“When you talk so much, you almost lose the ability to listen,” Jack Perkins said in a KARE11 interview.
The inestimable retired NBC correspondent and former anchor of A&E’s “Biography” is still turning phrases that are pearls of wisdom for everybody, especially members of the media. Perkins was in the Twin Cities promoting his book, “Finding Moosewood, Finding God,” while visiting the family of his son, KARE11 sports anchor Eric Perkins.
Perkins retired from NBC after 35 years, at the height of his career, and moved from Los Angeles to an island off Bar Harbor, Maine. It had no public utilities and was inhabited only by him and his wife of 53 years, Mary Jo Perkins. They spent 13 years in a cabin named Moosewood that became the heart of a spiritual rebirth.
“She started from a more advanced point; she’d been raised in a churchgoing home,” said Perkins. “She just waited for me patiently to catch up, I think.”
Ever since I learned that KARE11’s “Perk at Play” guy was the son of Jack Perkins, I had hoped that we’d meet. I didn’t imagine there’d be startribune.com/video, too, but there is.
Q When walking through the woods at Moosewood, did you ever come across a dangerous animal? That’s where they live.
A Never found a dangerous animal. Never came across a bear, for example. We had raccoons; they we adorable. We had deer, charming and beautiful. No wild, dangerous animal.
Q You wrote that you were pretty full of yourself when you lived in L.A., and how that changed when you and M.J. moved to Bar Island. You also say when you are full of yourself there’s no room for God. I think I see quite a few ministers on TV who seem full of themselves.
A Maybe they aren’t full of God. Certainly it’s not for me to criticize any of them. But work in television, and all the excitement and glamour and adventure, and the wars and the politics and all the rest — and you’re covering it, which means if it’s important, you must be important; you get complimented and you get compensated — all of that is so seductive. It’s easy to fill up with your own publicity and to start believing it. People tell you that you’re great. Well, I must be great. As long as you are full of yourself, yeah, there’s no room for God, or for anyone or anything else for the most part. So you have to start shedding those layers if you want to get down to what else is inside you, which I believe is the spirit of God himself living in each of us.
Q Any chance God could be a woman?
A Of course. God could be a sort we couldn’t define in our limited knowledge. That’s why we guys learn to be respectful to women, because it would be frightening to get up the Pearly Gates and find out St. Peter is actually a gal.
Q You’ve said you and your wife realized you liked each other better when you were in Maine. What were some subtle differences?
A When we were there, so much was stripped away from the Hollywood charades we had been playing back West. The reason we liked ourselves better was because we felt drawn to more simple things. Drawn to the nature about us rather than the celebrities about us.
Q Were you blessed with your voice or did you develop those vocal cords?
A I didn’t develop either the voice or the speech pattern or the form of writing. A lot of people go to school to study those things, which I think is a waste of time. They don’t even call it journalism anymore — they call it communications. I majored in political science and religion, a joint major. If I speak at a journalism school, I encourage them to not be there.
Q Who would you want to narrate YOUR biography on A&E?
A Wow. That’s very interesting. If Peter Graves were still alive, since he and I were working on the “Biography.” He’s not, so I would want to do it.
Q Are you troubled by the White House demanding reporting records from the Associated Press?
A I’m troubled by a lot of things going on in our government, our society and our press and our media. I’m glad I’m not involved in that anymore, because I would not be comfortable in the media as I find them today. I don’t watch much. We’ll watch a newscast in the evening to catch up. We read newspapers. Nothing better around in these parts than the Strib, is there? I didn’t think so.
Q What do you think of “Perk at Play,” which is in my wheelhouse?
A C.J., I am so proud of that kid. I spoke last night at a church in Wayzata. They had asked me if I would do a Q&A. I said I’d be delighted, but I gotta tell you, there is one question that I will not be able to answer: How did Perk get that way?
Interviews are edited. Reach C.J. at email@example.com and watch her on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”