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Making Sense of Recent Economic Developments.

Author and financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn. She's revised and updated her 1991 guide to saving money and investing wisely, "Making the Most of Your Money" (Simon and Shuster). The book addresses personal finance issues, retirement funds, saving for college, and the stock market. Jane Bryant Quinn is a column writer for Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and the New York Daily News. (Interview by Marty Moss-Coane)


Other segments from the episode on November 13, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 13, 1997: Interview with Jane Bryant Quinn; Interview with Kasi Lemmons; Review of the album "Chess Blues Piano Greats."


Date: NOVEMBER 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111301np.217
Head: Jane Bryant Quinn
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane sitting in for Terry Gross.

The stock market is still reverberating after October 27th's 554-point plunge. There have been steep ups and downs in the last few weeks as investors attempt to take advantage of the market's volatility. Jane Bryant Quinn says that if you're a smart investor, you should ignore these short-term fluctuations because in the long-run the market is a safe bet.

Jane Bryant Quinn is a syndicated columnist, as well as the personal finance columnist for Newsweek magazine and for Good Housekeeping. She has just updated and revised her 1991 book, "Making the Most of Your Money."

The country's economy and financial picture is changing, buffeted in part by the global marketplace and by new tax codes just enacted by Congress. With all this going on, we invited Jane Bryant Quinn to join us today to help us to make sense of some of these changes.

We began with the stock market, and I asked her how she would describe what happened the last week of October. Was it a crash, a correction, a warning, or irrational exuberance?

JANE BRYANT QUINN, FINANCIAL ANALYST, ADVISER, AND AUTHOR, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE, AUTHOR OF "MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MONEY": Well, we certainly aren't going to call it a "crash." I would be happy to call it a warning. You know, we've had nothing but good global news for about 10 years now -- you know, lower inflation, lower deficits, freer trade -- all kinds of good things have been happening.

This is the first reminder that from time to time, bad things happen. And what is going to happen to the United States as a result of this is going to be somewhat slower growth, because there are a lot of U.S. companies that do business in -- with the Asian countries that got in trouble. And Japan is going to hurt because the rest of Asia is hurting, and so a lot of businesses do business -- American businesses do business in Japan.

So they're not going to do as much business, so their profits aren't going to be quite as good as anticipated and that means that their stocks aren't worth as much. And how much less their stocks are worth is what the market has been trying to figure out.

So this is -- this isn't just kind of stock market nutso. This is a real economic event that is going to take a little bit of growth off world commerce for a while.

MOSS-COANE: And should we think, then, globally when we think about the stock market, and certainly there's much more global wheeling and dealing going on. But for the average investor, should they be knowing about what's happening in Southeast Asia or in Europe, and thinking about how that might impact their own stocks?

QUINN: Do you know, it's almost impossible, I think, for the average investor to keep the mind open all the time to all of these different parts of the world. I mean, who ever heard of the "ringit" (ph) -- you know, the Malaysian currency; whoever heard of the "baht," the Thai currency? And who wants to know, when you have so many other things on your mind.

I think that the way investors need to understand it is first, obviously we have a global economy that can affect ours, and as a long-term investor, and you should be only a long-term investor -- no short-term money should be in the stock market -- that as a long-term investor you need to own some mutual funds that invest in stocks. I'm a mutual fund buyer and a big believer in them. You own U.S., big stocks, small stocks, and you own at least one broadly-diversified international fund.

And then as an investor, you let the manager of your mutual fund worry about the baht and the ringit and Japan and Europe and all those other things because will have a participation in the long-term events in the rest of the world. And from time to time, it will go down, as it has in Southeast Asia. But most of the time, it will go up, as it does in the United States. We have recessions, but mostly we have growth. The same is true of the rest of the world.

And if you are invested in it that way, I -- you don't really have to think about it on a day-to-day basis.

MOSS-COANE: But does it make sense to look at Europe and to look at European companies as a place to invest, as opposed to Asia?

QUINN: At the moment, I would say that, from an economic point of view, the European situation is terrifically positive, because I think of Europe as being more or less where the United States was in 1983, 1984, when it was just starting out on what was a very difficult course of downsizing, re-engineering, reorganizing, to try to get our U.S. companies more set for global competition and also internal U.S. competition.

Well, the same process has been starting in Europe the past couple of years, as they realize that they have a lot of sclerotic industries. They have to be more prepared for global competition. And also, as they get their common currency together, which is supposed to be coming in 1999 and there's a very good shot that it will, then they are also going to have more internal competition as our country does.

So they are going through re-engineering, downsizing. It's harder in their political environment, but they're doing it.

So let's -- if what happens to Europe is what happened to the United States, then you're saying, you know, you have a very good long-term growth story, and that means you have a very good long-term investment story. So, maybe the European markets can have the same kind of long bull run that the U.S. market had.

As far as Southeast Asia's concerned, you know, those markets are in terrible shape, but you know, when a market really goes down -- I mean, they've had a crash in Southeast Asia. I'm a value investor. I'm interested in markets that go down.

So if you're -- have an international mutual fund and you say, OK, you know, I want my guy to be investing in Asia because those stocks are really cheap now, so if I'm going to hold for the long-term, that's probably a good bet. And I certainly want to be invested in Europe, because there's a long-term growth story there.

And so this adds up to a broadly diversified international fund. You know, it's hard to just say "pick a spot" -- to pick a country, pick a section of the world.


QUINN: But if you just stay diversified, you've got it all.

MOSS-COANE: Well I wonder, too, when experts and advice columnists tell people to keep things -- to hold on to stocks long-term -- for some people that might be three weeks; for other people that might be...

QUINN: Right.

MOSS-COANE: ... several generations. What's your definition of "long-term"?

QUINN: This is a perfect point. My definition of long-term, where I will take the risk, is more than four years.


QUINN: And for many people, they'll be sort of stunned. They think that's a very long number. But if you look at all of the bear markets since World War II -- I asked Ibbits (ph) and Associates in Chicago to do this data for me -- you look at the peak of the bull market and then the market drops and drops and drops. It turns around; it comes back up so it gets back to the point where it started, and you reinvest dividends.

And I said: how long does it take for a market to recover? And on average, it takes two years. The worst market we've had has taken three and a half years to recover. That was 1972-73 bear market. So if you really are -- if this is money you are absolutely going to need within four years, there is a chance that maybe you won't have it.

So that's -- I sort of draw a four-year line and say: I'm going to keep my money safe. If it's -- I absolutely have to have it in four years. So if my daughter is 14, that means -- and she's going to college -- that means I don't want her freshman year money in stocks because there's a risk that maybe the market will go down and won't come back. When she's 15, I don't want her sophomore year money in stocks.

So -- but if she's two, I certainly want to her college money invested in broadly diversified stock-owning mutual funds because there she's got a long time.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I've certainly heard others tout this philosophy of long-term, but there are also bestselling books with another philosophy. And I wonder, too, with the micro-analysis of Wall Street -- we get morning reports; we get hourly reports; we get daily reports -- whether that really makes it difficult to think long-term because it's like constantly taking your temperature during the day, and finding out how you're thinking -- how you're feeling.

QUINN: That's so true, and I -- if my -- if I have any message at all, Marty, it is: "don't do that." This kind of daily looking at stocks, trying to guess, trying to bet -- that is long-term, a loser's game. This is something the professionals play and most of them don't beat the market.

All of the academic research shows that it is incredibly rare for professional investors to beat the market long-term. And if it's rare for professionals to beat the market long-term -- you know what are you and I going to do when we're bidding against these professionals?

And I know people who say: listen, I've owned, you know, these 12 or 15 stocks and they're fabulous and they've gone up and they've beaten the market -- and, well, they -- maybe they have beaten the market. But they've beaten the market -- the person who has done it has taken a very high risk, and he took a high risk and he got a high return.

But what happens when the market turns down? I'll tell you, I really want -- I want to be a long-term investor, and I think that the way to do it is to own well-diversified mutual funds and hold on to them and not take the market temperature every day. I think that's the kind of thing that will lose you money, rather than make you money over the long-term.

MOSS-COANE: Well, we're going to take a very short break, and then I want to talk some more. And our guest today is Jane Bryant Quinn. She's personal finance columnist for Newsweek magazine and she has just updated and revised her 1991 book. It's called Making the Most of Your Money.

We'll be back after a very short break. This is FRESH AIR.

Jane Bryant Quinn is my guest today on FRESH AIR. And she's the personal finance columnist for Newsweek magazine, and she's just updated and revised her 1991 book. It's called Making the Most of Your Money.

I'm thinking about the baby boomers who are now middle-aged, and many of them caught between trying to figure out how to pay for college for their children; how to figure out how to afford their retirement which is coming probably in 10, 15, 20 years.

Under those circumstances, is one more important than the other? Is retirement more important than educating your children?

QUINN: Retirement is, and that's, I know, going to sound odd to...

MOSS-COANE: Yeah, ouch.

QUINN: ... people -- ouch -- because we all love our children dearly and our responsibility is to, you know, help them advance and educate them. You know, you have your children. You're responsible for giving them the best start in life.

And so -- but here is the -- so ideally, you would have tried to save money for both. But the plain fact is that a lot of people haven't been able to afford to save money for both. And if you cannot save for education and retirement, you have to save for retirement first.

And the reason is that, you know, when you retire, that's the only pot of money you're ever going to have. And you may live to 100, and that is it. And it's a very key -- I mean, it's key to your personal survival.

And your children, very often you find, first, there are state -- wonderful state, you know, colleges and universities that cost less than private schools. So there is a cheaper way to get a good education than going to a private school.

And there are student loans that the students can take on, and the students can pay back. You know, they're -- what -- they're 18, 19, 20, 21 -- they have a lifetime ahead of them in order to try to deal with these costs. Whereas you are at the end of your working life, and you don't have a lifetime ahead of you to earn more money and deal with these costs.

So these -- it's kind of a brutal triage...

MOSS-COANE: Yes -- sounds selfish.

QUINN: ... but the fact is that that is economically the only reasonable way to go. 'Cause what if you spend your whole retirement pot of money on your children's education? Who's going to support you in retirement? Maybe your kids would just assume you kept it, and then they don't have to support you.

MOSS-COANE: Americans are notoriously bad savers. I don't know if we've done any better in the last couple of years or not. You suggest that everybody can set aside 10 percent of their income for savings, and I'm sure people listening to that are saying: "yeah, right."

QUINN: Mm-hmm, yeah, right.

MOSS-COANE: My neighbor can, but I certainly can't. How do you suggest people, I guess, analyze -- look at their spending, their income, and try to figure out the pennies that they can put together to find this 10 percent?

QUINN: Let me tell you a personal story about this, Marty.

MOSS-COANE: Go ahead.

QUINN: When you lay out your budget, or as I like to call it, your "spending plan." It doesn't sound so serious as a budget.


QUINN: And you try to find that kind of money, it is practically impossible to find. But here's what happened to me when I was much younger and I was a single mother. I had a son and child support was not forthcoming. Life was not easy. You know, those days when the bills come in and you just don't open them 'cause you know you can't pay them. You know, one of the ways of dealing...


QUINN: ... with a bill you can't pay is not open the envelope.

MOSS-COANE: Of course.

QUINN: And so I've been through all of that. And a colleague -- I was working for a company -- and a colleague said, you know, are you saving any money in the company plan? And I said: "are you out of your mind? I can't pay the dentist." And he said: "you know, why don't you just try taking 5 percent out of your paycheck automatically." He said, "you'll find that you can do it and things won't change."

And I was very skeptical, but you know, I wasn't making all that much money, and 5 percent wasn't all that much anyway at that time. So I said "OK, I'll try it." And I had five percent deducted automatically and invested, and do you know what happened to my life?


QUINN: Nothing. Nothing happened. I was living exactly the same say. Life was just as tight, but all of a sudden I was saving 5 percent. And I said, this is sort of amazing. I raised it to seven 7, and nothing happened. I raised it to 10 percent, nothing happened. I couldn't believe it. And I raised it to 12 percent, I noticed it. I cut it back to 10 percent.

But the thing is that this kind of saving that comes out of your paycheck and you don't even see it picks up money that slips through your fingers that you don't even know where it's gone. And I'll tell you, I was living on -- I was living very low. And I was still able to do this because I would basically look at what was in the bank and I would somehow, without having a budget even, I would somehow figure out how to live on what I had there.

And I don't know how it works. I don't know why it works. But I know it is magical and I have encouraged lots of people to do it, as I was encouraged to do it. And they have all said to me: "it works."

MOSS-COANE: Interesting.

QUINN: And...

MOSS-COANE: Well, I know that credit card debt rivals, I believe, the federal debt in trillions of dollars.

QUINN: Pretty awful, isn't it?

MOSS-COANE: Well, you know, what do you suggest people do with their credit cards and boy, it seems like every day you get another piece of mail saying, well, we'll give you a credit card and you can have so much money at your fingertips. Or you turn on your television, and there's that same kind of message.

It's awfully tempting to use those easy credit cards because it does make it seem so easy.

QUINN: That's right, and it makes the banks a lot of money. And if you borrow too much, the banks could care less because if you go bankrupt, that is your problem, not the bank's problem. And in fact, they're down in Congress trying to make it harder for you to go bankrupt...


QUINN: ... so that they can give you even more credit. It just really -- it makes me very mad because the -- although certainly, we are all responsible for our own credit. At the same time, the bankers have discovered that they can lend a lot of money to people who are basically not credit-worthy, and enough of them will repay, so it -- they profit even though a certain percentage of them go broke. And I think that is an incredibly cynical attitude, and I just hate to see the banks doing that.

MOSS-COANE: Do you suggest that people have one or two credit cards, and leave it at that? And that, of course, will keep some kind of control over that easy money?

QUINN: You bet. I just think all those credit card things that come in the mail, you should do what I do with them. I don't even open them. I don't read the envelopes. I just pitch them out. You don't need it. A couple of credit cards are absolutely all you need.

And if you have one credit card that has a low interest rate, so that that's the credit card you would use if you were going to stretch out your purchases; and then you can have one credit card that doesn't matter what the interest rate is, but it has no annual fee; and then you use that card for purchases that you know you're going to pay off by the end of the month -- you're in very good shape and you're in good control of your spending.

And then I would also encourage you not to increase your credit limits, as another way of imposing a discipline on yourself.

I mean, where -- an 18 percent credit card -- now you are voluntarily adding 18 percent to every -- the cost of everything you buy. If you went into a store and they said, you now, well, you know, this costs this amount, but we're going to add 18 percent -- would you buy it? No, you'd turn around and walk away. And then you put it on your credit card and you don't pay it off for a year or two years, and you add -- you're adding this money without even you realizing it.

MOSS-COANE: Well how do you suggest people then pay down that credit card debt? And again, it can be daunting, as some of those percentage points add up.

QUINN: The worst thing you can do is pay the minimum on your credit card. Most credit cards are set up so that the debt you have right now in your credit card is designed to last for 30 years, if you pay only the minimum. And if you add five, 10, 15, 20, 15 dollars to that a month, you can bring what was a 30-year debt down to maybe a five-year debt. It is incredible how much -- how rapidly credit card debt can diminish if you -- when you start paying considerably, or paying even modestly more than the minimum.

And the other thing, of course, is to just sort of I guess treat it like, you know, that day by day sort of step program for, you know, alcoholics anonymous -- or spendaholics anonymous and all this other thing. You just say, you know, I'd take it one day at a time, and say: "I am not going to go any further into debt today. If I want to buy something, I'm going to pay cash; I'm (Unintelligible) to use a credit card; I'm going to use a debit card, which is the same as paying cash. I am not going to put down my credit card for something."

And you get through one day, and then you say, "OK, today, I am not going to put down my credit card." And you try to control, if your spending is out of control, you try to control the use of your credit card that way.

MOSS-COANE: Well, it sounds like a 12-step program to me that you're describing.


QUINN: Well, it's like a 12-month program or something. You see, I have a friend who said what she did was she took her credit cards and she froze them in the ice tray.


And so they were there, but then she said that at Christmas what she did was defrost them, so there's a risk there.

MOSS-COANE: Well, of course when you're trying to take care of all these bills and debts hanging over your head, it's so easy to feel like deprived -- you're on a diet or you're deprived or you know, somehow you're not able to participate in this great American dream.

QUINN: I know, but you know, then you're not taking control of yourself. You're not taking charge of yourself. I mean, are you a victim or are you in charge? I mean, the whole message here is that you know what your income is; you know what your future needs are; you're an intelligent human being. You know, are you just going to sit back and let all of this drift over you as if you're some kind of a dummy?

I mean, you don't need to do that. And most Americans, in fact, live in a state of being in charge of their money and their debt and their investments. And sure, we all charge more on our credit cards than we should from time to time, and then we look at the bills and we say: "gee, I have charged too much." And then you say: "I'm not going to buy things for a while until it's paid off."

This is the way most Americans handle their money. Most Americans are, in fact, very responsible. And then the people who aren't doing it, just sort of need to take a look at -- are they just whining instead of paying attention to how to manage their lives?

MOSS-COANE: Personal finance columnist Jane Bryant Quinn has just updated her 1991 book Making the Most of Your Money.

I'm Marty Moss-Coane and this is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane
Guest: Jane Bryant Quinn
High: Author and financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn. She's revised and updated her 1991 guide to saving money and investing wisely, "Making the Most of Your Money. The book addresses personal finance issues, retirement funds, saving for college, and the stock market. Jane Bryant Quinn is a column writer for Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and the New York Daily News.
Spec: Media; Business; Economy; Investing; Jane Bryant Quinn
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: Jane Bryant Quinn
Date: NOVEMBER 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111302NP.217
Head: Kasi Lemmons
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:35

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane in for Terry Gross.

Kasi Lemmons is not a stranger to Hollywood. While not a big name star, she worked as an actress in "Silence of the Lambs," "Hard Target," "Fear of a Black Hat," "Drop Squad," and "Vampire's Kiss."

But when she wrote the screenplay for a film called "Eve's Bayou," she knew she had to direct it. The film opened last week and stars Samuel L. Jackson, who was also one of its producers; Lynn Whitfield, Debbie Morgan, Diane Carroll (ph), Vondy Curtis Hall (ph) -- who is Lemmons' husband -- and Jurnay Smalette (ph) as 10-year-old Eve.

It's a lyrical mystical story about ghosts, memory, family secrets, and a young girl's loss of innocence. In this scene, Eve is having a temper tantrum, which is trying the patience of her aunt and mother.


ACTRESS: What did you do to your brother?

JURNAY SMALETTE, ACTRESS, AS EVE: I'm going to push him out of a window if I don't get out of this house.


SMALETTE: Cicely's (ph) been in the God-damned bathtub for an hour. You know that? She stayed in their three hours yesterday.

ACTRESS: Fortunately, there's more than one bathroom in this house.

SMALETTE: Ain't that much dirt in all Louisiana. Get out of the damned tub.

ACTRESS: You watch your language, young lady.

SMALETTE: Mama keeps stabbing herself in the kitchen. Show her your hands, mama.

ACTRESS: I think you better hush.

SMALETTE: And where's daddy? He's never home. He's supposed to be home sometime.

ACTRESS: Listen you little ingrate, your father works hard so we can have a house with four bathrooms.

SMALETTE: Not every night he's not working, I know he's not.

MOSS-COANE: Kasi Lemmons says that she began Eve's Bayou as a novel, and that the circumstances in the story are fictional. But Eve Baptiste (ph) is 10 in the film and Kasi Lemmons was nine when her parents divorced.

I asked her if there was a connection.

KASI LEMMONS, ACTRESS, SCREENWRITER, AND DIRECTOR: There probably is, at a level. I mean, I can't say there's not. That would be -- that would be denial. Yeah, I think there -- I think there probably is. I think it's something that I looked at later as an adult and said, you know, what was I really feeling? What was I thinking? I was confused, definitely.

And it's also talking to other people -- other children. You know, of course, many, many children go through divorces. I think, what, half marriages end up in divorces and it's pretty common. But it can be kind of confusing for the child and I definitely think that was partly what I was examining -- those feelings...

MOSS-COANE: Do you think...

LEMMONS: ... of trying to -- trying to -- I mean, Eve -- Eve really tries to make things right in her own way. She has a sense of justice and a sense of purpose, and it's really about the way the child reacts to the family dissolving.

MOSS-COANE: You got a wonderful performance from the little girl who plays Eve. She's a girl named Jurnay Smalette. Tell us how you found her?

LEMMONS: I found her very late in the process. Everyone else had been cast, and I was on location in Louisiana, actually. I had auditioned many, many wonderful, beautiful little actresses, but I was looking for a raw quality, an honesty, and a kind of other-worldliness. And I knew that I would find her. We were looking all across the country. I have a brilliant casting director, Jackie Brown (ph), and we were looking everywhere.

And it was after I went back to Louisiana and was, you know, gearing all up to make the movie. I got the call from Jackie Brown to fly back to L.A. Jurnay had just come into town. And I met her, and very quickly -- within a few minutes -- I knew she was the kid.


LEMMONS: As a matter of fact, I can remember the second that I knew, and it was halfway through her first scene.

MOSS-COANE: What did she do? What did she say?

LEMMONS: It was the way she cried -- the rawness of emotion, you know. It made you hurt. It wasn't actor-y at all. It was raw -- like a child in pain, you know, and yet she's a very happy kid. She -- she goes amazingly, facilely between the character and, you know, her little kid self. You know, it's so beautiful.

MOSS-COANE: Well, Samuel L. Jackson plays a very important role in this film as Eve's father. And looking at his performance, I can't remember when I saw him play this handsome, sexy, leading role like that.

LEMMONS: Well, I think that's why he and his managers were attracted to the material. You know, they're very smart people and I think they wanted this for Sam for that very reason. And so, you know, I was lucky that he hadn't played a part like that before.


LEMMONS: Louis Battista's (ph) a wonderful character to me. I just -- I love him because he's so complicated and he's -- he walks that line, you know. He's not a bad guy.

And I thought if we can pull this off, so that this incredibly flawed man comes off sympathetic -- you know, you don't hate him -- then we've really accomplished something. And Sam totally understood the line that had to be walked, and how delicately the character had to be played. And so, we talked about it a lot.

MOSS-COANE: What I find so interesting about this film is this young girl's perspective of her family, realizing that there are many complexities; there are many secrets within this family. And there are things that she does that she really doesn't understand.

And as a director, to me it's a challenge to try to tell a story from the slightly confused perspective of a little girl, without confusing the audience.

LEMMONS: You know, I didn't think about how difficult it was or was going to be, because that's the way the story always was in my mind. It was always from Eve's point of view, so it was not a question of do I write it from a child's point of view and how hard will that be.

Visually, you have to be very specific in terms of not being confusing. You have to be very specific when you've got a film that has, you know, flashbacks and ghosts and different points of view and memories. And so we were very specific: OK, this is a vision and this is what it looks like; this is a flashback and this is what it looks like; this is a memory and this is what it looks like. You know? These are ghosts.


But always -- I always pic -- heard it from Eve's point of view. So, I think it's just that important time in your life when you realize that your parents aren't gods. It's a loss of innocence, you know, when you realize that the people around you aren't perfect and that life is complicated.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I think it's also a sensitive portrayal of a little girl beginning to understand something about adult sexuality...


MOSS-COANE: ... and of course, being confused and in many ways angered by it. I mean, Eve sees her father, who does love his family, but he also is a philanderer, and his having the affair with a married woman. And she's trying to make sense of this.

How did you help this actress understand what was going on in the story?

LEMMONS: She had read the script before she auditioned, and I asked her -- I said: "do you understand the script?" And she said: "yeah, I went over it with my mother." And so her mother, Janet Smalette, is just an incredible mom -- just a really deep person and a really understanding person who wants the best for her children, and yet is in show business. And the whole family's in show business.

And I really don't think that Jurnay could be the actress and the child that she is without -- without such strong parents. But Janet had really talked her through it.

In terms -- visually, you can do tricks. That's the beauty of film. So she didn't actually have to see all the things that Eve sees in the movie. You know, you can shoot around that. But she did understand the script. She did. She had her little -- she had her little child's point of view of it, which is wonderful.

MOSS-COANE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

LEMMONS: I mean, if you asked her what Eve's Bayou is about, she'll say -- she'll give a different answer than you would give.

MOSS-COANE: That's interesting. What does she say?

LEMMONS: Well, she'll start by -- "it's about this girl named Eve"...



LEMMONS: ... and she'd -- and who, you know, loves her family and she really sees -- she sees Eve's point of view.


LEMMONS: But it's very kind of innocent. It's very innocent and beautiful to hear her talk about the movie, what she thinks it's about. It's very beautiful, actually. The first time I heard her talk about it, I burst into tears.

MOSS-COANE: Oh, really?

Do you have a sister?

LEMMONS: Yeah, I do.



LEMMONS: We're very close.

MOSS-COANE: OK. And the kind of jealousy between Eve and her sister -- I mean, they can't live together, but they also can't be apart. You relate to that?

LEMMONS: Yeah, we never really had jealousy. The things that I -- I mean, of all the relationships in the movie, that's the one I borrowed the most heavily from my life.

It was never really the jealousy, but we read Shakespeare, and my sister read me the complete works of William Shakespeare, and we read it together. And you know, I always had to play the boys and she always got to play the, you know, the beautiful women -- Juliet.

But we fought very, very hard when we fought. And we were each other's best, best friend, for you know, many, many years. We still are. And we were incredibly close. We can feel -- we can feel what each other are thinking, and that was something that I did want to try to put on film.

MOSS-COANE: This film is set in a bayou, and I know that you were born in St. Louis and lived in Massachusetts. Do you have a kind of connection to the South?

LEMMONS: Yeah, well, my fam -- I come from a very, very, Southern family. My mother's from Americus, Georgia. My father's from Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. They met at Tuskegee Army Air Base. You know, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother's in Tuskegee, and so it's not a stretch, you know, to relate to the South for me.

In the -- in preparation for Eve's Bayou, I spent a lot of time in Louisiana. And you know, also it's just such a magical place. It lends itself to a certain type of folklore, and I wanted to tell kind of a difficult story, but in a fairy tale context. And Louisiana's a great place for that.

MOSS-COANE: Well, certainly you have the swamps; you have the Spanish moss, you have the thick forests, the snakes -- all that that you can use to tell a story such as this.

LEMMONS: It becomes a character in the piece -- the location becomes a character.

MOSS-COANE: My guest is Kasi Lemmons. Her new film, Eve's Bayou, just opened. We'll talk more after a short break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Kasi Lemmons is our guest. She is writer and director of a new film. It's called Eve's Bayou.

Well, I want to ask you about how you were able to get this movie made, and you, having written the film, started to take it to various producers and film companies. You were actually pregnant at the time. This was a first-time feature film for you. You certainly had acted, and had written some screenplays in the past. But you know, how do you get someone to give you money under those conditions -- writing a story as complex as this one?

LEMMONS: Well, it helps to have Samuel Jackson...

MOSS-COANE: Yeah, right.

LEMMONS: ... and we really got lucky in that we happened upon Trimark at a time when they really were trying to make a movie like this. So everybody else in Hollywood that had passed on the project, which is a normal process. You know, that's the way it's done. Everybody else really didn't need to make Eve's Bayou, and Trimark really did need to make it.

And so we ran into them and it became this marriage of, you know, being in the right place at the right time.

MOSS-COANE: And did you originally want to direct it?

LEMMONS: Not originally. I -- well, actually, originally, yes. I thought I might direct it one day. When we started shopping it and it became more an immediate prospect, I kind of let go of that and started talking to directors about it, or being open to conversations about other directors.

And then somewhere along the line, I actually changed my mind again and decided that I was really too close to the material. I woke up one day and I said, no, this just isn't sitting right. You know, somebody's going to mess it up. I mean, Eve's Bayou is complicated and delicately balanced, and I just felt that I was the best person to tell the story.

And I'd been to film school, and I wrote the script, so I didn't see why that wouldn't be a good idea. I mean, I could see many reasons why other people might think it wasn't, but I felt pretty strongly.

MOSS-COANE: Do you still want to act? I mean, you act, you write, and now you direct.

LEMMONS: Acting is my first love...


LEMMONS: ... and I'll always love it, and I definitely hope to act again.

MOSS-COANE: Well I'm -- and I don't want to make too much of it, but again looking at the kind of movies that are get -- that get made, I wonder what is offered to a black actress these days?

LEMMONS: Well, you know, I have been kind of out of the loop for a couple of years. I've played a lot of, you know, cops, agents...


LEMMONS: ... black girl best friend; black girl next door.


LEMMONS: But I've had a lot of interesting parts. I mean, I've liked the parts that I've played.

MOSS-COANE: Would you say things are changing in Hollywood? That there's more openness to seeing black actors in a more complex, nuanced role?

LEMMONS: Oh, distinctly. I mean, I'm very, very, very encouraged by what's happening in Hollywood. I'm very encouraged by, you know, the success of "Soul Food" and the fact that Eve's Bayou got made and films that I hear are getting made. And directors that are kind of coming up with and behind me -- I'm very, very excited about the future.

I think that -- that it's been hard for black actresses. It's hard for any actress. I think it's hard for women in Hollywood. And the more women filmmakers and writers that we have, the better that's going to -- that's gonna be, you know. The situation is going to improve by adding talent to the talent pool.

A woman's voice is very important. I really believe that. I think that the -- some of the greatest characters ever have been written by men, but I think women are going to really help take it to the next step.

MOSS-COANE: You've been a member of the Writer's Guild for about 10 years now. How did you develop your writing talents?

LEMMONS: Well, I went to film school. At the time that I went to film school, I was writing scenes for my actors friends -- my actor friends that were in acting school and, you know, that just kind of got tired of doing David Rabe or "Danny in the Deep Blue Sea" or you know, that kind of pieces that everybody does in acting class. And you know, you see them a lot.

And so, I started writing scenes for friends of mine that didn't really have a context. It would just be a floating scene. And so, that was really my first experience.

And then I went to film school, and when I came out of film school, I had made a short film that I was extremely proud of. And I showed it to Mr. Cosby -- I had an audition for the "Cosby Show" and I said: "OK, I'm going to bring in my film," you know.

So I auditioned. I didn't get the part. I said: "Mr. Cosby, you know, I'd like to show you this short film that I've made in film school. It's only seven minutes long -- it won't take long."

MOSS-COANE: It won't take up too much of your time, right?

LEMMONS: And so he watched it, and afterwards, he said: "it's pretty good, kid" -- you know -- "but what I really need is a writer." I said: "Oh, I'm a writer." He said: "Could you write me a four-page scene?" Well, that's what I was doing, you know, for fun in my free time. So I said "sure" and he said "bring it back next Tuesday."

And I came back on Tuesday. Of course, he'd forgotten he ever talked to me and he says, you know, "who are you? Oh, yeah, yeah -- come with me." And he showed my scene to a head writer that was working on a film for him that was putting together a team of women. And I wrote as part of a team with Lee Hunkins (ph) and P.J. Gibson (ph) on a movie that never got made. But that was my first real professional writing experience, and Mr. Cosby got me into the Writer's Guild.

MOSS-COANE: What's the hardest part of writing for you?

LEMMONS: The solitude. I mean, you get very lonely. And just getting through it. I mean, I do a lot of procrastinating. You know, I clean the house; I make lunch, you know, twice.


MOSS-COANE: Anything but writing, right?

LEMMONS: You talk on the phone -- it's hard discipline and it's lonely. I get lonely, you know, sometimes. You know, my friends call and they want me to come out, and it's like no, I'm working. And you know, it's great when they can finally see a finished product and say "oh, that's what you've been going all those times you couldn't go out with us."


MOSS-COANE: Well, in thinking about the year that you -- or the year and a half, I guess, that you and your husband Vondy Curtis Hall, have had -- you both debuted a feature-length film; you managed to have a baby in the middle somewhere there. How have you survived these last 18 months?

LEMMONS: Actually, I haven't -- you know, I try not to think about it. I couldn't have gotten through it if I had over-thought about it too much. I mean, one thing that happened was, you know, Vondy wrote his film after I wrote Eve's Bayou, and we both started shopping them. And then his looked hot and then something would fall through. And then mine would look hot, but then it wouldn't come through.

And so we didn't actually know when they were going to land, like how it was going to go for us. You never really know when you're going to get your green light. And so at the same time we're trying to have a baby, and so we decided, well let's just have the baby, you know.


LEMMONS: And both baby and films got green-lighted.


So it was kind of one of those situations that we couldn't -- if we -- I don't think we would have exactly planned it that way, but that's the way it worked out. So I directed my movie with a three-month-old baby. He was -- well, he was three-and-a-half months or four months when we started, and seven months when we finished.

MOSS-COANE: Wow. How do you do that?

LEMMONS: Well, you have great back-up support. You have a great nanny. He was on the set the entire time. Everybody loved Hunter, and I think it's really affected his personality in a positive way, you know, because he's a very social baby. He's a very confident baby because, you know, every time he came to work 150 people were glad to see him. You know, "Hunter!"

I've got, like, tons of pictures of different actors kissing my baby -- Branford Marsalis holding the baby up in the air.


And so I think it was kind of a wonderful experience for a little guy, you know. On the other hand, it was very painful for me at times. But I held him a lot. I usually held him at the monitor, through the rehearsal, and then right before we would go to action, I would, you know, kind of give him up temporarily, you know, to the nanny, just so that, you know, there wasn't a noise factor.

But I actually directed many shots holding him.

MOSS-COANE: Really, on your hip? Or over your shoulder? Or?

LEMMONS: Holding him in my lap at the monitor.


LEMMONS: My parents were around a lot, and that really -- they saved my life. And so that was wonderful. And of course having Vondy in the movie helped, because you know, he was around.

MOSS-COANE: Do you have another film you're working on?

LEMMONS: Right now, I'm writing a script with my husband that's for him to direct, and that's really what I'm working on. I'm talking to a lot of people about a lot of projects.

And yet on the other hand, I'm biding my time. I feel it's important to me, as an artist, to wait to feel extremely passionately about something, because making movies is extremely difficult, and it takes -- you know, it's a year out of your life or more that's wonderful, but also very painful. And you know, you go through a whole range of emotions and it's exhausting.

I need to feel extremely passionately before I involve myself in another project. Maybe that's because I'm a woman or maybe because I'm a mommy, you know, but I'm waiting to feel the passion.

MOSS-COANE: Well, Kasi Lemmons, thank you so much for joining us today on FRESH AIR.

LEMMONS: Thank you for having me.


Kasi Lemmons' new film is Eve's Bayou, which she wrote and directed. It stars Samuel L. Jackson.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia
Guest: Kasi Lemmons
High: Actress, screenwriter and director Kasi Lemmons. Her directoral debut is "Eve's Bayou." It stars Samuel L. Jackson and is now in theaters. The family drama takes place in a small Louisiana town in 1962, and is narrated by the younger daughter Eve, who must process family politics and her father's extramarital affairs at the age of ten. Lemmons has acted in the movies "The Silence of the Lambs," "Hard Target," "Candyman," and "Vampire's Kiss."
Spec: Movie Industry; Eve's Bayou; Kasi Lemmons
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: Kasi Lemmons
Date: NOVEMBER 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 111303NP.217
Head: Chess Blues Piano Greats
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: Although famous for its blues, Chess Records of Chicago was not known for its blues pianists. Guitars, especially warring electric guitars, became the company's trademark.

Eddie Boyd and Willie Maben (ph) were blues pianists and recorded for Chess back in the '50s. Music critic Milo Miles has been waiting for Chess to reissue their records. Now it has, in the CD called "Chess Blues Piano Greats."


WILLIE MAVEN, SINGER, SINGING: My baby's picture in the frame
Is all I see since's been gone
Her picture in the frame...

MILO MILES, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Willie Maven was all-powerful in his delightful number, "The Seventh Son," but he had no clout at Chess Records. He and Eddie Boyd were unusually dissatisfied in their business relations with the Chess brothers, and they would certainly be disappointed at how hard it's been to buy their best sides for so many years.

Casual blues listeners may want to look for anthologies with selected hits by Maven and Boyd, but the double CD reissue Chess Blues Piano Greats finally puts things right for the serious blues hound. It's a spiffy package and a good deal.

While Chess Piano Blues Greats includes only a few dandy sides by the masterful Otis Spahn (ph) and Lafayette Leek (ph), the highlight of the set is the intriguing study in contrast between Boyd and Maben.


EDDIE BOYD, SINGER, SINGING: Love my baby, but my baby don't love me
Love my baby, but my baby don't love me
She said "Daddy, you giving me the third degree"

She said "Daddy, daddy, why did you stay out so long?"
She said "Daddy, daddy, why did you stay out so long?"
She says you know who's pretty baby
You should have brought it on home

MILES: Boyd's blues were generally depressive, even down-right scary-paranoid on a tune like "Third Degree." He remained a fairly crude pianist, but he sang and wrote songs in obvious spasms of emotion. These included rowdy, drunken snarls like "Hard Time Getting Started" and some cheerful romps like "Rosa-Lee Swing" (ph).

But Boyd had little of the Delta country hoo-doo menace of Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf (ph). And he liked to record with horns, something else not heard often on Chess releases.

Boyd never found the right niche until he moved to Finland in 1971. He died there, satisfied and a star, in 1994.

Willie Maben on the other hand, belonged to a distinct group of stylists, namely urbane wise-guy pianists in the manner of Charles Brown and Amos Milburn (ph). Problem was, Maben was making sides for Chess, who preferred their hoochie-koochie men brawny and blunt.

Still, Maben's deadpan boasts and complaints are as precise and hilarious as any in the business, particularly in hits like "I Don't Know" and the even more corrosive followup "I'm Mad."


MABEN SINGING: I've got the blues
I'm in a (Unintelligible)
I've got the blues
In a (Unintelligible)
Wished I had somebody
That I could tell my troubles to.

I had a good woman...

MILES: Again, like Charles Brown, Maben had a fondness for hushed, late-night lounge blues. This is the sort of stuff that Philip Marlowe might have looked for on the juke box in those L.A. dives. You can put on Chess Blues Piano Greats and join him.

MOSS-COANE: Milo Miles is a music writer living in Cambridge. Chess Blues Piano Greats is on Chess MCA Records.

Dateline: Milo Miles, Cambridge; Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia
High: World music critic Milo Miles reviews the new reissue: "Chess Blues Piano Greats."
Spec: Music Industry; World Music; Chess Blues Piano Greats
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: Chess Blues Piano Greats
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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