ITS: Well, you’ve got to make up your mind, Richard, in life. There have come times when I’ve made three great big switches, when I had to start my whole life all over again. The first time I had nothing was when I wandered off alone as a boy in my car. When I came to the United States from the Caribbean, I had lost everything. My wife was very, very sick, and in a hospital. I was allowed one suitcase weighing 160 pounds.
RG: A 160-pound suitcase?
ITS: That’s all. That was the only thing I was allowed to bring out of the country and bring into here. I had, I remember, 134 dollars in cash and no bank account, and nothing, no job. I had to start all over again. That was the second time. Then, at the end of the war, when I decided to leave the American and British Governments—become an American—I was right back where I started again, because I again had no job. My wife was now well, though.
That was the third time I had nothing. I mean I left and both governments said: “Well, what are you going to do?” and I said: “Look, don’t you worry, chums, it’s not your business, that’s my business.” So I said to my wife: 'We start again with nothing.' We had nothing at all. We had a rented apartment, and I’d been working like a drain, so we started all over again. I got a contract for a book, and I went into radio and television, I had my own show on NBC and WNBT when television started, and so on.
RG: Very interesting.
ITS: Well, I think its good for people of your generation to realize that just because you lose your job, don’t give up. If you’ve got any guts at all, start all over again.
RG: Well, I think that’s a little premature for, say, high-schoolers. Remember now, I might play this tape to a bunch of them.
ITS: Well, anybody under 20 is all right by me. I can’t talk to 20 to 40-year olds, they won’t listen. They’re stuffed shirts. Now, the people of my age—I’m the third generation, I’m 60, but I’m the only 60-year-old teenager left. When you talk to people of my age and your father’s age, for instance, we understand the problems of you people under 20. It’s that 'middle-block' I’m afraid for. It may be not their fault, but they’re lost, they’re shot.
RG: There are getting to be more and more and more of them all the time.
ITS: Well, of course, the youngsters are becoming middle-aged now, but I’m talking to you as a representative of your age group. I’ll call you the Teenagers. But don’t give-up the ship, just because of all this political mess that we have now. Don’t lose faith in yourself—even if you can’t do anything. You’ll go on, you know, unless you just give up and start crying for your mother. Then you’re shot. Every time I found myself absolutely 'bonk' you know, when somebody 'got me,' well, I started again.
Like this afternoon when you came here, I had a couple of crashes just before you arrived. Everything was supposed to have come to a dead end. Oh no, get right back in there and pitch. [It seems that someone had made a crank call to WOR-Radio in New York and had informed the management there that Ivan had decided to quit as guest host of the Barry Farber radio show during Farber’s absence.]
RG: So would you say that you have had a most interesting life? How would—
ITS: Richard, just a minute. You know that’s very funny you should say that. When I first really came to the United States in 1948, ‘49, I thought that I had the dreariest life, you know, just so dull it wasn’t worth talking about. Then I suddenly realized that the way we were brought up in Europe and the opportunities that young people had in those days—you know, before there were too many people, and passports and all that stuff. I didn’t realize how lucky I’d been. Then I began to look back and saw how much I’d done compared to what a young American of my age had been able to do. I mean, even at my age, let’s go back to the late twenties’ and thirties’—it was very difficult for a young American to get away from his family and just wander around the world. Yes, very difficult, even then. Now, it’s almost impossible. I had a great mother; she kicked me out and said: "Get out of here, learn the value of money, and if you drop dead or get killed, that’s your business!"
RG: A very interesting philosophy!
ITS: But it’s practical. It was very reasonable and practical.