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Elsa Gress discusses her work, current events, cultural movements

BROADCAST: Oct. 1, 1968 | DURATION: 00:56:38

Synopsis

Danish essayist and novelist Elsa Gress discusses her work, current events, and cultural movements. Her book "My Many Homes" ("Mine mange hjem") is also mentioned. She talks about American and Demark, theater, and the sexual revolution.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel Oh, we're about 43 or so kilometers southwest of Copenhagen, home of Elsa Gress and her husband, Clifford Wright, the American painter, three children, David, Barbara, John. How do you describe this place? I think the whole world is in this reconverted schoolhouse that is now a home. And everyone said to me, before I left Copenhagen, to get a picture of Copenhagen and its quite remarkable people. Elsa Gress, you must see her. So as I talk to you, now, Elsa Gress, who's, has written a good number of books, one of which are her memoirs, is an autobiography, "My Many Homes", and her home has been visited by artists in various parts of the world, young artists and all the media. Her husband is--we'll talk about this in a moment, 'cause it's Elsa Gress I want to hear. How does it begin? You, how you came to be.

Elsa Gress Me, I describe how the beginning was in "My Many Homes", that's really my childhood and my background. But if you're thinking of this particular place, of course, it came out of, well, me being an artist and not just a writer but a sort of multimedia phenomenon. I always was interested in film and painting, using everything. And, so, when my husband--I'd been to America in the beginning of the '50s and had to leave for McCarthy [racism?] at that time. But anyway, I had a lot of American friends, all artists, or, at worst, intellectuals. And one of them being my husband, Clifford Wright. He came over in '56 and I remarried and we started expanding and the place in Copenhagen was too small. We've heard about these old schoolhouses that are being, you know, abandoned because of collecting all the kids in the central schools. And, so, we sent a friend, we didn't have a car at the time, we sent a friend around who was a ceramist and he found this place for us and we went right down and got it, it's almost 200 years old, it dates from the first law of compulsory schooling for country kids, and we didn't know it was going to be perfect for what we were going to be, because we didn't know what we're going to be, we just, we were artists and we had to have room, that was one thing. We didn't care whether it rained through the roof, it did when we first came down, we got it all fixed up. This old, old house has a--it's like a farm. And one big schoolroom where all these 30 kids or whatever were and the teacher's apartment and there's a stable that we are now--

Studs Terkel The stable is now a gallery of Clifford Wright's works

Elsa Gress at the moment. And we show all kinds of work, sculpture and painting, photograph and everything. And there was an old gymnasium that is superb for, well, for Clifford to work and for his colleagues that paint or sculpt, and for acting, we can do Renaissance acting, modern acting, any kind of thing. Which came in very handy when we had the La MaMa Repertory Troupe around. Yes.

Studs Terkel

Elsa Gress La MaMa Troupe was here, and you played host, hostess to it. Yes. And they came about in this place. It was fun. Last time around America when after Tom O'Horgan has exploded all over the place, everybody knows who they are.

Studs Terkel You're talking about Tom O'Horgan, for the sake of our audience now listening, Tom O'Horgan is the young avant-garde director, formerly in Chicago, whose--a couple of his works, one is "Tom Paine", a nonrealistic interpretation of Paine as nightmare and the other, "Futz" is his play, too. The musical, "Hair". I forgot about "Hair". But O'Horgan and his guests and the group were guests at the home. They were here for about 10 months and they became the kind of theater that Tom is doing, and personal things about three directors in the world today that are worthwhile, totally creative, Tom being one of them. Tom O'Horgan, the other ones are Peter Brook and Kutowski, and Denmark, we are theater people, are always complaining that nothing's happening, and so no interest, has had both a Kutowski theater and O'Horgan-- Kutowski's a Pole, and Peter Brook. The Englishman, and Tom's theatre, physical theatre, theatre of the new or whatever you want to call it. Both these extremes that I met with they tell me it's a good thing, came about in this country. Elsa Gress, here we are, it's a sort of outwardly, outside, a bleak Sunday afternoon outside Copen, yet quite warm here. The whole world seems to be in your place: The gallery, your son David, who's 15 is now translating the memoirs of a venerable, a great Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, he's 15, doing the translation. Yes, he has been writing, he has been writing books since and plays, [mammoth?] plays, and plays since he was five. He has been writing and talking at least three languages since he was two, and he, he's a, he is a writer, that's nothing. He just has a book out called, that he did with me, he did as a scenario: "The [unintelligible] Allure of Passion's Rocket", it's a science fiction take-off. He did it with you. Yeah. Your 15-year-old son. If we could just go back, your interests are very many, I think we should go back since I am in Denmark, and I know this place of yours is international, the magazines, the books, the--all the aspects of multimedia here, to you, Elsa Gress, how you--beginnings for you, yourself, how you came to be the inquisitive, the curious person you are. So let's start with, how was it, where was your girlhood, your childhood? Well, most of it was spent in suburban Copenhagen. My father was--well, he was a nut. But he was also a very gifted man who only, for neurotic reason, didn't ever use his great talents. He was a very talented person and very intelligent. And my mother was artistically interested in all kinds of things, and the two of them gave my brother and me, my brother, I had a brother and a sister who died quite early and we three kids got a very unorthodox background. We were always encouraged to write, paint, do whatever we wanted to, to have unorthodox opinions and to stand up in school and be counted and hit quite often, because at that time, of course, just as now, the one that's out of the group doesn't have an easy time, but we had this great security at home. You were the outsider being hit-- I was the outsider, oh, yes, yes. By the other kids. It was pretty tough while it lasted, but somehow I realized that what I was describing this period that all of this was all this insecurity being exposed to the [tack?], the truth, whatever it is. I never felt unhappy or left out because I had, my home was a background and my very close relationship to my brothers and sisters and my parents, and we were always moving around. This was Depression time, even in Denmark, between the wars, and so on, but it was actually a very good preparation for life because when I graduated from senior high school in just the year the war broke out. I had been with my brother for trips in the summer, and walking around hitchhiking, which was unusual at the time in Germany, in France, and in Europe, and I seen a bit of the world, and at the same time, I didn't expect anything, I didn't expect a career, I didn't expect anything but self-expression, it was-- You were just savoring of things. Yes, yes, yes. Mutating, but also I was sort of a born, both born and educated as an old-fashioned word. It's very hard to get a word for it because liberal is wrong, radical is wrong, all the American associations are wrong. But you know, the--it strikes me now when I see the young generation, both in America and here, being rebellious and they don't know what the hell they're being rebellious about. They have a lot of causes, some of them worthy, some of them completely--You know, really reactionary and terrible. For instance, all this hocus pocus obscurantistic interest in witchcraft and things like that. I mean, these things were partial to me, but I was sort of brought up as an inquisitive person, a person who questioned thing, who didn't take anything for granted, didn't expect things, either. But even so, who had some kind of feeling all the time. And I think that the value or appeal of my generation all were like that, has some kind of feeling of the disparity between what things are and what they should be. But when we were revolutionary in terms of an interest in other people, where it seemed to me so much, so-called revolution go on now it's just me-ism, is just a powerful me now-- Self-indulgent. Self-indulgent, really. And I'm not saying this is reactionary, I know a lot of very young people. I like them, I've had a lot of them around here, and so, but it's a harder, it's harder to be a genuine person today than before because they are being indulged in their self-indulgence. Let's talk about that just a little, when we can go back and forth, to past and present. I don't want to sound like a shrew. No, no, this matter of how difficult it is to rebel, rebel against what? Let's consider Denmark for the moment, relatively speaking, libertarian in contrast to other society. Oh, yes, in all kind of, in for instance, also in sex manners, and we have been a maternalistic, progressive society for a long time. It doesn't mean that there aren't all the terrible things going on, but it just means that if you are a genuine liberal-minded person, broad-minded person, you have an easier time here than for instance, in America, and that's for sure, yeah. And, yet, what can the young Dane rebel against domestically? We know there are outside matters in which they feel empathy for other people who are-- Yes, well, that's fine, that's perfectly fine. I'm talking about here, Denmark, now. Well, of course, you also rebel at what is there, the status quo. And since a whole generation has grown up with the welfare state, it can rebel against that, which I think is totally misguided. I mean, the people started even in my generation, people saying, for instance, look at what's happening in the arts, nothing's happening in the arts. Well, very often very little is happening in the arts. You don't have geniuses all the time. Actually, the Danes had four geniuses in one generation, they're now practically all dead: Niels Bohr, Carl Theodore Dreyer the moviemaker, and Karen Blixen, or Isak Dinesen the writer, and Poul Henningsen, the famous architect. And, so, there are four quite remarkable people. That's pretty good. That's pretty good for four million people, you know. Even so, the Danes, the young Danes are always saying, nothing happens here. There's no geniuses around. Nothing happens here if it's because you are coddling us, I mean, you the older generation, you are making it too easy for us, and which may be so, is out of the goodness of the heart of parents, of course. But it's not that different from the from the plastic hippies, I'm not talking about real, I'm talking about people in America who come from very well-padded middle-class homes where parents have tried to buy the love of the children with all kinds of material goods. They try to buy their love. Yeah, they are, they are trying to get away from any responsitivity--given them things, and to rebel against that in the same way, well, not so much against your individual parents as against the parent generation, but made this egalitarian society and they forget that the reason why there isn't much happening may be politically, culturally, and artistically, it's not because of the welfare, it's the--whatever happened before was in spite of the non-welfare. I mean, it's a very important point that to make a show of here, because Americans still, a lot of them in the middle class, are afraid of this welfare thing. They think it's a kind of, you know, commie or far-out thing and Social Security is bad, well, it's not, it's what the human race has been striving to obtain for over centuries. And when you get it, you cannot expect to get everything else, then that's where you start to work for yourself. Let's dwell on this, I think this is terribly important, just saying, you see, some of the apathy, some of the purposelessness or the disc-- is attributed to the welfare state per se of this cradle to the grave secured initiative is destroyed, you're saying, on the contrary, but maybe there's a transition period through which we're moving. I don't know. Yes, it probably is, and you blame whatever is around, which happens in this case to be a welfare state, if we didn't have the welfare state, you blame something else. Well, what actually is a difference between for instance, my generation and the one that's trying to rebuild now, is that we take--Took nothing for granted, we had neither material nor culture. But we had to renew to start with, that you have to make some kind of personal effort to get wherever you want to get, and the young people don't, I mean, they psychologically they don't know it, because they, their background is so rich that they can afford to let them sit around. If I follow you right, Elsa, the welfare state as such would allow people to free themselves from a drudgery of the past to experience something quite new that man hasn't yet experienced. Yes, that's where they should take off. And they don't, they just sit and complain that they don't get everything for free, including what they should be doing or building themselves, and there's a lot of what it's so easy to say, "Well, nothing can happen because things are taken care of," and you play right into the hands of these young that--every year there's some young American sociologist coming over and saying, "Now, how come you have these high suicide rate?" We have a very high suicide rate. Well, we have a sky-high suicide rate, and the Danes have had one ever since they were around. It has absolutely nothing to do with democratic or the welfare society. But even so, you see, over and over again, say "Oh, well, it's because they're coddled, and they're pampered and then they go and kill themselves." In the first place, the Danes are honest about suicide, it's not supposed to be a shame, and they're not religious, so that they have straight statistics which Americans have not had so far and the Catholic cardinals do not have. And also they may be all kinds. I happen to have in my own generation because we came out of the war and there was a backlog of about five, six, seven years later, a number of people killed himself that had been damaged somehow during the war. And, of course, if you know people, you know there are as many reasons as people and there's no one social reason for it. But anyway, I have a personal theory about-- I want to hear your theory about this. About these issues. I do need--it doesn't apply to anything [you case?], but it does explain something about--now, Denmark was during Middle Ages and then well into the Renaissance one of the powers in Europe and we had a naval power, colonies and all this kind of thing. And during the religious wars we started to lose out for 400 years [unintelligible] and the Danes have become politically and militarily secure, less and less important. And in that way our future is in the past and the Danes are not anymore, you know, nonaggressive, or Swedes and other people, but there had to be all that time. And all this aggression, you know, stores up, and if the image of the Dane is now this peaceful person, which he is most of the time, they're pretty sweet people. You can be very annoyed at and live with them, you can be annoyed at everybody, but anyway they're pretty even, and when they are aggressive, they turn their aggression inward. Inward. And to my mind is considerably more humane and polite, put it that way, to be aggressive toward yourself than towards your neighbor. Our murder statistics are way down, and-- Suicide is up. Which is all the way around. And it's not the climate, because our climate isn't any worse than the English. It's not that. But anyway, all these, anyway I do think it's a type of aggression that is turned inward. Let's go a little further, as an aggression inward. I noticed, for example, in this again relatively libertarian state, and people who are gentle and courteous and kind, an air of this discontent, not about the young, generally speaking, you're talking about this inward aggression, we know, for example, that sometimes children are hit by parents suddenly, for no reason at all. That's true. And so we have, so, but this other thing you talked about, Elsa, Elsa Gress, I'm her guest, and her husband, Clifford Wright, and her very charming and highly talented children in this reconverted schoolhouse and some 43 miles outside Copenhagen. The religious aspects that suicide--we know that in America, as one of, certainly in Catholic countries, suicide is something that is considered shameful, that is hidden, in some religions, you cannot bury people in the cemetery. But here it's different, you see. Well, it has been, I suspect even when Denmark was Catholic, which, of course, all the European countries were. We went through the Reformation very early for the last almost 400 years we have been solidly Protestant, but there's nothing really to do with it because in this part it goes back to Viking times and before Viking times and when it was not shameful but rather like the Japanese do it, it was an honorable thing to commit suicide. And it has been the thing to do when you are thwarted in love or in war or whatever it was. So there's none of the shame and then there's none of the hiding away of the fact, which has also meant that all the suicides are recorded, so maybe this is [unintelligible]. But anyway, it is a strange thing to have a, country where, you know, comparatively speaking, things are smooth, you really cannot starve to death unless you try very hard, some people do, but you really have to try, and you are taken care of when you're sick and so on, and even so, this happens, which just shows that human nature is strong. Are Danes religious people? Are they church-going people? No, no, they are not. We have state church, which is a fine thing because we don't have all the sects, and America still has over 200 sects, I believe and that's terrible. We don't have many sects, but then people get, you know-- The state church Lutheran? Yeah, it's Lutheran--Evangelical Lutheran is, and we pay church taxes to, you know, paint up all these pretty little churches year-round, most of which are over 800 years old and they have fine fresh [unintelligible] and everybody likes them to be there, you don't go into them unless you, for Christmas days and baptism. Then you go in for a festive reason, when there's a festive occasion. Of course, there are people, I'm not saying that religion has no power in its ritual case, but religion as a social force is out. Denmark has really been a secular country for a very long time and it's a strange paradox that we do have a state church, but it doesn't really mean a thing. Only 92 percent of Danes are in it, but most of them don't even notice anything. But for example, this morning, Sunday, who went to church this morning? A scattering of very old ladies and very old [Gynts?] trot on to the grave and that's about it. Well, this again, this is--offers some slight picture of Danish light. Coming back to Elsa Gress, who is quite unusual and herself an individual. So in the beginning, when did you take, you had these enlightened and, I would guess, somewhat eccentric parents. Yes. By conservative standards. Yeah, yeah. And [unintelligible]. Yeah. And then you took to, to, books, to things in early age. Oh, very, very early, yes. And there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to express myself artistically. I mean, I did a lot of drawing and painting when I was a child, but also writing, reading, and was everything was always encouraged, and that was what you wanted to do. You didn't really think of it as a money-making thing, a career, it's just what you wanted to do. And, of course, since my home was eccentric and that's in what--I can't even remember any time when it was, when anything was forced on us, certainly not any religious thing. I do believe that my mother was sort of mildly Christian, but she certainly never tried to force it on us, and my father was not. Well, in a way, as far as the homework is concerned, certainly, but I don't remember ever having had any, ever having been taught about, or having had any kind of formal or informal sex education, just knew because we asked these questions along with other questions, along with the sort of political historical thing that came up against at that time, of course, we were not subjected to TV but newspaper reading. And he was always being discussed with our parents, it was just part of our experience. So in a way I skipped a lot of traumatic experiences. And I'm not saying it was unique, I'm sure there must have been a number of other homes like that around and what I'm saying was while the general background or middle-age background would be much like the American, less conservative than the American. It still was much easier to be, say, eccentric and funny you should mention Bertrand Russell, he was one of from a very early heroes, mental heroes, and I was always right [unintelligible] his books after I grew up and read him very early and this kind of person, whether they were or not, meant much more to me than formal schooling. I did go to school on and off, but fortunately I was mostly sick or aiding my mother and father kept me out. I was sort of self-taught. You can be that here, too. There's compulsory education, but not schooling. And for instance, my big brother David who never really went to school 'til the last, now senior high school because they didn't want him in the local school. He asked too many questions for a teacher. So okay, so we keep him at home and just he had to go to some tests and it was all right. And then that gives a certain freedom, that is. As you're talking, I notice David, 15, he was typing away, and David, by the way, a very genial, easy host himself, was typing away at this autobiography of this elderly, and I think [of?] venerated Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, and he's doing the translation. Yes, actually Asta Nielsen is less venerated in Denmark than the rest of Europe. She was, as he says, I made a film, which she did with a very funny cartoon from the beginning of [cinema?] with her and Charlie Chaplin as the father and mother of film, because she was there before Garbo, before--she actually helped both Garbo and Marlene Dietrich into the film, in a film called "Joyless Street" that Pabst made. G.W. Pabst, "Joyless Street". Well, just as your talking, I'm thinking about you, here's 87-year-old Asta Nielsen and also the young, you're involved with, you, in a sense, are spanning past present as well as the various media. Yes, I was very happy to see the other day when David in school beginning a composition about youth rebellion and he was saying all these things that came to him naturally being in the--a home where, you know, there are as many 87 as 17-year-old people. And they, what will we say, the ticket of admission or whatever to this place is certainly not age but whether you are a real person, whether you express yourself, and, so, age means nothing to him and he was being, he sounded as if he was, you know, in his 40s and his father says, "Well, what does it matter whether you are 80 or whether you are 17?" You know, as we're talking now, of course, this knocks a hole right into the old cliche involving the phrase we hear that's misused, phrase "the generation gap." It really has no meaning. It has no meaning. It's, well, for instance, the generation gap and the sexual revolution and so on, is the problem of the middle-aged people who feel they missed something and sort of-- Let's dwell on this a bit, this is interesting. When we have an anti-youth spirit, as we have in all societies, looking upon them, there's maybe a feeling of possibly envy here, that they have missed something these young are saying, "We're going to experience," envy may be the wrong word. In TV commercials and everything. And all have been long before, I mean, the American youth have always been uppity, let us say, compared to, certainly, academic youth. And that ended about 15 years ago, it used to be a thing that every European commentator got this cult of youth. And now it has, of course, gone beyond everything. I mean, it has no sense of proportion. You know, this whole deep into men--depart, departmentalization-- Departmentalization. Well, what's happened is just, Elsa, if I may just suggest this to you because this is connected with your thoughts and your life, and Clifford Wright and the children. And that is, though America had engaged in the youth cult for years commercially in every way., so in past when nothing--now it seems the establishment's gone anti-youth. Well, of course that would happen. I was sort of amused when they started that even "Time" and "Life" magazine brought out this "Well, we have a right to be middle-aged," and so, well, this is sort of a backlash, this would happen, but it's still what I'm contending is still that there is no such thing. It's not the generation gap. Of course, in a way it's real because everybody talks about it, even here now they're talking about it, and I am always asked to write about generation gap, I think it's a kind of disease, this generationalism, for instance, you have it in the arts, too, everybody in the arts after my, you know, [unintelligible] the late '40s, and everybody that's from about, say, 10 years younger than me, you know, spend half the energy everybody in any kind of race looking over the shoulder who's coming next, who's putting me out, who's pushing me out, which is anti-creative-- Worrying about the next generation. And anti--what about is the next generation anyway? A generation will have a certain number of talented people and they will be it. And the rise of being young is not equality! No, no, that's the reason that-- No, that's my point, I mean, who is younger than they are? Oh, Carl Dreyer, who was 80 when he died and who was as fresh and young as anybody. No, no, it's of course, it's a, it's a terrible thing when it is understandable in a way, in America when you see young people were strong and they could also, they had these qualities, but to mistake youth for equality which is what is happening now and the young are taking over. But I would like to say this is a special thing for instance here and I don't mean just in Denmark but in Europe, is the after war, the people who grew up after the war, who, the envy there works both ways. Because the young have some feeling that they missed out on a great experience, and if you survived the war, it was only an experience, I wouldn't call it great. It was very stultifying, but anyway they feel that you, that meaning my generation know what it's about and they don't, and then they are trying to, the young one are trying to put down the elders and that score, and say oh, you are all fake, you don't know anything about it. And the short of monopolizing idiotically like the atom bomb, or it's no business or no fault or no whatever [unintelligible] of theirs that the bomb was invented, that they grew up with it. We had to get used to it. But anyway, they're hanging on to all kinds of things to say, this is our life, and you know the kind of idiotic sort of badges of honor of, you know. For instance, I know young people here and I know young people in America who went to see the "Bonnie and Clyde" movie, which is a, it's a strange thing, because it wasn't really that good a movie, and it wasn't very well-received. But he was turned into a symbol of youth and these young people would say, "Well, it's about us," we say nonsense, it's a completely fancified idea of refers nothing to anything. Yes, it's about us because it's the kind of violence that could happen to us. You don't understand it, and we get into this in saying, "No, don't trust anybody over 25," or next year it'll be 20, I'm sure. Which is sort of building barricades from both sides. And of course, there always have been old people shaking their heads and say, [unintelligible] young and there have been young people trying to rebel, and after a while they stop it, and what's happening now, of course, for instance the whole hippie thing is a completely romantic thing that's been going on since high romanticism well over 150 years in Europe there have been people in bohemian circles that smoked hash, for one, whatever, Georges Sand wore men's clothes, Chopin had long hair and so on. All these things have been, you know, they are symbols and signs of little bohemian groups and what happened now is just that a whole strata of people who are not artists. I mean, the hippies are not artists, they're people who try to look like it. Look at the Lower East Side, there's about maybe 1,000 people who do anything, the rest of them look as if they were trying to. Of course, there's some--you just said, hit something, Elsa Gress, even though you're, you are here, here we are in a small village outside Coper, yet, talking about an international phenomenon right now in which this is not new. At the same time you find middle-class people, old people, who want to be part of this too, because they feel they're missing out on some--perhaps because their own lives are so bleak. Yes that's true, it's true, of course, a middle-class life is bleak wherever, and has been for long while, and I think it's a great, good thing that somebody feels it now, that they don't just feel that this is what life should be. And I think that comes out of the--Well, let's not call

Elsa Gress And "Herr". Well, as we're talking, I see all sorts of books around, and so is the biography of Bertrand Russell, which led me to think of A.S. Neal and Summerhill. Was your education sort of Neal-esque? it welfare, because in some countries it's affluence, but the general affluence of about one-tenth of the world, where for the first time in history a sizable group of society can look around and say, "Well, what do we want to, we have this freedom." And instead of being happy about it and rushing ahead to do it, to the great shock of the elders, they say, "Well, why isn't it better? Why haven't you provided everything? Why is?" Elsa, I think there's a refreshing approach you have here, and a very original one, I think. It should be, perhaps, talked about a bit here. You're saying at this moment there's a new challenge here, that in welfare statism, with the fact that a man need not earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and drudgery, he will have time to explore who he is. And suddenly freedom becomes a horrendous and horrible thing, instead of a challenge, say, "Hey, where do we go from here?" Yes. Well, it's always been a problem for the very few people had the freedom, for I have borne the weight of too much freedom, you see, what it was, a heavy burden. But actually, in my personal, my personal experience, it's not a problem at all for people who I have and they don't have to be artists, but have any kind of artistic life, any kind of creative drive. To them, life is always too short. Whether they are 17 or 87 and I know so many examples of this and the only thing that makes them despair is that it isn't three lives that they can do these beautiful things. But somehow because these people were instrumental, the people of that type, in several generations ever since before the French Revolution, before the American Revolution, these people who built the modern world in a way and who were wonderful people, have not been able to imagine that the majority of mankind can't follow up on this. They just say, we give them these things and then they'll know what to do. It's the Socratic fallacy again. So it's thought if men knew the good, he would also do it, and then to everybody's horror and surprise, the first thing that happens is people first time have their material needs covered, and then they look around and say, "Well, we want more, more whiskey, more cars, more," and they don't ask for the great spiritual experience at all, and everybody is back and says why is a cultural gap. We are so quick to establish these gaps, actually the gaps have always been there, only you didn't know about them. I mean, when most of the people couldn't read or write, of course, they didn't know they were uncivilized, even. Now everybody knows that they are this side or outside of the barricade and it's our generation, the next one, next one who must break down these things. You can't expect it to happen overnight. Of course, this leads to a number of questions, because since I am in Denmark, I'm talking to Elsa Gress, a creative spirit in Denmark. Here it becomes even more accentuated, the problem more difficult, because in America the young have specific things to object to, the Vietnamese adventure, or the life of the Black man in the ghetto, or the disparity. Here, it's a bit different. It is maybe, and still it is one world. I mean, I may be over-emphasizing this always, but it is really one world, everybody's saying it on festive occasions, but it really is. And I always have--last time I was in America last summer, and I went to several Black Power festivals and so on, and talking to people who are American, North American, people wanted to feel about it like Copenhagen or Oslo or London, people would feel about it, and still they insist. They say, "Well, you can't understand this because you don't have this problem." Well, they don't either. They are more removed from it than I, who after all took the trouble to go out and talk to these people in Brown school and I don't know where. Whereas they sit on their ass and talk about what they should have done or the forebears should have done, which are all very nice but doesn't solve a thing, and actual does, there's a terrible masochistic type of attitude and liberal bias in America that makes the, in this case the Black or whoever the minority is. And I don't care whether the minority is sexual or racial and the great homosexual revolution that's going on in America is also a backlash against repression and so on. And it all comes to the same thing, we all sort of bringing out these things that nobody talked about before. But meanwhile people who sit in and feel guilty on behalf of whoever did the wrong don't get anywhere. Over here, we don't really have that, but maybe for that reason you can, can see it better. Of course, it is funny, for instance, just before the election, I was in Copenhagen, and I heard somebody in the train, some Dane sitting there, in casual, saying one thing this I, "Well, I suppose we'll get Nixon for President." But they were Danes, but they have this feeling that it is, it's a matter of everybody, and of course it isn't in it. And that's why you cannot really, I mean, for practical reasons you can say America is like this, here is like this, but, of course, the young feel that instinctively, the youth. You know what occurred to me? I forgot the obvious question. I've asked nobody this in Denmark. The obvious one, you're talking about minority groups or oppressed, woman. The role of the woman, here are you, Elsa Gress, and I just have neglected to ask you a question of the nature-- Well, that shows something, doesn't it, it shows that it isn't too obvious. I do not-- No, no, no, no, no, I haven't asked this of anyone, is my point here, that you may be, perhaps, aware of this, among young women in America, many of them are saying, "Hey, wait a--what about us?" Well, it's high time. It's high time, they're under fire from everybody. They don't even know it. I'm often noticed, rather noted all the time also 15 or 18 years ago, when I first came to America, that American women being so, you know, put on pedestals and all, they're so sure, they're been so sure that they were vastly superior, they were superior, clearly the best thing God ever made. They've been taught that by their parents and by this idiotic people around them, and also they felt they were superior to European Asiatic women who were sort of slaves. That was what they thought. Actually, America is not man-tracking, never was, is the real quite vicious, super-masculine [unintelligible]. And the women, although they have power in the family situation, have never had any real power in society and, so, they own a lot, all these widows own a lot of money, what do they do with it, they always in reactionary women grew up trying to prevent things from happening, but they're not making things happen. Very few are. When you ask American women, it's always Margaret Mead and to a [free us?]. My God, that many million, why don't you hear more about them? I wouldn't say it's statistically that much different here, because although we have a sizable number of women in parliament now, why would anybody want to be in parliament? But there they are. And so on, and men writers. And you don't come up against the things the same way, because tradition is different here. Actually, the Scandinavian women, particularly the Danes, have been have a long tradition of independence. Again, the Catholic Church will [unintelligible] try to squash us for a few centuries but before that, we had reading, writing, literature, they were a two-sex society unlike the American society. For instance, if nothing was left of America, think of a bomb or something, except the literature, you would have a feeling that they were all still fighting great Indians, that they was, it's one sex, it's a man society completely. Whereas, if you read where the writings were, terrible pirates and so on, but in between they had a very nice home life and in the sagas the women are very independent people. Could we dwell on this a bit, because I think this is terribly important for Americans to know, too, the woman in Viking society and specifically in Danish society, Scandinavia, then there has been this independent spirit. Yes, and for all the preaching of the church that women aren't really people, you know, the Catholic Church never really recognized women as--their souls all die, but not people, and but this independent spirit that went right back in pre-historic times have survived this and somehow come out. And I do think that in today if I should choose, if I wasn't, didn't have to be a Dane, to choose [unintelligible] to be and in functioning as a woman, I would choose Denmark, Scandinavian Denmark. It's a little bit worse both in Norway and Sweden for various reasons which can't expect other people think Scandinavia is one place, but it isn't, we are three quite different cultures, but anyway it is less neurotic, and that's why I'm very worried that the so-called sex revolution that is the opposite of revolution, the American sex revolution is a terrible reaction, a new puritanical thing, can talk about that if you want later. I want to. Repressed. Yeah, yeah, repressed and oppressed. I mean, some men mentally are so oppressed and repressed. To them, it's a great liberation to be able to say the four-letter words now, so what is just beginning is a beginning. And but the thing is, that if you isolate sex, which Americans have always been doing and are still doing, they isolate sex from both from the being, in the human being and psychologic and social background and from society. And that's why they can't talk about it. It's a contradiction in terms to talk about sex revolution, you can't revolutionize sex without revolutionizing the rest of the universe. So it's nonsense, but because they have been Victorian longer than we have and they've been so repressed it's this great compulsive talking about it seems like revolution. Meanwhile, nothing is going on except the same old thing. If you, if you isolate sex, it doesn't matter whether you do it to forbid it or to study it. In both cases, you are doing something anti-human. And even if these nice Masters and Johnsons or whatever people who sit around and try to study it as a thing that, the very assumption that you can study a thing, I mean, you may be studying what goes on. Who cares? What goes on inside the people and what it's all about, they don't even touch upon. And, so, you still have sex as an isolated thing and you have all these young people who can't, of course, manage to have such an interesting sex life because you can't when you are 17, and everybody's looking at them saying you're being interesting, you're having a sex revolution and it makes for all kinds of terrible things. I know it from personal experience, a lot of these young people who are supposed to be having the sex revolution are just sitting around having to dope themselves or to do something to get away from this terrible thing. You know, as I came in, let's, I want to continue with this, this matter of the sex revolution and your interpretation of the American sex revolution and how it can be retrogressive rather than progressive, and as I came in here I was saying to my friend Von Grossen, my colleague who drove me here, and we saw you and Clifford Wright and your children and your guest, the geneticist Bob Elston, the English geneticist here. I says, you know, this is not just, I know she's interested in total theater, this is total life. Everything is going on here with ease, and so you're saying the separation of sex as a specific phenomena from the rest of life is this horrendous aspect of it, to part of it. Yes. Yes, it is a terrible thing. Is a terrible thing, unless you get to face it. This all ties up again with the new kind of theater that I talk about and in a way came about here. Now this Tom O'Horgan is, he is a genius, I think-- Tom O'Horgan. American writer. He's not that young, really. That's the point. He's not so young, he doesn't believe in any of this nonsense. But anyway, he uses it and his kind of theatre is being taken up by young and they're putting him in their--interpreting what he's doing in the same way that shows what's wrong with society. Now, he's a highly theatrical person, he would have done anything for a theatrical effect, jump out for the fifth floor and have people [strip?] or whatever. But the thing is, it's being taken up as if this was a wonderful, what he's doing is taking up by the young as their kind of thing, which it is not. I mean, Tom hasn't invented any new way of loving or thinking or whatever. Instead, he's been talked about now as this is for a generation who moves in a new way, who loves, who thinks in a new way, it's just nonsense. It has nothing to do with it. I mean, what's--That that a lot of people grab on this kind of thing. I mean, Tom has a group of, they're not that young, people hanging around, they're as hung up and uptight and whatever as the next person, but they are disciplined and they do things that look as if it was spontaneous and then everybody rush at Tom and says this is a new spontaneous life and this is anti-mind, anti-word, anti-nonsense. And they all hang onto it. It just shows how pathetically insecure these people are, because anybody, it certainly Tom first and foremost, and I who have been working with him can see that it's not, he's working with this kind of thing and it's being looked upon as if it was a new kind of gospel, a new way of life. And it is a fact that everybody looking in this, looking towards art to do what religion was supposed to do before, to give you a meaning, interpretation of life, and meaning just shows how absolutely insecure and how you haven't even started. I mean, you--I mean, the young people--haven't even started this, you know, sex-- A thought occurred to me just as you're talking about how is, you know, interpreting it as it should be, as something religious and ritualistic as part of life theater, just here, too, theater was also segregated from the rest of life. A moment ago, you said sex is, and now you said theater is, and this is the whole point, isn't it, that cubbyholes for every department, and you're saying it's all part of one. Yes, it is, where in the moment you say, "Film is the art of the future," you have done something terrible both to film and yourself. If you say, "Theater is of the past," or "Theater is this and that," or whatever, "Sex is this and that, race is this and that," the moment you separate any kind of thing that it's really just one of the many aspects of the human free creative being, you are hanging on to, you're not just being reactionary, but you're not being status quo, but you are hanging onto, to an even older stage of affairs. That's paradoxical because the very people who are doing it are the ones that are hollering for development, calling themselves avant-garde. And, to me ,it's characteristic that in, to get out of this mess the only thing they can come up with philosophically is this new-called when you hear young artists talking about it a great deal here, the attitude relativity attitude, relativity, which comes out of structuralistic philosophy and whatever, but there are very few people have read these things but have just taken, just like the young Americans talk about McLuhan, they haven't read anything, it's just a cliche to say the medium is the message. You may as well say, "Bananas are good," or something, it doesn't mean any God-damned thing. And so all we hear to talk about this little bit that a person doesn't really, and this is the thing, this is the thing I think that's very characteristic of the whole age and they're trying to get at, you know, other ages been trying to get at men in various ways, to submit, to making submit into subjecting to a religious faith or political faith and so on. But now you're trying to get at the very concept of man. You say there is no such thing as a person, and if you say that is, you are just showing that you are petrified number, there is only a series of roles that each person takes on, for instance, saying I read this crappy comic book-- At the moment we're talking about a spy book that John LeCarre, but in the mid, and you also-- I don't think that's crappy-- [Rang? Rank?] past in everything. Novel, books, it's every, the magazines I notice go all the way from "New Yorker", "Ramparts", "New York Review of Books". but every aspect, "Time" over there. So basically, you're saying every aspect, pop, esoteric, any form is part of living an experience. Yes. But the moment you say, "Pop is the real part," as soon as [unintelligible], at the moment you hang on to any one of these making, making the main, make it the main thing, you are being anti-, anti- this new person of the future. And I better ask you one question. There are still-- Yes. Standards. Oh, yes. Yes, there's quality. You spoke of four geniuses of Denmark. You spoke of Niels Bohr, a great physicist. You spoke of Karen Blixen, and the remarkable Nobel Prize lady, you know, you spoke of Carl Dreyer, the filmmaker, and the fourth guy. Yeah. Poul Henningsen, the great architect. Now, there's standards. Let's talk now, can we talk about standards. Yes. Oh, yes. I know it's very difficult these days, when everything gets popping and exploding at us. But somehow there still has to be a certain artistic standard, doesn't it? That's true. You talk so much about, in particular in America, well, of course they always want a thing to move. I mean, America historically is a very young country, not politically, it is the oldest democracy in the world, you always forget that when you talk about this young America, but they have always believed in and wanted to believe in the discontinuity of history because they started over again, and they wanted to disown the European past, at least for the first two or three generations, then they want to go back to the roots and so on. Well, it isn't another race that has emerged. There is another society, but the reason why it's of such momentous and mental importance to us is not that it came out of two world wars as a conquering nation, conquering nations are nothing, the world has had a number of them and they just go down. But the reason why it's it is important is that it somehow this, the urbanized modern and now in the transition to the electronic age, as the tide is somehow epitomizes everything that's going on, and that's why it has this momentum or so, know everything coming out of America has some importance, although the cultural stimulus may still come from here and may come from both anyway. Anyway, what I'm saying is that it is, you know, I've been known, for instance, in my, here in my Denmark for years and years, as, first as viciously anti-American and then as pro-American, alternately, because I've

Studs Terkel Huh? But I am very worried because America has this tremendous cultural pressure on the rest of the world which it does as it America's political power is waning and it isn't gotten over that, although nothing happened. It still is this big thing that you've steamrolling all over and we'll have all these bad manners and semi-pseudo revolutions and so on. And in Denmark it'd be a terrible setback, it'd put the clock back 50 years to have the idea of sex revolution, because the American middle class have been so oppressed as they were and so-- always been passionately interested in really, I always thought that you had to study your enemies. My enemy is not the Americans, I like them, I married one, I have three half-American children, I am surrounded by Americans all the time. But my conception of the world I've been against meaning. We might call it something else and it's not, I'm not talking about anti- sort of with the [bulk of?] anti-Americanism, but about this--being worried about the way things go, and the way things go first in America, but now it is so--there's no culture left, practically, things happen at the same time all over the world. And so, and of course, whatever, anybody that stands up and says something is always apt to be misinterpreted, I know that, I've never even had any intention at all of being anti-American, and, of course, you can be, you might as well say you are anti-human or whatever, there are two hundred million people running around there, of course you can't be anti-them, but I've often pondered, see, now they're doing this there and we are going to do this tomorrow, and it's bad. And of course, I have all the Americans that I can think of on my side and that's one reason sometimes I think it would be a good solution if you had all the disgruntled Americans coming to Europe, and the disgruntled Europeans going over and we start over. Of course, there are so many people-- That would be a real polarization. But anyway it's happening anyway, because it is this is one way we're-- It is, really what I got away from saying, that it is almost an optical illusion which we talk so much about acceleration, and a particular American talked about it, and this acceleration. And you can, and then you think you can see it, and it's true that a lot of things happen, and a lot of things, a lot of inferences hit you sooner than they used to. But real things that are going on, the real developments and movements they have their biological life and they go on no matter what, and they always take some time. You can see through history, the--like a big bell going "Gong, Gong" back and forth, between two poles that you may call them monistic and the pluralistic or the romantic and the rational temperament, whatever it is, meaning that at one part in history there was a dominant one type of person and dominant another type person, didn't mean that the other type of people weren't there. But for the last 150 years we have been under the romantic, romanticism is not just an artistic movement, it is really a way of thinking and feeling, and this is culminating today in a kind of almost nightmarish oscillation, it goes so fast, you think goes fast, but what's really happening is not a--Look at what they call artistic, artists' movements, artistic movements today. They only last about three months, you can't even, you have to use all your energy to keep up with, but they're not worth keeping up with. It's like a generation lasting about three years. Yes, at the most it'll be three months, presently. But anyway, what's happening is that it's really using misnomers, you're calling him what is really just a gadget or a gimmick or whatever. It's enough to make a whole--for instance, pop now. Let's face it, it's mainly

Elsa Gress "Herr". "Herr". Of youth, you're not, longer just a plain teenager, you are a teenage or a-- You're talking about this matter of, well, two things, you raise the question of disc--I want to come back to the subject of continuity, but first of all, the standard, it is very difficult, isn't it, here you are involved in all the forms of the art, there's really one aspect, all aspects of one life, yet with everything that's popping at us, the good and the bad, the separation the wheat and the chaff is pretty difficult at times. a product of a number of art dealers who had to have something go on, people couldn't afford to buy the greatest [unintelligible] then here's pop, and there were some disgruntled interior decorators having a boring afternoon on Fire Island, and they came up with this kind of thing, and it's all very fine and I'm sure they By the way, the allusions of Elsa Gress are quite remarkable, I'm thinking about Glumso, where she is right now, this little place, 43 miles, yet her very sophisticated and esoteric allusions to almost every part of American society is very funny. Well, it's all I know. You know about pop art and the commercialism that's a basis of it. Yes, yes, that is basis of, and in no time at all there was this art movement, not that anybody could see it, but it was made that way by the commercial, and just like the commercial world creates generations, and create problems that aren't there, create gaps that aren't there and so on, and then they become real by virtue of being talked about. This is really what's happening. But when you look behind it, what has happened to, after the pop art and op art and anti-art and mini-art and nothing is what it looks like, and so. How far can you go? Just like in the theater after we have undressed people and they have been fucking up, or they have been doing this and that, they have murdered, this so on, where can you go, it's so close to life not being interchangeable, which is a point that everything is driving at. And then you just have to retreat because they're not, I mean, and in it all or behind it all would always be these standards and the quality that count in the long run. And of course, for instance, geniuses are never in the generation you are in, because nobody has ever seen a genius at close quarters, they have to be really different. That doesn't mean that they're not there. I mean, everybody's complaining, I tell you, all over the world today it's going on, particularly in a state like this, and you blame whatever is around, if you knew America, you blamed the Vietnam War, which God knows should be blamed, but not for the lack of geniuses. If you're here, you say it must be welfare, if you are wherever it is, the Catholic Church is keeping it out or something. But the thing is, that all these people, that are always being complaining, throughout history you see them complaining that nothing's happening, and you know, my God, what are they talking about. There was Mozart, there was Shakespeare, whatever it was, they couldn't see them, and we can't see our geniuses either, but I'm, can at least tell you they-- At least they are around. They are around, but I tell you they are not in the popular movements because the kind of people who go for it are pseudo-people. I mean the, the real people, whether they're young and old, they know this-- It's possible the geniuses of our time are those not in the news, not in the magazines, and not in the world-- Well, Andy Warhol said that everybody can be famous for about five minutes [sic], which is just it, everybody can be famous for nothing, or for-- You know, someone has said a story, is this, a celebrity is someone who is known for being known. Yes, yes, and yes, well, that's one of the thing McLuhan has made a religion of, saying of course, you are known for being known, and the saying in the media goes on. And one reason, for instance, why McLuhan has come to be so popular with people who don't understand what he's saying, not that he understands what he's saying, he doesn't, but it doesn't, but it doesn't matter, he's combining two worlds or two cultures all the time, he does it very irresponsibly and you can put your finger on it and you can pin, but the thing is that the people who argue with him do it the wrong way because he doesn't want to argue. You know, you hit something. I wish he were here right now so we could both-- Yeah, well, I have been candid with him because-- It's, I think you're hitting something again that's a very tender spot with me, too, that the adulation of what he does may be due to the fact that he says he has no point of view. Yes. He has-- And when someone says he has no point of view, he does have a point of view. He has that point of view point. A point of view that thinks things are great as they are. Actually, yes, he is for status quo. He is for status quo, and at the same time he is, he is, putting it over on, and I think his partly reasoned bad faith because I remember reading his "Mechanical Bride" years ago, and at that time he was worried about what was happening. Now he pretends he isn't, because the young love it. He says, yours is the word, you are the global village, you can't read-- It isn't accidental that he's a hero of advertising agencies. No, no, he's a hero of a lot of people, who because he does by mentioning these things. Just saying "Man is an electro-dynamic feat" or some other thing, maybe complete nonsense, of saying, "I can cybernetics," these words, that for most people are just like metaphysical, they're sacred words. He seems to be explanations and here's a whole, not just one generation, but several, hungering for something. I mean, they have killed God off, even in "Time" magazine two years ago, "God is dead." Well, it did in-- That makes it official. The French Revolution was added, but it took about 200 years for Americans to [unintelligible]. Anyway, [unintelligible] and that means that religion is out and who can take part, you see, has now come up, it doesn't even have to be the election, but anything, you know it's-- Still, we're talking another theme, undercurrent, everything you're saying right now is this question of continuity, you see. Earlier you were saying that America, is something new, discontinu--it wasn't-- Well, the thing of, I don't think that-- Isn't continuity a big aspect, we know many of the young, and I think, it began as though life began with them. Yes, they are, and in all ways, in all things. For instance, young film I've just been teaching here, a very fine certain, fine building, a new film school, and nothing much goes on there, because you have a group of young people who think that Godard invented film cutting, who will not even in a new art like that, that's going on for only 50 years, they refuse to look at it as a continuity, as historically. They say, "We are," well, of course, they made something filmed, they know that, but the New Wave in France and the underground films and so on, have made film a medium, what nonsense is that, I mean, anybody that knows a thing about it, they say, well, they're using it ironically, using this and that, if you see something-- As though Carl Theodore Dreyer never lived. Yes. As though-- As though D.W. Griffith never lived. Yes. Or for instance, Duchamp and Rene Clair one Sunday afternoon 1924 made a wonderful little film called "Entr'Acte", which I just saw the other day again, and it has every ironic use of the medium that Godard had never had. But anyway, every generation have their gods, and there have always been provincial minds. And I think it's a kind of provincialism of time instead of provincialism of place, that that upsets the young, of course the young always wants to discover things, that's all right. And because they have no basis of comparison, they think they're discovering things all the time, and somebody that comes around like McLuhan, who's a fifth-rate mind, compared to, for instance, people he discarded like Norbert Weiner or even Bergsohn. Basically McLuhan is a romantic and that's why he appeals to the young ones. He says he talks about tribal man, who has ever seen a tribal man, what nonsense is this? And all this kind of [unintelligible], and notice the way he uses words, I mean, all the words that go with the mechanic, explosive, hot, [live bare?], implosive, round, it's all one, it doesn't mean a thing, but it's how he this new world and then handing it to the young and mistaking the, you know, incidental style of life as a new path. They all believe in this electronic stone age where they're all crawling around, and it's nonsense. But anyway, it's pathetic that they hang on to him and he means as much as, oh, Karl Marx or Freud, or all these people are being kicked out without anybody even knowing them. Obviously, young Americans sitting around to say, "Freud must go, and Marx must go," and don't even know who these people are, but they know that they are--

Studs Terkel

Elsa Gress The musical,

Studs Terkel "Hair". I forgot about "Hair". But O'Horgan

Elsa Gress talking about Tom O'Horgan, for the sake of our audience now listening, Tom O'Horgan is the young avant-garde director, formerly in Chicago, whose--a couple of his works, one is "Tom Paine", a nonrealistic interpretation of Paine as nightmare and the other, "Futz" is his play, too. and his guests and the group were guests at the home. They were here for about 10 months and they became the kind of theater that Tom is doing, and personal things about three directors in the world today that are worthwhile, totally creative, Tom being one of them. Tom O'Horgan, the other ones are Peter Brook and Kutowski, and Denmark, we are theater people, are always complaining that nothing's happening, and so no interest, has had both a Kutowski theater and O'Horgan--

Studs Terkel Kutowski's a Pole, and Peter Brook.

Elsa Gress The Englishman, and Tom's theatre, physical theatre, theatre of the new or whatever you

Studs Terkel want to call it. Both these extremes that I met with they tell me it's a good thing, came about in this country. Elsa Gress, here we are, it's a sort of outwardly, outside, a bleak Sunday afternoon outside Copen, yet quite warm here. The whole world seems to be in your place: The gallery, your son David, who's 15 is now translating the memoirs of a venerable, a great Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, he's 15, doing the translation.

Elsa Gress Yes, he has been writing, he has been writing books since and plays, [mammoth?] plays, and plays since he was five. He has been writing and talking at least three languages since he was two, and he, he's a, he is a writer, that's nothing. He just has a book out called, that he did with me, he did as a scenario: "The [unintelligible] Allure of Passion's Rocket", it's a science fiction take-off.

Studs Terkel He did it with you.

Elsa Gress Yeah.

Studs Terkel Your 15-year-old son. If we could just go back, your interests are very many, I think we should go back since I am in Denmark, and I know this place of yours is international, the magazines, the books, the--all the aspects of multimedia here, to you, Elsa Gress, how you--beginnings for you, yourself, how you came to be the inquisitive, the curious person you are. So let's start with, how was it, where was your girlhood, your childhood?

Elsa Gress Well, most of it was spent in suburban Copenhagen. My father was--well, he was a nut. But he was also a very gifted man who only, for neurotic reason, didn't ever use his great talents. He was a very talented person and very intelligent. And my mother was artistically interested in all kinds of things, and the two of them gave my brother and me, my brother, I had a brother and a sister who died quite early and we three kids got a very unorthodox background. We were always encouraged to write, paint, do whatever we wanted to, to have unorthodox opinions and to stand up in school and be counted and hit quite often, because at that time, of course, just as now, the one that's out of the group doesn't have an easy time, but we had this great security at home.

Studs Terkel You were the outsider being hit--

Elsa Gress I was the outsider, oh, yes, yes.

Studs Terkel By the other kids.

Elsa Gress It was pretty tough while it lasted, but somehow I realized that what I was describing this period that all of this was all this insecurity being exposed to the [tack?], the truth, whatever it is. I never felt unhappy or left out because I had, my home was a background and my very close relationship to my brothers and sisters and my parents, and we were always moving around. This was Depression time, even in Denmark, between the wars, and so on, but it was actually a very good preparation for life because when I graduated from senior high school in just the year the war broke out. I had been with my brother for trips in the summer, and walking around hitchhiking, which was unusual at the time in Germany, in France, and in Europe, and I seen a bit of the world, and at the same time, I didn't expect anything, I didn't expect a career, I didn't expect anything but self-expression, it was--

Studs Terkel You were just savoring of things.

Elsa Gress Yes, yes, yes. Mutating, but also I was sort of a born, both born and educated as an old-fashioned word. It's very hard to get a word for it because liberal is wrong, radical is wrong, all the American associations are wrong. But you know, the--it strikes me now when I see the young generation, both in America and here, being rebellious and they don't know what the hell they're being rebellious about. They have a lot of causes, some of them worthy, some of them completely--You know, really reactionary and terrible. For instance, all this hocus pocus obscurantistic interest in witchcraft and things like that. I mean, these things were partial to me, but I was sort of brought up as an inquisitive person, a person who questioned thing, who didn't take anything for granted, didn't expect things, either. But even so, who had some kind of feeling all the time. And I think that the value or appeal of my generation all were like that, has some kind of feeling of the disparity between what things are and what they should be. But when we were revolutionary in terms of an interest in other people, where it seemed to me so much, so-called revolution go on now it's just me-ism, is just a powerful me now-- Let's talk about that just a little, when we can go back and forth, to past and present. I don't want to sound like a shrew. No, no, this matter of how difficult it is to rebel, rebel against what? Let's consider Denmark for the moment, relatively speaking, libertarian in contrast to other society. Oh, yes, in all kind of, in for instance, also in sex manners, and we have been a maternalistic, progressive society for a long time. It doesn't mean that there aren't all the terrible things going on, but it just means that if you are a genuine liberal-minded person, broad-minded person, you have an easier time here than for instance, in America, and that's for sure, yeah. And, yet, what can the young Dane rebel against domestically? We know there are outside matters in which they feel empathy for other people who are-- Yes, well, that's fine, that's perfectly fine. I'm talking about here, Denmark, now. Well, of course, you also rebel at what is there, the status quo. And since a whole generation has grown up with the welfare state, it can rebel against that, which I think is totally misguided. I mean, the people started even in my generation, people saying, for instance, look at what's happening in the arts, nothing's happening in the arts. Well, very often very little is happening in the arts. You don't have geniuses all the time. Actually, the Danes had four geniuses in one generation, they're now practically all dead: Niels Bohr, Carl Theodore Dreyer the moviemaker, and Karen Blixen, or Isak Dinesen the writer, and Poul Henningsen, the famous architect. And, so, there are four quite remarkable people. That's pretty good. They try to buy their love. Yeah, they are, they are trying to get away from any responsitivity--given them things, and to rebel against that in the same way, well, not so much against your individual parents as against the parent generation, but made this egalitarian society and they forget that the reason why there isn't much happening may be politically, culturally, and artistically, it's not because of the welfare, it's the--whatever happened before was in spite of the non-welfare. I mean, it's a very important point that to make a show of here, because Americans still, a lot of them in the middle class, are afraid of this welfare thing. They think it's a kind of, you know, commie or far-out thing and Social Security is bad, well, it's not, it's what the human race has been striving to obtain for over centuries. And when you get it, you cannot expect to get everything else, then that's where you start to work for yourself. Let's dwell on this, I think this is terribly important, just saying, you see, some of the apathy, some of the purposelessness or the disc-- is attributed to the welfare state per se of this cradle to the grave secured initiative is destroyed, you're saying, on the contrary, but maybe there's a transition period through which we're moving. I don't know. Yes, it probably is, and you blame whatever is around, which happens in this case to be a welfare state, if we didn't have the welfare state, you blame something else. Well, what actually is a difference between for instance, my generation and the one that's trying to rebuild now, is that we take--Took nothing for granted, we had neither material nor culture. But we had to renew to start with, that you have to make some kind of personal effort to get wherever you want to get, and the young people don't, I mean, they psychologically they don't know it, because they, their background is so rich that they can afford to let them sit around. If I follow you right, Elsa, the welfare state as such would allow people to free themselves from a drudgery of the past to experience something quite new that man hasn't yet experienced. Yes, that's where they should take off.

Studs Terkel Self-indulgent. And they don't, they just sit and complain that they don't get everything for free, including what they should be doing or building themselves, and there's a lot of what it's so easy to say, "Well, nothing can happen because things are taken care of," and you play right into the hands of these young that--every year there's some young American sociologist coming over and saying, "Now, how come you have these high suicide rate?" We have a very high suicide rate. Well, we have a sky-high suicide rate, and the Danes have had one ever since they were around. It has absolutely nothing to do with democratic or the welfare society. But even so, you see, over and over again, say "Oh, well, it's because they're coddled, and they're pampered and

Elsa Gress

Studs Terkel Let's talk about that just a little, when we can go back and forth, to past and present.

Elsa Gress I don't want to sound like a shrew.

Studs Terkel No, no, this matter of how difficult it is to rebel, rebel against what? Let's consider Denmark for the moment, relatively speaking, libertarian in contrast to other society.

Elsa Gress Oh, yes, in all kind of, in for instance, also in sex manners, and we have been a maternalistic, progressive society for a long time. It doesn't mean that there aren't all the terrible things going on, but it just means that if you are a genuine liberal-minded person, broad-minded person, you have an easier time here than for instance, in America, and that's for sure, yeah.

Studs Terkel And, yet, what can the young Dane rebel against domestically? We know there are outside matters in which they feel empathy for other people who are--

Elsa Gress Yes, well, that's fine, that's perfectly fine.

Studs Terkel I'm talking about here, Denmark, now.

Elsa Gress And "Herr". Huh? "Herr". "Herr". And "Hair"! "Hair", of course. of my generation all were like that, has some kind of feeling of the disparity between what things are and what they should be. But when we were revolutionary in terms of an interest in other people, where it seemed to me so much, so-called revolution go on now it's just me-ism, is just a powerful me now-- Self-indulgent. Self-indulgent, really. And I'm not saying this is reactionary, I know a lot of very young people. I like them, I've had a lot of them around here, and so, but it's a harder, it's harder to be a genuine person today than before because they are being indulged in their self-indulgence. Well, of course, you also rebel at what is there, the status quo. And since a whole generation has grown up with the welfare state, it can rebel against that, which I think is totally misguided. I mean, the people started even in my generation, people saying, for instance, look at what's happening in the arts, nothing's happening in the arts. Well, very often very little is happening in the arts. You don't have geniuses all the time. Actually, the Danes had four geniuses in one generation, they're now practically all dead: Niels Bohr, Carl Theodore Dreyer the moviemaker, and Karen Blixen, or Isak Dinesen the writer, and Poul Henningsen, the famous architect. And, so, there are four quite remarkable people. That's pretty good. That's pretty good for four million people, you know. Even so, the Danes, the young Danes are always saying, nothing happens here. There's no geniuses around. Nothing happens here if it's because you are coddling us, I mean, you the older generation, you are making it too easy for us, and which may be so, is out of the goodness of the heart of parents, of course. But it's not that different from the from the plastic hippies, I'm not talking about real, I'm talking about people in America who come from very well-padded middle-class homes where parents have tried to buy the love of the children with all kinds of material goods. They try to buy their love. Yeah, they are, they are trying to get away from any responsitivity--given them things, and to rebel against that in the same way, well, not so much against your individual parents as against the parent generation, but made this egalitarian society and they forget that the reason why there isn't much happening may be politically, culturally, and artistically, it's not because of the welfare, it's the--whatever happened before was in spite of the non-welfare. I mean, it's a very important point that to make a show of here, because Americans still, a lot of them in the middle class, are afraid of this welfare thing. They think it's a kind of, you know, commie or far-out thing and Social Security is bad, well, it's not, it's what the human race has been striving to obtain for over centuries. And when you get it, you cannot expect to get everything else, then that's where you start to work for yourself. Let's dwell on this, I think this is terribly important, just saying, you see, some of the apathy, some of the purposelessness or the disc-- is attributed to the welfare state per se of this cradle to the grave secured initiative is destroyed, you're saying, on the contrary, but maybe there's a transition period through which we're moving. I don't know. Yes, it probably is, and you blame whatever is around, which happens in this case to be a welfare state, if we didn't have the welfare state, you blame something else. Well, what actually is a difference between for instance, my generation and the one that's trying to rebuild now, is that we take--Took nothing for granted, we had neither material nor culture. But we had to renew to start with, that you have to make some kind of personal effort to get wherever you want to get, and the young people don't, I mean, they psychologically they don't know it, because they, their background is so rich that they can afford to let them sit around. If I follow you right, Elsa, the welfare state as such would allow people to free themselves from a drudgery of the past to experience something quite new that man hasn't yet experienced. Yes, that's where they should take off. And they don't, they just sit and complain that they don't get everything for free, including what they should be doing or building themselves, and there's a lot of what it's so easy to say, "Well, nothing can happen because things are taken care of," and you play right into the hands of these young that--every year there's some young American sociologist coming over and saying, "Now, how come you have these high suicide rate?" We have a very high suicide rate. Well, we have a sky-high suicide rate, and the Danes have had one ever since they were around. It has absolutely nothing to do with democratic or the welfare society. But even so, you see, over and over again, say "Oh, well, it's because they're coddled, and they're pampered and then they go and kill themselves." In the first place, the Danes are honest about suicide, it's not supposed to be a shame, and they're not religious, so that they have straight statistics which Americans have not had so far and the Catholic cardinals do not have. And also they may be all kinds. I happen to have in my own generation because we came out of the war and there was a backlog of about five, six, seven years later, a number of people killed himself that had been damaged somehow during the war. And, of course, if you know people, you know there are as many reasons as people and there's no one social reason for it. But anyway, I have a personal theory about-- I want to hear your theory about this. About these issues. I do need--it doesn't apply to anything [you case?], but it does explain something about--now, Denmark was during Middle Ages and then well into the Renaissance one of the powers in Europe and we had a naval power, colonies and all this kind of thing. And during the religious wars we started to lose out for 400 years [unintelligible] and the Danes have become politically and militarily secure, less and less important. And in that way our future is in the past and the Danes are not anymore, you know, nonaggressive, or Swedes and other people, but there had to be all that time. And all this aggression, you know, stores up, and if the image of the Dane is now this peaceful person, which he is most of the time, they're pretty sweet people. You can be very annoyed at and live with them, you can be annoyed at everybody, but anyway they're pretty even, and when they are aggressive, they turn their aggression inward. Inward. And to my mind is considerably more humane and polite, put it that way, to be aggressive toward yourself than towards your neighbor. Our murder statistics are way down, and-- Suicide is up. Which is all the way around. And it's not the climate, because our climate isn't any worse than the English. It's not that. But anyway, all these, anyway I do think it's a type of aggression that is turned inward. Let's go a little further, as an aggression inward. I noticed, for example, in this again relatively libertarian state, and people who are gentle and courteous and kind, an air of this discontent, not about the young, generally speaking, you're talking about this inward aggression, we know, for example, that sometimes children are hit by parents suddenly, for no reason at all. That's true. And so we have, so, but this other thing you talked about, Elsa, Elsa Gress, I'm her guest, and her husband, Clifford Wright, and her very charming and highly talented children in this reconverted schoolhouse and some 43 miles outside Copenhagen. The religious aspects that suicide--we know that in America, as one of, certainly in Catholic countries, suicide is something that is considered shameful, that is hidden, in some religions, you cannot bury people in the cemetery. But here it's different, you see. Well, it has been, I suspect even when Denmark was Catholic, which, of course, all the European countries were. We went through the Reformation very early for the last almost 400 years we have been solidly Protestant, but there's nothing really to do with it because in this part it goes back to Viking times and before Viking times and when it was not shameful but rather like the Japanese do it, it was an honorable thing to commit suicide. And it has been the thing to do when you are thwarted in love or in war or whatever it was. So there's none of the shame and then there's none of the hiding away of the fact, which has also meant that all the suicides are recorded, so maybe this is [unintelligible]. But anyway, it is a strange thing to have a, country where, you know, comparatively speaking, things are smooth, you really cannot starve to death unless you try very hard, some people do, but you really have to try, and you are taken care of when you're sick and so on, and even so, this happens, which just shows that human nature is strong. Are Danes religious people? Are they church-going people? No, no, they are not. We have state church, which is a fine thing because we don't have all the sects, and America still has over 200 sects, I believe and that's terrible. We don't have many sects, but then people get, you know-- The state church Lutheran? Yeah, it's Lutheran--Evangelical Lutheran is, and we pay church taxes to, you know, paint up all these pretty little churches year-round, most of which are over 800 years old and they have fine fresh [unintelligible] and everybody likes them to be there, you don't go into them unless you, for Christmas days and baptism. Then you go in for a festive reason, when there's a festive occasion. Of course, there are people, I'm not saying that religion has no power in its ritual case, but religion as a social force is out. Denmark has really been a secular country for a very long time and it's a strange paradox that we do have a state church, but it doesn't really mean a thing. Only 92 percent of Danes are in it, but most of them don't even notice anything. But for example, this morning, Sunday, who went to church this morning? A scattering of very old ladies and very old [Gynts?] trot on to the grave and that's about it. Well, this again, this is--offers some slight picture of Danish light. Coming back to Elsa Gress, who is quite unusual and herself an individual. So in the beginning, when did you take, you had these enlightened and, I would guess, somewhat eccentric parents. Yes. By conservative standards. Yeah, yeah. And [unintelligible]. Yeah. And then you took to, to, books, to things in early age. Oh, very, very early, yes. And there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to express myself artistically. I mean, I did a lot of drawing and painting when I was a child, but also writing, reading, and was everything was always encouraged, and that was what you wanted to do. You didn't really think of it as a money-making thing, a career, it's just what you wanted to do. And, of course, since my home was eccentric and that's in what--I can't even remember any time when it was, when anything was forced on us, certainly not any religious thing. I do believe that my mother was sort of mildly Christian, but she certainly never tried to force it on us, and my father was not. Well, as we're talking, I see all sorts of books around, and so is the biography of Bertrand Russell, which led me to think of A.S. Neal and Summerhill. Was your education sort of Neal-esque? Well, in a way, as far as the homework is concerned, certainly, but I don't remember ever having had any, ever having been taught about, or having had any kind of formal or informal sex education, just knew because we asked these questions along with other questions, along with the sort of political historical thing that came up against at that time, of course, we were not subjected to TV but newspaper reading. And he was always being discussed with our parents, it was just part of our experience. So in a way I skipped a lot of traumatic experiences. And I'm not saying it was unique, I'm sure there must have been a number of other homes like that around and what I'm saying was while the general background or middle-age background would be much like the American, less conservative than the American. It still was much easier to be, say, eccentric and funny you should mention Bertrand Russell, he was one of from a very early heroes, mental heroes, and I was always right [unintelligible] his books after I grew up and read him very early and this kind of person, whether they were or not, meant much more to me than formal schooling. I did go to school on and off, but fortunately I was mostly sick or aiding my mother and father kept me out. I was sort of self-taught. You can be that here, too. There's compulsory education, but not schooling. And for instance, my big brother David who never really went to school 'til the last, now senior high school because they didn't want him in the local school. He asked too many questions for a teacher. So okay, so we keep him at home and just he had to go to some tests and it was all right. And then that gives a certain freedom, that is. As you're talking, I notice David, 15, he was typing away, and David, by the way, a very genial, easy host himself, was typing away at this autobiography of this elderly, and I think [of?] venerated Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, and he's doing the translation. Yes, actually Asta Nielsen is less venerated in Denmark than the rest of Europe. She was, as he says, I made a film, which she did with a very funny cartoon from the beginning of [cinema?] with her and Charlie Chaplin as the father and mother of film, because she was there before Garbo, before--she actually helped both Garbo and Marlene Dietrich into the film, in a film called "Joyless Street" that Pabst made. G.W. Pabst, "Joyless Street". Yeah, yeah, he made "Joyless Street", and she was there as the main actress and the other two were there. And she is just, was the great international star of the silent movie and then she retired because her voice was not good enough. And she's a very talented old lady and she has, she done, she has done a number of collages, and she has written this book which is very highly interesting work because it's not just about her career, but it's a real human document. She is a very gifted old age, she is now 87, and has done, just finished a half an hour movie about life and so on. Well, just as your talking, I'm thinking about you, here's 87-year-old Asta Nielsen and also the young, you're involved with, you, in a sense, are spanning past present as well as the various media. Yes, I was very happy to see the other day when David in school beginning a composition about youth rebellion and he was saying all these things that came to him naturally being in the--a home where, you know, there are as many 87 as 17-year-old people. And they, what will we say, the ticket of admission or whatever to this place is certainly not age but whether you are a real person, whether you express yourself, and, so, age means nothing to him and he was being, he sounded as if he was, you know, in his 40s and his father says, "Well, what does it matter whether you are 80 or whether you are 17?" You know, as we're talking now, of course, this knocks a hole right into the old cliche involving the phrase we hear that's misused, phrase "the generation gap." It really has no meaning. It has no meaning. It's, well, for instance, the generation gap and the sexual revolution and so on, is the problem of the middle-aged people who feel they missed something and sort of-- Let's dwell on this a bit, this is interesting. When we have an anti-youth spirit, as we have in all societies, looking upon them, there's maybe a feeling of possibly envy here, that they have missed something these young are saying, "We're going to experience," envy may be the wrong word. It goes both ways, now in America, you know, we have a special thing because America has always been a youth-cultivating society because in pioneering societies, youth is a capital you have, of course in a way, youth is always a capital. But anyway, they had been made much of, always. In TV commercials and everything. And all have been long before, I mean, the American youth have always been uppity, let us say, compared to, certainly, academic youth. And that ended about 15 years ago, it used to be a thing that every European commentator got this cult of youth. And now it has, of course, gone beyond everything. I mean, it has no sense of proportion. You know, this whole deep into men--depart, departmentalization-- Departmentalization. Of youth, you're not, longer just a plain teenager, you are a teenage or a-- Well, what's happened is just, Elsa, if I may just suggest this to you because this is connected with your thoughts and your life, and Clifford Wright and the children. And that is, though America had engaged in the youth cult for years commercially in every way., so in past when nothing--now it seems the establishment's gone anti-youth. Well, of course that would happen. I was sort of amused when they started that even "Time" and "Life" magazine brought out this "Well, we have a right to be middle-aged," and so, well, this is sort of a backlash, this would happen, but it's still what I'm contending is still that there is no such thing. It's not the generation gap. Of course, in a way it's real because everybody talks about it, even here now they're talking about it, and I am always asked to write about generation gap, I think it's a kind of disease, this generationalism, for instance, you have it in the arts, too, everybody in the arts after my, you know, [unintelligible] the late '40s, and everybody that's from about, say, 10 years younger than me, you know, spend half the energy everybody in any kind of race looking over the shoulder who's coming next, who's putting me out, who's pushing me out, which is anti-creative-- Worrying about the next generation. And anti--what about is the next generation anyway? A generation will have a certain number of talented people and they will be it. And the rise of being young is not equality! Because the question is, who is younger than Bertrand Russell, or who is younger than Pablo Picasso? No, no, that's the reason that-- No, that's my point, I mean, who is younger than they are? Oh, Carl Dreyer, who was 80 when he died and who was as fresh and young as anybody. No, no, it's of course, it's a, it's a terrible thing when it is understandable in a way, in America when you see young people were strong and they could also, they had these qualities, but to mistake youth for equality which is what is happening now and the young are taking over. But I would like to say this is a special thing for instance here and I don't mean just in Denmark but in Europe, is the after war, the people who grew up after the war, who, the envy there works both ways. Because the young have some feeling that they missed out on a great experience, and if you survived the war, it was only an experience, I wouldn't call it great. It was very stultifying, but anyway they feel that you, that meaning my generation know what it's about and they don't, and then they are trying to, the young one are trying to put down the elders and that score, and say oh, you are all fake, you don't know anything about it. And the short of monopolizing idiotically like the atom bomb, or it's no business or no fault or no whatever [unintelligible] of theirs that the bomb was invented, that they grew up with it. We had to get used to it. But anyway, they're hanging on to all kinds of things to say, this is our life, and you know the kind of idiotic sort of badges of honor of, you know. For instance, I know young people here and I know young people in America who went to see the "Bonnie and Clyde" movie, which is a, it's a strange thing, because it wasn't really that good a movie, and it wasn't very well-received. But he was turned into a symbol of youth and these young people would say, "Well, it's about us," we say nonsense, it's a completely fancified idea of refers nothing to anything. Yes, it's about us because it's the kind of violence that could happen to us. You don't understand it, and we get into this in saying, "No, don't trust anybody over 25," or next year it'll be 20, I'm sure. Which is sort of building barricades from both sides. And of course, there always have been old people shaking their heads and say, [unintelligible] young and there have been young people trying to rebel, and after a while they stop it, and what's happening now, of course, for instance the whole hippie thing is a completely romantic thing that's been going on since high romanticism well over 150 years in Europe there have been people in bohemian circles that smoked hash, for one, whatever, Georges Sand wore men's clothes, Chopin had long hair and so on. All these things have been, you know, they are symbols and signs of little bohemian groups and what happened now is just that a whole strata of people who are not artists. I mean, the hippies are not artists, they're people who try to look like it. Look at the Lower East Side, there's about maybe 1,000 people who do anything, the rest of them look as if they were trying to. Of course, there's some--you just said, hit something, Elsa Gress, even though you're, you are here, here we are in a small village outside Coper, yet, talking about an international phenomenon right now in which this is not new. At the same time you find middle-class people, old people, who want to be part of this too, because they feel they're missing out on some--perhaps because their own lives are so bleak. Yes that's true, it's true, of course, a middle-class life is bleak wherever, and has been for long while, and I think it's a great, good thing that somebody feels it now, that they don't just feel that this is what life should be. And I think that comes out of the--Well, let's not call it welfare, because in some countries it's affluence, but the general affluence of about one-tenth of the world, where for the first time in history a sizable group of society can look around and say, "Well, what do we want to, we have this freedom." And instead of being happy about it and rushing ahead to do it, to the great shock of the elders, they say, "Well, why isn't it better? Why haven't you provided everything? Why is?" Elsa, I think there's a refreshing approach you have here, and a very original one, I think. It should be, perhaps, talked about a bit here. You're saying at this moment there's a new challenge here, that in welfare statism, with the fact that a man need not earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and drudgery, he will have time to explore who he is. And suddenly freedom becomes a horrendous and horrible thing, instead of a challenge, say, "Hey, where do we go from here?" Yes. Well, it's always been a problem for the very few people had the freedom, for I have borne the weight of too much freedom, you see, what it was, a heavy burden. But actually, in my personal, my personal experience, it's not a problem at all for people who I have and they don't have to be artists, but have any kind of artistic life, any kind of creative drive. To them, life is always too short. Whether they are 17 or 87 and I know so many examples of this and the only thing that makes them despair is that it isn't three lives that they can do these beautiful things. But somehow because these people were instrumental, the people of that type, in several generations ever since before the French Revolution, before the American Revolution, these people who built the modern world in a way and who were wonderful people, have not been able to imagine that the majority of mankind can't follow up on this. They just say, we give them these things and then they'll know what to do. It's the Socratic fallacy again. So it's thought if men knew the good, he would also do it, and then to everybody's horror and surprise, the first thing that happens is people first time have their material needs covered, and then they look around and say, "Well, we want more, more whiskey, more cars, more," and they don't ask for the great spiritual experience at all, and everybody is back and says why is a cultural gap. We are so quick to establish these gaps, actually the gaps have always been there, only you didn't know about them. I mean, when most of the people couldn't read or write, of course, they didn't know they were uncivilized, even. Now everybody knows that they are this side or outside of the barricade and it's our generation, the next one, next one who must break down these things. You can't expect it to happen overnight. Of course, this leads to a number of questions, because since I am in Denmark, I'm talking to Elsa Gress, a creative spirit in Denmark. Here it becomes even more accentuated, the problem more difficult, because in America the young have specific things to object to, the Vietnamese adventure, or the life of the Black man in the ghetto, or the disparity. Here, it's a bit different. It is maybe, and still it is one world. I mean, I may be over-emphasizing this always, but it is really one world, everybody's saying it on festive occasions, but it really is. And I always have--last time I was in America last summer, and I went to several Black Power festivals and so on, and talking to people who are American, North American, people wanted to feel about it like Copenhagen or Oslo or London, people would feel about it, and still they insist. They say, "Well, you can't understand this because you don't have this problem." Well, they don't either. They are more removed from it than I, who after all took the trouble to go out and talk to these people in Brown school and I don't know where. Whereas they sit on their ass and talk about what they should have done or the forebears should have done, which are all very nice but doesn't solve a thing, and actual does, there's a terrible masochistic type of attitude and liberal bias in America that makes the, in this case the Black or whoever the minority is. And I don't care whether the minority is sexual or racial and the great homosexual revolution that's going on in America is also a backlash against repression and so on. And it all comes to the same thing, we all sort of bringing out these things that nobody talked about before. But meanwhile people who sit in and feel guilty on behalf of whoever did the wrong don't get anywhere. Over here, we don't really have that, but maybe for that reason you can, can see it better. Of course, it is funny, for instance, just before the election, I was in Copenhagen, and I heard somebody in the train, some Dane sitting there, in casual, saying one thing this I, "Well, I suppose we'll get Nixon for President." But they were Danes, but they have this feeling that it is, it's a matter of everybody, and of course it isn't in it. And that's why you cannot really, I mean, for practical reasons you can say America is like this, here is like this, but, of course, the young feel that instinctively, the youth. You know what occurred to me? I forgot the obvious question. I've asked nobody this in Denmark. The obvious one, you're talking about minority groups or oppressed, woman. The role of the woman, here are you, Elsa Gress, and I just have neglected to ask you a question of the nature-- Well, that shows something, doesn't it, it shows that it isn't too obvious. I do not-- No, no, no, no, no, I haven't asked this of anyone, is my point here, that you may be, perhaps, aware of this, among young women in America, many of them are saying, "Hey, wait a--what about us?" Well, it's high time. It's high time, they're under fire from everybody. They don't even know it. I'm often noticed, rather noted all the time also 15 or 18 years ago, when I first came to America, that American women being so, you know, put on pedestals and all, they're so sure, they're been so sure that they were vastly superior, they were superior, clearly the best thing God ever made. They've been taught that by their parents and by this idiotic people around them, and also they felt they were superior to European Asiatic women who were sort of slaves. That was what they thought. Actually, America is not man-tracking, never was, is the real quite vicious, super-masculine [unintelligible]. And the women, although they have power in the family situation, have never had any real power in society and, so, they own a lot, all these widows own a lot of money, what do they do with it, they always in reactionary women grew up trying to prevent things from happening, but they're not making things happen. Very few are. When you ask American women, it's always Margaret Mead and to a [free us?]. My God, that many million, why don't you hear more about them? I wouldn't say it's statistically that much different here, because although we have a sizable number of women in parliament now, why would anybody want to be in parliament? But there they are. And so on, and men writers. And you don't come up against the things the same way, because tradition is different here. Actually, the Scandinavian women, particularly the Danes, have been have a long tradition of independence. Again, the Catholic Church will [unintelligible] try to squash us for a few centuries but before that, we had reading, writing, literature, they were a two-sex society unlike the American society. For instance, if nothing was left of America, think of a bomb or something, except the literature, you would have a feeling that they were all still fighting great Indians, that they was, it's one sex, it's a man society completely. Whereas, if you read where the writings were, terrible pirates and so on, but in between they had a very nice home life and in the sagas the women are very independent people. Could we dwell on this a bit, because I think this is terribly important for Americans to know, too, the woman in Viking society and specifically in Danish society, Scandinavia, then there has been this independent spirit. Yes, and for all the preaching of the church that women aren't really people, you know, the Catholic Church never really recognized women as--their souls all die, but not people, and but this independent spirit that went right back in pre-historic times have survived this and somehow come out. And I do think that in today if I should choose, if I wasn't, didn't have to be a Dane, to choose [unintelligible] to be and in functioning as a woman, I would choose Denmark, Scandinavian Denmark. It's a little bit worse both in Norway and Sweden for various reasons which can't expect other people think Scandinavia is one place, but it isn't, we are three quite different cultures, but anyway it is less neurotic, and that's why I'm very worried that the so-called sex revolution that is the opposite of revolution, the American sex revolution is a terrible reaction, a new puritanical thing, can talk about that if you want later. I want to. But I am very worried because America has this tremendous cultural pressure on the rest of the world which it does as it America's political power is waning and it isn't gotten over that, although nothing happened. It still is this big thing that you've steamrolling all over and we'll have all these bad manners and semi-pseudo revolutions and so on. And in Denmark it'd be a terrible setback, it'd put the clock back 50 years to have the idea of sex revolution, because the American middle class have been so oppressed as they were and so-- Repressed. Yeah, yeah, repressed and oppressed. I mean, some men mentally are so oppressed and repressed. To them, it's a great liberation to be able to say the four-letter words now, so what is just beginning is a beginning. And but the thing is, that if you isolate sex, which Americans have always been doing and are still doing, they isolate sex from both from the being, in the human being and psychologic and social background and from society. And that's why they can't talk about it. It's a contradiction in terms to talk about sex revolution, you can't revolutionize sex without revolutionizing the rest of the universe. So it's nonsense, but because they have been Victorian longer than we have and they've been so repressed it's this great compulsive talking about it seems like revolution. Meanwhile, nothing is going on except the same old thing. If you, if you isolate sex, it doesn't matter whether you do it to forbid it or to study it. In both cases, you are doing something anti-human. And even if these nice Masters and Johnsons or whatever people who sit around and try to study it as a thing that, the very assumption that you can study a thing, I mean, you may be studying what goes on. Who cares? What goes on inside the people and what it's all about, they don't even touch upon. And, so, you still have sex as an isolated thing and you have all these young people who can't, of course, manage to have such an interesting sex life because you can't when you are 17, and everybody's looking at them saying you're being interesting, you're having a sex revolution and it makes for all kinds of terrible things. I know it from personal experience, a lot of these young people who are supposed to be having the sex revolution are just sitting around having to dope themselves or to do something to get away from this terrible thing. You know, as I came in, let's, I want to continue with this, this matter of the sex revolution and your interpretation of the American sex revolution and how it can be retrogressive rather than progressive, and as I came in here I was saying to my friend Von Grossen, my colleague who drove me here, and we saw you and Clifford Wright and your children and your guest, the geneticist Bob Elston, the English geneticist here. I says, you know, this is not just, I know she's interested in total theater, this is total life. Everything is going on here with ease, and so you're saying the separation of sex as a specific phenomena from the rest of life is this horrendous aspect of it, to part of it. Yes. Yes, it is a terrible thing. Is a terrible thing, unless you get to face it. This all ties up again with the new kind of theater that I talk about and in a way came about here. Now this Tom O'Horgan is, he is a genius, I think-- Tom O'Horgan. He's a young-- American writer. He's not that young, really. That's the point. He's not so young, he doesn't believe in any of this nonsense. But anyway, he uses it and his kind of theatre is being taken up by young and they're putting him in their--interpreting what he's doing in the same way that shows what's wrong with society. Now, he's a highly theatrical person, he would have done anything for a theatrical effect, jump out for the fifth floor and have people [strip?] or whatever. But the thing is, it's being taken up as if this was a wonderful, what he's doing is taking up by the young as their kind of thing, which it is not. I mean, Tom hasn't invented any new way of loving or thinking or whatever. Instead, he's been talked about now as this is for a generation who moves in a new way, who loves, who thinks in a new way, it's just nonsense. It has nothing to do with it. I mean, what's--That that a lot of people grab on this kind of thing. I mean, Tom has a group of, they're not that young, people hanging around, they're as hung up and uptight and whatever as the next person, but they are disciplined and they do things that look as if it was spontaneous and then everybody rush at Tom and says this is a new spontaneous life and this is anti-mind, anti-word, anti-nonsense. And they all hang onto it. It just shows how pathetically insecure these people are, because anybody, it certainly Tom first and foremost, and I who have been working with him can see that it's not, he's working with this kind of thing and it's being looked upon as if it was a new kind of gospel, a new way of life. And it is a fact that everybody looking in this, looking towards art to do what religion was supposed to do before, to give you a meaning, interpretation of life, and meaning just shows how absolutely insecure and how you haven't even started. I mean, you--I mean, the young people--haven't even started this, you know, sex-- A thought occurred to me just as you're talking about how is, you know, interpreting it as it should be, as something religious and ritualistic as part of life theater, just here, too, theater was also segregated from the rest of life. A moment ago, you said sex is, and now you said theater is, and this is the whole point, isn't it, that cubbyholes for every department, and you're saying it's all part of one. Yes, it is, where in the moment you say, "Film is the art of the future," you have done something terrible both to film and yourself. If you say, "Theater is of the past," or "Theater is this and that," or whatever, "Sex is this and that, race is this and that," the moment you separate any kind of thing that it's really just one of the many aspects of the human free creative being, you are hanging on to, you're not just being reactionary, but you're not being status quo, but you are hanging onto, to an even older stage of affairs. That's paradoxical because the very people who are doing it are the ones that are hollering for development, calling themselves avant-garde. And, to me ,it's characteristic that in, to get out of this mess the only thing they can come up with philosophically is this new-called when you hear young artists talking about it a great deal here, the attitude relativity attitude, relativity, which comes out of structuralistic philosophy and whatever, but there are very few people have read these things but have just taken, just like the young Americans talk about McLuhan, they haven't read anything, it's just a cliche to say the medium is the message. You may as well say, "Bananas are good," or something, it doesn't mean any God-damned thing. And so all we hear to talk about this little bit that a person doesn't really, and this is the thing, this is the thing I think that's very characteristic of the whole age and they're trying to get at, you know, other ages been trying to get at men in various ways, to submit, to making submit into subjecting to a religious faith or political faith and so on. But now you're trying to get at the very concept of man. You say there is no such thing as a person, and if you say that is, you are just showing that you are petrified number, there is only a series of roles that each person takes on, for instance, saying I read this crappy comic book-- At the moment we're talking about a spy book that John LeCarre, but in the mid, and you also-- I don't think that's crappy-- No, it isn't, but you also have "Viper", you also have David Levine, now, who's-- [Rang? Rank?] past in everything. Novel, books, it's every, the magazines I notice go all the way from "New Yorker", "Ramparts", "New York Review of Books". but every aspect, "Time" over there. So basically, you're saying every aspect, pop, esoteric, any form is part of living an experience. Yes. But the moment you say, "Pop is the real part," as soon as [unintelligible], at the moment you hang on to any one of these making, making the main, make it the main thing, you are being anti-, anti- this new person of the future. And I better ask you one question. There are still-- Yes. Standards. Oh, yes. Yes, there's quality. You spoke of four geniuses of Denmark. You spoke of Niels Bohr, a great physicist. You spoke of Karen Blixen, and the remarkable Nobel Prize lady, you know, you spoke of Carl Dreyer, the filmmaker, and the fourth guy. Yeah. Poul Henningsen, the great architect. Now, there's standards. Let's talk now, can we talk about standards. Yes. Oh, yes. I know it's