Jay came to my August 19, 2004 LA Press Club book party for The Producers: Profiles in Frustration and XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without a Shul. He bought eight copies of my book that night (and took ten).
I had ten pages on him in the book.
He used it to try to get a publishing deal for his memoir. He did not succeed (to the best of my knowledge).
At my book party, I introduced him to two possible writers for his memoir -- Nelson Handel and Jeffrey Wells.
Jay called me a few days before the party. He was disturbed by the press
release for my party. He had only known me as a nice young man. But all
this talk about: “a
bottom feeder” (Village Voice), “He has elevated moral and spiritual schizophrenia
to surreal proportions” (Salon)…
The day after my party, Jay called me. "The women could've been prettier,"
From day one, Jay struck me as an unhappy lonely man. We bonded quickly, helped by our common conservative politics and my interest in his life.
He once took me to lunch at Spago's. While we were sitting in his sports car afterwards, he showed me his gun. He said he had a license to carry (only about 200 of those are granted in LA to civilians).
It seemed like he spent most of his time watching television. He wasn't a reader.
On September 9, 2004, I emailed Jay a link to the LA Press Club's newsletter coverage of the book party.
He replied: "You look like a superstar! congratulations on the coverage. you friend, jay bernstein."
I last saw Jay March 7, 2005. I dropped off about 15 copies (I accidentally left an extra copy) of my producer book around 11 a.m. to his home in Beverly Hills (off Coldwater Canyon).
Jay was still in bed. His maid (of about 15 years) roused him. He wrote me a check for $480 (my cost for the books).
He had me sit in a massage chair for a few minutes and turned it on. It felt good.
He went through various DVDs and asked me which ones I wanted. I took about six.
I told him I was sorry, but I had to run off to a medical apppointment.
We shook hands and said goodbye.
Jay Bernstein - True Hollywood Story
From E!'s True Hollywood Story:
Starmaker Jay Bernstein stands out.
Jay: "I had a midas touch. If I told people, this one is going to be a star, they didn't argue with me."
He's a gun toting, cane weidling publicist/manager, a self proclaimed star making machine. In the last 40 years, he's masterminded the careers of Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, Stacy Keach, Linda Evans and Robert Conrad. To some he's a tyranical Svengali, a blustering self promoter. To others, he's a clear-sighted genius with a golden touch.
Natalie and Jerome Bernstein gave birth to Jay in Oklahoma City. Thanks to Jerome's retail store, the family lived comfortably. It was safe, few people locked their doors and few mothers worked. Only one friend had a single parent.
Young Jay was wildly imaginative. He loved movies. He saw one every day. He had movie star posters in his room. He wanted to be a leading man but he lacked the right look. Jay did great Dean Martin imitations. He performed at school assemblies.
In the 1950s, he attended Pomono College where he majored in history. He graduated in 1960. He took a job in the mailroom at William Morris talent agency in Beverly Hills. He got fired for wrecking a car. Jay then cried his way into a job. TV producer Sheldon Leonard landed him a position at the big publicist Rogers & Cowan. Bernstein represented the Rat Pack of Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra.
Jay represented blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield.
Jay: "The reason that I quit Rogers & Cowan is that I was raped by Jayne Mansfield. It was a friendly rape. I was living with an actress girlfriend who was very jealous. She said that if I handled Jayne Mansfield one more day, she'd leave. So I quit and then I opened my office in my girlfriend's spare bedroom."
The couple soon split. Sammy Davis Jr came with Jay and many more big stars such as Peter Fonda, Robert Conrad and Joan Collins. Sammy gave Jay his first cane.
Jay's sister: "Jay loves to be seen."
Jay: "I found the people around me were not as educated as I was on what makes a star."
Bernstein worked day and night. His life became a nonstop series of parties. He took up big game hunting to please client William Holden. He added Shirley MacLaine, Ron Howard and Isaac Hayes.
In 1975, Jay burned out and decided to become a manager. He took on Lee Majors and his wife Farrah Fawcett.
Blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful, Farrah, 30, struggled for years to make it in Hollywood.
Jay: "She had a golden glow. I realized that she could be the biggest star in the world. I felt a legend was being born."
Jay learned that Farrah had shot a TV pilot Charlie's Angels.
Jay: "The poster [of Farrah] was not my idea. The promotion of the poster was my idea. I'd say that hundreds of thousands went through their first sexual experience with Farrah Fawcett. She just wasn't there."
Charlie's Angels debuted in the fall of 1976.
Dick Van Patten: "I don't think any manager worked harder for a client. Jay was obsessed with Farrah Fawcett."
Jay: "She was my whole life. I did it all day long, two shifts a day, and then when I went to sleep, I dreamt about her."
Sales of Farrah's poster passed the seven million mark.
In October 1977, Suzanne Somers, 32, discovered Jay Bernstein. She became the star of Threes Company. Bernstein turned her into America's most loveable ditzy blonde.
Jay was brutally honest with his clients.
Suzanne: "Jay critiques your body. I remember I was 32. First he said, I'm going to sell you as Marilyn Monroe. Then one day he said, you're getting too old. I'm going to sell you as Judy Holliday because it doesn't matter if Judy Holliday has wrinkles and the body's not so great. It was him talking out loud in front of the product. I'm a product to him.
"He'd say things to his clients like, you're slipping. Farrah was on four magazines this month and Jacqueline [Smith] was on three and you are only on two. That's not a good sign."
Farrah quit Charlie's Angeles in the Spring of 1977. ABC execs were furious and blamed Jay Bernstein. Jay claimed that Lee Majors pulled the plug and Jay was just a good soldier. ABC filed a $13 million breach of contract lawsuit against her. They eventually settled.
Suzanne: "There were moments when I was working with the devil. He's up and he's down and he can turn on a dime. You have to always know that he's got an agenda. The agenda is Jay Bernstein."
Former assistant Jeff Morton: "He was an equal opportunity yeller at people. There was a tremendous turnover."
In the summer of 1979, Jay produced the 1960s TV series The Wild Wild West as two TV movies.
Jay moved into a big house in Bel Air, where he still lives, and threw lavish parties.
In January 1980, editors of Playboy magazine got their hands on nude pictures of Suzanne Somers. The photos were taken ten years earlier when she was only 22.
Suzanne: "Jay calls me one morning. He set this up. 'Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to send you down to Vernon Scott at UPI. Tell him your story. Tell him why you took those pictures. Tell him that your son almost died and you're trying to pay your doctor bills. And you're a mother with no child support.' And now people who've never seen Threes Company are asking what show is she on? He handled it beautifully."
Farrah Fawcett fired Jay.
Jay: "I was the most devastated... It was a pain that I dealt with for years. She fired me because she couldn't tell which one of us was which."
A few months later, Suzanne tired of the increasing rift between Jay and her husband Alan Hammel. She fired Jay.
Suzanne: "I felt badly but I was in the middle of these two men and there was no choice for me. I was not going to choose Jay Bernstein over my husband. Jay went into a rage. He was very angry. He drew a sword out of his cane and brandishing the sword around and I'm jumping like we're doing an intermission act in Las Vegas. He was never going to stab me with his sword. It was just the flamboyance of Jay Bernstein. He was now Errol Flynn and he was fighting for his life. Yet there's an element of Jay that is a little crazy and maybe he'll make contact."
Jay denies brandishing a sword but admits the decision hurt him deeply. Depressed, he loaded his Rolls Royce with two Susan Heyward biographies, a jar of Russian caviar, a bottle of vodka and his 38 pistol with six bullets. He checked himself into a Ramada Inn and spent the next three days staring out his eighth floor window.
Jay: "This was my most depressed time."
Jay pulled himself together and went back to work. In the summer of 1980, he formed a partnership with friend and lawyer Larry Thompson. He managed Linda Evans for a year and she starred on Dynasty. The relationship was volatile.
Friend: "At a certain point, they felt that their psyche was being encroached on. He scared them. That's how intense he could be. Jay is always about how close can you stand to a prairie fire without getting your ass burned."
In the winter of 1981, Jay met writer Mickey Spillane. Bernstein turned the novels into a series for TV, starring Stacy Keach. By 1984, it was a hit.
Then Stacy got arrested and jailed (9 months) in England for cocaine.
Jay's home went up in flames.
Mary Hart reported the story on Entertainment Tonight. Jay appreciated the compassionate way she reported the news and he began to manage her. He had her legs insured for $2 million with Lloyds of London. Six months later, it was over.
Jay bought some guns and got a permit to carry. He brought back the Mike Hammer TV show.
In the fall of 1988, Jay spent $200,000 to find his next big star. Jay auditioned thousands. He settled on one, actress Denise Dove, a brunette.
Jay's overbearing manner and quick temper reached new heights.
Denise: "I wouldn't socialize with him that much because I didn't want to push his buttons. You're seeing someone taking their anti-depressant and then open up their jacket and you see a gun. How could one not put the whole package together and fear for your life?"
Denise left. "I felt that I wanted to make it as an actress, just to give him the joy that he doesn't always have in his life."
Jay married brunette model Cabrina Sullivan in the Spring of 1993.
Jay: "It was probably doomed from the start."
It was over within a year.
In October 1998, Jay became engaged to blonde beauty, 22-year old Simona Fusco.
Jay's godson Jeb Adams: "Everyone has their addictions that they have to deal with. And young women have always been one of his."
On May 26, 1999, Simona gave birth to a daughter.
Friend: "I've never seen Jay more happy than when that baby was born. I think he wanted to have a child to have his legacy."
Jeb Adams: "I hope that he can have this little bit in his life of something of true love and happiness and caring, because I don't think he's ever given 100% to anybody but himself."
In December, 1999, Jay was accused of assaulting a friend of Simona's at his home. Jay was arrested but not charged.
Jay and Simona parted ways.
Jay: "My life is alone. My favorite person in the world is my housekeeper Delmi who has been with me for 22 years. She's really my family. My estate will be divided between her and my child."
Simona: "His life will always be Hollywood. His family is Hollywood. Farrah and Suzanne are Jay's daughters. Now he has his own daughter and it's very confusing to him."
Jay took a childhood dream and made it real.
Jay: "How do I most want to be remembered? By being remembered."
I met Hollywood starmaker Jay Berstein at his Bel Air mansion January 30, 2002. From his balcony on this cold clear day, you could see from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.
In a recent issue of The National Enquirer (TNE), Bernstein said we need tough guys like John Wayne to help defeat terrorism "but Hollywood and the networks are not interested."
Jay says the entertainment industry is failing America in its time of crisis. Hollywood should inspire us to fight for our country. "There's a mindset since Vietnam that war is bad," Bernstein told TNE. "But war is good if we don't want these heinous terror attacks to happen again. We weren't exactly smelling the roses one month after Pearl Harbor.
"We need movies and TV shows in the pipeline now to get Americans feeling they would proudly die for this country if they had to. There's nothing like that in production now.
"And we need an American, two-fisted iron man like John Wayne. No surreal martial arts, running up walls. No cinematic gimmicks. Just tough talk, strong fists and soul-stirring action.
"We rooted for Russell Crowe in Gladiator and Mel Gibson in The Patriot. Now we need TV shows and movies that show tough-guy Americans battling the terrorists in our midst so we'll see this war through, and defeat that scum Bin Laden."
Bernstein says that studio chiefs and TV bosses won't listen to him. "They don't get it. Hollywood's hunkered down in a foxhole of fear."
Jay told me this subject has been on his mind since September 11.
"I was sitting at dinner next to someone with the Enquirer. They liked the idea."
The article takes up two-thirds of a page and features a big picture of John Wayne with a small inset photo of Jay.
Jay: "Would you take a look at my eyes and take a look at John Wayne's eyes? Take a look at my nose and take a look at John Wayne's nose."
Luke: "They're similar. What sort of reaction did the article get?"
Jay: "I don't get reactions. But the admitted readership [of TNE] is ten million."
We talked about the Mike Hammer series that Jay produced.
Jay: "When the head of Columbia [show's production company] changed, and Barbara Corday, who was the co-creator of Cagney and Lacey, became the head of Columbia, she hated Mike Hammer because it was the antithesis of Cagney and Lacey. She wanted to get rid of the decollatage low-cut [outfits of the gorgeous women on the show]. She would sometimes do an interview and leave out that they were doing Mike Hammer. The only series they had there were three dramatic series - Star Man, Houston Nights (which I also produced), and Mike Hammer. We had terrible fights. She just wanted the show cancelled. She once said that the series set back the womens' movement a decade.
"It was a genre piece. Mike Hammer was never rude to women and even when they would come on to him, he didn't do anything lascivious. He'd probably have an affair with somebody in every episode. Barbara Corday was the precursor of now. We don't have any male shows. We have Alias and Jordan's Crossing and Dark Angel. There's nothing going on for men. They were trying to get rid of us and Mike Hammer was a good place to start. And she finally did get the show cancelled. I then got it on again. It's the first time anyone's done a series more than once with the same actor [Stacy Keach]. And I did it three times over 12 years. It's always been a cult hit, not a number one show."
Luke: "How did you get involved with it?"
Jay: "In 1979, I was flying first class on an airplane to New York. And you should always fly first class. I've made two big deals that way. And I was sitting next to Mickey Spillane, author of the Mike Hammer detective novel series. Mickey was a childhood hero of mine. I said to him, 'She walked towards me, her hips waving a happy hello.' He put down his paper and smiled and talked to me for a minute.
"He told me later, 'I thought I was going to be sitting next to a fan for the next five hours.' About 30 minutes later, I said, 'Women stuck to Mike Hammer like lint on a blue Serge suit.' And he laughed and we started talking again. He said he hadn't worked in Hollywood for 15 years. He didn't like the people there. By the time the plane landed, he gave me the rights to Mike Hammer for $1.
"We'd like to redo the whole Mike Hammer thing and make it contemporary. Make him a John Wayne type character who fights terrorists. In the original books, Hammer was fighting the communists. He'd go into the cell meetings and machine-gun communists. Now there terrorists are hiding. It's the same thing as the communists..."
Luke: "How are the Hollywood execs reacting to you?"
Jay: "I haven't gone out since September 11. I'm letting this sink in. It will still be difficult. You notice that the flags are down. We have a feminine attitude here and a lot of the country. It seems that the men are doing the mergers and acquisitions while the creative is controlled by women. And women give life while men have been the warriors who take life and protect it. And women are saving the seals and the whales while we got bombed in New York City. God forbid that something else happens, that will make it happen."
Luke: "I agree. And it is even worse in the publishing world. It's overrun with feminists, of the male and female and gay variety."
Jay: "So many people have said that I should do a book. But I know that is the problem. In New York, whenever people have asked, it's clear that I am not their kind of person. I'm not politically correct.
"I found that the synonym for 'producer' was 'problem.' Nobody ever calls you with anything but problems. When I was doing the new Mike Hammer and Houston Nights at the same time. If you were shooting a two hour movie, it would take four months. I was doing the equivalent of four months work every six days. You had to be John Wayne tough to deal with these people. The minute you get a green light to go with your team, with Columbia (the producer) and CBS (the network), I become the enemy of both of them. Columbia's trying to save money. They kept trying to cut me down. Then CBS would have their point of view. When you make a TV show, you do it by committee. When you try to make a horse by committee, you end up with a camel. So I had to fight. And I wasn't popular as a producer because I fired more producers than anyone had else fired.
"I had spent a decade as a publicist and a decade as a manager, so when I got into production, I didn't know who were the best people to work with. And the studio wanted to give you people who were cheaper and couldn't work anywhere else. You don't know that at the beginning. You're told that all these people are wonderful.
"Primarily I had to fire writers. I've never gotten along well with writers. When Mike Hammer was most popular, I made a deal with CBS that we would hire three writers to do three scripts for each episode. And I was lucky to get one script that was any good. The writer is the only person whoever gets paid [regardless of production]. The writers let you think that's the only thing they're doing but they're doing five other scripts at the same time. And the agents, in many cases, won't let you meet the writer until you've made a firm offer. And I found that the writers who had the best personalities were usually the worst writers. They knew how to sell. I ended up doing much of the writing myself, and I'm not a writer. But I'd structure it from stories I'd make up.
"Some of the writers they gave me were people who'd written for radio in the 1940s. I was getting all this corn stuff that had been done 40 times.
"Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books have always been closed-end mysteries. You didn't know who did it until the end. Columbia had no problem with that but CBS said we have to worry about our sponsors. We don't want closed-end shows because when someone gets up and goes to the bathroom and comes back to the TV set, they don't know what's going on. 'So we want you to show at the beginning, like Columbo, who the killer is.' And that's not what Mike Hammer is. And when it finally worked, the way CBS rewarded me was to steal my ideas and come up with a show called Murder She Wrote.
"When I came up with the ad campaign, they didn't like, 'When the police won't help you, Mike Hammer will.' But I finally got it in. Then when Stacy Keen went to prison [for drugs], they stole it and came up with a show called The Equalizer. 'When the police won't help you, the Equalizer will.'
"Mike Hammer was the first hard-guy P.I. The others were the Jimmy Carter soft detectives - Barnaby Jones, Canon, Rockford, Magnum P.I.. Mike Hammer was a Charles "Death Wish" Bronson type who would kick the shit out of you. He'd be like a pitbull.
"We invented the voice over and then ABC stole that with Spencer For Hire. Anything that you do that works, somebody takes it from you and copies it.
"Girls are told that they shouldn't sleep with the producer. But I slept with the executive producer of Mike Hammer, Jay Bernstein, which is me. He hired me as a writer and I wrote several episodes and got in the Writers Guild. Then I slept with Jay Bernstein again, and he let me direct. So I got into the Directors Guild of America. Then I slept with him again and he let me act and I got into the Screen Actors Guild.
"Producing was fun but hard. You had to get yourself ready each day to stay in shape for a fight. And no one ever calls you with a compliment. Every other business I've been in was the same way. In management, when I made someone into a star, I'd just get fired. Once I got them to where they wanted to be, the air would get rarified, they'd get deified and I'd get nullified. Because 15% of nothing is nothing while 15% of $10 million is $1.5 million. And it is hard for them to write those checks. I've been fired hundreds of times."
Luke: "But you've stayed on good terms with Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Sommers."
Jay: "I'm not on bad terms. But when someone fires you, they're like ex-wives. It's not like any of them would throw a benefit for me. Because they would have to feel bad about firing me. It all gets tricky. They could owe you money and some smart lawyer will say, 'You don't have to pay him. Just sue him. Say he ruined your career.' Then you have to go get a lawyer and spend the same amount of money you would've gotten.
"I've been engaged three times but married only once. I only knew my wife (Cabrina Finn) two days when I proposed. We were in Cozumel, Mexico, scuba diving. I was shark hunting, down about 100 feet. I shot the shark and it was the first time I had ever missed. And the shark was circling to kill me. And I went to get the other spearhead and this girl I'd just met, was holding it. And the current was against me and I couldn't get there. And the shark was about to rip me apart and she just leans in, doesn't know what she's doing, and kills the shark. And the next morning, I proposed.
"We ended up scuba diving halfway around the world. We had a million dollar wedding at Saint Martens island in the West Indies paid for by Robin Leach's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Eddie Fisher was my best man.
"Cabrina and I got along well under water. We just had problems on land."
Luke: "The most devastating article I ever read in TV Guide was an expose on Suzanne Somers after she left Threes Company."
Jay: "That was after she left me. Her husband Allen Hammel went in and asked for a huge raise for her. They had fights and she got blacklisted. She didn't work in film or television for eight years."
Luke: "Why would anyone else care that she'd stood up ABC?"
Jay: "Like when Farrah left Charlie's Angels... If you walk out on a hit show, even though you have a contract, you're not going to want to hire such a person. Just like you wouldn't want to hire a girl who's been divorced eight times.
"Suzanne's now on the Home Shopping Network three hours a week selling exercise equipment, candy, jewelry. She's written books on exercise and diet. They're close to billionaires."
Luke: "What effect has it had on you to spend most of your adult life around beautiful women?"
Jay: "The good news about beautiful women is that there seems to be a never-ending supply. Because I'm Jay Bernstein, I get 1200 pictures and resumes every month. Do they want me for my body? No. We're all a package. Everybody wants us for more than just what we would want them to want us for. I don't think I've ever dated a humpback.
"I've never been a cheater. When I've had a relationship, I've always been faithful to that relationship. But I was always so busy, I was working 25 hours a day. It was hard for anyone to put up with that. Many times I would take a woman somewhere and leave her at the table for four hours. Not meaning to, but by the time I came back, they were gone.
"If I were to say how many women I've slept with, it would be as tacky as Wilt Chamberlain. There's no upside to saying. When you're 18 years old, you and I thought we could fuck everybody there was. Bu then as you get more mature, and you realize that there's a new crop coming in every year, you realize that you can't do that. At this stage in my life, sex for sex sake is a bore.
"I would love to have someone in my life as a lover/companion/friend, but with the way the world is, I don't think it is going to happen. I think that the women have become men and the men are becoming women. And I'm certainly not attracted to men. The women that I've liked have been the most beautiful because all I've met are beautiful women.
"The birth control pill came in in the 1960s. And before that, divorce wasn't in. I remember Oklahoma City, where I grew up, we would drive by the Deaconess School where the unwed mothers would be. Because you couldn't be an unwed mother. In Oklahoma City, I only knew one person who'd been divorced. Then came the pill and freedom. An abortion prior to the pill, you could serve the same prison time as being a heroin dealer now. There were no abortionists. You had to go Mexico and the rusty knife.
"Girls today in their 20s think that the birth control pill, if they think about it, has been around since the late 1800s. I am traditional in what I want. The reason that I haven't been married eight times is that it has changed too much for me to want to deal with the downside that you see with all your friends. You lose your house, your bank account, your mind... I've always been the caretaker. The women were always younger. It would sure be nice at this point to have someone who wanted to take care of me. But they're not out there unless you want to go for someone older, which I never did. For years, I haven't gone out with a woman at least 25 years younger than me."
Luke: "There are women out there who want to nurture and care for a man, but they're not actresses."
Jay: "I haven't met anyone who wasn't an actress and a model. A lot of these movie stars, beautiful actresses like Susan Hayward, but she can't meet a man. Where could she meet a man? Look at Farrah Fawcett. What's she going to do to meet a man? She's certainly not going to go to a bar. If she goes out with somebody who loves the publicity of being with her, that's dangerous. You don't want somebody with you just for that. And if you go out with somebody who hates the publicity and can't handle it, then that's a problem too. If someone fixes you up and you go to their house, you could be in a situation you don't want to deal with. If they come to your house, then you've got another problem. A lot of us are stuck in our own worlds. I don't meet people who aren't in the business.
"The problem with my marriage is that I had no experience with it. To me, it was like heavy going steady. My parents were married for 53 years before my dad died. People don't do that anymore. Ten years is about as long as anyone in this town lasts.
"Each of us is a package. Women like me for being Jay Bernstein and for what I can do for them and for my intelligence. With you, because you're handsome, you can get people outside the business, nurses, secretaries, whatever, based on your looks. That's why you get to meet more people outside the business than I did. Even though I would rather have looked more like you than like me, what happens is when you have someone really handsome and intelligent, like you are, and you go on television and talk about something, women just look at the handsome people and don't listen to them. I'm in the middle so people can look at me and listen to me at the same time.
"What I am supposed to do in my own life is help America. I gave them role models at a time when we didn't have any. In the 1970s, when Nixon was impeached and nobody wanted to be in politics because you go to prison, music was spiked hair and spike bracelets, sports, the most looked-up to person was Joe Namath, that's when I started working on the role models - Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, Mary Hart, Linda Evans...
"It used to be that 25 was the age where women, who weren't married, were considered old maids. But when Farrah was 30 on Charlie's Angels, I publicized that. And it took women from 25 - 30. They moved up those five years. Then with Linda Evans, I made women perfect at 40. My friend Dr. Joyce Brothers says that we were cutting down women's suicide rate 25% between the ages of 30 - 40. Say someone is 36, and instead of being depressed and suicidal that they were six years over the hill, they could say, 'Gee, I have four years to get it all together and be perfect, just like Linda Evans.' It gave them more to feel good about themselves."
Luke: "So when you look back on a career of over 30 years in Hollywood, which things have you done that have the most meaning to you?"
Jay: "Things like that. I created role models for a country that didn't have any. Right now we don't have role models. This [TNE] article reminds guys about our responsibilities. Women will ignore it. They're not dropping Charlie's Angels into Afghanistan. That's what I've tried to do - keep myself where I can help. With Mike Hammer, the reason I fought so hard to keep that on was not for any of the reasons you would think. It was because I believe there is a difference between good and evil. Good should be rewarded and evil should be punished. And as much as I like to watch shows like Law & Order, with its great acting, I hate what it's about. Because it shows that evil can get off with a good lawyer on a technicality. In every episode of Mike Hammer, the audience knew who was guilty. Mike Hammer knew. Then they pulled a gun on him first and he'd get rid of them. Nobody went to court."
Luke: "America had this great victory in the Persian Gulf ten years ago and there hasn't been one movie or TV series to celebrate it?"
Jay: "We're living in the world of Vietnam. People think war is bad because Vietnam was bad. I hate the fact that Black Hawk Down is doing so well. They make it sound like it is patriotic. It's an anti-war film. It's back to Platoon. Because we look like the villains. We're machine-gunning children. It sure doesn't make you want to put your flag out. It makes you want to take it down."
Luke: "I think there's a great yearning in the American breast for patriotic entertainment."
Jay: "I don't think so. I think it should be put there... Movies are primarily for young people who don't want to see war. They want to be entertained. The average age for movie audiences is under 23. And on television, the audience you go for is women. So men are not an audience anywhere except for sports. As for the rest, 98% of the time, the bad person is a guy."
Luke: "When you were creating your role models, men and women still had more traditional roles on TV. When did it change?"
Jay: "With the growth of feminism. Men weren't watching this. It was happening all around them. Take the black situation. When I grew up in Oklahoma City and you got on the bus, it said 'rear seats for colored.' The only colored people you met were in your home working for you. They lived in a segregated part of town. Then in the 1960s you had Martin Luther King and negroes. Then we watched the rise of equality. And we could see it. But with the feminism, it just kept coming.
"Women are able to communicate. The typical American male does his job all day, has lunch with his friends, discusses business, goes home and he's tired. Women all day long are communicating. If a guy calls his friend and says, 'I want you to know that Cabrina and I are getting a divorce.' And he says, 'That's terrible. And any time you want to talk about it, 24/7, you call me.' And I'd get off the phone thinking that is really nice.
"The woman gets on the phone and calls her best friend to say, 'I'm going to be getting a divorce from Jay.' The friend will say, 'What did that sonofabitch do to you? Let me tell you a lawyer that you ought to get right now. And if I were you, I'd get right down to the bank and lock up the accounts.' And three hours later, you're screwed. Because they know how to do all this. We have 'Women in Film' organizations. Do you ever see 'Men in Film' groups? You'd go to jail if you started a white men's organization. They'd think you were the grand dragons of the Klu Klux Klan.
"Men are individuals. We don't work in groups. Even in the animal kingdom as with elephants. There's only one bull in the herd and all the rest are cows. When men are young, they talk about sex all the time. When you get older, it's not gallant to talk about the women you've been with. Women, when they're young, never talk about sex because it is not polite. But when they get older, that's all they talk about.
"I nearly gave in with Mike Hammer before September 11 because I couldn't sell it. And I still wanted to show the difference between good and evil without the lawyer getting you off like every one of these legal shows. I had a script written called 'Mickey Spillane's Ms. Hammer.' I nearly had to turn Mike Hammer into a woman.
"The things that I produce are 90% about the things that I believe. I produce, not out of addiction, but out of obligation. I wouldn't produce something for any amount of money that had a message that was the opposite of what I believed. I am not a zealot. I just feel responsible since nobody else is doing it. I want to produce patriotic entertainment. Second. If England and Ireland can't get along because of Catholics vs Protestants, how are we going to get along here with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists... We've got everything here. We haven't faced that problem yet."
Luke: "Do you think we can all get along?"
Jay: "Have you been to Japan? Have you ever heard of an African-Japanese? Or a Mexican-Japanese? Or a Russian-Japanese? We haven't faced our problem. I'd like to take a Vietnamese-American old fashioned family who believe in Buddhism who have a 19-year old daughter who falls in love with a conservative Catholic hispanic. Both families discourage the relationship but the kids run away, get married and have a child. A year-and-a-half later, while they are both working in the World Trade Center, they're killed. Now you've got a child who's half Vietnamese-American and half Hispanic-American and these two families need to raise it together.
"We may be integrated but we're segregated and separated."
Luke: "Hollywood pushes projects that say that diversity is a wonderful thing. I'm not so sure."
Jay: "I'm not either but we're stuck with it."
Luke: "And the way we get along is by leading separate lives. Ninety five percent of my friends are Jewish."
Jay: "How do you feel about the Hasidic Jews?"
Luke: "They're my fellow Jews. I've had good and bad interactions with them."
Jay: "Did you know that seem to be the most powerful group now in Israel? That's difficult for me to deal with just on a personal prejudice level. I'm not comfortable with that nor do I understand it. It's as foreign to me as Buddhism. I've never met a Hasidic Jew. The only people I knew who wore black hats were cowboys.
"If Pakistan and India go to war, one of them will land some missiles into Israel. We have a pact with Israel. And if Israel is run by the Hasidic Jews... I'm trying to raise some Jewish money to make patriotic entertainment. Because if that happens, I'm afraid there will be a lot of anti-Semitism in this country. I don't think Americans can identify with Hasidic Jews. If we have a WASPy Mike Hammer side by side with an Israeli who looks like you, there will be more of an identification. You don't think Jews are a different race, do you?"
Luke: "No. I think they are a people, like the American people, composed of many different races."
Jay: "Like a nationality but not a race. So many people, like Hitler and many people here, thought the Jews were a race. I went to an Episcopal private school for six years. I was the only Jew in the school. Many of the fathers of the girls wouldn't let me date their daughters after 16 years old because they didn't want their girls to get pregnant and have their baby with horns. Where did that one come from?"
Luke: "From the Gospel of John 8: 44 in the New Testament. Jesus calls the Jews children of the Devil. And the Devil has horns. So the Jews have horns too."
Jay: "The literalists think the baby will be born with horns. I remember being at the home of Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, in Kentucky, with his family. And they were older. And we went to the Holiday Inn, the nicest restaurant in town. This woman kept looking at me. She said, 'Are you a Jew?' I said yes. Then she asked, 'Where are your horns?' I said, 'I had those manicured off when I was very young.'
"Technology was supposed to make things better but it's just made things faster. You go to the shrink on Wednesdays and I go to the shrink on Wednesdays. Things have gone so fast with no real sense to it. I've had to make a purpose to what I was doing to stay around to do it. I don't get any applause for that but that's ok. I get applause from the emails, but those are all blank faces."
Luke: "From the Hollywood community?"
Jay: "No. To them, I'm like a rogue. All those people I managed and help maximize their potential into superstardom, they all thought I was Prince Valiant and Sir Lancelot. The people that I got all that from thought I was Jesse James or John Dillinger. Then, when these people fired me, I didn't have anybody thinking I was the good guy anymore. That's why I took some time away from it because it is hard to be the villain all the time when you know you're doing good things.
"Those Al Qada prisoners we have in Cuba should be shot. And now they're talking about giving us their life stories.
"The agent called today. I want him to send this TNE article to the executives making decisions. And even though the story will piss them off. I've always thought that if you can't go over the fence, you go under the fence. If you can't go under the fence, then you better suggest that they move their fence, because if they don't, you might just blow it up. I'm ready to blow up fences again. They may not want to see me at NBC. But if I've got enough power to get this in print, I have enough power to get seen at some network. And if NBC turns me down, I can go to ABC and if they make it and it is successful, then the person at NBC who turned me down will get fired. And we're spending covers of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books translated into 19 different languages."
Luke: "Is Mike Hammer a Jay Bernstein alter ego?"
Jay: "Yes. My hero growing up was WWII hero Audie Murphy. In WWI, Sergeant York killed 18 Germans. In WWII, Audie Murphy killed 240. And he was my hero growing up. Then my heroes became Alan Ladd, and Clark Gables, and those who wore the white hat, who were doing what I'm trying to do. The Lone Ranger didn't get any thanks for what he did. The last thing they always said in the show was, 'Who was that masked man? Why, didn't you know? That was the Lone Ranger. Ho, ho, ho Silver!' He didn't get praise either.
"Did you see the movie Platoon? That was anti-war. Ten years before that was a movie, The Green Berets, starring John Wayne, David Jansen. That was more of what I'm talking about. Make us heroes while we do it. Don't show us slaughtering the children and killing civilians. It was women and children and babies who were killed in Black Hawk Down. We lost 18 people and killed over 1000 Somalis.
"Did you see the movie No Man's Land? It's about Bosnia. It shows how bad war can be but in a different way. I think we need to have some heroes who have balls. They took everything we had. Tarzan is now Sheena. In every one of them, they switched what the man was into a woman. It's just wrong. Because the women aren't doing any of the real fighting. And they're the ones who wanted equality. And they took ours away. Do you agree? Do you feel it?"
Luke: "Yes. That's one reason why I am an Orthodox Jew. We have separate roles for men and women. As soon as you allow women into anything, it destroys its mystique for men."
Jay: "We used to have the organization Big Brothers which did a lot of good. Then they made it Big Brothers and Sisters."