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Serbian Filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic.

Serbian filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic (GOR-en) (pas KAL yeh vich) His new black-comedy "Cabaret Balkan," a fictional account of life in Belgrade on the eve of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the civil war in Bosnia. Shot entirely at night over a two-month period in 1998. It has received a European Critics Award for "best film" last year. Paskaljevic attended the famed Prague film school and has gone on to make such films as: "Someone Else's America," "Tango Argentino," and "Time of Miracles."

30:55

Other segments from the episode on June 24, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 24, 1999: Interview with Goran Paskaljevic; Interview with John Callahan; Commentary on Hadda Brooks.

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 24, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 062401np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Balkan Film Director
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

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

Just before his country, Serbia, was bombed by NATO forces director Goran Paskaljevic released his latest film. The film, "Cabaret Balkan," is a series of vignettes which show the volatile atmosphere that had enveloped Serbia where ethnic economic and political tensions were mirrored in personal conflicts; like jealous rages and petty acts of violent revenge.

Paskaljevic is married to a French woman, and for the past few years has divided his time between France and Belgrade. He participated in the large anti-Milosevic demonstrations two winters ago. He was last there three months ago just before the bombing.

His film, "Cabaret Balkan," was the official centerpiece of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York earlier this month. Everyone in this movie is operating on a very short fuse; in fact, the original title of the film was "Powder Keg."

Although he used that title for its European release, he had to change it in the States.

GORAN PASKALJEVIC, FILMMAKER, "CABARET BALKAN": Here we had some form of problems because Warner Brothers registered the title for a new Kevin Costner movie.

LAUGHTER

So, we couldn't use it. But I hope that my not going to be called "Dancing with Wolves."

LAUGHTER

GROSS: That's right. You'll show him.

PASKALJEVIC: Yeah.

GROSS: It seems to me in your movie that you're kind of saying everyone is guilty. You know, that somebody commits a wrong against somebody else and the person who's been wronged commits an even greater wrong as an act of revenge and things just are constantly cycling out of control in each of the stories in your movie.

Are you trying to say that? That really everyone ends up being guilty?

PASKALJEVIC: Yeah. I try to raise these questions during the movie many times. And I think it's a moment that we ask ourselves are we guilty for our destiny? And I think, yes. And it will be very important for Serbian people to ask these questions and to understand that we are also guilty for our bad luck, if I can say it like that.

The only -- in the film, you know who says I'm not guilty it's a new generation. Unfortunately they are the adult future. And, you know, I didn't want to say who is guilty, but already to ask this question it's very important.

GROSS: Well, you opposed the Milosevic government and participated in the major demonstrations against him.

PASKALJEVIC: Yes.

GROSS: And I guess was it the winter of '97-'98?

PASKALJEVIC: Yes.

GROSS: Yet you opposed the bombing. Why did you oppose the bombing of your country?

PASKALJEVIC: Because I don't think that the bombing can help to -- bombing is destruction, you know, and you cannot bomb an infrastructure and say we are not against the people. So that creates a very much anti-Western and anti-American feeling. And I'm part of a democratic opposition.

How you can explain to the people today that our future is on the West and integrate Europe because it's normal that Serbia move that way and not to China, you know.

GROSS: How did your parents and your children who were still in Serbia do during the bombing?

PASKALJEVIC: Much like everybody else. What can you do? You are hopeless. You cannot do anything.

GROSS: Were they OK? Were they hurt? Were their houses still intact?

PASKALJEVIC: Their houses are OK. They live in the middle of Belgrade. The middle of Belgrade is not touched much. I live five houses from the television building which was bombed and it was very hard moment for me to recognize a friend of mine who was killed on television -- a Television State One technician.

So, you know, I lived in Paris all these bombing, and every night I watch CNN until 3:00 in the morning just to see what is bombed, because you cannot sleep and the same time somebody can kill you or your kids in Belgrade. So, it's really a horrible thing to live, and not productive at all.

I saw interviews just before the bombings start that will make Milosevic even stronger. It will completely destroy also the democratic opposition. Also a lot of lives are lost and the country is now 50 years back economically.

And, you know, it's no victory for anybody because it's just in this war it's two big losers; and that's the Albanian people and the Serbian people.

GROSS: Now that the bombing is over, what effect do you think it finally had on Milosevic and his popularity in Serbia?

PASKALJEVIC: I think that the people who were with Milosevic they are still with Milosevic even stronger now. And the people who are against him they are still against him. But also don't forget the bombing create immediately a state of emergency. And that means that the opposition press don't exist.

That you leave (unintelligible) you cannot leave country. You are limited and enforce his power.

GROSS: I think you were already living in Paris during the anti-Milosevic demonstrations in '97 and '98. But you returned...

PASKALJEVIC: ... yes, I left immediately Paris and I went back to Belgrade to be with the people in the streets, because that's my -- I think, Yugoslavia badly needed democratic changes.

GROSS: Would you describe for us what those anti-government demonstrations were like in '97 and '98 that you flew back to Belgrade to participate in.

PASKALJEVIC: We went to the street peacefully. And it was very important for us to show that we are ready to go everyday on a demonstration asking for our rights and don't make a step to the violence. And after a hundred days we succeeded, and we got the cities like Belgrade, Kryawol (ph) (unintelligible), some bigger cities in Serbia.

But after that when you take power you need some money to show that you are in some support to show that things will be better. And if you're short and the money is in the government's hands it's not easy, you know.

So, I said so many times why on that moment we didn't have any support.

GROSS: What kind of rights or power do you think you won after the hundred days?

PASKALJEVIC: Morally we won, first of all, which is very important. And the people started for the first time to feel freedom and they're on the streets and for the first time I saw the people that they're ready to confront the police. They're not afraid of official power. You understand what I mean?

And the police created the coordinates all over Belgrade, and we approached to them and we talked to them and I had a feeling they were ready to pass on our side easily. So, what is fantastic, it's this hope on that moment, you know.

So, after that I said we didn't have support, and to be honest this political leaders like Bograsgovic (ph) and Gingic (ph), they started to fight between them for power and Milosevic used that immediately. So, the people after that, when you have hope and after that immediately you understand that you're in the same situation and all that all this energy isn't worth it. These hundred days in the streets, it became very -- how to say this? -- disappointing and that's why I badly needed to do "Cabaret Balkan" or "Powder Keg," to show this situation.

GROSS: My guest is Serbian film director Goran Paskaljevic. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: My guest is Serbian film director Goran Paskaljevic. His film, "Cabaret Balkan," begins its theatrical run in the U.S. in late July.

Now, I think you have a pretty interesting family history. From what I've read, you're maternal great great grandfather was one of the writers of the Constitution when Serbia became independent in 1882.

PASKALJEVIC: Yes.

GROSS: Were there many stories about that passed on through the family?

PASKALJEVIC: Not really because, you know, my family it's an upper class family. So when the communists came in the country they paid the price. So they took the house from us, took everything. And, you know, it's an intellectual family.

My father was a writer and a journalist. My mother she was a professor of history. And it wasn't easy for intellectuals in Yugoslavia even during Tito's period, you know, because don't forget, Tito is a dictator also.

And so it never really appeared in Serbia or in Yugolslavia a real democracy. So, I think it's really very important to build up democracy in the Balkans, especially in Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, Macedonia. And if you do that we can integrate the Europe, which is for me very normal because culturally we belong to Europe. Not just because we are Christians, but also because we have a wonderful cultural values for centuries.

So, it's a pity that we live like a pariah behind the world, you know.

GROSS: Now, a lot of people say now looking back that at least Tito managed to hold people together in spite of long histories of ethnic hatred. Do you agree with that? Was your sense of ethnic difference in Serbia different under Tito then it was after communism?

PASKALJEVIC: It was a different atmosphere. He'd really created the atmosphere to push back that nationalism. And, for example, my first (unintelligible) situation and we had I think two million mixed marriages. And we started to forget our ethnic with Serbs, who is Croatian, who was Muslim, you know.

What was wonderful in Sarajevo it's just that mixture. But, after Tito's death we had a short period of Anotomarkowic (ph), a prime minister who worked on the idea that we stay together and that we develop a strong economy.

But unfortunately some other leaders like Milosevic, Twigman (ph), Sankovic (ph), all of them work in the other direction. Because they build up their powers on nationalism, which is the worst that can happen to one nation.

It's easier if don't have the any economic program or something fairly to offer to your people, you just have to say you're better than others and the others are guilty -- responsible for what's wrong with you, etc. And it's easy when you create this nationalist atmosphere to have the power and keep your power. And it's tragic what's happened in Yugoslavia.

I think it's a moment now to -- for the Serbs and others to stop looking in the back and -- because our history it's full of crimes and you have to go ahead and watch your future. Look what French and Germans did, they passed through two wars and a lot hate, but today they're creating a new Europe together. They have an army together. They live together in peace.

So, we have to follow this example. And because when I say to my friends today, look, the bombing is horrible but you don't see all the information; the paramilitary forces did so many crimes in Kosovo. And they respond to me yes, but the Albanians did a lot of crimes against the Serbian population 15 years ago, etc. etc. I mean, if you don't stop looking at history like that you will be always full of negative energy and destructive energy.

GROSS: Which is, I think, what your film has to say also. I'm wondering when you first started seeing political leaders using nationalism and ethnic conflict to boost their own power how did you see that sense of nationalism and ethnic hatred surface in people that you knew; friends, neighbors, people on the buses? I mean, whatever? Like, how did you start to feel that ethnic tensions were being increased and manipulated by political leaders?

PASKALJEVIC: You know, it's a very interesting question. For example, my film, "Cabaret Balkan," is the only film -- Serbian film -- who is showed all over the ex-Yugoslavia. And I went with my actress to Sarajevo for the premiere of the film, and it was a little bit tense, you know, the first meeting with the journalists there.

But in one moment I said, listen, I'm here and I have a strong feeling when I saw the destroyed Sarajevo to apologize myself to you for the siege of Sarajevo. And when I come back later on in Belgrade some of my friends told me why you have to apologize? They did also commit crimes against us. So many Serbs are kicked out from Sarajevo and from Croatia. And that's true, we have between 700 and one million refugees in Serbia, Serbs who are kicked out from Croatia, etc.

But I try to explain to them that if everybody apologize to everybody that's the way how we can live together tomorrow. If not we will just increase the hate, you know.

So, how I saw that in the bus, you're asking me, and the streets. The people start to repeat the arguments which are not the real arguments. If you hear on the television and radio and you read in the newspaper something which is not real argument, but if they repeat it a hundred times you start to believe that it's true.

GROSS: What's a typical lie or argument that was, you know, used by political leaders and then repeated until it seemed true?

PASKALJEVIC: I can't say a lie, but for example if you start to repeat that in Kosovo the Serbians are -- girls are raped and they are kicking out the Serbian families from Kosovo. And if you repeat that every day many times you increase the nationalism because the people start to react. And I cannot say that it is a lie, but if you repeat that and you talk about it all the time in the newspaper the Serbians say, wait a minute, what are they doing to us? That's how you raise the nationalist.

Let's take CNN like an example also, when the bombing started my mother-in-law said that it's going to last five, six days. I remember that very well. So, after that two weeks, three weeks of bombing and a lot of refugees that's increased the refugee crisis. And CNN started to show the refugees all the time. You understand what I mean?

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

PASKALJEVIC: And pushes these images very much. So, after that they said you see why we're bombing those people. And the people all over the world said, yes, it's horrible. You see what's happened, all these refugees. We have to continue the bombing to save these people.

But you just forget that it's 10 times more refugees after the first bomb because that was a signal for the paramilitary forces -- Serbian paramilitary forces -- for their revenge in Kosovo. You understand what I'm trying to say?

GROSS: Right. So that -- you're saying that some of the pictures we saw of the refugees, the refugees were fleeing in part because the bombing itself set off attacks against them.

PASKALJEVIC: Yes, and if you repeat something on television all the time that became fact and you can manipulate the audience easily.

GROSS: Goran Paskaljevic directed the new film "Cabaret Balkan." It opens in New York July 23rd then slowly opens in other cities. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

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

Back with Serbian film director Goran Paskaljevic. He divides his time between Paris and Belgrade. His new film, "Cabaret Balkan," which was made before the NATO bombing, is about how political, economic and ethnic tensions are mirrored in personal conflicts, petty revenge and pointless violence. The film opens theatrically in the U.S. beginning in late July. It's already been shown in the Balkans.

Do you think that you're new film, "Cabaret Balkan," is going to change your profile in Serbia? Do think it will be any more difficult for you to go in and out of the country or that you will be any more or less popular in your country?

PASKALJEVIC: But the film opened in October last year, and it became a very popular film there. I didn't have any support. I didn't have any posters in the city. And I just had some independent cinema. But word-of-mouth was very good, and especially the young generation liked it very much. It became a kind of cult film there.

The officials didn't like it. That's normal. And I heard already there are many problems because of my interviews and because I'm saying what's limit what I'm thinking. And they have attacked me that I'm a traitor of the nation. And I have to kill myself at least if I have any dignity. And, you know, -- but you have to take these kinds of risks. I think that silence is sometimes also a shame in some difficult times. You don't have a right to just be silent because of your proper (unintelligible).

GROSS: Now, are most of the actors in your movie from Serbia?

PASKALJEVIC: Yes, they are nearly all from Belgrade. And they are the best actors in Belgrade.

GROSS: I don't imagine they've had a whole lot of work lately. I mean, what's been happening in the theater and film industry?

PASKALJEVIC: But it's the end of the film industry. Even before the bombing we didn't have a lot of camera equipment and -- but now, I don't see how we can make films. Because my film is paid by a French (unintelligible) and some European foundations, and I just find the five percent of the budget in Serbia.

And I can find the money abroad because the people film know my work, and it's my 11th film. I have many films in Cannes, in Berlin and Venice film festival.

But what to do for a new generation? I have a son who is 25 and he is finishing his film school also. And I know his generation, and I saw a little of their films and I see that they have a lot of talents and they want to talk about the problems and they are very engaged. But who is going to support them? If they go to the West asking for some support they will automatically say, show us what you did. And it's going to be very hard for them.

GROSS: Have most of the actors who are in your movie, "Cabaret Balkan," stayed in Serbia or have they left?

PASKALJEVIC: Most of them are in Serbia. Because for actors it's not easy to -- they must speak perfectly a language and they must have some money to leave the country. And our actors there are not the stars like American actors. They are ordinary people like the others, and that's why they fight to be in "Cabaret Balkan". Because they this film might be something really important for all us to say. So, they are very limited but they are all in the theaters and the theaters are full every night. So, they're mostly now in the theaters.

GROSS: The theaters or full every night?

PASKALJEVIC: Yes.

GROSS: Even during the bombing were they filled?

PASKALJEVIC: And even during the bombing. It was a kind of resistance.

GROSS: One of the characters early on in your movie says anybody with any brains has left the country.

PASKALJEVIC: Yes.

GROSS: I'm wondering when you left if you had any mixed feelings about leaving in the sense of -- I mean, I think it's true that a lot of intellectuals did leave the country. Did you feel at all bad about leaving at a time when a lot of intellectuals...

PASKALJEVIC: ... I'm not a good person to pose this question. I'm a love immigrant, and not economical or political immigrant.

GROSS: Right. Because your wife is French.

PASKALJEVIC: Is French.

LAUGHTER

It's natural for her to live in Paris and for me in Belgrade so we split our time in between. But I met so many young people all over the world who left the country and they feelings are horrible. And they want to go back because this generation is an educated generation and they would like to go back where they cultural roots are. And it's harder for them than for this first immigration of 50 years ago, for example. Which integrates easier because they are just economical immigration.

GROSS: Would you like to move back to Belgrade sometime, or do you think that that's not likely to happen?

PASKALJEVIC: Yeah, I will go back. Now, I'm preparing a film in Mexico. I will shoot this film in Mexico probably in October, November. And when I finish the film in the spring I will go back and probably prepare another movie in Serbia. Because if I can get the financial support I would like to do the film in Serbia again.

GROSS: Work with some of the same actors again?

PASKALJEVIC: Oh, yes. They are fantastic. Some of them will be in the movie, most definitely.

GROSS: Well, I wish you good luck. And I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

PASKALJEVIC: Thank you.

GROSS: Goran Paskaljevic directed the new film, "Cabaret Balkan." It opens in New York July 23rd and will open in other cities later in the summer.

This is FRESH AIR.

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Goran Paskaljevic
High: Serbian filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic. His new black-comedy "Cabaret Balkan," a fictional account of life in Belgrade on the eve of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the civil war in Bosnia. Shot entirely at night over a two-month period in 1998. It has received the European Critics Award for "best film" last year. Paskaljevic attended the famed Prague Film School and has gone on to make such films as "Someone Else's America," "Tango Argentino," and "Time of Miracles."
Spec: War; Movie Industry; Europe; Lifestyle; Culture; Goran Paskaljevic

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 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: Balkan Film Director

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 24, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 062402NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Ralph Ellison's Unpublished Novel
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: My guest John Callahan is a scholar of African-American literature and a literary executive for the estate of Ralph Ellison, the author of the 1957 classic "Invisible Man." When Ellison died in 1994 he left behind 1500 manuscript pages of a novel called "Juneteenth" that he had worked on for four decades and was never able to complete.

Callahan took on the job editing the manuscript. His 354-page edition has just been published. The novel begins in the 1950s in Washington D.C. as Reverend Hickman, an elderly black minister from Georgia, arrives to warn a senator, a white racist from New England, that the senator is in danger.

The Reverend is ignored by the senator's secretary, but he's in the Senate gallery as the senator is shot. It turns out the senator was an orphaned of ambiguous racial background who was raised by the Reverend but later denied his black upbringing.

JOHN CALLAHAN, EDITOR, "JUNETEENTH": He discovers that he can pass for white, and he sees that when a white woman comes into the -- interrupts the Juneteenth revival service and claims that Little Bliss is her son he -- that's the first kind of sense he gets that maybe he is white and not black.

And then he identifies that woman with the images of Mary Pickford and other white movie stars that he sees on the screen. And decides that he will be white and he denies his blackness.

And that's Ellison's theme. That Americans are headed for trouble, and really destruction if they deny their connection to black culture and black experience in this country.

GROSS: And he's including white people in there. That white people have a connection to the black experience and to black culture.

CALLAHAN: Oh, absolutely. That was the point. I mean, let's say Sunraider is white genetically and biologically. But he is black in a more profound sense. And in this case, Ellison sets it up by having Sunraider raised as a black child.

For the rest of us, those who didn't have that experience, Ellison would argue that we still are somehow black in cultural terms.

GROSS: What shape was the manuscript for "Juneteenth" in when you found it?

CALLAHAN: Well, Ellison worked on it -- this novel in progress, the second novel, or saga if you want, for some 40 years. So there wasn't a manuscript, they were manuscripts. It was manuscript after manuscript after manuscript.

And there were a number of different narratives within the manuscript. Some of them quite fragmentary and rough and unfinished. And the most finished and complete and coherent narrative, fortunately, was the one that was at the central narrative, the heart of the story, Bliss Sunraider and Hickman. And that was "Juneteenth," and fortunately that was the one that was, in my judgment, all but finished.

GROSS: John Callahan, your edited version of Ralph Ellison's novel, "Juneteenth," has been getting -- well, a lot of criticism. For example, the review in "The New York Times" by Michigo Capitani (ph) said, "Callahan has effectively changed the book's entire structure and modus operandi. Instead of the symphonic work Ellison envisioned, Mr. Callahan has given us a single tentatively rendered melodic line. Instead of a vast modernist epic about the black experience in America he has given us a flawed linear novel focused around one man's emotional and political evolution."

I'm wondering your response to the criticism that you took this kind of like sprawling riff-like novel and kind of shaved and weeded it so this novel's a much more linear presentation.

CALLAHAN: Well, we got so many metaphors there.

GROSS: I know. I really overdid it on that.

CALLAHAN: Well, I don't know if you did but I think that the critic in "The Times" has it wrong. There's not one melodic line in the first place in "Juneteenth." You have the senator, you have several -- the senator has several melodic lines. The senator as Little Bliss. The senator as movie man. The senator as the senator. The senator in the present as a dying man trying to put together and integrate all these melodic lines or voices, if you want.

And the same thing is true of Hickman. So at the very least you have a very complex duet. As for her metaphor about an unfinished symphony, it seems to me a form that Ellison was working with in this narrative is jazz. A succession of riffs and breaks and solos coming back to the base line of the encounter between these two men in the hospital; with the senator dying and Reverend Hickman attempting to redeem -- help him redeem himself.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Callahan. And he is the literary executor of the Ralph Ellison estate, and has edited a novel that Ellison had worked on for about 40 years and never completed. The novel is called "Juneteenth," and it's just been published.

Did you talk to Ralph Ellison about what he was thinking about when he wrote his now famous first lines of his most famous book, "I am an invisible man."

CALLAHAN: Oh, yeah. Ralph was very fond of telling a story about how he wrote that -- that first line. He was up in Vermont in the summer of 1945, he'd just been mustered out of the Merchant Marine. And he was very trying to write a kind -- a prisoner of war novel -- what he called a prisoner of war novel. A completely different novel than "Invisible Man."

And he was sitting up there in the door of a barn in Vermont and he put a piece of typing paper in the machine and just without knowing what he was doing, typed "I am an invisible man." And he was about to take the piece of paper out of the typewriter and toss it away and he looked at it again and said, "by God, I think I have something there." And the whole novel proceeded off of that one line.

GROSS: In terms of the actual style of writing in that, was -- did he write to you that it was inspired from Dostoyevsky's "Notes from the Underground?"

CALLAHAN: Yes. Yes, he did. I was writing a piece about -- a chapter about Ralph for my book, "In the African-American Grain" in the mid '80's. And somewhere I got the bright idea to have the Ellison chapter preceded by a prologue in which I made connections between Richard Wright's "The Man Who Lived Underground" and Ellison's "Invisible Man."

And Ellison wonderfully and wittily took me to task on that and said, look, Wright and I, we're both the sons of Dostoyevsky, the literary sons of Dostoyevsky. And he emphasized the connection to Dostoyevsky, and made a very strong and accurate case about the differences between "Invisible Man" as a character and Wright's character, Fred Daniels.

GROSS: And could you quote the line from Dostoyevsky that inspired "I am an invisible man?"

CALLAHAN: Sure. The opening lines of "Notes from the Underground" go as follows: "I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. No, I am not a pleasant man at all. I believe there's something wrong with my liver."

GROSS: And the opening from "Invisible Man" reads?

CALLAHAN: "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe, nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms (ph)."

And you see there Ellison riffing his own variation off of Dostoyevsky. As he said so many times, novels are written out of other novels.

GROSS: He obviously also felt a connection Dostoyevsky's book and didn't feel that the racial differences should mean that he couldn't connect to it because he was black and Dostoyevsky was white.

CALLAHAN: That's right. In fact, I think you can make the case that Ellison probably believed that the connection was all the stronger because of their differences, the particular differences. One of the things that's wonderful about "Invisible Man," and I think "Juneteenth," is that the specificity of the African-American experience that Ellison gets into these novels makes it easier for people that are not literally African-American to connect with the characters and the experience in those novels.

I remember my own first encounter with "Invisible Man." I was, I think, 19 years old. It was 1960. I was up at Holy Cross College and I had read Joyce and I had read Fitzgerald and I had identified strongly with those Irish- Catholic characters. And I read "Invisible Man," stayed up all night to read it. Read it through the middle of the morning, cutting a class in (unintelligible), which I was hanging on for dear life to a D. And I identified more strongly with "Invisible Man" than with the characters of Joyce or Fitzgerald, because he was -- he felt an outsider where he was supposed to feel at home, and so did I.

And then what was wonderful for me, this was the time the sit-ins were just stirring my generation's roots, and "Invisible Man" said "hurt to the point of abysmal pain, still I must emerge." And I felt, my God, if he can do that so can I.

GROSS: How did you interpret that sentence?

CALLAHAN: That even though I am hurt to the point of abysmal pain, to the point of facing and being on the edge of the abyss I still can and will emerge and try to play a socially responsible role in the larger society.

GROSS: Well, John Callahan, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

CALLAHAN: You're welcome.

GROSS: John Callahan is the literary executor of the Ralph Ellison estate. Callahan's edited version of Ellison's uncompleted novel "Juneteenth," has just been published.

This is FRESH AIR.

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: John Callahan
High: John Callahan has edited the manuscript, "Juneteenth," of a never before published book by Ralph Ellison who died in 1994. Ellison's first and only book released in 1952, "Invisible Man," won the National Book Award. Callahan was named Ellison's literary executor and is editor of "The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison." Callahan is a professor of humanities at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.
Spec: Entertainment; Lifestyle; Culture; Ralph Ellison; John Callahan

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 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: Ralph Ellison's Unpublished Novel

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 24, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 062403NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Hadda Brooks
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Hadda Brooks is a living legend. A still vital link to the sophisticated nightclubs of the early 1950s. Although she never scored high on the charts, rock historian Ed Ward tells us about a career which saw her recording everything from boogie to ballads.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SINGER HADDA BROOKS PERFORMING)

ED WARD, ROCK HISTORIAN: The smooth sophisticated sound of the postwar rhythm and blues is being rediscovered these days, with the music of Nat King Cole and the late Charles Brown among others getting deserved attention from a new generation. So it's probably a good idea to remind everyone that one of the pioneers of the genre was a unique black woman, Hadda Brooks, who is still going strong today.

She was born Hadda Hopgood (ph) in 1916 to a wealthy Los Angeles family. Showing talent on the piano, she was given piano lessons and continued them all the way through college.

After graduation she married Earl "Sug" Morrison (ph) of the Harlem Globetrotters, but he died a year later. Distraught, back in Los Angeles and at loose ends she worked as an accompanist in a dance studio and occasionally demonstrated pianos at local music stores.

It was while doing this in 1945 that she met Jules Bahare (ph). Bahare is best known to us as the co-founder of Modern Records, the pioneering independent rhythm and blues label in Los Angeles that he ran with his brothers. But the day he made met Hadda Brooks he was servicing jukeboxes.

Entranced by the woman, with her movie star looks and flying fingers, he offered her $800 to record some boogie-woogie records for him. She said yes, took the name Brooks, and Modern Records was born.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- UINIDENTIFIED MUSIC)

WARD: Behare and Brooks were soon lovers, but Behare insisted they keep their relationship secret. He thought that her being seen with a white man would sink her career, although she disagreed. Finally, after five years, they broke up. She left Modern and found that she was in demand. She appeared in several films with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Kirk Douglas singing and playing the piano. And eventually added a new dimension to her repertoire.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SINGER HADDA BROOKS PERFORMING)

WARD: In 1952, she signed with OK Records and released "All Night Long" as her first single. But she also kept her hand in with more up-tempo material.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SINGER HADDA BROOKS PERFORMING "JUMP BACK HONEY")

WARD: "Jump Back Honey" was a fine record. So fine that it was immediately covered by several white artists, a problem which was to plague Brooks and many other black artists at the time. And although it was the sophisticated stuff that made her name she was present on one truly gutbucket record of the day.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SINGER HADDA BROOKS PERFORMING "GABBIN' BLUES")

WARD: Her catty comments on Big Mabelle's (ph) "Gabbin' Blues" make it a classic. "Gabbin' Blues" was also the only record she appeared on to make the rhythm and blues charts. Like Nat Cole, she was aiming for the pop market and the supper club market circuit. And so records like "All Night Long" were more typical.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SINGER HADDA BROOKS PERFORMING "ALL NIGHT LONG")

WARD: In 1953, she became the first black woman to host a television show syndicated in Los Angeles and San Francisco, recorded live with her singing and playing. But this failed to launch her career to another level, probably because the idea was so far ahead of its time. And by the end of 1954 she was a off OK, playing occasional nightclub dates and finally, a few years later, she retired to watch rock and roll storm the rhythm and blues charts.

In 1987, a journalist found her living in her old neighborhood and happened to mention the fact to Alan Eickler (ph), who managed a number of top drawer singers. And since then her career was revived. She's still got her vocal and pianistic chops, and although she is now in her 80s she's performing live to an audience that rarely gets to connect so directly with this era of music.

GROSS: Ed Ward currently lives in Berlin. Most of the music we just heard is on the CD, "Hadda Brooks: Jump Back Honey: The Complete OK Sessions."

I'm Terry Gross.

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

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Ed Ward
High: Rock historian Ed Ward profiles rhythm and blues singer Hadda Brooks who now in her 80's is still performing.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Hadda Brooks; Ed Ward

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 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: Hadda Brooks
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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