C.J.: No more stigma, Pauley says. Bipolar's hard enough

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2012 - 5:27 PM

Jane Pauley is asking nicely, as is her way, that we stop using the word "stigma" when speaking of mental health issues. The word is hurtful and not helpful, said Pauley, who wrote about her career as an NBC broadcaster and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her best-selling memoir "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue." Pauley was in St. Paul speaking to People Incorporated Mental Health Services. Although mental illness is a serious subject, Pauley had the crowd of 500 erupting in laughter about parts of her moving, improbable story. She was game for all questions in this Q&A, even one born of my lingering resentment for "Inside Edition's" Deborah Norville. As you may recall Norville's arrival on "Today," which Pauley was then co-anchoring with Bryant Gumbel, ushered in Jane's exit. There are two videos from my interview with Pauley. In Part 2 she discusses her kids, who grew into adulthood without being splashed over magazines because their parents are famous; her husband is Doonesbury comic script creator Garry Trudeau. They regard fame as a possible mental illness. (Did you get that, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian?) Pauley woke up in Minnesota on the 32nd anniversary of their wedding, but she flew home in time for what I assume was a romantic dinner.

Q You're starting a campaign against the word 'stigma?'

A "I'd like us to stop using the word. What it describes is real. I think that we inadvertently amplify the power of those old stereotypes when we repeat the word. And for people who have mental health issues it makes us feel bad. Stigma [she said making a cut sign across her throat]. With regard to suicides in the military and not getting help because of the blah, blah, blah, including stigma. So the reference was accurate but we can attack attitudes that are misinformed and out of date. But if we describe what I have as a medical illness, which is hard, we will remove those attitudes but replace them with hope not fear. I'm against the word.

Q When you were in the throes of your first and only episode of hypomania [a phase of extreme irritability], your husband would sometimes come home to whom?

A Cruella De Vil. [She laughed]

Q I can't image that.

A I know, she's so sweet. For one thing I had a one-and-only episode of hypomania. Bipolar I've still got but it's managed because I take medication, which has been adjusted in the 11 years from time to time. I probably tilt a little more toward the depressive side than the manic side anyway. We don't want to give the impression that bipolar is one way. Cruella De Vil. The thing about mental illness is it is a disease with behavioral and emotional symptoms. Parkinson's has physical symptoms. Diabetes has physical symptoms. Mine has emotional and behavioral symptoms. And one of them can be irritability. For some reason that anger will often attach itself to a target nearby. Family members can sometimes suffer. And my target was Garry and he sometimes, you know, had Miss De Vil at home. I hope that I have made up for that. I'm not so often that anymore.

Q Viewers realized how much we treasured you when you got pushed off 'Today' by the flavor of the month. What is your relationship these days when you run into Bryant Gumbel and Deborah Norville?

A Bryant Gumbel and I have a bond of affection that runs very deep. We are very close. I don't see him a lot but we love each other. I'm still very close to Tom Brokaw, and Stone Phillips is the best person to play golf with in the world with the possible exception of Bill Murray. But Deborah Norville and I saw each other at the 60th Anniversary of the Today Show Party. We hung out together and Deborah said, 'You know, I'm younger than you and I always will be.' She was funny! It was great.

Q You are such a classy person, because I still have not forgiven Gumbel and Norville for that.

You know what, it was more complicated than that.

Q You're mom to a set of fraternal twins and another child you slipped by me?

A Listen! CJ, he was a bit of a surprise to me, too, 25 years ago.

Q Your kids have never made news in an unpleasant or even noticeable way. How'd you and your husband manage that?

A My daughter who is now 28, when she was about 14 was frankly I think annoyed, that my celebrity had not generalized to those around me; that my children were not on camera with me, were not photographed for magazine covers. There wasn't a portrait of the Trudeaus at home. Garry and I both felt the same way. Celebrity is not necessary a healthy thing. Fame is kind of a mental illness when you think about it. Why would I inflict it on my children? Anyway when my daughter Rachel, we call Rickie, was about 14 she told me I was a bad celebrity. She meant it in the worst possible way, which I took as a compliment. It was a deliberate thing. I will say once on my daytime show -- which I had for one season and was desperate the whole time 'cause filling five shows a week, week after week, isn't easy -- being desperate I had the idea of a topic called Cooking 101 for Women Who Forgot to Teach Their Grown Children How to Cook. And I knew where to look. I was so surprised when all three of my kids went along with it. I totally exploited my family, but they were all over 20.

Q Do you say what they are doing career-wise?

A I don't mind. Of the twins, my son is a teacher at a charter school in San Francisco; very proud of him. My daughter's Nashville singing ambitions were serious and she's talented but she's a third-year law student, now [long laughter]. And Tom works in sports analytics. If you can make a living in fantasy sports, who knew. That said, he is starting business school in the fall. So, we'll see.

Q Do you have any artistic talent, do you draw or paint?

A When I was in my 30s, I was suddenly overtaken by a creative desire. I started doing watercolors. After 40 minutes it was as good as it was going to get. Between 40 and 45 I generally messed it up. I still do that sometimes but not very often. But I have recently taken up pottery. Which is why my fingernails look like this. Which is not good. I love it. I love it. The brain loves watching the hands do things. And in modern society most of us don't have anything like that. Most of us are not kneading bread or knitting or sawing or hammering or making or painting. All those things the brain likes. My brain, watching my hands make a mess with clay, is just drinking it up and I'll never be any good at it but I totally love it. And it probably is helpful in an emotional sense because you can't make anything before you center the clay. And if you're not centered you can't center the clay. So I think it's pretty therapeutic.

Q Does your husband give you a heads up when he think he's created a Doonesbury that might become controversial?

A No. Absolutely not. And he doesn't think that way. He doesn't deliberately do that and he doesn't ever shy away from it when he does and he does not give me a heads up trouble's coming.

Q Does he every shout out from his office to yours: Honey what's the word for a word he can't recall? In other words, do you ever help him with his Doonesbury captions?

A No. It's funny you mention it because I'm often shouting up to him. 'What is the word' or 'I need a better way of saying...' and his response is completely unhelpful, in all of our married years -- and, as we speak, this is our 32nd wedding anniversary and I'm not home. I mean, he's a writer and that would be a professional, hard question and he doesn't have time for that. So he's completely useless. Was that Cruella De Vil?

Q What's the most interesting music to which your children have exposed you?

A Oh, my daughter's demo from Nashville. She can sang [which is used when making the point someone is a really good singer]. My daughter is New York City born and raised and she can sing. I adore it. She's not going to be paid to sing [however].

Q What musician from your personal iPod do you wish you could get your kids to listen to more?

A CJ, I hate to tell you this. I do not have a personal iPod.

Q Then from your music collections, from your albums? Frank Sinatra, Patti Austin?

A I don't know [she said is a new dialect] I have eclectic interests. I wish Garry was here. He would answer that question. He'd be fascinating. In fact, he would bore you to death. Because he has bored me to death with a discussion of album covers and who produced that album and what happened, the history and blah, blah, blah, blah -- [and then she feigned falling back asleep while snoring].

Q So you don't listen to music?

A I do listen to music. I'm more inclined to want to sing it than hear it. And I can sing, too. You wouldn't pay me, but couldn't make me stop either.

Q You recently had a little vacation romance with most of a pie -- not even a whole pie -- and somehow you thought that was an indicative of lacking self control?

A My friend made two pies. The group of us ate one. And then the next day ate some more. But I do believe that on my own I consumed over that two day period the equivalent of 3/4 of a pie. I ate a lot of pie. Katie left out a little sign with that second pie in the morning: Here's a fork, just pick at it. I was shoveling. I did more than my share. They were South Carolina peaches, they were delicious. And last night had Minnesota rhubarb. Rhubarb and strawberry crumble? I'll have your share.

Q Did your home boy David Letterman ever try to date you when you were both young television professionals in Indianapolis?

A I'm pretty confident that the thought of dating me has never crossed Dave Letterman's mind, though he knew who I was. He was wacky; he was the best weatherman in America. He was just funny. Imagine if Dave Letterman did your weather every night. He was on a competing station. And then he was on the radio and he used to use me in some of his [bits] but we did not know each other personally. I'll ask him if he ever considered asking me for a date, if I see him again but I'm pretty sure the answer is What?

Q I understand you've recently acquired powerful new evidence in your quest to discourage your husband's belief that he married a babe?

A [Laugh] Shh, shh. He thinks he did. My husband of 32 years is under the illusion that his wife is hot. What he and I know is that the doctor has diagnosed early cataracts but it's too soon to do anything about them. As someone who wears reading glasses and whose hands sometimes turn the page, with reading glasses on and sees those [she shrieked lightly a little looking at her hand] I know the difference. So I'm not going to encourage that surgical procedure anytime soon.

Q E-mailer Frank from Grand Rapids tells me that you and your husband own an island? [I also shared Su from St. Louis Park's very nice e-mail about Pauley with the broadcaster.]

A We have a house on an island that we share with 14 other families. Kind of a difference from owning an island. No, we don't own an island.

Q Do you actually go to Costco and do your own shopping?

A Yes. How else can you go to Costco? Oh yeah, are you kidding. I don't have my [Costco card] with me. I don't have my AARP card either.

Contact C.J. at cj@startribune.com and watch for her on FOX 9 Buzz.

  • WATCH VIDEO of C.J.'s two-part interview with Jane Pauley

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