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Former Episcopal Bishop of New York, Paul Moore

We remember former Episcopal Bishop of New York, Paul Moore. He died Thursday at the age of 83. Moore was known for his activism and concern for human rights. He was part of the civil rights movement and protested against the Vietnam War. As Bishop, he brought the church into dialogue with the poor and oppressed in New York. And he transformed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine into a thriving place for the community. In 1997 he published his memoir, Presences: A Bishop's Life in the City. This interview first aired December 15, 1997.

20:09

Other segments from the episode on May 2, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 2, 2003: Obituary with Paul Moore; Interview with Maceo Parker; Interview with Bootsy Collins; Review of the film "X2: X-Men United."

Transcript

DATE May 2, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Provile: Remembering Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore of New York
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross.

Paul Moore, the former Episcopal bishop of New York, died yesterday at age 83
after suffering from brain and lung cancer. He was a longtime outspoken
advocate for social change inside and outside the church. He pushed for the
ordination of women, and was the first bishop to ordain an openly lesbian
priest. He fought for civil rights, opposed the war in Vietnam, sought aid
for inner-city residents and supported John Lennon's efforts to become a US
citizen. Moore was ordained in 1949 and gave his last sermon as bishop 40
years later. Although he worked tirelessly to help the poor, he came from a
wealthy family. He grew up in a house in New Jersey staffed by butlers and
maids, with a three-hole golf course just beyond the garden.

Terry spoke with Paul Moore in 1997 and asked if he was ever conflicted over
whether to keep his money or give it away.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

Bishop PAUL MOORE (Episcopal Church): My first wife and I worried about this,
especially when we were living in Jersey City amongst many poor people who
didn't have enough clothes and sometimes not enough to eat, and I could have
written them a check for a hundred dollars, but that would have been a very
bad thing for the dynamics of the work we were doing.

What we decided to do was to live in a relatively modest fashion in Jersey
City--we lived right there next to the church and very modestly--and then to
give away whatever of our income was left after we spent what we needed to
spend to charity of one kind or another. And then later on I took a big hunk
of it and made a foundation which I could use anonymously to help other
causes, and over the years I've given away a lot of the capital as well as the
income, but not to the point of St. Francis. I did not strip down in a
public square, and I still wear clothes.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Now you said before that you could have written out a check to poor people
for, you know, a hundred dollars to help them out, but that would have been
bad for the dynamics of what you were trying to do.

Bishop MOORE: Yeah.

GROSS: I want you to elaborate on that.

Bishop MOORE: Well, that would have meant that they would be coming there for
a handout, period, and we probably would have had a thousand people at the
door and just giving out checks. That's not what we were about. But that had
to do with the church and parish being the center of a community of
love--God's love, human love--starting at the altar, where we had our
Eucharist each day, and spreading out into the community in terms of
ministering to poor people in their hardship, but also in trying to change the
system and developing a network through the city as best we could,
establishing cell groups in different neighborhoods by getting to know the
children and, through them, their parents, by encouraging rent strikes and so
forth, doing this in order to try to change the system.

And if we had just become a handout place, first of all, we would have had to
eventually set up guidelines and become just sort of a second-rate foundation,
and that was not what we were there for. So my extra money that we had I gave
outside the parish to other causes within the church and in the world.

GROSS: You say that religion wasn't an important part of your life until
about the 11th grade. What religion were you born into and...

Bishop MOORE: Episcopal Church. My mother was a Presbyterian, actually, but
she went to the Episcopal Church 'cause my father went there. Then he quit,
she continued. But she used to take me to church every Sunday. I didn't go
to Sunday school. The first time I went they threw spitballs at me because I
didn't know the kids, so I never went back. And I kept going every Sunday.
It was very boring. And I used to look at the stained-glass windows and
fiddle with the prayer books. I went to St. Paul School. It was still
pretty boring, but a little nicer because there was an atmosphere of a school
there and the prayers were more youth-friendly.

GROSS: Well, part of what changed you was your first confession.

Bishop MOORE: That's right.

GROSS: What made you decide to take this first--to give this first
confession?

Bishop MOORE: Well, there was a master on the faculty there who was a priest
and we were a so-called `low' church school. However, he was very interested
in what we used to call Anglo-Catholicism, which was the high church or
Catholic part of our Episcopal heritage. And the Anglo-Catholic Churches had
incense, they had bells, people crossed themselves, people genuflected. It
was a whole other thing. It was Catholicism. And he used to take us to
high-church ceremonies, which are rather mysterious and wonderful and
beautiful, and as adolescents we were drawn to that; and also the fact he
said, `Don't tell the rector of the school I took you because he wouldn't
approve.' So that was sort of sub rosa, which is also for a teen-ager very
interesting.

And then he talked about confession, which was always available in our church
but very little used, and encouraged us to do that. We were a little scared
of the idea. So a monk came to school and I was asked to go see him, which I
did, and talk to him about why should I confess to a man when I could confess
directly to God. And he said, `Well, of course, you can confess to God
directly. But when you make your confession, it's a sacrament. It's a deeper
kind of assurance of forgiveness.' So looking back, it was sort of funny, but
at the time was very embarrassing, naturally. And I made my confession to him
later that night with clammy hands and shaking fingers. And when he pronounced
the absolution, `As his priest, I absolve you from all your sins in the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,' I was overwhelmed by a presence
of God, by a sense of peace and joy and wonder--I can't describe it--and
walked down to my room in the clouds and made my Communion the next day, and
it was if I'd received the sacrament for the first time. And that was a
turning point in my life.

GROSS: And did you stay with the Anglican Church after that?

Bishop MOORE: Oh, yes.

GROSS: You know, you became a Marine and fought in World War II shortly after
your conversion experience. And your conversion experience transformed you,
but I'm sure the war did, too. Did you feel at all like it was changing you
in a different direction, away from the, like, openheartedness that you wanted
to have as a new convert?

Bishop MOORE: Well, yes and no. First of all, I had some questions about
whether a Christian should go to war. But my rector had been to World War I,
had been gassed, who was a very wonderful and very devout man. I respected
him enormously. And he felt, as I did then, that it was the lesser of two
evils, that Hitler and--I guess Japan wasn't in it then--but Nazism, if that
took over the world, beginning with Europe, that it would be a total disaster
for the church and for civilization and that this is one of the few times
where it was justified to fight; a just war, if you will.

So I went in. And once I decided to go in, I gobbled up the Marine Corps
hook, line and sinker, semper fidelis, rough, tough leatherneck. We had
bayonet training where we had to scream and yell and stick our bayonets into
straw dummies and knock heads off dummies, heads that were dressed up to look
like Japanese, oriental heads. It was absolutely terrible. But this process
was a toughening up of our psyche. I was a young, callow kid from Yale. I
had to be toughened to go through the stuff we would go through. And so the
training was necessary, but it made us impervious to some of the horrors that
we were asked to do.

I shot one man, I know, without any need to have shot him; just 'cause he was
lying there. And I just shot him. And this happened again and again and
again. So we had to have been toughened, but at the same time it did make me
realize that my faith was strong enough to get me through that kind of horror
and come out on the other side.

GROSS: You were hit by a grenade during the war and it punctured a lung.
You...

Bishop MOORE: Now...

GROSS: Go ahead.

Bishop MOORE: Actually, I was throwing a...

GROSS: Oh, it was your own grenade that blew up.

Bishop MOORE: ...grenade. No. Well, yeah, I threw a grenade at a machine
gun ...(unintelligible) which was killing some of our men. And as I knelt
upright to throw it, I got hit by the machine gun...

GROSS: I see.

Bishop MOORE: ...that I was throwing the grenade at. So I was hit by bullet;
went through my chest, past my heart. The doctors thought it should have hit
the heart, but they figured the heart was on the in-beat when the bullet went
by. So I was very lucky, to put it mildly.

GROSS: But at the time you thought were dying.

Bishop MOORE: At the time, I thought I was dying. Yeah.

GROSS: And you write that this near-death experience wasn't a spiritual
experience at all. What were you expecting? And how did it compare?

Bishop MOORE: Well, I wasn't expecting anything. Hadn't really thought much
about it. Death was all around us. We were getting quite casual about it. I
remember running out under fire to get a package of cigarettes. I risked my
life to get a package of cigarettes. My friends had been killed, my men I'd
seen bleeding in my arms, and death became so common--it's hard to
believe--that when I finally got hit, `OK, so I got hit this time.' And I lay
down after the bullet went in, and wind was blubbering in and out of this
wound in my lung. And I thought I was dying, and I gave over the platoon to
the sergeant, and then I fainted. But before I fainted, I thought, `Well, I'm
supposed to remember my whole life,' and that didn't happen. Then I said,
`Oh, I better say a prayer,' which--I said a prayer commending myself to God.
But it wasn't a deep business of seeing Jesus coming to get me or anything
like that. It was sort of almost casual.

Now if I had died, I don't know whether it would have been that casual or
whether it would have been a much deeper experience. I presume it would have
been. But if I died going back to the H station on that stretcher when I was
already unconscious, what I just recounted would have been my experience of
death, at least the conscious part of dying. Whether something else opens up
after you lose consciousness if you are dying is one of the great mysteries.

(End of excerpt)

BIANCULLI: Paul Moore speaking with Terry Gross in an interview from 1997.

Moore, the former Episcopal bishop of New York, died yesterday at age 83.
We'll hear more of their conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview with former New York Episcopal
Bishop Paul Moore. The interview was conducted in 1997. Paul Moore died
yesterday at age 83.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

GROSS: Because you're a bishop in the Anglican Church and not the Roman
Catholic Church, you were able to marry and have children.

Bishop MOORE: Yeah.

GROSS: Celibacy is not required of priests in the Anglican Church. Do you
think you could have been a celibate priest? Do you disagree with the concept
that you need to...

Bishop MOORE: I disagree totally with that concept. There are some priests
who are drawn to the celibate life. We have celibates in our church. We have
monks who are celibate by vow. And we have secular priests who have not
gotten married for whatever reason and are celibate. But that wasn't for me.
I mean, I wanted to have children. I had fallen in love before I went to the
seminary. I was married before I became a priest. And I feel very deeply
that my marriage and experience in my family; not only the joys of it, but
some of the pain and sorrow of family life and the difficulty of marriage gave
me an understanding in counseling people who are having marital problems and
family problems that I never could have had as a single priest. And this
isn't putting down celibacy for those who want it.

GROSS: You were a father during those difficult-to-be-a-parent times of the
1960s.

Bishop MOORE: The '60s.

GROSS: I think some of your children were teen-agers during the '60s...

Bishop MOORE: Indeed, they were.

GROSS: ...when all the sexual standards of the past were being challenged by
young people. And you write in your book that you wanted to give your
children as much freedom as possible, though you forbade drugs, with whatever
power you had to do that...

Bishop MOORE: Right.

GROSS: ...but that, you know, you believed the culture suffered from too much
sexual puritanism. So when your children were coming of age, how did you deal
with issues of their sexuality and how they could deal with boyfriends and
girlfriends in the house?

Bishop MOORE: Well, that was tough. I mean, we started by being very much
against anybody having intercourse until they were married. And then the next
step was, as we were exposed to the liberal thinking of the '60s, which you
just described, we began to think, `This is a little bit too tight.' And my
wife would teach my teen-age daughters about birth control so that if they did
have intercourse they would be safe. This is long before AIDS, of course.

GROSS: Right.

Bishop MOORE: As far as the dope goes, we were vigorously against hard drugs
of any kind, but we were a little loose about marijuana. I remember going
upstairs and my 15-year-old was suddenly interested in growing plants in a
window box. And I thought, `Isn't this nice.' And I looked up and, of
course, the plants were marijuana.

GROSS: Right.

Bishop MOORE: And so we went through that kind of thing.

GROSS: Right.

Bishop MOORE: But you just struggle through. We were making ad hoc decisions
in the midst of the event. We didn't have a hard ideology we insisted on, and
I'm sort of glad we didn't. Looking back, I think we did OK. I might have
made some changes in retrospect.

GROSS: Yeah. You supported the ordination of women in your church, and you
were the first bishop to ordain a lesbian priest within the church.

Bishop MOORE: Yeah.

GROSS: How did you come around to that thinking? You didn't always support
the ordination of women or gays.

Bishop MOORE: Well, I think one of the reasons I came around so quickly to
the ordination of women is I had six daughters and a wife who...

GROSS: Were they pushing you?

Bishop MOORE: Indeed, they were. I remember one time when we were out in the
Adirondacks, I said, `Girls, why don't you clear the table?' `Girls? Why
should the girls clear the table?' So, you know, that taught me one lesson.

GROSS: Right.

Bishop MOORE: And, well, the whole ethos of the women's movement was very
much part of their thinking and my wife's thinking and my thinking, and it
wasn't long before I realized it was just absolutely ridiculous not to allow
women to be priests.

Although theology it says that God is beyond gender, neither man nor woman,
historically God has been looked at as a father figure, as a male figure, as a
God of judgment. And I think the Roman Catholic Church has sort of made up
for that by their cult of the virgin. But in our church, the Virgin Mary
didn't have much of a role; and, therefore, our people were starved for a
femininity in their devotion. And so when women became priests and you could
hear a woman's voice reading the Bible, a woman's voice celebrating the
Eucharist, you gradually realized that Jesus Christ took on human flesh,
happened to be a man, but he took on all human flesh, and that God made us in
his image, both man and woman, and that's in the Bible. But that was a very
deep reason to have women priests, as well as the obvious reason of us being
discriminatory not to.

GROSS: Now what about gays and lesbians?

Bishop MOORE: Gays and lesbian. Again, what happened to me was that a gay
woman who was out of the closet, as it were--she'd written articles for a gay
magazine--came to see me, wanted to be a priest. She was totally qualified,
brilliant academically and a fine person, but she was out of the closet. And
I said, `No way could we ordain you.' And the standing committee who had to
OK it, too, wouldn't even think of it. I floated it by them. They said half
of them would resign if I did this. So I said, `No.' She said, `Well, I'm
going to go to seminary anyway.' I said, `Well, feel free.'

So she came back three years later and asked again. By the time, a lot had
happened. Women were beginning to be ordained. And so it was possible. And
I thought to myself, over those three years, the only difference between Ellen
Barrett--her name--and maybe 20 percent of our clergy who were gay and in the
closet is she is more open, more honest, not that they didn't have a right to
be private. But she also had a right, it seemed to me, to be open. So I
headed one of my chapters in my last book about this issue Is Honesty A Bar To
Ordination? And I couldn't answer yes. So I said, `OK, Ellen, we'll try it.'
The standing committee reluctantly went along. We ordained Ellen and all hell
broke loose.

Later on, some of the parishes refused to pay their dues to the diocese. I
had hearings when I was repudiated. It was all over the papers. I had a
special secretary to answer the mail. And finally there was an attempt to
censure me in the House of Bishops. So it was an enormous explosion. People
said, `You were so courageous.' I said, `It's like being courageous to say
you're courageous when you're standing in the middle of the road and get hit
by a truck.' I had no...

GROSS: Any regrets?

Bishop MOORE: No. But I'm not sure I would have been as courageous as I was
if I had known what was going to happen. I hope I would have been.

GROSS: Well, I'd like to take you back to 1949, which was your first
Christmas as an ordained priest. In fact, I think it was your first Eucharist.

Bishop MOORE: You're right.

GROSS: Would you share some of your memories of that first Eucharist in 1949?

Bishop MOORE: Well, it was in Jersey City and it was a wonderful moment for
me. The congregation was already integrated. A lot of the boys we had begun
to reach had become acolytes. And to be able to stand at the altar,
especially in that inner-city situation, and realize you are celebrating the
Eucharist for Christmas when our Lord became a poor child and changed,
redeemed the whole life of human beings by that becoming man, becoming human.

And the other thing that was so strange was that Christmas was a very cruel
time for many of our people, because they couldn't afford to buy presents for
their children. We had attempted suicides, we had murders, we had alcoholism.
Whenever Christmas came, it was a time of horror stories as well as a time of
beauty. And so I've always remembered that.

And if only people understood, especially poor people understood, that the
message of Christmas was that God became poor, then perhaps they wouldn't have
this awful tension between the materialistic Christmas and advertisements and
the little they're able to do to their own families. So there was always this
tension, as there was in the original Christmas: a homeless woman having an
illegitimate child in the stable, and our image of all the lovely carols and
golden Christmases that we have.

(End of interview)

BIANCULLI: Paul Moore speaking with Terry Gross. She spoke with him shortly
before Christmas in 1997.

Moore, the former Episcopal of New York, died yesterday at age 83.

I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

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Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Interview: Bootsy Collins discusses his James Brown music
connections
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Let's continue our birthday tribute to James Brown, who turns 70, or maybe 75,
tomorrow. In 1994, Terry spoke with James Brown alumni Bootsy Collins, one of
the most celebrated funk bass players. Collins also spent years with George
Clinton, combining funk with science fiction and psychedelics. Then Collins
formed his own group, Bootsy's Rubber Band, and created the stage persona
Bootzilla. It was an oversized name to go with his flashy costumes and
monster-sized eyeglasses. But it was James Brown who taught Bootsy Collins to
play funk in the early '70s, when he was recording hits like "Sex Machine" and
"Super Bad."

(Soundbite of "Super Bad")

Mr. JAMES BROWN (Musician): (Singing) One, two three, hit it. Watch me!
Watch me! I've got it. Watch me! I've got it. Hey! I've got something
that makes me want to shout. I've got something that tells me what it's all
about. I got soul, and I'm super bad. I got soul, and I'm super bad.

Now I got a move that tells me what to do. Sometimes I see it. Now I got a
move that tells me what to do. Sometimes I feel so nice I want to try myself
a few. Ha! Ha! I've got soul, and I'm super bad. Ha!

TERRY GROSS, host:

Well, listen, I went back to James Brown's autobiography to see what he had to
say about you.

Mr. BOOTSY COLLINS (Musician): Yeah. Oh, God.

GROSS: So he writes, `I think Bootsy learned a lot from me.'

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GROSS: `When I met him he was playing a lot of bass...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GROSS: ...the ifs, ands and the buts.'

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah, he's right.

GROSS: `I got him to see the importance of the one in funk...

Mr. COLLINS: Yup.

GROSS: ...the downbeat at the beginning of every bar.'

Mr. COLLINS: That's right.

GROSS: `I got him to key in on the dynamic parts of the one...

Mr. COLLINS: That's right.

GROSS: ...instead of playing all around it.'

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GROSS: `Then he could do all of his stuff in the right places after the one.'

Mr. COLLINS: That's absolutely correct. Yeah. Absolutely correct.

GROSS: Now was it hard to make the adjustment to playing on the one?

Mr. COLLINS: No, because I knew he knew something, I mean, you know. And I
was there to learn. It wasn't like, you know, this is my party and I'll fly
if I want to. I knew it was James' party, you know, and whatever he knew I
wanted to find out because, you know, he just had this--the band was the
tightest band in the land, and he had this thing going on. We wanted to find
out what the heck it was, you know.

GROSS: Now had you been playing on the two and four before?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, actually I started playing with the guitar, and I wasn't
actually a bass player yet, so I was learning to play bass, you know, and I
wanted to play bass. So it was like all those other if, ands and buts is what
I was playing when I picked up the bass. You know, it was like, `Oh, you mean
I got to play on the dominant note. Oh, OK.' So it was like all brand-new to
me, you know. And I just didn't feel like a normal bass player, you know.
But by James telling me that, it all kind of made sense, and once I started
hearing it, you know, what was actually happening when I did that, it was
like, `Oh,' and then I could still do this and I could still that. So it was
a groove. It was really a groove.

GROSS: Now let me play one of the recordings you made with James Brown. Why
don't we hear "Sex Machine"? And do you want to say anything about the rhythm
you're playing on this?

Mr. COLLINS: That's pretty much--the whole rhythm is what I figure I've been
doing ever since. When you hear "Sex Machine" that's pretty much where I'm at
now.

GROSS: OK.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GROSS: Here we go.

(Soundbite of "Sex Machine")

Mr. BROWN: Fellas, I'm ready to get up and do my thing.

Unidentified Man: Go ahead! Go ahead!

(Soundbite of group of people cheering)

Mr. BROWN: I want to get into it man, you know.

Unidentified Man: Go ahead!

(Soundbite of group of people cheering)

Mr. BROWN: Like a--like a sex machine, man...

Unidentified Man: Yeah!

(Soundbite of group of people cheering)

Mr. BROWN: ...moving, doing it, you know,

Group of People: (In unison) Yeah!

Mr. BROWN: Can I count it off?

Group of People: (In unison) Go ahead!

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) One, two, three, four! Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Stay on the scene...

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: ...like a sex machine.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Stay on the scene...

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: ...like a sex machine.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Stay on the scene...

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: ...like a sex machine.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Wait a minute. Shake your arm, then use your thumb. Stay on the
scene like a sex machine. You've got to have the feeling sure as you're born.
Get it together. Right on. Right on. Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

Mr. BROWN: Get up.

Unidentified Man #2: Get on up.

GROSS: My guest is Bootsy Collins.

Now tell me how your image changed when you started playing with James Brown,
what you did on stage, what you wore on stage.

Mr. COLLINS: Ooh, that's good, that's good. What I wore on stage. Oh, man.
Well, as you know or may not know, those were the days like in the '60s,
getting ready to go into the '70s, but, you know, it was another kind of
movement going on. And kids were, like, coming up front and wearing, like,
bleached jeans and T-shirts and Afros and, you know, the granny glasses. And,
you know, we was all freakin' out. We was having a freakin' party, you know?
And I don't know. Then here we are. We're playing with James Brown and, you
know, we're in the army now. You know, it's like whoa!

You know, so it's like--but it was good for the fact that it kind of brought
us off of the street. We were out there doing what everybody else was doing:
acting crazy, throwing firebombs and doing everything, you know. So getting
with James kind of brought us off of the street. And, you know, I think we
kind of realized that, and at the same time, you know, it gave us the
opportunity of really doing something that we wanted to do. So, you know, we
kind of put everything else in the backseat 'cause this is what we wanted to
do, even though, you know, we wanted to dress crazy. We didn't know how crazy
we wanted to dress, but we didn't want to wear suits, you know. We knew that,
you know.

GROSS: So you were wearing matching suits on stage while everybody else was
wearing jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts?

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Well, you know, while this movement was going on--the
peace, the love, that was going on--and you know, here we are, you know,
getting stuck with wearing suits and patent leather shoes, you know. But at
that time, you know, the start of it's always cool, you know. We said, `Well,
we'll eat this because, you know, we definitely, you know, want to be with
James, you know. So if you wanted to be with James, that's what you had to
do.

GROSS: So you left the band after just a couple of years.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: What was the turning point for you that made you think, `It's time
now. I'm getting out'?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, you know, I got--you know, all the other bands was coming
out wearing the freaky stuff that I said, `Well, wow, I could have did that
three years ago,' you know. And, you know, I mean, you know, it was like that
and then it was like, you know, you just want to do things the way you want to
do them on stage. You want to go crazy. You want to freak out, you know,
because that's what time it was, you know. And here we were just standing up
there being the tightest band in the land, but, you know, it was only a
certain amount of movement you can do, you know. You couldn't jump out in the
audience and freak out and act crazy, you know. Like, that's what it was
going to, you know, and that's what we wanted to do, you know. We just wanted
to have a lowdown hoedown and, you know, drip-until-you're-wet type party.

GROSS: Let me play one of the classic Bootsy records. Why don't I play
"Bootzilla"?

Mr. COLLINS: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Say something about writing and recording this.

Mr. COLLINS: Let's see. That was in--I think it was in '78, right?--1978.
And we done that at the P-Funk lab in Detroit. And it was George Clinton,
myself. We just kind of went in and winged it, and all of the sudden the
monster was born, the rock star doll, baby bubble. Yeah.

GROSS: This is Bootsy Collins from his new Warner Brothers collection.

(Soundbite of "Bootzilla")

Mr. COLLINS: Yabba-dabba-doo ...(unintelligible) I come equipped with
stereophonic funk-producin', disco-inducin', twin magnetic
(unintelligible). Oh, I'm perfect for bumping, you see. Just wind me up, put
me on your credit charge, baby, and at no extra expense comes this remote
control unit. Oh, yeah, I'm programmable. One heck of a doll, baby
bubble(ph). Bootzilla here! Mmm, made by the makers of funky things to play
with. Trademark funk for tech incorporated, bubble. Mmm.

Group: (Singing) Pull my string. I'll dance. I'll sing. I'll dance for
you.

Mr. COLLINS: Yabba-dabba-doo, bubble.

GROSS: Now I want to ask you a couple things about your bass. You actually
started off playing guitar.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GROSS: And then you started using bass strings on the guitar.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: And that's how you started playing bass. Well, why didn't you get a
bass?

Mr. COLLINS: Money. I didn't have any money. You know, it was like my
mother had bought me this guitar because I had begged her, you know, for
years, right, about this one guitar, man, and she finally got it for me, and
then I decide that I want to play bass, you know, and, you know, it's like
come on, man. It took me all these years to get this guitar, you know. So
what it was was my brother was--you know, he was like playing guitar and I
realized that I wanted to be in a band with him after I got a guitar. So how
was I going to be in a band with him playing guitar and he's the guitar
player? So I decided, wow, I've got to become the bass player. So that's
when that big thing came up with, OK, well, I'll take some bass strings and
I'll put them on my guitar and I'll play bass with him, you know. This was my
big dream to just play with him.

GROSS: And I think James Brown gave you your first bass.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah, he did. He did. Yeah.

GROSS: What was it like learning to actually play bass on bass instead of on
guitar?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, you know, the only difference I think was the neck was
longer, you know, because the strings were pretty much the same. I had put
bass strings on the guitar so they were pretty much the same. It felt the
same, but I think the neck was longer because James had got me this Fender
Jazz Bass, you know, and it was a long sucker, and it was like, whoa, wow, it
was like a Cadillac, you know. Yeah.

GROSS: Thank you so much for doing the interview.

Mr. COLLINS: Oh, the pleasure's all mine.

BIANCULLI: Terry Gross talking with Bootsy Collins in 1994. Collins was a
bass player for James Brown, who celebrates a birthday this weekend.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Oh! Hey! Tell me whatcha gonna do about that. Tell
me whatcha gonna do. I got to know about that, is your love for real? Don't
you know how I feel? Tell me whatcha gonna do--Yeah!--about that. I got ants
in my pants and I need to dance. Come on! Got ants in my pants and I need to
dance. Some big fine mama come give me a chance. Uh! Yeah, yeah!

BIANCULLI: Coming up a review of the new comic book movie "X2: X-Men
United." This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Movie "X2: X-Men United"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

The Marvel comic book "X-Men" was adapted into a hit film by Bryan Singer.
Now Singer has directed a sequel called "X2," also starring Patrick Stewart
and Ian McKellen as mutants. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

Many superhero comic books operate on the principle that their readers will
identify with freaky misfits, which won't be a surprise if you've been to any
comic conventions. I say that with sympathy; I've been to a couple myself.
Nowhere is this comic book alienation more explicit than in Marvel's "X-Men,"
which takes off from the idea that evolution has produced a class of special
people. They might be telepaths; they might be shape-shifters; they might
raise storms or punch holes through things with their eyes. But they've all
proudly taken the name `mutants,' which is like gay people taking the name
`queers,' and they have parallels to gay people. They're fighting for their
right to be who they are.

If they're lucky, they get whisked away at an early age by Professor Xavier.
He's the X of X-Men. He takes them to his mutant academy where they learn to
use their powers responsibly and where they can bask in the glow of mutant
fellowship.

The first "X-Men" movie, directed by Bryan Singer, was surprisingly decent.
It was rooted in that pain of otherness and it had gravitas. The bigger fight
wasn't against the humans, but the lunatic fringe of the mutant class, against
Magneto, the most powerful mutant of all, played by Ian McKellen, and his
sidekick, a slinky metamorph called Mystique played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
These two were tired of being mistreated by humans. They wanted to dominate
them, maybe even wipe them out. It fell to Professor X, played by Patrick
Stewart, and his band of raging moderates to keep Magneto in line.

The X-Men are all back in the wilder and funnier and more involving sequel
"X2: X-Men United." There's Anna Paquin's Rogue, who kisses the boys and
inadvertently sucks the life out of them, and Hugh Jackman's amnesiac
Wolverine with his retractable adamantine talons, and a couple of hotty
mutants played by Halle Berry and Famke Janssen, who have new hairdos but not,
unfortunately, more exciting personalities. The baddy this time is a military
guy named Stryker who's like a fanatical Cold Warrior, played by the great
Irish actor Brian Cox. Stryker wants to wipe out the mutant race. He's got
Magneto a prisoner, he kidnaps Professor X and then he sends his paramilitary
units to snatch up all the mutant kids. The most intriguing part of the
sequel is that Xavier's team and Magneto's team are on the same side, but is
the enemy of my enemy my friend? That's one of the movie's big teases. You
get a clue which way it's going from this scene, where McKellen meets one of
X's students, who's played by the hero of the movie "Tadpole," Aaron Stanford.
Unlike the more temperate mutants, this teen-age fire wielder is just a little
too in love with his power to singe.

(Soundbite of "X2: X-Men United")

Mr. AARON STANFORD: (As Pyro) So they say you're the bad guy.

Mr. IAN McKELLEN: (As Magneto) Is that what they say?

Mr. STANFORD: It's a dorky-looking helmet. What's it for?

Mr. McKELLEN: This dorky-looking helmet is the only thing that's going to
protect me from the real bad guys. What's your name?

Mr. STANFORD: John.

Mr. McKELLEN: What's your real name, John?

Mr. STANFORD: Pyro.

Mr. McKELLEN: What talent do you have there, Pyro?

Mr. STANFORD: I can only manipulate the fire. I can't create it.

Mr. McKELLEN: You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you
different.

EDELSTEIN: That voice of McKellen's is incomparable. He plays Magneto as
royally bored, the major questions of his existence having long been settled.
He gets out of his non-metal prison by insouciantly pulling the iron out of
the blood of a hapless guard, then he sails out of his cell on an iron carpet.

Singer, who directed "The Usual Suspects," is a little cerebral for my taste.
The climaxes don't have the oomph you get from more vulgar thriller directors.
But the movie is in a different league from a standard Hollywood comic-book
blockbuster. It's never as simple as good vs. evil. The three male titans,
X, Magneto and Stryker, are each convinced his way is right. My only
complaint is that these mutants are a little, well, vanilla. I wish the X-Men
had a touch of kinkiness to go with their weird abilities. As it stands,
they're like Eagle Scouts with merit badges in telekinesis and energy sucking
and instant freezing. I guess that's the difference between comic books and
hundred-million-dollar movies. Real deviants we save for indie movies and
late-night cable.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is the film critic for the online magazine Slate.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAMES BROWN: (Singing) ...(unintelligible) dance in the underground, and
he has given me ...(unintelligible) that he can find. Hit it! Gravity. Yow!

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: Gravity, the big G. G-R-A-V-I-T-Y.

Backup Singers: Gravity.

Mr. BROWN: Say it! Gotten a hold on me. ...(Unintelligible) I've been
trying to get the funky dog done. Pull myself up and work that
(unintelligible).

Backup Singers: You drive ...(unintelligible). You dance too fast. You burn
(unintelligible).
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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