Top of Mind: Jack Williams, Extended Version

JB: Do you feel the pressure of being number 1?

JW: I think the pressures are self-imposed, to keep creating good shows. I’m very competitive. I love it. No offense to my competitors, but I love to whup ’em.

I think a lot of people in this country are competitive. I think we have all kinds of driven, very savvy people in this country. Unfortunately, most of them don’t get any publicity. They’re not some anchorman on the air or something, or a sports player. …It’s an exciting time, that’s the thing. That’s Obama’s great message. It’s not about dribbling a basketball or how fast you can run—nobody cares, because after a few years time will take its toll. If you have an active mind, that’s the best way to make sure you don’t get Alzheimer’s disease. Keep active. I’m trying to learn Spanish right now.

…As long as I’m healthy, you know, I look reasonably decent here—I’m going to try to stay on the air. …You gotta keep reaching. It doesn’t matter where you are in your life. Look at poor Natasha Richardson on the bunny slope of Mount Tremblant. The next thing you know you’re dead.

JB: Any low point? Something that gave you a little chagrin?

JW: I’m not afraid to ask hard questions, but it does bother me to be a verbal bully. It just isn’t me. I think perhaps I’m not as good as I could have been in some ways. I can’t go after people. That bothers me that I can be kind of soft.

…Going back to when I first came here: I’d known some of the Kennedys in Oregon—I got to know Ethel and Bobby—and Ethel remembered me, and so I had a chance to [cover] JFK’s early years…and I was so enamored with the Kennedys I suppose I sugarcoated them more than I should have. I mean, I was in awe.
JB: Do you talk to anybody in the family now?

JW: Yeah, I talk to Ethel once in a while. She’s been good. She’s supported Wednesday’s Child. Wonderful lady. I always tried to get her to do an interview with me but she just doesn’t want to.

JB: Sitting in your chair, do you sometimes think you’re taking a back seat to—

JW: —whatever’s big, whatever makes ’em [tune in], if that’s what people want. We’re walking kind of a tightrope, because we know we need to answer some questions, but you can’t become too alarmist. You can’t have too much bad news; you’ve got to have some good stuff. But right now, people really want to know what is going on. On the whole AIG thing, etc., that was way overblown. Because people have just had it.

And I can tell you right now, this is not a good time for those who are ostentatious in their taste and their wealth. It’s a good time to learn from the old Yankees. When I came here, most of ’em in our community—which had a number of people with old-time money—drove Ford Tauruses. Bentleys weren’t big among the old Boston Brahmins.