Dec. 17, 2022

Kiefer Sutherland's Very First Interview

Kiefer Sutherland's Very First Interview

In 1983, 16-year-old Kiefer Sutherland met me in Nova Scotia to discuss his first big movie role.  Hear how he felt about actor dad Donald -- and how I messed up my People Magazine article.

Stitcher podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
TuneIn podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Podcast Addict podcast player badge
Podchaser podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
Deezer podcast player badge
PlayerFM podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge

Episode 11 Notes

Kiefer Sutherland's First Big Interview

It's been 39 years since I met 16-year-old Kiefer Sutherland to talk about his first big movie role. And let's face it -- both of us have aged.  But it's as if time stopped for the sweaters he and I bought in 1983.  Same now as it was then.

Definitely not throwing that out.

Another thing that has aged well is the movie that Kiefer starred in, The Bay Boy -- directed by Donald Petrie and starring Liv Ullman.  Don't judge it by the first few minutes.  Once you get beyond that, it's a beautiful, gentle movie.  Definitely recommend it -- and you canwatch it for free on Youtube.

Movie reviewers did not give as high a recommendation to the 2015 western Forsaken -- the first movie that starred both Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland in major roles.  But it might be worth a holiday-week stream, just to see them together.


Either way, it's entertaining to hear what they say about each other in their promotion for the movie.



Meanwhile, Kiefer's rugged voice has launched a whole new career as a country singer.  Here are  a few of his songs that you'll find on Youtube:

Something You Love (2019). This is my favorite.  The lyrics line up in a surprising way with what Kiefer said to me as a 16-yaer-old.

Shirley Jean (2016). This video -- made about 9 years after Kiefer spent time in a county jail for drunk driving -- shows him in prison.  The lyrics are about writing a letter from prison to a loved one name Shirley.  Though the song seems to be about a fictional character, it's worth noting that Kiefer's mom was named Shirley.

Not Enough Whiskey (2016) Originally on Kiefer's first album, Down In A Hole, this country-style heartbreak song has gotten more than two million views on Youtube.

For more about Kiefer's country songs -- and his acting roles, check out the Kiefer Sutherland site.

And if you want to compare a more recent story about Kiefer with my earlier one, here's a meaty 2022 article from NME.


More info:
Listen and rate us: Apple Podcasts
Follow: Twitter (@throwitoutpod), Instagram (@throwitoutpod)

Will anything get tossed? Could happen. THANK YOU for listening!


I Couldn't Throw It Out, Podcast Episode 11

Kiefer Sutherland's First Big Interview

MICHAEL SMALL: Hello and welcome to I Couldn't Throw It Out, the podcast where I share the stories behind the treasures I've saved.  And then we TRY to throw them out.  In this episode:  we go back in time to 1983 with Kiefer Sutherland, when he was 16-years-old and gave me his very first interview.  

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  I used to sit at home and wonder why the hell I was going to school and doing all this stuff when I could be out in the real world, you know, really making a big bang out of… out of life.

MICHAEL SMALL: You think I can throw out that tape, and all the things I saved from my two days with Kiefer?  Well, keep listening…

  I couldn't throw it out
 I have to scream and shout
 Before I turn to dust
 I've got to throw it out
 Before I turn to dust
 I've got to throw it out  

MICHAEL SMALL: Hello Sally Libby!

SALLY LIBBY:  Hello Michael Small!

MICHAEL: I know you can see me on that computer screen of yours.  And I'm wondering… What do you think of this very thick grey cable-knit sweater that I'm wearing?  

SALLY:  Handsome!

MICHAEL: Does it look like it's in good condition?

SALLY: Oh very. 

MICHAEL: It is possibly the warmest sweater known to humans. 

SALLY:  It looks thick.

MICHAEL:  Yup.  I bought it when I was in Nova Scotia 39 years ago.


MICHAEL: I was there with another guy who bought an identical one.  And his name was, um,  well,  Kiefer Sutherland. 


MICHAEL: Yeah.  Name drop!

SALLY:  Wow!

MICHAEL: I highly doubt that Kiefer wears his sweater anymore.  But on REALLY cold days I used to wear mine to work.  I was sharing an office with my friend Brett, and he would always say, "Nice sweater."  And I'd say, "I bought it with Kiefer Sutherland."  And then he'd act all impressed.  And then the next day I'd wear it again the next day and he'd say, "Nice Sweater."  And I'd say, "I bought it with Keifer Sutherland."  I loved that routine.  It allowed me to do all this humble bragging, which – as you know – is my specialty.

SALLY:  Yeah.

MICHAEL: Along with plain-old bragging. 

SALLY:  Uh huh.  You're good at that too.

MICHAEL: But now I've gotta take this thing off because I am melting.  And while I do that, here's a request for you.  Tell me what you know about Kiefer Sutherland.   

SALLY:  Oooh.  Well, I don't know much about him because I've been focused on his father all these years.  Donald Sutherland is one of my favorite actors.  But I do know Kiefer was in 24.

MICHAEL:  Yes. But guess what?  He was also in a boatload of big movies.  

SALLY:  Like what?

MICHAEL:  He was in Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns, A Few Good Men, and Flatliners.  What most people recently know him for is that he spent 8 years as a counter-terrorist.

SALLY:  Well that was in 24.

MICHAEL: Yes. He was Jack Bauer.


MICHAEL: And he was in 192 episodes.   Won him a Golden Globe, an Emmy and two SAG Awards.  

SALLY:  Oh wow.  Go Kiefer.

MICHAEL:  Yeah. But I have a confession to make.  Before this month, I don't think I've seen any of Kiefer's movies or TV shows.  And it's not so earth-shattering.  Except that I bought that warm sweater with Kiefer after he gave me an interview.  And I am pretty sure it was the very first interview of his career.

SALLY:  How old was he?

MICHAEL:  He was 16 years old, two weeks short of his 17th birthday.   I suppose I should be honest and say that – until recently – this fact was not topmost on my mind.  But then I dug into my box and pulled out another one of my treasures.

SALLY:  Of course!

MICHAEL:   It's the cassette tape of that interview  -- recorded way back in 1983.  Plus, a folder full of all the related information.   It was like a time machine.  Zooop!  Brought me right back there.  So for me, this is really the story of TWO young people.  One who was competent and comparatively mature, who gave his employers exactly what they needed.  And, of course, that was Kiefer.  And then there was me – a very ancient 26-year-old. This was one of MY first PEOPLE assignments that required out-of-town travel.  Plane flights.  A hotel room.  Expense account meals.  It was all so exciting!   Now let me ask you:  Do you have any theory why PEOPLE Magazine spent good American dollars to send a beginner like me to interview Kiefer Sutherland in Nova Scotia?  
 SALLY:  Well, you and Kiefer were both green. Pretty green.  So maybe they thought you two would have a good rapport.

MICHAEL: Basically, you're right.  'Cause these days, if you said, "I'm gonna go interview Kiefer Sutherland," people would say "Wow!  Cool!"  But back then, not so much.

SALLY:  They would say, "Who?"

MICHAEL: Yeah.  And the top reporters were very busy with the big stars of the time.  You know, John Travolta, Duran Duran, the cast of Dyanasty.  Remember that show?   With Joan Collins as the evil Alexis Carrington?

SALLY:  Yeah, it was Die Nasty.

MICHAEL: So if I were a pro, I would have been sipping some drink -- Mai Tais --  with Joan in the lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  But when the editors said "We need someone to go to the far end of Nova Scotia in the cold of December to interview Donald Sutherland's 16-year-old kid,"  the pros just weren't into it.   So I got the gig.  

SALLY:  When you met this teenager, what was your first impression of him?

MICHAEL: When I was with Kiefer, I didn't have the slightest hint that he'd have a big career.  For one thing, our location didn't reek of super-stardom.  It was a tiny town called Sydney.  That's where Kiefer was filming the lead role in a movie called The Bay Boy. Ever heard of it?


MICHAEL: Yeah.  I didn't think so.  Liv Ullman played his mother.  And the director and screenwriter was Dan Petrie, who had just released the movie  Fort Apache: The Bronx with Paul Newman.  Did you see that one?

SALLY:  I've heard of it.  But I never saw it.

MICHAEL: Yeah, well, I think the critics would also like to forget it too.  From what I read, it was about violence and poverty and police in the South Bronx.  And The Bay Boy is just about the opposite kind of movie.  It involves a crime.  But it's very quiet and thoughtful.  It's based on the true story of Petrie's life as a teenager right in the same area where they were filming.  He auditioned tons of kids for the lead.  But Kiefer was the one. Earlier today, I sent you an email earlier today with some information in it. And it has a quote from the director about why he chose Kiefer.  Can you share that with us?

SALLY: Yes.  "It became quickly one of the easiest decisions I ever made. The first day I met Kiefer, I came back and told my wife about it.  I said, "The kid has a haunting quality.'  

MICHAEL: "A haunting quality."

SALLY: Which I think his father does too.

MICHAEL:  It doesn't fit what I remember of him off-screen.  The truth is, actually, I barely remembered him.   And then, I turned on the tape.  I started out by asking Kiefer if we should get chopsticks.  Then Boom!  I remembered!  I interviewed him over lunch in a Chinese restaurant.  Just to confirm that I didn't make this up, I searched on the Interweb and there it was.  There's a picture of the restaurant where we ate. And believe it or not, it's still going strong almost 39 years later.  Do you think people are packing in because they want to touch the table where Kiefer and I sat?

SALLY:  Probably not.

MICHAEL: As I listened to the tape, that picture, that place, the tablecloths, everything came more into focus.  And I could see Kiefer right across the table.  At the time, I did not know what I needed for a good article.  So I just asked everything.  That was my technique, part of the Michael Small School of Journalism.  Just ask everything, since you don't know what you need.   So I got every detail: his height (he was 5' 10"), his weight (he was 145 pounds).   And finally he looked at me and said, this is like going to the doctor for a checkup.

SALLY:  Since you interviewed him when he was so young, did you get an juicy tidbits about his childhood?

MICHAEL:  I think I learned more about his early life when I read about him in Wikipedia this week. So what I can tell you is a mix of what I found online and what he told me directly in 1983.  For instance, I learned that Kiefer's full name is Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland. 

SALLY:  Good lord!

MICHAEL:  He needed a few extra names. He's named after Warren Kiefer, who was the director of Donald Sutherland's first movie.  It was an Italian horror movie called Castle of the Living Dead.  Christopher Lee was in it too.  And there's no doubt that it was very scary in all kinds of ways.  Did you see it?

SALLY:  So Keifer was named after a zombie movie?  Then what happened?

MICHAEL: Kiefer – and his twin sister Rachel -- were born in London in 1966.  So they must have a little Austin Powers in them, I'm guessing.

SALLY:  We know their faather was a famous actor. What about their mother?  Was she an actor too?

MICHAEL:  How did you ever guess? Their mom was the actress Shirley Douglas. She was best known for her acting on TV shows and live theater in Canada, though she also played Grandma in the movie Barney's Great Adventure.  It looks as if she and Donald Sutherland were together for about four years.  Both of Kiefer's parents were very active politically, protesting the Vietnam War and fighting for Civil Rights.  Shirley started a "Friends of the Black Panthers" fundraising group, which lead to an accusation that she tried to use an FBI check to buy grenades for the Black Panthers.  But that case was dismissed at some point. And here's an interesting tidbit -- their grandfather was Tommy Douglas, the premier of Saskatchewan.  That makes Kiefer a hero in Canada – because his grandfather championed the single-payer health care system that exists today.

SALLY:  Oh cool.

MICHAEL: So if you ever bump into Kiefer, please be sure to thank him on behalf of all Canadians.

SALLY:  I definitely will. So did Kiefer take after his parents by getting the acting bug really early?  Or did that come later?

MICHAEL: Shirley is the one who encouraged Kiefer to try acting.  He was in his first play when he was 9.  It was a one-act play called Thrown a Straw by Don Fried, who is still writing plays to this day.  And after Shirley and Donald split, she moved with the kids from L.A. to Toronto.

SALLY:  Do you remember if he gave you any sense of what he was like as a kid? Was he a good boy or a hellion?

MICHAEL: I don't think this is gonna come as a huge surprise.  He told me that his sister Rachel was a real bookworm.  But he was kind of a naughty boy.  He didn't pay attention in class, and he was asked to leave one school for bad behavior.  When I met him, he still had a bit of the bad boy image. He was already chain-smoking Craven A cigarettes.  So I asked him about that, and here's what he said:


MICHAEL:  When did you start smoking so heavily?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Do I smoke heavily?  


KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Me?  You're gonna ask that in this interview?

MICHAEL: Yeah. Why not?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Um.  About a week ago.  (laughs) Um.  No, I got very worried about that. 'Cause I saw a magazine with Matt Dillon and it said, "Matt Dillon smokes.  Is that right?" 

MICHAEL: What does that mean?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Is it right for him to smoke?  Is it right for a youth to smoke?


MICHAEL:  On the other hand, this may seem like a contradiction but I also asked him about high school athletics and he was a star runner in Toronto. But before I play this clip, two things to notice: I'm gonna interpret it as a good sign that he liked me enough to kid me about the way I said "Toronto." Also notice how he greets crew members (in French, by the way) as they arrive at the restaurant for lunch.  He didn't let the fact that he was the youngest one keep him from being the big man on campus. He was gonna greet everybody as they arrived.  So…  here we go...


MICHAEL:  Were you a serious runner?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Yes I was.  Definitely.  Very.

MICHAEL: So that was in Toronto.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: (mimicking) In Toronto.  Yes, it was in Toronto. 

MICHAEL:  While you were looking for your work for two years.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: No.  I quit running in (mimicking) Toronto before I was looking for my work.

MICHAEL:  Oh, in Toronto.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND (mocking) Toronto.

MICHAEL: Toronto.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Bonjoy Pierre! Comment ca va?

PIERRE: And you?


MICHAEL:  So you were running when you were fourteen, thirteen?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Thirteen, fourteen. 

MICHAEL: And did you do hockey in LA?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Hockey in LA and in (mocking) Toronto.  Toronto.

MICHAEL:  What did you run?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: 400 meters.  You want to hear the time?  I used to run it in 52 seconds. I was ranked in Ontario.  One of the top runners in Ontario.



SALLY:  This must be how he got the part in 24.  Because he was always running after the bad guys.

MICHAEL:  Or running from them.

SALLY:  So did he get any acting breaks before he ended up in Nova Scotia?

MICHAEL: I wouldn't exactly call it a big break.  But when he was 15, his dad helped him get a small part in the Neil Simon movie Max Duggan Returns.  After that, he pretty much lost interest in school and he was determined to be an actor.  He got an agent.  He was 15.  Then we went home to  Toronto, and he moved out on his own.  Got his own apartment.   He was 15.   This is what he told me about it:


MICHAEL: The whole thing about you leaving home raises the question, Why did you leave home? Was there a specific problem, or…

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  No, there were no problems. I wasn't doing very well in school. And I… I just… for some reason, I always had wanted to be older than I was.  I always had older friends.  I always did things with them.  And I always wanted that.  And I felt that if I moved out, maybe I could do things my own way.  And do them on my own time.  And things would improve.  And luckily enough for me, they did.

MICHAEL: You skipped all these years. Does it have something to do with the life you lived, or what?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  No I just…. Well, my father… I've seen my father do his work.  And when I was very young I saw him go off to big things.  And my mother doing her thing. And I used to sit at home and wonder why the hell I was going to school and doing all this stuff when I could be out in the real world, you know, really making a big bang out of life. I never wanted a 9 to 5 job, or any structure like that.  It's just the way I was brought up, I think…  I was brought up very independent.  My parents…

MICHAEL:  How did your parents respond when you said, "Mom, Dad, I'm moving out on my own"?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  I didn't tell them.  I just did it.

MICHAEL:  So you just sort of left.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  No I… Well, no, because… See, parents are very very wonderful with this thing.  You tell them something and they say, "No way. Forget it."  You do it and they go, "Are you all right?" Ha, ha.  So I did it and they phoned up and asked me if I was all right and if I needed any help.  And my father helped me out. And my mother helped me out. 

MICHAEL:  Where'd you get the rent money?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  My father helped me out. And I made all these grand promises that I'd pay him back as soon as I got a job.  And I didn't get a job for about a year and a half.  And now I've got a job and I'm all ready to pay him back and he said no.


MICHAEL: When he got his own place, he started trying out for acting jobs.  He tried out for dozens of them.  For two years. He didn't get a single part.  Nothing.  When he got the lead in The Bay Boy, he was over-the-moon happy about that, maybe until I showed up.  Because I had been told that my story was for the Heirs section in PEOPLE.  That was the section about famous people's children.  So I felt I had to pound him, pepper him, pelt him, pummel him with questions about his father.  Every time we talked about something else, I brought it back to his father.  What is amazing is that Kiefer did not get flustered for a second.  He just accepted it.  If you had asked me that much about my father, I would have run out of the room.

SALLY:  But his being Donald's son didn't seem to help him get a part.

MICHAEL:  Yeah, that's true.  I'd say he took it like Jack Bauer facing a world full of terrorists. He just went right through it and didn't let it faze him.  could handle it.   So here's an example of me asking him about his dad.


MICHAEL: It's probably early to start saying this but…. I mean, realistically, you have Donald Sutherland stamped on your face.  So to speak.


MICHAEL: And how do you feel about that when people recognize you.  Is there any uneasiness about that?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Oh sure there is.  Because you go into an audition, people are there saying, "He's gonna get the part because that producer knows his father or respects his father."  Which isn't true because no one's gonna lay down the money the do for an actor, like this, for a favor. That's ridiculous.  But you can't help getting upset because you know those people are thinking it.  Regardless if they believe it or not.  Because I didn't get work for an enormous amount of time.  Extra work.  Anything.  I got nothing.

MICHAEL:  Do you follow your dad's career closely?  Not that closely?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  People do it for me.  You know, they always tell me what he's doing.

MICHAEL:  How often do you speak with him?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  I speak to him at least twice a week.  Now.  We didn't before.  But when I moved out, it seemed like everything made a wonderful turn to the right. And we have a great relationship on the phone.  And when we see each other, we really take advantage of that time.  I mean, he's also trying to help me get around the fact that he's my father.  It's not something you try to escape.  It just makes it twice as hard to prove yourself.  But it makes it twice as easy to get around.  So it works for you in both ways.


MICHAEL:  And I kept at it.  I asked him about his father's favorite movies and which ones were his favorites.  To my surprise, he actually gave me quite a detailed answer.  Here it is…


MICHAEL:  Don't necessarily get freaked out by my line of questioning…

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  No, don't worry about it.  No. 

MICHAEL: But another thing about your dad.  Were there any movies of his that were favorites of yours, or that you really loved, or that the acting really impressed you?  Is it one or another?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  I liked Don't Start the Revolution Without Me.  It's a wonderful comedy with Gene Wilder and he.  Have you ever seen it?

MICHAEL:  I think I saw it and liked it.  But I think it's an old movie.


MICHAEL: Isn't it an old movie?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Yes, it is an old movie.

MICHAEL: I swear I saw it when I was sick.

PHOTOGRAPHER:  I never saw it.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  Thank you.  Um, not many people have.  It's usually on at 1 o'clock, you know, twice a year.  I love it.  It makes me laugh every time I see it.  I like The Dirty Dozen because I like John Cassavetes very much. Um.  And I loved Ordinary People.  Because I loved Timothy Hutton.  I loved Judd Hirsch.  I loved Mary Tyler Moore.  And my father!  I thought they were all fantastic, you know.  And I’m not ashamed to say it.  I mean, I really admire my father's work sometimes.  I mean, there was a CBC thing he did called Bethune with Kate Nelligan.  And Eye of the Needle.  I loved both of those. I'm very proud to say that he's my father and that I really do admire what he does.  Along with many millions of other people.







 SALLY:  He sounds so much like Donald.  If I just heard that clip with no introduction, I'd know they were related. 

MICHAEL:  That's probably because of genetics.  But they also stayed close to each other, even when they lived far apart.  Donald had a two-mast sailboat called The Black Duck.  So, when he and Kiefer were together, they'd go on long trips – I think they sometimes went from LA to Catalina.  He told me they were gonna go from LA to Hawaii together.  I don't know if they ever did that.

SALLY:  I suppose you didn't get a chance to Donald, did you?

MICHAEL:  Oh, I had to make that happen.  I was working for People Magazine after all. I couldn’t get him in person.  So I got a phone interview.  Sally, would you like to hear what Donald Sutherland said about his son 38 years ago.

SALLY:  Yes, yes.

MICHAEL:  Okay, I’m sorry.  But for reasons that I will explain later, I cannot play the tape for you now.  However, I have the transcript.  Now I'm wondering:  By any chance did you read everything I sent you earlier today?  

SALLY:  Yes I did.  Anything you send me, I must read immediately.

MICHAEL: That's the spirit!  Well, could I convince you to look again at it again?  Skim down and you'll see some dialogue.  That's the transcript of my interview with Donald Sutherland.  Just so you don't miss out entirely, let's read it.  I don't think I can do a Donald Sutherland imitation.  But I'll lower my voice a bit, a little, so it doesn’t sound like me.  

SALLY:  All right.  Uh…. (as Michael)  How do you feel about Kiefer's career choice?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  I have great pride in my son and I feel whatever he wants to do is alright with me.

 SALLY (as Michael):  How do you feel about your son choosing your career?  Will he be in your shadow?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  I would not wish to hinder him or have his connection with me be a hindrance.  I'm sorry to be part of this interview because you know me, I always think it's better for someone to be independent.

SALLY (as Michael): Do you have any stories about Kiefer's naturally precocious nature?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  When he was 2, he ran in circles and hit his head against the wall.  I told him I thought he should stop it and he said he was just trying to make me laugh.

SALLY (as Michael): Why do you think he's so adult for his age?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  It has to do with our family.  I was adult at his age.  My father was that adult at his age.  I worked as a radio announcer from the time I was 14 till I was 16 and when I was 16 I left home and I went to college.

SALLY (as Michael): How do you feel about Kiefer putting his education on hold for awhile?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  That’s up to him.  I would advise him and urge him to be as positive toward education and negative toward any kind of slackness.  Me, I love the whole process of education really, studying, examinations.  They were as intense as acting.

SALLY (as Michael): Do you give tips to Kiefer about acting?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  We have long talks.  They are really so private and personal that I could not imagine having them with anyone but my son.

SALLY (as Michael): Have you considered working together?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  Yeah. We discussed it.  Directors are the people who hire actors and then it would only be if a director asked us to work together.

SALLY (as Michael): Anything else you want to add about Kiefer?

MICHAEL (as Donald Sutherland):  I'm incredibly close to him and I love him deeply.

MICHAEL: And that's all we got.  

SALLY:  He speaks in such a formal way.  I wonder what was going through his head during the interview.

MICHAEL: I think he was thinking something like, "Talking to People Magazine makes me wish I were dead.  But if it will help my son, I'll do it."  I wish I could play you the tape.  Because you'd hear the embarrassing moment that I left out of the transcript intentionally.  Because it's my clearest memory from the whole story.  Either it was a bad connection or Donald spoke so softly that I couldn't hear what he was saying.  So when we were talking about education, I heard him mumble something and I waited for him to continue.  I practiced restraint.  I didn't jump in.  But he didn't continue.  And there was this long pause and nothing happened.  And then in a louder voice he said, "Michael, did you hear what I asked you?"  So I answered, "I'm not quite sure." And he repeated, this time kind of yelling:  "I said I think education is very important, DON'T YOU?"  And I was so flustered that I just jumped into the next question without answering. So maybe it's not too late to resolve this.  If anyone listening happens to know Donald Sutherland, please I'm begging you, send this message to him:  "Donald, I do think education is important.  I do!  I swear I do!" You may remember Sally one of the signature guidelines of the Michael Small School of Journalism at that time.  I maintained that you had to reveal things about yourself in order to get others to talk with you.  In my defense, I spent two days with Kiefer and it might have been weird if I didn't say anything about myself for the whole time.  But, of course, when he was answering my endless questions about his father, I felt compelled to tell him about my father – and what my father pushed me to do.  This is how I learned something about Kiefer that probably no one else knows. Listen to this.


MICHAEL:  My father made me play the violin. (Kiefer points to himself.)  YOU TOO? You're kidding.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: I ran away from home because of that.

MICHAEL: Oh, if only I had been as sensible as you, I'd be a great actor today.  Instead I'm working for People Magazine because I played the… It's really related.  It's true.    That doesn't sound true.  But it is.  Because I played for 10 years.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  I played for four.

MICHAEL:  Well, that's okay.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND:  And then I ran away.


MICHAEL: I'm telling you, the torture of having to play the violin is the one thing that half of humanity shares. And Kiefer shared it with me.

SALLY:  The other half bears the torture of listening.

MICHAEL:  You haven't listened to me play the violin since high school and you still bear the scars.

SALLY:  Only in my ears.

SALLY:  Now, aside from you both abandoning the violin, do you think you got to know Kiefer at all?  What was your impression of him?

MICHAEL:  He definitely seemed fun.  But this summary is this:  Most of the time, Kiefer as a teenager seemed way more mature than I was as a working adult. He had traveled the world.  He knew life in Hollywood. When he spoke, he often sounded very serious and grave – like his father.  He was already dating an older woman – his co-star in the movie, Leah Pinsent, who was 19.  But then he'd switch to being a kid again, especially when it came to his humor.  When I was driving him to the set, he opened the window, leaned way out – like from the waist up – and screamed to people by the road, "Help!  I'm a prisoner!  He's kidnapped me!"  Just to freak me out.

SALLY:  "Help! I've been captured by People Magazine.

MICHAEL: Which was sort of true.  Liv Ullmann told me that her relationship with him was built on similar pranks.  Once again, I can't play you the tape of what she said.  So can we try role playing again? 

SALLY: Sure.

MICHAEL: This time, I'll be me. And you can be Norway's greatest living actress.  All right… What's it like to work with Kiefer?
 SALLY (as Liv Ulluman):  Sometimes you forget he's 16 because he's so grown up.  I was going to mother him and instead he's fathering me.

MICHAEL:  Can you tell me an incident to back all that up?

SALLY (as Liv Ulluman):  Sometimes we have to take the same car to the set.  A lot of actors are not on time, especially young ones who don't know how important it is.  I've never seen him late.  I've never seen him tired and not knowing his lines because of that or complaining that he's getting bored.  It's very unusual for a youngster and it's not because he's overeag er to please.  It's because he's made a decision in life.  He wants to do his best.  

MICHAEL:  And then this is where Kiefer starts approaching us, and Liv sees that he's coming closer and that he hears us. And then she says…
 SALLY (as Liv Ulluman):  Kiefer is such a terrible difficult child. So much trouble.  

MICHAEL:  Do you play practical jokes on each other?

SALLY (as Liv Ulluman):  He'll talk about our jokes for days.  He still hasn't managed to pay me back because we're on our guards.  But he has his little plans.  And they are so dramatic.  He'll say, "I heard the hotel you stay in fell down yesterday."

MICHAEL: And that's all of it.  My entire conversation with Liv Ullman.  It's a little hard to capture this kind of thing after it happens. But I got a little taste of it during our lunch at the Chinese restaurant. The photographer was going to the restroom, and he asked us to order a beer for him.  Kiefer really wanted to jump right in and make the beer order. You know, the way a teenager would want to do. So he called the waitress over.  And he was horrified when this Chinese restaurant in Nova Scotia didn't have Molson X.  And he had to settle for orde ring a Moosehead.  As the waitress walked away, he grabbed my recorder and said this into it:


KIEFER SUTHERLAND: Anyone in civilization, never come to the **** restaurant in Sydney Nova Scotia.  Okay?  Thank you!


MICHAEL: Just to be clear to anyone in Nova Scotia:  He was just talking about the beer.  The food was fine, and if you're ever in Sydney, you will enjoy the food at this restaurant. Now that we got that out of the way. It's time for the sad part.  I had to go back to New York with my cassette and my notes.

SALLY:  And your sweater!

MICHAEL: And my sweater.  And I tried to write a story that included a lot about Donald Sutherland while also conveying Kiefer's rambunctious personality. Now these days, a website editor might give you maybe 3 hours to write up a 200-word story.  But our pace at magazines was more leisurely.  I shut my office door – 'cause we had private offices back then – and I clacked away at my IBM Selectrix typewriter for days.  Version after version.  We used to type on this  paper with a grid that matched the width of a magazine so we could get a sense of how long the story would be on the page.  Mine was way too long, especially for a story about an actor's kid.  But I had so much material that I found so fascinating, I just couldn't leave it out.   So the story went through two rounds of editing. Then it got to Pat Ryan, who was managing editor of the magazine at the time.  Pat later became one of my mentors.  She taught me so much and I really respected her.  For one thing, whenever anyone did a good job with a story, she would write a personal handwritten note.  Every time you wrote a good story.  And would leave it under your door.  Telling you exactly what she liked about it.

SALLY:  Nice.

MICHAEL: And I've saved several of those.  Those are other treasures we'll find in my boxes. But, in this case, it was – literally – another story.  I have here a copy of the print-out with Pat's notes, written 39-years-ago in the margin in pencil.  At the top, there's a note from her to the other editor of the story .  It says:  Jesse – Let's get this story rewritten at 110-120 lines – it's a muddle, and kid seems a jerk.  If so, say so. Next to the first two paragraphs, she wrote:  CUT. Pat then sent the story for a re-write to a relatively new editor named Dick Lemon.  In later years, he and I became a team – we oversaw all the arts coverage together.  

SALLY:  Oh, I thought he was your boss.

MICHAEL:  He became my boss.  Yes. Over time.  But not then.  He was new then.  And in my box, right here, I have his notes on my story.  It is a full page of notes.  His notes about the problems with my story are longer than the standard People Magazine article.  In the end, the article was completely rewritten.  I've got both versions in my folder here.  But here's one more surprise I didn't expect.  You could say that my version was disorganized.  Clichéd. Full of holes. But it wasn't absolutely horrible.  So just to have a sense of how these things change,  I'm gonna read you two versions of the headline. One mine.  And one the edited final version.  You tell me which one is mine and which one is theirs. Okay?

SALLY:  Uh huh.

MICHAEL:   Version 1:  Following in his look-alike father's footsteps, Kiefer Sutherland at 17 is suddenly a leading man  And the other one:  Ducking his dad's long shadow, Kiefer Sutherland gets an early start as a spunky leading man

SALLY:  The first one is yours?

MICHAEL:  Wrong.

SALLY:  No!  I like yours better.

MICHAEL: People will think I paid you for that.  That makes me so happy.  I have both copies of the story.  Maybe I'll share them with you or put them on the website.  And people can decide which one is better. The story finally came out in April of 1984 and in the mail I got this note.  It's from Paul Oliviera who was a promoter of the movie and it says this:  "Michael!  Just a short note of thanks for your work on the Kiefer Sutherland article.  It worked out very well I thought.  Good job!"

SALLY:  All right!

MICHAEL: So I guess it takes a village, and a few great editors, to teach me how to write a great story.  But the key point that gets lost in all of this is the movie.

SALLY: Which is the only reason you got to meet him.  How was the movie?  Did Kiefer do justice to the role?

MICHAEL: When you're on a movie set for a day, it is pretty much impossible to get a sense of anything.   I did not witness great acting skills from Kiefer.  And by the time my story came out in 1984 when he was 17, I completely forgot about the movie.  I never went to see it.  So... after I pulled this out of my box, Cindy and I decided, let's watch The Bay Boy.  And when it began, I was cringing because the music is very dated and the first scene is so old-fashioned.  But guess what? 

SALLY:  You liked it.

MICHAEL: It's a REALLY good movie.

SALLY:  Oh great.  I'll have to see it.

MICHAEL:  We highly recommend it.  It's free on Youtube.  And Kiefer is GREAT in it.

SALLY:  Wonderful.

MICHAEL:  So natural.  The director was right.  I never would have expected a 16-year-old could do this. But Kiefer is really talented.  He delivered.

SALLY: It sounds as if he had talent from the start.  Maybe he grew into exactly the person you'd expect him to be.

MICHAEL: I told you he was rambunctious as a kid.  And that definitely continued into adulthood.  Like his personal life. It was pretty lively.  First he married actress Camelia Kath – who is 13 years older than he is.  Three years later, after they had a daughter, they divorced  Then, you may remember, back in 1991, he was supposed to marry Julia Roberts.  Right?  But she called it off three days before the wedding. About five years later, Keifer married Kelly Winn, and they separated three years after that.   Meanwhile, Keifer was arrested FOUR times for drunk driving.  The first time was 1989.  And after the last time, in 2007, he had to spend 48 days in a county jail. 

SALLY: Oh Kiefer!

MICHAEL: That was definitely a low point.  But at least he didn't repeat it.  And there were better achievements too.  Kiefer kept acting in movies and TV shows.  That included a western called Forsaken where he and his dad played father and son. That was the first time they acted together since he had that  bit part in that 1982 movie, Max Duggan Returns.  And he had lots of other interests.  In the 1990s he toured with a rodeo circuit.  Now that’s rambunctious.

SALLY:  What did he do in the rodeo?

MICHAEL:  He was swingin' a lasso to rope cattle.  While riding a horse.  He and his partner actually won a U.S. team roping championship in 1998. Now he seems to have calmed down a bit.  He's engaged to his girlfriend Cindy Vela.  She's an actress, a model and a saxophonist.  And she's 12 years younger than he is.

SALLY:  After all of this, I wonder if he feels content with his life, if he did what he really wanted to do.

MICHAEL: I bet he has mixed feelings, just like the rest of us.  But he definitely reached some of his goals.  Back when I met him, Kiefer told me that he wanted to be both an actor and a musician.  I know that he let my father down 'cause he quit the violin.

SALLY:  Well, you're guilty on that front too.

MICHAEL: Unlike me, Kiefer redeemed himself musically.  He was playing classical guitar when I met him and he stuck with it, though he switched to a different genre.  Since 2016, he has recorded three country albums.

SALLY:  Have you heard them?  Are they any good?

MICHAEL:  I'm not a huge country fan.  But you can tell the music's really good.  He wrote the songs with Jude Cole, who is very respected.  They got good reviews, and he even performed at the Grand Ole Oprey. The guy is really talented.  I'll put the links to his Youtube videos on our site

SALLY:  Thank you!  I'll give a listen.

MICHAEL:  Going back to acting, the stuff in the box inspired Cindy and me also  to watch 24 for the first time.  That show is way too suspenseful.

SALLY:  Okay, I'm gonna see that too.  All 192 episodes.

MICHAEL: I had to crouch behind the sofa to hide from what was on the screen.  Because I couldn't be in the same room with it.  It was too tense.  Yeah.  We highly recommend it. It's on Amazon Prime. It will not lower your blood pressure. But Kiefer is excellent in it.  It's kind of strange – you might even say a little "haunting" – because Kiefer plays a dad who is trying to deal with a rambunctious teenage child.

SALLY: I wonder if his father said to him, "Now you know what I went through."

MICHAEL:  I have a feeling that Donald is pretty proud, especially since so many family members followed his career path. Kiefer's twin sister Rachel has been a post-production supervisor for films in Toronto.  Kiefer's daughter Sarah is also an actress. She played the vice president's daughter on the TV series, Veep.  

SALLY: I guess those acting genetics are really strong.

MICHAEL:  They are.  But sadly, it's time to figure out if I can throw out these objects from my box.

This time, I have a new approach.  I sent you a list of the items I collected.  You read them out and I'll make a case of why I can't throw it out – and we'll see how I do.

SALLY: Okay.

MICHAEL: Hit me with the first one.

SALLY:  16-year-old Kiefer publicity shot

MICHAEL:  I mean, you don't want me to throw this out, do you?  You want to shred this?  This is history! Who has a picture of Kiefer Sutherland at 16?

SALLY:  Give it to someone who's obsessed with Kiefer.  Find somebody.

MICHAEL:  All right.  Well I'm not shredding that.  Okay, next.

SALLY:  Oh.  Request sheet for a photographer.

MICHAEL:  Okay, let me see.  I've got to get that.  Here.  Okay, this is interesting for a few reasons. I mean, it tells you what it was like when you had to write up these forms.  I put "Rush!  Super incredible rush!  Rush!  Rush!" In all capital letters at the top.  And there's a lesson in that. Right there.  Yesterday's "rush, rush, rush" is today's "who cares?" But what's interesting is that I turned it over and on the back is a To Do List from 1983.

SALLY:  Did everything get done?

MICHAEL: Well, there's  a reminder that I need to bring deodorant, a razor, pens and a pad when I go to interview Kiefer.  Just so I didn't forget the deodorant. 

SALLY:  That's good.

MICHAEL: There's call Andrea.  Which is often on my To Do list.  That's my cousin Andrea. And there are various other people I'm supposed to call here.  But I don't remember all of them. Except there was a note here that said, "Call Joe Dolce." Now Joe Dolce was the doorman at the Area nightclub. And he was extremely powerful.  That was the club everyone wanted to be at.  And if he didn't want to let you in, you didn't get in.  He was a very smart talented guy. And I think he just had this job because it was crazy and fun.  He went on to run Details magazine.  And he became an editor and I think I still an editor now. So I just thought, "You know what?  I don't know if I called him then." But I went on LinkedIn and I looked for him and I found him and I sent him a note.  I said, "I don't think you'll remember me. But I found this note on my Kiefer Sutherland file to call you, and so I'm getting in touch with you." He wrote back and he said, "Of course I remember you.  Kiefer Sutherland, not so much."

SALLY:  Ah, good one!

MICHAEL:  I don't know.  I feel like this has some value.

SALLY:  Mmm..   Mike, something's gotta get thrown.

MICHAEL: All right.  I'll put it into the "maybe" file.  What's next?

SALLY:  Dick Lemon's critique.

MICHAEL: Okay.  Here it is.  In my hand.  And all the problems.  Like, "Before line 79, when we get to the first movie role, we need better anchoring about what he's like and what he's been doing.  Not a bio.  But a clear summation of his struggles, personal and professional."  It's such good advice. I don't think we can throw that out.  Okay.  What's next?

SALLY: My list of questions for Kiefer.

MICHAEL:  Why did you go into acting?  What was the appeal?  Has it lived up to your hopes? Committed to staying with it?  Was your mom a radical influence?
 SALLY: Give it a shred.

MICHAEL: Mmmn..  I'll put it in the "Maybe" column. Okay what's next?

SALLY:  Itinerary for the Nova Scotia trip

MICHAEL:  That we can get rid of.  It was an Air Canada flight.  Okay, next.

SALLY:  Writer's first draft of the story.

MICHAEL:  Yeah.  I happen to have a few copies of it.  Maybe I could only keep one draft.  Next.

SALLY: All right.  Edited version of the story with notes from managing editor Pat Ryan.

MICHAEL: It's humbling.  You gotta have something like this around to remind you not to get a big head. And is that it?

SALLY:  That's it.

MICHAEL: Oh, and the transcript.  I guess if I digitize the tape, we don't need the transcript.


MICHAEL: All right.  I'm gonna take the "Definite Shred" pile so we have some progress today.  And here we go.  I'm about to put them in the shredder and…

SALLY:  Yay.

(shredder sound)

MICHAEL:  Oh!  There it goes.  Look!  There's a copy of my story. 

SALLY: Woo hoo!

MICHAEL: It never will exist for humanity.  You have said that I didn't shred anything during this season and I want you to know you just heard the shredder. 

SALLY:  Yay!

MICHAEL: That was painful.  Well, I made a little progress anyway. 

SALLY:  Teeny tiny.

MICHAEL:  Few less papers for someone to throw out after my cremation fire.  Before we go,  I need to remind you that I've held out on you on one  detail...  the reason why I couldn't play you some of the interviews.

SALLY: Oh, that's obvious.  You knew I could play Liv Ullman much better than she could play herself.

MICHAEL:  Wrong.  Here's the real reason.  In 1984, I was already writing the gossip column on the last  page of PEOPLE, called Chatter.  Remember that?

SALLY:  Sure do.  Wouldn't miss reading it in the checkout lane.

MICHAEL:  So in that stage of my career, I was constantly sending out requests to talk with celebrities. And then constantly waiting for them to call me back. So one day, the phone rang and it was the lead singer of a very famous rock band.  But I didn't have a tape.  So I thought, "No one's going to care about Donald Sutherland's son in 10 years."  Yes, I taped over the second half of my interview with Kiefer. And to make matters worse…  Soon after that, I got a call from a really famous artist. And I needed a tape. So I grabbed the same tape.  And then, after that, I got a call from someone who was really famous on TV.

And yes, I used the same tape.  So that is why you could not hear  Donald Sutherland or Liv Ullmann talk about Kiefer.  I taped over them.

SALLY:  Well, you seem to have survived that mistake.  Some people might say you could throw out the rest with no lasting damage to your life.

MICHAEL:  Oh, come on. We cannot toss the cassette tape with Kiefer on one side till we hear who was on the other side. Sally, will you join me for that?   

SALLY:  I will, Michael.

MICHAEL: Excellent.  Then I will be speaking with you very soon as I try YET AGAIN to live up to the title of a podcast called....  

SALLY:  I Couldn't Throw It Out!


I couldn't throw it out

I had to scream and shout


SALLY:   The more people who listen to this podcast, the bigger our heads will swell.


SALLY: And you know you've always wanted to see us with swollen heads.  So if you liked what you heard, please encourage your friends to listen to I Couldn't Throw It Out.  They'll find our entire first season on all podcasting networks – except Spotify.  (Ask Joni Mitchell and Neil Young why we're not on Spotify – they'll tell you.)  You can also listen to our entire first season on our  website  If you want to stay in the loop about our next season, please follow us on Instagram at throwitoutpod

MICHAEL: Is that all your reminders for today?

SALLY: That's it.

MICHAEL: Well, then – thank you to Kiefer Sutherland for being such an entertaining 16-year-old in 1983.  Now let's hear our rockin' theme song by Boots Kamp and by Don Rauf, leader of our favorite band Life in a Blender.  To quote the rambunctious Beastie Boys...    HIT IT!

THEME SONG:  I Couldn't Throw It Out
  Performed by Don Rauf, Boots Kamp, and Jen Ayers
  Music by Boots Kamp and Don Rauf
  Lyrics by Don Rauf and Michael Small
  Out here in Nancy's – her big garage
This isn't a mi-  This isn't a mirage
Decades of stories, memories stacked
There is a redolence of some irrelevant facts.
But I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
  It all seems so unjust
But still I know I must
  Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

Well, I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I'll sort through my possessions
In these painful sessions
I guess this is what it's about
The poems, cards and papers
The moldy musty vapors
I just gotta sort it out.

Well I couldn't throw it out
  I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out