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A Biography of Fenway Park.

Boston Globe sports writer Dan Shaughnessy who has written the new book "Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures." (Houghton Mifflin) The baseball park is scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt in early part of the next century. Shaughnessy has also written "The Curse of the Bambino," "At Fenway," "Seeing Red," "Ever Green," and "One Strike Away."

19:55

Other segments from the episode on August 16, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 16, 1999: Interview with Brian Dennehy; Interview with Dan Shaughnessy; Review of Macy Gray's album "Macy Gray On How Life Is."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 16, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081601np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Interview with Brian Dennehy
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

DAVID BIANCULLI, GUEST HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR.

I'm David Bianculli, filling in for Terry Gross.

On today's FRESH AIR, a talk with actor Brian Dennehy about what it takes to play Willy Loman. Dennehy is currently starring as Loman in the Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman." He'll tell us about that and more.

Also, Boston's Fenway Park. The 87-year-old park is one of the last of the old-time ballparks, and now they're about to tear it down to build a newer version of an old-time ballpark. We talk with writer Dan Shaughnessy about the park's glory days. And rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the debut album "Macy Gray on How Life Is."

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First the news.

(NEWS BREAK)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR.

I'm David Bianculli, filling in for Terry Gross.

Brian Dennehy has been an actor on stage, screen and TV for more than 25 years, yet until recently many people have known Dennehy less by his name than his roles, from the charming but deadly sheriff in the movie "Silverado" to the kindly alien in "Cocoon."

His current Broadway role as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" has changed all that. The play earned Tony Awards for Best Revival, for director Robert Falls (ph), for supporting actress Elizabeth Franz and for Dennehy in the starring role of a man who was inspired to live the life of a salesman.

(BEGIN CLIP - "Death of a Salesman")

BRIAN DENNEHY: I met a salesman. It was in the Parker House. His name was Dave Singleman, and he was 84 years old. And he had drummed merchandise (INAUDIBLE) 31 states. (INAUDIBLE) days, he'd go up to his room, you understand. He'd put on his green velvet slippers -- I'll never forget -- and pick up his phone and call the buyers. And without ever leaving his room at the age of 84, he made his living!

Of course, boy, when I saw that, I -- I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. I mean, what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of 84, 20, 30 different cities, pick up a phone and be remembered and -- and loved and helped by so many different people, you know? When he died -- by the way, he died the death of a salesman, in his green velvet slippers in the smoker of the New York, New Haven and Hartford going into Boston.

(END CLIP)

BIANCULLI: The part of Willy Loman is a grueling role, and Dennehy -- 61 -- has no understudy. I asked him what it was like to perform that part so many times a week, month after month.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

DENNEHY: Doing a demanding role in the theater over a long period of time is like having a bad case of Lyme disease or the flu. You find yourself taking fin (ph) soup and resting a lot, and then getting up and going to the theater, so that you have that explosive energy that you need for the three-hour period that the play runs. And then after that, you collapse, and you go back to your very monk-like existence.

And it -- you know, it becomes -- you become an acolyte. I mean, you -- what you do is the play, and you do very little else. So it's a grind. It's tough. At the same time, it certainly represents for me the kind of culmination of many years of being in the business and many years of life. I mean, Willy is a part that has -- has more to do with your life experiences than it does with your acting experiences. And I suspect it would be very difficult for someone 35 or 40 years old to play Willy Loman. I think you've got to have the age and the scars and the toughened hide to play Willy, to understand him.

BIANCULLI: Is there a moment in "Death of a Salesman," or was there a moment in preparing for "Death of a Salesman," where the character of Willy Loman really hit you personally?

DENNEHY: Well, there was a moment in rehearsal. I had an awful lot of trouble. I always have trouble in the first few weeks because I'm struggling with the lines and I'm trying to rationalize what it is I'm doing. And this is why you have directors, and this is why Bob is such a good director. And I kept saying to him, "I don't understand this guy. I don't understand what's going on here. I don't understand why he does this." And even though the rehearsals were going very well, I had no idea why certain things were happening.

And Bob said, "Don't try to understand it. Willy does not lead an examined life. He's not capable of it, and he's afraid to examine his life, because if he does, he'll see all kinds of things that he doesn't want to see. What Willy does is live by instinct. He lives by a bumper-sticker philosophy, and he keeps lowering his head and just going straight ahead at his life. There's an instinctive, primal quality to the way he lives."

And when I realized that, and I realized that that was right, it became clearer. Acting is strange in that way. It's very hard to hold. It's quicksilver.

There's a great story about Maggie Smith when she did Desdemona to Olivier's famous Othello. And after the show had been running about four or five months, Othello tried all -- I mean, Olivier tried all kinds of interesting things. He made himself into a black man. He lowered his voice, and he did all kinds of interesting physical things in order to get this Othello.

And one night it all came together, and it was extraordinary. It was just an extraordinary performance. And Maggie Smith ran down to Olivier's dressing room to tell him that. And she walked in, and Olivier was sobbing, uncontrollably sobbing at his make-up table. And she was shocked, and she said, "Larry, what's the matter?"

She said, "How can -- why are you so upset? That was brilliant. I've never seen anything like that." And he turned to her, and he says, "Yes, I know, and I don't know why."

DENNEHY: Oh, wow.

DENNEHY: And at the end of the day, that's what happens. You never know why.

BIANCULLI: OK, well, I've got a question that you can answer right now and...

DENNEHY: Maybe.

BIANCULLI: Oh, I'm pretty sure. This one is another Chicago role that you did. You played Hickey (ph) in an "Iceman Cometh."

DENNEHY: That's right.

BIANCULLI: And then you come to Broadway and you're up against Kevin Spacey playing the same role on Broadway.

DENNEHY: Yeah.

BIANCULLI: And I'm not asking you to say who is a better actor, you or Kevin. But since you've played both of these salesman roles, which is a better role, do you think, Hickey or Willy?

DENNEHY: Well, I don't know. I think that's a very difficult question to answer because typically, the part that you're playing is the one that's most -- that resonates strongly -- most strongly inside. I would have to say that -- now, I did that part -- I was -- it was 10 years ago. I was 50, and I think I was physically a lot stronger then than I am now. When I say that I think that Willy is harder to do, what has to be factored in is that I'm older and perhaps not as vigorous as I was 10 years ago.

But I do think that Willy is a harder part because what happens with Hickey -- and it's a wonderful, wonderful part, and God bless Kevin Spacey for doing it and for bringing it to Broadway. I mean, that's -- that's a courageous and an important thing to do.

Having said that, there is a long kind of slow, gradual build-up to the enormous 4th act speech, and it is, believe it or not, folks, in the 4th act when that speech comes, where Hickey carries -- sounds forth for 30, 35 minutes, 40 minute, whatever it is, and the whole climax of the play is reached. And it is like climbing Mount Everest. There's an awful lot of trudging up these steep ascents, but it's the last huge speech where you're actually doing all the pyrotechnics.

With Willy, early on in the play, he begins -- he has a -- he had a breakdown right in front of us. And he jumps into this -- into this maelstrom of emotions that are torturing him, and we see that.

And there are lots of moments in the play when he's just moving back and forth between his normal life, his everyday life, which he is desperately trying to hang onto, and this -- this torture of the past and what might have been and what should have been and where he did right and where he did wrong, so that the -- there is no -- there is no rising, slowly rising arc in the part. It's more like a series of jagged U-turns.

And it's exhausting, so it's -- I find this play much harder to do, much more physically difficult to do than I found Hickey. But Hickey -- Hickey, believe me, was tough. You know, to say which one is the better part, which one is the harder part, it's very difficult to say. The one that you're doing now is usually the harder one.

BIANCULLI: All right. Our guest is Brian Dennehy, the Tony-winning star of "Death of a Salesman."

To go back to how you got on the stage in the first place -- I understand you were raised Irish Catholic in Queens...

DENNEHY: Right.

BIANCULLI: ... and in high school, you were both on the football team and in the high school theater. Is that right?

DENNEHY: Well, we didn't have a high school theater program when I started high school. I had a wonderful teacher named Chris Sweeney (ph), who is still a friend of mine, who's still very much a part of my life -- I was one of those very, very fortunate young people who had an extraordinary mentor at the right age. I was 13 or 14, and I was a completely wiseass, and Chris realized that there was some energy there -- I wouldn't call it talent at that point, but energy. And he was interested in theater himself, so he started a theater department at this Catholic boys' -- all-boys school. And we started out by doing "Macbeth." And I was 13 or 14 years old, and we did a shortened version of "Macbeth" for the student body, which, again, was a bunch of tough Irish Catholic boys, 1952, 1953.

BIANCULLI: Right. Really wanted to hear Shakespeare.

DENNEHY: Yeah, they really wanted to see me play Macbeth. And people always say, "Boy, you had a lot of guts to go out there and play Macbeth in front of this audience." And I say, "Can I tell you something? Not nearly as much guts as the little 13-year-old freshman who played Lady Macbeth." He was really brave because he put on a dress -- and he was good, too. He was -- he was very good. That took guts.

But anyway, Chris -- as any great teacher does, Chris opened a door and showed me something on the other side that I didn't even know existed. And of course, that something at that point was just a possibility. And eventually, I got back into acting, and I became an actor, and -- but I owe it really all to that initial stimulus, that idea that there was something that I could do that I really liked, I enjoyed, I cared about, and maybe make a life at it.

BIANCULLI: Even before you became an actor for real, what actors and actresses inspired you?

DENNEHY: Well, I think as a kid, I liked -- I liked, you know, the -- I loved John Wayne, and it's only in recent years that I've come to realize what an interesting actor he was. I loved him, and I didn't really know why. Very few people do. But of course, John Wayne had the essential quality that an actor must have, which is the ability to suspend disbelief.

Now, later on, of course, I, like many of my peers, was enormously affected by Marlon Brando. And I remember vividly seeing at the age of 14 or whatever "On the Waterfront." And for the first time -- because this is not something that John Wayne could do for me, or Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart or any of those guys. For the first time, when I saw that picture, I realized that there were people in the business who looked like me and who sounded like me and who had -- who came from places like I came from.

Before that time, acting was like ballet. It was something that I could -- I could appreciate, but never could consider myself a part of. But all of a sudden, acting became a possibility because there were people in this movie doing it that I knew were actors, but they were like no actors I'd ever seen before.

BIANCULLI: My guess is actor Brian Dennehy. He's currently starring as Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway.

Back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(ID BREAK)

BIANCULLI: Back to our interview with actor Brian Dennehy.

Let me ask you -- one of the things that I really love about your career is that you don't seem to have any snobbery about stage versus movies versus TV.

DENNEHY: That's a very kind way of putting it. (laughter)

BIANCULLI: But looking back, the -- each of those areas requires something, I think, very different in an actor. And what are the frustrations and freedoms of each? I mean, how is stage acting different from TV acting, different than movie acting, when you're putting together a role?

DENNEHY: Well, for one, you get paid a hell of a lot less. That's a -- my -- once I became a professional actor -- and it took a long time. I really wasn't making a living at this until I was in my late 30s. I was playing catch-up. I had kids. I had kids who were getting ready to go to college, and I knew I had the responsibility, which I did not resent, to make sure that they had good ens. I had a wife that had made great sacrifices over the years, whom I knew it was not fair to ask any further sacrifices of. So I made decisions in those days to do certain things that I probably shouldn't have done.

I did a lot of television. But I was paying the bills, and I was sending my kids to school, and eventually trying to help them buy houses and so forth. And I have no regrets about that. The -- I learned a lot doing television. I learned how to work fast. I learned how to rewrite stuff in a hurry that was barely written. And I had a good time and certainly made a good living at it.

I got a chance to be in some really good movies, and I learned that part of the business, to see a real good filmmaker work, like Alan Pakula or Larry Kasdan or even Peter Greenaway, who was probably the most unique individual making movies at the time, and maybe even today.

So I had a wide-ranging career. I've never been as careful about my choices as I should have been, and there are some regrets about that, but not too many.

BIANCULLI: Let me ask you some questions about audiences. First of all, before I forget -- this is a fairly recent thing that made the papers. Somebody in the audience when you were performing "Death of a Salesman" in New York came in very late, and you sort of broke character to scold them. And I...

DENNEHY: Well, that's not really -- that's not really true.

BIANCULLI: Well, whatever really happened...

DENNEHY: Because you're always -- you always have to deal with latecomers. No, because I -- these things always have a way of becoming something else. What had happened was -- you always have to deal with latecomers, and you just ignore that and go on.

But what happened was that there was an argument that broke out between two patrons, at least two patrons, in the balcony about the seating. And there was -- they were arguing at the top of their voices. And meantime, me and Linda are trying to do the scene.

So I finally stopped, and I said, "Look, why don't you straighten out your problems, and we'll wait. Let us know when you're ready, and we'll go on." There's no point in trying to compete with it. I waited for a second, and she said, "OK, we're all right now." The woman, whoever it was -- a woman's voice, said "Thank you. We're OK now."

And I just said -- I just said, "You know, if you came on time, you wouldn't have that problem." And the audience applauded, and we went on.

BIANCULLI: It's got to be...

DENNEHY: Everybody talks about cell phones.

BIANCULLI: Yes.

DENNEHY: And everybody talks about candy wrappers. But what drives me nuts are the latecomers. Somebody pays $75 for these tickets, and then they come late!

BIANCULLI: Yeah.

My guest is Brian Dennehy.

How important is the set to this production of "Death of a Salesman"?

DENNEHY: Well, I think it's very important. I think that one of the unfortunate things about this year with the Tony Awards -- what happens is the lighting and set categories are -- dramas and musicals are all mixed up, which is too bad because musicals understandably get a lot more attention in those categories.

But I think Mark Wedland (ph) and Mike Philippi (ph) did extraordinary work. I remember saying to Michael, who did the lighting design -- who lives in Baltimore, works -- lives and works in Baltimore. I said, "Michael, I feel like I'm standing in the dark up here." And he said, "Brian, one thing you have to understand," he says, "in this play, in this production," he said, "the dark is just as important as the light." And he was right about that, as he was about so much else.

I think it's very important. It's very much of a departure from what had been done before, which was the classic Joe Malzaner (ph) set, with the little house between the big projections. But I think it adds a great deal. I mean, there are people who hate the set, but I think it's -- it's a modern set, but I think it's very, very important. And it's a real important part of the success of this production.

BIANCULLI: Well, the way it shifts around to show the different viewpoints and the different realities of Willy I think is crucial to this understanding of the play.

DENNEHY: Yeah. The original title of this play was "Inside His Head," and Arthur wanted it to be that, Willy living in the present and living in the past simultaneously.

BIANCULLI: As you've come to know Arthur Miller, what advice or compliments or anything has he given you that really registered and that you'll always walk away treasuring?

DENNEHY: Well, I -- you know, we've become pretty friendly, and he's a wonderful person. I mean, he has -- he has something which I envy, which is peace. He has a great sense of peace. This is a guy who lived an extraordinary life and did extraordinary work and continues to do that work and is very, very smart and right to the minute and sharp as hell. But he's also found some peace, which is a nice thing to have.

And I just -- I admire him, and I like him. He's a good man, and he's a great artist. And I don't know. I just -- he's -- every once in a while, you bump into somebody in your life, if you're lucky, you know, who kind of just illuminates everything around you, and Arthur is one of those people.

BIANCULLI: Has he said anything that really struck you?

DENNEHY: Well, he's very careful with his -- his compliments, but I -- you know, I know he likes this production. I know he likes this Willy. It's not Manny Newman (ph), who was the real Willy, but he -- he had -- he said one thing. He didn't say it to me, but he said it to one interviewer, and I treasure it, and I will always treasure it. What he said -- he said, "Well, I really admire Brian because he goes out there every night and he falls on his sword." (laughter) And he's exactly right. That's what I do.

BIANCULLI: Well, Brian, I want to thank very much for that production and that performance and for being here today on FRESH AIR.

DENNEHY: Thank you.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

BIANCULLI: Actor Brian Dennehy. Through October he's starring on Broadway in "Death of a Salesman."

I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: David Bianculli, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Brian Dennehy
High: Actor Brian Dennehy, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Willy Loman in the current Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman," is interviewed about that role, and other highlights of his body of work on stage, screen, and television.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Brian Dennehy; Broadway

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview with Brian Dennehy

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 16, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081602NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Interview with Dan Shaughnessy
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

Red Sox fans are debating the pros and cons of a future baseball stadium which will replace Boston's Fenway Park, one of the oldest playing fields in the country.

Constructed in 1912, Fenway has inspired and exasperated players and fans alike, with its idiosyncratic field, hard bench seats, manual scoreboard, and decaying locker rooms.

Dan Shaughnessy was one of those kids who fell in love with baseball after watching his first game with his dad at Fenway Park. Shaughnessy is a sports writer with "The Boston Globe" and is the author of "Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures."

There are no seats in Fenway's outfield that serve is a target for home-run hitters. Instead, there's a huge wall in the outfield known as the Green Monster. If a ball hits the wall, it's still in play.

So line drives which would have made it into the stands as home runs in other parks become singles or doubles at Fenway. And the flip side is, pop-ups which normally would be caught in a larger field become easy homers.

FRESH AIR's Marty Moss-Coane asked Shaughnessy to describe the Green Monster.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

DAN SHAUGHNESSY, "FENWAY": Well, it really is the signature aspect of Fenway Park. It's this enormous wall that's 37 feet high. The breadth of it is quite a lot more than that, well over 100 feet. And when you walk into the park, you're struck by it. It's very green. It appears very close because of the size of it.

This is a function of the streets of Boston. When the ball park was laid out in 1912, they -- there are certain things you don't want. You don't want the sun setting in the hitter's eyes, and there are certain ways you need to lay out a ball park so that -- particularly during day baseball, which is all they had in 1912.

And because of this, it had to be angled a certain way, and because it's crammed into a neighborhood in Boston, really shoehorned in there, there are streets all around it, and the street right beyond left field was bordered by railroad tracks. It's the Framingham commuter rail now. And the Massachusetts Turnpike is also now alongside that commuter rail.

So they were prohibited from really expanding the dimensions further out. And at the time, the wall was put up just to keep the ball in play and keep fans outside. And as the hitters -- in 1934 when the park was rebuilt by Tom Yockey (ph), they made it as enormous as it is today, because that time -- by that time the baseball was livelier, and hitters were stronger, and there was a threat of a lot of balls going over this and having a real easy home run.

It's still considered an easy home run by a lot of hitters, but it gives and it takes, because line drives are often knocked down by them, they become singles where they would be home runs in other ball parks.

So it's -- it can work for or against a hitter, depending on what kind of a hitter he is.

MARTY MOSS-COANE: And how a ball bounces off the Green Monster?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, that's another thing. I mean, it's -- they've changed the fabric of it over the years. They were tin panels for a long time. It had a lot of dead spots in it where the ball would -- might drop straight down if it hit the middle of a tin panel. And if it hits a seam where there's a beam behind it, it would, of course, bounce out much more truly and firmly and further.

It's a little more uniform now. It's some sort of a -- I think some sort of a fabricated material or something. But it's -- the bounces are truer. All the outfielders will tell you that.

But there's still -- the angle of it, the closeness of it, it's very difficult for out-of-town outfielders to come in there and have any kind of mastery of it. And the Red Sox do have an advantage, because their outfielders know how to catch the carom a lot easier.

It's like playing in your back yard. You have ground rules. You know, the tree is here, you know, the milk carton's here, and, you know, you know it better than the other guys know it, and so you know how to take advantage of those things.

MOSS-COANE: Well, let's go back to 1912 when Fenway Park was built, built for $650,000. Give us a sense about what it was like to build this park, and what the Boston elders had in mind.

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, it was -- it went up very quickly, 1911 was the -- they announced the plans for it, and they really built it in a year. And the Taylor (ph) family, which then owned "The Boston Globe," built the ball park. And they had been at the Huntington Grounds about -- less than a mile away for the first 10, 11 years of the franchise's existence.

And the Taylor family had a realty company in the Fenway part of Boston and decided to build their new park there. And it was state of the art, of course, when it went up. Tiger Stadium opened the same day, April 20, 1912.

One of the pieces of history that's unique about both buildings, and particularly Boston, is that the "Titanic" sank five days before Fenway opened. And when you go through microfilm in an attempt to dig out the stories about the first days of Fenway, there -- it's -- they're really submerged, I guess you could say, by all the coverage of the "Titanic," because news traveled very slowly, obviously, in those days.

There was a tremendous amount of interest in the survivor lists, lists of the dead. And so many of those people were from the Northeast because the boat had -- you know, was coming to New York. So that story just engulfs everything in the newspapers during those days. So the opening of Fenway was really not a big deal when it finally happened.

MOSS-COANE: It's kind of amazing to imagine that there's still a functioning ball park where the scoreboard is still hand operated, but that's true at Fenway.

SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, and that's going to come back. I mean, part of the charm of the new places is, they're trying to make them like the old places. And so you will see, I believe, in a lot of the new parks, hand-operated scoreboards, because it's got that "Little Rascals" feel to it, you know, the crooked numbers and sliding into it.

And in Boston, they've never gotten away from it. I think the new ones -- it's kind of a charming nostalgic aspect.

Now, St. Louis went back to it, which has been nice. They've got a -- they had a dreadful circular park built in the '60s, but they've tried to make it nice. They've put real grass in it. They did go back to a hand-opeerated scoreboard. But, of course, Wrigley has the measure of that, and I think some of the new ones will return to it.

MOSS-COANE: But the idea of a slightly askew letter, that that's very nostalgic for people?

SHAUGHNESSY: Oh, sure, and, of course, in Boston, there's, like -- there's an Oz-like quality to it, because you've got this little guy behind the wall. I mean, who knows who's -- there are humans in there.

And one of the things we did in the book was -- you know, Stan went inside the wall and took pictures from inside the wall of the action that this guy would see as he looks through the cracks where the slots are for the numbers. And it's -- in any other park, the guy who's inside the wall would be standing in left field. But in Boston he's in -- he's out in the street, basically, he's in home run territory because the wall is so close.

But it's a very cramped, dark, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, place, sort of a Quasimodo dwelling. And there's -- it's visited by all forms of rodents and other things too. It's not a real great place.

MOSS-COANE: Well, is being a scoreboard keeper a prized job at Fenway Park?

SHAUGHNESSY: Oh, over the years it's been considered punishment by Joe Mooney (ph), the grounds crew chief, to -- you know, the guys who are late to work or aren't holding up their end, they get sentenced to wall duty.

MOSS-COANE: Is that right?

SHAUGHNESSY: Because, you know, it's particularly -- it -- the wall's a conductor of heat or cold, and it's -- whatever it is outside, it's twice as bad inside. So if it's April or October, it's cold, you got that. And if it's what it's been this summer, the guys -- I talked to a guy who used to work in his underwear and his boots in there, you know, and just sweat it out through the game, it was just so hot.

MOSS-COANE: It got that hot.

SHAUGHNESSY: Yes.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I do want to talk some more, but first we're going to take a short break. And our guest today on the show is Dan Shaughnessy. He writes for "The Boston Globe," and he's just written a book about Fenway Park in Boston, baseball park in Boston. It's called "Fenway," and it has photographs by Stan Grossfeld (ph).

We'll be back after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

MOSS-COANE: My guest is sports writer Dan Shaughnessy, and we're talking about his new book. It's a book about Fenway Park called "Fenway," filled also with lots of photographs.

I was interested, Ted Williams has a small essay in your book, and he says, "I think the park has hurt the game some." But then he also goes on to say that "It's really been home to me." And I get the feeling that for a lot of the players, there's a kind of love-hate feel that they have for Fenway Park.

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, for a guy like Ted, I mean, he was there from 1939 to 1960. It was his home office, and he was the kind of -- he was a real baseball creature, a guy who didn't have -- he didn't golf, he didn't have a lot of other interests. And so he was there early and stayed late.

And some of that was to avoid crowds and those kind of things, but he just liked being around it. You know, that's where he'd get his -- read his mail and hang out and get his treatments for whatever aches and pains he had. It really was his home away from home, and maybe more than his home, in many cases. So he has fond memories of all the years going to play there.

But at the same time, he doesn't like the creation of an unfair game at some point, and seeing a pitcher do really well and then have this ball that's not hit very far or very hard plop into the net for a game-winning three-run homer. And the unfairness of some of the long dimensions in right center field, which hurt his game, and other pull hitters who batted left-handed.

So he really has -- you know, people were surprised with Ted doing the foreword for our book that he was not as nostalgic about it. He's -- but he's -- Ted's a real contemporary guy. He's very generous to today's players, he's not one of these old curmudgeons who says, "The game was better in my day." He likes today's players. He likes today's game. And he thinks Boston needs a new park, and the last thing he wrote in his foreword, he said, "I won't shed a tear. Take a lot of good pictures of it." And that's what Stan Grossfeld went out and did.

MOSS-COANE: Do other teams not like playing at Fenway Park because it is -- what shall I say -- fairly rough and ready, from some of the pictures in the book? It's clear that for high-priced ball players, this is -- there are no fancy locker rooms in this place.

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, that's a good point. I mean, today's players, basically, I think that when they're playing the game, they like the old-timey field, they like the closeness of the fans. For a lot of hitters, like the dimensions, of course. And I think they like the fact that they're in a baseball town, where the fans really do appreciate the opposition of Ken Griffe (ph) Jr., or Cal Ripkin Jr., you know, guys who are good players, worthy players, they get a lot of applause here.

And if you make a great play, the fans understand that. So the players like that part of it. But today's players, as you point out, they like creature comforts, they like amenities. And there's not a lot of them here. So there's a lot of grousing about the small clubhouses, lack of training room facilities, players' lounges, batting cages, all the things -- you know, sauna baths, you name it. I mean, Fenway is -- this is -- it's like being at a B&B instead of a five-star hotel, you know, so I -- you know.

MOSS-COANE: Oh, I don't even think it's a B&B, frankly, looking...

SHAUGHNESSY: It is...

MOSS-COANE: ... I'm looking at a picture of actually Red Sox catcher Scott...

SHAUGHNESSY: Oh, the Scott Hattieburg (ph) picture.

MOSS-COANE: Well, here he is. Well, maybe you can describe it for us.

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, it's in the back of the book, and the Red Sox weren't particularly happy with that picture, because Stan goes places where no one else goes. It's one of the charms of his photography. It's why he's won two Pulitzer Prizes. And he is -- in this instance, he's captured Scott Hattieburg relieving himself in the trough which is between the dugout and the clubhouse.

And the interesting part about that is, that trough is quite public. There's a small wall separating it from the dugout. And where Scott Hattieburg is relieving himself, if he were to lean back and look over his right shoulder, he could actually see the pitcher's mound. I mean, it's quite public.

MOSS-COANE: No privacy.

SHAUGHNESSY: There's no privacy. And when you look at the runway around Hattieburg in this picture, it looks like Detective Andy Sipowitz should be bursting into a three-decker somewhere. I mean, it's just -- there's paint peeling off everywhere, and there's standing water. And it looks like a gross tenement building in New York City.

MOSS-COANE: Why do you think Fenway Park has inspired so much writing, prose, poetry? Is it something about the park, or is it something about New Englanders?

SHAUGHNESSY: We have the writers here, for one thing. I mean, it's -- I think it was John Cheever who said, "All literary men are Red Sox fans," you know. And there is this Calvinistic sense of something bad's going to happen. And the fact that they built this place on a rock, you know, when we started this whole New England region on a rock. And it's hard times.

And the Red Sox, they are hard times. You hope things are going to happen. Bad things happen. And then you complain about them all winter and start up again. So there's all this cycle of hope and dashed hopes.

And then you've got -- and it was easy rounding up, you know, people for this book. Stephen King's a season ticket-holder, Doris Kearns has regular seats and has been bringing her sons there for years and years. And a lot of literary people live in the region, and they love baseball because it's the best game, especially the best game for writers.

And, of course, Fenway itself is charming and easy to write about. And maybe it all started with John Updike when he went to Ted's last game in 1960 and wrote the -- one of the greatest sports pieces of all times.

MOSS-COANE: That helps.

SHAUGHNESSY: That helps.

MOSS-COANE: You describe the fans, Red Sox fans, and, I mean, it sounds like they appreciate good playing on both sides. But it sounds like you have to be long suffering to be a Red Sox fan. You have to be willing to put up with those long drought periods.

SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, there's a great deal of narcissism about it. It's the "Woe is us" attitude, and "This is the only region that's been deprived." And of course folks in Chicago laugh at that, because the Cubs go back to 1908, and the White Sox -- It's been a long time. The Red Sox last won a World Series in 1918, and then they traded Babe Ruth two years later, and they've not won since.

And that's where the Curse of the Bambino comes in, and all this folklore we have here about why bad things.

The thing about the Sox is, over and above the Cubs and the White Sox or other teams that fail to win, is that they generally come close, or they make you think that they're going to do it. They've been in four World Series since 18 (ph), and lost each one in the seventh game. They've had two one-game playoffs for American League supremacy, lost them both, both at home. And there's been a lot of leads in the second half of the season where it was insurmountable, and all of a sudden they were blown, and then ended up not winning.

So fans here tend to feel that something bad is going to happen if things are going well. And...

MOSS-COANE: It usually does.

SHAUGHNESSY: ... you don't have to be very old to remember Bill Buckner having that ground ball go through his legs, which was the ultimate Red Sox moment of the last 20 years.

MOSS-COANE: Are you one to tie yourself to one of the bleachers at Fenway Park and try to prevent the bulldozers from taking this place down, or do you think it's -- that Fenway has done its job, and it's now time to build something better, different?

SHAUGHNESSY: I was on the Save Fenway bandwagon for many, many years. And in a perfect world, I would like to see it last forever. I would like to keep going to games there. My children sit in the seats when I take them to the games, and we don't really complain about all the things that are wrong with it.

It's one of the interesting things is that Boston fans really don't complain about how much of it doesn't work, because they just love being there so much. It's like going to the old church where your father was baptized 80 years ago, and you don't worry if it's cold or a little bit leaky or there's no handicapped rails or all the things that it should have. I mean, you forgive those things because it's where your dad was baptized.

So I think that the fans here tend to take on that attitude. Sometimes when they go to other cities, like Baltimore, Cleveland, and they see these wonderful new parks that have old-timey feel to it, they do come back and say, "You know what? It could still be nice without being so wildly inconvenient."

So I've come around to the realization that the Red Sox have no intention of staying in this park. And there are all kinds of vigilante groups here, Save Fenway. But it's private property. You really can't tell someone who has a lovely old house in your neighborhood that they must stay in it. If they want to bulldoze the house and rebuild, they get to do that, if they have the means to do it.

And that's what we're really looking at here. And it's nobody else's business. I know the Sox have no designs on staying where they are. They want to build a new park right behind the old park and recreate the dimensions and bring in a Camden Yards kind of feel, still in the city, right next to the old park, with the same dimensions.

But you'll have wider aisles, you'll have space between your knees and the seat in front of you. You won't have troughs in the bathrooms. You'll be able to get concession food without waiting for two innings and missing things. There'll be better parking and access ramp, handicapped rails, all the kind of things that Fenway is just unable to reproduce.

You just can't make it bigger, and you can't scope out the bowl. And you won't be sitting behind poles any more. I mean, they can still have this lovely park with kooky dimensions and not have so many people sitting behind poles, trying to -- asking their neighbor what just happened.

So, I mean, the Save Fenway people, I love them, and my heart goes out to them. But they're basically like those Japanese warriors they found in the Philippines, you know, two or three years after World War II ended, they didn't get the memo, you know, I mean, it's over, and it's...

MOSS-COANE: It's gone. I mean, they've made their decision.

SHAUGHNESSY: ... it's done. They've made their decision.

The good news, for those of you who are worried about it, is, there's no great urgency about going to Fenway this weekend to see it before it's gone. Because the way things work around Boston, it's a glacial pace to all this stuff, and, I mean, we could all be dead by the time they have the new park. So I'm looking at the bright side.

MOSS-COANE: And I guess the date is, what, early 2000?

SHAUGHNESSY: They're saying 2003. I'd add five years to that, you know.

MOSS-COANE: Right.

SHAUGHNESSY: That's a casual, generous estimation. I just don't think they can pull it off as fast. They're woefully ill equipped and not prepared to do what they need to do. They've got to buy all kinds of land. There's tremendous intransigence in the neighborhood. There's people with fleabag hotels that all of a sudden announced they were going to build an MGM Grand on the site once the Red Sox wanted to buy their property. It's hilarious, what's gone on here.

So again, don't feel the need to go rush to Fenway. Just buy our book, and you'll preserve the memory, you'll be all set.

MOSS-COANE: So how are the Red Sox doing this year?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, they're a threat. I mean, the American League has, you know, three dominant teams, you know, in Texas and New York Yankees and Cleveland, and the Red Sox are fighting for that wild card position to make the playoffs with the other three.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I want to thank you very much, Dan Shaughnessy, for joining us today on FRESH AIR.

SHAUGHNESSY: Thank you, Marty.

BIANCULLI: Dan Shaughnessy is a sports writer with "The Boston Globe" and is the author of "Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures," which features photographs by Stan Grossfeld. He spoke with Marty Moss-Coane.

One guy who has been going to Fenway Park for over 50 years also happens to be a great jazz pianist, Dave McKenna.

(DAVE McKENNA PLAYS "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME")

BIANCULLI: Dave McKenna.

Coming up, Macy Gray makes her debut.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Dvid Bianculli, Philadelphi, PA; Marty Moss-Coane
Guest: Dan Shaughnessy
High: "Boston Globe" sports writer Dan Shaughnessy discusses his new book: "Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures." The baseball park is scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt in the early part of the next century.
Spec: Sports; Dan Shaughnessy; "Fenway: A Biography In Words And Pictures"

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview with Dan Shaughnessy

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 16, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081603NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: "Macy Gray On How Life Is"; A Review
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

BIANCULLI: The new first CD from singer Macy Gray is receiving a lot of attention for the way it blends pop, soul, and funk music. The 29-year-old singer from Canton, Ohio, seems to have emerged from nowhere.

But rock critic Ken Tucker hears the influences that have shaped her acclaimed debut.

(MACY GRAY SINGS)

KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC: The music industry hype of the summer in magazines from "Newsweek" to "The New Yorker" surrounds Macy Gray. She's being compared to everyone from Billie Holiday to Lauryn Hill, but it would be a shame if all these accolades backfired the way music promotions often do.

Potential listeners read the raves but don't hear much of the music on the radio, and so write a performer off as a critic's darling. That could happen to Macy Gray, whose music slips and slides across a lot of genres, thus making her a difficult sell in rigid radio formats.

(MACY GRAY SINGS)

TUCKER: Gray has a high, conversational voice with a chalky quality to it. Anyone whose voice curls up into the little-girl register while retaining womanly earthiness gets compared to Billie Holiday. But Gray's approach to songcraft reminds me more of next-big-things-turned-cult-artists like Joan Armitrading, Tracy Chapman, and Erica Badou (ph).

But none of them has ever gotten as funky as this.

(MACY GRAY SINGS "CALIGULA")

TUCKER: That song, called "Caligula," is distinguished by what it isn't. It's not pure pop, it's not rough hip-hop, and it's certainly not singer/songwriterly enough to be played on most college radio stations. But it is catchy as heck.

Gray studied filmmaking at the University of Southern California, and she's got a knack for cinematic sweep in her music. Listen to the start of this story-song called "I've Committed Murder."

(MACY GRAY SINGS "I'VE COMMITTED MURDER")

TUCKER: That song begins promisingly, like a coherent Tom Waits (ph) tale from a female perspective. But its problem, and one that it shares with a number of tunes on this debut, is that it doesn't really pay off emotionally. It's as if, for Gray and her producer, Andrew Slater, it's enough to establish a mood, an atmosphere, and then work variations on it for three or four minutes.

Sometimes her work consists of genre exercises such as this version of "Memphis Soul" in the Manner of Al Green and, more specifically, Ann Peebles (ph), called "I Can't Wait to Meet You."

(MACY GRAY SINGS "I CAN'T WAIT TO MEET YOU")

TUCKER: The full title of this project is "Macy Gray on How Life Is." Yet listening to it repeatedly and being charmed by its creator's open-hearted vocals and young prose dexterity, I never got a sense of what Macy Gray thinks life is. Maybe she's saving up that wisdom for her next CD, the one that'll offer us Macy Gray on How Life Is After the Hype Goes Away.

BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is critic at large for "Entertainment Weekly." He reviewed the debut album "Macy Gray on How Life Is."

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our engineer was Andre Bentum (ph). Dorothy Fairby (ph) is our administrative assistant. Research provided by Sam Adams. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. Terry Gross returns tomorrow.

I'm David Bianculli.

(MACY GRAY SINGS)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: David Bianculli, Philadelphia, PA; Ken Tucker
Guest:
High: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the debut album of singer Macy Gray, "Macy Gray On How Life Is."
Spec: Music Industry; Macy Gray; "Macy Gray On How Life Is"

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Macy Gray On How Life Is"; A Review
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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