The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour full coverage of the Hong Kong turnover, plus reaction to it from four Chinese-Americans, a look at boxing's future after the ear biting and other violence of the Tyson-Holyfield fight, and some 80th birthday greetings to Lena Horne from Bobby Short and Nancy Wilson. It all follows our summary of the news this Monday. NEWS SUMMARY
JIM LEHRER: Britain returned Hong Kong to China today, ending 156 years of colonial rule. The official handover ceremony was held at midnight in Hong Kong's convention center. The British flag was lowered for the last time as "God Save the Queen" played, and the Chinese flag was raised to the sound of the Chinese National Anthem. Chinese leaders attended, headed by President Jiang Zemin. The Prince of Wales led the British delegation, joined by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Hong Kong's departing governor, Chris Patton. Prince Charles spoke for his mother.
PRINCE CHARLES: I should like, on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen, and of the entire British people to express our thanks, admiration, affection, and good wishes to all the people of Hong Kong who have been such staunch and special friends over so many generations. We shall not forget you. And we shall watch with the closest interest as you embark on this new era of your remarkable history.
JIM LEHRER: The ceremony was followed by an eruption of fireworks in Victoria Harbor. In Beijing, 100,000 guests gathered at Tiananmen Square to view the clock counting the seconds until midnight. More than 4,000 Chinese troops were ready to move into Hong Kong to guard and protect the city's 6.3 million people. We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. President Clinton today offered a compromise package of tax cuts to congressional negotiators. They meet next week to reconcile House and Senate versions passed last week. Mr. Clinton said both did not do enough for middle class Americans. His compromise includes an alternative capital gains tax cut and a $500 per child tax credit. He spoke to reporters on the South lawn as he left for speaking engagements in Boston and New York.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: This tax cut plan embodies the best ideas offered by Democrats. It reflects many of the priorities of the Republicans, such as the capital gains cut. It is balanced. It is fair to the middle class. It will foster economic growth, without hurting our vulnerable citizens, and it is consistent with the budget agreement. It is the right plan for America, and I will do my best and fight hard for it in the weeks to come.
JIM LEHRER: A House Republican leader, Bill Paxon of New York, said he was pleased with the President's plan because it excludes up to 30 percent of long-term capital gains from taxation.
REP. BILL PAXON, [R] New York: We believe that what the House and Senate put forward is--generally speaking--the right plan for the American people. We think the President's plan is another step in our direction. From the beginning of this tax relief effort the President has been slowly, inexorably moving in our direction, and we continue to believe that our plan is a plan that's right for this country and that generally the President continues to move in our direction.
JIM LEHRER: The federal welfare system ends a 60-year run tonight. President Clinton signed the law ending that program a year ago. The new law requires recipients to work after two years of assistance. The states are required to find jobs for one quarter of them by this fall, half of them by the year 2002. The new system takes effect tonight at midnight. Conditions returned to normal today on the space station Mir. A cargo ship collided with the Russian station last week. Neither the American nor two Russians on board were injured. NASA officials said the cargo vehicle may have been overloaded and, thus, too hard to maneuver at the time of the accident. Mike Tyson today apologized for biting his opponent, Evander Holyfield. He did so twice in their heavyweight fight in Las Vegas Saturday. Tyson was disqualified after he took a chunk out of Holyfield's right ear. The Nevada Boxing Commission will meet tomorrow to consider punishing Tyson. Tyson said he just snapped after he thought Holyfield head- butted him. Tyson offered his apology to Holyfield and to boxing fans in Las Vegas.
MIKE TYSON: Evander, I'm sorry. You're a champion. I respect that. And I'm only saddened that the fight didn't go on further, so that the boxing fans of the world might have seen for themselves who will come out on top. When you butted me in the first round--accidentally or not--I snapped in reaction, and the rest is history.
JIM LEHRER: We'll have more on this story later in the program. Overseas today the President of Albania conceded his Democratic Party's defeat in parliamentary elections over the weekend. Socialist Party leaders claimed victory, even though official results have not been released. International observers said that polling was carried out fairly, despite sporadic gunfire in the capital over the weekend. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to Hong Kong, the future of boxing, and Happy Birthday Lena Horne. FOCUS - CHANGING THE GUARD
JIM LEHRER: Hong Kong went from Britain to China today. Our extensive coverage begins with a report from Ian Williams of Independent Television News.
IAN WILLIAMS, ITN: China's leaders flew into a wet and windy Kai Tak Airport this evening six of the half hours before the handover of power, but already looking very much at home. President Jiang Zemin on his first visit to Hong Kong was greeted by schoolgirls, before reaching the warm embrace of Hong Kong's future leader, Tung Chiwah. Warmth was also very much evidenced in communities across the colony, where the symbol of the new Hong Kong's special administrative region flew side by side with the Chinese Communist flag, though for many it was business as usual. And business was the order of the day for diplomats and politicians as they flew into a whirlwind of meetings, the Americans and British telling Hong Kong and Chinese leaders they expect China to respect Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy. They also welcomed assurances that Hong Kong will move quickly to fresh elections. Then almost but not quite a washout the British sunset farewell ceremony got underway. Margaret Thatcher, who signed the treaty returning Hong Kong to Chinese rule, was among the politicians and diplomats, past and present, who packed a specially built stadium for an extravaganza blending Britain and China. [music in background] Only a city that's a monument to making and spending money could produce children dressed as dancing credit cards. [music in background] Then there was a symbolic lowering of the Hong Kong and British flags before a grand, though rain-soaked, finale. [music in background] Above the harbor, defying the elements, the pyrotechnics began, brief but spectacular, even if China had pledged to lay on a bigger and better 8 million pound display tomorrow. Even as the British were still celebrating, the main cause of political fireworks in recent days, the People's Liberation Army, was gathering at the border, less than an hour's drive from here, as three hours before the handover the PLA flocked into Hong Kong. They'd left their barracks in China, having been told by their commanders who love the Hong Kong people, though there was no emotion on the faces of the 500 soldiers that made up the advance party. They crossed in a fleet of buses and trucks, a satellite dish beaming back to Chinese television the progress of soldiers Britain had originally refused to allow in early. They'll be followed by a 4,000-strong garrison. [music in background] The handover ceremony took place in the main hall of Hong Kong's newly completed convention center in front of 4,000 guests. In this final act of empire choreography was everything. [applause] A guard of honor from the British armed forces and one from the PLA took to the stage simultaneously--[applause]--before Prince Charles delivered Britain's last words of thanks and commitment to Hong Kong.
PRINCE CHARLES: In a few moments, the United Kingdom's responsibilities will pass to the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong will thereby be restored to China. And within the framework of one country/two systems, it will continue to have a strong identity of its own and be an important international partner for many countries in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, China will tonight take responsibility for a place and a people which matter greatly to us all. The solemn pledges made before the world in the 1984 Joint Declaration guarantee the continuity of Hong Kong's way of life. [music in background]
IAN WILLIAMS: Moments before midnight the flag ceremony began. [music in background] The territory had returned to China. [music in background] President Jiang gave a short speech in which he said China is committed to one country/two systems, an autonomous and prosperous Hong Kong.
PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN, China: [speaking through interpreter] After the return of Hong Kong, the Chinese government will unswervingly implement the basic policies of one country/two systems Hong Kong people administer in Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy and keep the previous socioeconomic system a way of life of Hong Kong, unchanged, and its laws basically unchanged. [applause]
IAN WILLIAMS: Then Charles and Britain's politicians left, having refused to attend a ceremony at which China's appointed legislature for Hong Kong was to be sworn in, an illegal body in the eyes of the British. Their destination was the royal yacht Britannia, where there were emotional scenes at the key side. Her departure from Hong Kong tonight marked Britain's last retreat from her last major colony.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what happened today as seen by four Chinese-Americans. Nien Cheng, author of Life and Death in Shanghai, an autobiographical account of her six-year imprisonment during the Chinese cultural revolution, she was born in Beijing, now lives in Washington; Alice Young, an attorney at the New York firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays, and Handler, where she chairs the Asia Pacific Practice--she was born in the United States, practiced law in Hong Kong from 1974 to '76; Julie Lee, host of a radio talk show for Hong Kong immigrants in San Francisco, she was born in Shanghai, lived in Hong Kong from 1960 to '69; Da Hsuan Feng, a teacher of physics at Drexel University--he was born in Singapore, travels regularly to Hong Kong to discuss education policy, among other things. Ms. Cheng, what are your strongest feelings about what happened today?
NIEN CHENG, Author: Being ethnic Chinese, of course, I feel Hong Kong should be returned to China, but I regret it is a repressive Communist government, not a democratic government that Hong Kong is being returned to. I hope they will do well, but I am afraid, knowing the Communists as I do, having lived under Communist government for 30 years, I doubt if they can manage Hong Kong effectively.
JIM LEHRER: On a personal level, is it an emotional moment for you--
NIEN CHENG: No--
JIM LEHRER: --watching this just now?
NIEN CHENG: Oh, yes, of course. I think I remember from the time I was a little child Hong Kong always represented to the Chinese young people as the greatest shame of Chinese national history because Britain seized Hong Kong after defeating China in a humiliating war to force opium on the Chinese people. The governor of Guangdong province at that time resisted Britain's attempt to trade opium with China. And he burned commodity of opium which had already landed and as a result of China's defeat, not only China had to pay reparation to Britain large sum of money, but--but also this governor was severely punished and exiled to Sindyung for the rest of his life. I had known from the time I was a little girl that he was the greatest hero.
JIM LEHRER: So all of that came back to you today as you watched that.
NIEN CHENG: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Feng, what are the strongest feelings you have about what happened today?
DA HSUAN FENG, Physicist: Well, Jim, I must say that I'm very lucky to actually observe up close two reversals. The first one was in 1963, when Singapore became a part of Malaysia and left the great British--the colonial rule--and the second one is this one. I agree with the previous speaker that 1997 is incredibly euphoric for all of the people who are ethnically Chinese.
JIM LEHRER: Just because as a matter of history no matter what your views are?
DA HSUAN FENG: Absolutely. Whether one supports the government in Beijing or not, whether one is optimistic about Hong Kong's future or not, I think this is undeniably--today is the closure, as the lady earlier said, of the opium war. In a sense, the opium war has shamed the Chinese people for over 156 years, which is nearly 20 years before the end of the Civil War in the United States. So, I guess I would like to be able to tell you what's going to happen in the future, but I don't have the crystal ball. Just like when I left Singapore in 1963, no one would have guessed that in three decades--three and a half decades--that whole region had become the economic powerhouse of the world. And in that sense I think it is very exciting, and I'd like to also bring out one point. When I was a technical adviser to one of the congressional delegations to China this--earlier this year--led by Congressman Kurt Weldon--he made a very exciting, interesting point. He compared the United States 50 years after its independence with China, which is--you know, with this regime approximately 50 years--he said that after 50 years in the United States, we had the blacks are not human beings and women cannot vote, so at that point, the human rights in the United States was nothing to be mentioned. And so in this sense I think that by comparison after 50 years of Chinese Communist rule and-- believe me--the first 30 years were brutal by any stretch of the imagination--the change is enormous and very exciting, and we can, you know, go after examples of an example as to what's happened within China at this moment. So this is the reason why I hold out some optimism in the future.
JIM LEHRER: Ms. Young, should this be seen as closure of the opium war?
ALICE YOUNG, Attorney: I think it's closure, but I think it's also a new beginning. I'm so excited from both a personal and a business and a legal perspective. I was born in the United States. In fact, my name that my father gave me--my Chinese name--was Imai--which means--it means First Beauty is one interpretation--but what it really means is first born in the United States. My father came as a diplomat for the Chinese government, but he found that he was here without a government during the Communist takeover, so we were raised in the United States. He lived through the McCarthy era; he took--majored in history but was told he really wouldn't be able to teach history as a Chinese. So we remember all of that and yet, having been born and raised in the United States, I'm very proud of being an ethnic Chinese, as well as an American. I first went to China or Hong Kong in 1974 as an American lawyer. And I saw what it was like as a very vibrant place, and yet clearly under British control. A lot has happened from '74 till now, and to witness the ceremonies--unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there because of work requirements here--but to see that dignified turnover, to see international treaties finally respected, to see the British handed over with honor, the Chinese accept with honor, it really was an extraordinary moment. I think even more interestingly, watching the handover ceremony, to see the judges, the Chinese judges of the new--new Hong Kong government with their British wigs--the rule of law, hopefully enforced, we'll have to see, but China promising a separate system, a democratic--somewhat democratic system--I have a great deal of optimism, albeit somewhat guarded.
JIM LEHRER: So personally a day of celebration for you, right?
ALICE YOUNG: Yes. I think as a Chinese--you have to remember there are a billion, two hundred fifty million Chinese. In the U.S. I am somewhat unique--1 percent minority population--but to realize that there are five ethnic names in China--Wong being one--and there are 200 million people in China just with the surname of Wong--that would be the entire United States being named Wang. You realize the scale of this. It's really quite overwhelming.
JIM LEHRER: Ms. Lee, are you overwhelmed by what has happened today?
JULIE LEE, Radio Host: Yes, kind of. Yes, with very, very mixed feelings. And I was born and raised in Shanghai China. I went to Hong Kong, lived with my parents in 1960. And they lived in Hong Kong for nine years, and I came to San Francisco for good. Now, I have four children; they're all born and raised in this country. I'm an American-Chinese now, and we all have very, very mixed feelings, and I think for the long-term I think everything looks good, and for the time being I think it would be a little setback for Hong Kong people.
JIM LEHRER: In what way? What do you see, the setback?
JULIE LEE: Very simple. The government already giving the warnings for the medias, newspaper. You will see, there will be only one side of stories, and for the time being, I guess, until everybody here and there push for the democratic process; hopefully they will do better with the area.
JIM LEHRER: So do you not trust the Chinese government when it says one--was it one country/two systems?
JULIE LEE: Well, we almost can see what's happening now. The newspaper already--all start to change--it's the real life. It's the fact, and I think everybody's mood today is different. It depends how much they have suffered in the past. For those who never suffered and especially for those who make business dealing with China, they would all talk very differently.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that, Professor Feng, that it depends on what your own experience has been as to what your mood is about what happened here today?
DA HSUAN FENG: Yes. I'm afraid so. I think we are all slaves of our youth in a sense. I certainly have not experienced the terrible times that many other Chinese have when they did live in China during the Cultural Revolutions and so on.
JIM LEHRER: Ms. Cheng, so you would agree with that, would you not? I mean--
NIEN CHENG: No. I try to be objective. I feel this way. There is a slight misunderstanding when you say one country/ two systems. I think the Chinese government was referring to the economic system. I don't think they meant democracy as against dictatorship. They meant socialism on the mainland, capitalism in Hong Kong, because they don't admit that what's going on on the mainland is capitalism.
ALICE YOUNG: I would have to disagree--
NIEN CHENG: I don't think they would tolerate political opposition.
JIM LEHRER: Ms. Young--let me ask Ms. Young about it. Do you agree with Ms. Cheng on that; that when the Chinese say two systems, they're only talking about economics; they're not talking about democracy?
ALICE YOUNG: I think under the basic law and under the joint declaration the Chinese have promised a level--a degree of democracy that is not available to Chinese currently in China. But that is a legal promise that they've made. So I think it is up to them to keep their promises, and it's up to us to be observant, to give them a little time, to be a little patient. I think C.H. Tung is going to prove to be a terrific leader. He's known to China. He's known to the West. I think we should be a little bit patient. It's going--after all--this is a momentous occasion, but they've also had to review and consider thousands and thousands of laws, of regulations. It's going to--it's not all going to suddenly change in either direction, I think. But I think the important thing is for us to really adopt a patient wait and see attitude. After all, China has $30 billion invested in Hong Kong; they don't want to see it go by the wayside.
JIM LEHRER: Ms. Lee, are you in a mood to be patient?
JULIE LEE: I think I have no choice, especially people in Hong Kong now, and after today with all the media attention all over the world, with all of the cameras and the news personalities in Hong Kong, it really reminds me of the Tiananmen Square massacre. I think without that incident we always live happier, especially the people in Hong Kong.
DA HSUAN FENG: I believe that to talk about Hong Kong, one really has to link with the history of China, modern China. You know, in a sense, I would say the modern China began with my mother, who was born in the last year of the Ching Dynasty, and in the last eighty or ninety years, China has progressed enormously. For the first 50 years or so I think one looked at the history of China, it was one of tremendous bloody civil war, and when the Communists came in, except for the first year, it also was plunged into a great deal of turmoil until 1976, when China went through this--got rid of the Gang of Four. I think 1989, Tiananmen Square was certainly a terrible thing. I think everybody would have agreed, because it showed on TV, but, you know, what happened prior to that was, if not worse, it was certainly very bad. And if we look at what happened to China since 1989, economic boom started then, almost--you look at the difference that went on since 1989, it was incredible. And so I think that what the Chinese leadership have is de facto use action to apologize somehow the action of 1989.
JIM LEHRER: Do you read it--let's ask Ms. Cheng--do you read it the same way; that through their actions they have essentially apologized for Tiananmen Square?
NIEN CHENG: Look, what they have done already, they abolished the elected legislature. They abolished it. They put in place an appointed legislature. Communists usually do not like opposition. They don't feel confident enough to endure criticism. We'll just wait and see.
ALICE YOUNG: I think and that's exactly what we should do, wait and see, because, after all, in March of 1998, they will have to have an election; for the first time in Hong Kong, the provisional legislature, which has now become the legislature, will have to go through an entirely new election process. I look forward to seeing how they do, whether they're able to handle that well a truly elective--
JIM LEHRER: Is that the first big test, do you think?
ALICE YOUNG: I think that's the first big test, and I think we see what kind of election laws get put into place, how the elections are run. And I think that will be very, very telling, and I think we should hold them to their promises, but I think we should allow them to go through that process before jumping the gun.
JIM LEHRER: All right. We will leave it there. Thank you all four very much. FOCUS - GOOD SPORT?
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, what now and next for boxing and Happy Birthday to Lena Horne. Paul Solman of WGBH-Boston has the boxing story.
PAUL SOLMAN: Saturday night in Las Vegas, a dream re-match for the heavyweight championship of the world. Reigning champ and 34-year-old proud Hero Evander Holyfield against the man he took the crown from, convicted felon and crowd villain, Iron Mike Tyson, who turned 31 today. The fight began conventionally enough. It ended in surrealism. This fight was supposed to help return boxing to its glory days when Muhammad Ali enthralled the world with his skills and personality, his ability to promote his latest match-up as the fight of the century.
MUHAMMAD ALI: And all knees shall fall when I get the gorilla in Manila.
PAUL SOLMAN: For all the brutality in their sport, heavyweights like Ali and George Foreman, like many before them, had become American folk heroes. And then in the 1980's, along came Mike Tyson. A street hood from Brooklyn as a kid, Tyson soon became a great boxer, the youngest ever to win the world heavyweight championship at age 20.
REPORTER: Mike, you think you'll be able to handle prison time, Mike?
PAUL SOLMAN: But in 1992, a rape conviction put him behind bars for three years. Boxing was without its most menacing, most famous box office attraction. So when Tyson left prison and began winning again in 1995, there was new hope, and when he lost to former Olympic and world champion Evander Holyfield last year, it only fueled interest in Saturday's re-match. Saturday's fight began with Holyfield winning rounds one and two, but in the second, the men butted heads, opening a gash over Tyson's right eye. He cried foul. The ref said it was an accident. Then in round three Tyson did the unimaginable--chewing through a piece of Holyfield's right ear and spitting it into the ring. He was penalized and warned. Seconds later, he bit the champ's left ear. When the ref disqualified Tyson, he went wild, even swinging at police officers trying to restrain him. After the fight, Holyfield had this to say.
EVANDER HOLYFIELD, WBA Heavyweight Champion: The whole thing is just the easy way to get out of the fight, to foul, because you know you're gonna get disqualified instead of fighting ghrough. That don't show no courage whatsoever. Everybody knows how to get out of the fight. All you have to do is foul. You'll get yourself out and then you can say, well, he didn't beat me.
PAUL SOLMAN: Tyson, still visibly upset, gave his side of the story.
MIKE TYSON, Former Heavyweight Champion: And as soon as he butt me, I watched him. He had me holding and he looked right at me, and I saw him, and he kept going, and he butted me again. He kept going down and coming up, and he charged into me, and no one warned him; no one took any points, what happened. What am I do to? This is my career? I can't continue getting butted like that. I got children to raise. This guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I got to retaliate.
PAUL SOLMAN: President Clinton, an admitted boxing fan, had his own reaction.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I saw the fight, and until what happened, it was a good fight. And I was horrified by it. And I think the American people are.
PAUL SOLMAN: While newspapers across the country wallpapered their front pages with the fight, Tyson faces possible suspension and a fine of up to $3 million, which would still leave $27 million for the fight. Holyfield is due for reconstructive surgery on his ear and will make $35 million, and Showtime will rebroadcast the fight on July 7th.
PAUL SOLMAN: Finally, about an hour ago, Tyson apologized.
MIKE TYSON: Saturday night was the worst night of my professional career as a boxer. I'm here to apologize today, to ask the people to expect more from Mike Tyson, to forgive me snapping in the ring, and doing something that I've never done before and will never do again. I apologize to the world, to my family, and to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I just--I just snapped and reacted and did what many athletes have done, and have paid the price for it. You have seen it in basketball with fist fights on the floor, in baseball with riots on the field, and even spitting in the face of an official. For an athlete, in the heat of battle, to suddenly lose it, it's not new, but it's not right, and for me, it doesn't change anything. I was wrong, and I expect to pay the price like a man.
PAUL SOLMAN: Now to discuss the implications of all this we're joined by Bert Sugar, a sportswriter and boxing historian, and Steve Buckley, a sports columnist for the Boston Herald. Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Mr. Buckley, what does the fight and the apology say about boxing?
STEVE BUCKLEY, Boston Herald: The apology says nothing to me because there was a prepared statement. And I find it ludicrous that he would bring in Robby Alamar's spitting incident last year.
PAUL SOLMAN: That's in baseball.
STEVE BUCKLEY: In baseball. What the fight proves is something I've felt for a long time, and I may be in the minority--I don't know--is I think boxing is a sham. I put it right down there with maybe not the outcome but the whole pageantry and everything that goes into it. I put it right down with professional wrestling and roller derby. And with all the training that we sportswriters have, what are we talking about? We're talking about a man that bit another man's ear. I find it reprehensible.
PAUL SOLMAN: Mr. Sugar, how do you respond to that? You've been a sportswriter and boxing writer for a very long time.
BERT SUGAR, Boxing Historian: Well, the first part of his statement I agree with. I think the apology excused everything but the attack on Pearl Harbor. I mean, it was just--they swept everything in. As to boxing being down there with roller derby at its best moments, no, it is a beautiful sport. At its worst moments, he's right. But boxing is--has rules. Society has rules. You must adhere to those rules. You can't do what Mike Tyson did, and I think that he was wrong. Apologies don't wash it out, and boxing-- well, it'll go on. It has suffered black eyes, black ears, whatever, throughout its history. It is traditionally a great sport. It is sociologically a way for the kids to get out of the ghetto, barrio, tenement, whatever. This was terrible. This was reprehensible. This was beyond it.
PAUL SOLMAN: Is it a legitimate sport anymore, Mr. Buckley?
STEVE BUCKLEY: The sport is. What's happened to the sport is not. In terms of getting out of the barrio, the ghetto, and all this, keep in mind that pro football, pro basketball, hockey, there are so many more venues now for kids to escape to from these places.
PAUL SOLMAN: Right.
STEVE BUCKLEY: And I don't think boxing is getting the greatest athletes anymore. The problem I have with boxing--the problem I have with boxing is that they can take any event and through clever marketing and TV and Pay-Per-View and all that, they can make it something far more than what it is. This Tyson McNeely thing a few years back was an absolute embarrassment.
PAUL SOLMAN: What do you mean by that?
STEVE BUCKLEY: Tyson coming out of jail and fighting Peter McNeely, who is a ham-and-egger--turning it into a big comeback fight--if that was another sport, the athlete in question would be doing some kind of rehabilitation project in the minor leagues and getting his game back in sync, as opposed to turning it into a big world event.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, are you suggesting it's fake? I mean, if you're comparing it to roller derby.
STEVE BUCKLEY: Oh, no, it's not fake. I don't think that the outcome is fake, though that's certainly been in question a number of times. I can name lots of fights that I've seen where the setup of the fight has been in question. The outcome is never in doubt. I covered a Marvin Haggler fight once. I forget who he was supposed to fight before he beat Alan Minter for the Middleweight title in 1980. The opponent he was to have fought bowed out from some injury or something. All of a sudden they line up Bobby Boogaloo Watts, and they term it a grudge match because he had beaten Haggler earlier in his career, and--now it's a big grudge match. And it's what they make of it. We all knew Haggler was going to win. That was never in doubt. It's what they turned it into that I found.
PAUL SOLMAN: So somewhat fake, I mean, in the sense of--
STEVE BUCKLEY: The outcome was in doubt, but you kind of knew who was going to win. It wasn't like it was predetermined, but this was a farce, this particular fight, and I've seen too many of those over the years.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, Mr. Sugar, what do you like about boxing?
BERT SUGAR: Well, I'm asking Mr. Buckley--while he looks at pro-basketball and pro-football as a way out--I don't see every kid standing in the doorway, asking to get out seven foot tall or three hundred and ten pounds. Boxing does have aspects. I appreciate your point. I said you overstated it. I love boxing. I love mano a mano. If you have a little boy, at the age of one he balls up his fist. If you have a little girl, at the age of one she cries. It's primordal. It's there, and at its best, it's balletic. At its worst--
PAUL SOLMAN: Poetic?
BERT SUGAR: Balletic, not poetic.
PAUL SOLMAN: Balletic. So like a ballet. How do you explain--
BERT SUGAR: Sugar Ray Leonard. Muhammad Ali--some of these fighters--Sugar Ray Robinson--were brilliant and beautiful to watch. At its worst it is a brutal, horrible sport, but let me just go to another point Mr. Buckley made. America's into pageantry. They don't call the Super Bowl a football game. It's the Super Bowl. And 1984 was the last time the American Football Conference won. It's still a big game. Yes, there is something in football that evens it up. It's called the point spread. So it doesn't matter who wins as long as you bet with the bookies and have the right points. But it's not just a game. It is "the" game. It's an event. Americans buy events. I love the trapping. A heavyweight championship fight, an event.
PAUL SOLMAN: So how important is pageantry then? This is pageantry; this isn't sport. Or I take it that that's part of what--
STEVE BUCKLEY: I misunderstood. I thought I came here to talk sports tonight. Now we're talking events, and I think what Mr. Sugar did was make my point for me, is that you can take anything and put it inside that ring, aim the cameras at it, turn it into an event, have Pay-Per-View audiences, bring in Sly Stallone and Michael Keaton and all the celebrities, and--
PAUL SOLMAN: Who were sitting ringside.
STEVE BUCKLEY: --turn up the volume and make it an event. And I submit that many of these events are nothing of the kind.
PAUL SOLMAN: Nothing of the kind in the sense of being sporting events.
STEVE BUCKLEY: In the sense of being important, in the sense of being compelling, in the sense of being historic. Was what we saw Saturday night historic? I don't think so.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, I mean, it was certainly unusual.
STEVE BUCKLEY: It was historic in the sense that we're all laughing at it now. And why are we sitting here now discussing the future of boxing--and by the way--given my own designs, I get rid of the sport because I think it's barbaric, but why are we sitting here now discussing the future of boxing because a guy bit a guy's ear off? Shouldn't we have done it a few years back? It happens all the time where guys get killed inside the ring. Isn't the right platform to be discussing the future of boxing and not this nonsense?
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, so Mr. Sugar, should boxing be banned then?
BERT SUGAR: I think we did this a couple of years ago, and even the AMA--though Mr. Buckley didn't back off--no, period, end of paragraph. I can't give you all the reasons we don't have enough time.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, give me a couple of reasons anyway. Give us a couple of reasons.
BERT SUGAR: First of all, it has given a tremendous amount of opportunity to people. It is a legitimate--on a given level, Mr. Buckley is right about one thing--sometimes there are mismatches. I've seen them. They're called the Boston Red Sox against anybody in the American League. It happens in other sports. I don't know why he has singled out as if it doesn't happen in other sports.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, nobody bites anybody's ear in other sports, Mr. Sugar.
BERT SUGAR: Well, I've seen people bite Conrad Dobler I've seen get bitten by Leroy Jordan in a football game. It happens. No, the ear was sad. That transcended anything I could ever--I'm not pretending to apologize for that, please. What I am saying is that boxing is--albeit admittedly so--it is legalized assault. So is pro-football in the trenches. Ask the guys who play.
PAUL SOLMAN: What do you say to somebody who thinks it was a disgusting spectacle on Saturday night, who's just saw in slow motion what happened and thinks it was just revolting?
BERT SUGAR: I would say they're right. How's that? I'm not apologist up and down the line. I stand for the sport. I love the sport. That was mayhem, pure and simple.
PAUL SOLMAN: And, Mr. Buckley, how do you respond to someone who would just be completely revolted by what they just even saw on our show?
BERT SUGAR: I agree with his answer. It was mayhem, pure and simple. That doesn't surprise me. You teach these guys--you teach these boxers to get in there and win and fight and kill, kill, kill; Burgess Meredith telling Rocky, eye of the tiger and all that, so the boxer did his job, and maybe he overdid it, and that's what happens.
PAUL SOLMAN: All right. Well, thanks very much both of you. FINALLY - LIVING LEGEND
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, Lena Horne's 80th birthday. Kwame Holman begins our celebration.
LENA HORNE: [singing] Fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lena Horne has grown into a legend in the entertainment world over more than 60 years in it. A singer, a dancer, and actress, she's been called sultry, sophisticated, brazen and wise.
LENA HORNE: [singing] --can't help lovin' that man of mine.
KWAME HOLMAN: Horne got her start in the chorus line at Harlem's Cotton Club in 1933.
LENA HORNE: Lena had a lot to learn, I'm still learning, you know. At 80, I feel there is a lot I don't know.
KWAME HOLMAN: In 1942, Horne's father brought her to meet the head of MGM, Louis Mayer.
LENA HORNE: My father said I can get a maid for my daughter. I don't want her in the movies playing maids.
KWAME HOLMAN: She never did play the role of a maid. Still, her early roles were limited to one or two songs that could be excised easily for segregated Southern theaters.
LENA HORNE: [singing] It was just one of those nights, just one of those fabulous flights--
KWAME HOLMAN: She did play a key character in 20th Century Fox's "Stormy Weather" in which she sang a song that became a signature for her.
LENA HORNE: [singing] Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky. Stormy weather--
KWAME HOLMAN: In 1947, Horne married for the second time--to composer Lennie Hayton, a white man--and the two moved to Paris, where interracial marriages were more accepted. Like many others in Hollywood, Horne was blacklisted in the Communist Red scare of the 1950's, in part because of her friendship with actor and political activist Paul Robeson.
LENA HORNE: I just told them I belong to the same organizations and clubs Mrs. Roosevelt belongs to--but with a few brave exceptions, I was still unable to do films or television for the next seven years.
KWAME HOLMAN: During that time she played nightclubs and cabarets. In the 1960's, she joined the march on Washington, and she came to Mississippi to be with Medger Evers and to speak to the NAACP on what turned out to be the night Evers was fatally shot.
LENA HORNE: Nobody black or white who really believes in democracy can stand aside now; everybody's got to stand up and be counted.
KWAME HOLMAN: In 1981, she opened on Broadway with "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," which later toured throughout the United States.
LENA HORNE ["American Masters"]: My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman, I'm not alone, I'm free. I no longer, I say I'm free because I no longer have to be a credit, I don't have to be a symbol to anybody; I don't have to be a first to anybody. I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become. I'm me, and I'm like nobody else.
KWAME HOLMAN: Horne has said she never sings when she's alone and doesn't even keep copies of her own records. And she claims she's nervous on stage. But that didn't show at last week's 80th birthday celebration at Lincoln Center's Avery Hall, where Horne was honored for a lifetime of musical and civic achievements.
LENA HORNE: [Singing] I'm going to love you like nobody loves you--but that ain't what I'm gonna sing--[cheers and applause]--Baby, I can't live to love you as long as I want to love you, as long as I promise you, Baby, I'm gonna love you as long as I live. [Applause and Cheers]
JIM LEHRER: On now to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: For more about the legendary Lena Horne we're joined by a friend, singer Nancy Wilson, who recently released her 60th recording. Unfortunately, cabaret performer Bobby Short cannot be with us. Ms. Wilson, what made--what makes Lena Horne great?
NANCY WILSON, Singer: Oh, I'm not sure that I can tell you exactly what makes her great as far as the music is concerned. I think it's the total package. As I remember her as a young girl, I saw this beautiful woman, and I'd never seen anyone so beautiful. I watched this clip--this elegant, sophisticated woman--and I couldn't think of anything else I would rather be. If I'm going to sing, this is what I want to aspire to be. I watched where she worked, and then I think as you look at the woman, she has grown more beautiful as the years have gone by. I admire and respect her heart, her soul, her spirituality. She has stood for all that is good in this country.
MARGARET WARNER: And I imagine you're referring to her work really as a pioneer racially in the entertainment industry. How significant of a figure is she in that regard?
NANCY WILSON: Well, I don't know that we would have been able to play Las Vegas, go into the front doors of hotels, without a Lena Horne and a Nat Cole. These things would not have happened and did not happen until they insisted. We weren't allowed to stay in the same hotels where we were able to work, so I came along just at the end of that. So I owe her this deep debt of gratitude for paving the way and allowing me to have a much easier time of it.
MARGARET WARNER: Has she ever talked to you about her Hollywood years? She has said that really the NAACP chose her to break the color barrier in Hollywood. It was 1942. Why then? Why Lena Horne?
NANCY WILSON: Well, Lena had it all. She had the patience to take a lot of crap, you know, and she was groomed to do that. I think her family was very supportive of it. So she was able to withstand a lot of the things that were going on. And when you look at this--like I say--she had the walk, the talk, the look. She was able to be everything that anybody white or black would have wanted to be.
MARGARET WARNER: But it must have been very painful at the same time.
NANCY WILSON: It had to be. I think she must have--I've listened to her talk about those years, especially in some clips, and it was very painful for her. And I think that the more recent years have been such a relief for her because she doesn't have to prove anything to anybody anymore. She--when she says she's free, I understand exactly what she means. I don't have to carry this cloak for an entire race anymore; I'm free to be Ms. Horne, and it doesn't get better than Lena Horne.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, when she--it was when she was blacklisted, as we just saw in that clip--but then she really put her full energy into being a cabaret singer. What makes--how is it different being a cabaret singer than say being a stage or film singer?
NANCY WILSON: Oh, you know, I think when I look at Lena, that is what I have always aspired to be; that is what I do. I think it's fantastic. There is nothing in the world like the communication that you have between your audience, and they feed you. I've watched her grow. I mean, the things that I get from her from a cabaret performance and when she went on Broadway, she was able to bring that cabaret feeling to a theater, which is something that I had not seen before. She has just grown emotionally. She was giving far more. I mean, it was for real. This was not about a camera. When she sang to you from a stage in a cabaret, she touched your heart.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, she has also said the early years--maybe up till she was in her 50's--that she had a certain kind of rage or anger, but she could never show it performing. Talk just a little bit about that. I mean, did you see it in her?
NANCY WILSON: No. That's why I say this woman not only is a great singer; she's a great actress. [laughing]
MARGARET WARNER: Whether she's in the movies or not.
NANCY WILSON: Whether she was in the movies or not, because she really had to--she just had to keep a lot of things in. She had to live a life in the public eye and not show any anger or--because we went through as a race of people--she, as I say, paved the way for me. I didn't go through anywhere near the kind of insults and things that Lena Horne did. And because she had--as I say--the patience and she was willing to do it, but she swallowed a lot of rage and a lot of anger to do it.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, she has also said that getting involved with the civil rights movement was a personal turning point for her. Can you understand that? Can you explain that to us?
NANCY WILSON: Well, I remember Selma. I remember someone asking me, why are you going to Selma, and I said that is where I have to be and why would I not be there. This is where the fight is being done, not just for me, but for my son and for my people. Consequently, I have no place else I'm supposed to be. I can fully understand that, but I felt the same way, marched, went a mile, wore out shoes, because this was where I was supposed to be, and I can identify with that. And once you--I mean, as I listened to her talk with Medger Evers and being there speaking, I can sense that and I get goose bumps today just thinking about it. She was there, and she became so strong in the movement. Everybody thought this was this beautiful, sophisticated, elegant lady; but there was this fierce tiger, this lioness in this woman. And it came out, and she grew in stature inside herself. I mean, you could see how much she changed. She became so fulfilled and so complete. I have admired her forever, but I just watched her. As a young woman, I watched this beautiful woman grow and when I grow up, I mean, I want to be like Lena Horne. I think she is magnificent.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Nancy Wilson, thank you so much.
NANCY WILSON: My pleasure. Thank you. RECAP
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Monday, Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China after 156 years of colonial rule, and President Clinton offered a compromise package of tax cuts for Congress to consider. We'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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- NewsHour Productions
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- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: Changing the Guard; Good Sport?; Living Legend. ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: NIEN CHENG, Author; DA HSUAN FENG, Physicist; ALICE YOUNG, Attorney; JULIE LEE, RadioHost; STEVE BUCKLEY, Boston Herald; BERT SUGAR, Boxing Historian; NANCY WILSON, Singer; CORRESPONDENTS: IAN WILLIAMS; PAUL SOLMAN; KWAME HOLMAN; MARGARET WARNER;
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- This item is part of the Chinese Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
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- To view the segment on reactions to the return of Hong Kong to China, visit https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-cr5n873m4s?start=894.5&end=1848.28 or jump to 00:14:53.
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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Identifier: NH-5861 (NH Show Code)
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- Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 1997-06-30, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 9, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-cr5n873m4s.
- MLA: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” 1997-06-30. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 9, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-cr5n873m4s>.
- APA: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-cr5n873m4s