, he went to old cowboy movies with his grandmother, who peddled eggs out of her apron en route to pay for the matinees. So, while he was eminently, and colorfully, quotable, he didn’t get below the surface of the script, at least not initially.
Things started to loosen up after I bonded with his live-in girlfriend, dancer Katherine LaNasa, and her visiting girlfriend, Diane, while Hopper was on the phone. That was enough of a social lubricant, in an otherwise booze-free, drug-free house, to turn the interview into more of a hang. Indeed, his most memorable quotes didn’t surface until the last fifteen minutes of my visit, during which Hopper spouted some off-the-wall flashes of humor that actually ended up in The Cable Guide.
Whereas with Doris Day, I assumed I blew it early on. I was really taken aback when she said they should be testing cures for AIDS on human murderers instead of mice. Then she got into this whole rap about how she used to be a Democrat and now she’s Republican who doesn’t believe in handouts and that most of the people getting food stamps are wearing fancy clothes. I intentionally didn’t react to that, because I wanted to put her at ease about talking to me, but it set me against her initially for sure.
But while typing the Day transcript, I realized I had a lot more communication with her than I understood at the time. She really opened up to me about losing Rock Hudson, after I told her I’d lost someone I loved to AIDS, too. So on a beautiful, human level, Doris Day and I really connected and engaged in a real dialogue. She even talked about her old movies, which her publicist said she didn’t like to do. That was on my Cable Guide to-do list, and she actually gave me what I wanted.
Whereas Hopper was so distracted, there were like a million things happening during the interview: Tony Shafrazi, his New York art dealer, called repeatedly, to talk about his upcoming show, and he and LaNasa were throwing a Super Bowl party the next day. But despite all the hubbub, everything in his iconic Venice Beach bunker was perfectly curated, including Hopper’s beautiful, much-younger girlfriend.
Doris Day, on the other hand, was actually being herself, not playing a Doris Day character. She was a real person, who didn’t mind getting dog hair on her pastel clothes and drove around with a broken rear window she didn’t have time to get fixed.
Who played themselves best: Hopper or Day? You decide.
The interviews that follow have been edited not just for length and clarity, but to highlight the kind of personal exchanges that never made it into The Cable Guide. Each is preceded by a brief scene-setting intro, lifted directly from the opening of my Cable Guide stories.
Dennis Hopper, Venice, CA, January 21, 1989
Just around the corner from Gold’s Gym, within shooting distance of the war-zone crackhouses in Venice, California, stands another local landmark: Dennis Hopper’s domain. Viewed from the street, it juts out above a block of bungalows like some futuristic fortress, the sun glaring off its corrugated metal sheath. Inside, the space is hung with icons from the art world Hopper inhabits: Rauschenberg, Haring, Schnabel, Basquiat. It’s a postmodern temple planted on badass turf — the perfect stage set for Hollywood’s most notorious survivor, who has purged his body of poisons and become the town’s most bankable misfit.
“My art dealer says I have the mythic eye of the ‘50s,” reports Hopper, who was schooled in the Zen of acting by James Dean and updated the Beat bible by translating Jack Kerouac’s On the Road into the ‘60s screenplay Easy Rider [Ed. note: Terry Southern and Peter Fonda were given co-writing credits on the Easy Rider screenplay, a fact that Hopper seemed for years not to remember, despite the protracted legal battle such convenient amnesia touched off].
Today, stroking an on-again, off-again gray-flecked beard, Hopper looks very much the elder statesman of Hip in an Italian sportcoat. Then a gleam creeps into his mythic eye, and that familiar, slightly deranged Easy Rider laugh loops into the soundtrack. “My dealer tells me, ‘it wouldn’t matter what you do. People just wanna know that it’s like to look through your eyes.’”
[Interview transcript picks up about a half hour into it, after we’ve discussed the making of Colors and Hopper’s boyhood in Dodge City.]
PKM: You first worked with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. I gather he wasn’t just a role model for you, but gave you a blessing of a kind.
Dennis Hopper: Yeah, he was probably the most talented actor I’ve ever seen. He was certainly bigger than life and died very young.
PKM: What was the most important thing he gave you?
Dennis Hopper: Gave me personally? I got the opportunity to watch him work. Which is more than most people bothered to do, including some of his directors.
Rebel Without a Cause – Scene in which Dennis Hopper appears with James Dean. Hopper plays one of the punk hangers on:
PKM: And what was he doing, the way you understood it?
Dennis Hopper: He was using his imagination, and expressing himself in a way other actors weren’t, and still don’t. He was doing almost expressionistic kinds of body movements — he came out of dance. And he was dealing with all the art forms. [James Dean] was a compulsive creator, he was a genius. It’s hard to even talk about because I’ve never seen anyone as talented.
PKM: You share that with Dean, that compulsive creation. You’ve never been just an actor or just a director. You’re an artist, you’re a photographer, your whole life is a kind of art form. Does it all come from the same source? Do you put on your actor’s hat, or your painter’s hat, or your director’s hat? Or is it all one hat?
Dennis Hopper: Well, it’s certainly a relief to go paint for a moment after you’ve been directing for a while. [laughs]
[phone rings, interruption]
PKM: Give me an idea of what kind of time frame we have.
Dennis Hopper: You have like about 15 more minutes! [laughs] Is that enough time?
PKM: You’re kidding! I’d like to have at least another half hour, if I could coax that out.
Dennis Hopper: You could probably do that.
PKM: Excellent. Let’s jump-cut to Easy Rider, which is obviously a movie that completely captured the zeitgeist of a particular moment.
Dennis Hopper: The zeitgeist?
PKM: Yeah, don’t you think?
Dennis Hopper: What does that mean? [laughs]
PKM: Spirit of the times.
Dennis Hopper: I like that word. Is it German?
PKM: Yes, very German.
Dennis Hopper: Zeit…..?
Dennis Hopper: Zeitgeist. Hmmmm.
PKM: So I wondered if you have any ambition to ever make a movie that would reflect the zeitgeist of the late ‘80s or the early ‘90s. And if so, what would that be?
Dennis Hopper: It would be sort of like Dante’s Inferno. The way I feel about what’s going on now. It seems very calm, but underneath that calm there’s really tortured kinds of things happening that seem to be more and more complex as we try to pay our deficit and sell out our country.
PKM: Do you personally feel in synch with time now?
Dennis Hopper: Yes, I think I’m probably right on schedule! [laughs]
PKM: At long last! Well, I skipped over the whole outcast from Hollywood thing that happened when Henry Hathaway ousted you in From Hell to Texas because he wanted you to act like Brando.
Dennis Hopper: I was trying to find myself as an actor, and he decided to tell me how to act. And who the hell was he to tell me how to act? He was the director, that’s who [laughs]. I actually learned a lot from Hathaway.
PKM: One thing you explore a lot in your own films is the relationship between ritual and reality. Like that scene in Easy Rider set against the context of Mardi Gras, and the Indians doing the filmmaking in The Last Movie. And in your new movie Backtrack, you shot the burning of Zozobra, an annual ritual in Santa Fe, where people burn Old Man Gloom to get rid of the past year’s problems.
Backtrack (1990)-Directed by Dennis Hopper-trailer:
Dennis Hopper: Yeah, the symbols and rituals of Christian guilt have always fascinated me. Also the death thing. We’re all looking for answers to these ridiculously complicated, sophisticated questions and [snap!] we die. And this all comes out in these rituals, which are very dramatic filmmaking devices. If I find a cemetery, I’m gonna have to shoot it. Let’s drop some acid in that cemetery! Actually, I didn’t shoot any cemeteries in Backtrack.
PKM: I thought Backtrack was a very appropriate title, because you’re going back to your old haunts, you lived a lot of different lives there.
Dennis Hopper: I actually hate the title Backtrack. [Ed. note: The film was later given an alternate title, Catchfire, but it still lost $5 million and was trashed by the critics]. But in the sense you’re talking about it’s true, because I did go backtracking my haunts, which put it on a very personal level — and has very little to do with the film! [laughs] It’s about a woman who sees a mafia hit and tries to hide out, and I set it in New Mexico so I could go to New Mexico!
PKM: Yeah, they don’t call it the Land of Enchantment for nothing. This is also your first romantic lead, isn’t it?
Dennis Hopper: Yeah. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. Wait, no it’s not! “Blue Velvet” was a romantic lead! [laughs] God, to what extent Frank went for Dorothy, he’d do anything for Dorothy — cut off her husband’s ear. God, terrible things he had to go through with her. [laughs]
Frank Booth “courting” Dorothy in Blue Velvet (1986):
[phone rings; interruption; crosstalk re the Superbowl party they’re throwing tomorrow]
PKM: OK, I know you’ve got an agenda so I’ll cut to the chase. Quickly: the lower depths. No need to go into all the gory details you’ve been through a million times. What I wanna know is: how did you survive all that? Do you have a guardian angel? Is it sympathy for the devil?
Dennis Hopper: Sympathy for the devil! [laughs] I went through such a horrendous trip in Mexico that I probably should have just died. Or been killed by a number of people. I was so insane and crazy and out there, it’s amazing I ever got back. So I don’t know how I made it. I’d like to say, well, it’s obvious because I just had a great deal to give and things to do — and we can just say that’s what it was! Cause I can’t figure anything else out.
PKM: Do you have a higher power?
Dennis Hopper: Yeah, it’s the Super Bowl! [laughs] No, it’s hard to say. Your higher power is someone you talk to and pray to and get in trouble with, I figure. And since I’ve been in trouble most of the time, and too stupid to pray to anybody, it’s difficult for me to talk about a higher power. But boy, when the shit hits the fan, I sure find those old prayers come up easy! [laughs] And then I get lax, like everybody else, and forget. But it does work.
PKM: I don’t know whether you prayed for this or not, but you really have been re-embraced by the Hollywood community: [as Sally Fields] “You like me, you really really like me!”
Dennis Hopper: Well, I’ve been re-embraced by a few people, who are enough to give me work. And that’s really important. I don’t know if I’ve really been embraced by the whole community. I’m not making enough money to be the establishment yet.
PKM: Do you aspire to that?
Dennis Hopper: Yes, of course! [laughs, phone rings] Oh my god, maybe that’s them now! [laughs]
[Note: I used that killer quote as the last line of my Cable Guide story. But it’s actually Tony Shafrazi, and Hopper starts telling him about the new paintings he did in Taos]
Dennis Hopper: They have kind of a graffiti look, they’re on white and then there’s this grey that’s covering something up. These were canvases I had stretched a long time ago. Anyway, it was a good, relaxing time.
[Crosstalk with Katherine and her friend Diane while Hopper is on the phone. Katherine tells the story of how she and Hopper met, when she was dancing with Karole Armitrage and they came through town. Hopper saw the performance, and at the after party, got someone to rearrange the chairs so he could sit next to her. They clicked. After two bicoastal years, she’s made the ultimate commitment for a New Yorker: she’s given up her apartment to come live with him in Venice fulltime. Note: This is where the interview starts to become a hang.]
PKM: To be a real artist, do you think you have to spend at least some time living on the edge?
Dennis Hopper: [stroking beard and clowning, stentorian tones] Yes, I do. I feel you must really live on the edge. [laughs]
Katherine LaNasa: He’s just trying to imagine what the edge looks like!
Dennis Hopper: My art dealer says I have the mythic eye of the fifties. [laughs] And if I just pull my dick, everything will be all right.
Diane: You’ll masturbate into the ‘80s!
Katherine LaNasa: You mean you’ll come out of your eye!?
Dennis Hopper: He said, it wouldn’t matter what you do. You think it’s got to be perfect and I’m telling you, no, it doesn’t have to be perfect! They just wanna know what it’s like to look out your eyes.
But do I think you have to live on the edge? I don’t know. I’ve thought a lot about it. I went through my whole life quoting Van Gogh, who said he had to drink that whole summer to find the yellow. And now I say, it’s probably because he coudn’t find the fuckin’ paintbrush!
On the other hand, l understand that deranging your senses to find something is a necessity for certain people. It’s a necessity if you want to take drugs and drink a lot [laughs]. It’s a wonderful excuse, and I did that. But I don’t know that you have to do that. A lot of great artists never drank, never took drugs, but god help me, I can’t really think of them now. [laughs]
PKM: Actually, I’ll ask another half-question, combining all the women, sex and love questions into one. What does Katherine bring into your life?
Dennis Hopper: Absolutely nothing. [laughs]
PKM: This is on the record.
Dennis Hopper: Oh, this is on the record? [laughs] What has she brought into my life?
PKM: Well, what made you ask to have those chairs rearranged so you could sit next to her?
Dennis Hopper: Who said that? [laughs] Where does that information come from?
Katherine LaNasa: She asked. How we met.
Dennis Hopper: Well, I just liked what I saw. Also, she just made me happy, she’s very funny, very sweet.
PKM [to KLN]: Are you gonna watch the Super Bowl? Are you a Super Bowl fan?
Katherine LaNasa: I’m a big football fan! [laughs] That’s on the record: I love football!
Dennis Hopper: [rolls eyes] Oh, god!
PKM: Really? Or are you guys just playing?
Katherine LaNasa: No, I love football. Yes I do! He’s teasing me.
Dennis Hopper: She doesn’t like it at all, and she teases me about it all the time.
Katherine LaNasa: I grew up in Baton Rouge! In football city! And I love football!
Dennis Hopper: She hates it!
PKM: Did it traumatize you that Jerry Rice might not play for the 49ers tomorrow?
Katherine LaNasa: Yes! You know he’s the best in … whatever it is. In the league! [laughs] I don’t see how they can win the game without him. He caught [laughs] three touchdown passes [laughs] in the last game! [laughs]
PKM: See, the woman knows her football!
Dennis Hopper: [laughs] Oh shit!
Katherine LaNasa: It’s true, he did.
Dennis Hopper: What’s his name again?
Katherine LaNasa: Rice.
Dennis Hopper: And what does he do exactly?
Katherine LaNasa He’s a, he’s a … lineback!
Dennis Hopper: [laughs, puts on Frank Booth-style demon face] HE’S A WIDE RECEIVER!
Katherine LaNasa: Well, I don’t know what it’s called, I just watch.
Dennis Hopper: [laughs] Yeah. She just watches. [laughs] She watches how to get into the next room.
[crosstalk re going out to dinner]
PKM: OK, one last question, I’ll let you guys go to dinner. How would you like to be remembered?
Dennis Hopper: [laughs] As Frank Booth, in Blue Velvet. ‘Don’t you fuckin look at me!’ [laughs] Ummm….
PKM: At the sands of time shift through the hourglass of the cosmos….
Dennis Hopper: Uhhhh, I don’t know man, I can’t quite figure that out. How would I like to be remembered? [goofs] As a kind man? [laughs] As a generous man?
[phone rings, interruption]
Dennis Hopper: [serious] I’d like to be remembered as Katherine LaNasa’s friend.
PKM: Even if she doesn’t like football?
Dennis Hopper: I don’t care whether she likes football or not.
CODA: Not long after this interview, on June 17, 1989, Katherine LaNasa and Dennis Hopper were married. The marriage lasted three years, and they had one child, Henry Hopper.
Doris Day, Carmel, CA, January 23, 1989
When Doris Day pulls into the parking lot of the Cypress Inn in her Wagoneer, she’s accompanied by four dogs: Katie, Charlie Bubble, Freddie Freeway and Old Snowy. Back at home waits the rest of her menagerie: a dozen or so dogs, considerably more cats and a bird (she won’t reveal the exact numbers). She steps out of the car in a matching outfit of apricot sweatshirt, pants and jogging shoes, bids the pooches goodbye, and strolls into the charming Inn. Ever since she bought the hotel, visiting pets have received their own special beds, dishes and gourmet meals. “Whoever comes in here must love their pets,” she proclaims. And pets should eat as well as any guest.
Though she hasn’t made a movie since 1968, during her two-decade career Day starred in 39 films, pitting her freckle-faced freshness against a pantheon of movie gods: Cagney, Stewart, Gable, Sinatra, Grant. In the early ‘60s, her comedic entanglements with Rock Hudson and James Garner in hits like Pillow Talk and The Thrill of It All established her as America’s number one box office sweetheart. But these days, she has other things on her mind.
She summed it up this way: “I love the movies and I’m grateful for my career, but the movies are gone. Backtracking is a waste of time. There’s no past, no future, there’s only what’s going on now.”
[Interview transcript starts at the very beginning, when she arrives at the Cypress Inn.]
PKM: I see you have a few dogs in your car, and before you came over to meet me you said you fed them all. How many do you have?
Doris Day: I don’t tell anybody. I say this at the beginning: don’t even ask how many I have.
PKM: Well, how long does the feeding process take?
Doris Day: Oh, it’s a long thing, because I have cats also. I have a big kitchen just to feed my pets. With all their food and their dishes, everything is separate from me.
PKM: Do they get some kind of secret formula?
Doris Day: They get brown rice, ground turkey, lots of chicken and all kinds of steamed vegetables.
PKM: That sounds great, like I should line up with my bowl.
Doris Day: Well, that’s for the early feeding. Then, in the late afternoon, they have supper. They get pastas, all kinds of pasta, with some lowfat cottage cheese. They’re very healthy because I feed them so well. Pets are people’s best friends and we should give them the best.
PKM: I know you’ve been involved in animal rights for some years, and the movement is beginning to have some impact. How do you feel about some of the more activist groups, who are throwing rocks through fur store windows and bombing labs where they test animals?
Doris Day: I would rather not pass judgment. If they want to do that, fine. And if they can get the animals out of laboratories, I’m all for it. I think we’re going to have to do it with laws, but God, everything moves so slowly you wonder sometimes if you’re slamming up against a brick wall.
I’m all for medical research, but I’m against animal research. You have to make that very clear.
PKM: What about the mice they’re using to experiment with to find a cure for AIDS?
Doris Day: I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear anything innocent being used.
PKM: Even when they’re dealing with a plague like AIDS?
Doris Day: I don’t care. I think they should experiment on murderers.
PKM: Really!? You’d rather have them experiment on humans?
Doris Day: Why not? Look what they’ve done. They owe society something. They owe us.
PKM: That’s a pretty radical point of view.
Doris Day: I don’t think so. I think using innocent creatures to experiment on is the most radical, most obscene thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
PKM: Have you ever proposed that as a for-real way of dealing with AIDS?
Doris Day: I don’t know who would listen. Even you are aghast. Don’t stand aghast. When you think about it, we’re paying for murderers, men and women, who have killed other people. Senseless killings. And they’re having three meals a day and we’re paying for it. What the hell are they going to do to pay society back? They’ve got to give something back, and they should do that for us.
PKM: Well, I’ll have to think about that one.
Doris Day: I don’t think it should take much thinking.
PKM: I mean, mass murderers are one thing, but there are also people who kill in a moment of passion.
Doris Day: [getting very heated] I don’t care if a man is … a child abuser should be used! A child abuser!
PKM: Well, that would be a good candidate.
Doris Day: A child abuser ruins that child’s life. He might as well have killed her. An abused child is never the same. And that is such a sin.
PKM: Are you also actively involved in child abuse programs?
Doris Day: No, but I’m getting involved in many areas, like suicide prevention. There’s a wonderful group here for young teenagers. I’m also trying to help some little theater groups, and playwrights.
PKM: Strictly behind the scenes? You’re not venturing onstage in these productions, are you?
Doris Day: Oh no, no, no …. No I’m not! I don’t have time. I’ve never worked so hard in my life! With two animal organizations and this hotel and all my own animals to take care of. Phew! And when I place an animal, it’s like placing a child. They come to where I board my orphans, they meet the dog or the cat and I watch their reactions very quietly. But that’s just the beginning of the process.
Before I let them bring a pet home, I check out everything at their house. Personally. I check the fence, I check the yard, everything. The husband and the children, because a lot of kids are little brats, you’ve got to be careful. So it’s a big deal, not a simple thing.
PKM: And have most of your adoptions been successful?
Doris Day: Very. Very. So why not do it right? It’s thrilling to place a dog that’s been in jeopardy. Otherwise, they’d just sit in a kennel and wait for the death sentence.
PKM: I know you’re also a big believer in getting pets spayed or neutered, because there are enough unwanted animals as is. What happened to that letter you sent to George Bush about getting Millie spayed?
Doris Day: I didn’t get an answer. I’m surprised. I still think he’s going to make a great president, I really do. And I’m a Republican. I used to be a Democrat.
PKM: Well, so did Ronald Reagan.
Doris Day: That’s right! [laughs] I had a few conversations with Ronald Reagan, and I really feel so strongly that the Republicans are right. This welfare routine is just so bad. People lose their dignity and integrity, just letting the government dole out money. I see so many well-dressed people with food stamps, I can’t believe it. It’s terrible. I really feel there are lots of jobs, and the people living on the streets want to be there. And if you went out and offered them jobs, they’d be right back out there again.
PKM: Well, when Reagan was in office, were you able to champion your animal rights cause with him?
Doris Day: We talked at length about spaying and neutering. And he said, but Doris, it can’t be the federal government, Big Daddy saying that this is mandatory. It should be state by state. And he’s right. But boy, is it tough.
PKM: I recently watched The Man Who Knew Too Much again, and several things struck me as what you’re all about. First of all, the “Que Sera Sera” song, which really does seem to be your philosophy of life.
Doris Day: Yeah it is. For sure.
PKM: Also Jo, the character you play in the movie, is an actress who retired from the stage and settled down with this doctor from Indianapolis. And I wondered if you might ever have wanted to do something like that.
Doris Day: Yeah, I could have settled in Indianapolis probably.
PKM: But all these other forces are around you weren’t letting that happen,
Doris Day: Isn’t that interesting? It seems like the more you say, I want this or I want that, you don’t get it. But if you do your best, and really give it your all, then it’s in god’s hands. What you’re going to do, and be. When I got that Warners contract, I called my mother, wow! I found a lovely house, very near Warners, and I can ride my bike over to work. And I thought, how lucky can you be?
PKM: And you played opposite a whole pantheon of the leading men our our times. Clark Gable. Frank Sinatra. And a lot of Jimmys. Jimmy Cagney. Jimmy Stewart….
Doris Day: And Jimmy Garner! I adore Jimmy Garner! People always talk about that chemistry, they say, you really seem married. Rock and I were never married — well, yeah, we were in that one film, Send Me No Flowers. But no one ever said that about us. They liked us as lovers, and they liked me as Jimmy’s wife.
Move Over, Darling-Doris Day, James Garner-trailer:
PKM: You really did have a great chemistry with Rock Hudson on screen.
Doris Day: We laughed all the time, just like crazy people. Everything struck both of us as funny. We had a marvelous time working together, and audiences really enjoyed us together.
PKM: And you kept your friendship going with Rock right through his illness, right?
Doris Day: Yes. Well, we didn’t socialize, because he had his own life, which I understood. But yeah, he’d get on the phone — ‘hey, Eunice!’ he’d holler, he always called me Eunice. And we’d gab away. We always kept in touch, which was nice.
Pillow Talk-Doris Day, Rock Hudson-trailer:
PKM: So was his passing tough for you?
Doris Day: [starts to tear up] Oh, that’s a very … there’s nothing more to be said about it, you know. Everybody has said it all.
PKM: I lost someone to AIDS who were very close to me too.
Doris Day: Really?
PKM: Yeah, and I was right there with him at the end.
Doris Day: [soft and teary voice throughout] It’s just unbelievable. When he came up here, it was just … I don’t want to ever go through that again. I want to be spared that. That was more than anyone should have to take. I almost fainted when I saw him. It was somebody else standing there, just somebody else.
PKM: I had the same experience.
Doris Day: And I swear to you, I didn’t know what it was. I thought he was just ill. And I kept saying, ‘you’ve got to change doctors. You’re not eating, you’re skinny as a rail.’ I felt his arm and said, ‘look at you!’ He’s probably thinking, ‘doesn’t she know anything?’ And I really didn’t. [long silence, gets very teary again]
Anyway, I think he came up to say goodbye. He insisted on coming on my [short-lived CBN] talk show. None of us knew that he was sick. His press agent said ‘you can’t go up there.’ And he said, ‘I’m going, and you can’t keep me from it.’ [long silence] I know that’s why he came. [actively crying now] Anyway, enough of that.
Doris Day’s Best Friends: Rock Hudson as her first guest:
PKM: I’m so sorry.
Doris Day: Oh, that’s OK, That’s OK.
PKM: There are times when I really, really miss Larry Browne. You know when you have a special kind of relationship with somebody — I’m sure it was like that for you and Rock — and you have certain things you can’t share with anyone else in the world. And when one of those moments comes up, I want to say, hey, Larry! And I can’t call him up.
[Long silence, both of us teary]
Anyway, like you said. Enough of that. I had no idea, until I read your book, that you turned down the role in The Graduate.
Doris Day: Well, I was approached by them, and I read it. Who did it? Bancroft? Well she’s so fabulous. Maybe a lot of people read it, who knows? I’m not saying I read it first, that may not be true. I’d rather not even discuss that.
PKM: It was in your book.
Doris Day: Well, A.E. Hotchner [who wrote the book] probably talked about it.
PKM: If you had done The Graduate, it would have been a whole other persona for you. I was just curious that, after the film came out, you thought, hmmm, maybe I would like to have done that.
Doris Day: No, that’s backtracking. I don’t do that. It’s a waste of time.
PKM: Well, let’s look into the future then….
Doris Day: That’s not even it. There’s only now. There’s no future, there’s no past, there’s only now. What’s going on now. And right now, there’s a siren going off [outside in the street]
PKM: And your dogs are here now, out in your car. Is there anything else you want to tell me about the animals, other than what you’ve already told me?
Doris Day: I love and adore them. And till my dying day, I’ll work to make the world a better place for them and give them a better life. It’s really hard for them because they can’t speak for themselves. They have to have somebody doing that for them. They deserve kindness. And lots of love.
PKM: So have you basically retired from making films?
Doris Day: I never said that. I was doing something else.
PKM: Well, when you’re not in front of the camera all the time, people sort of assume you’ve made a conscious decision to retire.
Doris Day: Probably because I moved they thought that. But that had nothing to do with it. I moved to Carmel because I like small towns. And I wanted a lot of space for my dogs and cats. I love it here. What’s not to like?
PKM: Yeah, it’s gorgeous, I was just taking a walk on the beach this morning. And what you’re doing with the Doris Day Animal Foundation is a fulltime job in itself. What do you feel you’ve made the most progress in?
Doris Day: Causing more awareness. People think nothing about dumping their dog of 8 or 9 years at the SPCA, knowing that it’s going to be euthanized that day. But if we talk about it, and get it out in the papers, maybe they’ll start to realize this is a sinful thing to do.
PKM: Brigette Bardot has also been involved in animal rights. Have you ever met her? Or talked to her?
Doris Day: No, but I know she’s very active. [goes to window to look out] I’m worried about my doggies, Cree. Because it’s really hot today, which is hard on one of my older doggies. I didn’t think Snowy was in the car, because she was lying down in the back where I couldn’t see her. And as I’m driving, I hear Snowy bark, and said, what are you doing here? I didn’t want to bring her because it’s much warmer today than it has been.
PKM: Well, let’s go out to your car then. [We exit through the breakfast room.] This is such a beautiful room! It’s so cheerful, so feminine.
Doris Day: Isn’t it? [starts to sing] “It’s so peaceful in the country….” Don’t you love the colors? We’re going to put a lot of my old film posters in here, but that takes time.
[We walk past the front desk, where Day greets the desk clerks, who hand her old newspapers.]
PKM: Do you use those papers in the kennel?
Doris Day: I don’t have a kennel, we just need a lot of newspapers. [To dogs in her Wagoneer] Hi babies!
PKM: So who do we have here?
Doris Day: Katie and Charlie Bubble and Freddy Freeway, and there’s old Snowy. She’s my baby heart, she’s the most precious thing. She has hair like sheep, and if we let the hair grow, she becomes enormous! You would roar with laughter! It’s wild.
PKM: When you were bending over, I noticed you have black dog hair all over you. Guess that’s an occupational hazard of being an animal lover.
Doris Day: Have I!? That’s awful, it’s on my seats, but it happens. And I’ve got to run some errands now. [to dogs] Yeah, mama has to do. I have to be ready to go to a birthday party by 5:30, having fed everyone at 3:30. Oh my god! I don’t have time, Cree, to sit down and enjoy my fireplace.
PKM: Well, I’ll let you go. Thank you for your hospitality, and for being so kind to spend some time with me.
Doris Day: Oh, you’re welcome. I enjoyed it, it was nice. I hope your story works out well.
PKM: I’m sure it will. [to dogs] Bye, guys, it was nice to meet you!
Doris Day: [to dogs] Say goodbye, Cree!
PKM: They’re all great. Thanks again, and thanks for this beautiful day, too. Did you plan this?
Doris Day: Isn’t it neat? See what kind of weather we have here? Bye Cree. Stay well and happy.
CODA: Now in its fifth decade, the nonprofit Doris Day Animal Foundation continues to carry on her vision to make the world a better place for animals.