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Harry Connick Jr.'s Tony-Nominated Broadway Turn

On Sunday, Harry Connick Jr. will be among the nominees attending the Tony Awards. Connick received a Tony nod for best actor in a musical for his Broadway debut in the revival of The Pajama Game.

Connick has released a disc of his Broadway endeavors. The triple CD features not only recordings of the 2006 Pajama Game cast, but those from the 2001 musical he wrote, Thou Shalt Not. The latter feature duets with his Pajama Game co-star, Kelli O'Hara.

21:28

Other segments from the episode on June 8, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 8, 2006: Interview with Harry Connick Jr.; Review of two music albums “Death by Sexy” and "Curses;" Interview with John Lasseter; Review of John Updike's book …

Transcript

DATE June 8, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

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

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"Curses" reviewed by Ken Tucker
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

New albums by two bands, Eagles of Death Metal's "Death By Sexy" and Rye
Coalition's "Curses," feature hard rock influences from at least 30 years ago.
Rock critic Ken Tucker says both bands make the so-called "classic rock" genre
fresh again. And by coincidence, each album has been produced by different
musicians who have been members of a much bigger name band, Queens of the
Stone Age.

Here's the opening of the CD by the Eagles of Death Metal.

(Soundbite of Eagles of Death Metal song "I Want You So Hard [Boy's Bad
News]")

Eagles of Death Metal: (Singing) "I want you so hard, I want you so good.
Now, can you trust me? Yes, you know you could. My friends are talking, and
they're telling you, `Don't waste your time 'cause the boy's bad news.' My
friends are talking, and they're telling you `Just leave him alone 'cause the
boy's bad news.' I want you so hard, I want you so good."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. KEN TUCKER: For a side project from a member of Queens of the Stone Age
that can sound like a joke band if you don't listen carefully enough. Eagles
of Death Metal sure is, well, great. Guitarist and drummer Josh Homme from
Queens of the Stone Age reunited with a childhood pal, Jesse Hughes, who was
going through a bad divorce and writing rock songs as therapy. The two formed
Eagles of Death Metal, the very name a joke that nonetheless suggested both
intensity and a soaring playfulness. Little Richard, James Brown, and T. Rex
were prime inspirations, as are middle period Rolling Stones and half
forgotten boogie bands like Savoy Brown and Foghat. How does all that sound
when mashed together? Like this.

(Soundbite of Eagles of Death Metal song "Cherry Cola")

Eagles of Death Metal: (Singing) "Got some needs yeah, I need to shake it,
ooh. And I can razamataz you honey, if you want to. I can be your daddy, be
your rock n' rolla'. You can be my sugar, be my cherry cola. Got some needs
yeah, I need to shake it, ooh. Cherry cola, cherry cola, ch-ch-cherry cola,
cherry cola."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: Lead singer-songwriter Jessie Hughes is a hilarious eccentric,
nutty and shrewd. He sometimes uses the stage name "Boots Electric" because
he likes to dance while performing. He refers to his prodigious mustache as
`a soft boomerang of love.'

By contrast, Rye Coalition, a New Jersey quintet, plays it a bit more straight
and ferocious on their pleasingly raw new disk "Curses."

(Soundbite from Rye Coalition's "Curses" CD)

Rye Coalition: (Singing) Cat scratching at your back door. She wanted just a
little more. Don't give a damn what the neighbors say. I'm going to love you
anyway. Oh yeah, all right. (Unintelligible) Oh yeah, all right, Couldn't
love you more even if I tried."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: In Rye Coalition singer Ralph Cuseglio's voice, you can hear the
strangled angst that informed the distinguished work of AC/DC, Kiss, and the
noted archery and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent. But Rye Coalition adds its own
mark to this genre of bash and roll, first of all, with a knowingness that
never becomes arch or ironic and a fierce rhythm section powered by the
drummer David Anthony Leto.

(Soundbite of Rye Coalition)

Rye Coalition: (Singing) Ever since you came into my world I knew you had to
be my girl. I couldn't say a word, I didn't have the nerve. Say you want
what's on my mind. (Unintelligible) lay it on the line. And now I'm
wondering why I can't get you off my mind. Little girl, be mine. She's all
right. Little heart of mine. It's all right. It's all right. All right.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: What both Eagles of Death Metal and Rye Coalition share, and
they share it to the extent of touring together on some dates, is that they
don't agonize or antagonize. They want to make music that especially pleases
the female segment of their audiences, which is unusual among male bands who
rock this hard. That's what the Eagles' album title "Death by Sexy" refers
to: achieving musical romantic nirvana. Speaking of nirvana, Rye Coalition
is produced by Dave Grohl, former member of Nirvana, and a Foo Fighter who was
also briefly a Queen of the Stone Age, with the Eagles' producer Josh Homme a
few years ago. Alienation, hostility and free-floating antagonism have become
so routine among newer hard rock acts, as well as much hard core hip-hop, that
simply by making party music, heavy on the beat, mindful of funk and blues
rhythms, both bands locate the sensuality that transforms solid rock into
something more rare, good old rock 'n' roll.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
new CDs by Eagles of Death Metal and Rye Coalition.

Coming up, John Lasseter talks about directing his new animated film, "Cars."
This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

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Interview: John Lasseter, director of Pixar films "A Bug's Life,"
"Toy Story," and the new "Car" discusses his work
TERRY GROSS, host:

My guest John Lasseter directed the new animated film "Cars." He also directed
"A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story," which was the first feature-length
computer-animated film ever made. He was the executive producer of "Monsters,
Inc.," "Finding Nemo," and "The Incredibles." Lasseter was a founding member
of the Pixar Animation Studio. This year Disney acquired Pixar, and Lasseter
is now Disney's chief creative officer.

Every character in the new movie "Cars" is a car. The main character is a
hotshot rookie race car named Lightening McQueen. On the way to a
championship race in California, he accidentally winds up off the interstate
on Route 66, where he drives into a small forgotten town named Radiator
Springs. The movie features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie
Hunt, Cheech Marin and George Carlin.

John Lasseter, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to do a story
about cars?

Mr. JOHN LASSETER: Well, "Cars" is--the movie is a really personal story for
me. I grew up in Los Angeles, and I think anybody born and raised in LA, it's
part of their DNA to kind of like cars. But my dad was a parts manager at a
Chevrolet dealership, so I liked cars even that much more. I would--I would
love to go to his dealership when the new models were released. It was always
around the beginning of school, and they would paint the showroom windows
white, and I couldn't wait to see the new models. And so I just have always
loved cars. And so it's really kind of putting the two sides of my life and
my family and my loves together, because my mother was an art teacher for 38
years and I grew up loving cartoons, and so this is kind of putting the two
sides of my loves together, cars and cartoons.

GROSS: What about race cars? Are you interested in NASCAR?

Mr. LASSETER: I love racing, yeah. I live in Sonoma, California, and
there's a racetrack called Infineon Raceway. It's where NASCAR comes every
year. They--it's one of the two road courses, and I've gotten really in love
with race--seeing races live. And there's an energy to being at a racetrack
when the race is live. The sound, which is--the cars are so loud. There's no
mufflers on race cars. And the speed. When you see these cars driving, it's
like you can't believe they could drive that fast, and so all that energy.
And I thought, I would love to get that kind of energy on the screen for the
audience to see.

GROSS: When you were growing up, your father ran the parts department of a
Chevy dealership, and you worked there as a stockboy for a while.

Mr. LASSETER: Yep, I sure did.

GROSS: Well, having a sense of like--a real visual sense, what were some of
the most interesting-looking parts to you, and I'm wondering if any of those
parts helped to inspire any of the animation.

Mr. LASSETER: Well, I always loved--the wheels were so interesting to me
because how a wheel can fundamentally change the way a car looks. Also,
there's--back then, the muscle cars, you would get--put much bigger wheels on
them and raise them up in the back and they became very, kind of muscular that
way, you know. And then as cars kind of evolved, the way they look like
muscle cars is you would lower them, and they became more like street racers
and stuff, and the tires kept getting thinner and thinner and thinner, and the
wheels kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger where it looks like it's just
kind of black spray paint on the outside of the chrome rim now. And so I
always--the wheels always inspired me as to how that can fundamentally change
the way a car looks.

GROSS: Now, the main character car is a young race car that ends up by
mistake on Route 66 and kind of gets trapped in this small town, and you know,
the race car, like all race cars, is--there's logos on the car--there's
logos--it's like race car drivers, their clothes are filled with logos...

Mr. LASSETER: Right. They have the sponsors.

GROSS: The sponsors, yeah. So you had to come up with sponsors for these...

Mr. LASSETER: Right.

GROSS: ...imaginary race cars, and some of them are pretty funny. On one of
them, the main sponsor for the main character car is Rust-eze and...

Mr. LASSETER: Rust-eze Medicated Bumper Ointment in their new rear end
formula.

GROSS: Now, is that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the "Car Talk" guys, doing the
voices for that?

Mr. LASSETER: You bet. It is. You bet. I mean, I'm a huge NPR fan, and I
listen not only to FRESH AIR, but I listen to "Car Talk" all the time, and I
thought, I'm doing a movie about cars being alive. I can't do it without
getting Click and Clack as voices. And so we had talked to them early on, and
out of thinking of them and their show and, you know, being from Boston and
stuff and how cars just rust out in Boston, I thought this would be so great
to get these guys in there. And so we thought, well, they kind of are these
guys that own a garage that sort of made up this kind of Preparation H for the
automotive world that takes care of and soothes that painful rust that the
Northeast cars kind of get. And out of that came the idea of a Rust-eze, you
know, a medicated bumper ointment.

GROSS: Now, when you asked Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the "Car Talk" guys, to be
voices in the movie, did they say yes right away? Because one of the things
they're famous for, for instance, is not leaving town a lot, so you know,
you'd think that...

Mr. LASSETER: Well, we went to them.

GROSS: ...they would have jumped at this, but it wouldn't shock me if they
declined at first, because I have a feeling they say no to a lot of things.

Mr. LASSETER: Well, we called them and, you know, we talked to them, and I
think they kind of got interested. They were--they were familiar with Pixar's
other films, like "Toy Story" and all that stuff. And you know, so we finally
had a conference call where we were going to talk to them about--that I was
going to talk to them about the movie. It became a 45-minute personal "Car
Talk" episode. I was laughing so hard through this because I asked them the
simple question, `OK, what car would your brother be?' Right. I didn't ask
them `What car do you want to be?' I asked them what car do you think your
brother should be, and that was 45 minutes of them talking about each other's
cars that they've had through their life. They were so hilarious. And, you
know, Tom, of course, always has convertibles, so they finally settled into a
Dodge Dart convertible. And then his brother had--wanted to be a '67--you
know, he said, `Oh, he's got to be a '67 A100 van,' right, `and it's a Dodge.'
You know, it was kind of cool, because they settled into both Dodges because
they're both brothers, and we had so much fun with those guys. They were
hilarious.

GROSS: My guest is John Lasseter. He directed the new movie--the new
animated movie "Cars." He also directed "Toy Story," "Toy Story II," and "A
Bug's Life."

Now, "Cars" is your first film since Pixar merged with Disney, and before that
the two companies had a co-production deal. So how does this change your
working life?

Mr. LASSETER: A lot. Bob Iger, who's the CEO of Disney, asked me to be
chief creative officer of Disney Animation and of Pixar Animation, and so now
I'm kind of overseeing, you know, all the productions that are being done at
both of the studios. I'm also helping over at Walt Disney Imagineering,
helping design future theme park rides. And I'm having the time of my life
because this is, you know, this is what I've wanted to do all my life, is to
make cartoons for Disney, and I got interested in computer animation, which
led me up to the San Francisco area working with Lucas Film, and then Pixar
kind of grew out of that. And so to go back to Disney has been really
exciting, and I was--I worked through college at Disneyland as a ride operator
on the Jungle Cruise, and so I've got the theme parks in my blood, too, and so
it's really exciting to be back.

GROSS: So what did you learn from working--from operating the Jungle Cruise
ride in Disneyland?

Mr. LASSETER: I actually was really shy before I worked on the Jungle Cruise
boat. And, as you know, the Jungle Cruise is a ride that it takes you through
kind of the jungles, and the operator does a narration for the whole thing.
And more than any other ride at Disneyland, the operator is part of the ride,
because you have these phenomenally bad jokes to tell. Right? And the worse
they are the better, is what I've learned, and so I actually learned a lot
about comic timing from the Jungle Cruise. Because I had a captive audience,
every eight minutes or so, and you know, and so I learned--well, if--let me
try delaying the punch line a little bit more, and it got funnier. Oh. And I
went too far, it wasn't funny enough, you know. And I went back and forth
trying things, the energy, slowing things down. And it was--it was amazing
how much I learned about comic timing from doing the Jungle Cruise.

GROSS: So what's one of the jokes that you had to tell? Did they script them
for you?

Mr. LASSETER: Yes, there's a standard operating procedure spiel that you're
supposed to do, but it's one of the lore of the Jungle Cruise, the skipper--is
that you trade jokes and you learn about new ones. And one of my favorite
jokes is, as you come around the bend, there's an explorer and his sort of
native helpers. They're stuck on a pole, and there's this rhino that's kind
of poking him. Right? And--or trying to poke him, and they're raising up
every time the rhino rises. And you say, `Oh, here's the lost explorer and,'
you know, `he's being led by the famous Hontus tribe,' and of course the rhino
is trying to "poke a hontus."

GROSS: Oh, gee.

Mr. LASSETER: See? Huh? Yeah, it's really bad.

GROSS: You were actually fired from Disney, weren't you? Or was that Disney
Animation or from Disneyland?

Mr. LASSETER: Oh, thanks, Terry, for bringing that up.

GROSS: Well, hey, anytime.

Mr. LASSETER: Just about forgot that. No. Yes, in fact, I was fired from
the Walt Disney Studios. I was--I was a young animator working there straight
out of Cal Arts. It was--it was a time when Disney--the Disney animation
studio was being run by, you know, run by kind of animators that were the
second-tier animators during Walt's time. They were creatively in charge
through attrition as opposed to talent, really.

And all these young people were coming in from Cal Arts, and we were on fire.
We had seen--"Stars Wars" had come out, "Close Encounters," you know, the work
of Scorsese and Coppola, and just--the cinema was changing. You know? And it
was just like we were so excited about what we could do in animation. And
these guys were threatened by us. I mean, classmates of mine were Tim Burton,
Brad Bird, John Musker, and I could go on and on. Leaders in the industry
today were all my classmates. We were--we just wanted to do cool things, and
I never stopped. I kept suggesting things right and left and trying things
out, and I literally had one of the guys tell me, `You know, if we want your
ideas, we will ask you. Just sit down and do what you're told. If you don't
want to do it, there's a line of people outside the door that will do it.' And
I thought to myself, whenever I'm in charge I'm never going to say that to a
young person who is so excited and trying to make a product better. And it's
interesting because so much of my management style at Pixar is made up of what
I learned not--what not to do during that time. And so I never shut up, and
that's why eventually they fired me.

GROSS: Well, you went...

Mr. LASSETER: So I went off to Northern California and worked with Ed
Catmull and Lucasfilm, and the rest is history.

GROSS: Now, I read that your co-director on "Cars," Joe Ranft, died in August
2005, and I believe he collaborated with you on all the films that you
directed. What happened?

Mr. LASSETER: Joe was heading to a retreat, and he got into a car accident
on a coastal road and was killed in a car accident, and it's a big loss. Joe
has been such a part of all of our films at Pixar, plus, you know, most of the
major Disney films, too. He's one of the greatest story artists and story
minds that's been around in the industry, and he also is one of the funniest
guys you've ever met. He, in fact, did a lot of--he's a very good actor, and
he did a lot of the temporary voices that we use kind of as we're making the
movie, and sometimes his voices were far better than any actor we were trying
to cast in the part, so he became, you know, the permanent voice. And so he
did the voice of Heimlich the caterpillar in "A Bug's Life," Wheezy, the
asthmatic squeeze toy penguin, in "Toy Story II," and lots of small parts
through all of the movies. And you know, he was with me--he and I went to
college together. We both grew up in Whittier, though we met at college, and
he's been a part of every minute of making this film with me, so it's a huge
loss to the studio and to the art form of animation.

GROSS: What did it do to your ability to really enjoy these animated cars in
your movie and enjoy their adventures and enjoy their racing knowing that your
good friend and colleague had died in a car accident?

Mr. LASSETER: The way I look at it is Joe wanted to entertain the audience
with this movie. Every frame of this film has got Joe in it. So, to me, it's
more about looking at the audience and the smiles on their faces and how much
they're enjoying this moving knowing that's Joe. That's what Joe is giving
those people. And that's what I think about with this film, that Joe wanted
this movie to be good and really entertain audiences.

GROSS: Well, John Lasseter, thanks so much for talking with us about your new
movie. Thank you.

Mr. LASSETER: Terry, it's always great to talk to you. Thank you so much
for having me on.

GROSS: John Lasseter directed the new animated film "Cars." It opens
tomorrow.

Coming up Maureen Corrigan reviews John Updike's new novel, "Terrorist." This
is FRESH AIR.

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

Review: Maureen Corrigan reviews John Updike's new novel,
"Terrorist"
(Soundbite of music)

TERRY GROSS, host:

In the new novelist "Terrorist," John Updike, one of the country's most
distinguished writers, attempts to figure out what would make a young man from
New Jersey, who recoils from the thought of killing insects, offer himself up
as a martyr for the jihad. Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.

Ms. MAUREEN CORRIGAN: The world John Updike helped usher into being in the
some 50-odd books he's written in some 50-odd years is the very same world he
indicts in his latest novel "Terrorist." Updike in his prime was something of
a swinger. This is the great man of letters, after all, who wrote about
wife-swapping in the suburbs and memorably wrested the subject of oral sex
away from the dank domain of pornography and introduced it in his 1968 novel
"Couples" into the respectable precincts of high literature. But in
"Terrorist," Updike's fictional attempt to enter into the mind of a homegrown
teenaged Islamic radical, the bill has come due for the long American cocktail
party of easy sex, overconsumption and political naivete. And Updike, once an
enthusiastic participant, is paying up. In fact, he's all but dawning a
hairshirt and taking a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. For, as
"Terrorist" tells us, it's not really those fundamentalist bomb-building
zealots out there whom America has to fear. Rather the enemy lurks deep
within our own morally flabby culture of fast food, fractured family and easy
credit.

"Terrorist" is set in Philip Roth country, northern New Jersey, but it lacks
the humor, at once manic and rueful, that Roth brings to this blighted
landscape of tired suburbs and industrial warehouses. Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy is
an 18-year-old senior at Central High, a factory of a public high school whose
limp motto is "Knowledge Pays." Ahmad's mother Teresa is a recovering hippie
of Irish-American extraction who works as a nurse's aid and plays at serial
love affairs. His father was an Egyptian exchange student who decamped when
Ahmad was three. When Ahmad turned 11, he fell in with the local imam, who
operates a storefront Islamic school. Ahmad was attracted to the rigor and
the paternalism of the imam's teaching. Now, as he's about to graduate high
school, Ahmad catches the flickering attention of an all-but-burned out Jewish
guidance counselor, Jack Levy, who hopes to steer the young man into a junior
college and away from the suspect career path the imam has pushed him toward,
getting his operator's license so he can drive large trucks.

As a purely aesthetic experience, "Terrorist" is pleasurable enough. Updike's
famed precision and elegance haven't diminished, and, as always when I read
him, I get a kick out of learning obscure but always appropriate vocabulary
words, like "maieutic" that only a writer with Updike's zest for the language
and sure touch would have the nerve to place in a sentence. But Updike's
prose has never seemed more emptily out of sync than in this novel's odd
renunciation of the halcyon days of his beloved hero, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom.
All but the stupidest characters, and they would be Ahmad's sexually
omnivorous mother and Jack's binge-eater of a wife, propound the same dead-end
worldview that America has invited its own ruin. Thus, Jack reflects that
"America is paved solid with fat and tar, a coast to coast tarbaby where we
are all stuck." A teacher originally from Barbados marvels at the vandalism
that infects Central High. "In Barbados we shared books falling apart and
used both sides of tablet paper, every scrap. Education was so precious to
us. Here in this grand building you need guards, as if in a jail, and the
students do everything destructive. I do not understand this American hatred
of decent order."

Besides the hectoring tone that all these accumulated finger-waggings create,
Updike's screed against the American culture, on the one hand, tells us what
we already know, that a landscape overrun with McDonald's and ATM machines
lacks gravitas and, on the other hand, doesn't tell us enough. Ahmad remains
an enigma at the end of this novel, his pilgrim's progress from a lonely kid
who finds solace in the Quran to a martyr willing to blow up the Lincoln
tunnel still a mystery. Dostoevsky and Conrad are still the literary gold
standard in the Western canon on terrorists. They may not have had any idea
either about what motivated them, but they created mordant worlds and peopled
them with characters of palpable willfulness. Don DeLillo, too, managed such
a trick in his brilliant rendering of Lee Harvey Oswald in "Libra." When a
John Updike tackles a subject like terrorism, serious readers pay attention
because we hope something powerful or subtle will be evoked beyond the range
of reportage or political analysis. But "Terrorist" sadly feels like a rant,
an old man's book without an old man's wisdom.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed John Updike's new novel "Terrorist."

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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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