Are you an only child?
I’m not the only child, but I’m like an only child. One sister is 18 years older and the other sister is 11 years older. My mom was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with me before she knew she was pregnant. I was a total mistake. I don’t think they quite got over that until I was quite a bit older.
So you didn’t grow up with many other children?
I led a lonely life to tell you the truth. I’d go out with my BB gun and my dog and I’d shoot birds and sparrows. I spent a lot of my life by myself.
How did you come to Los Angeles?
They call Long Beach “Little Iowa” because thousands of Iowans moved to Long Beach. So we came out. It was 1943. I was 9 years old. We ended up staying out here. My dad thought he was going to retire. Instead of retiring he became a builder.
What about your mom?
My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She was pretty depressed, to tell you the truth. I think my sister pulled me through that. My sister is still living. She drives everywhere and lives in Huntington Beach.
Who have been the biggest influences on your life?
I had 34 cousins, not one of whom had ever gone to college. My sister married a man who went to the University of Chicago to get his Ph.D. He was really weird in our family. He’d not only gone to college but he was going on to get a Ph.D. He was a big influence on me. It didn’t want to admit it at the time, but now I look back and think, how did I miss that? He bought a Cadillac, I bought a Cadillac. I didn’t know I was copying him.
What about professional influences?
Carl Rogers was one of the great psychologists of his time. He was at the University of Chicago and I went to study under him. He left, but all of his people were still on faculty so I’m a humanist just like he was. There was a guy who was faculty at USC for 30 years named Lee Edward Travis. He was my hero. He was one of the great psychologists in America. He had enormous style as a human being. He was brilliant intellectually and emotionally and I was proud beyond words to be chosen as his successor. He’s the reason I’m Neil Clark Warren. I wanted to have three names like he did.