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05:43

Other segments from the episode on November 19, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 19, 1999: Interview with Alan Alda; Review of the television show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"; Review of the film "Sleepy Hollow"; Interview with Dave…

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 19, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111901np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Interview with Actor Alan Alda
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Last night was Alan Alda's fifth and final episode on "E.R." as Dr. Gabe Lawrence, an innovator in emergency medicine who's forced to retire after he's diagnosed with Alzheimer's. In the climax of last night's episode, as Alda is preparing to leave the hospital at the end of his final day as a doctor, a patient comes into the E.R. with seizures, and the attending resident, Dr. Carter, can't stop them.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "E.R.")

ACTRESS: He's seizing again.

ACTOR: He's going to arrest. Dr. Lawrence, can you help me?

ALAN ALDA, ACTOR: I don't work here any more.

ACTOR: Please, I got a guy who's coding. He's pH is falling and his potassium's rising. He's having refractory seizures. Please. It's nothing obvious. It's not DKA, it's not sepsis, it's not aspirin, it's not guremia (ph)...

ACTRESS: He's throwing multifocal PVCs.

ALDA: Get me six of Pavulon.

ACTOR: Pavulon?

ALDA: Just do it.

ACTRESS: What's going on?

ACTOR: Guy with refractory seizures and acidemia. Dr. Lawrence has asked me to give him Pavulon.

ALDA: Come on, push it, Carter.

ACTRESS: I've never tried giving Pavulon for acidemia and seizures.

ALDA: It's strychnine poisoning. Give me that, I'll do it.

ACTOR: It worked! How did you know?

ALDA: Strychnine competitively antagonizes the central inhibition of glyceine, which causes hyperexcitation. I had a case like this 20 years ago. Patient tried to commit suicide by eating gopher go (ph). Once you see strychnine poisoning, you never forget it.

Check his pH. I'll bet you'll see it's coming back up.

Dr. Carter, your patient will recover.

ACTOR: Thank you.

ALDA: Score one for the absent-minded professor, huh?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: On this archive edition of FRESH AIR, we have a 1997 interview with Alan Alda. He became famous playing a doctor, Hawkeye Pierce, the always-wisecracking but deeply moral war surgeon in the TV series "M*A*S*H."

Alda's movies include "The Four Seasons," "Betsy's Wedding," "Whispers in the Dark," and "Flirting With Disaster." He co-starred in the Woody Allen films "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and "Everyone Says I Love You," in which he got to sing a Cole Porter song.

(AUDIO CLIP, "EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU")

ALDA: Looking at you,
While troubles are fleeing,
I'm admiring the view,
'Cause it's you I'm seeing.
And the sweet honeydew
Of well-being settles
Upon me.

What is this night
That shines when you enter
Like a star in the night?
And what's to prevent her
From destroying my sight,
If you center all of it
On me?

Looking at you,
I'm filled with the essence of,
The quintessence of joy.
Looking at you,
I hear poets telling of
Lovely Helen of Troy.

Darling,
Life seems...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: That's Alan Alda from the sound track of Woody Allen's film "Everyone Says I Love You."

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

How did you start working with Woody Allen?

ALDA: I worked with Woody for the first time, I think, about 30 years ago on a pilot that he wrote, and I had one of the -- a relatively small part in it. And it was about a troupe of improvising actors. And I had been an improviser. And I think it's one of the things that makes me enjoy working in his films, is that I enjoy improvising, and he wants the actors to improvise.

And we had -- after that pilot, we ran into each other every once in a while. But I didn't actually work with him again until "Crimes and Misdemeanors," when he just sent me a letter and asked me if I wanted to be in the movie.

GROSS: I thought it was so clever of him to cast you as, you know, this vain, self-absorbed producer, because you had had this image for so long as, like, Mr. Feminist, Mr. Sensitive. And it was such a wonderful turn for you. I...

ALDA: Yes, you know what's funny about that, I -- is that I think the last six or eight movies I've been in, I've been -- I've played either the bad guy or somebody who does kind of reprehensible things. And everybody always say, Boy, this picture is such a departure, you know.

GROSS: Right, yes. (laughs)

ALDA: I must have made such an impression the other way that every time -- no matter how many times I do the other thing, people are going to think it's a departure.

GROSS: Well, I know I saw you in "Whispers in the Dark," which is another one of those roles. You start off as a very kind of sensitive, fatherly psychotherapist...

ALDA: Right.

GROSS: ... and by the time the movie's over, you're a lecherous psycho killer.

ALDA: Yes, a homicidal maniac. Well, I should explain to you...

GROSS: Yes. That was a lot of fun.

ALDA: It's nice to be able to play yourself for a change, you know?

GROSS: (laughs) Really, really.

Let me ask you a few questions about "M*A*S*H*." What were your first impressions of the script?

ALDA: I thought it was an extremely good pilot when they sent me the pilot. I was in the Utah State Prison at the time, and this (inaudible)...

GROSS: Filming, filming a movie. (laughs)

ALDA: Yes, well, yes, yes, I was trying to work on the image there a little bit. I was shooting a movie for about three weeks in the Utah State Prison, and it -- they sent me the script of "M*A*S*H*," and the -- it was the best script I had read while I was in prison, certainly, but it was also the best script that -- of any television show I'd ever seen, I know. Larry Gelbart had written it, and it was really sharp, you know.

But I was concerned that -- what would -- I was concerned about what would happen after the show went into production. I didn't know if Larry would be part of it. And I was worried that it would become hijinks at the front, and that the war would just sort of exist as a pretext for silly stories.

And in fact, some of the early scripts done by freelance writers who didn't know what the possibilities were, and were sure that on television you don't go for anything substantive, wrote, in essence, "McHale's Navy" in Korea, you know, "McHale's Navy" on the ground. And it really scared me at that point.

But that -- by then, we had already had an agreement, because before I agreed to do the show, I had a midnight meeting with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, who were producing the show, and we all agreed that we wanted to do a show in which the war was seen for what it is, as, you know, a place where people are badly hurt. And the humor came out of the reaction to that, the humor came out of the crazy pressure everybody was put under.

GROSS: I guess the thought of things turning out badly, of it not being a script that you wanted, during the Vietnam era was pretty scary. I mean, you know, a war TV series during the Vietnam era that gave a kind of hijinks on the front message probably would have made you particularly uncomfortable.

ALDA: I think it would have -- yes, it probably would have been even more so then than it would be at any other time. But I always felt strongly about wars, and I -- and...

GROSS: But you were in the military, weren't you?

ALDA: Yes, I was in -- well, I was in the reserves. I don't know if you call that being in the military. They put me in charge of a mess hall at one point, and we had to feed 200 people three meals a day, and I had six guys who sort of stared blankly at the wall and played with the liver. They were -- I don't know how we fed those people.

But I wouldn't call that being in the military.

They were -- the -- but I -- you know, I had to face the idea of it, which was interesting. I mean, one -- I was -- I saw myself -- I watched myself as I was teaching people -- that was one of my jobs, to teach people how to kill the greatest number of people with a mortar shell. And I would keep them interested, and, you know, I wanted to be a good teacher. As long as they gave me a job, I did the best I could.

And I was, like, getting good at making them learn how to do this. And I had -- you know, you could have long discussions into the night, especially if you're a sophomore in college, about whether that's a moral thing to do. But the interesting thing about it is, I understood just from doing that, that when you're in a war, it's real, it's the real thing. People are going to get killed or lose their arms and legs.

And when we did "M*A*S*H*," I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out, that we -- that that's what we dealt with, and that we didn't gloss over that and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent.

GROSS: During the period that you were shooting "M*A*S*H*," you also became a women's rights activist. What had you seen in your own family or among your own friends or in yourself that led you in that direction?

ALDA: I don't know, everybody used to ask me that in those days. I never came up with a good answer. Time hasn't made that any better. I don't know why. I think I saw that there was -- I mean, I -- the argument for changing the way we dealt with one another was a good argument. There was -- there -- there was a -- I certainly didn't want my daughters to grow up -- I have three daughters, and I didn't want them to grow up in a world where it was taken for granted that they couldn't be what they wanted to be.

And I think I saw that there was -- that people listened if a man said that. That was unusual at that time.

GROSS: Do you think that being a women's right activist ever got in the way of certain roles you would have liked to have? And what I mean is, because you were so busy being the good guy that you wouldn't get the role as the bad guy.

ALDA: I don't know, I think -- I get -- I really don't know, but I think that part of the answer to that question is in the questions you've asked me today. You asked me about playing parts that are so different, like in the Woody Allen movie, in "Crimes and Misdemeanors," that was such a departure, you said.

And I think that that's in your head that way because you saw me talking on television and interviews as myself, and that sort of -- that -- whatever impression you got of me then, when I was campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, which -- and I haven't spoken politically in about 15 years, but I must have made some impression in those days, because it -- you still, you know, today, are asking me that question.

And I think that you -- I think that something of what you felt about me when you watched me as me sort of fused with what you thought when you saw me playing a character, and that wasn't just you, of course, that was critics and other people, so...

GROSS: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

ALDA: No, it's not a good thing. The -- it's a good -- it's -- If any -- In a perfect world for an actor, the actor -- the curtain should go up, and the actor should come out in character, and that's it, you shouldn't see the actor as himself or herself.

You know, unfortunately, whether I wanted to talk about a political issue that meant a great deal to me and that I was -- I thought I was being a good citizen talking about, whether I wanted to do that or not, I am still required to go out and appear as myself, and there's very few actors who can get away with not doing that. I think Robert DeNiro doesn't do -- he does hardly any interviews. But, you know, Woody Allen doesn't like to do interviews, but he is now doing interviews. The economics are forcing him into it, I think.

And the business is set up so that making the movie is only part of your work. The other part of your work is going out and...

GROSS: Promoting it, yes.

ALDA: ... slogging it, yes. And when you do that -- you can't do it in character, you have to do it as yourself, so the audience gets to see a little bit about where the rabbits are hidden. And that's not so good.

GROSS: My guest is Alan Alda. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

(BREAK)

GROSS: Let's get back to our 1997 interview with Alan Alda.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

Now, I want to ask you about your formative years. You grew up in show business. Your father was Robert Alda, who, among other things, originated the role of Skye Masterson in the Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls," played George Gershwin in the 1945 film "Rhapsody in Blue." What was he doing before the movies, when you were a young boy?

ALDA: Well, when I was born, he was in burlesque, and I spent the first three years of my life standing in the wings watching strippers and comics and chorus girls. And it was a bizarre beginning to a life. Probably a lot -- most of the questions you asked me today can be answered by that, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: What did you make of it as a very young boy, watching strippers? Did you have any idea what that was about?

ALDA: I didn't. I -- they didn't, but -- I do remember -- you know, children are so much more aware than everybody gives them credit for. I remember thinking -- because it -- when the chorus girls would take me up to their dressing room -- you know, they would take me up and they would comb my hair and talk to me. And I was like a mascot, like a little pet.

And then they'd say, "OK, Ally, we're going to change our clothes now, turn your back." And I'd stand with my face pressed against their costumes hanging on the wall, and I'd smell the perfume, and I'd hear them behind me. And I remember thinking, They don't think this means anything to me, you know. (laughs) But this is really interesting.

And that -- it had to make -- had to have a tremendous impact on me. It was a very unusual beginning to a life.

GROSS: Did you (inaudible)...

ALDA: I can't trace the roots of that to my present behavior, but -- (laughs) I do subscribe to a G-string service. They send me a G-string of the month, and it's very nice.

GROSS: Do you remember the most impressive striptease act from that period?

ALDA: No, I have talked -- I've interviewed people, strippers and comics, from that period, because I was thinking of writing about it. And I heard some really interesting stories. There was a woman who stripped with a snake, and another woman who stripped with a bird, trained birds, and the birds would take her clothes off. (laughs) But the one with the snake was really weird.

And there was another one, another one who stripped with a swan. She did a dance called "Leda and the Swan." And she said, Oh, I got another booking in Philadelphia, me and the duck, you know.

They were -- they all had to have a gimmick, as they said in the song in the musical "Gypsy." And some of them, the gimmick was just that they would go as far as they could go, and usually on closing night, they would be raunchier and more naked than they had been up until then, because if the cops closed them down, they were on the road the next day anyway.

GROSS: Growing up on the burlesque circuit, you must have grown up thinking that one of the most important things you could do is have a good gag.

ALDA: A good what?

GROSS: Gag, good jokes.

ALDA: Oh, oh. Well, I really had a tremendous education watching the greatest comics that we had at the time, Rags Raglan (ph), Phil Silvers, Red Buttons, all these people were -- Hank Henry was another great burlesque comic. He was my father's partner, and my father and Hank would write their own sketches.

They -- watching them from the wings, and then later watching Sam Levine when he acted with my father in "Guys and Dolls," I would stand in the wings twice a day for two years watching them, and I'd especially watch Sam. All of these people were a tremendous education for me. I stood on the side, and watching from the side, you see not only what their performance is, you see where it comes from, because you're only a few feet from them.

And you hear the audience reaction, and you see the way they play the audience. They have the same material every day, but they play the audience in a different way, depending on what the audience gives them back. And that interaction gives you a clue into what's -- into the way their brains work.

It was a tremendous education for me, and I think I grew up with that interaction with the audience in my head. So when I would write for "M*A*S*H*," for instance, which we didn't do in front of a live audience, I would know when I wrote the comedic moment, I would know what the audience reaction was. I could hear the reaction. And in most cases that would be true, I mean, I would then -- when -- if I'd see it played in front of a live audience, I'd be happily surprised to see that I had guessed right.

GROSS: I know when you were 7, you got polio. What were your early symptoms?

ALDA: It seemed like a bad cold. I was in a -- we were in a movie theater that night, the first night that I got it, and it was a crowded theater. My father worked for Warner Brothers, so we always went to the same theater on Hollywood Boulevard, the Warner's Theater, because he could get in free there. He was on a term contract and making basically nothing a week.

And it was a crowded theater, and I was sitting a few rows away from them, and I was blowing my nose, honking all during the show. And on the way home, I was honking in the car, and my mother said, "Was that you? I... " She said, "I couldn't watch the movie, somebody was making so much noise."

And we got home, and I -- and the -- I threw up, and then I had all these symptoms of the flu, it seemed like the flu. Next day -- She recognized the fact that I had -- that I probably had polio. She had been reading in the newspapers and in magazines about the symptoms, and she saved my life, because she had a doctor there within -- you know, right by the next morning a doctor was there. And by that time my neck was stiff already. You know, your muscles just contract.

And the other woman who saved my life was Elizabeth Kenney (ph), the nurse, although I never met her. She was a nurse in Africa, Sister Kenney, who discovered a cure, a treatment for polio. This was before there was a vaccine. And if you got it, you either died of it or you were paralyzed, until Sister Kenney realized that you could get the muscles that had contracted because of this disease, you could get them to open up again through heat and massage.

And it's an interesting story, because she figured that out around the First World War, and for 20 years, doctors told her to keep quiet because she was just a nurse, what did she know? She wouldn't tell them how to cure a disease. And in fact, they were doing -- they were using a treatment that was the exact opposite, and they were hurting people with their treatment.

And then finally she just wouldn't keep quiet, she just kept lecturing and trying to get people to listen. And just about two years before I caught the disease, she was invited to come to America, and she lectured all over America, and the doctors who treated me had learned from her, I suppose, how to do her treatments.

So my life was saved partly by my mother's being aware, by reading the papers, and partly by this woman in Australia who just wouldn't shut up when doctors told her to.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

GROSS: Alan Alda, recorded in 1997. We'll hear more in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of our 1997 interview with Alan Alda.

Last night was his fifth and final episode playing a doctor on "E.R."

When we left off, we were talking about the heat treatments he received as a child when he had polio.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

GROSS: So this heat treatment, I've seen a little bit and read a little bit about it. They would wrap your legs in, I think, very, very hot wool blankets, wool blankets that were, what, boiled in water, or...

ALDA: They weren't boiled, they were heated in a double boiler, so it was dry heat, so it wouldn't scald you. But it actually...

GROSS: So, so your legs weren't burned by it?

ALDA: Yes, it was actually all my -- every muscle in my body, I think maybe except my left arm, was affected, so I had to be wrapped -- my whole body was wrapped up in these things, every hour, every hour a new hot pack. And they were practically scalding, they were really -- it was a very tough thing for my parents to go through, because they had to do this every hour, and they had a 7-year-old kid who's screaming and pounding the bed in pain.

You know, and I was trying to cooperate with them, I didn't want them to have to suffer, but I couldn't help it, it was very painful. But it saved my life. I have no residual effects from this.

But the only residual effect I have is that the massage was so painful, because they would stretch your muscles -- it was a little bit like taking your thumb and putting it back by your elbow, that's how painful it was. And to this day, I can't take a massage. Everybody says, Oh, hey, we can get a massage down here, you know, when you go on vacation. And I say, Make an appointment for me at the other end of the island. I don't want to go anywhere near it. Massages, to me, are torture.

GROSS: You were...

ALDA: In fact, I would -- you know, if you wanted to get -- if you wanted to get information out of me, you send me to a masseuse...

GROSS: (laughs)

ALDA: ... and I'll give names, I'll tell where they all are. I'll go -- I can't stand a massage.

GROSS: Do you have any sense of what the impact was on you of being out of circulation for -- I guess it was about eight months, while you were getting these treatments, and from being really sick? I've really met so many artists who were very sick for an extended period during their childhood.

ALDA: Sounds like a good straight line. (laughs)

GROSS: (laughs) Right, and they're sicker today.

ALDA: Yes, right.

GROSS: The humor (ph) today? Yes.

ALDA: I remember standing on my bed looking out the window at the -- at my friends playing without me, and wishing I could play with them. But none of them even visited me. Only one came to visit me. But you have to realize that there was an epidemic on at that time. And even though I was no longer contagious, the parents didn't want to take the chance. And it was like the plague, it was like the time of the plague. You were a pariah.

So I think I became -- I functioned like somebody who was an outsider from that time on. (inaudible) there were several things that made me an outsider. One was that. Then I -- my parents had me tutored, because I needed to be tutored that year. But it seemed convenient to keep tutoring me instead -- so I could travel with them. So I didn't go to school till about the seventh or eighth grade. So I didn't know how kids worked, I didn't even know what the language was.

When I was -- when my parents were in -- my father was in burlesque, the burlesque comics would say, You want to beef about -- hey, I'm beefing about this, I'm beefing about that. "Beefing" meant, as far as I knew, it meant arguing. So I get to this school, and this kid gives me a shove, and I complain to him, and he says, You want to beef about it? And I said -- I think "beef" means to argue, and I say, Yes, I do want to beef about it.

Pow! he gives me a shot in the head. This other guy comes over, he gives me a shot. And the people don't even know me now, they got somebody they can hit. So I didn't know how things worked. I was an outsider there. I was an outsider because I came from burlesque, and the world was divided up into entertainers and civilians. And I would look at the civilians and think that they came from another planet.

GROSS: During the time that you had polio, which was obviously, you know, one of your formative years, besides lying in bed, what did you do with your time? Did you read? There was -- was there TV to watch?

ALDA: No, there was no TV...

GROSS: No TV. So what...

ALDA: There was radio, but I don't remember listening to it.

GROSS: So what did you do? Just lie in pain?

ALDA: Probably daydreamed. I don't remember that part too well. I was 7 then. No, I was -- I was only in pain once an hour when they would put the hot packs on me. So I don't know what I did. I probably -- I had a very active fantasy life, (inaudible)...

GROSS: A lot of burlesque queens in it? (laughs)

ALDA: Yes, yes, as a matter of fact. (laughs) Yes, I mean, you know, this -- (laughs) Wait a minute. I'm having one now. Wait...

This -- well, that's all right, that's OK, this is public radio, everybody's grown up.

GROSS: That's right.

Just about everyone I've ever met who grew up in the '50s or '60s was in some production or another, high school, junior high school, summer camp, of "Guys and Dolls." Were you ever in a production of it?

ALDA: Yes, I was in a -- not in school, I mean, it was after I was out of school that they were doing productions of it. I got a -- when I was a young, out-of-work actor, only about six or seven years after I stood in the wings watching them do it every day, every week, I got a call that a little theater in Illinois was doing it, and would I come out there and do it. Did I know the show, and did I know the part? And I said, Of course I do.

You know, when you're an out-of-work actor, you say to everything. Well, I'd only seen it, I hadn't learned it, I didn't know the songs really well, you know, and I didn't know the words. And they had lost their leading man and had to do it in two days, I had two days to get out there. And my hands were shaking when I got on the plane. And I didn't stop shaking until the plane -- I never stopped shaking. I mean, I went on opening night with two days' rehearsal. I didn't know what I was doing.

GROSS: Which part was it?

ALDA: And I was -- Pardon me?

GROSS: Which part?

ALDA: I was playing my father's part.

GROSS: Skye Masterson.

ALDA: Yes, Skye Masterson. And I was out in the opening scene, and the -- I didn't -- couldn't even afford my own suit, so they loaned me a suit that had been hanging on a rack for six months someplace. And I kept my hands in my pockets because they were shaking so hard. And I started -- just out of nervousness, I was playing with a piece of lint in my pocket. You know, and I'm out there on stage, playing the scene with the mission doll.

So I -- halfway through the scene, I take my hand out of my pocket with the lint in it, and I -- you know, I casually look down at the lint. And it's not lint, it's a cockroach.

GROSS: Oh, no!

ALDA: Yes. And it was very interesting. The sight of that cockroach brought me back to reality with such a jolt that I lost all my nervousness, and I really looked at the woman I was talking to and really talked to her. And I opened my mouth, and a song came out. Everything was great. I mean, I'm surprised I don't bring a cockroach on with me for -- you know, every time I go on stage as a result of that.

GROSS: Wow, what a thought.

Now, you were going to go to med school, then became, I think, an English major. What was the turning point where you said, Well, forget that, it's show business?

ALDA: Well, the -- I never really wanted to go to medical school. My father wanted me to go. He always wanted me to be a doctor, and...

GROSS: And you were, but just on television.

ALDA: Yes. He was finally satisfied with that. But the thing was, I agreed that I would go to a premed course in chemistry, but at the time, I was afraid that if I did well in this chemistry course, I'd have to be a doctor, and then I'd have to touch sick people. So it really didn't -- it was not in my best interests to do well in the course, and I managed to sort of sleep through the classes, and I got a 10 in the final exam.

GROSS: Ten out of 100?

ALDA: Yes, 10 out of 100, yes. (laughs) And the professor called me into his office and he had this kind of stunned look on his face, and he said, Why are you here? And I thought that was a better question than I'd seen on any of the tests.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

GROSS: Alan Alda, recorded in 1997.

Coming up, reviews of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "Sleepy Hollow."

This is FRESH AIR.

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Alan Alda
High: Actor ALAN ALDA. The star of the TV show M*A*S*H (for which he won Emmys for acting, writing, and directing), as well as the movies "Same Time, Next Year," "The Four Seasons," and in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Manhatten Murder Mystery," and "Everyone Says I Love You." He recently had a short stint on "E.R." as Dr. Gabe Lawrence.
Spec: Radio and Television; Movie Industry; Entertainment

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 Actor Alan Alda
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 20, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111902NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Review: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Sect: ENtertainment
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, FRESH AIR: In August, ABC tried a late-summer experiment by bringing back the prime time quiz show. That limited series, a two-week nightly special called "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" proved such a hit that ABC brought it back this month, and once again it's a smash success.

TV critic David Bianculli has some thoughts about the history and appeal of TV quiz shows.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TV CRITIC: First of all, let's describe "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" for those who still haven't seen it, even though ABC has made it almost impossible to avoid. Based on a hit British game show, it takes one contestant at a time and gives them an increasingly difficult and valuable series of multiple choice questions.

Answer all the questions right, and you're a millionaire. And along the way, you can get help on three different occasions by using what the show calls Life Lines, once by having two of the wrong answers eliminated, once by polling the studio audience, and once by phoning a friend for help.

All this takes place on an ultramodern set with tension-building music and host Regis Philbin, who adds to the nervousness by asking, after each reply, "Is that your final answer?"

So that's the show. Period.

Yet in its simplicity, it's somehow addictive, especially since the higher a contestant goes, the more you get to know their personalities. You really get to like and root for these people, even if, as in last night's show, they don't make the best first impressions.

(AUDIO CLIP, "WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?")

REGIS PHILBIN, HOST: All right, so our contestant is John Carpenter, comes to us from Hamden, Connecticut. Wife Debbie in the audience. Hi, Debbie, how you doing?

DEBBIE CARPENTER: Hi, Regis.

PHILBIN: And this should make you a real crowd favorite. John works for the IRS.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILBIN: We've never had a contestant booed. Well, let me make it easier for you. He works in collection for the IRS.

(BOOS)

PHILBIN: Oh, come on! They're kidding, John. We all love you.

JOHN CARPENTER: I'm taking names, that's all right.

PHILBIN: OK, John, you know about the rules, you know about the Life Lines, 50-50, phone a friend, ask the audience. It's all there for you. Ready to go?

CARPENTER: Ready.

PHILBIN: Let's play Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Here we go!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BIANCULLI: That contestant, by the way, got two answers correct and returns tonight to keep playing.

The show that will be televised tonight on ABC was taped last night. And let's just say it's one episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" you don't want to miss, not for a million bucks.

How huge a hit is "Millionaire"? So huge that ABC has extended its November run by three days. So huge that last week, a Thursday episode of "Millionaire" handily beat "Frasier," the first time any NBC program has lost in that must-see-TV time slot in more than 15 years.

And, of course, so huge that the competition is cranking out imitators as fast as possible, including "Greed," an aptly named Fox series that's been shown Thursdays the last three weeks.

"Greed," though, is terrible, and its rules actually have you rooting against people by the time it's over, because the only way they triumph individually is to seek out and destroy other members of their own team.

At least on Comedy Central, where "Win Ben Stein's Money" has been going for a few years now, the winning contestant gets challenged by the host himself. It may not be a fair fight, but at least it's easy to root for the underdog.

The last time real quiz shows appeared in prime time on TV was in the '50s, but the genre vanished in disgrace once it was learned that many shows, including "Twenty-One," coached their contestants to make the battles more dramatic.

Robert Redford made a movie called "Quiz Show" about that scandal, dramatizing the ongoing and rigged battle between Charles Van Doren and Herb Stempel. What's interesting is that those original "Twenty-One" shows, after all these years, still work. If the games hadn't been fixed, who knows how long quiz shows might have stayed on the air?

Listen to this "Twenty-One" show from 1956, hosted by Jack Barry (ph), and tell me it doesn't suck you in.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "TWENTY-ONE," 1956)

JACK BARRY, HOST: Mr. Van Doren, you have 10 points. The category, explorers, explorers. How many points do you want to try for?

CHARLES VAN DOREN: I'm going to go all the way to 21. Let me try for 11 points.

BARRY: You want to try to hit 21 by 11 -- by answering an 11-point question?

VAN DOREN: That's right.

BARRY: All right. If you do answer this, you'll have 21, but you'll still have to wait for Herb Stempel to get another crack at it. And you can have some extra time if you need it. Here is your question.

Pizarro, P-I-Z-A-R-R-O, was an early Spanish explorer who discovered and conquered an advanced civilization. Tell us the civilization he discovered, the country this civilization was in, and the leader of the civilization at the time of the conquest. Would you like time to think it over?

VAN DOREN: As much as you can spare.

BARRY: I'll tell you when your time is up.

(TIME-ELAPSING MUSIC)

BARRY: Your time is up. Tell us the civilization he discovered, first of all, if you can, or take it any order (inaudible) you want.

VAN DOREN: (inaudible), Pizarro discovered the Incas.

BARRY: Right.

VAN DOREN: And the Incas lived in Peru.

BARRY: You're right. And the leader of the civilization, which would give you 21 points if you got this right?

VAN DOREN: (inaudible), oh, he was crowned by Pizarro, so he was a -- but he had a brother Atajualpa (ph), that was the man who had that room full of gold (inaudible). So I guess that Atajualpa was the leader of the Incas at the time of the conquest.

BARRY: That's your answer, Atajualpa?

VAN DOREN: That's right.

BARRY: Then you've scored 21 points!

(APPLAUSE)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BIANCULLI: This particular TV cycle has taken a long time to return, some 45 years, which is almost the entire history of television.

But TV, like the ocean, moves in waves, so you don't have to be a quiz show champion to predict what'll happen next. Soon there will be so many quiz shows in prime time that the novelty will wear off, and the ratings will go down. The originals, like "Millionaire," will last the longest, but even their popularity will fade, and the genre will go away, just like the Western did, and the variety show, until finally the right show comes along to launch a revival.

By the way, isn't it about time TV had a great variety show in prime time again? I say yes. And that's my final answer.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for "The New York Daily News."

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: David Bianculli
High: TV critic DAVID BIANCULLI reviews the new hit game show "Who Wants to be a Millionare?"
Spec: Radio and Television; Entertainment; Money

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: Review: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 20, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111903NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Review: "Sleepy Hollow"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:45

TERRY GROSS, FRESH AIR: The new movie "Sleepy Hollow" is directed by Tim Burton, and it's loosely based on the Washington Irving novel, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane. John Powers has a review.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: If there's one enduring Hollywood story, it's the war between filmmakers who want to pursue their person vision and a system devoted to churning out impersonal product. For a long time, Tim Burton seemed to be winning that war, "Beatlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," even "Batman," these were hits that expressed his highly individualized blend of romanticism, black comedy, and gleeful visual flair.

But Burton's last two movies, "Ed Wood" and "Mars Attacks," were expensive flops. And like so many original filmmakers before him, he now has to prove that he can make a conventional movie that will grab the audience. And so we have "Sleepy Hollow."

The year is 1799, and Johnny Depp is Ichabod Crane, a fastidiously intelligent New York detective who believes in using scientific methods to solve crimes. Annoyed by all his theories, his superiors send him to solve a series of murders in a small Hudson River community. There, the locals inform him that the actual killer is the Headless Horseman, a dead Hessian soldier played by Christopher Walken, who's come back from Hell looking for his noggin.

As a confirmed rationalist, Ichabod scoffs at the idea of supernatural powers, even though the whole town believes in them, even his love interest, Katrina Von Tassel. She's played by Christina Ricci, who's wasted in a role that asks her to do little but seem buxom.

As the body count rises, Ichabod continues to insist that science and reason will prevail. At one point, he catches the local magistrate attempting to flee town.

(AUDIO CLIP, "LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW")

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: What are you running from?

RICHARD GRIFFITHS, ACTOR: I have (inaudible). Damn you, Crane!

DEPP: You were a mind (ph) to help me.

GRIFFITHS: Yes, and it's put me in mortal dread of...

DEPP: Of what?

GRIFFITHS: Of powers against which there is no defense.

DEPP: How did you know the Widow Winship was expecting a child?

GRIFFITHS: She told me.

DEPP: Then I deduce you are the father.

GRIFFITHS: I'm not the father.

DEPP: Did she tell you the name of the child's father?

GRIFFITHS: Yes, she did. She came to me for advice as town magistrate, to protect the rights of her child. I was bound by my oath of office to keep the secret, but...

DEPP: Do you believe the father killed her?

GRIFFITHS: The Horseman killed her!

DEPP: How often do I have to tell you? There is no Horseman, never was a Horseman, and never will be a Horseman.

What is that thing?

GRIFFITHS: My talisman. It protects me from the Horseman.

DEPP: You, a magistrate, and your head full of such nonsense! Now, tell me the name of...

(SOUND OF THUNDER, FRIGHTENED SHEEP, AND WEIRD GHOSTLY HOWLS AND SCREECHES)

GRIFFITHS: Oh, my God!

(END OF AUDIOTAPE)

POWERS: There is a Horseman.

And he keeps coming back to lop of head after head after head. This movie has more decapitations than a night on the town with Robespierre.

Because Burton has always had a weak story sense, he desperately needs a good screenplay. Unfortunately, "Sleepy Hollow" was scripted by Andrew Kevin Walker, the voluminously untalented screenwriter of "Seven" and "Eight Millimeter," who always employs the same structure and principle. When in doubt, slaughter somebody.

Although the movie sets up an interesting conflict between Ichabod's rationalism and a horror that defies all reason, it drops the idea halfway through. Then again, that's what you'd expect from a script that builds one of those boring scenes when the culprit explains everything in flashbacks, just like "Murder, She Wrote."

What keeps the movie watchable is the acting. The cast is packed with terrific British supporting players, including Richard Griffiths, who we heard in the clip, Michael Gambon (ph), and Christopher Lee. Their presence gives "Sleepy Hollow" the flavor of an old horror picture from England's Hammer Studios.

But no Hammer movie ever had a lead actor as good as Depp, the great star of his generation, who gives another sharp, funny performance as a prissily righteous detective who keeps fainting in horror.

Burton's work has always championed loners who confront a world in which they don't fit, and Ichabod Crane is no exception. "Sleep Hollow" is at its best when Burton lets his imagination doodle with this confrontation rather than simply hewing to the plot. As usual, he serves up lots of witty details, from Ichabod's weird optical equipment to the wig worn by Jeffrey (ph) Jones' character, which makes him look like a sheep that's escaped from the Far Side cartoon.

And as usual, Burton's work is simply a treat to look at, with a lovely production design and photography that gives everything an eerie, otherworldly sheen.

At its best, Burton's style is so enjoyable that I kept wishing that he wasn't burdened with a predictable story that revels in nastiness and gore. I kept wishing for the old Burton whimsy and originality.

But no. "Heads will roll" is "Sleepy Hollow"'s tagline. And I kept wondering if that's what Burton was warned would happen if he didn't make a hit.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for "Vogue."

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: John Powers
High: Film critic JOHN POWERS reviews the new Tim Burton film, "Sleepy Hollow."
Spec: Movie Industry; Entertainment; Recreation

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: Review: "Sleepy Hollow"
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 20, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111904NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Tribute to Hoagy Charmichael Preview
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:56

TERRY GROSS, FRESH AIR: Monday is the centennial of the birth of Hoagy Carmichael, one of the great songwriters of the century. He wrote "Stardust," "Georgia on My Mind," "Rocking Chair," "Lazy River," "Skylark," and lots of other great songs.

In honor of his centennial, we're devoting Monday's program to him. We'll hear from his biographer, Richard Sudhalter (ph), his son, Hoagy Bix (ph) Carmichael, and our guest performers, Dave Frishberg and Rebecca Killgore.

It's part of our continuing series on American popular song. Frishberg and Killgore recorded more songs for us than we'll have time for on Monday, so we want to play you a couple today.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

I want you to do a song that I'm sure a lot of people don't recognize as a Hoagy Carmichael song. They think of it as just a kids' duet. I know when I was a kid growing up, along with "Chopsticks," you played a duet of "Heart and Soul," which was co-written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. And Susan Loesser, Frank Loesser's daughter, said that even when she was growing up, she thought that this song was co-written by the same guy who wrote "Chopsticks," and she had no idea that her own father had co-written it.

Would you do "Heart and Soul" for us, a 1938 song, in the way that kids used to do it as a duet?

DAVE FRISHBERG, PIANIST: Sure.

REBECCA KILLGORE, SINGER: OK, I'll help.

(FRISHBERG AND KILLGORE PLAY "HEART AND SOUL" AS A PIANO DUET)

GROSS: Yes, and it's so easy because to (ph) do it, because you didn't have to take piano lessons or learn anything, you know, it was like "Chopsticks," you could do it really easily.

It's actually a really nice song, it was co -- it was written in 1938. Why don't you actually do the real song for us?

KILLGORE: OK.

FRISHBERG: Good.

KILLGORE (singing) Heart and soul,
I fell in love with you
Heart and soul,
The way a fool would do,
Madly,
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night.

Heart and soul,
I begged to be adored,
Lost control
And tumbled overboard
Gladly,
That magic night we kissed
There in the moon mist.

Oh, but your lips were thrilling,
Much too thrilling.
Never before were mine
So strangely willing.

But now I see
What one embrace can do.
Look at me!
It's got me loving you
Madly,
That little kiss you stole
Held on my heart and soul.

GROSS: Great, thank you. Becky Killgore and Dave Frishberg.

Dave, I'm going to ask you to do a song that Hoagy Carmichael wrote in 1931. It was co-written with trombonist and band leader Charles Sunny Clapp (ph), and they have a recording of it together. This is one of the lesser-known Carmichael songs, but I think it's incredibly catchy, although the lyric's a little silly.

FRISHBERG: Yes, it really is silly.

GROSS: But it's very -- it's a really period song. Dave, what do you think of the song?

FRISHBERG: Yes, it's like the -- it's (inaudible) -- I think of it as frat house humor.

GROSS: Well, it's funny, yes, earlier you were describing it as collegiate, and that seems perfect, since Carmichael played in a college band, he booked the acts for his college. So this song seems to fit right in.

FRISHBERG: Right. "Come Easy, Go Easy Love."

(singing): You can have your steady cooing,
I'm as free as birds above,
With a brand of modern wooing
Come easy, go easy love.

Never brings you care or sorrow,
That's the love I'm singing of,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
Come easy, go easy love.

Not the kind to bring regrets for kissing,
Happy go lucky,
Not the kind that you forget while re-mo-niscing.

Widen your society
If happiness you're thinking of.
You can have variety
With come easy, go easy love.

Not the kind to bring regrets for kissing,
Happy go lucky,
Not the kind that you forget
While re-mo-niscing.

Widen your society
If happiness you're thinking of,
You can have variety
With come easy, go easy,
Come easy, go easy love.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

GROSS: Dave Frishberg and Rebecca Killgore will perform more songs by Hoagy Carmichael on our centennial tribute Monday.

I'm Terry Gross.

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest:
High: A preview of Monday's show, the next installment of our American Popular Song series. This show pays tribute to Hoagy Charmichael and features performers, pianist Dave Frishberg, and singer Rebecca Killgore.
Spec: Radio and Television; Entertsinment; Music Industry

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: Tribute to Hoagy Charmichael Preview
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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