Stephen Talbot

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Stephen Talbot
Stephen Talbot seated.jpg
Talbot at UC Berkeley in 2007
Stephen Henderson Talbot

(1949-02-28) February 28, 1949 (age 70)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Other namesSteve Talbot
Spouse(s)Pippa Gordon

Stephen Henderson Talbot (born February 28, 1949) is an American TV documentary producer, reporter, writer, and longtime contributor to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), particularly the series Frontline. His more than 40 documentaries include the Frontline films "The Best Campaign Money Can Buy," "The Long March of Newt Gingrich," "Justice for Sale," and "News War: What's Happening to the News." Talbot has also written and produced PBS biographies of writers Dashiell Hammett, Beryl Markham, Ken Kesey, Carlos Fuentes, Maxine Hong Kingston and John Dos Passos. He was co-creator and executive producer of the PBS music specials, "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders," and an online series of music videos called, "Quick Hits."[1]

He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter and producer at KQED-TV in San Francisco, where he also contributed feature news stories to the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.[2] Talbot has also worked as a producer and senior producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting.[3]

Before becoming a journalist and documentary producer, Talbot was a television child actor in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His father was the film, TV, and stage actor Lyle Talbot.[4]

As an actor, Talbot is known for his role in the baby boomers TV series, Leave It to Beaver, in which he played Gilbert Bates, friend of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers).[5] The character Gilbert was generally known to lure Beaver into mischief.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Hollywood and raised in Studio City, California, Stephen Talbot is the son of the late Lyle Talbot, a 1930s movie star and a veteran TV and stage actor, and Paula Talbot (born Margaret Epple). Stephen Talbot attended Harvard High School (now called Harvard-Westlake) in North Hollywood[6] (Class of 1966).

Talbot went to Wesleyan University (Connecticut), where he studied English and film and was very active in anti-Vietnam war protests.[6] He began making films about the anti-war movement, including March on Washington, DC III (about Vietnam Veterans Against the War), and Year of the Tiger (filmed in Vietnam). He graduated in 1970 and later worked at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, then an experimental college on Long Island, from 1970 to 1973. He began as assistant to the president John Maguire and went on to become a lecturer in the American Studies program.

Acting career[edit]

Talbot's first appearance as Gilbert on Leave it to Beaver was in a 1959 episode called "Beaver and Gilbert", where he plays an insecure new kid in town who is prone to telling tall tales.[7] Early on in the series, the Gilbert character was someone constantly getting the hapless Beaver into trouble. "I may be a dirty rat, but I'm not a dumb rat," Gilbert once declared. But as the series went on Gilbert became a more genuine friend of the Beav, really his closest friend, as seen in episodes like "Beaver on TV" (1963) when Gilbert is the only one to believe Beaver had been on a local TV show that did not air live as everyone expected (it had been taped for later broadcast, a new concept at the time).[8]

Having spent his early years in front of the cameras on Leave it to Beaver as Gilbert Bates (56 episodes), Talbot abandoned acting for a career as a journalist. In an article for in 1997, he looked back with a sense of humor about his past role.

In the interests of historical accuracy I should say that, yes, Gilbert was a troublemaker and an occasional liar, but my character was certainly no Eddie Haskell – that leering teenage hypocrite who spoke unctuously to parents ('Well, hello Mrs. Cleaver, and how is young Theodore today?') and venomously to the Beav ('Hey, squirt, take a powder before I squash you like a bug')."! [9] "I have spent my adult life trying to conceal my Leave it to Beaver past or correcting the historical record. Either way the series has become inescapable. When I was a kid, I loved acting; in fact, I badgered my father and mother until they allowed me to work. But how could I have known as an innocent 9-year-old that I was taking part in a television program that would live on for 40 years as an icon for baby boomers? In the early '80s, I turned down an offer to revive my role as Gilbert in a dreadful Beaver reunion series. "I'm trying to establish myself as a documentary filmmaker and an investigative reporter," I explained to the producers. "I can't go back to being Gilbert!"[9]

Talbot guest-starred on many television programs in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including three episodes of Lassie, M Squad, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Blue Angels, Men Into Space, Lawman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Law of the Plainsman, The Donna Reed Show, Mr. Novak and The Lucy Show. He appeared in comedy sketches with Bob Newhart in the early '60s NBC variety program, The Bob Newhart Show. Talbot played the role of Ronnie Kramer in the CBS's anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson episode "Hit and Run". Talbot also appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone: "Static" and "The Fugitive".[10]

In 1959, he was cast as Ab Martin, a grade-school pupil in the episode "The Twister" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Sugarfoot, with Will Hutchins in the title role. In the episode, he recites to his dying teacher, Roy Cantwell (Fred Beir) a part of Patrick Henry's 1775 address at St. Johns' Church. The "twister" in the title of the episode is a tornado that wipes out a western town.

In 1960, he played Jimmie Kendall, son of the title character in CBS's Perry Mason in the episode, "The Case of the Wandering Widow".

On stage, Talbot co-starred as "Sonny" in William Inge's Dark at the Top of the Stairs with Marjorie Lord at the La Jolla Playhouse.

He also played Dick Clark's nephew in the first movie Clark ever acted in, Because They're Young (1960), a high school melodrama with Tuesday Weld and music by "rock 'n roller" Duane Eddy.


As an adult, Talbot turned from acting to journalism and did not dwell on his "Leave It To Beaver" heritage, turning down numerous LITB reunion offers in order to be taken seriously as a reporter.[11] But in recent years he has begun to reflect affectionately on his "Beaver" experience in articles and interviews and even in a Frontline documentary, "Diet Wars."[12] His articles have appeared in,[13] the Washington Post Magazine, The Nation, Mother Jones,[14] Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times. Talbot wrote about Robert Mugabe in an article for the Frontline/World website.[15] He wrote about "Leave it to Beaver" and becoming an anti-war activist for KQED's website.[16] In the 1970s, he was a reporter and editor for Internews, a radio and print foreign news service based in Berkeley, California.

Talbot's many TV documentaries include two Peabody Award winners, Broken Arrow, about nuclear weapons accidents,[17] and The Case of Dashiell Hammett, a biography of the crime writer.[18]

For Oregon Public Broadcasting, Talbot wrote and directed with David Davis, The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation, a two-hour history special that aired nationally on PBS in 2005, and was based on his earlier film, 1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation."

He has executive produced a number of indie documentaries, including The Price of Sex, a documentary by director and photo journalist Mimi Chakarova about sex trafficking in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Chakarova won the 2011 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York and the Daniel Pearl Award from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.[19]

From 2012 to 2014, Talbot was senior producer for video projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting, including feature news stories and short documentaries for the PBS Newshour, Univision, KQED-TV in San Francisco and the New York Times. At CIR, Talbot also led the editorial team that created and ran, "The I Files," the first investigative news channel on

Since 2015, Talbot has been the senior producer for documentary shorts at ITVS / Independent Lens (PBS) in San Francisco.

In 2019 Talbot began co-writing and co-producing the Bay Area NBC series, "Bay Area Revelations," narrated by Peter Coyote, starting with the episodes, "Exploring Space"[20] and "Loma Prieta Earthquake, 30 Years Later."[21]

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)[edit]

Talbot was also the co-creator and executive producer of Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders, a music show for PBS with host Marco Werman and reporters Alexis Bloom, Arun Rath and Mirissa Neff. The pilot episode aired in 2010 with stories about the Russian propaganda song "A Man Like Putin," Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and "Borat" music composer Erran Baron Cohen, and a performance by fado singer Mariza.[22]

A second one-hour episode aired in 2012 with Wynton Marsalis, Youssou N'Dour, Julie Fowlis and Of Monsters and Men.[23] Talbot was also the executive producer of a series of twenty "Sound Tracks" online music videos for PBS Digital and YouTube, including interviews with and performances by Levon Helm, Yuja Wang, Hélène Grimaud, KT Tunstall, Seun Kuti, Seu Jorge, Anoushka Shankar and Of Monsters and Men.[24]

Talbot wrote the one-hour political biography, Moscone: A Legacy of Change (2018), about San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, "the people's mayor," who was assassinated along with gay Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.[25]


In the 1980s, Talbot was a staff reporter and producer at KQED-TV, the PBS affiliate in San Francisco, where he produced local documentaries, as well as national PBS documentaries such as Namibia: Behind the Lines, South Africa Under Siege (a portrait of Nelson Mandela's ANC in exile), and The Gospel and Guatemala with Elizabeth Farnsworth (an investigation of presidential strongman Efrain Rios Montt and his "born again" U.S. supporters). He has written and produced (or co-produced with Joan Saffa and Judy Flannery) several hour-long PBS biographies of noted writers, including: Dashiell Hammett, Ken Kesey, Beryl Markham,[26] Carlos Fuentes,[27][28] and Maxine Hong Kingston. He also produced and co-wrote a PBS biography of John Dos Passos[29]

For KQED in 1991, Talbot investigated the car bomb explosion in Oakland, CA. that nearly killed Earth First! environmentalist Judi Bari. His documentary, Who Bombed Judi Bari?, critiqued the FBI and Oakland police department charges against her and raised questions about who was responsible for placing the pipe bomb in her car.[30] Returning again to KQED in 2001, Talbot wrote and produced a one-hour documentary about Jerry Brown as mayor of Oakland, The Celebrity and the City.[31] He had previously produced a KQED documentary about San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, "The Art of Being Mayor."

At KQED, Talbot also reported and produced dozens of feature stories for The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour


Talbot has had a long association with Frontline beginning with his documentary on the financing of the 1992 presidential campaign, The Best Campaign Money Can Buy, which won a DuPont Award, and continuing through 2007 with his documentary on the media, News War: What's Happening to the News.

His other Frontline news documentaries include "The Heartbeat of America" (an investigation of General Motors), "Public Lands, Private Profits" (about gold mining on federal land in the West), "Rush Limbaugh's America",[32] "The Long March of Newt Gingrich", "Why America Hates the Press", "Spying on Saddam",[33] "Justice for Sale",[34] and "The Battle Over School Choice".

His "investigative biography" of Newt Gingrich – "The Long March of Newt Gingrich" (1995) – drew renewed interest and was posted with updates on the Frontline website in 2012 when Gingrich made his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.[35]

In 2002, Frontline's executive producer David Fanning named Talbot as series editor of Frontline World, Frontline's international news magazine series.[36] Between 2002 and 2008, Talbot oversaw the editorial content of 30 hour-long television episodes and helped commission and supervise nearly 100 broadcast stories.

With reporter Kate Seelye, Talbot also produced a half-hour FRONTLINE/World story, "The Earthquake", about political turmoil in Lebanon and Syria.[37] He was senior producer of the Emmy-winning FRONTLINE/World documentary by Gwynne Roberts, Iraq: Saddam's Road to Hell, an investigation of a massacre of Kurds carried out by Saddam Hussein's regime.

With colleague Sharon Tiller, Talbot also oversaw the Frontline World website and its Emmy Award and Webby Award-winning online video series, Rough Cuts[38]

Based at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, Talbot and Tiller taught classes and helped identify and mentor the "next generation of video journalists" whose work was showcased on Frontline/World.[39]

Frontline World won the 2004 Overseas Press Club of America award for best international TV reporting.

Personal life[edit]

Stephen Talbot lives in San Francisco with his wife, Pippa Gordon, a medical social worker. They have a son, Dashiell, and a daughter, Caitlin. They named their son Dashiell, now an attorney, after San Francisco mystery writer Dashiell Hammett. His daughter, Caitlin, graduated with an M.F.A. from American Conservatory Theater, in San Francisco.[40] In 2015, he wrote a story, "Call the Midwife", reminiscing about the home birth of his daughter.[41]

Talbot's sister, New Yorker magazine staffer Margaret Talbot, wrote The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century (Riverhead Books, 2012), about their father, Lyle Talbot, and their family history.[42] His brother, David, is the author of several books, including "Season of the Witch" about San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s, and was the founder and original editor of His sister, Cynthia, is a medical doctor in Portland, Oregon. His nephew, Joe Talbot, won the Best Director prize at Sundance for his debut feature film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019).


Talbot has won numerous awards for his broadcast journalism, including two national Emmy Awards, four local (San Francisco) Emmys, three Golden Gate Awards from the San Francisco International Film Festival, three Thomas M. Storke International Journalism Awards from the World Affairs Council of Northern California, three Peabody Awards, two DuPont-Columbia Journalism Silver Batons, a George Polk Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club of America, a First Prize TV Award from the Education Writers Association, a National Press Club Arthur Rowse Award for media criticism, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He has been nominated three times for best documentary script writing by the Writers Guild of America.

Select filmography[edit]

See the complete Stephen Talbot filmography at IMDB
Year Title Role
1959 Leave it to Beaver
1959-1963 56-episodes (TV)
Gilbert Bates
1960 Perry Mason
The Case of the Wandering Widow (TV)
Jimmie Kendall
1961 The Twilight Zone
Static (TV)
The Boy
1962 The Twilight Zone
The Fugitive (TV)
1980 "Broken Arrow: Can a Nuclear Weapons Accident Happen Here?"
Reporter, Co-Producer
1982 The Case of Dashiell Hammett
1984-85 The Gospel and Guatemala
Reporter, Co-Producer
1986 "World Without Walls: Beryl Markham's African Memoir" (TV) Writer, Co-Producer
1987 "Further! Ken Kesey's American Dreams"
Writer, Co-Producer
1989 Crossing Borders: The Journey of Carlos Fuentes
Writer, Co-Producer
1992 Frontline
The Best Campaign Money Can Buy (TV)
1993 Frontline
"The Heartbeat of America" (TV)
1994 Frontline
"Public Lands, Private Profits" (TV)
1994 Frontline
"Rush Limbaugh's America" (TV)
Producer, Co-Writer
1995 Frontline
The Long March of Newt Gingrich (TV)
Producer, Co-Writer
1996 Frontline
"Why America Hates the Press" (TV)
Correspondent, Producer
1999 Frontline
"Spying on Saddam" (TV)
1999 Frontline
Justice for Sale (TV)
Producer, Co-Writer
2000 Frontline
"Battle Over School Choice" (TV)
Producer, Writer
2001 "The Celebrity and the City" (Jerry Brown as mayor of Oakland)
Producer, Writer
2002-2008 Frontline
"Frontline World" (TV) 30 episodes
Series Editor, Senior Producer
2004 Frontline
Diet Wars (TV)
2005 The Sixties: The Years That Shaped
a Generation
2007 Frontline
News War: What's Happening to the News (TV)
Producer, Co-Writer
2010 & 2012 "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders"
Executive Producer
2011 "The Price of Sex"
Executive Producer
2013 "To Kill a Sparrow"
(short film)
Senior Producer
2015 "Daisy and Max"
Al Jazeera America
Executive Producer
2018 "Moscone: A Legacy of Change" (TV) Writer


  1. ^ ""Sound Tracks" proposed for PBS, 2011". 2011-09-19. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  2. ^✓&f[access_types][]=online
  3. ^ "The Center for Investigative Reporting".
  4. ^ Mel Gussow (1996-03-05). "Lyle Talbot, 94, Charactor [sic] Actor And TV Neighbor - New York Times". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  5. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 591. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  6. ^ a b "The Day the Beaver Died: Reflections on Becoming an Anti-War Activist". KQED. 1 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Beaver and Gilbert". 19 March 1959 – via
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b Talbot, Stephen. "Living Down Beaver". Salon. Archived from the original on 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2006-10-08.
  10. ^ "Stephen Talbot". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Confessions Of A Frontline Dieter | Diet Wars | FRONTLINE". PBS. 2004-04-08. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  13. ^ "Stephen Talbot". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  14. ^ "Carlos Fuentes: The Mother Jones Interview".
  15. ^ "FRONTLINE/WORLD . Zimbabwe - Shadows and Lies . Recollections of Robert Mugabe . PBS". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  16. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "("Search Results for 'Broken Arrow'")". Peabody Awards. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 18 July 2018. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Current Affairs: The Case of Dashiell Hammett". Peabody Awards. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 18 July 2018. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ Stephen Talbot's channel on YouTube
  25. ^ "Moscone: A Legacy of Change - KVIE Documentaries" – via
  26. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (1986-10-08). "TV REVIEWS - 'World Without Walls,' About Beryl Markham". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  27. ^ Beryl Markham. "Fuentes in a TV Film, On Life and Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  28. ^ "TV review of biography of Beryl Markham". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  29. ^ Goodman, Walter. "TV WEEKEND; Rediscovering a 30's Novelist Who Touched a Generation".
  30. ^ Los Angeles Times review|url=
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2017-07-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ Walter Goodman (1995-02-28). "TELEVISION REVIEW; What Makes Rush Limbaugh Tick So Loudly - New York Times". Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  33. ^ Walter Goodman (1999-04-27). "TELEVISION REVIEW; From Alpha Dog to Wound-Licking in Iraq - New York Times". IRAQ: Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  34. ^ "Video: The Journal: Justice For Sale | Watch Bill Moyers Online | PBS Video". 2010-02-19. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  35. ^ Sarah Moughty (2011-12-19). "The Long March of Newt Gingrich: Part One | The Long March of Newt Gingrich | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  36. ^ "Frontline Takes a "World" View in New PBS Series Premiering Thursday, May 23 - PBS About". Frontline Takes a "World" View in New PBS Series Premiering Thursday, May 23 - PBS About.
  37. ^ "FRONTLINE/WORLD . Lebanon - The Earthquake . Index page". PBS. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  38. ^ "'Frontline/World' video journalists bring world to Web".
  39. ^ "Frontline World video journalists bring world to Web", San Francisco Chronicle, October 12, 2007.
  40. ^ "Acting up / ACT's Young Conservatory students have the passion and talent to make it".
  41. ^ "Call the Midwife: A Home Birth Story". 28 January 2015.
  42. ^ The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century: Margaret Talbot: 9781594487064: Books. 2012-11-08. ISBN 978-1594487064.

External links[edit]