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The Journey of Lewis and Clark Recaptures the Public Imagination.

Historian Dayton Duncan. He's the author of the book "Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery -- an Illustrated History" (Knopf). He also co-produced the PBS series of the same name with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and is the author of "Out West" (Penguin), in which he re-travels the Merriweather Lewis and William Clark journey.

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Other segments from the episode on November 3, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 3, 1997: Interview with Dayton Duncan; Review of the films "Nénette et Boni," "Chronicle of a Disappearance," and "Happy Together"; Review of Janet Jackson's…

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110301np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Dayton Duncan
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

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

Who would have thought that the Lewis and Clark expedition could generate such popular interest? It's the subject of a best-selling book. Visits to sites along their trail are up. And tomorrow, PBS begins a two-part series about the expedition.

It's directed and produced by Ken Burns. And produced and written by my guest, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the companion book.

The expedition is a long-time obsession of Duncan's. He retraced Lewis and Clark's path in 1981 and '83; and wrote a book about their expedition and his called, "Out West," which has just been reprinted. He recently did the trip again with Ken Burns.

The two-year Lewis and Clark expedition began in 1804, when President Thomas Jefferson sent them to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, which more than doubled the size of the U.S.

DAYTON DUNCAN, HISTORIAN, FILMMAKER, AUTHOR, "LEWIS AND CLARK: THE JOURNEY OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY -- AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY," AUTHOR, "OUT WEST": They were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to -- principally, to find the fabled Northwest Passage. Everyone believed, since the time of Columbus, that some river or series of rivers must cut through the North American continent.

And if there was such a place, as everyone believed there was, that would make trade with the Orient much easier and profitable than going around the Cape of South America.

By the time that Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to find the Northwest Passage, the search had been narrowed down to the Missouri River, which had been explored as far as North Dakota, and the Columbia River, which ocean-going vessels had prowled around the mouth of and, in fact, gone up about 100 miles, to where Portland, Oregon, is now.

And the belief was that those two mighty rivers probably had their headwaters near each other and that, if the rivers didn't cut through the mountains, at least a half-day portage would allow you to make that connection.

That was their principal objective. But Jefferson was a man of many interests. He wrote out -- oh, I don't know -- five or six pages of instructions to Lewis, very meticulous instructions. Not only to find the Northwest Passage, but to record the animal life, the plant life, to meet with the Indian peoples there and record what their customs were. What are their languages? What are their cultural practices? What are their religions?

So, he had -- he had a lot of objectives going with sending Lewis and Clark to the West. But the principal one was to find the Northwest Passage.

GROSS: Well, Lewis and Clark didn't find the Northwest Passage. What did they find?

DUNCAN: They found the future of America, instead. I think that's one of the great ironies and probably one of the great messages that they still hold for us. It's not what you're sent to find that's important as it is what you find in its place.

It was a great disappointment to them. They found, instead, the Rocky Mountains. Jefferson had thought that the Allegheny Mountains were the highest mountains in North America. No one was prepared for how big, how broad, and how hard to cross the Rocky Mountains would be.

And when Lewis finally returned to give him that news, certainly that was a disappointment to Thomas Jefferson. But instead, he brought back tales of this fertile land along the lower Missouri. He brought back tales of rivers in what's now Montana teeming with beaver, and a future empire to be built upon the fur trade.

He brought back information about the Indian peoples living along the route, and how different they were. I think that's a great surprise to people in modern times who view all Indians as a Sioux warrior on horse back following a buffalo herd. They saw them, but they also met the Mandan and Hadatsa (ph) Indians who lived in permanent villages of earth lodges and were corn farmers.

Their villages outnumbered, in population, St. Louis or even Washington, DC, at the time that Lewis and Clark spent a winter among them. All of that more than superseded the disappointment that there was no Northwest Passage.

GROSS: What were some of the misconceptions of the time about what Lewis and Clark might find, beyond finding, like, a Northwest Passage, but what were -- what did people believe lay out in that uncharted territory?

DUNCAN: Thomas Jefferson had more books about the West in his library in Monticello than any person on Earth, yet he believed that there were woolly mammoths still roaming in the West. He though that there were hills of pure salt, and erupting volcanoes.

And he thought that there was a tribe of Indians who had blue eyes and spoke Welsh, that were the descendants of a fabled prince Madoch (ph) who had arrived in the New World in the 1100s, 300 years before Christopher Columbus.

The West, at the time that Lewis and Clark were sent into it -- their part of the West -- was rumor and conjecture. And they were sent out to correct that and bring back fact and reality.

GROSS: What did Jefferson think the Rocky Mountains would be like?

DUNCAN: He thought the Rocky Mountains would be like the mountains that he saw out of Monticello. That they would be no higher than the Blue Ridge or the Allegheny Mountains; that they'd be a single ridge of mountains; that rivers would cross through them as, say, the Delaware River cuts through the Allegheny Mountains.

He had no idea about what the Rocky Mountains might be like.

GROSS: So, Lewis and Clark were really in for a lot of surprises.

DUNCAN: Every day they got up and faced an uncertain horizon. And constantly, one of the things that, I think, endures about their adventure is that, time after time they were faced with obstacles and surprises that were often unpleasant ones.

And yet, they had to overcome them.

GROSS: Well, I'm sure they didn't run into any woolly mammoths. What is a woolly mammoth?

DUNCAN: Well, Jefferson believed, as men of the Enlightenment believed at that time, that, as you receded into the wilderness, you sort of went back in time. And so, as a collector of mastodon bones, he figured that if you go back into this wilderness, that those kind of animals would still be there.

Instead, they found prairie dogs and coyotes and jack rabbits, all of which were new to science at the time. Certainly, human beings had seen them, but they'd never been described for science.

Lewis and Clark spent a whole afternoon in what's now South Dakota digging into a prairie dog village to drown out one prairie dog to capture alive, and they sent it back to Thomas Jefferson, who kept it in the White House for a while and then sent it up to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which, at the time, was a natural science museum.

GROSS: How did they send it?

DUNCAN: They sent it down by -- they had this big keel boat that they had taken from St. Louis up to what's now North Dakota for their first winter, and they sent that back after their first winter. And it had coyote bones and antelope skeletons and furs and things like that, Indian corn. And it went by boat all the way to St. Louis.

It was transferred to another boat down the Mississippi, transferred to a ship that brought it around Florida and up to Washington, DC. And finally it was delivered to Thomas Jefferson, who must have been fascinated by the stuff that Lewis and Clark had sent back from their first -- just their first year in the wilderness.

GROSS: Yeah. Well, you know, in spite of not finding woolly mammoths, I imagine they did find grizzly bears. Were they prepared for that?

DUNCAN: They had been told by the Hadatsa Indians, during their first winter that, as they moved farther west they'd come across a ferocious bear that was impossible to kill, and they ought to watch out for it.

They came across some bear tracks and finally came across a grizzly bear. Shot it. Lewis wrote in his journal, "well, I can see how the Indians would be intimidated by this kind of beast, because they only have bows and arrows, but we've got good rifles and so, there's nothing to worry about."

Well, about two days later they came across another grizzly bear and it chased the men over the river banks, into the river. It took about 10 or 12 slugs to kill. And they next day the met another one and then another. And finally, Lewis wrote in his journal, "I find the curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfied, with respect to this animal."

The grizzly bears lived on the plains in those days, and they saw them almost as a daily occurrence as they crossed what's now Montana. They finally had to say that no one could go out alone. They had to go out in teams because of the fear of the grizzly bears.

GROSS: As a result of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark were traveling across land that had newly become added to the United States. What was their attitude when meeting Native Americans who lived on this land that had just been purchased by the United States? Like, "hey. Hey, buddy, you're in our territory now, and our president's now your president. Things are going to change."

DUNCAN: Well, they had this lengthy speech that they had written out that they gave at virtually every encounter with Indian peoples. And it was loaded, freighted, with an attitude that was common at the time among white peoples. They called them children.

But the speech said, "you now have a new great father. The Spanish and the French are gone forever. Your new great father is here to help you. He offers the hand of friendship. And if you follow his counsels, you will live to -- your people will prosper and you will live to outnumber the trees of the forest."

My guess is that the Indian peoples who heard that had heard a lot of that before. Some of them who had met French and Spanish traders had heard about great fathers and seen flags before. And so they discarded -- discounted most of that. They were anxious to establish trading relations because they wanted many of the things that Lewis and Clark were showing them -- metal objects and mirrors and telescopes and guns.

But I don't think they realized that this time it was different when they said that, "you now belong to the United States," that, in the years that would follow there would be more and more and more and more and more people from that nation moving onto their homelands. And so...

GROSS: And throwing them off of it.

DUNCAN: ... And so -- yeah, I think that in the Lewis and Clark story is both a beginning and the beginning of an end for native peoples. For whom the Lewis and Clark story is not -- has much more bittersweet connotations than it does for many other Americans.

At the same time I think it's clear, in their relations that they established with Indians, that they did have, at its base, an attitude of respect for the people who were helping them.

In our film, William Least Heat Moon (ph), the writer, who's also a Lewis and Clark buff, says that Lewis and Clark went as students and came back as teachers, in terms of their relations with native peoples. And the tragedy is that we, as a nation, failed to learn the lessons that they tried to teach us.

Had the other -- the rest of the nation who followed Lewis and Clark, followed them in their relations with Indian tribes, the 19th century would not have been as traumatic and as tragic a century as it was for the people that Lewis and Clark met.

GROSS: My guest is Dayton Duncan. He produced, with Ken Burns, the two-part PBS series on Lewis and Clark. It begins tomorrow night. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

If you're just joining us, my guest is Dayton Duncan, and he co-produced the two-part series on Lewis and Clark that begins on public television Tuesday night and continues Wednesday. He is also the author of the book, Out West, about his own journey on the Lewis and Clark trail. And he is the author of the companion book to the PBS Lewis and Clark series, also called Lewis and Clark.

Lewis and Clark had to, not only, you know, battle the elements and grizzly bears and so on. They and the people in their party had a lot of sicknesses and other physical problems to deal with, from dislocated shoulders to boils.

And, you know, Lewis, was, I guess, something of a naturalist doctor or something? He had a lot of herbs and potions and so on, with him. But you say that the one that he used most of all was powerful laxatives, which I actually found horrifying. The thought of using powerful laxatives in the wild, like that, while you're in the...

DUNCAN: He had...

GROSS: ... middle of nowhere. I mean, granted, they probably weren't used to plumbing anyways. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem like the treatment of choice when you're out exploring.

DUNCAN: You didn't want to be downstream from the core of discovery when Lewis was administering those pills.

LAUGHTER

He had been sent by Jefferson to Philadelphia, before the expedition, to learn a lot more about botany, zoology, celestial navigation. But also paid a call to Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was the preeminent physician of the day.

And as -- and Benjamin Rush told him the two best things to do for almost any ailment was, first of all, to draw blood from your patient. And secondly, to give him these little pills, that he sold 600 of which to Lewis to bring along, that were these powerful laxatives.

The thought was that if you purge the body of, sort of, bad blood and whatever else was bad inside of you, then you would be healthier. They were so powerful that the men had a special name for them. They called them "Rush's Thunderbolts." And you pity those poor men suffering from dysentery or a dislocated shoulder when Lewis would get out his penknife to draw a pint of blood from them and then give them a Rush's Thunderbolt.

GROSS: A really big help, huh?

DUNCAN: Well, I don't know -- I met a doctor one time who wrote a marvelous book, just about the medical aspects of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and he told me that they were probably lucky they didn't have a medical doctor along with them, because more of them would have died by the doctor's treatment than by Lewis's.

GROSS: Well, one thing that plagued, I think, many of the men on the Lewis and Clark expedition was syphilis. If -- If this is OK to ask, what were their sex lives like during the two-year expedition?

DUNCAN: Well, they were young men, unmarried men, for the most part. And, as they met different Indian tribes, certain of the customs of some of those tribes were that, as either a mark of hospitality that women would be offered to strangers. And also, in some tribes there was the though that the "medicine," as Indians would describe the "special powers" of these strangers, could be transmitted through sex with -- to the other members of the tribe.

And so, in a number of the villages, the men were -- had sexual relations with Indian women. And in other parts of -- as they got to the Pacific coast where sailors had been showing up for many years, there were also little prostitution rings, if you will, being run by some of the tribes.

So there was quite a bit of sex on the Lewis and Clark expedition. And many of the men contracted syphilis; and Lewis treated that with a salve of mercury which, God forbid, what that would have done in the long term to the health of men. It treated the symptoms but it certainly didn't cure them.

GROSS: Did these men die pretty young?

DUNCAN: Most of the men sort of fade into obscurity after the Lewis and Clark expedition, to the extent that we can follow them. Many of them did die young, and there is some speculation that the doses of mercury may have ended their lives earlier.

But most of them we don't know much about after the expedition. Some of them we do, but most of them we don't.

GROSS: Who were Lewis and Clark before the expedition? And why were they chosen to lead it?

DUNCAN: Jefferson always considered it the Lewis expedition. Meriwether Lewis had grown up near Monticello, was a family friend of Thomas Jefferson's, was a young, promising Army officer when Jefferson was elected president. And he asked Meriwether Lewis to become his personal secretary.

And so for two-and-a-half years, Meriwether Lewis lived in what is now the East Room of the White House. It was just him and Thomas Jefferson and some servants. They lived, as Jefferson described it, like two mice -- two church mice together. And he studied under Thomas Jefferson about the plans for this westward expedition, and Jefferson always had him in mind to lead the expedition, though he was not a trained scientist and though he suffered from what Jefferson described as "occasional depressions of the mind."

Lewis, in turn, I think realized that he was not able to make this expedition, to lead an expedition by himself. And he asked an old friend, William Clark, who had once commanded him in the Army, and was four years older than Lewis, to share the command.

It was breaking all of military protocol to suggest a shared command, but it worked. I don't -- personally don't think there could have been a Lewis expedition. I think it had to be a Lewis and Clark expedition. They are -- became a remarkable team of leaders.

Clark was more steadier. He was the rudder of the expedition. And was -- had more experience, I think, in the back woods than Lewis did.

GROSS: I find it interesting that Lewis probably suffered from depression. In fact, his life was ended by a couple of gunshot wounds which, I think, are still kind of mysterious, but people assume that it was suicide. So...

DUNCAN: He...

GROSS: Yeah. I'm just wondering what you know about what it was like for him, as someone who suffered from depression, to lead this two-year expedition through the wild.

DUNCAN: Yeah. It's always a little bit risky to do psychoanalysis 200 years later, but Jefferson himself mentioned that Lewis had these occasional depressions of the mind, and also mentioned that that was not uncommon in the Lewis family.

The only real evidence we have of how it might have affected Lewis out on the two-and-a-half years that they were traveling across the West is that there are big gaps in the journals that he was keeping, where he's not keeping a journal, while Clark is and other men are keeping their journals.

And I think it's a testament, actually, to Lewis' act of will, to every day surmount what must have been the clouds around him and the demons, sort of, surrounding him, to get up each morning and lead that expedition. And when it was over, that act of will escaped him and finally crowded around him on his way back to Washington in 1809.

There is -- some people say that they think he was murdered on the Natchez Trace. I believe, and I think most historians believe the account that was put out at the time by his servant and others at that site, that he shot himself.

For me, one of the key bits of evidence is his 31st birthday, which occurred right near the Continental Divide. A few days earlier, Meriwether Lewis had become the first United States citizen to reach the Continental Divide. He had just made the successful negotiations with the Shoshone Indians to get the horses that the expedition would need to surmount the surprising number of mountains still before them.

In what would otherwise be this triumphant moment for him, in his journal entry that night, he turns inward. And he talks about how he had not yet done much with his life. And how he needed to live for mankind as "I heretofore have lived for myself."

It's a remarkable journal entry of a young man at a time where you would think he would be crowing to the sky about his achievements, and instead he is flogging himself with how little he has done. And I think that's a mark of the psychology of Meriwether Lewis.

GROSS: Dayton Duncan is a producer and the writer of the two-part PBS series about Lewis and Clark. It will be shown tomorrow night and Wednesday night. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross. And this is FRESH AIR.

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

Back with Dayton Duncan. He produced, with Ken Burns, the two-part PBS series on Lewis and Clark which begins tomorrow night. He also wrote the companion book. Duncan followed Lewis and Clark's trail in 1981 and '83, and wrote a book about their exploration and his trip called, Out West, which has been reprinted.

When Lewis and Clark set out to explore America's newly acquired territory in 1804, they had about four dozen men in their expedition. Let's talk a little about the people that Lewis and Clark assembled for the expedition.

Jefferson called them "the Corps of Discovery," and it was, actually, for the time, a fairly -- you know, multicultural, in the language of today, group.

DUNCAN: Yes. I think one of the intriguing things about this expedition is that they are this microcosm of what we say America is. They included these two Virginia-born gentlemen, Lewis and Clark.

They had these rough backwoodsmen from Kentucky. They had some men from New England, some men from Pennsylvania. Three of the men were the sons of white fathers and Indian mothers. There were French-Canadian boatmen along.

Clark brought along a slave that he had owned since childhood, a black man by the name of York. And for the second year-and-a-half, they had with them a Shoshone woman, who was really just a teenage -- teenager at the time, who brought along her baby son, Sacagawea, and her little baby, Jean-Baptiste.

So there, encapsulated, in this first attempt by the United States to reach the Pacific Ocean, was this rich mix of the United States at that time. And they eventually became a Corps of Discovery.

They started off with discipline problems, with unruliness. They were not a cohesive corps. But by the time they reached the Pacific Ocean, they were a Corps of Discovery.

GROSS: The African-American in the expedition was there as Clark's slave. Was he treated as Clark's slave?

DUNCAN: I think that there's this sense of promise in the Lewis and Clark expedition, and part of that is with York. As he traveled up the -- into the West with Lewis and Clark, he leaves the United States. And as he's leaving that, he enters a world of freedom.

The -- many of the tribes that they met had met white people before, but they had never seen a black person before. And for them, this was a sense of wonder and medicine to them. They treated him with respect and, for them, he was -- his color was something that distinguished him as someone special, not as someone lesser.

He -- when they reached the Pacific Ocean, they had to decide: where are we going to spend the winter? Not an inconsiderable decision. It could have been a life-or-death decision. And the captains decided, rather than making that decision themselves, they cast it out to the entire group.

Not only did the enlisted men vote on this issue, but York voted, 60 years before, back in the States, African-Americans would be emancipated and given the right to vote.

And Sacagawea, who was an Indian woman. Her vote was solicited, as well, 100 years before either Indians or women were enfranchised back in the United States.

For us, that is this little seed of the American promise that they established and planted on the far Western shore of the continent. And is, I think, a very dramatic and heavily symbolic moment for our nation.

When they returned back to the United States, for York it was a return to slavery. He was kept as a slave by Clark for at least five more years. He asked for his freedom several times. And it's clear in the letters that Clark wrote to his brother that the experience had changed York's own opinion of himself.

He thought that he had been a free man and he deserved his freedom. Clark finally relented and did give him his freedom, but it took him five years.

GROSS: Hmm. When Lewis and Clark brought back so much information about the rest of the continent to Thomas Jefferson, what did Thomas Jefferson do with that information? And how did Jefferson's decisions affect the future of the United States?

DUNCAN: Jefferson really turned our nation and faced it West. And the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, were the first steps of the United States facing West.

He wanted Meriwether Lewis to get down to work and write up a report of their expedition. Not only what their adventures were, but what the animal life was like, what the plant life was like.

And I think one of the great tragedies for him was that Meriwether Lewis, upon returning, fell apart and never got that report completely finished.

But the tales that they brought back, that spread from town to town, about how fertile the soil was in what is now Nebraska, and Iowa, and South Dakota, and Missouri spread to the nation.

The tales that they brought back about rivers that were teeming with beaver and buffalo herds in the tens of thousand excited Americans. When they were coming back, they were already meeting boats that were heading into the new Louisiana Territory, but the reports of theirs spurred an even greater spurt of Americans heading West in their wake.

GROSS: My guest is Dayton Duncan. He's a producer and the writer of the two-part Lewis and Clark series that begins tomorrow night on PBS.

More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Dayton Duncan. He wrote the two-part PBS series on Lewis and Clark.

Now, I believe you retraced the steps of the expedition three times. Twice in the '80s and once very recently as part of your work with the TV series on Lewis and Clark.

What was the point, the first time around? What did you want to accomplish or experience by doing it?

DUNCAN: Well, I'm a sucker for a road trip. And Lewis and Clark are the original American road trip. And I wanted to -- I just wanted to follow in their footsteps and see what 200 years of change might have wrought along the path they had followed.

And you find change everywhere you look. The Missouri River, in most sections, is dammed and is a long lake, rather than the river that chewed up the river banks and sent trees crashing into their keel boat.

The Columbia River is almost entirely a lake now. The salmon that they had described of teeming in the Columbia, "beyond count," Clark had said, are now easy to count because there are so few.

And the plains that were once littered with animal life -- buffalo herds numbering in the tens of thousands that stopped their canoes for hours as they crossed the river in front of the expedition. Or elk herds and deer herds and the coyotes and the Plains wolves, beaver that kept Clark awake at night because of the slapping of their tails on the water.

If you travel across the Great Plains now, you don't see those things. But you can still see the majesty of the landscape that they crossed. The horizons, though there be fence lines and power lines on it now, still stretch your imagination. Particularly if you're from the East and are used to woodlands, the mountains are still as daunting as they were. The sky is still as big.

And if you're ever in a North Dakota winter, as were in filming our series, when it's 45 degrees below zero, it's still awful cold.

GROSS: When you were making your journeys in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark's expedition, did you find yourself wondering a lot what it must have been like to make this journey without a map? Without any knowledge of what the next thing you're going to run into would be?

DUNCAN: I'm a map addict. And so is Ken. And as we traveled, we'd have three or four maps spread out before us as we traveled. And the notion that you could be out in, say, the Bitterroot Mountains that stretch on forever, in a place where, for Lewis and Clark, mountains weren't even supposed to exist in the first place, is staggering to me.

We were filming up there when we got caught by a late fall snow squall; just as we had hoped, because that's what Lewis and Clark had encountered. And the wind came up over the mountains and it started to snow and it got cold real fast.

And we knew we had a place with friends that had a cabin, hunting cabin, deep in the woods that we could have shelter and have a warm meal that night. And it reminded me that when they were in that spot, they were cold. They had run out of food. They were eating some of their horses. They started eating some of their candles. But most important, they were off the map.

They had no idea whether those mountains were going to stretch on for another eight days, another nine days, one day. Whatever. And for a map addict like me, that really brings a sweat up on the back of your neck.

GROSS: You made the trip alone the first time. And, more recently, you made the trip with Ken Burns and who else?

DUNCAN: Well, we're not a Hollywood operation and so, for us, a big production trip was Ken, myself, another cameraman -- because Ken is a cameraman in his own right -- and an assistant cameraman. That was a big expedition for us. And sometimes, it would just be me and a cameraman. And I've done it alone, and it's nice to have company.

One of the great -- Ken is a friend of mine. We were friends before we began this project, and a little bit like Lewis and Clark. And an expedition like this is the kind of thing that's either going to deepen the friendship or wreck it.

For us, I think it deepened it. It was a great joy for me to see his eyes get as wide as silver dollars when he saw a buffalo herd in South Dakota come over a rise. Or, even though we were caught in a rain storm in the White Cliffs of the Missouri, to see his eyes light up when we would see these grotesque formations of sandstone exactly like Lewis had described.

And I felt a greater kinship, I think, for Lewis and Clark by doing it with a friend. Because, at the heart of this story is a story of friendship -- the friendship between Lewis and Clark; the friendship that was created among the Corps of Discovery themselves; and the friendship that they had that's often overlooked or forgotten that they created with the Indian peoples who they met.

It was not an unpeopled wilderness that they entered. It was the homeland of many people without whose help their expedition could not have succeeded. And that was true for us in making the film.

GROSS: You've had a long -- an interesting relationship with your country in the sense that, you know, before getting this involved with Lewis and Clark and understanding their expedition and, you know, retracing it yourself, you were working in the American political world.

You were, let's see, press secretary for the Dukakis presidential campaign in 1988. Deputy press secretary for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign. You worked as chief of staff for the governor of New Hampshire.

It seems to me you probably get a really different sense of America working for the wild and following Lewis and Clark's expedition than you would working in politics and going out and doing the "meet-and-greets" and talking to the press, and, you know, trying to just, kind of, strategize the next move for your candidate.

DUNCAN: Well, that's true in one sense. Obviously, you know, working in a presidential campaign, you're traveling in the cocoon of secret service agents and the clutch of people wearing suits gathering around the candidate, traveling by airplane to one place after another and really not getting a feel for the locale and the people you meet.

And certainly, I think, part of my travels was, in a sense, an antidote to that. But on another level, I think it was my involvement in politics that helped me come to a greater appreciation, not only of Lewis and Clark but of American history.

If you're in places where choices have to be made and you see that they have consequences as I did in a governor's office as the chief of staff, it reminds you that nothing is inevitable in history. That history is the scent -- the series of choices that you make.

Just as Lewis and Clark had to make choices as they -- in uncharted territory: "which branch of this river are we going to take? And, if we take the wrong one, we fail. And we may even die." That's what history is. It's a series of choices that we make.

And I think by understanding history, and our own history, we can make better choices.

GROSS: Would you ever go into politics again?

DUNCAN: Oh, I'm addicted to politics. I believe in it. And I still putter around the edges on -- as you've pointed out, part of my political history is I'm particularly adept at joining losing presidential candidates.

LAUGHTER

And so, Democrats have been doing much better nationally since I started writing books and making films rather than being involved in their campaigns. But I still give free advice, which is about what it's worth, I guess.

GROSS: Is there a trip in America that you haven't made yet that you'd like to, some day?

DUNCAN: I'm -- I've been infected by Lewis and Clark and I always go back to that. I would love to retrace the footsteps, I guess the paddle wake, of John Wesley Powell, who descended the Colorado River several times.

I love to travel to remote and small-town America and to learn about the people who live there, and the historical routes that I follow are partly just an excuse to do that, and partly an excuse just to head out on a two-lane road with nothing more than the next horizon as my destination.

GROSS: Dayton Duncan, would you leave us with some words from the Lewis and Clark journals?

DUNCAN: I would leave you with the words that are the most common ones in the journals. And those are three words: "we proceeded on."

To me, that speaks to their expedition getting up every morning, facing an uncertain horizon, not knowing what awaited them, and trying to cross a broad continent at 14 miles a day.

They had to face all these obstacles, and yet they proceeded on. And, I think that's a lesson for us as a nation, but also for us personally.

We get up each morning and we don't know what's over the next horizon for us. And the only way we can do it is the same way that they did it. "We proceeded on."

GROSS: Dayton Duncan, a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you very much.

DUNCAN: It's been great being here.

GROSS: Dayton Duncan is a producer and writer of the two-part Lewis and Clark series. It will be shown on PBS stations tomorrow night and Wednesday night. He also wrote the companion book.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Dayton Duncan
High: Historian Dayton Duncan. He's the author of the book "Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery -- an Illustrated History." He also co-produced the PBS series of the same name with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and is the author of "Out West," in which he re-travels the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark journey.
Spec: Books; Authors; Dayton Duncan; History; Travel; Lewis and Clark
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 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: Dayton Duncan
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110302np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Foreign Films
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Well, now that we've explored America, our film critic John Powers is going to scout out some foreign films.

It wasn't so long ago there were foreign film makers that everyone knew, like Bergman, Fellini, and Truffaut. That's no longer true, but John says there are still some good foreign films out there. You just have to work harder to find them.

JOHN POWERS, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Back in the '60s and early '70s, foreign films were part of the cultural mainstream. These days, they're caught in a vicious downward cycle.

The movies themselves are less popular than they used to be, which means that distributors don't make much profit by bringing them out. This means that there's very little money for advertising, which means that the media largely ignores them and exhibitors are reluctant to book them.

So much so, that in most parts of this country, it's hard to see foreign films. This makes them seem even more alien; and they grow ever less popular.

What hasn't changed is that foreign films offered a soul-saving alternative to Hollywood's obsession with special effects and serial killers.

Right now, three very different movies -- one French, one Palestinian, and one Chinese -- are slowly making their way across the country. And I urge you to look out for them. They're incomparably better than all but a small handful of this year's American movies.

"Nenette et Bonnie" is a new French film by Claire Denis (ph) who is, after Jane Campion, probably the most acclaimed woman director in the world. Set in Marseilles, it's the story of a brother and sister, separated by their parents' divorce.

Bonnie is a dreamy, 18-year-old high school dropout who runs a pizza wagon and spends his nights having sexual fantasies about the local baker's wife. His sister, Nenette, is a beautiful, melancholy 15-year-old, who's pregnant with an unwanted child.

The two have been estranged for years, and Denis captures the slow, oblique process by which these two reach a tentative reconciliation.

This is a movie of moods, yearning glances, shifting emotions. And it's filled with a poetry you can get a feel for in the movie's wonderful score, by the English group, "Tinder Sticks."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "NENETTE ET BONNIE")

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC BY TINDER STICKS

POWERS: There's a similar gentleness to "Chronicle of a Disappearance", a comedy by the Palestinian film maker, Illia Suleiman (ph) that will undercut your cliche images of mad bombers and sobbing children.

The movie is a fictionalized diary about Suleiman's visit to Nazareth and Jerusalem. In particular, his time among the Palestinian middle class, which can feel its culture slowly being eaten away.

This is a somber theme. But what makes Chronicle of a Disappearance remarkable is its lightness of touch. As an actor, Suleiman is a deadpan clown like Buster Keaton or Jacques Tatie (ph). And he spends the movie wryly observing the details of daily life -- an old woman ranting about her relative's bad marriage; the tedium of selling tourist items to visitors in the Holy Land; or the casual way the Israeli militia bursts into his house.

Suleiman is a serious enough man to know that humor can be profound. And his sly, low-key film makes us care about his world far more than any number of strident political melodramas.

If Chronicle of a Disappearance shows how less can be more, Wong Kar Wai's "Happy Together" embodies the joy of stylistic fireworks.

Hong Kong superstars Tony Leong (ph) and Leslie Chung (ph) play gay lovers who travel to Buenos Aires only to fall into an endless cycle of squabbles, break-ups, and reconciliations.

In fact, the movie isn't simply about a love affair gone bad, but about all kinds of split-ups and reconciliations, including Hong Kong's reunion with the Chinese mainland earlier this summer.

As he proved in "Chungking Express," Wong Kar Wai is the most giddily inventive film maker working anywhere in the world. And every shot in this movie is a dazzler.

Although his style can wear you out -- it's possible to be too brilliant -- his movies always take the audience someplace completely new. Even more flamboyantly than Nenette et Bonnie and Chronicle of a Disappearance, Happy Together takes the movies into the next millennium.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for Vogue. Coming up, Janet Jackson's first CD in four years.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: John Powers; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Film critic John Powers reviews three new foreign films: the French film "Nenette et Bonnie," the Palestinian film "Chronicle of a Disappearance," and the film from China, "Happy Together" by director Wong Kar Wai.
Spec: Movie Industry; Asia; China; Palestinian Authority; Europe; France; Middle East; Nenette et Bonnie; Chronicle of a Disappearance; Happy Together

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 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: Foreign Films
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: NOVEMBER 03, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110303np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The Velvet Rope
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Over the past decade, Janet Jackson has had a more successful commercial career than her brother, Michael. She's just released her first album in four years. It's called "The Velvet Rope," and it reunites her with the production team with whom she made her biggest hits, Jimmy Jam (ph) and Terry Lewis (ph).

Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE VELVET ROPE)

JANET JACKSON, SINGER, SINGING: This special (Unintelligible)
That's (Unintelligible)
Brings out the (Unintelligible)
(Unintelligible)
Living the truth will set you free

KEN TUCKER, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: In the unreal party world that people like Janet Jackson inhabit, The Velvet Rope is what separates them from the hoi polloi, from you and me. So when Jackson commences her new CD with an invitation to join her as she says, "inside my velvet rope," it's intended as more than a tease.

It's her way of saying she wants to level with us, to get down to some sort of emotional nitty gritty. At its best, as on this slinky song called "My Need," Jackson's neediness is compelling.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "MY NEED")

JACKSON, SINGING: (Unintelligible)
I know you know what exactly's on my mind
I can't help myself
Part of I feel tonight
Won't make excuses
I just want you (Unintelligible)
We don't need to talk about no promises
I know my need, tonight (Unintelligible)
I know my need tonight

Let's just

TUCKER: It turns out that when Janet Jackson moves into the confessional mode, she sings mostly about sex, straight and gay, kinky and romantic. But other than providing an excuse for her to put an interesting slur in her voice when she sings, the content is puerile, banal.

Like her brother, Michael, Janet seems to think that sexual frankness translates as emotional honesty. And like Michael, whenever she's not being salacious, she's either hostile or goopily sentimental.

Her saving grace, therefore, is the music itself. Working in close collaboration with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she can pull off things like this; a pretty little homage to The Supremes called "Together Again."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "TOGETHER AGAIN")

JACKSON SINGING: Every time when I look above and beyond
There are times when I feel your love around me, baby
I'll never forget my baby

When I feel that I don't belong
Draw my strength, from the words when you say
"Hey, it's about the feeling
The deeper-inside-you feeling"

Dream about us together again
What I want is together again baby
I know we'll be together again, 'cause we'll...

TUCKER: Like all too many pop acts these days, Jackson uses samples from old hits to do the work of original melodies. In the song I played earlier in this review, you probably recognized the hook from "The Cisco Kid" by War.

Another song here uses the riff from Archie Bell and the Drells (ph), "Tighten' Up," and the album's first single, "Got 'Til It's Gone", is little more than a clever gloss on Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi".

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "GOT 'TIL IT'S GONE")

JACKSON, SINGING: Oh no, we seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Til it's

That you don't know what you've got gone

JACKSON, SINGING: Have a feeling (Unintelligible)
That you are the one
I (Unintelligible)

TUCKER: If The Velvet Rope ultimately promises more than it delivers, it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Which is to seduce you. Jackson and Jam and Lewis are expert at drawing you into their sinuous rhythm tracks.

This is certainly the most listenable dance music disc around these days. It's just that all its shrewdness and skill is deployed in the service of songcraft almost completely bereft of an emotional impact.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is Critic-at-Large for Entertainment Weekly.

Dateline: Ken Tucker; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews "The Velvet Rope" the new album by Janet Jackson, her first in four years.
Spec: Music Industry; Janet Jackson; The Velvet Rope

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Velvet Rope
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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