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Actor Dan Hedaya.

Actor Dan Hedaya. He's currently starring as President Nixon in the new comedy about Watergate, "Dick." His performance has been called "hilarious and sly." Though Hedaya stars in this film, he's best known for his supporting role in many other films and TV shows. They include: the father in "Clueless," an ex-husband in "The First Wives Club," and other roles in "A Civil Action," "Ransom," and "The Addams Family." Hedaya also has appeared on "ER," "NYPD Blue," "Law & Order," and "Hill Street Blues."




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Other segments from the episode on August 11, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 11, 1999: Interview with Dan Hedaya; Interview with Randy Wayne White; Review of Joe Harriott and John Mayer's album "The Indo-Jazz Suite."


Date: AUGUST 11, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081101np.217
Head: Actor Dan Hedaya on Playing "Dick"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

MARTY MOSS-COANE, GUEST HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is

I'm Marty Moss-Coane, filling in for Terry Gross.

On today's FRESH AIR: actor Dan Hedaya on starring as President
Nixon in the new Watergate spoof "Dick." Hedaya admits he was
surprised to be picked to play the former president, saying as a
Jewish-American actor from Brooklyn, "What's the connection?" He's
best known for his roles as the father in the film "Clueless" and the
ex-husband in "The First Wives Club."

And the adventures of Randy Wayne White. He was attacked in Peru
by knife-wielding thugs, ran cars off the road in driving school and
took Viagra just because he was curious. His new book, "The Sharks of
Lake Nicaragua," features a collection of his adventures. And jazz
critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the reissue of "Indo-Jazz Suite (ph)."

That's all coming up on today's FRESH AIR.

First the news.


MOSS-COANE: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane, in for
Terry Gross.

Twenty-five years ago this week, Richard Nixon became the first
president to resign from office rather than face impeachment from
abuses related to the Watergate break-in. There have been sober
interviews commemorating the anniversary and one screwball movie.
"Dick" offers a satiric take on what brought down the Nixon

In the film, two ditsy teenagers, Betsy and Arlene, are
unsuspecting witnesses to the Watergate break-in, and on a school trip
to the White House recognize one of the burglars, G. Gordon Liddy.
Liddy, played by Harry Shearer, hauls them in for interrogation, where
they meet the president. Nixon makes them the official White House
dog-walkers so he can keep an eye on them. In the process, one of the
girls, Arlene, develops a crush on him.

As the plot thickens, the two girls make a late night phone call.

(BEGIN CLIP - "Dick")


ACTRESS: Hello. Mr. President? This is Arlene.

HEDAYA: Oh. Yeah. Hello, Arlene. Yeah.

ACTRESS: I'm not waking you, am I?

HEDAYA: No, no. No, no. I'm a night owl.

ACTRESS: Oh, yeah. What's the deal with that Watergate thing?
Do you know anything about it?

HEDAYA: Oh, no. No, no. No, no, no. Absolutely nothing. I
don't know a thing. No way, Jose.

ACTRESS: Oh, because I live in the Watergate, and one time we
saw that -- that Liddy guy there, and then we saw him at the White
House, and now he's going to go to jail.

HEDAYA: Arlene, is there something I can do for you or your


HEDAYA: There must be something you desire.

ACTRESS: I have to go now. Good night.


ACTRESS: My sweet prince!


MOSS-COANE: Dan Hedaya plays the role of Nixon in "Dick." His
name may not be familiar, but his face sure is. He's a character
actor who's appeared in many movies and TV shows. He played the
indulgent father in "Clueless," the Bebe Rebozo character in Oliver
Stone's "Nixon," Carla's loser husband in "Cheers," a detective in
"The Usual Suspects" and Bette Midler's lout of a husband in "The
First Wives Club."

I asked Dan Hedaya about his reaction when his agent said they
wanted him to play Richard Nixon in "Dick."

HEDAYA: I said, "What do you -- what do you mean? What -- what
are you talking about? What -- me? Why would they" -- you know, I
said, "Does the guy know that I'm a -- you know, a Jew from Brooklyn?"
He says, "Well, they want you. Think about it."

And so they sent the screenplay, and it -- I read it, and I liked
it very much, but I -- it didn't assuage my nervousness about the
whole idea of -- you know, I didn't want to do something that would be
a little silly or make like a comic. It's been done so many times.
So of course, the first thing I did -- of course, to me -- you
don't know, but I called my buddy, Al Sutton (ph), who's a friend for
40 years. I said, "Al, they want me to do Nixon, and what am I going
to do?" He -- "How am I going to speak (INAUDIBLE)" He says, "Do
it." I says, "What do you mean, do it? It's easy for you to say."
He's not an actor. He says "Do it. Do it. It'll be fun." Her
persisted. I said, "All right, I'm going to do it."

I called, and I spoke to the director, and I told him again -- I
reminded him of my heritage and my place of birth. (laughs) And he
said, "Don't worry about it." And I accepted.

MOSS-COANE: Were you reluctant because you were Jew from
Brooklyn and you didn't think a Jew from Brooklyn...


MOSS-COANE: ... could do Nixon?

HEDAYA: No, no, no. Yeah. Well, I just really -- the voice --
to tell you the truth, the -- you know, to get -- to speak, you know,
in a way that is -- obviously, I can't -- I'm not going to do it --
"I'm not a crook." How would that be? Would that be Nixon? (laughs)

MOSS-COANE: You need more than that.

HEDAYA: I had to do it. So they -- he got me a coach, and he
came over to my house and literally within one hour, I was speaking
like Richard Nixon. I don't know what happened, Marty. Something
clicked, and I was irrepressible. People had to shut me up!
Something happened, and I had no fear anymore. I couldn't wait to --
you know, to go from scene to scene.

MOSS-COANE: Well, was it a matter of just finding where in your
throat you could come up with Richard Nixon's voice?

HEDAYA: I don't -- I don't know if it was -- I didn't know
technically. He told me a few things technically, and then I guess
from years of watching and something -- I don't know what it is, but
he helped me immensely and -- you should try it some day, and you'll
get (INAUDIBLE) (laughs) I think anybody probably could do it, and...

MOSS-COANE: Anyone could...

HEDAYA: ... and then as far...

MOSS-COANE: ... do Richard Nixon?

HEDAYA: I don't know. I'm just saying that it's fun.


HEDAYA: It's kind of a -- it's -- it's a kind of -- I don't know
why my voice -- I was able to feel comfortable because that was a very
big concern.

MOSS-COANE: Well, this is a person who has been parodied by so
many people, whether they're comedians...


MOSS-COANE: ... or played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie...


MOSS-COANE: ... "Nixon." I would think it'd be a challenge to
make it your own.

HEDAYA: Well, that's -- of course was in my mind to, you know,
just try to -- even though it's a comedy, if you extract certain
scenes in the movie, they are very serious, very dramatic. Some are
filled with vileness and anger. And if you extracted them, they could
be -- be drama because I tried to do it in a -- a real way, and -- you
know, and tried to create something that was not a parody, even though
I had a great deal of fun.

Some of the sections -- like, I'm a Jew, and he was an anti-
Semite. I didn't realize the extent of it. On some of the tapes, he
made some vile references to Jews, which, you know, I -- if I saw him
in person, I'd want to bang him on the head. And I told the director,
"I'm not going to say these things." I made one reference because
it's part of the history. I -- it was hard. It was agitating.

MOSS-COANE: You're talking about the arrogance and the
malevolence of Richard Nixon, but I have to say I felt a kind of
sweetness -- it wasn't always there, but a little bit of a sweetness
in your performance. Am I hallucinating?

HEDAYA: Well, no, you're not hallucinating because that's just
-- you know, the part that I was referring to is not in any way to be
-- make any kind of apology at all -- at all, but I tried to -- he was
vulnerable, and he was so -- I guess the most honest part of him was
his paranoia, in a way, and it made him scared, and it made him, you
know, sensitive, if you can call it that. He was injured by all these
things that were happening, even though he -- you know, his actions
maybe caused them to happen to him.

And I'm sure the man had -- you know, he loved his children, and
he loved his wife, and he had friends, and he cared for the country,
and he cared -- you know, he had principles. But that doesn't
exonerate him from the bad stuff. So that part of it -- you can't
just do -- you know, make a person who's just completely black and --
he was a human being. And I must say that at times when I watched him
where I, too -- I almost felt guilty, but I liked the guy at certain
times when I watched him.

MOSS-COANE: What was it like on the set? And you know, we've
been talking about the kind of serious part of Richard Nixon, but this
movie is very much a send-up...

HEDAYA: Well...

MOSS-COANE: ... not just of Nixon, but of all the people around
him and in Woodward and Bernstein, who are, of course, hot on his

HEDAYA: Yes. Well, the set was completely one of the most
enjoyable times I've had. And maybe reflective of that is the last
night of filming, we did a scene starting at 11:00 o'clock, and it
should have ended at 11:30. I think it ended about 1:30. The reason
-- it was Kissinger and Nixon in the Oval Office, and -- (laughs) Saul
Rubenek (ph) is Kissinger. He's wonderful, wonderful. And he --
Nixon asks Saul -- Henry -- "Henry, will you pray with me?" (laughs)
And the minute I kneeled down -- we had to kneel down in the Oval
Office. And Saul would look at me, and I'd look at Saul, and
uncontrollable laughter.

MOSS-COANE: Really? You couldn't get through the scene.

HEDAYA: And it went on, and we finally did, at 2:00 o'clock.
And that amount of fun was present through all of it.

MOSS-COANE: That's Dan Hedaya, our guest today on FRESH AIR. He
plays Richard Nixon in the new movie, "Dick," which is a satire of the
Watergate saga.

I want to talk a little bit about your life. You grew up in
Brooklyn, in a Syrian community in Brooklyn.

HEDAYA: Syrian Jewish, Sephardic Jewish community, yeah.


HEDAYA: ... in Brooklyn, in Bay Parkway (ph), there's an area on
a beautiful block. All the families know each other and played ball.
And of course, there was not too much traffic. You could play
stickball, football. You could -- I used to spend hours in the
winter, you know, throwing the ball up in the sky. I played baseball
-- catches, snowball fights, walks, hanging out on the -- we used to
call it the "stoop."

MOSS-COANE: What were you like as a kid?

HEDAYA: The way I am now! (laughs)

MOSS-COANE: Which is?

HEDAYA: I don't know! It's not for me to say.

MOSS-COANE: Were you a -- were you a troublemaker? Were you

HEDAYA: No, no.

MOSS-COANE: ... quiet kid.

HEDAYA: I don't think so. You know...

MOSS-COANE: Regular?

HEDAYA: I loved -- a regular person. I loved sports a lot, and
I was not too much of a good student. I was very, very -- they called
me, actually, the first word that -- when I went to this other school,
the social studies teacher said to me, "You know what you are?" I
said "No." He says, "You're peripatetic." That was the first big
word I learned.

MOSS-COANE: It's not a bad thing to be called.

HEDAYA: In other words...

MOSS-COANE: You're everywhere, right?

HEDAYA: Well, everywhere. You can't sit still. And so I'm

MOSS-COANE: A little peripatetic?

HEDAYA: A little, yeah. There's a certain element of that, and
-- restless soul and -- but more calm. But I played ball. I had
friends. I was -- I used to go to synagogue and sit next to my
father, which was a very peaceful, peaceful time. He was a gentle,
sweetheart of a man. He passed away, but I have, you know, very
abiding love for him. And my mother just turned 91...


HEDAYA: ... and she's a wonderful -- lives in Brooklyn.

MOSS-COANE: Was your family religious? I mean, you went to

HEDAYA: Well...

MOSS-COANE: But was it more than that?

HEDAYA: Yeah. We were in the orthodox tradition, and there was
a time when I was pretty religious and -- from, I guess, the time of
about 11 to 16. And then I went into the Merchant Marines, and
everything came crashing down.

MOSS-COANE: Well, you said you joined the Merchant Marine at the
age of 16?

HEDAYA: I went summers. I went summers. I was -- and that was
a very expansive kind of milestone experience because suddenly you're
on a huge ship, and you're working amongst men on the deck, on the

In fact, when -- I remember I picked up my first ship, a tanker,
in Baltimore. I went there by myself. And I was standing on the deck
with this guy who they said I was going to live with -- big, tall guy.
And I was a kid. And the ship started moving, and the sound of the
tugboat -- and I was so excited, and I kind of nudged him from my, you
know, enthusiasm. I said, "Wow! We're moving!"

Now, this is a hardened veteran seaman. He looked at me, and he
said, "Don't you ever touch me again, boy." I said (INAUDIBLE)
(laughs) He says, "Don't you" -- you know, that was the beginning.
So I lost my -- I kept my enthusiasm private from then on.

MOSS-COANE: But did you want to see the world? Was that -- that
part of...

HEDAYA: Yeah, yeah. I loved...

MOSS-COANE: ... the lure of the Merchant Marine?

HEDAYA: Yes. Yes. Yes. I really -- it's an unbelievable,
unbelievable experience. And I made three trips, and I guess that
stirred my wanderlust, which is still today a very strong pleasure for

MOSS-COANE: Well, I'll tell you what. I want to talk some more,
but first we're going to take a very short break.

And our guest today on FRESH AIR is Dan Hedaya. He plays
President Richard Nixon in the new movie, the satire "Dick." He's
also appeared in many other films, TV programs, as well. And we'll
talk more after a short break.

This is FRESH AIR.


MOSS-COANE: My guest is actor Dan Hedaya, and he's in the new
movie, "Dick," in fact, plays the role of President Richard Nixon.

You went to Tufts University, is that right...

HEDAYA: Uh-huh.

MOSS-COANE: ... in Boston.


MOSS-COANE: Did you go there to study acting, to study theater?

HEDAYA: No. No, I just went there. (laughs) I just went there.
What do I mean? In the school, everybody was applying to colleges.
You know, you get caught in the frenzy, like -- and I applied to two
schools, and they accepted me at this university, and I was in
college. That was it. And I majored in liberal arts. And then I
just finished school. I -- you know, I -- and I didn't know what to
do. I became a teacher in New York City.

MOSS-COANE: Yeah, a junior high school teacher, right?


MOSS-COANE: English teacher.

HEDAYA: English and some -- couple of math classes and long
division examples. You put about 20 of them on the board, and let the
kids do them!

MOSS-COANE: So how many years did you teach?

HEDAYA: Probably seven.

MOSS-COANE: Oh, wow.

HEDAYA: Six or seven.

MOSS-COANE: Oh. So you really put in some time.

HEDAYA: Yeah. Yeah. I guess the real turning point is when I
-- when I started to think about acting, taking classes, because Al
Sutton's sister, Barbara, told me she was taking acting classes, why
don't I come? "It's fun." So I went, and I started liking it again,
because I did a few plays in college. And then I -- you know, I
started to pursue it, and then I said -- literally, I said, "I'm
either going to not do it or do it." I decided, "Yes, I'm going to do
it," which meant no more teaching because you have to free up...


HEDAYA: ... the daytime for, you know, potential appointments.

MOSS-COANE: So what did you like about acting? What hooked you?

HEDAYA: I don't -- I don't really know. It's hard to say. It's
-- it's fun. It's certainly a privilege. And I think, without
getting fancy, it's sort of like a tropism in the sense of -- since I
-- I never really planned anything or thought about it as a career, it
almost feels like a kind of natural gravitating towards. And then,
you know, when you start doing it, it's -- it's fun. It's different.
It is a -- certainly, a chance for a form of expression and you --
that's it. And then you're doing it. That's what you're doing.

MOSS-COANE: I'm interested in how you hooked up with the Coen
brothers. You were in one of their very early films, "Blood Simple."
And I don't know at that age, how many people knew who the Coen
brothers were?

HEDAYA: I think the Coen brothers knew who they were. That was

MOSS-COANE: That was about it. (laughs)


MOSS-COANE: Well, what did you think? What did you think about
that picture?

HEDAYA: I really -- again, it was -- you know, in retrospect, it
was a job. They called me, and they said, "There's this movie in
Texas. It's scale." If -- "scale" means that it's the lowest amount
they can pay you according to the union. But scale usually means it
has some artistic -- special artistic merit. That's how they often
try to lure you and pay you nothing. So I just went to meet them, and
I did meet them, and that was it. Then I probably forgot about it
within five minutes. And then time went by, and I got another call.
"They want to meet you again," and it was a Saturday. I wasn't
feeling well, and so I was grumbling about it to a friend. I said,
"Why am I going to go? It's a scale movie in Texas. I don't feel
good." So maybe it was Al again, but I did -- and I went...

MOSS-COANE: You're glad you did, I bet.

HEDAYA: Yeah, I am glad I did. I went, and I met them, and they
offered me the part. But when we did it in Texas, it was on a
shoestring, and many of the kids in the -- in the -- who were helping
in the movie were from the University of Texas, apprentices. It was a
completely un-Hollywood experience, just these two brothers and a nice
bunch of people, Fran McDormand, who subsequently married Joel, and --
we -- you know, we did it, and that was it. Then I didn't even think
it would ever come out, honestly.

MOSS-COANE: I think a film that really -- if people haven't been
following your career, the one that -- the role that you played that
got a lot of attention was the father, the Beverly Hills attorney and
overprotective dad in the film "Clueless." And it's...

HEDAYA: Protective, not overprotective.

MOSS-COANE: I guess it depends on your style, but...

HEDAYA: Yeah, well -- yeah.

MOSS-COANE: It's a great part, though. I mean, he's such a
likable guy.

HEDAYA: Oh, it was great fun. Yeah, protective. He cares about
his -- so many -- so many fathers have told me -- there's -- when he
says to this guy who comes over to take her out, and he's a wiseguy --
I don't know if you remember, he was a real wiseguy.

MOSS-COANE: Oh, yeah.

HEDAYA: He had this attitude, like a punk. And he said, "If you
don't bring her back on time and safely," he said, "I have a .45 and a
shovel, and I don't think anybody's going to miss you."

MOSS-COANE: I think those are words that every...

HEDAYA: So many fathers...

MOSS-COANE: ... that every parent...

HEDAYA: I've been dying to say that. You know, a .45 and a --
it's a beautiful -- funny -- it was a beautiful line, but I think also
reflects what should be the sentiment.

(BEGIN CLIP - "Clueless")

ACTOR: Hey, man. Nice pile of bricks you got her.

HEDAYA: You drink?

ACTOR: No. Thanks. I'm cool.

HEDAYA: I'm not offering, I'm asking you if you drink. You
think I give alcohol to teenage drivers taking my daughter out?

ACTOR: Hey, man, the protective vibe. I dig.

HEDAYA: What's with you, kid? You think the death of Sammy
Davis left an opening in the Rat Pack? Cher, get in here!

ACTRESS: What's up, Daddy?

HEDAYA: What the hell is that?

ACTRESS: A dress!

HEDAYA: Says who?

ACTRESS: Calvin Klein.

HEDAYA: It looks like underwear! Go upstairs and put something
over it!

ACTRESS: It's all right. I was just going to!

HEDAYA: Hey, you! Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45
and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you.


MOSS-COANE: And that's Dan Hedaya from the film "Clueless."

You live in New York City now., moved there from Los Angeles.

HEDAYA: No, no. Moved from New York to Los Angeles and bolted

MOSS-COANE: And bolted? Why?

HEDAYA: And bolted.

MOSS-COANE: Why did you bolt?

HEDAYA: Oh, you bolt. Believe me, you go out there and...

MOSS-COANE: Well, tell me. Tell me.

HEDAYA: It's just not for me. It was good living there, but
then it gets a little bit lonely. I was -- broke up with somebody,
and didn't have too many friends out there, and it's -- as my friend
Lou would say, it's deadly. So I like to go there now and work...


HEDAYA: ... and just come back and stay in New York.

MOSS-COANE: Do you go back and visit your old childhood
neighborhood in Brooklyn?



HEDAYA: No. Uh-uh.

MOSS-COANE: Don't feel the urge?

HEDAYA: Although I should. You're right. I'm going to go back
when I go back.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I want to thank you very much, Dan Hedaya...

HEDAYA: You're welcome.

MOSS-COANE: ... for joining us today on FRESH AIR. It's been a
lot of fun.

HEDAYA: Thank you. Thank you.

MOSS-COANE: Actor Dan Hedaya plays Richard Nixon in the new
movie, "Dick."

I'm Marty Moss-Coane, and this is FRESH AIR.


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

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Dan Hedaya
High: Actor Dan Hedaya, currently starring as President Nixon in the
new comedy about Watergate, "Dick," has been called "hilarious and
sly." Hedaya is also known for his supporting role in many other
films and TV shows. Hedaya discusses his career and his role in
Spec: Dan Hedaya; Entertainment; Movie Industry; Radio and
Television; "Dick"

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: Actor Dan Hedaya on Playing "Dick"

Date: AUGUST 11, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081102NP.217
Head: "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua": An Adventurer's Tale
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

Moss-Coane, in for Terry Gross.

Randy Wayne White likes offbeat adventures. He took a crash
course in flying and put a Marchetti (ph) fighter through its paces
with rolls and loop-de-loops in a pseudo dogfight. He took his life
in his hands diving for used golf balls in an alligator-invested pond
at a posh country club.

Feeling a little homesick, he hooked up with an eccentric running
group in Bangkok who calls themselves a drinking club with a running

These stories and others are collected in White's new book, "The
Sharks of Lake Nicaragua." White lives in Florida, where he writes
his very popular Doc Ford mystery novels. He had a column in "Men's
Health" and "Outside" magazines. Now he writes occasional pieces for

One of the stories in his new book is about White taking driving
lessons at an antiterrorism driving school in Virginia. I asked him
to describe the program.

RANDY WAYNE WHITE, ADVENTURE WRITER: I got to the school, and it
is a seven-day intensive course. It goes from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. seven
days a week.

Now, I suspect like most people, I thought I was a competent
driver. Marty, I'm not even close. The men and sometimes women who
went through this school are -- I can't tell you what they do, because
they couldn't tell me. Presumably they work for the State Department
in some way, in the military. I know some Navy SEALS went through the

And in the course of those seven days, I was -- the only time I
wasn't terrified was at lunch. I was a little uneasy at lunch too.
But we learned how to ram cars off the road. We literally did that.
Cars would pull out of the side roads and chase us, shooting guns at
us, trying to run us off the road. We learned how to do boot turns,
J-turns. It's all in the book.

It amazes me I made it through.

MOSS-COANE: One of the things you said you learned was positive
ocular response driving, barricade breaching. What were these things?

WHITE: Positive ocular response is a typically obtuse government
term for looking where you want to go, that really is what it means.
When you go into a slide -- you know how -- you've been on ice, I
suspect, in a car. And you start to slide, and you see a tree, and
you go, Oh, my gosh, I don't want to hit the tree, I don't want to hit
the tree. And you're looking at the tree.

Well, guess what you're going to hit? You know, the tree. So
when you start to slide, you look -- Oh, I want to go there, I want to
go where there's no tree, go where there's no tree. And then you'll
go where there's no tree. That's the whole theory.

MOSS-COANE: And normally they teach what, business people,
government people, how to evade if a terrorist is on their tail, that
kind of thing?

WHITE: They teach you how to turn an automobile into a weapon,
which unfortunately too many people know how to do already. But it is
-- if you're under attack, turn the tables. And put a little rubber
on them, as they say at the school.

MOSS-COANE: Well, the whole philosophy of this group was to help
you be aware of terrorists that might be lurking here and there. Did
you feel safer or more at risk once you graduated from the school?
Did you believe now that...

WHITE: Safer.

MOSS-COANE: ... terrorists were actually in hiding waiting for

WHITE: I felt safer, because my job is to go -- they --
essentially, editors pick out some third world hellhole, and I go
there. And if I get back safely, I write about it, and that's my job.
So I felt safer, because I've been so many places where I've had
rental cars and where there are terrorists. And I've been in
terrorist attacks.

And it is -- I can joke around, but all joking aside, to be in
situation where there actually is violence, and I've been in that
situation in Peru, I've been in that situation in Nicaragua and
Cambodia -- to be in a place where there actually is violence is a
stunning, stunning experience.

It's not like on weekday television, where you see somebody shot,
you move along on your merry way and have a capuccino, and it is --
If you see real violence, you are set back for weeks.

MOSS-COANE: Tell us what happened. I mean, you said Peru,
Nicaragua. What happened that you were in the middle of a terrorist
attack, or observed one?

WHITE: Peru, I was assigned to take the highest train trip in
the world. The train goes from Lima, which is close to sea level, to
Huancayo, which goes up over 16,000 feet. And I'm from Florida, and I
live on an Indian mound. My daily elevation is about 13 feet.

So I took this train, and it was supposed to be a pretty funny
story, because even the Indios (ph) on this train, the rapid
transition from sea level to 16,000 feet, even the Indios become
unwell. And they sent a woman in a white smock up and down the aisles
with a -- this bladder filled with oxygen. And she squirts this thing
in your face. And it's supposed to make you feel better.

Now, for me, the transition from sea level to 16,000 feet, I did
not get nauseous, mainly just because I'm an old fishing guy. But
what elevation and altitude does to me is, it makes me mean, and thank
goodness, because I'm normally such a sweet and gentle-hearted guy.

MOSS-COANE: Makes you mean?

WHITE: It made me very grumpy, very impatient. In Huancayo,
when I arrived, by coincidence this small village in the mountains was
having its 416th anniversary, music in the little village square,
llamas, people playing flutes. I thought, Geez, what a fun little

And as I was standing there -- this was about dusk -- watching
this little festival going on, two guys came up, and they kind of
bumped into me. And they looked at me, and they spit on my boots.
Now, I'm a pretty big guy.

And I looked at this guy like, You couldn't possibly have meant
to do that.

And the guy looked at me like, Yeah, we really meant to do that.

And about an hour later I was walking down a side street. It was
right after sunset. And I heard two people coming up behind me. And
these were two different guys, because they were bigger. And they
came up. I moved aside for them to pass, and I felt such an impact on
my back. It drove me forward. I caught myself on a railing.

And the sidewalk we were on was elevated off the street by about
two or three feet. And I turned around, and I hit the one guy so hard
it knocked them both into the street. And they gave me the strangest
look. Thinking about it now, the hair -- what little hair I have --
comes up on my neck.

And they got up, and they walked, and then started to run. And I
ran the other way, got back to my hotel, took off my vest. In the
back of my vest, where I had my notebook, there was a rip. I took out
my notebook, and there was a stab mark in it. And that's why they
gave me a strange look. They couldn't figure out why I wasn't hurt.

MOSS-COANE: And you had your notebook in your back, up your

WHITE: Yes. Well, it gets worse. One hour later -- and, I
mean, I was shaking after that. These guys just walked up and stabbed

And one hour later I heard an explosion. And the Shining Path,
Sendero Luminoso, attacked the village. And that attack went on for
seven hours. Part of the hotel was blown up that I was in. I saw a
man shot right in our doorway. It was extraordinary.

MOSS-COANE: Do you think...

WHITE: And that's why my novels -- I write novels about a
Florida marine biologist, and some people will criticize me, saying,
There's so little violence. And my reply is, If you've actually seen
violence, you know how it affects people, and you don't use it often.

MOSS-COANE: Do you think they targeted you because you were so
obviously an American, or you were just...

WHITE: Absolutely.

MOSS-COANE: Absolutely.

WHITE: One week later in that same town, an agron -- a U.S.
agronomy student from Florida was traveling down the same street I was
on, and they pulled him from his car, made him kneel down, and they
shot him in the back of his head.

MOSS-COANE: Well, let me reintroduce you, and that's Randy Wayne
White, our guest today on FRESH AIR. He's a writer. He's got a new
book. It's called "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua," and it's stories of
some of his adventures around the world, some of his travel
experiences, fishing as well.

You're a fairly accomplished fishing guide. You did this for
some time, I guess before you turned to writing, or maybe along the
same time of that. How did you get into fishing? Because one of the
things that you say in writing about that is that you never intended
this, you never really liked to fish.

WHITE: You know, I didn't. It's -- I've had a very curious
life, Marty. I was a fishing guide full time on Sanibel Island for 13
years, Sanibel Island, Florida. And I did more...

MOSS-COANE: That means taking people out fishing, right? I
mean, in...

WHITE: Correct, yes, in a small...

MOSS-COANE: ... parties of people.

WHITE: ... boat. My boats ranged in size from 19 feet to 24
feet. And I was a light tackle guide. I did more than 3,000

MOSS-COANE: Were you a good guide? You say in the beginning you
weren't particularly good. But did you become a good guide?

WHITE: I became certainly a competent guide and held at least
one world record on fly rod, specialized in saltwater fly fishing.

I think certain people, men and women, have great instincts for
fishing. There aren't many. Many people lie about those instincts.
I never had great instincts, but I certainly had a work ethic. And
the days I wasn't paid to fish, I went out and fished on my own,
(INAUDIBLE) part of it.

MOSS-COANE: And you like the sea. I mean, you like the sea as
well, so the way you write about it, that there's something very
attractive about...

WHITE: I like the water. I'm a waterman. And I've never felt
at one with the sea, I can tell you that right now. It's frightened
me. I've found it haunting, I've found it existential, I've found it
-- but never warm and loving, I can tell you that.

But I endured my years as a guide. To be on the water, as I was
300 days a year, to be on the water at first light catching bait, and
the qualities of wind and the odors and textures of light sticks with

MOSS-COANE: Does fishing make you a better writer, because you
have to be so observant?

WHITE: I think all the bills I get make me a better writer,
truthfully. And fortunately, my novels do very well, the Doc Ford
books. But I don't know. I don't know. I know I enjoyed guiding.
I'll tell you a quick fishing guide story.

My job, as I told you, was to take people fishing. And one day
down to the docks came this couple, very old, it seemed to me at that
time. They were probably 55, 60, and I'm 48 now. Got on my boat, and
I'm taking out the small bay (ph). And the man nudges me and said,
"We don't want to fish." I said, "Well, sir, I can do that, I can not
take you fishing."

He goes, "You don't understand. This is our 30th wedding
anniversary. And all our lives, we've dreamed about coming to Florida
and being left alone on a deserted island." Now, I know what this old
goat had in mind. So I ran him up to a deserted island, beautiful
coconut palms, white beach. Dropped them off, came back. And he
said, "Come back in two hours," which impressed the hell out of me,

Came back, two hours, they were standing there waiting on me in
water up to their necks. And I said, "It's time to go." And the
woman, in this terrible falsetto, wails, "We can't ever leave. The
tide came in, took all our clothes away."

Now, I was rigged to fish. I didn't have a boarding ladder. And
by the time I got that woman in my boat, I knew her a lot better than
I wanted to know her, I'll tell you that. They didn't have a stitch.

MOSS-COANE: That's great. Well, I'll tell you what, I do want
to talk some more. But first we have to take a short break. And our
guest is Randy Wayne White, and he's got a new book of stories about
some of his adventures traveling the world, fishing as well. It's
called "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua."

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

MOSS-COANE: My guest is writer Randy Wayne White, and he has a
new book of stories called "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua."

One of the things you say in the beginning of the book, which I
found quite interesting, is, the feeling that Americans have that the
world hates them. Your feeling and experience, as you travel the
world, is that the world is crazy about Americans, that we have this
inferiority complex.

WHITE: Oh, we are a strange bunch. We denigrate and self-
denigrate and self-criticize, and the ugly American.

Now, I have -- in all my travels, I've seen a couple of ugly
Americans, but not many. And we are so quick to take blame, Oh, I'm
sorry, it's my fault, I -- That's my experience. And my experience
also, with the exception of Peru, where I got stabbed, is that people
love Americans. We're popular, they want to hang around us, they want
to go do stuff with us.

A quick example. I flew to Hanoi from Bangkok, jet lag. It's a
long cab ride from the airport into town. And got at my hotel
probably at 2:00 A.M. Couldn't sleep, got up. It was foggy. I
decided to go for a jog. Took off jogging through the mist, through
this fog, through several parks.

After about an hour, I was ready to head back to the hotel. And
Marty, I had this terrible realization. I didn't know what hotel I
was staying at. I didn't have any money. I didn't have any
identification. And I was completely lost.

Now, luckily, after about two hours of looking for my hotel, I
walked past an open bar, and there was an Australian there. And I
said, "Can you help me?" I was almost in tears by this time. "Can
you help me? I'm lost."

"Well, all right, mate, no worries, we can take care of that,

And we got these little Cyclos (ph), these pedal bicycles, and we
went all over Hanoi looking for my hotel. And we would go in, and I'd
go, "Am I staying here?" And by the end of that day, it seemed like I
knew everybody in Hanoi. And they loved me. I was an American. And
that was before it was legal to go to Vietnam.

And that was true in Vietnam, it was true in Cambodia, it's been
true all through Central America, particularly -- and Nicaragua, and
Cuba. I was in Cuba 12 days, brought back 147 refugees during Mariel
Harbor. People, in my experience, love America and Americans.

MOSS-COANE: And I imagine in Hanoi you were not known as the
American, but "that crazy American that doesn't know where he is."

WHITE: Well, that -- one day in the hotel, some woman came in,
and in very broken English said, "Where is Mr. America?" I was very
MOSS-COANE: You wrote an article, or a series of articles,
actually, for "Men's Health" magazine, and it was called "Guys Like
Us," a column in the magazine. One of the things that you wrote, this
was actually in April of this year, which I found pretty funny,
"Middle age is what military experts might describe as a," quote,
"`target-rich environment.' And as a self-described middle-aged man,
you feel like you're a pretty big target."

WHITE: Well, yes, it -- and I think it's that thing, middle-aged
crazy, it's become trivialized. Oh, he got a wig and a sports car,
he's acting like a young idiot. Marty, it is not trivial. It is, for
some of us, it's debilitating. For other of us, it's deadly. And
it's an important time of life.

For me it's been a wonderful time of life. But I have seen
friends absolutely devastated. And that's what I wanted to write
those columns for "Men's Health." And I just -- my attorney-agent's
just sending out a proposal to write a book on middle age, which I
very much look forward to do, and the working title is, "You're Over
40, Fat Boy."

And it will, it will, for once, tell the truths of middle age
that I've never read, how we really do see ourselves in terms of our
relationships with women. How idiotic we are to have affairs. Almost
all of us do it. It has ruined so many lives, so many families.
Panic attacks -- you know, we wake up at 2:00, 3:00 A.M., our hearts
pounding, worried about all the people for whom we're responsible.

It's -- it can be a very tough time of life. It's a funny time
of life as well, but it's -- at any rate, it's a book I look forward
to writing.

MOSS-COANE: And the title, including the word "Fat Boy," I mean,
do you feel like a fat boy?

WHITE: I look so darned good right now, Marty. Yes, yes,
because we kind of get fat. Your whole body changes. It's a real
pisser. You know, I have back problems, and I worked -- I fight it
every single day. I work out twice a day every day. I lift weights,
I swim, all this stuff, play long toss with a baseball. And the
entire battle is against -- essentially against gravity.

MOSS-COANE: Well, talking about middle age, you have a pretty
funny piece that you wrote about the time you took Viagra. And again,
just reading a couple things from it, I mean, the physical effects,
beyond the obvious ones, was, you know, your cheeks were flushed and
your vision was blurred, and on and on and on and on. You want to
tell us what happened?

WHITE: Yes, well, as I wrote, I thought, Geez, what a dangerous
drug. First it screws up your vision, then it gives you an erection.
It's very dangerous.

But the worst thing about that story was, the magazine also had
me try Muse (ph), which is a more serious -- it's a penile implant,
it's a thing you put up in. The magazine had the Viagra tabs. They
sent me three, two of which I gave to guys on my baseball team. But
they said...

MOSS-COANE: Did that make you very popular on your team?

WHITE: It did with the wives, I'll tell you. But they said,
"But the Muse, if you have a doctor friend, you need to get a
prescription, because we don't have this stuff." And I said, "Oh, my
best friend's a cardiac surgeon, I can call him." But I don't know,
what's a cardiac surgeon going to be writing a scrip for Muse?

So I called him, I said, "Can you get this stuff for me?" He
goes, "Well, if you want it, but... "

MOSS-COANE: Now, when...

WHITE: So a week or two passes, and the magazine calls, and they
said, "Did you get the Muse?" I said, "Oh, yeah, my buddy, he's going
to get it for me." I call my buddy and I go, "Did you get the Muse?"
This penile stuff, penile implant stuff. He goes, "I didn't get it,
but I called in the prescription." I said, "Where?" And I live on an

He said, "To the Island Pharmacy." I went, "Oh, no!" I go to
the -- Marty, I go to this little tiny pharmacy on the small island
where I live, and I walk in, and I'm immediately sweating. And it's
like a kid going in to buy condoms. And there are three women behind
the counter. And one woman says to me, "Aren't you Randy White, the
novelist? I just loved your last book."

And I'm sweating, I can't stop sweating. And I think, I'm just
going to buy a comb and some chewing gum and get out of here. And I
hear this paper rattle. And she goes, "Oh, Mr. White, we have a
prescription for you. Oh. Oh!"

MOSS-COANE: This is her, right?

WHITE: It was absolutely humiliating. And to this -- I don't
know what kind of stories are circulating about me on that island, but

MOSS-COANE: Now, I have to ask you, though, but who -- how did
they convince you to try this penile implant?

WHITE: Oh, well, no, it's like a little pill you stick up there.


WHITE: No, no, it's not...


WHITE: Lord, no, no, it's...


WHITE: No, no, it's just like a little pill. It's -- and I
didn't even have a partner, and the whole thing was a nightmare. I --
and, of course, you can't go anywhere, you're just sticking around --
oh, it was awful.

MOSS-COANE: Randy Wayne White's new book is "The Sharks of Lake

Coming up, "Indo-Jazz Suite." This is FRESH AIR.


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

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Randy Wayne White
High: Travel and adventure writer Randy Wayne White, author of the
new book, "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua: True Tales of Adventure,
Travel, and Fishing," discusses the anti-terrorism driving school and
other adventures.
Spec: Travel; Randy Wayne White; Entertainment; "The Sharks of Lake

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: "The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua": An Adventurer's Tale

Date: AUGUST 11, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081103NP.217
Head: "The Indo-Jazz Suite": Fusing Jazz and Indian Music
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

MOSS-COANE: In the mid-1960s, the West discovered the classical
music of India. The Beatles were hanging out with Ravi Shankar, the
Yardbirds were playing raga rock, and a lot of sitars and tablas got
sold to rock musicians who never learned how to play them.

Jazz had its flirtations as well. John Coltrane wrote an
atmospheric drone named "India," and Ravi Shankar collaborated with
Bud Shank (ph) and Paul Horn.

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers a 1965 attempt to fuse jazz
and Indian music, masterminded by composer John Mayer (ph) and
saxophonist Joe Harriot (ph) in England.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, JAZZ CRITIC: On first glance, it's a natural
match. Jazz and South Indian classical music both value improvisation
and rhythmic vitality. The problem is, they approach those concepts
from different directions.

By the mid-1970s, a few jazz musicians, like guitarist John
McLaughlin (ph) and saxophonist John Handy (ph), had figured out how
to blend with Indian traditional musicians.

One of the first attempts to marry the two came in 1965. "The
Indo-Jazz Suite" was a collaboration between Anglo-Indian composer
John Mayer and the Anglo-West Indian saxophonist Joe Harriot, one of
the pioneers of European free jazz. Each fronted a quintet of
musicians representing their respective traditions.

Sensing the potential for cross-cultural confusion, John Mayer
wrote out a lot of material, including all the flute parts, leaving
little to chance.


WHITEHEAD: John Mayer's pieces echo various aspects of South
Indian music, but in a stylized and regimented way. In one sense, the
composer achieves the worst of both worlds -- he makes the Indian
musicians simplify their involved rhythms and asks the jazz musicians
to limit themselves to a specific scale while improvising.

Even so, in the process Mayer invents something that resembles
neither inspiration but has its own naive charm. In that respect,
"The Indo-Jazz Suite" harks back to the 1950s and the bachelor pad
exotica of fake Polynesian music.
Yet the complex but unyielding rhythm patterns anticipate future
trends, like reggae dub records and '90s drum and bass beats. Even
weirder, Mayer occasionally steps in to play a little un-Indian, un-
jazzy harpsichord.


WHITEHEAD: The jazz soloists here, including trumpeter Kenny
Wheeler (ph), mostly play by the composer's rules. The suite would
sound airless and overdetermined were it not for Joe Harriot, who,
more than anyone here, bends the bylaws. Punching a hole in the
concept, he lets in the freshness and unpredictability that is
improvisation's forte.


WHITEHEAD: Joe Harriot and John Mayer refined their Indo-Jazz
fusion concept after "The Indo-Jazz Suite," but that first tentative
step was prophetic. Composer Mayer anticipated the first phase of the
world music movement when he forged a common musical language by
simplifying everyone's grammar.

But saxophonist Joe Harriot apprehended the deeper truth that
lets musicians from around the world play together with relative ease
nowadays. Real interaction results not from careful scripting but
from improvisers listening to each other and responding on the spot.

Come to think of it, that was the method used by John McLaughlin
in his Indo-Jazz band, Shakti, a decade after Joe Harriot pointed the

MOSS-COANE: Kevin Whitehead writes about jazz from Amsterdam.
He reviewed the reissue of "The Indo-Jazz Suite" on the Koch (ph)

FRESH AIR's senior producer today is Roberta Shorrock. Our
interviews and reviews are produced by Amy Sallett (ph), Naomi Person
(ph), and Phyllis Meyers (ph), with Monique Nazareth (ph) and Anne-
Marie Baldonado (ph). Bob Purdick (ph) is our engineer. Alan Tu (ph)
directed the show.

For Terry Gross, I'm Marty Moss-Coane.


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

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Kevin Whitehead
High: "The Indo-Jazz Suite," composer John Mayer and saxophonist Joe
Harriot's mid-'60s attempt to fuse jazz and Indian music.
Spec: Music Industry; "Indo-Jazz Suite"; 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: "The Indo-Jazz Suite": Fusing Jazz and Indian Music

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