WNPR

TV Legend And Connecticut Native Norman Lear Turns 95

Jul 27, 2017

Norman Lear was born on July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut. In countless interviews, Lear has said he was born in New Haven, and grew up in Hartford -- which is only partially true.

In his 2014 autobiography Even This I Get to Experience, Norman Lear shares stories from three years of his early life when he lived in the Elm City. He remembers vividly things like selling souvenirs before football games at the Yale Bowl during the Great Depression, and going to see movies at the Roger Sherman Theater with his cousins.

But those years in New Haven were poignant. Lear was sent alone to live with his grandparents on York Street after his father Herman was arrested and put in prison for selling fake bonds.

Lear called his father's arrest when he was 9 years old a defining moment in his life.

“The night that he was taken away, there were a ton of people at the house, and somebody puts their hand on my shoulder, and says, ‘You're the man of the house now, Norman,’” Lear said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “Nine years old -- I'm the man of the house. What a fool that person was. But somehow I got it. You know, a sense of the foolishness of the human condition.”

Lear said that phrase, ”the foolishness of the human condition,” was the philosophy behind such hit TV sitcoms as “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Maude.”

Lear's father was eventually released from prison, and the family reunited. Lear told Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 2014 that his complicated relationship with his father would help shape one of his most iconic characters, lovable bigot Archie Bunker from “All in the Family.”

“My father was the blusterer,” Lear said. “He had an opinion on everything, he knew everything. And he was a bit of a racist, although he would never, ever have thought so, or admitted it. So, he had shades of that.”

Lear said Archie Bunker’s trademark catchwords “meathead” and “stifle” came directly from his father’s own lexicon.

Lear continues to work in television. He is currently the executive producer of the Netflix series “One Day at a Time,” a remake of the CBS series he developed in 1975.