The Untold Truth Of Norman Lear

Norman Lear is a TV icon and if you don't know him as a household name, you've certainly heard of his work. He created several famous TV shows like Maude, All in the Family, One Day at a Time, and so many more. He also created The Jeffersons, which was a massive success and boasted a particularly memorable and catchy theme song written and performed by Ja'Net DuBois, according to The New York Times.

Lear also produced the beloved 1987 film The Princess Bride which was directed by movie icon Rob Reiner. Other producer credits include Fried Green Tomatoes, Way Past Cool, and so many others — seriously, the list of his work goes on and on.

Lear is quite the character too, which makes him so lovable and renowned even as his life stretches into his 90s. He had a part in South Park and is vocal about American presidents. Keep reading to find out all the details about this remarkable person.

Norman Lear holds an Emmy record

So how did Norman Lear get to the top of Hollywood? It certainly wasn't from family connections. His father, who worked as a securities broker, went to jail when Lear was a boy because he sold fake bonds, according to the Daily News.

Lear, who was born in New Haven, Conn., in 1922, according to CNN, and served in World War II before moving to New York City in 1945 where he worked as a publicist and made $40 a week. But this wasn't what Lear wanted to do, so in 1949, he moved to California to work as a comedy writer. The plan worked and in 1950, he landed a gig writing for the comedy Ford Star Revue with Jack Haley, according to his official biography. Shortly after this, Lear got another writing opportunity on the comedy series The Colgate Comedy Hour.

This was it. Lear had hit the jetstream of Hollywood exposure and he didn't stop working, both as a writer and later as a creator and producer. Lear's success was life-long and in 2019, he became the oldest nominee and subsequent winner of an Emmy Award for the category Outstanding Variety Special for Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All In The Family' And 'The Jeffersons.' Lear broke his own record in 2020, when, at the age of 98, he won the same award for Live In Front Of A Studio Audience: 'All In The Family' And 'Good Times,' according to Deadline

Norman Lear's quirky podcast

Norman Lear's talent hasn't just encompassed TV and movies. He's also written a book, which makes sense as he started out as a comedy writer. In October 2014, Penguin Books published his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience.

In Lear's synopsis of the book, he explained how he chose the title. Despite his career success, Lear had hit a hard financial point, where he almost had to sell his home. "Having heard that we'd fallen into such dire straits, my son-in-law phoned me and asked how I was feeling," Lear wrote. "My answer was, 'Terrible, of course,' but then I added, 'But I must be crazy, because despite all that's happened, I keep hearing this inner voice saying, 'Even this I get to experience.'"

Lear's success doesn't just extend to books (and TV, and movies, and producing... you catch the drift.) He also started a podcast called All of the Above with Norman Lear, boasting guests like Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Antonio Banderas, and Carol Burnett.

The Guardian sums up perfectly what a podcast hosted by Lear is like. "It's obvious that Lear lives by his own podcasting rules. He tells people to 'call in.' He forgets Sigourney Weaver's name. And he bursts into song whenever he feels like it, carrying on so long you can hear the sheer joy he's getting from the moment. Amy Poehler screechingly chimes in, as the guests often do." 

Lear hasn't experienced all of this alone. Let's take a look at his family.

Norman Lear calls himself 'one selfish cat'

Norman Lear has been married three times. In 1943, he married Charlotte Rosen, according to CNN, and together they share daughter Ellen. In fact, Charlotte and Ellen were with Lear when he moved from New York to California in 1949 to pursue a career in comedy writing.

Lear then married Frances Loeb in 1956 and they shared daughters Maggie and Kate, according to the outlet. They divorced in 1985 and made headlines for her $100 million divorce settlement, according to the Chicago Tribune, which was one of the largest settlements at the time.

In 1987, Lear married Lyn Davis (pictured above) and they had three children: Brianna, Madelaine, and Benjamin. They're still married and the couple spoke with Closer Weekly about his 30+ year marriage. Lyn said of Lear: "He's the last of the real romantics. Every morning, he wants to have a kiss when I wake up. It's a nice way to start the day." Likewise, Lear glowed about his wife, saying, "I love the way she loves me. I'm just one selfish cat!" 

With such a huge divorce settlement for Frances Loeb, it's fair to wonder what Lear's net worth is. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Lear is worth $200 million. Dang!

Norman Lear's political opinions made some enemies

While Norman Lear's work primarily focused around Hollywood, his political presence has earned him some enemies.

It all started when, in 1980, Lear watched almost all of Rev. Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour and other programs by notable evangelical preachers at the time, according to The Washington Post. Lear stopped the movie he was working on and promptly made a "60-second commercial on religious intolerance."

This inspired Lear to found People for the American Way in 1981 along with others, including Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, according to CNN. The purpose of the organization was to encourage communication among different groups of society and to reduce divisions. Lear was staunchly against religion in politics and advocated for secularism.

In response, Falwell (pictured) called Lear an enemy of the American family and said, "Norman Lear is clearly anti-Christian," according to the Post. Falwell added his contempt for Lear, saying: "[Lear's] whole vendetta is against everyone who is preaching the gospel... I see an anti-Christian, anti-Reagan fire raging in his soul that's caused him to lash out at the president and the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world."

Lear didn't hold back in response: "There's nobody who knows me who thinks I'm either irreligious or antireligious," per the Post. "[Falwell] would have to know, the way he talks about me, that... to an anti-Semite, a wealthy Jew is different from someone else who is wealthy. The Rev. Falwell trades in that in a consistent and smarmy fashion."

Norman Lear does what he wants

It should come as no surprise by now that Norman Lear has lived his life exactly how he wants and has an eclectic array of interests. In addition to all of his TV and movie work, Lear is close friends with South Park's co-creator, Trey Parker. In fact, Lear served as the officiant at Parker's wedding to Emma Sugiyama, according to CNN. When Lear heard Parker go to town at karaoke, Lear told the outlet: "Son of a b***h. He's good."

Lear has even lent his voice to South Park. In 2003, he was the voice of Benjamin Franklin on the episode "I'm a Little Bit Country," according to a later publication by CNN.

Lear's fearless spirit has led to his outspokenness towards different American presidents. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Lear the National Medal of Arts, according to CNN, which he proudly accepted. However, in 2017, Lear informed The New York Times that he would not be attending the White House reception for the Kennedy Center honorees in protest of President Donald Trump. "This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn't rest pleasantly with me," Lear told the outlet. Norman Lear has never been shy to speak his mind and he has a lot to show for it.