Paul Williams: 'I was not the kindest person'
Posted June 8, 2012
There is a point in Paul Williams Still Alive, a just-opened documentary about the life and times of the prolific songwriter (We've Only Just Begun, Rainbow Connection, Evergreen) and showbiz fixture in the '70s and '80s, where the audience might wonder: Was everyone on TV stoned or drunk back then?
As revealed in archival clips, the diminutive Williams-aawho is now 71 and 22-years sober-aawas often under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs during his on-air appearances on game shows, talk shows and variety specials. As he puts it, "I became better at showing off than showing up."
He once invited Rat Pack pal Peter Lawford to join him on The Mike Douglas Show based in Philadelphia, so the onetime brother-in-law of JFK could score some high-grade cocaine in the city. They are shown with the ultra-square Douglas, high as kites and laughing at nothing.
One choice moment that did not make into the doc: "George Peppard and I damn near got into a fist fight one time on The Tonight Show," Williams says. "He was calling me a midget, he was so drunk. I said, 'I'll kick your ass.' Johnny Carson got up and left the set. Richard Harris, who was backstage, came on and said, 'I finally got my own show. It's going to be a great fight, and my money is on the little guy.'"
Why didn't associates who benefited from his talent like Barbra Streisand, who shared an Oscar with Williams for co-writing Evergreen for her 1976 film A Star Is Born, offer to help with his addiction struggles?
"I gave her a good reason not to," he recalls about his lack of "self-editing." "I went on Carson and he asked what it was like to work Barbra Streisand. I said, 'It's like trying to have a picnic at the end of a runway.' I was not the kindest person in the world."
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