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Journalist-Turned-Screenwriter David Mills

Mills writes for the television shows, "ER" and "NYPD Blue." This week's episode of ER is written by him. Mills is also the co-author of "George Clinton and P-Funk" (Avon Books). He's also reported for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on November 12, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 12, 1998: Interview with David Mills; Interview with Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio; Review of the CD box set "William Kapell Edition."


Date: NOVEMBER 12, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111201np.217
Head: Interview with David Mills
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06


A few years ago, my guest, David Mills, was a staff writer for "The Washington Post" where he wrote important pieces about black music. His interview with Sister Souljah became a factor in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign.

Then he made a career switch, he became a write
r for one of the most highly acclaimed shows on television, "NYPD Blue," and was nominated for an Emmy award. He's also contributed to "ER," in fact an episode for which he wrote the teleplay entitled "Hazed and Confused" airs tonight.

Here's an excerpt from an "ER" that Mills wrote last season. In it, Doctor Mark Green played by Anthony Edwards, is being questioned at a hearing about possible racism in his handling of a patient.


d you feel horrible after Kenny Law died after being treated by you in this hospital?

ANTHONY EDWARDS, ACTOR: I felt regret, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Had you applied the same standard of care to Kenny Law as to the white teenager brought into the emergency room five minutes before?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: That's a damn lie.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Ms. Davis, do something about your client please.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Chris, will you...

uiet, please. Be quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: He know's it's a lie.


EDWARDS: Look, you're in no position to accuse me of anything. You of all people.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Doctor Green, do you hold the life of a young black man to be of lesser value than the life of a white person?

EDWARDS: What kind of a question is that?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Will you answer it?

EDWARDS: People die. I'm human. I'm fallible.

you would characterize yourself as fallible?

EDWARDS: Don't twist my words.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Let me ask you about your fallibility. When this young black man was brought into the ER...

EDWARD: Look, do you want me to say that I'm a racist? Is that it? I'm a racist. All right, does that make you feel better about almost beating me to death?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Mark, sit down and shut up.

EDWARDS: Is that going to bring your son back?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Don't you point
your finger at my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: That's it. We are taking a break, we're stopping this right now.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Talking about regret. Regret. You never expressed regret to my mother.

EDWARDS: You belong in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: I wish it was me who kicked your white ass.

TUCKER: David Mills, welcome to FRESH AIR.

DAVID MILLS, SCREENWRITER; JOURNALIST: Thank you very much, Ken, for having me.

TUCKER: So, how did you make this move from newspaper jour
nalist to big-time TV writer?

MILLS: It was quite a fluke, and whenever I tell aspiring TV writers about it, I mean, I can -- my heart breaks a little because I doubt that anybody can duplicate it. A newspaper buddy of mine from college, David Simon, had written the book "Homicide," and when they turned that into a show they gave him one of the first episode's to write almost as a courtesy.

That was back in '92, and for old-time sake, Simon brought me along and we wrote that script together as a lark. And
it became the episode that they hired Robin Williams to do and they launched their second season with it. And it awakened in me a kind of dormant desire to write for TV anyway. So, I took the opportunity and left "The Washington Post," and got an agent and -- to see if I could make a go of it; quite prepared to go back to journalism if I couldn't make a go of it.

TUCKER: Yeah, I mean, in my experience, lots of people think: a writer is a writer, if you can write for a newspaper you can write script. Could you
please disabuse people of this notion?

MILLS: Well, I don't know that I can for my own experience because I think storytelling is storytelling. And I think that the things you have to know in journalism apply in drama as well. I mean, as a journalist your devoting a lot of thought, or at least I did, you know, you write a long feature -- if you write a long feature, a disproportionate amount of energy is going into, you know, how to start the story; how to get people hooked, you know, how to get them reading
past the jump, you know, how to get them reading to the end; how to keep their reading; how to have surprises in the thing.

And that's what TV writing is too. You've got to keep people interested until the end, you know, you've got to tell a story. So, I think it was -- I mean, if I had tried to write TV at the age of 24 and not 34, you know, I don't think I -- forget life experience, I don't think I would've had the storytelling jobs that come with -- that come with feature writing and newspaper work.

ER: So, what did you do? Did you a spec script? How did you do about getting an agent?

MILLS: Yes, I did. I had to write a spec script because the peace I had written with David Simon, that "Homicide" piece -- as big a splash as it made, was useful as -- useless as a writing sample form a because we had written it as a team.

And because he was doing another book, "The Corner," we couldn't come into the TV business as a team. So, I wrote an "NYPD Blue" spec as a matter of fact.

TUCKER: So, it was
useless in the sense that people said: "Well, we don't know what's your work and what Simon's work?"

MILLS: Exactly. It was useless even in getting an agent. Agents didn't care -- because they would say the same thing: we don't know who wrote what. You have to write something yourself. So, I wrote an "NYPD Blue" spec.

TUCKER: And how was that received?

MILLS: It got me an agent. Although I'd sent it cold to 5 different agencies and four of them didn't even want to meet me off of the spec script.
And again, that's even after having the "Homicide" produced. So, it's a very, very tough to crack into the business. Very, very tough to get an agent's attention. And only did I find out later, a little bit to my chagrin, that a friend of mine from "The Washington Post" had sort of put a bug in the year of someone at CAA to look out for me.

So, it's all about, you know if not for that, I could have fallen through the cracks there as well.

TUCKER: Right.

MILLS: Because looking back on that spec sc
ript, you know, it didn't -- you know, I was an amateur it didn't set the world on fire. But, once a got an agent things -- your in the business, things started happening from there.

TUCKER: But you also head a kind of complication with "NYPD Blue" writer David Milch didn't you? That kind of brought you very much to his attention.

MILLS: Yes, indeed. I had -- my first job was on "Picket Fences" on staff. And I moved from Washington to L.A. to work on "Picket Fences" in the fall of '94.

t's a show created by David Kelley.

MILLS: Yes, indeed. And written, almost entirely by David Kelley which I quickly learned, and quickly sort of made me think this may not be -- you know, I moved out here to write. I'm in the business to write, and there were a number of writers -- a staff of writers there, simply not writing.

TUCKER: He's pretty much legendary for like writing everything. He's always got a hand in it.

MILLS: Yes, indeed. He's a magnificent specimen. I mean, one in a billion crea
tive talent. But at that time he hadn't sort of come to, I guess, a sort of self-knowledge that he was going to write. Now, he doesn't even higher other writers which is good because, you know, you don't have people sitting around disappointed.

But at that time he still had a full staff on "Picket Fences," and a full staff on "Chicago Hope."

TUCKER: You were when the people sitting around disappointed?

MILLS: Yeah, feeling, you know, why doesn't daddy love us, you know? But concurrently, "The Washing
ton Post," actually broke a story about David Milch making comments before a seminar of writers, and when he was asked -- he was asked why there are so few black writers in dramatic television.

And a that time there may have been zero for all I know, in '94 because there aren't but a handful today. And Milch is a very free speaking person, and he propounded his theory that blacks, as a class, tend to do poorly writing for a general audience because there so -- they can get outside of their blackness; so, they ca
n't sort of write from within the mainstream.

TUCKER: Yikes.

MILLS: Whereas he said Jews, on the other hand, are particularly well-suited for dramatic writing because they're both in an out of the mainstream culture. So, they have been doubleness that makes them ideal drama writers.

TUCKER: He may as well have put a bull's eye on his head.

MILLS: Yeah, and he was quite surprised when, you know, all of a sudden Jesse Jackson is calling ABC and all these things. For a good week there, it got prett
y hairy. As well as his own black star James McDaniels getting in his face and saying: what's up with this?

TUCKER: Lt. Fancy on "NYPD Blue."

MILLS: Indeed. Indeed. But I appreciate the fact that Milch spoke so openly about what I'm sure is -- goes unspoken among a lot of white producers that just don't have a lot of respect for black writers as a class. Perhaps, it's because they just see so few. I mean, I talked to a guy at about the time that story broke -- I talk to a writer, John Tinker, who had b
een in the business 12 years and he told me he had never read a script by a black writer.

TUCKER: This is John Tinker who worked on like, "St. Elsewhere," and tons of high profile shows.

MILLS: Indeed. Had never even seen one.


MILLS: So, there was something going on -- but the thing that really got my dander up was not that Milch dared to speak something so politically incorrect or even inflammatory; it was that in just a few months in Hollywood I had seen with my own eyes that not e
very white writer on staff on these dramas is a competent writer.

So, I said where are, you know, while we're engaging in these public discussions of black inadequacy, why does no one ever mention rampant white mediocrity? You know, it was all around me and nobody ever talks about it.

And that's the unspoken flip side of any discussion of Affirmative Action is that the assumption that every white person who has a job has it because of merit and has it because they're good and they deserve it, and that wasn'
t the case in journalism; it's not the case anywhere; and it's certainly not the case in Hollywood where people, you know, hire their brother-in-laws, you know, and make them writers or they hire their best friend's kid out of college, and that's how writing jobs are handed out on a lot of shows in Hollywood.

So, how dare he raise the issue of merit and black people not being able to cut it in a meritocracy. So, I put all this energy into a letter that was as polite as I could write it, and send it to David Milc
h, who I had met briefly before and shook his hand before, but -- and off of that letter, you know, he invited me to breakfast and we had and extraordinary, frank discussion over breakfast about all these issues.

And we left that with him saying: you know, if ever come available, I'll give you a freelance episode to write. And not to long after that, I left "Picket Fences," again, because I wasn't able to write there and took Milch up on his offer. And, indeed, he came through; gave me and episode late in the s
econd season. And I was hired on staff at the beginning of the third season based on work I had done on that first freelance opportunity.

TUCKER: So, you really felt after that breakfast, hey, this is a guy I can work with, despite what he said, the fact that he was so open an honest and upfront; this was a guy you could work with?

MILLS: Well, it was a guy I wanted to work with -- only because I had been such a fan of television, and I respected him so much. I mean, that's part of what hurt me so much i
s that I've got every episode of "Hill Street Blues" on tape. I know what an extraordinary writer David Milch is, and I also know that, you know, he's probably not encountered, you know, a lot of Black writers who could perform at a level that he could respect.

So, I just wanted to, as a writer, work with him. I was hoping that, as a black man or as a person with different experiences and different voices, that I could bring to bear on the show that he could value me as that. But I wanted, primarily, to try to
impress him as a writer.

TUCKER: I'm talking with David Mills. Let's take a short break.

This is FRESH AIR.


TUCKER: My guest, David Mills, has written for such shows as "NYPD Blue" and "ER."

So, you started out really writing for the cream of the TV crop. You're working with David Kelley, then producer Steven Bochco who reinvented the cop show with "Hill Street Blues," and David Milch who has his reputation for writing intricate, morally complex scripts.

What advice or training did
you receive from them that was helpful?

MILLS: David Milch comes from a university background. He was a lecturer at Yale, and he was a protege of Robert Penn Warren. So, he not only can write, he is a teacher and loves that role; that pedagogical role ever since he's been out in Hollywood.

Still, what he -- his gift to me when I look back on it, and I drawn in everyday, is just the standard he set for truth; for emotional and behavioral truth; and for truth of language to the point where you really have to
, I mean you can't try to sneak anything by him. You can't -- if anything is the least bit phony, you know, he's going to deal with it quite harshly.

So, it just -- he set an incredible standard. So, by the time I really started to, after a few scripts, to really learn what I was doing, it just took a little bit of a kind word from him, or a thumbs up from him, to just really, you know, lift me, you know, into the clouds. Because if you impress him, then, you know, you done something.

And I still got rew
ritten a lot, everybody gets rewritten a lot, but -- by David and by others. But all along the while, you know, I felt myself getting closer and closer, script by script, to what his vision and voice of that show were.

TUCKER: Initially, what role did you play in the writing of that show, and I wonder if, you know, just as on a show like this you'd have a consultant on police work to make sure those details are right. Were you ever initially turned to -- sought out about the portrayal of blacks in an episode?

MILLS: No, and I did not covet that role.

TUCKER: I'm sure.

MILLS: It was a similar thing when I worked on the style section of "The Washington Post," you know, I did not want -- other people are different and welcome this, but when I'm sitting in the newsroom I don't want my colleagues from across the newsroom to say: here, I've written this -- my white colleague to come over and say, "Here, I've written this story on a black guy," and to sort of vet it through me.

TUCKER: Right.

know, that's not the role I want to be in just as I don't want to do that, you know, with a story I write to vet it to somebody also. Or if I'm writing script to vet it through the woman writer on staff and say, "Do I have this woman quite right?"

If I have specific concerns, you know, I would draw on whatever I could, but just not a general matter of course. So, no, that was not done.

TUCKER: Yeah. It was just, you know, as an outsider looking at a show, you know, you never really know how many cooks are
making that stew. You know, it's -- whether it really is a vision of a single writer a lot of time.

MILLS: Well, I've seen it both ways. When I went to "ER" I saw a whole other side of how a drama could run because David Kelley and David Milch are kind of that same school of these kind of mad geniuses, and your only job is to do the best you can; to mimic their voice and vision because these individuals -- I mean these universes sprang fully blown from the mind of David Kelley and David Milch, and is not your
job to the come here and tell the stories you want to tell. No, you're there to tell the stories David Kelley wants to tell and David Milch wants to tell in the style that they have created.

Now, "ER" was a totally different model. John Wells is a fine writer, but he is not invested in -- he doesn't have the sense of ownership of that universe of "ER" that Milch and Kelley half. Therefore -- and he very much as a matter of philosophy or workplace culture believes in collaboration.

So, that the writers
meet, you know, 12 hours a week just beating out every story of every episode so that in every episode all the writers have a hand in somewhere; whether you through out a funny line in the course of the story meeting and it wound up in the script or, you know, you're giving notes to the first and second and final draft of every script that's written.

So, that it was truly a collaborative process, and you can't argue against the success of that process with "ER." It's an extraordinary hit. But, you could prob
ably say that it doesn't burn with the fire of an individual genius, but it's a superb show nonetheless. And it was a very satisfying place to work as a writer.

TUCKER: We're talking writer David Mills whose written episodes for "NYPD Blue" and "ER."

I want to back track a little and ask you why you left "NYPD Blue." Did you have a falling out with Milch or was it just you decided...?

MILLS: Of a sort. Of a sort. It was late in the fourth season, and there just came a time -- I mean, I felt myself i
mproving by leaps and bounds, script by script. And -- but there came a time when I realized that as long as I was there on that show my role was to be David Milch's, you know, student, and his role was to be my tutor. And I would never, you know -- so, there came a time where I felt...

TUCKER: It was time to graduate.

MILLS: Indeed. In fact, one of the first things he told me when he hired me -- I mean, because he knows that he is a complex and difficult personality. One of the first things he told me
he says, "You'll be here until the point were you tell me to go screw myself."

And that point came sort of late in the fourth season out of no particular fight or anything, but just my sense that, you know, if I was there for another year or two years I would always find myself standing there while he lectured me on the proper way to tell this particular story, as is his right to do it. Again, that's his universe.

So, I left and he allowed me to leave, an Steven Bochco allowed me to leave and I wound up on "

TUCKER: All right, just looking at those two shows, it seems to be as a viewer that the big difference in coming in there as a writer is in terms of the pacing and number of story lines. Is that true?

MILLS: Yeah, yeah. It exhausted me. An average script on "NYPD Blue" as well as "Picket Fences" I guess, your average hour-long drama is like 60 pages. On "ER" those have gotten up now to where the standard length is like 85 pages.

So, I'm kind of used to like when you hit page 50, you know, you'r
e almost done, but on "ER" you still got a lot more to go. It's because the thing move so quick and your telling eight or 10 stories.

TUCKER: Right, as opposed to "NYPD Blue" it's like, sort of, three main story lines.

MILLS: Three tops, yeah. And, so, it was fun to try to do that and to tell that many stories economically in "ER," and you could find ways, you know, if you are really cute to double up on them. So, a scene could be, you know, telling two stories at once depending on the two characters who
are in it and what was happening to them. So, it was -- it's tough storytelling because you've got a lot of balls in the air. But when you pull it off it's satisfying too for that.

TUCKER: David Mills, he wrote the teleplay for the episode of "ER" that airs tonight. He's also the co-author of a new book "George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History."

I'm Ken Tucker, and this is FRESH AIR.

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


Dateline: Ken Tucker, Washington, D.C.
Guest: David Mills
High: Screenwriter and journalist David Mills. He writes for the television shows, "ER" and "NYPD Blue." This week's episode of "ER" is written by him. Mills is also the co-author of "George Clinton and P-Funk" (Avon Books). Mills has also reported for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Spec: Radio and Television; Police; Drama

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 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 David Mills

Date: NOVEMBER 12, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111202NP.217
Head: Man Eating Bugs
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:30


My guest Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio have traveled to four continents and a dozen countries around world finding out what bugs people like to eat and why. The result is their book "Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects."

Filled with lovingly composed color
portraits taken by Peter of people gnashing on tarantulas, Mcgae (ph) worms, and stink bugs which, Faith remarks, "are better than some worms I've tried." The text of the book is a kind of ongoing dialogue between the husband and wife team over their experiences, their motives for what they're doing, and their different degrees of adventurism, which is to say, who is more often the willing insect consumer and why.

Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio welcome to FRESH AIR.

Thank you.


TUCKER: I think the yuck curiosity factor is very high in a subject like this. How does one cook and eat things like stink bugs and tarantulas? And, what was apparently a personal favorite, the witchity (ph) grub? Is that how you say it?

MENZEL: Right. Witchity grubs in Australia were my personal favorite.

TUCKER: Yes. And Why?

MENZEL: Why? I'm out in the outback in this very hot red central desert of Australia, and on wi
th some aboriginal women that are in their 50s. There are already grandmothers a couple of times over, and we're walking around for several days looking for things to eat.

And they showed me how to dig down when they found a witchity tree that had been infected. The tree looks a little bit different than other trees, but it takes so long for your eyes to be able to see this you need some kind of, you know, real knowledge of where you are.

But they dig down, they break open the root after digging through thi
s red, hot, hard soil for a foot and crack it open, and hopefully they'll find the witchity grub which is a white worm that's probably longer than your middle finger when they're really mature.

So, they then gather these up and cook them in the hot sand and ash at the edge of the fire along with the other things that they had caught during that day like a 3 ft. long iguana that one of the women had killed with a shovel, and a kangaroo tale that they had bought at a quick stop and thrown in the fire also.

having eaten all of those things, I can say that the witchity grubs were very surprisingly delicious.

TUCKER: You describe a stink bug as actually fighting back when you bit it.

MENZEL: That was my first.

TUCKER: Yeah. That was your first? And what was that sensation to have something you bit into bite back?

MENZEL: Well, it was not very pleasant because this was in Mexico outside of Tasco on top of a mountain during a festival called the Humeal (ph) festival, and people from the entire state of
Guerero have the day off and they go up to the top of this mountain, and there are bands and beer and people wrestling around under the leaves looking for these stink bugs which are very high in iodine and protein.

So, they have a medicinal factor too, and their taste is what is extraordinary. They taste like an aspirin that's been saturated with cod liver oil was really dangerous of currents of alcohol and iodine. Right? So, this thing is alive in my mouth, and it doesn't taste like anything.

There's a l
ot of people eating these alive, and then most people are being more reasonable and their crushing them up in a mortar and pestle and putting them on a tostada with some chili and guacamole because the flavor is really something else. So, when this thing -- I put it in my mouth and everybody's watching me because I'm, you know, the foreign photographer up here, or the guest.

And so I couldn't let it get away so I bit down on it and it sort of exploded in my mouth, and the next thing ®MD-IT¯I know, you've got thi
s not too good a taste, but something that's crawling around on your tongue trying to do damage to the inside of your mouth; you want to terminate that very quickly.

TUCKER: I would imagine. How did you plan your route? Was their plan? Did you have an itinerary in mind?

MENZEL: We had a general itinerary, but it was serendipity. For instance, what we were in China in Quong Jao in the market there, we met some people that were selling scorpions, raising them in their apartment; we went back and had scorp
ion soup with them, and then they finally, after they trusted us, they told us where they were getting their scorpions from.

And that happened in east central China and...

D'ALUISIO: It was their parents actually who were raising these things. There were these giants scorpion ranches we came to find out. And so we went to this east central China town which was actually pretty difficult to get to land (ph), and when we were there we -- it took about a day and a half to get anyone to trust us because everyon
e was very fearful that we wanted to steal their business, steal the secrets, because with sort of the privatization of a lot of the companies in China that's coming that is scorpions are very big business and very important.

So, we get in there and this one place called the Buddha Scorpion Ranch, and it's this very dark, clammy place and you can hear, before you see all these, these skittering little feet, and they are, indeed, scorpions. And come to find out there are three or four million of them inside this
building, and it was a really surreal experience.

MENZEL: It's like a brick chicken coop that's the size of a football field full of three million scorpions that are moving around in the dark.

TUCKER: And they're being held there to do what?

D'ALUISIO: They've domesticated them and their basically raising them there, and they are selling them for both food and medicine because it's a pretty integral part of Chinese traditional medicine.

TUCKER: Let me ask the kind of inevitable culinary imperialis
m question, you know, it seems for the most part it looks as if the people you ate bugs with who prepared them for you and showed you how they were harvested and caught seemed to be living in extreme poverty in rural areas of countries like Uganda and Indonesia. Is it a matter of economic necessity rather than cultural preference to eat insects?

MENZEL: Quite often it is, but there are places where its not the poor that are eating insects. A lot of developing countries the insects are eaten by poor people, and
they are used as bridge food between harvests. It comes in very handy. And in places like Indonesia it was probably one of the only sources of protein and fat, these zigo (ph) grubs that we were eating with these people, were integral to their diet.

But in other places like China, the scorpions for instance, are quite pricey. You can't find them anymore on street stalls; people use to sell them on the street, now they're in trendier restaurants. So, it's not a cheap dish to get a nice big plate of deep-fried
scorpions anymore.

TUCKER: Well, did the people that you were eating bugs with ever feel as though they were being condescended to? That you were, you know, approaching them as some kind of novelty?

MENZEL: When you're sharing food with people, all of your differences are gone, at least while you're -- at least until desert. I mean, while your eating with them you're just another human being doing what human beings do to stay alive. You're ingesting basic, simple, pure animal protein, which is what inse
cts are.

D'ALUISIO: And it's something -- it's actually -- and I'm the reluctant bug eater -- it's actually very easy when you are sitting down to eat and you're sort of emersing yourself in this other culture that your just learning about. It is -- it's sort of helps to have these things that you're doing that are different and it becomes a little less improbable, and you go ahead and you do it.

But, Peter was saying about waiting until desert for the differences to come out; we actually had that happen du
ring a termite lunch when we were in South Africa. We had gone termite hunting with this group of ladies; we came to call them the termite club. And I was telling them; they wanted to know what we eat, and I told them.

And we talk about other places that we had been, and I said we had just come from China and I was telling them about eating scorpions. They were totally disgusted with me. And it's a lot like, you know, in this country talking about any insect, you know, it's all cultural preference. Food pref
erences are definitely culturally based, obviously.

MENZEL: Yeah, and they're all usually set by the time you're four or five years old.

TUCKER: Right. My guests are Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. Let's take a short break.

This is FRESH AIR.


TUCKER: I'm Ken Tucker. I'm talking to Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, and they've just published a book called "Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects."

I was interested in the chapters about North American bug eating habi
ts in the Southwest and Mexico. And you say things like grasshoppers in Utah have double or triple the protein content proportionately compared to the flesh of mammals and birds, and they are rich in vitamins. And you kind of imply that the only way that eating insects in America is making any inroads is kind of as novelty items. That you have found a company that makes chocolate dipped scorpions and candied apples covered with meal worms.

MENZEL: Yeah, that's the Hot Licks Company in Pismo Beach California.
They do a really big business.

D'ALUISIO: But it is just for novelty.

MENZEL: It is, yeah. But American Indians and people that are indigenous to the desert Southwest and American Mexico used to eat a lot of insects, and it made a lot of economic sense. The people that you're mentioning in Utah, for instance, around a Great Salt Lake the Mormon crickets sometimes swarm and when they are swarming it's very easy to collect hundreds of pounds of these in a day.

Sometimes they are wind-road (ph) along th
e lake -- the salts -- the Great Salt Lake shore, and they are already salted and they are blown up on the shore. So, people have been able to collect more than 200 pounds in one hour of these wind-road, salted dried grasshoppers.

But, done experiments when they've been alive and it, you know, 18 pounds an hour is about what the average person could collect. So, that's equal to, probably, you know, 43 Big Macs or 87 chili dogs or 49 slices of pizza. That's one study that's been done on the nutritional equiva
lent of what one person could collect in an hour.

TUCKER: And how are grasshoppers prepared for instance?

MENZEL: For instance, in Mojaca a beautiful colonial town, quite often -- most of the year actually, grasshoppers are on the menu in a lot of good restaurants, and you can find them in the market. Girls and women selling cappalinas (ph) which are dried and usually they put a little...

D'ALUISIO: They're tried, sometimes they are fried -- stir fried with a little bit of lemon juice, and you want to
get them fresh though because they just keep adding lemon juice until they sell them all. So, about -- if you're on the last, you know, the last bucket full...

TUCKER: That's pretty sour.

D'ALUISIO: ... it's pretty sour.

MENZEL: We have a recipe for grasshopper tacos in the book, and we've had those in restaurants. But most often we saw people having them as snacks. You know, just eating handfulls of these things.

TUCKER: I mean, are they -- it does seem like that when you say that they are pr
epared with guacamole and covered with tortillas and things like that, do they actually have enough taste that you can taste or are you only tasting the taco or the guacamole?

MENZEL: They have a taste, but it's very subtle and it's kind of woody. The taste a little bit like straw, actually. But good straw.

TUCKER: It sounds like what all health foods taste like to me.

MENZEL: A lot of fiber there.

TUCKER: Yes. Do you think that a lot of our culture's squeamishness derives from our eating foo
d that doesn't resemble the animal that we're eating the way food is packaged?

D'ALUISIO: That is so true. I like to say, and have probably said it too much now because I'm always having to make excuses for the fact that I didn't eat -- I didn't enjoy eating bugs as much as Peter did, but I'm really comfortable with getting my protein on a slab of Styrofoam covered in Saran Wrap. And I don't really know what my food looks like.

I don't make the connection between the slab of beef and the cow in the field n
ext door. And I think that's true of a lot of things. I'm not real comfortable eating crawdads, you know, in Louisiana; like a all the stuff that comes with it. I like the spices and everything else, but it looks too much like a bug, and indeed, it's a member of the same family.

TUCKER: Did you come across any bugs that were eaten as a hallucinogens anywhere?

MENZEL: Not really, but we were -- while we were eating deep-fried -- not deep-fried we were eating roasted tarantulas in Venezuela -- we were on t
he Orinoco River with Yanomamis (ph) in their village, we were in a hut and these boys were cooking this taraposa (ph) la blondie (ph) for us, which is the world's largest spider. It's bigger -- much bigger than your hand outstretched.

So, we caught some of these; they threw them on the fire and they are cooking. So, the spiders are sort of hissing and whistling on the fire, and in the next hut are a group of men who are taking shaman 101.

D'ALUISIO: They were practicing Shamanism.

MENZEL: They've go
t yopo (ph), powdered -- a powdered hallucinogen.

D'ALUISIO: It's an herb.

MENZEL: An herb that they're blowing up each other's noses with these long pipes, and once it goes up your nose it apparently causes tremendous pain before the good effects kick in. So, these guys are howling and retching and whooping it up. And for the next couple of days we had to avoid them because they were flying all over the village.


D'ALUISIO: But that was a long way around that one.

TUCKER: The peop
le, not the bugs were flying around the village.

D'ALUISIO: The people were.

MENZEL: So, to answer your question, we did not have any hallucinogenic bugs that we know of.

D'ALUISIO: But, I do know that, this was the part that amused me the most, is that in every culture we visited there was at least one story about insects being good for a man's virility.

TUCKER: Really?

D'ALUISIO: Definitely in Cambodia the women on the front cover Sup Koen (ph), she was 21 years old, and she and a bunch of
her friends were selling these deep-fried tarantulas on skewers, and I never saw a woman buy them. And she told me the reason was because men say that they're good for virility.

TUCKER: So, this is the Viagra of other cultures. You've brought along a couple of tins of insects here. Are any of these things I could perhaps reluctantly, but...

D'ALUISIO: Sure, this is -- let me get a nice, fat, juicy one. There actually not juicy; these are Mopani (ph) worms from Botswana, and they're harvested off of the
Mopani tree. They're really very beautiful when they're alive; beautiful bright oranges and yellows.

MENZEL: Yellow and red and black and green.

D'ALUISIO: And what they do is, they squeeze the guts out, which are bright green, and kind of smelly and it's basically all the leaf material that they've eaten, and then they put it in boiling salty water for quite a while. And they let it dry, and that's what that is. It's sort of like jerky, it's very salty.

MENZEL: Per unit weight it has three times th
e protein of beef, and this keeps for up to a year.

TUCKER: I was going to say, is this fairly fresh or am I getting a very dried out stale...

MENZEL: I said up to a year, I used to say up to six months, but then that expired so now we're saying up to year.

D'ALUISIO: No, actually they are not bad, and I would break it in half, and don't eat the head in your first bite.

TUCKER: I was just going to say, does it matter whether I eat the head or the tale? OK, I'll eat the...

MENZEL: They're very

D'ALUISIO: That's the head, turn it around.

TUCKER: Oh, see, see. Here I go, instinctively I'm heading for the wrong end of the bug. Thanks. OK, here we go.


That's not bad. Sort of like a grape nut.

D'ALUISIO: A little like a salty grape nut.

MENZEL: A beer nut. A woody beer nut.

TUCKER: I think I need a couple of pork rinds to wash it down, but. Well, thank you.

MENZEL: Your welcome.

D'ALUISIO: Thank you.

TUCKER: Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisi
o, authors of "Man Eating Bugs."

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


Dateline: Ken tucker, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Peter Menzel; Faith D'Aluisio
High: Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio are the authors of "Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects" (A Material World Book/Ten Speed Press). The book is a pictoral guide to how insects are made delectable throughout the world
Spec: Food and Beverages; Health and Medicine; Bugs

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 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: Ma
n Eating Bugs

Date: NOVEMBER 12, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111203NP.217
Head: Pianist William Kappell
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

KEN TUCKER, GUEST HOST: The pianist William Kappell was killed in a plane crash on October 29th, 1953, he was 31 years old. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says that Kappell was the most gifted American pianist of his time.


ne crash, William Kappell was largely forgotten except by aficionados. Most of his recordings went out print. Finally, 45 years after his death, not only are all of his commercial recordings available again but also important live performances and a fascinating collection of out takes and fragments; including repertoire he never recorded in the studio.

Kappell was known primarily for super romantic music, Chopin, and a lot of Russians. He actually had hit records of the Catchiturian (ph) piano concerto and Rac
hmaninoff's variations on a theme of Paganini. I still have my little red 45 rpm single of the lyrical 18th variation and it still holds up.


SCHWARTZ: Kappell's Chopin also holds up. The funeral March sonata from a live concert he gave in Australia just a week before his death is both sweeping and intimate, impetuous and restrained, rhythmically inexorable all the more moving for its refusal to milk emotions. It seems to well up from some deep, private place.

He was a technician of such brilliance he's often thought of as a brash American, all dazzle. But Kappell was never vulgar. There's a flame behind the dazzle. These nine disks show him reaching out to a greater variety of repertoire than he is usually credited for. It makes a difference; Kappell's Bach is a revelation with its darling pre-Glenn Gould crispness and a musical line of irresistible liquidity and grace.

I'd never have guessed how witty he could be, and in works as different has Debussy's "Chi
ldren's Corner Suite" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." Who'd have predicted such loving Mozart and enchanting Scarlotti. Or Schubert played with such elegance and charm.


SCHWARTZ: In concert, Kappell championed contemporary American composers, but never recorded any. RCA has unearthed a radio broadcast of a stunning concert at the Frit (ph) Collection eight months before he died in which Kappell gives a powerful, unbuttoned performance of a work
he cherished, Aaron Copland's "Piano Sonata." The quiet ending is one of the most heartfelt passages in the entire set.


SCHWARTZ: Kappell was quite a complicated character. Intensely self-conscious and self-critical, he was also a matinee idol. The liner notes include beef cake photos of him stretched out on a diving board in a bathing suit showing off his trimness and James Dean-like good looks. Or he's in an apron cooking breakfast, sitting at the keyboard
with his new wife, or surrounded by children competing for the piano competition he sponsored.

Interviewed by a pretentious New York radio interviewer, Kappell is full of nervous intelligence, and not without a trace of his own pretensions. But there's no question he was an artist of the highest order, already at 31, our greatest homegrown virtuoso. Paving the way for other Americans like Leon Fleisher and Van Cliburn.

Even these extraordinary, fully achieved recordings -- thank God we have them -- are har
dly sufficient consolation for such immeasurable potential so irretrievably cut short.

TUCKER: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the "Boston Phoenix." He reviewed the "9 volume William Kappell Edition" on the RCA Red Seal label.

In for Terry Gross, I'm Ken Tucker.

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


Dateline: Ken Tucker, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new collection of recordings made by the late pianist William Kappell who died in 1953 at the age of 31. (9 volume William Kappell Edition, RCA RED SEAL)
Spec: Music; Art; Death

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained h
erein 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: Pianist William Kappell
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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