“You never think you’re going to get old until you’re old.”
Kind of a curious statement coming from Jack Kevorkian, as he teetered down a flight of stairs at the HBO Theater recently for the Fordham Law Film Festival. But however diminishing his balance might be, his right-to-die crusade hasn’t waned one bit.
In fact, the man who estimated 125 to 130 people killed themselves with his euthanasia devices is now questioning why there are so many living beings here to begin with. His latest book, “When the People Bubble POPs” tackles overpopulation, but not from the human aspect, “from nature’s aspect. That’s what counts — nature — not us, not we.”
Even at 82, Kevorkian demonstrates he is still prone to shouting, finger-pointing and pressing on the arms of a chair to lift his legs from a seat to make a point. However, when not riled by a question, Kevorkian is affable as can be, self-conscious about his grammar and apologetic for not wearing a tie. Dressed in a sky blue cashmere sweater, dark blue suit and black thick rubber-soled shoes, he whispers, “I hope it’s OK I didn’t wear a tie. I think it’s a silly custom,” as a photographer fires away.
Watching as a reporter leafs through his three books, he says, “Boy, look at the number of trees that I’m guilty of destroying.” Having served eight years and two months of a 10- to 25-year prison sentence, Kevorkian is more than willing to speak his peace. During an interview with WWD Eye Scoop, he sounds off on all sorts of subjects. Fans of his art can view his paintings at the Armenian Library and Museum of America’s “The Doctor is Out: The Art of Jack Kevorkian” exhibition outside of Boston.
Here, a few of his views:
• On Al Pacino’s portrayal of him in HBO’s “You Don’t Know Jack”:
“Everyone always asks how much money I made on the film. I didn’t have anything to do with it. But I like Pacino. He’s a nice guy, down-to-earth….For the movie, the London Symphony Orchestra performed a flute duet I composed — part of it is so sad it sounds like a funeral dirge. You play that at a wake or something, and it will bring tears to your eyes.”
• On prison life:
“If you’re creative and you know you’re not a criminal, prison isn’t that tough to take. It’s tough, but not that tough. Boring — boring and snoring.
“I served more time than any of the guys in Washington who are really criminals. That’s because that’s how much they hated me. I can see why. I did what [Henry David] Thoreau and [Nelson] Mandela did and that bothers these tyrants of ours. We’re all in a tyranny, but people don’t know it because you’re comfortable. They make sure you’re comfortable. Look at all the amusements we have — soccer, football, television — they make sure people’s minds are not on something important.”
• On the beleaguered economy:
“We’re still in the Dark Ages, but we’re headed for real Dark Ages. This economic downturn is just a touch of it. They call it a recession — they know darn well it’s a depression. You just don’t see people selling apples on street corners. That’s all.”
• On right-to-die rulings in Montana, Oregon and Washington:
“It’s being done wrong. A doctor can’t do it. That’s like saying birth, no, you can’t have a doctor at birth. How far would that get?”
• On the Constitution’s Ninth Amendment, which reads, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”:
“The Ninth Amendment said you have all the natural rights. Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Movement went through all that hell for nothing.”
• On actor Michael Caine’s recent admission that he requested his dying father be euthanized:
“I’ll top that. King George V…If it’s good enough for the king, why isn’t it good enough for the garbage collector, which, by the way, are pretty similar, the king and the garbage collector.”
• On his role in the right-to-die fight:
“Wake the people up. I’m recommending a revolution. Talking to the right people anywhere [will help.] I stop on the street, if people ask me a question.”
• On religion:
“It’s your business. But obviously how can I believe something, when I’m a scientist? I don’t believe in mythology. I believe in reality, nature. That’s why we’re in a mess in this world and that’s why we’re killing this earth, and the planet and all the animals. And why we’re so greedy and everyone lies so much. Everybody lies all the time.”
• On lying:
“Actually, I don’t lie, either. But every once in a while if you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you do say a little lie. It’s got to be a prudent lie, a reasoned lie, not to win a selfish point but it’s for the other person. That’s benevolent.”
• On being a radical:
“I call myself a radical. Everyone thinks that implies violence. They don’t know what the word means, because they never look in the dictionary. Radical means you get to the root of a problem. That’s why radishes are called radishes.”
• On stem cell research:
“Who cares? The thing is an embryo, isn’t a living human and it doesn’t matter. You’re going to throw it away anyway. Where’s the problem? Religion.”
• On his two-time voting record (once when his first lawyer ran for governor and another time for his own Congressional bid):
“I think a vote is silly. Thoreau said that. People think they’re doing something when they’re voting — they’re not. It’s all prearranged. You should know that. That’s how they keep you controlled. You think you’re doing something. William Penn, now you know he was a nice guy, he was a Quaker and a lawyer. He said let the people think they govern and they will be governed.”