DATE August 13, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Steven Van Zandt discusses his role on "The Sopranos"
and his musical career
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
news, in for Terry Gross.
Steven Van Zandt is a man of many talents. He co-stars in "The Sopranos" as
Silvio Dante, hit man and owner of the Bada Bing strip club. Van Zandt is
also the guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's band. Like Springsteen, he's from
New Jersey, and that's where they met in the '70s. In the mid-'80s, he left
Springsteen's E Street Band to pursue a solo career. Although he returned to
Springsteen's band, he continues to make solo albums. Van Zandt is also the
host of a syndicated radio program called "Little Steven's Underground
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. STEVEN VAN ZANDT (Musician/Actor; Host, "Little Steven's Underground
Garage"): You back, baby, on the front lines of the rock 'n' roll
revolution. Let them go on about how rock is dead. If you were listening to
the other radio stations in town, you'd think rock is dead, too. (Laughs)
That's why you gotta keep it right here, 24 hours a day. Don't even hit the
buttons anymore. Break all them buttons off. This is the coolest radio
station in town. You know why? Because we are on here, that's why. We're
here to swing, baby.
DAVIES: Apparently, radio, TV and guitar playing aren't enough for Van Zandt.
Tomorrow he'll put on Little Steven's International Underground Garage
Festival at Randalls Island in New York. Iggy Pop & The Stooges, The Strokes,
The Pete Best Band, Bo Diddley and a slew of other bands will be performing.
So what is garage rock? When he was on FRESH AIR in 2002, he told Terry he
could best define it with his 1966 recording by Van Morrison's first band,
(Soundbite of song)
THEM: (Singing) I can't give you more than what I've got. I can't expect to
get what I have not. I can only give you love until the sun goes down, I
until the leaves of summer turnin' shades of brown. I try, and I try, but
baby, you know that I can only give you love, babe.
TERRY GROSS, host:
Steven Van Zandt, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to do your own
Mr. VAN ZANDT: I miss those days when the deejay would turn you on to new
things and you could develop a relationship with that deejay and a
relationship with that station. And that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying
to mostly--I mean, it's not all unfamiliar, but quite a bit of what I do is
turning people on to, hopefully, new things. So it's fun.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: And...
GROSS: ...give us a sense of what fits under your definition of garage rock.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well--and let's be very clear that this is my definition,
'cause, you know...
GROSS: Right. Yeah.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: ...I don't want to be accused of, you know, trying to be--you
know, there's nothing particularly...
GROSS: You don't want Lenny Kaye calling up and complaining.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, he'll just walk over and kick my butt. But yeah,
it--there's nothing academic, you know. This is just not the--mistaken to be
anything having to do with historically accurate or, you know--anyway, for me,
the garage situation--the entire garage scene really is based around the
British Invasion of '64. Everything before that, I believe, led directly to
the British Invasion, and the British Invasion has influenced everything that
has come since. It's literally the classic British Invasion of the early
Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who, Kinks, Yardbirds, Animals, Hollies. I also play
a lot of the '60s pop music, such as Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Turtles,
Dave Clark Five, that kind of thing.
Then there's the classic garage nugget stuff, a lot of the one-hit type of
groups, of--Electric Prunes, Music Machine. I then move into the '70s with
The New York Dolls and The Ramones, and that kind of stuff, and then into the
first and second generations of the modern garage movement started in the
'80s, and then the new stuff right now, Shazam, Greenhornes, Creatures of the
Golden Dawn, and I'm playing quite a few new things as well, so...
GROSS: My guest is Steven Van Zandt, and he now has a Sunday night radio
program called "Little Steven's Underground Garage," in which he plays garage
rock. Let's listen to a track from your most recent CD called "Born Again
Savage," and this is a track that I think we'll surely hear the influence
of the kind of bands that you're playing now. This is "Guns, Drugs and
Gasoline." You want to say anything about it?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, it's not exactly garage rock. It was specifically made
to be a '60s hard-rock record, which is the era just after garage, circa '69
or so, it would have been. But yeah, everything I do comes from the garage
bands, obviously, but this is not classic garage. This is in the hard-rock
GROSS: OK. This is Steven Van Zandt...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: I know. Need a scorecard, right? I know.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: That's--so this is "Guns, Drugs and Gasoline."
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (Singing) Guns, drugs and gasoline. Guns, drugs and gasoline.
Stop telling me how I feel. You don't know a thing about me. Ain't nothing
getting better down here on the street. Tell me a lie. Tell me a lie. Tell
me a lie. Tell me another lie. I got nothing to believe in.
GROSS: My guest is Steven Van Zandt of "The Sopranos," of the Bruce
Springsteen band and of his own radio show, "Little Steven's Underground
Garage." The track that we just heard is from his latest CD, which is called
"Born Again Savage."
What was the first band that you ever had?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: My own first band was a band called The Source(ph); 1966. We
were one of the first bands to break the mold. In those days you had to play
the top 40, and my band was one of the first to play FM radio rock type of
album cuts, you know? I was playing songs by The Who and Buffalo Springfield
and Youngbloods, people like that, which was a bit strange back then. There
wasn't too many of us--there wasn't too many bands back then, actually. It
was a very different world. It was not a viable way to make a living yet, so
you were considered really one step above a criminal, you know, being in a
rock 'n' roll band.
GROSS: Who'd you play for?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Very, very, very lucky, my generation was--the only
generation, I think, that was really catered to that way. We had dozens and
dozens of places to play. High schools, obviously. We had the beach clubs,
because we were on the Jersey shore. VFW halls. There was a television show
called "Hullabaloo" which had Hullabaloo clubs. There was three of those
clubs in New Jersey where we played. There was teen-age nightclubs built
specifically for teen-agers, place called Le Teen de Vous(ph).
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. VAN ZANDT: You know, just a lot of places, right--especially before
that, you know, magical sort of period there from '65 to about '67, '68,
before drugs really made it to the suburbs, you know. And then once drugs
came to the suburbs, all the teen-age places got closed down. But, you know,
it was a very strange period of time. I don't think it's happened before or
since, where teen-agers had so many cool places to go, you know? I don't
know what they do now.
GROSS: What was your band called then?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Oh, we had a different band every week. I mean, certainly
every month. I mean, I had the Sundance Blues Band, I had--God--you know,
one week I'd be in Bruce's band, and next week he'd be in my band. And I
can't even think of all the names we had in those days. Steel Mill was one
of the bands we had. We had--I forget, but, you know, some of them never even
got names. We--you know, they broke up before they--we couldn't get a job.
It was hard to get work, you know?
GROSS: Did you meet Springsteen in Asbury Park because of this club?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No. We actually were on that same--there was a circuit that
went from my--where I grew up was called Middletown, which was close to the
Jersey Shore. He was in Freehold, which was further west, and Asbury Park was
to the south. And there was a Hullabaloo club in all three of those towns,
and so there became like a triangle. It was like a circuit. And we met in
that circuit '65, '66, somewhere in there.
GROSS: Gee, did these Hullabaloo clubs have dancers in cages, like on the TV
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No. I wish. No. No. Good idea, though.
DAVIES: Steven Van Zandt, speaking with Terry Gross in 2002. More after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Steven Van Zandt. Little
Steven's International Underground Garage Festival takes place tomorrow on
Randalls Island in New York.
GROSS: So when you first started playing with Springsteen, were you doing
mostly covers, or were you doing original songs?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Let me think. No, I think by then we were pretty much doing
all original songs. You know, our early bands in the, you know, '65, '66, '67
period, were mostly cover bands, you know? But we--but, again, we did odd
covers. His band did odd covers. So did mine. We were the first of a new
generation of bands that were growing up with rock music as a given, you know?
It was no longer pop music. It was no longer show business, exactly. The art
form of rock started in '65, and that whole, you know, sort of sensibility of
rock music being a means of personal expression and all that was, you know, a
fact by the time we pretty much came into our own. So, you know...
GROSS: How did life change for you in around--I guess it was 1975--when you
were playing with Springsteen and the band really hit?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, it didn't change right away. The first thing that
happened was I took a huge pay cut, because we were very, very--I had a band
called Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, which...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: We were playing at that point three nights a week in Asbury
Park and making quite a bit of money, and we were very successful. And just
got kind of bored with it all, the bar wars, as I call it, and had the
opportunity--you know, Bruce was willing to put the guitar down and get a
couple of gigs booked. So, you know, he said, `Come on out. Let's, you know,
get out of town for a minute.' And he was really coming to the end of--his
career was pretty much over already at that point. He had, like, you know,
seven weeks of shows booked or something like that. So, you know, I went for
seven weeks and stayed seven years. But at that point, it was not--you know,
the Time and Newsweek thing hit as we were on doing those shows, and got a
second life. But things were not--it was a struggle. Yeah.
GROSS: So when did it start catching on commercially?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: 1980 with "The River," with the fifth album. You know, we had
by then probably had a million people that we would play to. You know, we
broke live, rather than on the radio, which was unusual. That was really an
invention of Frank Barsalona, who was our agent up until recently. Frank
just recently sold Premier. Premier was the agency that was the first rock
'n' roll agency ever. Frank Barsalona's quite a character. Anyway, he
invented the concept of breaking an act by playing live. There was no such
thing before him. And so we followed that philosophy for a number of years
and, in fact, did break that way. We didn't need radio to succeed.
GROSS: It really relies a lot on word of mouth, doesn't it?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: It's word of mouth, going back to a city three and four times
in a year, you know, which is--you could do in those days, you know?
Everybody gets in a station wagon and goes, you know?
GROSS: Do you have a favorite of the early recordings you made with
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, I guess "The River" will always, you know, have a place
in my heart. It was the first record I produced. So it's a very meaningful
record to me, personally. I think as far as a collection of songs is--I think
probably "Darkness on the Sunny Edge of Town" probably has the best collection
of songs. I don't know. You know, there's something interesting on every
GROSS: Do you want to choose a track to play, Mr. Deejay?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Play "Fade Away" from the river.
GROSS: OK. Here it comes.
(Soundbite of "Fade Away")
Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Well, now you say you found another man who
does things to you that I can't, and that no matter what I do it's all over
now between me and you, girl. Well, I can't believe what you say. No, I
can't believe what you say. 'Cause, baby, I don't want to fade away, oh, I
don't want to fade away. Tell me, what can I do, what can I say? 'Cause,
darlin', I don't want to fade away.
GROSS: That's Bruce Springsteen, "Fade Away" from "The River." My guest is
guitarist, songwriter and singer Steven Van Zandt, who played with Springsteen
for many years--still play together, right?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, we just got back together after...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: ...a short hiatus of 18 years.
GROSS: And Steven Van Zandt is also in "The Sopranos," and now he has his own
radio show in which he plays garage rock, and that's on Sunday nights. It's a
Now one of the things about the Springsteen band is that onstage there's
always a lot of, like, male bonding action, you know, like, you know,
Springsteen and Clarence Clemons or you and Springsteen looking at each other
and there's, you know, this kind of like bonding going on onstage.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Is that something that you kind of planned out before or is that just,
like, chemistry that happens onstage?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No, we have a few weeks of bonding sessions before a tour.
GROSS: Bonding rehearsals.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. VAN ZANDT: We go into the woods and sort of, you know, beat drums and
bond. No, we--it's--I think that's the band's thing, you know. I mean, we
are as close to a band as you can be, even though it's a solo artist, being
Bruce Springsteen. And that's part of the band phenomenon, is that
communication of friendship and family and, you know, the artificial family
that McLuhan talked about, you know. But it's the phenomenon that got started
by The Beatles and the thing that everybody responded to, but new things, a
new concept, the concept of a band, you know.
GROSS: Can you describe the feeling of being onstage in a stadium when the
crowd is really, like, with you and is incredibly energized and the energy's
all focused onstage, on you?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, you get there gradually, so the feeling
doesn't change that much, you know what I mean? You get the same feeling from
a club when you first start, you know. If that 200 people in a club are with
you, it feels great, you know what I mean? There's an energy exchange going
on that's really quite remarkable. And then you carry that to theaters and
you carry it to arenas and you carry it to stadiums. So, I mean, you don't
sort of start in stadiums, where I think it would be quite a shock to the
system, you know? By the time you get there, you kind of have built your
audience, you know. I mean, we built our audience one person at a time, you
know? I don't know if you can do that anymore. But maybe that's why there's
fewer bands playing arenas and stadiums, 'cause it's harder to--the
infrastructure isn't really there anymore for rock 'n' roll.
But anyway, it's exactly as much fun as it looks like, you know, which is
quite a bit.
GROSS: How does performing in your 50s compare with performing in your 20s?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, it's a lot more fun. (Laughs)
GROSS: Is it really?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah.
GROSS: Well, why is that?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Because you don't care anymore, you know. (Laughs) You don't
care about anything particularly, you know. You just sort of--there's not a
lot of anxieties. You're not struggling, you know. You're not really trying
to prove anything. You are who you are and you better be pretty much at ease
with that by now or you are a mess. It's mostly good stuff. You know what I
mean? When you're starting out, there's just a lot of--you know, you're
struggling, you don't know whether you're going to make it or not. You don't
know quite where you're going. Are you doing the right thing or--all those,
you know, thousands of questions you have as a kid. At this point, you know,
they've all pretty much been answered, you know. And as far as we're
concerned--I don't know if this is true for everybody, but, I mean, I am able
to go onstage with the same attitude as I've always--you know, since I was 15,
which is, you know, I fully intend to do the greatest show anyone's ever seen,
and I don't even consider anything less than that, you know. I think we all
sort of feel that way.
DAVIES: Steven Van Zandt, speaking to Terry Gross in 2002. He hosts the
weekly syndicated radio show "Little Steven's Underground Garage," and he
plays hit man and Tony Soprano's concigliere Silvio Dante on "The Sopranos."
We'll hear more about that role in the second part of our show.
I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of "Little Steven's Underground Garage")
Mr. VAN ZANDT: If you are just tuning in, you missed 17 of the greatest rock
'n' roll songs ever recorded, because that's our format here. You are in the
underground garage, and in spite of all evidence to the contrary, I am Little
Steven. We're on the Hard Rock Cafe pirate radio ship...
DAVIES: Coming up, Steven Van Zandt on his role as hit man Silvio Dante on
"The Sopranos." Also, David Bianculli previews TV coverage of the Olympics,
and we remember master chef Julia Child. She died yesterday at the age of 91.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.
Let's get back to Terry's interview with Steven Van Zandt. He plays guitar in
Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and he hosts his own weekly radio show,
"Little Steven's Underground Garage." He also plays mobster Silvio Dante on
"The Sopranos," hit man, consigliere and owner of the Bada-Bing strip club.
Let's hear him in a scene. Tony Soprano is trying to break up with his
Russian girlfriend and he sends Silvio to give her the message that it's over.
(Soundbite of "The Sopranos")
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) How you doin', hon?
Ms. OKSANA BABIY: (As Irina) Who sended you? Tony?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Yeah, he asked me to bring you this.
Ms. BABIY: (As Irina) What is it? Money? I don't want it.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Yes, you do. There's $75,000 in here.
Ms. BABIY: (As Irina) Seventy-five.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Listen, Irina, I know you're upset. Let me
give you a little advice. In my business, I see girls come and go, so I know
time is the great enemy. You've got a very short window. It's not good to
get too hung up on any one thing. On the other hand, something new always
comes along. I've seen it a million times. It's called passages. You know,
it's a book.
GROSS: Tell us the story of how you got a part on "The Sopranos."
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, they wanted an Oscar winner, you know? They did not
want to start small. It was between me and Pacino and De Niro and...
GROSS: Yeah. Right. Go with a winner.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: You know, they went with the best. You know, David Chase
wanted to do something different.
GROSS: Who's the creator of "The Sopranos."
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Sorry. Yes, he is. His vision--the whole thing. And he
wanted to something different. He'd been in TV a long time and I think he was
quite bored with it all and he wanted to do one last--sort of, something to
offend as many people as he could and exact the revenge for which he longed
for. I don't know, but he definitely wanted to do something different and he
wanted to have new faces and he wanted to film it in New Jersey. And
everybody in Hollywood laughed at him, of course. And...
GROSS: So how was your character created?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, it didn't really exist. I guess I was one of the last
ones to be cast, and we talked about what to do. I had a treatment, which I'd
written years ago, about a character named Silvio Dante who was a club owner,
you know, a copacabana type of club--big band type of club in modern day,
though. He was a guy who did not relate to the modern world and modern
culture. So he had a '40s type of club, a '40s type of attitude. And he was
an independent contractor. He was not a member of the mob family, but he was
actually a retired hit man. And, you know, ev--all the action took place in
this club, you know, sort of a bit of "Casa Blanca" in a way. Anyway, I had
this guy and I told David about him.
And then we talked about it and we eventually--you know, the copacabana idea
was really beyond the budget, so it became a strip club. And Silvio Dante was
GROSS: So had you gone to many clubs like the Bada-Bing? Did you know what
the atmosphere was like...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No, of course not.
GROSS: ...what the kind of dancing was like?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No, no, no, no, no. No, I've seen specials occasionally on
television, you know, but, no, I wouldn't know personally firsthand anything
about that. No. You know, I'm a very good actor.
GROSS: Well, one way or another, did you end up having to, like, go to clubs
like that just to get a sense of...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Oh, for research?
GROSS: Oh, yeah.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, yeah, I forced myself to do a bit of research, you
know, just in the interest, you know, of maintaining that acting sort of
suffering and, you know...
GROSS: Now your character wears this kind of tall hairpiece.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Are you suggesting that's not my real hair?
GROSS: Yeah. Yeah, right.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Is that what you're suggesting?
GROSS: Like that's a big surprise, yeah. So who's idea was it to have--like,
who gave the hairpiece the look? Who came up with the idea that you'd wear
one and that it would have that kind of, like, thick, high, ruglike kind of
quality to it?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, once the--you know, David and I agreed the character
was going to be the, sort of, throwback to the past, philosophically, you
know, that he also should reflect that physically. So, you know, we wanted to
make sort of a '50s-looking guy, you know, a guy who never really left the
'50s and that was it, you know? In other words, yeah, he's not particularly
concerned with being fashionable or taking part in the modern world at all,
you know? So that was--you know, once we decided that, the rest was easy.
And we found a special tailor--my boy Joe Camilia(ph)--who, in the past, had
done some clothes for various characters. Let's leave it at that, and, you
know, made sure the clothes were right and, you know, the look was right and,
you know, that made it a lot easier for me because I really am a outside in
sort of actor. You know, I mean, I hate to look in the mirror and see the
guy, you know?
GROSS: Well, it's not like you had a lot of theater training.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: No. No, I've had none. And so it was very helpful to me to
be able to see a different guy in the mirror, you know...
GROSS: So what was it like the first time you saw that guy in the mirror?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, I beca--you know, it was very, very easy to become him.
And, you know, I had done...
GROSS: Well, what about the--yeah, go ahead.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, I had done a very detailed sort of biography of the
character, so I really had a good understanding of him and, you know,
discussed that with the writers, so that everybody was, more or less, on the
same page. You know, then, of course, the writers take you where they want to
take you, but, you know, there was a pretty good understanding of who the guy
is to begin with, certainly in my head. And, you know, fortunately, part of
who he was was fearless. So when I walked on to the stage, the fact that I
was acting for the first time didn't worry me at all because I was this other
guy, you know? You know, he does not scare easily, you know?
GROSS: What about your voice?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, I wanted to be as different as I could be, you know, in
every way, you know--voice, facial expression; I gained probably 40, 50
pounds. You know, just--I wanted to be absolutely unrecognizable, which is
why it was such a shock when, two weeks after the show was on, you know, half
the people in the street, coming up to me, saying they really love "The
Sopranos." I'm, like, `How the hell did you recognize me?' You know, I mean,
I look so different.
GROSS: Now if you wrote a biography of your character, you must know what
music he likes.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Oh, yeah. No, he's absolutely a '40s and '50s guy. I mean,
no compromise whatsoever. He's not into rock 'n' roll at all. You know, he's
Tony Bennett. He's, you know, Dean Martin and Sinatra and Tony Roselli(ph)
and, you know, that gang.
DAVIES: Steven Van Zandt speaking with Terry Gross in 2002. He plays Silvio
Dante, a Soprano family hit man and adviser to Tony Soprano. Let's hear a
scene from this season's final episode. A difficult and dangerous situation
has been brewing in the Soprano crime family, and Tony has refused to confront
it. Sil thinks it's time to deal with it.
(Soundbite of "The Sopranos")
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) I've gotta talk to you, Ton.
Mr. JAMES GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) About what?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Ton, look, I've been your consigliere for a
lot of years.
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (as Tony Soprano) Don't ...(censored) preamble, just tell me
what's on your mind.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) You've got some unhappy people out there,
not just the young guys. I'm talking about guys that've been with you since
the beginning, since before the beginning, guys who worked for your father.
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) ...(censored) Paulie, right?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) I'm not saying nothing.
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) ...(censored) damn him.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) These guys, Ton, would do whatever you
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Except in this case.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Don't say it like that.
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Forget that Tony Blundett's my cousin. I
give him up, we can get the whole ...(censored) thing up.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) Here's where the conversation gets
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Oh.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) All due respect, you were ready to hand
them your cousin a week ago; so it's not about standing with the guys or
upholding some rules, not really.
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Then what's it all about? Why don't you
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) It's about, you don't want to eat
(censored) from John. You don't want to bow down. You tell them to go
(censored) himself, which, to be honest, wasn't exactly appropriate,
Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Oh, is that right? With all due respect,
what the ...(censored) do you know what goes on in my head?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: (As Silvio Dante) I've know you since you were a kid, Ton.
Frankly, you've got a problem with authority.
DAVIES: We'll hear more of Terry's interview with Steven Van Zandt in a
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: Let's get back to our interview with Steven Van Zandt who plays
mobster Silvio Dante on "The Sopranos."
GROSS: Now in "The Sopranos," you wear that hairpiece. In your own
performances, you would wear a bandana on your head. How did you start doing
Mr. VAN ZANDT: It was one of those things that early on I was--I had
some--it was a car accident where I got damaged a bit and my hair didn't
really grow in properly from that moment on. And I wasn't sure which way to
go with it, you know? So I just started wearing the bandana rather than
getting into the wig thing. It just didn't feel right at the time. Then it
just sort of stuck. You know, it sort of became my thing, accidentally
really. So it paid off nicely, actually, in the end because now you really
can--I mean, if some other characters come along, some other movie
parts--whatever came along, which it may or may not, I can very easily be
somebody very, very different just from changing the hair, you know...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: ...which I like. You know, I really do like that aspect of
it, you know, being a different person physically.
GROSS: Do you wear the bandana when you're not on stage?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Oh, yeah, all the time, yeah. Yeah.
GROSS: And still for that same reason, because of the accident?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, it's mess up. I mean, my actual head is a bit messed
up still, always will be.
GROSS: Like scars or...
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah. Yeah, some of that and just, you know, it never quite
grew in. So it's just, you know, not a pretty thing.
GROSS: When you were creating your character and even now, now that your
character, you know, has been around for a few years, did you feel like you
should be observing wise guys where you could so that you'd be creating a
character based on real life and not just based on movies? Or did you think
the thing to do was to look at all the movies and base it on movies, which is
what "The Sopranos" is?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, yeah, it's interesting 'cause it ended up being a bit
of both, but I think the thing to keep in mind at this point is I think modern
day, you know, mob guys are very, very aware of the movies, which we talk
about in the scripts, you know? That's a fact. I mean, a lot of the--"The
Godfather," in particular, was something that is well known now, well
documented as teaching many mob guys how to be mob guys in a way. So, you
know, it's a post-modern consciousness going on here where, you know, you're
very aware of, you know, the movies that are--even though it's fictional in
our case, the fictional characters are themselves watching the movies. So I
think watching the movies was part of it. I went back and watched them all,
which I was a fan of anyway, and I knew them all pretty much by heart anyway,
but I went all the way back to whatever, "Public Enemy" and, you know,
"Scarface" and those things and re-read all the books and all that.
But as far as real life, I mean, I grew up in New Jersey in bars, you know,
and they were there. I mean, whether they were the real thing or wanna-bes,
you know, what's the difference, you know? I mean, you're never gonna really
know, but they were there, so I saw what they really looked like and acted
like and, you know, still, to this day, of course, you would run into that
type of guy.
GROSS: Well, Steven Van Zandt, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: My pleasure, Terry.
GROSS: And good luck with your radio show.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Thank you. You, too.
DAVIES: Steven Van Zandt speaking with Terry Gross in 2002. He plays mobster
Silvio Dante on "The Sopranos," plays guitar in Bruce Springsteen's E Street
band and hosts a weekly syndicated radio program called "Little Steven's
Underground Garage." Little Steven's international Underground Garage
festival takes place tomorrow on Randall's Island in New York.
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Analysis: Upcoming coverage of the Olympics
DAVE DAVIES, host:
The Summer Olympic Games begin officially tonight in Athens with NBC presenting
prime-time coverage of the opening ceremonies. For the next 17 days, NBC will
spread more than 1,200 hours of programming over NBC and its co-owned cable
and satellite networks. Even so, TV critic David Bianculli says he doesn't
have Olympic fever.
(Soundbite of MSNBC Olympic coverage)
JIM LAMPLEY (MSNBC): Atop the Acropolis, overlooking Athens, sits the
Parthenon, temple of Athena, Greek goddess of war, wisdom and the arts. And
it is with experience and artistry that the women of Team USA engage in their
battle today. Athena, no doubt, would approve.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our studios in Athens and welcome to our
coverage of the 2004 Olympic Games. I'm Jim Lampley coming to you...
DAVID BIANCULLI reporting:
That was Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC, two days before the Olympics were
supposed to start and Jim Lampley already was serving up features and hosting
Games. The best thing about that particular game, in which the women's US
soccer team trounced Greece easily, was that it was presented by Hummer
without commercial interruption.
Yesterday, when the men's soccer team from Portugal faced the team from
Iraq--yes, Iraq--it was a much closer and more interesting game. It also was
interrupted several times by commercials, probably because the United States
athletes weren't involved. By the way, Iraq won.
The beauty of NBC's Olympic telecast this time is supposed to be its ability
to bring fans more coverage than ever before of their favorite sport, no
matter how obscure that sport may be. NBC is doing this because it's using
its co-owned cable stations to present most of the competition, especially the
live portions. Because Greece is seven hours ahead of the US on the East
Coast, NBC's prime-time coverage will be, for the most part, packaged from
events taped earlier, the same way the network covered the Games from Sydney
four years ago.
So if you want to see Michael Phelps, the most hyped athlete of this Olympics,
swim in pursuit of one of his eight gold medals, you'll have to watch NBC, and
you won't see most of his events live. But if you have cable, you can watch
judo and sailing tomorrow at midnight on Bravo. You can watch rowing and
fencing all day tomorrow on CNBC. And you can watch boxing tomorrow afternoon
on MSNBC and soccer tomorrow afternoon on Telemundo.
Part of this approach I really support. Table tennis and volleyball, bring it
on. After all, I'm the guy who, not too many Winter Olympics ago, turned his
giant C-band satellite dish to Canada's CBC just so I could watch live
coverage of women's curling, and I loved it. But if you don't have cable,
you're missing a lot. And what we all care and remember about the Olympic
Games over the years are the shared experiences, as when all of America, it
seems, watched Nadia Comaneci become the first female Olympic gymnast to earn
a perfect 10. If you see a great judo match one midnight on Bravo, good luck
finding someone at the water cooler the next day to share your enthusiasm.
So NBC's prime-time coverage remains the main event of this 17-day
competition, and there are plenty of outside forces coming into play.
Politically, things are so tense internationally that having the United States
dominate the Olympic Games may be seen as simple bullying, especially if some
of the athletes react with more attitude than grace. There's always the awful
shadow of terrorism which will hang over but hopefully not intrude upon
There are many scandals of doping and of failing drug tests and of
combinations of injury and apathy that have kept many US athletes from
competing this year. And then, last but unfortunately most, there's the hype.
Instead of letting us discover the athletes and the drama for ourselves, the
media are laying everything out in advance, down to how many medals Phelps
could, should and probably will win.
What I look for most in coverage of Olympic Games, and expect to find less and
less, is an appreciation of the accomplishment and pride of athletes from
around the world. If someone from another country wins, I want to see their
flag fly, listen to an unfamiliar national anthem and watch them absorb and
enjoy the moment. And I want to see that on NBC in prime time, not on
Telemundo or Bravo. Each time, though, the Olympics, as televised here, seem
to become more jingoistic and my enthusiasm for the Olympics gets a little
So if you're not caught up in these Games from Greece, and most other
broadcast networks are throwing in the towel for the duration, what's a
viewer to do? Here are some fast suggestions of five first-run shows offered
right now on cable that you ought to be watching anyway. There's "Entourage"
on HBO, a new comedy show about a rising young Hollywood star and his small
gang of hangers-on. Also, on HBO there's "Six Feet Under," which has gotten
really dark and strange this season but continues to feature some really
good acting. Both of those shows run on Sunday nights.
Then, on FX there are original episodes of the drama series "Nip/Tuck" on
Tuesdays and a new show, "Rescue Me," on Wednesdays. That one stars Denis
Leary as a New York firefighter who's dealing in a post-9/11 world with the
loss of his friends and colleagues, as well as his marriage. It's a very
intense show at times, but it's also unexpectedly hilarious.
That's four shows. I promised five. The last one, I guess, is a guilty
pleasure and it just ended last night, though the final installment will be
repeated this weekend and next week several times, including tonight on Bravo,
when Bravo isn't showing Olympic table tennis that is. The Bravo series to
which I'm referring is "Celebrity Poker Showdown" in which comics, actors and
other celebrities play no-limit Texas hold 'em for charity. For some reason,
I love this show. In fact, I think I have "Celebrity Poker" fever, and I only
have to watch one channel, not seven, to feed it.
DAVIES: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.
Coming up, we remember master chef Julia Child, who died yesterday at the age
This is FRESH AIR.
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Profile: Julia Child who died at the age of 91
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Julia Child, who introduced millions of Americans to French cooking, has died
at the age of 91 at her home in Santa Barbara, California. Julia Child's 1961
book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," helped launch her on a public
television career that lasted nearly four decades. Her longtime editor Judith
Jones said Child changed the way cookbooks are written, aiming them at home
cooks rather than professional chefs. Terry spoke with Julia Child in 1989.
TERRY GROSS reporting:
Julia Child, when you co-wrote "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," did you
see it as a way to introduce Americans to French cuisine?
Ms. JULIA CHILD (World Renowned Chef): Yes, I was tremendously interested in
French cuisine because it's the only cuisine that has the real rules on how to
cook. And I wanted--'cause I had started in quite late--I was in my early 30s
when I started cooking. And I found that the recipes in all the books I had
were really not adequate; they didn't tell you enough. And, for one, I won't
do anything unless I'm told why I'm doing it. So I felt that we needed fuller
explanations so that if you followed one of those recipes, it should turn out
exactly right. And that's why the recipes are very long, but they have full
detail. And my feeling is that once you know everything and have digested it,
then it becomes part of you.
GROSS: You became nationally famous in the United States for your cooking
show. I read that your cooking show started because you were a guest on
someone else's show when your book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking,"
came out and there was such a big response that they gave you your own show.
What did you do that it went over so big?
Ms. CHILD: Well, at that time, they did a book review and I had to do
something. You can't just talk about it. So I beat up some egg whites in a
big copper bowl, that kind of thing, that people had not seen before, and I
made an omelet. And at that time, there were no cooking shows at all on
television. And people said, `Well, why don't we have a cooking show?' And
so I did three pilots, and they got a lot of response 'cause there weren't any
out at that point. And French cooking was very much en vogue. And at that
time, also public television was mostly talking heads, and they wanted to have
something that was a little more lively and so that's how it really started
GROSS: Were your early shows live?
Ms. CHILD: No, nothing was live. But the early shows--'cause we were on a
very, very, very strict budget. It was really live on tape. And so once we
started in, we didn't stop at all unless there was a terrible disaster, and we
only had about two or three I think.
GROSS: Tell me one of the terrible disasters.
Ms. CHILD: Well, one time I was blanching some broccoli and it was in a
salad basket, which was lowered into a big kettle. And when I picked it up,
my fork slipped and it all fell on the floor. I didn't pick it up and use it,
so we did stop 'cause it was a real mess. But every time we stopped, it would
cost, I mean, several hundred dollars because it always took half an hour to
get back again. And you have to pay overtime. And another time, there was
this short-circuit on my microphone. And every time I'd touch the stove, the
microphone would go `ccccch' and I'd clutch my breast. So we had to stop for
that. But otherwise, we just didn't stop at all. Then it's funny. People
would say, `I saw you drop that chicken on the floor,' which, of course, I
never did. All I did was flip a potato pancake into the stove, and then I put
it back into the pan and I said, `Well, if you're all alone in the kitchen,
nobody will know.'
GROSS: Is it--yes.
Ms. CHILD: It's funny that people saw me through that poor chicken. Isn't
that funny how people will say that?
GROSS: So were there often mistakes in the actual show that you would recover
from, thinking that...
Ms. CHILD: Yes.
GROSS: ...`Well, this kind of thing happens all the time to real cooks.'
Ms. CHILD: ...and I think some people would accuse me of doing things
purposely. But anyone who's been in the kitchen knows that awful things
happen all the time and you just--if you're a cook, you have to make due with
DAVIES: Julia Child speaking with Terry Gross. Child died yesterday at her
home in Santa Barbara, California. She was 91. You can find audio and video
of Child discussing her permanent kitchen display at the Smithsonian at
DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
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.