tv 60 Minutes CBS December 18, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm PST
safeway. ingredients for life. captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> pelley: the new threat from the great recession is the sudden surge of the number in abandoned houses. vacant homes have become so ruinous to some neighborhoods that one city, cleveland, decided it had to find a solution. perfectly good homes, worth $75,000, $100,000 or more a couple years ago, are being ripped to splinters in cleveland. >> cooper: it was christopher
columbus who named this area "the gardens of the queen," after his queen, isabella, but the real gardens he probably never even got a glimpse of. to see them, you have to go underwater. >> this is really the most incredibly well-protected and flourishing reef i've ever seen. >> cooper: every time we went diving, we could see sharks circling our boat before we even went in, our guide said they wouldn't bother us, we certainly hoped they were right. >> safer: meryl streep has a unique gift. she does not just portray a character. she becomes her. >> this is a day to put differences aside. >> safer: ms. streep as margaret thatcher, in "the iron lady." she was self-assured and confident... >> oh, yes. >> safer: ...that her way was the only way. >> i have a lot of that. >> safer: she does not have a lot of patience for shooting the same scene time after time. >> i don't like to go over things and over and over and
over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. i don't like that. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." [ female announcer ] your favorite folgers gourmet selections flavors are available one perfectly brewed cup at a time folgers gourmet selections k-cup packs extraordinary roasts. exceptionally rich flavors. available where you buy groceries. ♪ and just let me be [ male announcer ] this is your moment. ♪ your ticket home ♪ [ male announcer ] this is zales, the diamond store. [ male announcer ] this is zales, this was the gulf's best tourism season in years. all because so many people came to louisiana...
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>> pelley: chances are the home you're in isn't worth what it used to be. you may not have indulged in the real estate bubble with its liar's loans and wall street greed, but you were stuck with the bill. home values have dropped so far so fast, that nearly 25% of mortgage holders today owe more than their house is worth. and with unemployment so high so long, many face foreclosure. if you thought your home value
couldn't drop anymore, have a look up and down the block. you might say, "there goes the neighborhood." the new threat from the great recession is the sudden surge in the number of abandoned houses. vacant homes have become so ruinous to some neighborhoods that one city, cleveland, decided it had to find a solution. perfectly good homes worth $75,000 - $100,000 or more a couple of years ago, are being ripped to splinters in cleveland, cuyahoga county, ohio. here, the great recession left one fifth of all houses vacant. the owners walked away because they couldn't or wouldn't keep paying on a mortgage debt that can be twice the value of the home.
cleveland waited four years for home values to recover, and now they have decided to face facts and bury the dead. why destroy them? jim rokakis, a former county treasurer, showed us. >> jim rokakis: we're looking at a neighborhood that has almost as many vacant houses awaiting demolition as there are houses with people living in them. we have one here. one here. one here. one there. >> pelley: rokakis is leading the effort to tear down thousands of abandoned homes because they're rotting their neighborhoods from the inside out. it often starts, he told us, when a vacant house becomes an open house to thieves. it's a nice house from the roof to about here, and then down here, it's been ripped to pieces. what's going on? >> rokakis: well, this is typical because this is as high as they could reach without using ladders. they ripped off the aluminum siding, which you'll see on most of these houses. the aluminum and the vinyl siding comes off. it's getting about a buck a pound.
>> pelley: essentially, foreclosure scavengers have been through here? >> rokakis: the thieves have gone high-tech. they know when evictions are occurring because they're posted online. and they will follow the sheriff. they're usually there that afternoon or that evening. so, in here, what you're going to see... well, i guess they took everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, right? the sink is gone. the plumbing... plumbing is gone in this house. all the copper. anything metal that had value is gone. the furnace is gone. >> pelley: the light fixture... >> rokakis: light fixture came out... >> pelley: ...is gone. >> pelley: how often is this happening in cleveland? >> rokakis: this happens every day. and the foreclosure crisis creates this spiral, because, as a result of this, people are now more likely to leave neighborhoods like this. and as they leave, the scavengers come in and do the same thing to the house next door or across the street. >> pelley: to make the house next door worth more instead of less, vacant land created by demolition is often given to the neighbors, and sometimes turned into fields or gardens. cleveland and cuyahoga county
believe that only by turning the failures of the great recession into green space can they stabilize the value of what's left. otherwise, the scourge would keep spreading. when you see a house that the scavengers have torn apart like this one, i mean, what does it do to the guy next door? >> rokakis: it clearly makes his house worth a lot less money, because when you've got four or five, six vacant houses on a street like this, your house isn't worth a percentage less, it's just worthless. >> roberta bryant: it's probably worth about $30. i mean, seriously. who knows? it's sad. it's really sad. >> pelley: roberta bryant lives at the end of the street in a house made, essentially, worthless by her vacant neighbors. do you think, in this neighborhood, you could even sell this house if you wanted to? >> bryant: no, i don't think anybody would buy it.
are you interested? >> pelley: i don't live in cleveland. >> bryant: okay. well, this could be your summer home. ( laughter ) >> pelley: in theory, there shouldn't be this many abandoned houses. when homeowners walk away, the bank is supposed to take responsibility. but one little known feature of the great recession is that many banks are walking away, too, unwilling to maintain a house whose value has crashed. >> rokakis: very often, a bank will take a property to the point of foreclosure, but won't go to the sheriff's sale because they don't want that property. they don't want the responsibility of the $8,000- $10,000 bill that comes with tearing this house down. >> pelley: former county treasurer jim rokakis says some banks have turned their backs on a blight they created. >> rokakis: in a normal real estate market, people are out looking for loans. in the perverse real estate market we created in this country, you know, during the period 2000 to 2006, this wasn't people looking for money, this was money looking for people. and that's why so many of those loans were made without down payments and without verification of income, and, i might also add, phony appraisals. >> pelley: and this is the result? >> rokakis: this is the result.
and it's not just here; it's all over america. >> pelley: "all over america," 11 million homeowners owe more than their house is worth. they're said to be "underwater." and the truth is, more neighborhoods would collapse if it weren't for people like linda bizzelle, who refuses to walk away from her mortgage, even though it might be best. >> linda bizzelle: the mortgage company called me and said that i was getting ready to go into foreclosure. so i mailed a payment in that day, and it was the last of my savings. >> pelley: that you sent in on this mortgage that's underwater? >> bizzelle: oh, yeah. >> pelley: her house is worth $50,000 and she owes $100,000. a financial planner might tell her to put something away for retirement rather than pay a mortgage that will never recover, especially since she lost her job in nursing last april. what have you been cutting back on? >> bizzelle: sometimes food. i would go to the food bank in order to make up the difference, so that i wouldn't be completely
hungry. sometimes, i wouldn't get my medications renewed. i take medication for high blood pressure. and my doctor could always tell when i didn't take them and he said, "oh no, you can't do that. no, no." >> pelley: you're living on unemployment right now? >> bizzelle: yes. >> pelley: what about the next mortgage payment? >> bizzelle: i'm going to pray. that's the best i can do. i'm going to pray that i find a job. >> pelley: when you think of it, her neighbor's home values are being propped up by linda bizzelle's fragile grip on the american dream. we found a lot of people spending their last dollar to keep their homes, and therefore save their neighborhood. gina bruno owes $50,000 more than her home is worth, and her dream house has turned into a money pit. >> gina bruno: the gas line needed to be replaced. the sewer line needed to be replaced. the plumbing was bad.
the roof was leaking. >> pelley: do you have any savings? >> bruno: no. no. >> pelley: so you're living paycheck to paycheck? >> bruno: absolutely. yeah. >> pelley: writing checks to the contractors and to the bank. >> bruno: yup. i used to go out with friends and have dinner, and i just... i don't do any of those things anymore. >> pelley: a few miles away, beverly anderson and her neighbors are the only thing standing between their neighborhood and utter ruin. for them, paying the mortgage is a matter of principle. >> beverly anderson: that's just how i was raised. once you, you know, you sign it, it's... it's a contract you uphold what you can for as long as you can. >> pelley: these folks bought the first homes in what was supposed to be a 100-house development outside cleveland called cinema park. but the developer went broke in the recession, leaving just six occupied homes surrounded by empty acres, roads to nowhere, and fireplugs with nothing to protect.
>> norma scott: immediately when the boards went up, all of our mortgages went underwater-- our hopes, our dreams, our savings. >> pelley: norma scott's predicament is typical around this table: $200,000 mortgage; $100,000 house. still, all but one of these neighbors plan to keep on paying, including high school teacher monica hubbard. >> monica hubbard: because i signed on the line. i made a promise. i made a commitment, and i can still afford it, basically. >> pelley: you know, there are lots of people all over the country, many thousands of people who are mailing the keys to the bank and walking away. they can't figure out how it makes sense to put more money into a mortgage that's underwater. >> hubbard: can't speak for them. i can only speak for me and my reputation that i have to uphold. >> pelley: your signature means something. >> hubbard: it does. it does.
>> pelley: norma scott is the only one throwing in the towel. she stopped paying her mortgage when she got breast cancer and had to stop working for a while. >> scott: i made the mortgage payments for as long as i could, and then the money just ran out. >> pelley: and then they sent you a letter last christmas eve. >> scott: yes, and foreclosed on my property. >> pelley: it seems to me that you're living day to day, waiting for a telephone call or a letter from the sheriff. >> scott: from the sheriff, uh- huh. >> pelley: the cuyahoga county sheriff is doing 50 evictions a month. chris waple owned a restaurant, but when it went under, he couldn't make his mortgage payments. and so waple and his family were evicted from the house that he'd lived in for 23 years. he'd raised five children here. that was more than three months ago that chris waple left this house, and it's still vacant. there's not a "for sale" sign in
front of it, because the realtors tell us, if there are too many "for sale" signs in one block, it makes everything harder to sell. just four doors down, graham jarvis learned that the hard way. his house has been on the market six months, but only six people have taken a look. next door, jennifer wylie has seen the value of her home drop 50%. you can't see it in this neighborhood because they're keeping up appearances, but a quarter of the houses here have been emptied by foreclosure. and on this handsome block in well-to-do cleveland heights, at least four vacant homes are scheduled for demolition. former county treasurer jim rokakis says banks could stop the wrecking crews if they would only reduce the loan balances on underwater mortgages. >> rokakis: you're going to have to write down principle balances, because if you don't write down the principle to something that's more realistic, it just guarantees that more people will walk away and more
people will default. >> pelley: look, you're asking the banks to write down the principle on these houses, to take losses in the millions, if not billions, of dollars. >> rokakis: oh, hundreds of billions. >> pelley: why would they do that? >> rokakis: aren't you better off, let's say, on a $150,000 mortgage preserving $75,000 in value, as opposed to letting that house go vacant, possibly seeing the house vandalized and drop to a value well below that? i mean, they helped to cause this mess, and it's not going to fix itself without their cooperation. >> pelley: cuyahoga county ripped down 1,000 homes this year, and they have 20,000 more to go. that'll cost about $150 million. all that's keeping other neighborhoods from the same fate are those 11 million underwater homeowners like linda bizzelle who stubbornly refuse to walk away.
>> bizzelle: i want to keep my home. it... it... you know, when you've worked all your life to get the american dream, you don't want to just walk away. you don't want to do that. you do whatever it takes to keep what you have. >> welcome to the cbs sports update presented by follow the wing, i'm james brown, kansas city hands green bay its first loss, seattle play-offs hope to still alive. the giants one game twind dahl a the patriots clinch the afc east. lions overcome a fourth quarter deficit, the eagles renain in a postseason hunt. the saints win, the bengals snap a two game losing streak ending with the first
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cooper on assignment for "60 minutes." >> cooper: coral reefs are often called "the rain forests of the ocean." they're not just biologically diverse and stunningly beautiful, they're a source of food and income for nearly a billion people. they're also in danger. scientists estimate that 25% of the world's reefs have died off, and much of what's left is at risk. there is, however, one spot in the caribbean that marine biologists describe as a kind of underwater eden, a coral reef largely untouched by man. it's called "the gardens of the queen," and getting permission to go there isn't easy-- it's located off the coast of cuba, and as you might have already guessed, there are no direct flights. our first stop was havana... cuba's crumbling capitol, where music fills the air, old cars seem to run forever, and the only ads you see are for the
revolution. from there, we drove for six hours through the countryside, and then took a boat for six hours more until we got to a stretch of tiny islands 50 miles off cuba's southern coast. the islands are little more than patches of mangroves and small spits of sand. the only inhabitants who greeted us-- hermit crabs and iguanas. they seemed indifferent to our arrival. it was christopher columbus who named this area "the gardens of the queen" after his queen isabella, but the real gardens, he probably never even got a glimpse of. to see them, you have to go underwater. >> david guggenheim: this is really the most incredibly well protected and flourishing reef i've ever seen. >> cooper: we went diving with david guggenheim, an american marine biologist and a senior fellow at the ocean foundation in washington, d.c. >> guggenheim: the corals are healthy. the fish are healthy and abundant. there are predators here, large
sharks. it's the way these ecosystems really should look. >> cooper: you're saying this is like a time capsule, almost? >> guggenheim: it's... it's a living time machine, and it's a really incredible opportunity to learn from. >> cooper: we brought special scuba masks with us so we could talk underwater. every time we went diving, we could see sharks circling our boat before we even went in. david said they wouldn't bother us, and we certainly hoped he was right. the first thing you notice in this underwater eden is the coral, it's color, it's texture. coral isn't a rock or a plant; it's colonies of tiny animals that share a common skeleton. this is a large and relatively rare specimen of pillar coral. those hair-like things are the tentacles of thousands of individual animals that are plucking microscopic plankton from the water. coral is one of the oldest living animals on the planet. some of it is said to be 4,000 years old, older than the tallest redwood. what makes coral reefs so
important is that they host an extraordinary variety of fish. some come here for shelter from predators, others come here to eat. i've been diving in many places all over the world and i've never seen so many large fish, like this grouper here. there's about six or seven caribbean reef sharks like this circling around right now. scientists will tell you the presence of so many sharks, and different species of sharks, is a sign of a very healthy reef. >> guggenheim: when we call coral reefs the rainforests of the ocean, we're talking about the diversity of life that lives on these reefs, the relationships among these animals, the fact that the corals create a home for the fish, that they're little fish that feed big fish, that some of these little shrimp walk inside the mouths of the grouper and clean parasites off of the grouper. it's a very complex web of life. >> cooper: you seem pleased to
see all these predators, all these sharks around. >> guggenheim: they're a very important part of the ecosystem. and we've kind of forgotten that, because we've taken about 90% of the sharks out of the world's oceans over the last 50 years. >> cooper: 90% of the sharks have been killed already. >> guggenheim: 90% of the sharks are gone from the planet now, along with other predators like tuna and swordfish, these predators that we just love to eat. >> cooper: another predator under threat is the goliath grouper, but here, they're a common sight. this one is about 200 pounds, and shows no fear of a 160-pound correspondent. it's amazing how sort of curious this grouper is. it just comes up and looks you right in the eye. david, do you ever see groupers this big elsewhere? >> guggenheim: never, never in my life. it's a critically endangered species. >> cooper: when you say critically endangered, what do you mean? >> guggenheim: critically endangered is pretty much the highest level of endangerment before a species goes extinct
completely. >> cooper: the one species david wishes he didn't see thriving in the gardens of the queen is the lionfish. they appear to have been accidentally introduced into these waters by man. they have venomous spines and no natural predators. >> guggenheim: the lionfish is a beautiful fish. the problem is it doesn't belong here; it belongs in the pacific. it's got a voracious appetite and it's eating the local species. >> cooper: david gugenheim is working with fabian pina, a cuban marine biologist. he leads a team that has been studying the reef for the cuban ministry of science. they've already identified seven species of marine life that they believe are new to science. we saw a 200-pound grouper. is that the biggest grouper that there is here? >> fabian pina: well, no, we have seen larger than that. we have seen some specimen of goliath grouper like 400, 600 pounds. >> cooper: 400, 600 pounds? >> pina: yes. it's like a small car.
>> cooper: the one i saw, the 200-pound one, i had the sense if we... if i took a few inches too close, it would let me know. >> pina: yeah, sure. maybe you hear down the water, "boom, boom." and that's the sound that this... like saying, "this is my territory. so keep distance and dive and enjoy, but all the things around are mine." >> cooper: where do you learn to speak grouper? >> pina: ( laughs ) well, you know, since 16... 15 years ago. >> cooper: fabian pina's office is little more than a shack built on posts in the water. he was starting to explain why he liked working here so much when we were interrupted by one of his neighbors. wow, did you see that? >> pina: it's magnificent, yeah. >> cooper: did you guys get...? you didn't get that. nobody got that, did they? a huge bird swooped down. that was cool. fabian told us nine-foot
crocodiles have paid him a visit, as well. really? >> pina: yeah. yeah. >> cooper: just going to readjust here, and bring my leg up from dangling over the edge of the water. >> pina: right there is a... now is a great barracuda. >> cooper: right there, yeah. >> pina: right there. so this is the only place where you can... you can see from your porch an animal like that. so it's... it's wonderful. >> cooper: it's wonderful, and increasingly rare. only after seeing a place like this can you start to fully appreciate the tragedy that's occurring elsewhere in the oceans. >> guggenheim: in 2002, i went to veracruz, mexico, and i was told about the magnificence of the veracruz reefs. and when we got there, we saw that 95% of that reef had died, and it had died quickly, since the last time scientists were there. and i felt like i was going through a city, a magnificent civilization had once stood there, but it was burned out. nobody was there. >> cooper: scientists say the world's reefs are being harmed by a complex combination of factors, including pollution, agricultural run-off, coastal development, and over-fishing. it turns out fish are essential to the health of a reef. researchers at the national oceanic and atmospheric administration and other leading institutions are also very concerned about climate change, because they believe rising ocean temperatures are triggering a process called
"bleaching" in which the coral weakens, turns white, and often dies. >> guggenheim: this is a disaster in slow motion. it's been happening for decades. and it's much more difficult to see it happening, let alone get alarmed about it happening. >> cooper: scientists are always using the term "crisis." is it really that bad, what's happening under the water? >> guggenheim: things are really that bad. we've already lost 25% of the world's coral reefs, and within 20 years, it'll be another 25%. >> pina: this is big. this is nice. this can be, like, ten- to 15- years-old fish. >> cooper: the reason this reef's doing so well, fabian pina believes, is that it's far from the mainland and well- protected. >> that's a big fish. >> cooper: in 1996, the government of fidel castro, a diver himself, made this area one of the largest marine preserves in the caribbean. almost all commercial fishing was banned. since then, fabian pina's research shows, the number of
fish has increased dramatically. how much have fish populations grown? >> pina: between 30% and 50%. >> cooper: 30% and 50%? >> pina: yeah, that's huge. >> cooper: fabian and david have noticed some bleaching here, but the coral tends to recover after a few months, leading them to wonder whether there's something about this reef that's making it more resistant to threats. >> guggenheim: maybe it's because this ecosystem is being protected, it's got a leg up on other ecosystems around the world that are being heavily fished and heavily impacted by pollution. so that makes it more resilient. that's one of the theories, that if we do what we can locally that these reefs have a better chance of being resilient to what's happening globally. >> cooper: so something here holds the key to figuring out how to save these other reefs and bring them back, in some cases. >> guggenheim: that's what i think. >> cooper: tourism here is tightly regulated. only 500 fly fisherman and 1,000 divers are permitted to come each year, and the fishermen have to release their catch.
andres jimenez helps run the only place to stay out here, a handful of boats operated by a company called avalon. it's a joint venture between the cuban government and an italian company, and it employs a lot of former fishermen and their families, giving them a stake in preserving the area, and keeping commercial fishing boats out. if there was commercial fishing here now? >> andres jimenez: if there was commercial fishing here or... or not, not only that, if we weren't... if we weren't here protecting and taking care of all the area, it would be, poof, very fast. there... there's no way you can keep it safe. >> cooper: all these big fish... >> jimenez: it's too big. it's too big and they're... >> cooper: all these... all the sharks, the grouper... >> jimenez: yeah, sharks and grouper. >> cooper: ...all the big fish would all be gone. >> jimenez: they were... they would take it in one day. >> cooper: the fish aren't the only creatures here that enjoy protection. the crocodiles are free to hunt in the shallow water near the islands. even these giant rodents called jutia are fearless. elsewhere in cuba, they're made into stew. here, no one can hunt them. >> jimenez: they feel very safe here because we would never eat one of these things. >> cooper: andres wanted to show
us what the reef looked like at night. so, with some trepidation, we plunged into the black water. the darkness was so complete, we felt like we were swimming through space, but we found plenty of life on the sea floor. you see that? that's one big crab. at night, you find all sorts of sea creatures that you would never see during the day, like this crab right here which we interrupted in the middle of its dinner. >> jimenez: anderson, i want to show you this big moray eel here... here. >> cooper: the eel didn't seem to want company, so we moved on. we spent several nights and days exploring the reef, swimming through tunnels of living coral 100 feet below the surface. we were so close to sharks so often, it was tempting to touch them. it takes some time to adjust to the routine wonders of this place, but after a while, even
we began to feel like residents of the reef. >> guggenheim: you know, in... in the conservation world, the work that i do, a lot of it is pretty negative, you know? things have... things have gotten pretty bad. so to come to a place like this and see it so alive, you know, i feel like a teenager again. i feel like there really is hope. pi how do you know which ones to follow? the equity summary score consolidates the ratings of up to 10 independent research providers into a single score that's weighted based on how accurate they've been in the past. i'm howard spielberg of fidelity investments. the equity summary score is one more innovative reason serious investors are choosing fidelity. get 200 free trades today and explore your next investing idea.
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>> safer: in britain, they honor their distinguished actors with royal titles - lord olivier, dame helen mirren. the best we can do is nominate them for oscars, an annual hyped-up competition for a glossy little statue. if we did have a royal list, the name of meryl streep would surely be at the very top. she's won two oscars, been nominated a record 16 times, and doubtless will be again for a new film about one of the most
controversial political figures of the 20th century, margaret thatcher, in life and on film, the "iron lady." >> meryl streep: this is a day to put differences aside, to hold one's head high and take pride in being british. >> safer: ms. streep has a unique gift for not just portraying a character, but literally becoming her. on the stage of the delacorte theater in new york's central park, where she first starred 35 years ago, i asked how real it seems to her while she's performing. >> streep: i mean, i'm not insane. ( laughs ) i do know that i'm acting. but you forget about it, yeah. you kind of... you know when
you're doing it right, there's a thrilling suspension of the day- to-day and you're in someone else's head. >> safer: on this day, in a london film studio, that someone else is margaret thatcher, dancing with a make-believe ronald reagan, thatcher's fellow cold warrior. >> streep: there you go again. why not? >> safer: it's the latest tour de force from streep, a woman of many faces: sophie in "sophie's choice"; as julia child; as the french lieutenant's woman; as the devil wearing prada. >> streep: worried about our careers, are we? >> safer: and now, the iron lady. >> streep: we can restore the health of the british economy and we will do just that. >> safer: what particularly attracted you to the margaret thatcher role? >> streep: everything. just the opportunity to deal
with the deep, buried discomfort that people still have, men and women, with women in leadership positions. >> safer: as british prime minister, thatcher strode the world stage for more than a decade... >> margaret thatcher: the iron lady of the western world. >> safer: ...leaving heel prints on the backs of her own conservative party's old boys club. did you like her? >> streep: i am in awe of what she did. the policies you can argue with. but to sit in the hot seat, i can't even imagine having that steadfastness. i'll just have a small one because i'm watching my figure. >> safer: their stories are both about transformation, the actress transforming herself into the politician who transformed herself to outthink,
outwork and outwit the men around her. >> streep: one of the things she did was get a drama teacher to tell her how to support her voice... >> breathing in and... >> streep: denis! because her voice was sort of lighter, like mine is. and they taught her to support it, to bring it up from the depths of her place, where the conviction lies, and to carry it through without a breath until the end of a thought, and then not to give them a chance to interrupt her. >> safer: she was also, love her or hate her, remarkably single- minded and confident that her way was the only way. >> streep: oh, yes, yes. i have a lot of that. ( laughs ) >> safer: it was typecasting, was it? >> streep: a little bit. at age 62, meryl streep is still at the top of her game, one of the recipients at this year's
kennedy center honors. that's her husband of 33 years, sculptor don gummer, and their children-- a son and three daughters, two of them actresses themselves. there's something i want to show you. on the theory that high school is destiny, we took her back to the days long before she became meryl of the movies. >> streep: oh, this is my high school yearbook picture. >> safer: back then, in bernardsville, new jersey, she was just plain mary louise streep. well, not so plain. >> streep: "pretty." "blonde." "vivacious." "cheerleader." "our homecoming queen." "where the boys are." >> safer: where the boys are, indeed. >> streep: oh, god. "bernardian art editor." that's what i was. and the morning announcer. diane sawyer, eat your heart out. >> safer: home movies made it clear-- the camera loved her from an early age. but the homecoming queen didn't care much for the movies of the
day. she was fascinated by the classics. >> streep: there was one channel that had older movies, and i loved carole lombard and i loved kate hepburn and bette davis and barbara stanwyck. i like girls with attitude, you know? moxie. there's an old word. >> safer: though she had dabbled in acting, she got serious about it at the yale drama school. that led to an audition with the public theater director, joe papp. joe papp could be a taskmaster, yes? >> streep: not to me. ( laughter ) >> safer: papp gave her her first break on broadway-- a small role in a period piece called "trelawny of the wells." joe papp asked you if you could do a southern accent? >> streep: yes, and he said, "wait. try... do this southern. can you... can you do a southern accent?" i'm from not even southern new
jersey, you know? i pulled it up out of probably some 4:00 movie somewhere. >> safer: i heard it was from "the dinah shore show." >> streep: oh, yeah. maybe that was it. ♪ see the usa in your chevrolet... remember that? >> safer: yes. >> streep: oh, god, wasn't she divine? >> streep: here's where i forgot my lines in "the seagull." >> safer: soon, she was doing the classics on this outdoor stage, competing with airplanes, heat, rain and more. >> streep: quack, quack. >> safer: ducks. >> streep: do you hear that? >> safer: her career took off so fast that, one summer, she did "taming of the shrew" here at night... >> hey, hey, hey. >> safer: ...and during the day, shot two movies: "kramer vs. kramer" and woody allen's "manhattan." she was well on her way. >> woody allen: are you writing a book about our marriage? >> streep: will you leave me alone?
>> safer: her range was astonishing. one year, a texan, karen silkwood. >> streep: let's not fight. >> safer: the next, danish in "out of africa." >> bror has asked me for a divorce. he has found someone that he wants to marry. >> safer: she wore spandex for "mamma mia," a nun's habit for "doubt," and a beard, playing a rabbi in "angels in america." >> streep: it always really bothers me when people imagine that characters that don't look like you, or have the same accent as you do, are far from you. the great actress sybil thorndike said, "i think we all have the germ of every other person inside of us." and i think we do. >> baroness thatcher, how are you feeling? >> safer: margaret thatcher is 86 now. her daughter carol has written openly about her mother's slide into the darkness of dementia.
the film tackles the issue head on. did you have any concerns about showing this once remarkably vital woman having lost it all? >> streep: well, that was the part that most intrigued me. first of all, i don't... i don't feel there's any shame in dementia, in people that suffer it. >> and you're not prime minister anymore. >> streep: to tell an honest story about a big life in its ebb, you have to... you have to deal with this part of it. >> safer: there's one observation that gets her back up-- when people note that she's played a lot of strong-minded women. >> streep: no one has ever asked an actor, "you're playing a strong-minded man." we assume that men are strong- minded or have opinions, but a strong-minded woman is a different animal. >> safer: she's the public face of a movement to build a
national women's history museum in washington. >> streep: margaret thatcher said, "if you want something spoken about, ask a man. if you want it done, ask a woman." ( cheers and applause ) >> safer: the museum, near the national mall, would showcase little-known stories about women in america. wandering the massachusetts countryside not far from her home, she insisted on taking us to the scene of one such story, clearing the brush so our camera crews wouldn't trip. >> streep: look in that window. >> safer: it's the house where, in 1781, a slave called mumm bett intervened when a young slave girl was threatened by the lady of the house. >> streep: and she took a red- hot fireplace shovel and tried to strike the child. and mumm bett saved the little girl, and burned her arm all the way up the arm.
and that was the last straw. >> safer: mumm bett sued in court and gained her freedom, taking the new name elizabeth freeman. the case lead to the abolition of slavery in the state. by 1790, the census recorded no enslaved people in massachusetts. as for women in hollywood, streep is an exception to the rule that most leading ladies have a short shelf life. four of her most recent films have been directed by women. but one thing that drives her crazy is the snail's pace of movie making-- shooting the same scene time and time again. >> streep: i don't like to go over things, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. i don't like that. >> safer: that happens a lot, though, doesn't it, in movie making? >> streep: yeah, but i guess i have less tolerance for it. i like movies that have a little budget, and so they can't do
that. >> safer: do you think the movies are better... getting better than when you started? >> streep: i think the acting's better. i think the acting is better than in the classic days, frankly, of movies. >> safer: but if you look at the movies being made, the big movies that are being made are about comic strips... >> streep: well, i don't see those. >> safer: ...or vampires or gross behavior... >> streep: yeah. >> safer: ...all aimed at what, 18-year-old boys. >> streep: yes. that's called the narrowing of the audience. the movie business has worked assiduously to discourage you and other intelligent, discerning people from the theater, from the movie theater. they have worked hard to get rid of you, because you don't go then and buy toys and games. >> safer: and then there is the streep enigma, that hint of a "mona lisa" smile, or as the italians call the painting, "la giaconda."
jack nicholson said of you, "it's the giaconda smile, the mystery of meryl that appeals." >> streep: is that a snake? what is a giaconda? >> safer: no, no, you're thinking of an anaconda. it's the "mona lisa." >> streep: okay. okay fine. sorry. ( laughter ) all that education down the drain. okay, fine. i thought, "what does he mean?" it's good to have something that is undiscoverable, which, frankly, i think every human being has. i don't think i'm that mysterious. but i'm glad he thinks so. >> safer: we'll soon know what audiences and oscar voters think of streep's portrayal. the actress, the prime minister- - no doubt at odds politically, but each compelled to leave their mark.
two brilliant performers, two sisters under the skin. did you discover anything of yourself in her? >> streep: no. what do you mean? yes. of course. my dutifulness, my desire to work hard, my desire to do the right thing, to, you know, be a good girl. all those things i think she grew up with and so did i. it's. a body at rest tends to stay at rest... while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. staying active can actually ease arthritis symptoms. but if you have arthritis,
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