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Elaine Stritch on Noel Coward.

Stage legend Elaine Stritch. In a career spanning more than 40 years, she has received acclaim for her work on stage, as well as on television and in motion pictures. She starred in the original 1961 Broadway production of Noel Coward's musical Sail Away. In honor of Coward's upcoming centenary, she'll reprise her role in a concert production at Carnegie Hall.

22:10

Other segments from the episode on November 3, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 3, 1999: Interview with Elaine Stritch; Interview with Frank Huyler; Review of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's album "Looking Forward."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110301np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Interview with Elaine Stritch
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

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

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

December 16 will mark the centenary of the birth of British songwriter, singer, and actor Noel Coward. In celebration, his 1961 Broadway musical comedy "Sail Away" is being revived in a concert production at Carnegie Hall tonight through November 13.

Elaine Stritch, who starred in the original Broadway production and London production, will recreate her role as Mimi Paragon, the director of a cruise ship who has to deal with the needy and often irritating passengers.

"Sail Away" was a turning point in her career. She went on to star in the Sondheim musical "Company," in which she sang, "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch."

Before we meet Elaine Stritch, let's hear her singing Coward's song about insufferable tourists, "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" from the 1961 original cast recording of "Sail Away."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "WHY DO THE WRONG PEOPLE TRAVEL?" ELAINE STRITCH)

ELAINE STRITCH: Travel, they say, improves the mind,
An irritating platitude,
Which frankly, entre nous,
Is very far from true.

Personally, I've yet to find
That longitude and latitude
Can educate those scores
Of monumental bores

Who travel in groups
And herds and troops
Of various breeds and sexes,

Till the whole world reels
To shouts and squeals
And the clicking of Roloflexes.

Why do the wrong people travel, travel, travel,
When the right people stay at home?
What compulsion compels them
And who the hell tells them
To drag their clans to Zanzibar
Instead of staying quietly in Omaha?

The Taj Mahal and the Grand Canal,
The sunny French Riviera
Would be less oppressed
If the Middle West
Would settle for somewhere rather nearer.

Please do not think that I criticize or cavil
At a genuine urge to roam.
But why, oh, why do the wrong people travel
When the right people stay back home...

And mind their business,
When the right people stay back home...

With Cinerama,
When the right people stay back home?

I'm merely asking
Why the right people stay at home.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: Elaine Stritch, welcome to FRESH AIR.

I'm wondering what personal meaning the story of "Sail Away" had for Noel Coward. For instance, Graham Payne (ph) and Sheridan Morley (ph) edited the diaries of Noel Coward, and in their introduction, they wrote that "Sail Away" reflected "his passion for travel, his loathing of tourists, his horror of old age, and his love of the sun."

Did he talk with you at all about traveling and how his ideas about traveling figured into the story of "Sail Away"?

STRITCH: No. He didn't -- he is not Gadge Kazan, he is not one of those kind of directors. He had a young woman on his hands who had a lot of responsibility ahead of her, and he loved me. That was the best part. And I loved him.

And when you've got that, you don't have many problems, Terry, you really don't. It's what I miss when I go into rehearsal for a show and I don't get that connect -- I don't get any chemical connection with the director. You might as well go home. It's not worth going to rehearsal.

I mean, somebody's got to understand you, and you've got to understand them. It's like a bad marriage. But this was a good marriage.

And he did not go into depths about how he felt. He explained to me how he wanted me to play this part, and I was very right for the part, according to Noel. I had Mimi Paragon, his idea of her humor and her -- he must have seen some depth in me or he would never have turned this part over to me.

GROSS: What was it like rehearsing with Noel Coward? What kind of advice did he give you...

STRITCH: Wonderful, brilliant.

GROSS: ... about the songs and how to sing them?

STRITCH: Just wonderful. He would -- everything was -- not everything was a joke, but everything had humor, everything. And humor to me is one of the most important virtues, I call it, qualities that anybody can have about anything. I don't care whether you're digging ditches or singing Noel Coward. If you do it with humor, you're ahead of the game.

And he certainly had a -- you know, a double scoop of that.

GROSS: Did he give you advice about singing his lyrics, or about singing his melodies?

STRITCH: No. Richard Rodgers he was not, if you follow me.

GROSS: Well, what kind of...

STRITCH: No, he didn't.

GROSS: ... advice would Rodgers give you that Noel Coward wouldn't?

STRITCH: He would (inaudible) -- exacting, exacting to the point of suicide. But I loved him. But boy, I'll give you an example. I sang "Zip" for Richard Rodgers. This is a great antithesis to Noel Coward. I sang "Zip" in "Pal Joey" long before I did the Noel Coward show. And I used to say, (singing) Zip! Waaaal-ter LIP-man wasn't brilliant today...

And he would stop me and say, "Elaine, it is, (singing) Zip. Wal-ter Lip-man was... "

And I said, Oh, Jesus. And as soon as he left the theater I'd sing, (singing) Zip! Waaaal-ter LIP-man...

So I was a bad girl. But I was so convinced that I was right about that. (whispering) And just between you and me, I was right.

GROSS: (laughs)

STRITCH: But we -- but to -- I'm telling you that story for the reason is that Noel respected your interpretation, that extra something that you brought to his music. You know what I'm saying? He was very appreciative of it. And if you were wrong, did you get it! I wouldn't want to meet Noel Coward in a dark alley, I can tell you that right now. I don't want Noel Coward mad at me. Ever.

GROSS: Well, did he ever get mad with any of the cast members? And what was he like then?

STRITCH: Yes, he did, yes, absolutely. There was a young guy that came to rehearse -- to audition for Noel Coward. And I happened to be in the theater that morning. And, of course, Noel looks -- always looked like a million bucks.

And this guy came in to sing for Noel Coward, and he had jeans on and a dirty sweatshirt and bwah-bwah-bwah, and he -- you know. And Noel would say, "Are you going to sing for me?" And this young man said, "Well, s'OK with me, I don't care." You know, oh, God, he was rude and awful and filthy, and just unbelievable.

And he said, "I can sing `Star-Spangled Banner.'" Oh, boy.

So Noel, who was very full of curiosity, said, "Do you have an accompanist?" And this young man said, "Nah, I just sing it."

So he said, "Well, just sing it." And the young man sang it. And Noel interrupted him halfway through, and he said, "Young man, I'm not going to let you finish. I want you to leave the theater. I want you to stop maybe by on your way home and pick up a veddy, veddy inexpensive white shirt, preferably, and a new pair of jeans, which are perfectly all right with me, and some nice, clean sneakers.

"And then I want you to go home. And then I want you to take a veddy, veddy long shower with a lot of soap and a lot of water. And then I want you to get out of the shower and put on your clean jeans and your new shirt and your new scuffies. And then I think you should get out of the theater, because you have absolutely no talent at all."

Well, it was brilliant. I fell about. And my laugh came out from the back of the theater. And he said, "Good morning, Stritchey." And then he went right on. And this guy left with a shrug of his shoulders, like he didn't understand one bloody thing he just heard. He thought this man was from Mars, naturally.

Anyway, what a guy! What a terrific...

And it wasn't mean, you know, it was just brilliant.

GROSS: Did Noel Coward write any of the songs in "Sail Away" especially for you?

STRITCH: I don't know. I would imagine he had some kind of idea in mind, yes. You know, because of my particular brand of humor, what he thought I could do, absolutely. And there was one song he wrote in Philadelphia that was not in the original score for Johnny, and it was a terrific song.

GROSS: Which song was that?

STRITCH: He decided Johnny was too serious, and he wanted to give him a lighter vein (ph), "Go Slow, Johnny." I just love it. Don't you like that?

GROSS: Sure.

STRITCH: From the score? Oh, I think it's wonderful.

And he wrote a lyric in that song that is memorable to me, it's so brilliant and it's so Talented, with a capital T. "You're no Brando, rallentando," meaning, Go slow musically. I think it's such a great lyric.

GROSS: You actually knew Brando. Didn't you go to acting school with him?

STRITCH: Yes, I did. He was in -- I hasten to add that he's six, seven years older than I am. So I want that made very clear.

But we did go to dramatic school together.

GROSS: And you dated?

STRITCH: Yes, we did. Veddy, veddy briefly.

GROSS: Right.

STRITCH: Yes, I was too much of a convent girl for Marlon, if you follow my meaning.

GROSS: I get it.

STRITCH: You get it? Good for you, Terry. All right, next question? (laughs)

GROSS: Well, there'll be another question after we take a short break. My guest is Elaine Stritch. She's recreating her role in Noel Coward's 1961 Broadway musical, "Sail Away," in a concert production that opens tonight at Carnegie Hall.

More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: My guest, Elaine Stritch, is recreating her starring role in Noel Coward's 1961 musical, "Sail Away," in a concert production that opens tonight at Carnegie Hall.

Stritch plays a cruise ship director who violates the ship's rules by falling in love with a passenger -- a younger man, no less. From the 1961 original cast recording, here's Stritch singing the ballad, "Something Very Strange."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "SOMETHING VERY STRANGE," ELAINE STRITCH)

ACTOR: I found a little cafe on the beach, with a terrace overlooking the sea. Will you have dinner with me tonight?

STRITCH: It is strictly against the rules for me to dally, hobnob, or fraternize with any of the passengers.

What time?

ACTOR: Meet me here at 8:30.

STRITCH: OK, Johnny.

ACTOR: OK.

STRITCH: This is not a day like any other day.
This is something special and apart.
Something to remember
When the coldness of December
Chills my heart.

Something very strange
Is happening to me.
Every face I see
Seems to be smiling.

All the sounds I hear,
Buses changing gear,
Suddenly appear
To be beguiling.

Nobody is melancholy,
Nobody is sad.
Not a single shadow
On the sea.

Some magician's spell
Has made this magic start,
(inaudible), I want to hold
Each shining moment in my heart.

Something strange and gay
On this enchanted day,
Seems to be
Happening
To me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: The original production of "Sail Away" closed after 167 performances. That was a great disappointment to Noel Coward, who was hoping it would run for two years.

When "Sail Away" closed on Broadway, Noel Coward wrote in his diary this. "Another fact I must face is that I'm turning 62 whether I like it not, and it's perfectly possible that I'm out of touch with the times. I don't care for the present trends, either in literature or the theater. Pornography bores me. Squalor disgusts me. Garishness, vulgarity, and commonness of mind offend me.

"Subtlety, discretion, restraint, finesse, charm, intelligence, good manners, talent, and glamour still enchant me."

I'm wondering, from your perspective, how he handled the failure, you know, when it closed, of "Sail Away," and if he felt that this meant that he was out of touch with the times, like he wrote in his diary.

STRITCH: Well, I don't -- God, that's a tough question. Because we -- how can we get inside each other's minds? We don't really know. I know that he was a highly emotional man, and it must have affected him greatly. I mean, anybody that's human is going to be affected by the lack of success.

I know that -- listen, I can't even go into how I feel if something isn't successful that I do. It's the depths. And what we have to learn, and what Noel -- I'm sorry that he doesn't -- he's not around today, boy, am I sorry, because he's the kind of a human being that if the tools that are presented to people today for depression and a lack of success, if they were more popular then, then you cannot live in the martini, cigarette holder life forever, you just can't.

And he had deeper values than that, but he didn't nurture them. He was riding on a crest of a very dry martini.

GROSS: Noel Coward was a wicked satirist, and one of the songs that you sang in "Sail Away" was a parody of "Do, a Deer" from "The Sound of Music"?

STRITCH: I didn't even know that when I did it. I just knew it was the fact that she had to take care of those bratty kids on board ship, and she didn't rather -- she didn't much enjoy it. So she tried to squeeze as much humor out of it as possible.

That's all it -- the actual show made sense to me. I didn't care what it was spoofing or sarcasm or anything. The idea of Mimi Paragon having to go to that damn recreation room on board the QE2, let's say, for instance, and meet these -- all these kids that were yelling and screaming and try to teach them the ABC's -- please! Or, you know, review some of the things that the do in school so they can keep their studies up, was a giant bore to her.

But she made something funny out of it. So -- but then there's one little boy on the ship that, you know, drives you absolutely crazy. And I love his name. I love Noel's names. Alvin Lush, isn't that great?

GROSS: Well, let's hear the song. And this is called "The Little One's ABC."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "THE LITTLE ONE'S ABC," ELAINE STRITCH)

STRITCH: I want you to be quiet!

My darling, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O.

Oh, what a jolly little jocular
Group we are.

ACTOR: Blah, blah, blah.

STRITCH: Vocalize and harmonize
When Mother cries,
One, two, three, go!
Try, if it's possible,
To keep on key.
Sing the letters after me.

ACTOR: Just how corny can you be?

STRITCH: If you sing when you are blue,
You find you never have to care a rap.
When the skies are dark and gray,
You just say...

ACTOR: What a lot of...

STRITCH: Alvin!

P, Q, R, S, T, U, V,
And W, X, Y, Zed or Zee.
This is my personal recipe
For the Little One's ABC.

A stands for Absolutely Anything.
B stands for Big Brass Bands.
C stands for Chlorophyll,
D stands for Dexamil,
E stands for Endocrine glands.

F and G don't suggest a thing to me,
Nor do H, I, J, K, L.
But after L comes M for Mother...

ACTOR: Ah, nuts!

STRITCH: ... and Mother's going to give you hell.

A stands for Artichokes and Adenoids...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: That's Elaine Stritch from the original cast recording of "Sail Away."

I want to read a couple of things that have been said about your relationship with Noel Coward. Graham Payne, who was a good friend of Noel Coward, wrote this about you in his book about Noel Coward. He said, "Coward cherished Elaine Stritch's similarities with Gertrude Lawrence, her verve, her irreverence, her infectious vulgarity."

And Cole Leslie (ph), who, I think, was Noel Coward's secretary and wrote a book about him, said, "Elaine Stritch's devout Catholicism perhaps fascinated Noel the most."

And Noel Coward wrote himself in his diary, "Stritch was wildly enthusiastic and very funny. But I foresee leetle clouds in the azure sky. She is an ardent Catholic and has been in analysis for five years. Oh, dear."

STRITCH: (laughs)

GROSS: So...

STRITCH: I think it's a great combination. And it certainly figures, if you're an ardent Catholic, that you'd end up on a couch.

GROSS: (laughs) Right.

STRITCH: So I knew exactly where he was coming from. Not then, but I do now.

GROSS: Why do you think he was so fascinated by your Catholicism?

STRITCH: Well, because I was very serious about it, and I, you know, said my prayers and went to Mass and Communion and stuff like that. And then I was -- would say four-letter words occasionally. And that combination made him laugh and it fascinated him. I smoke -- I smoked, I drank, I did all the kicking-my-heels-up type things. But I went to Mass on Sunday, so they say that he's an honest man, you know, that kind of thing.

GROSS: Elaine Stritch. She starred in the original Broadway production of Noel Coward's musical "Sail Away." She's recreating her role in a concert production of "Sail Away" that opens tonight at Carnegie Hall in celebration of Noel Coward's centennial.

Here's Coward singing his song "Sail Away," which was used in the musical "Sail Away" even though the song was written years earlier.

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

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "SAIL AWAY," NOEL COWARD)

NOEL COWARD: When the storm clouds of (inaudible)
(inaudible) a winter sky,
Sail away, sail away.

When the love light is fading in your sweetheart's eyes...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BREAK)

GROSS: Coming up, treating criminals and their victims, and other stories from the emergency room. We talk with writer and doctor Frank Huyler, author of "The Blood of Strangers."

And Ken Tucker reviews the new CD by a reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Elaine Stritch
High: In a career spanning more than 40 years, actress Elaine Stritch has received acclaim for her work on stage, as well as on television and in motion pictures. She starred in the original 1961 Broadway production of Noel Coward's musical "Sail Away." In honor of Coward's upcoming centennary, she'll reprise her role in a concert production at Carnegie Hall.
Spec: Entertainment; "Sail Away"; Elaine Stritch

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 Elaine Stritch

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110302NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: "The Blood Of Strangers": An Interview With Frank Huyler
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

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

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

Calamity, pain, and grief are typical of what Dr. Frank Huyler witnesses daily in his work as an emergency room physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Huyler is also a poet whose work has been published in "The Atlantic Monthly" and "The Georgia Review."

Now he has a new book called "The Blood of Strangers: Stories From Emergency Room Medicine."

Let's start with a reading from the first story, "The Unknown Assailant." Two screaming men have just been wheeled on gurneys into the emergency room, one middle-aged and balding, the other young and overweight. The younger man, who became Dr. Huyler's patient, was screaming, "I don't want to die, don't let me die!"

DR. FRANK HUYLER, "THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS": "`You're not going to die,' I replied, thinking he might very well. `We'll take care of you.'

"The bullet had clipped his aorta, torn through one lung, through the diaphragm, and into his belly. He lay on his side, his chest split open, while the surgeons struggled and cursed.

"With both hands, I held his beating heart out of the way so the surgeons could see. His chest was like a misshapen bowl, dark and rich, filling again and again.

"`Jesus Christ, this guy's making us work,' Rosa, the surgery resident, said, scooping out handfuls of clotting blood, which slid off the surgical drapes onto the floor. Sweat beaded up on her nose above the mask, then fell, drop by drop, into the wound.

"There was so much blood they couldn't see what they were doing, putting in dozens of misplaced stitches until some began to stick and the bleeding slowed to an ooze. He was cold by then, despite the anesthesiologist's best efforts and the heat turned all the way up in the room, his blood full of acid and losing its ability to clot.

"`OK,' Dr. Blake, the attending surgeon, said, `we've got to stop and just hope he doesn't break loose.'

"It was a long night in the ICU, transfusing him with unit after unit of blood and plasma. Toward morning he was no longer recognizable, swollen from the fluid, bruised, but miraculously alive. When I came to see him before sunrise, I found a police officer sitting in a chair reading a magazine.

"The policeman yawned when he saw me, put down his magazine, and came out to talk. `He's a bad one,' he said, gesturing to the monstrously distorted figure. `We think he killed at least two convenience store clerks last year.'

"`Really?'

"The cop nodded. `Killed them both after he got the money.' He made a shooting motion with thumb and forefinger. `Right through the head. We've been after him for a year.'

"I vaguely remembered the crime, front page news, `Convenience Store Clerk Dead by Unknown Assailant.' And I looked at my patient as if for the first time. He didn't move at all, letting the machines do their work.

"I learned the full story from the other wounded man. He was not my patient, but that morning I went to see him anyway. Ray Salano, lying down the hall, had been extraordinarily lucky."

GROSS: Who is Ray Salano, and what did you find out about him?

HUYLER: He was the -- he was a man who had been shot by my patient, and who in turn had grabbed the gun from my patient and shot my patient. So he was the victim in the crime.

GROSS: How did you feel that after -- you know, helping to save the life of a man who was a stranger to you, finding out after you succeeded with the surgeons in saving his life, that he was a robber, he had shot several men?

HUYLER: He was a murderer, yes. Everything shifted a little bit. I mean, initially we thought we were dealing -- we didn't know what we were dealing with. And it was only after a few hours that we learned that -- at least that I learned that my patient was a murderer, that he had killed a couple people in the past.

And it was very disconcerting. It was -- you had to feel like the ground was unsteady beneath -- under your feet.

GROSS: Does anything change in you as the doctor if you think you're treating a victim, or if you think you're treating the killer, or the shooter?

HUYLER: We'd like to think it doesn't change what you actually do, in terms of your actions, in terms of your taking care of somebody. But certainly it changes how you feel about what you do.

GROSS: How does it change that?

HUYLER: You're more -- I think you're more -- at least speaking honestly now for me -- from my perspective, you're more dedicated when you feel like you're taking care of someone who's a victim. Although you try not to be. I mean, you're trying to suspend judgment, but you can't help but be judgmental.

GROSS: So did you talk to the guy whose life you helped save, the guy who turned out to be a killer?

HUYLER: I did. I talked to him. For the most part we had superficial interactions. But he thanked me. He would thank me for saving him or helping save him. He was intelligent. He was articulate.

And he was fascinating. There was something very compelling and fascinating about him, because he had a quality of awareness, even though the actions that -- what he had done -- he had done these terrible things. And yet he was aware and knowledgeable. And you had the sense that he had insight into them.

GROSS: You work in a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Do you see lots of the aftereffects of crime?

HUYLER: Yes, certainly. Particularly when I was a resident doing my residency training. We saw a lot of that. We saw a lot of shootings, a lot of stabbings, a lot of violent crime and the aftermath of those kind of acts. And it was certainly something that you couldn't escape from in a busy trauma center.

GROSS: Now, sometimes people use the emergency rooms because it's the weekend and they can't get ahold of their doctor, or it's the middle of the night. And, I mean, the symptoms might just be, you know, a rash or a terrible sore throat that really requires medicine immediately, or, you know, breathing problems, something that possibly could wait, but you feel it needs attention right away.

And there you are while heart attack victims and motorcycle accident victims and so on are coming through the doors. And you realize that, you know, your injury is -- or your sore throat or something is nothing as bad as that.

You once saw somebody in the emergency room who was there for basically a very, very bad sore throat, and you were going to prescribe an antibiotic, asked the guy if he was allergic to anything. And what happened next?

HUYLER: He said he thought he was allergic to something, but he wasn't entirely sure. And so I gave him a medication that was similar to but not identical to the medication he thought he was allergic to. And he had a -- what's called an anaphylactic reaction, meaning a life-threatening allergic reaction that nearly killed him right there.

And I had to do a lot to bring him back. And happily, fortunately, was able to. But it was very near thing. He almost died. And he almost died as a result of a medication which I had given him for a problem that was really very minor, and that would have likely gotten better on its own had nothing been done.

GROSS: What did you do wrong (ph)?

HUYLER: So -- I gave him a medication that he potentially could have been allergic to, given the information that he was telling me. And it was about a 10 percent chance that he would be allergic to the medication I gave him, and it happened. It -- that 10 percent was, in his case, 100 percent. And he almost died.

GROSS: Were you trying to save time, by not...

HUYLER: No, I wasn't...

GROSS: ... checking out what he was allergic to?

HUYLER: I wasn't trying to save time. It was certainly a busy night, and I was -- a lot of things going on at the same time. True anaphylactic reactions are very rare, and so they happen very, very uncommonly. And it was one of those situations where I think I didn't quite believe him fully, because he was -- he said he was allergic to a number of different medications.

And so I gave him one that was -- that he should, by all rights, have not been allergic to, and yet he was.

GROSS: So what lesson did you take away from this horrible experience?

HUYLER: A couple of different lessons. I mean, one is that you should be as careful as you can be, of course, and I've certainly -- it's changed my perception of allergies, certainly, that people say. But the other is just how uncertain the work in the E.R. is, and how so often things can come up out of nowhere. It's sort of like a minefield in that sense. You -- there's always -- you think you've covered the -- you've done a thorough job or you -- and yet there's always more, there's always the unknown, there's always the implacable waiting for you.

And it happens -- there's -- that quality is very common, and it's very -- it's always with you when you go in at night, particularly, and there's no other doctor in the hospital, and you're waiting, and you're just waiting for some -- something like that to happen, and you never know when it's going to happen or whether you can handle it if it does.

GROSS: My guest is Dr. Frank Huyler. He practices emergency medicine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His new book is called "The Blood of Strangers." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: My guest is Dr. Frank Huyler, an emergency room physician, poet, and author of the new book "The Blood of Strangers: Stories From Emergency Medicine."

When you meet somebody, when you meet a patient in the emergency room, you know, they're a stranger to you, and you have to go by what you see, and also what the patient tells you, if they're conscious and able to speak.

It must be interesting to hear -- as a writer, it must be interesting for you to hear how patients describe their problem. And I'm wondering if you find that you learn a lot by the way something is described, you know, the language that a patient uses.

HUYLER: I would say I learn a great deal by the way something is described, whether it's described stoically, whether it's described histrionically. The way it's -- just the body language. I mean, you learn a lot in a very short amount of time when you meet people in that situation, and -- in the emergency room, at any rate.

And the question you're asking yourself is, Do they have something that's really serious that could kill them, or not? Do they have something that will go away, will get better on its own? And that's probably the single most important question you ask. And how somebody tells their story influences you a lot in deciding which one of those two possibilities they have.

GROSS: Yes, tell me more about that.

HUYLER: Well, some people are very stoic, and you get a sense about them, when they're complaining of pain -- or you get a sense that the last place they would want to be is your emergency -- the emergency room, and that what brought them in here, into the E.R., was something that was very unusual and frightening.

And there are others -- other people who, quite honestly, like being in the emergency room, and like the attention that comes with people fluttering around them and starting IVs and that sort of thing.

So you get a sense of people quite quickly when you're just talking to them, whether they look afraid, whether they feel afraid, or whether they're not, whether they're saying things but look comfortable and look even contented.

So that initial interaction that you have with someone is very important and very -- you learn a lot very quickly.

GROSS: I want to ask you about something unusual that happened while -- I think this might have been while you were a resident. One of the people on the medical staff said, "You have to come see this, this is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in the hospital."

And they took you over to one of the patients, put a flashlight in the patient's mouth, and crawling around in the patient's mouth were maggots. What happened?

HUYLER: (laughs) Yes. There was a fly in the ICU, that's what happened. And it -- when people are paralyzed, and -- meaning giving medications to paralyze them so that the ventilators and other machines can work optimally, they don't move their mouths, they don't -- in a normal way. And as a result, if there is a fly there, or if there are flies around, they can lay eggs in the patient's mouth, and maggots can be the result.

And this was one example. I mean, there were maggots in this man's mouth that had been unnoticed and that were noticed when they -- You know, I'd like to say, though, that the book -- I mean, it -- that is hopefully not so much about that kind of thing. I don't want to give people the wrong impression about the book, that it's those kinds of sensational stories. A lot of the stories in the book are about smaller, smaller things, less dramatic.

GROSS: In your book, you write, and this is talking about patients who you see, you say, "I like them when they're brave in the face of it. I like the old women who say they're ready, that they understand the surgery is dangerous, if they die, they die. Who smile and pat my hand and tell me to send their children in. I like the men who flirt with the nurses even though the EKG is unmistakable."

Tell us more about what you're thinking here.

HUYLER: One of the things about emergency medicine is that you see people at their best sometimes. You see people at their most courageous, where they know that they've got something that could kill them, and they still manage to carry themselves with some kind of grace and courage. And you do see that.

And that's very, very admirable, I think, when you see people confronted with existential questions in an immediate way, still acting with -- within themselves. And I have seen that many times in the emergency room.

GROSS: Are there images that you've seen in your work doing emergency medicine that have really, like, haunted you?

HUYLER: Yes, certainly, certainly.

GROSS: Tell us about one of them.

HUYLER: Well, one of them was a young man, a patient who came in because he couldn't breathe. And he was in his late 20s. And he was -- the only way he could breathe was when he was sitting up, sort of in -- almost in a fetal position, leaning forward, was the only position he could breathe in comfortably.

And I had never seen him before, and we were talk -- we started talking. And turned out he had had -- he had Hodgkin's disease, which is a kind of cancer that usually is fairly treatable nowadays, but in his case had failed everything. And basically his lungs were full -- full of -- full of this cancerous tissue, and to the point where he just didn't have any good lung left.

But we got to talking a little bit in the E.R. It was in the middle of the morning -- early morning. And he told me that he had been accepted to medical school, that he had gotten Hodgkin's disease, and he was waiting -- he was hoping that they were going to hold a place for him in medical school.

And, you know, he and I were almost exactly the same age. I was maybe a couple years older. But there he was, and I looked at his chest X-ray, and his lungs were just completely full of tumor. And he was pretty much at the end, and then he actually died a few days later.

But when he and I -- when we were talking, he was alert, and I saw -- I really saw myself there too. And it was -- that was something that really stuck with me.

GROSS: Because he was so like you?

HUYLER: Yes. I mean, we were the same age, we were the same, you know, in a lot of ways. And yet for whatever reason, I was -- you know, I was there, I was the doctor and he was the patient. And things might easily have been the other way around.

GROSS: Does practicing medicine make you feel more vulnerable?

HUYLER: Yes, without a doubt. One of the things that you learn quickly is how vulnerable all of us are. And it's hard to pretend otherwise when you see those kinds of events as often as we do in the E.R. And the fragility of human life is very evident to us, I think.

GROSS: I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

HUYLER: Well, thanks a lot for having me.

GROSS: Dr. Frank Huyler practices emergency medicine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His new book is called "The Blood of Strangers: Stories From Emergency Medicine."

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the new CD by the reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Frank Huyler
High: Writer and emergency doctor Frank Huyler has transformed his experiences working in emergency rooms and hospitals into a series of short stories. His new book is called "The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine."
Spec: Entertainment; Health And Medicine; "The Blood Of Strangers"

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 Blood Of Strangers": An Interview With Frank Huyler

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110303NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: "Looking Forward": A Review
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

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

GROSS: "Looking Forward" is only Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's fourth album since they released their first, "Deja Vu," in 1970. Over the past three decades, they've each had solo careers of varying degrees of success, with Neil (ph) Young proving to have the most sustained critical and commercial success.

Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of "Looking Forward."

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "FAITH IN ME," CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC: By leading off "Looking Forward" with that song, called "Faith in Me," it's clear that David Crosby, Stephen (ph) Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young know exactly what their graying fans want to hear, those tremulous harmonies backed by propulsive folk-rock guitar and discreet percussion.

In 1999, there's a quaint quality to a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young project. It's as if Norman Rockwell were still churning out pictures of Americana, or as if P.J. Wodehouse were still around to publish one more novel about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. It's less a matter of timelessness than of hearing a certain dated style reproduced.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "STAND AND BE COUNTED," CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

TUCKER: There's the downside of reuniting a bunch of aging hippies. I doubt that anyone under the age of 40 could possibly feel so much as a twinge of countercultural excitement over David Crosby's "Stand and Be Counted." And it gets worse before it gets better.

Here's a small taste of Stephen Stills' warmed-over variation on Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," a hoarse rant called "Seen Enough."

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "SEEN ENOUGH," CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

TUCKER: Seen enough? I've heard enough. I know, I know, you think Neil Young is the rock critic's darling, and he's the only one I'm going to say nice things about.

Hey, you're right.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "OUT OF CONTROL," CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

TUCKER: That Neil Young song, "Out of Control," is easily the best song on "Looking Forward." And you'll notice that it's about looking back. Where for Crosby, Stills, and Nash looking back means repeating oneself, for Young it's an opportunity to reinterpret the past through wiser, or at least older, eyes, to bring a fresh perspective to a young man's concerns that never change -- in this case, holding onto someone you love.

I've given short shrift here to Graham Nash. Here's his 1999 version of "Teach Your Children." He calls it "Someday Soon."

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "SOMEDAY SOON," CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

TUCKER: Pretty, isn't it? That's what most of this album is like, pretty and pretty ephemeral. These old warhorses are saddling up for a tour, which they've had the poor sense to dub the CSNY2K tour. With a knack for instant cliches like that, I'm looking forward to its conclusion, so Neil Young can go back in the studio and cut a real rock and roll record.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for "Entertainment Weekly."

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our engineer is Audrey Bentham (ph). Dorothy Farabee (ph) is our administrative assistant. Ann Marie Baldonado directed the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, SONG, CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, AND YOUNG)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Ken Tucker
High: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews "Looking Forward" the new album by the reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; "Looking Forward"; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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: "Looking Forward": A Review
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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