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Swimming Tips with Jim Spiers.

Aquatics director Jim Spiers with Aerobics West, a fitness club in New York City's Upper West Side. Spiers specializes in teaching children and infants how to swim. His students can be as young as six months old. Though the Red Cross maintains that children under five can not be taught to swim, Spiers disagrees, and considers it a safety measure to teach toddlers how to swim. (An article in the New York Times, July 31, 1997, edition profiles Spiers). (Interview by Barbara Bogaev)

20:15

Other segments from the episode on August 13, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 13, 1997: Interview with Jim Spiers; Review of Ben Macintyre's biography "The Napoleon of Crime"; Interview with Ken Finkleman; Review of Jimi Hendrix's album …

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081301np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Teaching Infants to Swim
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

What's summer without swimming? Forget the beach. If you can't swim, it's just a blindingly hot, scratchy, windy waste of time where you get skin cancer. And kiss kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rowing, water polo, and all the rest good-bye.

If you have little kids, better stay far away from them in the summer, or they might sniff out your insecurity around the water and never go in either. All the evidence points to one immutable fact: learning to swim is a good thing, and the younger you learn, the easier it goes.

Jim Spiers has led thousands of children and adults into the water and on to swimming mastery. He teaches swimming at Aerobics West Health Club in New York City. We thought we'd ask him for some swimming tips. The big question for parents is: at what age should they enroll their child in a swimming class? This is actually a real point of contention in the swimming world.

The American Red Cross recommends that children not take lessons until they're five years old, but Jim Spiers works with toddlers just six months old.

JIM SPIERS, SWIM INSTRUCTOR, AEROBICS WEST HEALTH CLUB, NEW YORK CITY: There's two sides, or I believe Red Cross has two sides to go for with that. First off, children are not going to swim a beautiful freestyle or crawl style before they're five years of age, but they can locomote onto their back, float, get air and do the beginning skills that it takes to be a strong swimmer. That's what my program is technically about, is getting them to where they can roll onto their back, float, breathe -- and basically take, hopefully, take care of themselves in the water.

My program's geared a lot towards parents that have beach houses or swimming pools or whatnot, where there's no choice but to at least try to get your child to swim, because there is water there, and that kid's going to wander into the water. They're curious. That's their nature.

BOGAEV: I was on vacation recently at a lake with my family, and I wasn't really sure how to tell my 3-year-old about being safe around the water, without making him even more fearful of the water than he already is. What's your advice to parents about how to keep kids safe, but excited about swimming at that young age?

SPIERS: Well, at that young age of, you know, three, I would take them in. I would -- I would definitely let them experience the water. I would get them into the pool or the lake or whatnot; let them practice blowing bubbles; teach them that when your face goes in the water, if you don't blow bubbles, you do end up drinking the water. Let them understand, like, the whole concept of "this can be a dangerous thing."

Of course, you don't use what I call the "d" word -- the big "drown" word -- don't go in the water or you'll drown. We try to avoid that at all costs. 'Cause that really programs a child to think the water's a bad thing.

So you just get them in the water and let them, you know, acclimate themselves to it and have a good time with it. But you know, always tell them there needs to be an adult with you; there needs to be -- you set up guidelines that make sense for the body of water you're around.

BOGAEV: What do you think of swimming aids, like floaties and those water wings that you see everywhere -- are they worthwhile?

SPIERS: I think they give a child a false sense of security. I have had a lot of children that have thought they've had their floaties on and gone into the pool and swam, and then basically sank, because they thought they could swim and they didn't have the floaties on.

So I think, like, again, they give a false sense of security, but I don't necessarily say don't use them. Like, if I have a parent that's going to a pool and I know the parent will need a break. OK, use the floaties half the time. Take them off half the time, so the child realizes that there's something keeping him afloat and there's something -- and there's a skill they have to do to swim as well.

BOGAEV: What's the first thing you do in a class full of first-time kid swimmers?

SPIERS: Sing songs.

BOGAEV: You start the class with a song?

SPIERS: Yes, we have a happy happy song to start the class. We have a song for kicking; a song for blowing bubbles. We have songs for pulling your arms. We have songs for floating on your back, basically. So for the kids under the age of four, the whole program is through music, and when they hear a certain song, you start getting a certain skill.

BOGAEV: What's the first skill that you teach a child?

SPIERS: The first skill that we teach a child would be kicking and blowing bubbles. They kind of come at the same time 'cause they're in the same class. And we also teach floating on the back. Those are like the three main primary things we try to get them to do.

But certain children will like floating on their back. Certain children will like putting their face in the water. And typically, they don't like the other if they like one of them.

BOGAEV: Now, where does treading water come in in all of this? I always thought that was a really useful skill for someone who doesn't know how to swim.

SPIERS: Treading water is a useless skill, but if you think about it, treading water can also be a big struggle, especially if you're panicked. And so, our primary goal is to get the child to roll over on their back and float and relax, 'cause the key is to relax for, you know, a longer survival-type skill. That's why we tend to push the kids to roll on their back and float versus treading water first.

And treading water is hard. You've probably done it yourself. It's not an easy thing to do as far as comparing it to floating.

BOGAEV: It used to be parents or people trying to teach kids how to swim would just throw them in the water -- the tough love approach.

SPIERS: Yes, I've heard that rumor.

BOGAEV: You don't do that.

SPIERS: No, we don't. Everything in our program is very -- we believe in like creating the whole child. Everything is about -- the person who I developed this program with in Houston, Texas -- her name is Leslie Crawford (ph) and she had her BS in Psychology.

I had the swimming skills under my belt. And together, we got together and I was very focused on how the mechanics worked. She was very focused on how the mind part of it worked. That's where a lot of the songs came into effect.

That's where -- everything that we do, like, when a child finishes a skill, it's -- even if the child is, you know, coughing and sputtering out the water, it's always greeted with a "good job" or "fantastic" or "way to go, dude" or whatever, to where they're feeling positive about the experience, even if it's something that's a little frightening.

BOGAEV: Most kids don't want to put their heads under water. How do you coax them into that?

SPIERS: We do it. We basically take the child. We -- if the child's over the age of four or five, then, yes, you definitely have to coax them and you do it through different games. It's just putting things on the bottom of the pool and telling them to look at them; or just trying to get them to blow bubbles, and then say OK, I want you to blow bubbles with your mouth and nose in the water; and then let's add the eyes to that. And it's a gradual process to get their face in the water.

With younger kids who aren't necessarily verbalizing so much of the time, then we have a system where you count one-two-three, you say "bubbles," you blow across their face, which causes them to inhale. It's the same principle of, like, if you opened a door and a cold blast of wind has hit you in the face, you breathe in, as an adult. It's the same thing for a child. It will automatically breathe in.

And then you submerge them, and when the lungs are full, they can take on no more water or air, so then the next thing they have to do is blow out.

BOGAEV: Have you ever had anything go wrong, I guess, dangerously wrong, during a lesson?

SPIERS: No. The most dangerous thing I would think that really has ever gone what you would call "wrong" in a lesson is a parent -- in my opinion -- is a parent stopping a lesson when a child's really fearful, 'cause that -- the only danger involved with that is the child thinking there was a reason to be afraid. Does that make sense?

If a child is afraid and the parents are wanting to stop and, like, come back at it again, I request they stay in the pool for like another two or three lessons, and we'll just have fun in the water. We don't do any kind of work. We don't do any kind of hard skills, so the child leaves on a positive note.

And that way -- the most damaging thing done that's ever happened in my class is a parent pulling a child out and the child was upset with the water, and then it took forever to get the child back in.

BOGAEV: It sounds as if, at least for the younger kids, that you have to work as much with parents as you do with kids. Which are harder?

SPIERS: Parents are much harder than the children. Children are great. They -- they've been, you know, from birth, they've been taught that they've got to do this. An adult's talking to them -- they have to do what they're told. Once you become an adult, then you have opinions and questions and -- this is your child and it needs to be raised; my child, and it needs to be raised this way.

And that's when it starts to become a little more difficult because you're spending a lot of time explaining to parents -- "no, this is really the reason why this should work this way" and so on and so forth.

BOGAEV: So you have a parent second-guessing you while you're trying to teach the child to swim.

SPIERS: Oh, a lot of the time. Oh, yeah. Or that just doesn't necessarily jive with their parenting philosophy. And then you've gotta like talk through it to see what they want. You gotta explain to them why you're doing what you're doing. You've got -- parents will get into the class and say: "oh, well, this is her first time, and we really shouldn't put their face under water." Well, yeah you should, 'cause that's how you teach kids how to swim. They gotta get their face in.

Or you'll get a note from the mom on the fifth lesson that, "I told them they don't have to put their face in the water or float or swim to you off the table." Well, OK, now you've tied my hands. What do I do?

BOGAEV: Do you ever say: you, over there, you have to go sit in the corner? So I can teach your kid to swim?

SPIERS: Oh, I kick parents out all the time. You're outta here. Bye. I'm always sending parents out of the room, 'cause sometimes parents just flat out get in the way of the learning process.

BOGAEV: I'm speaking with Jim Spiers. He's a swimming instructor who works in New York City. We're going to talk some more after this short break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with swimming instructor Jim Spiers.

You teach adults too, right?

SPIERS: Yes. Yes.

BOGAEV: My husband can't swim, and I'm not sure he's ever really figured out how that happened. He loves water sports and boating. What factors have you found that usually cause adults to be non-swimmers?

SPIERS: There's a multitude of reasons. It can be a traumatic experience as a child, such as kids holding kids under water. It can be a problem at the beach, like where a wave knocked them over. It can be lack of exposure to the water as a child. You know, the parents' interests were in different areas. It could be that they didn't get the right teacher, you know? And so that totally turned them off. Or it could be down to the fact that the water at camp was really cold and they weren't going in.

It's any number of reasons why that they would not swim. The problem though, with an adult and getting them to swim at that point becomes that these many, many years and phobias that they've developed -- "oh, I can't swim" -- that you didn't think I would have to get through.

BOGAEV: Now, when adults come to you and say "I can't swim," do they have all sorts of myths or justifications? I'm thinking -- I've heard people say they're not capable of swimming because their bodies don't float like other members of the human race.

SPIERS: Right. Or heavy bones. Yeah, we get all those, and to be honest, a lot of the time it's not that their bodies don't float and granted, there are people that don't float. I am not a floater. I float on the bottom of the pool.

BOGAEV: Is it a matter of body fat percentage?

SPIERS: Not percentage. It's a matter of where the body fat is. Basically, women tend to float better than men 'cause the body fat's higher for carrying babies. Men's body fat's a little bit lower. I mean, sorry, men's body fat's a little higher -- even higher than where the women's body fat is. So men's legs tend to drag them down. If you've ever watched a man try to float, his legs go first and his body follows, all the way down to the bottom of the pool, which is my case.

But there are very, very thin people that can float. It just depends on where the balance is in your body, and you can achieve a better balance by working with your arm placement. Like, when you're floating on your back, raising your hands underwater above your head makes your body longer and it changes where the fulcrum is of your body, and it will make some people actually float. It's just playing with your body and figuring out what makes your body float.

BOGAEV: How, then, do you get an adult into the water when they come to you with these phobias? It seems as if you -- to teach adults, you'd have to be half a therapist; half a swim coach.

SPIERS: Well, the cool thing about adults, if they've paid you money and it's not like mom and dad paying you money, so they're like "OK, I've made this investment. I'm gonna get in." So you get them into the water, and then you just totally, you know, you explain away a lot of the problems that they've having in the water. You know, like putting their face in.

Once they become adults, there's all kinds of different ways to exhale under water. You can do it through your nose. You can do it through your mouth. You can do it long and slow. You can do it very fast, which is called "explosive breathing."

And so, it's just working away until you find out what works for them.

BOGAEV: And have you had failures with adults?

SPIERS: I have not -- yeah, I mean, there's been adults that you've really had -- you know, I had one lady who cried every time that she was wanting to get into the pool; "don't make me get in" kind of thing. But, at least she tried -- she finished out what she started to do, which was at least get into the water. I don't necessarily consider that a success, 'cause she didn't leave swimming, but she at least was less fearful about even getting into a pool.

BOGAEV: What was that all about?

SPIERS: That was about -- she was washed up on a beach and resuscitated as a child. So, there was a big fear there...

BOGAEV: Well, I can understand that.

SPIERS: ... about being under water.

BOGAEV: My guest is Jim Spiers. He's a swimming instructor in New York City, and we're talking about swimming -- learning to swim and pool safety.

Most pool accidents seem to happen when parents are right there watching their kids. Do you think it happens because the kids do have this false sense of security? Or even older children have a false sense of security because they've been taking swimming lessons and they think they can just do it?

SPIERS: Partially -- that's part of the reason. The other part of the reason is just children are very curious, and so therefore they want to go experience the water on their own. You know, the older they get, the less they want mom and dad to be involved; the more they want to do things on their own; and the more trouble they get into with all aspects of life.

BOGAEV: How fast can a child drown?

SPIERS: Once they start taking on water, it can happen anywhere between like -- and it depends on what you're calling "drowning." Drowning is an experience where someone has to be rescued. It doesn't -- drowning does not necessarily mean dead, because if a lifeguard has to go into the water, that is a drowning victim. They have to go get the person.

So it depends on what you're looking for, and it's also very age-appropriate. You know, it's anywhere from a minute to like three minutes as far as where brain damage starts to happen, as far as lack of oxygen to the brain or what not.

It also depends on how long the child is struggling to stay above water. There's a lot of factors. But there is an experience I had in Houston, Texas where a mom went -- had two children, a three-year-old and a five-year-old -- and she went into the house to get chalk.

They were doing -- they were drawing on -- making like hop-scotch boxes or something like that. And she came back out to find the five-year-old diving for the three-year-old who was on the bottom. And when I -- that's when she decided to enroll the kids in swimming lessons.

The ambulance had to come. They -- the child was resuscitated. He was taken to the hospital. The 3-year-old, who was the one who had actually drowned and been brought back, resuscitated, had no problem with swimming. The 5-year-old was petrified, 'cause he had the full memory of everything that had happened. And the 3-year-old, to this day, still believes the ambulance came for the 5-year-old, which was -- made it easier to teach the 3-year-old. But the 5-year-old's phobias got a lot worse.

BOGAEV: What was the end of that story?

SPIERS: They both swam beautifully.

BOGAEV: If you do go to the aid of a drowning person, what's the first thing you should do?

SPIERS: No one that's not trained should go after a drowning person. You should take something with you -- a pole, a towel -- something to reach out to them so you can pull them back into shore. You should not make contact with them as long as they are conscious and active. Preferably, you would -- before ever leaving shore -- have someone call for help. And then go in and get them and bring them back out.

But, you know, the Red Cross rules are reach, which means from deck; row, which means you're still in something like a boat; throw; and then go. That's how they teach lifeguards. That's like their little mantra that they say: reach, throw, row, go.

BOGAEV: What advice do you have for pool owners, beyond just, you know, fence that pool in and fence it well. How can they prepare for emergencies?

SPIERS: They should have objects around the pool for -- such as poles; such as rescue tubes or ring buoys on ropes so they can throw out to people. They should, as I said before, you know, have CPR; have first aid. If they're good swimmers and they feel up to it, take a lifeguarding course.

A fence is just a bigger obstacle. It's not gonna sort of keep someone out. It may keep them out, but it's more of a challenge to get over a fence. So it doesn't always keep a child out, and all the fences that I've seen in the Hamptons when I'm out there teaching this year, most of the children already know how to work the gate, at age three and five and they can already get in.

BOGAEV: How did you learn to swim?

SPIERS: My folks belonged to a residential pool in the neighborhood, and they had a really great swimming instructor there by the name of "Lucky." He was a really great guy. And so at age three, they stuck me in the pool. I had to start learning to swim. I took lots of private lesson; lots of group. And started swimming on a swim team when I was five years old.

BOGAEV: So you had absolutely no dangerous or frightening swim experiences under your belt.

SPIERS: They were more dangerous for my mother. Meaning, she would come in and would have left me with the lifeguards, and at age six, came back and saw me diving off the high board. So it was more like her like going: "there goes my kid," kind of thing.

BOGAEV: But you were fine.

SPIERS: I was fine. She wasn't, but I was.

BOGAEV: Jim Spiers, thanks a lot for talking to today.

SPIERS: You're welcome. Thank you.

BOGAEV: Swimming instructor Jim Spiers. He teaches in New York City.

I'm Barbara Bogaev, and this is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Jim Spiers
High: Aquatics director Jim Spiers with Aerobics West, a fitness club in New York's Upper West Side. Spiers specializes in teaching children and infants how to swim. His students can be as young as six months old. Though the Red Cross maintains that children under five cannot be taught to swim, Spiers disagrees and considers it a safety measure to teach toddlers how to swim.
Spec: Youth; Sports; Swimming; Infants
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: Teaching Infants to Swim
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081302NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Napoleon of Crime
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:27

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

London Times reporter Ben Macintyre was in Los Angeles covering the second Rodney King trial when he decided to take a break from present-day crime stories by delving into the archives of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The result of Macintyre's investigations is a book called "The Napoleon of Crime" -- the first biography of Adam Worth, the most famous criminal of the Victorian age.

Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Outlaws of yore always seem so quaint when compared to the Andrew Cunanans of our own day. But even allowing for the nostalgia that romanticizes psychopaths like Billy the Kid into folk heroes, Adam Worth comes across as a particularly gallant master felon.

Worth was the real-life model for Sherlock Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty. The brains behind decades of bank heists, forgeries, and diamond thefts across Europe and America, Worth was also a man of principle. He forbade the use of violence in his operations, and abstained from alcohol to keep his wits about him.

The discipline paid off. Except for one gruesome five-year stretch in a Belgian prison late in his career, Worth eluded capture by the police and the Pinkertons. Until now, Worth has also eluded capture by biographers, even though his life story is as sensational and strange as anything cooked up by his Victorian literary contemporaries.

Indeed, in his just-published biography of Worth, entitled "The Napoleon of Crime," Ben Macintyre claims Worth represents that most feared of Victorian boogeymen: the double man -- the respectable and civilized Dr. Jekyll, by day whose Mr. Hyde villainy emerged only under cover of night.

As a biographer, Macintyre indulges an inclination for rip-roaring hyperbole. But if ever a subject seemed to warrant it, Adam Worth does. Worth's double life began in his teens. The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Worth ran away from home and at the start of the Civil War, enlisted in a New York regiment that was decimated at the Battle of Bull Run.

According to official documents, Adam Worth died during that battle. Macintyre theorizes that Worth simply switched his identity papers with those of a corpse and deserted. Over the next few years, Worth ingratiated himself into New York's underworld, where he learned to be a master dipper, or pickpocket.

After being arrested and sent to Sing Sing, from which he almost immediately escaped, Worth vowed not to risk his neck any more on penny ante crime. He graduated to safe-cracking and soon relieved the vault of the Boylston Bank in Boston of close to $1 million. Afterwards, Worth high-tailed it to England, where he changed his name to Henry Judson Raymond, cultivated the manners of a blue blood, and covertly presided over a hive of criminal activity.

Even Worth's English wife didn't know his real identity. When Worth was imprisoned in Belgium and his alias was revealed, the poor woman cracked up and spent the rest of her life in a lunatic asylum.

But the most bizarre aspect of Worth's story is his passionate attachment to the sexually suggestive portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire, painted by Thomas Gainesborough. The portrait had just been auctioned, and was the talk of London when Worth broke into the gallery where it was displayed and stole it; or as he later put it, "eloped" with the Duchess.

For 25 years afterwards, Worth kept the Duchess' portrait nearby, sometimes even hidden beneath the mattress of his four-poster bed. Macintyre theorizes that Worth fixated on the portrait because it represented his aspirations to aristocratic respectability, and his success as a virtuoso thief.

Worth also seems to have fallen for the Duchess' bosomy charms. Eventually, he relinquished his Duchess to the greedy paws of robber baron J. Pierpont Morgan, in a ploy every bit as clever as the original theft.

Macintyre is not as smooth a writer as Worth was a robber. Nevertheless, his biography of Worth is packed with entertaining anecdotes about Worth and his merry band of conspirators -- rogues like Piano Charlie, a musical safecracker; and Marm Mandelbaum (ph), a 300-pound woman who fenced millions of dollars of stolen goods.

This is crime the way we'd like it to be: dripping with more charm than blood.

BARBARA BOGAEV: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University.

Dateline: Maureen Corrigan; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews "The Napoleon of Crime," a biography of Adam Worth, the most famous criminal of the Victorian Age by London Times reporter Ben Macintyre.
Spec: Crime; History; Books; Europe; England; The Napoleon of Crime
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: Napoleon of Crime
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081303NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The Newsroom
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:35

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Canadian Public Television isn't exactly known for irreverent, razor-sharp satiric comedies. But last season, it came out with The Newsroom, a parody of the behind-the-scenes antics of a Toronto CBC news show.

The series was so cutting and cutting-edge, it immediately earned a cult following among newsrooms all over Canada and skyrocketed in the ratings. Even despite its very specific Canadian references, many PBS stations are picking up the series and will be airing it in September.

The Newsroom will remind viewers in this country of The Larry Sanders Show in a newsroom setting. It depicts producers, reporters, and idiotic anchormen at their conniving, unctuous worst. Pettiest of them all is the news director, played by Ken Finkleman, who's also the creator, executive producer, and director of Newsroom.

Finkleman is a veteran Hollywood writer. He has screenwriting credits on 16 movies, including the Madonna film "Who's That Girl?" and the sequels to "Grease" and to "Airplane," which he also directed.

Here's a scene from the show, The Newsroom. The news director, George, played by Ken Finkleman, is leading a typical morning story meeting.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE NEWSROOM")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The Toronto businessman vacationing in Florida -- remember the cops reported he was shot by two blacks. Well, they didn't do it. The wife confessed.

ACTOR KEN FINKLEMAN AS NEWS DIRECTOR "GEORGE": So it's a domestic thing.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: He's still dead.

FINKLEMAN: Yeah, well so is the story. "Canadian businessman shot by his wife in Florida" doesn't work.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: But, shot by two black kids worked?

FINKLEMAN: I didn't say that. The story doesn't work. OK? There's no hook.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: By the way, the wife didn't actually pull the trigger. Allegedly, she put the boyfriend up to it.

FINKLEMAN: Was the boyfriend black at least?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He was white.

FINKLEMAN: Pass on that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, there is an amateur video of the body floating in the pool.

FINKLEMAN: Was the body floating up? Face up or face down?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Face up.

FINKLEMAN: Are the eyes open?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: One eye was open; the other was gone.

FINKLEMAN: Gone?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Shot out.

FINKLEMAN: I love that -- and you got tape?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What about the welfare cuts?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, actually the welfare cuts were bumped to the second -- and we're gonna to the horse and hooker as the lead.

FINKLEMAN: Well, I think we got two leads now. We got the body in the pool; we got the horse and the hooker and the developer.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK, well, who's for "body in the pool"?

FINKLEMAN: I'm for "body in the pool."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. "Hooker and horse?" Ah, body in the pool.

FINKLEMAN: Body in the pool.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK.

FINKLEMAN: Next?

BOGAEV: Ken Finkleman says the idea for The Newsroom grew out of a lifetime of watching TV news. Obviously, he wasn't all that happy with what he saw.

KEN FINKLEMAN, WRITER/PRODUCER/STAR, "THE NEWSROOM": I remember watching this one news story on CNN when they -- you know, it's not -- give us 30 minutes, we'll give you the news of the world, or something -- but I've never seen this story -- this was just about a couple of months ago.

There was -- in the 30 minutes in which they're giving us the world, the world news, there's a story of some -- of a guy who's like -- he's like -- he's in some kind of underground parking garage structure. You could sort of see it's all cement. And they have firemen there with hoses, and they've got him in a corner, and they've got the hoses, you know, sort of pushing him against the corner with the force of the water.

And the story was that he was some kind of, you know, street, you know, person -- some homeless sort of person that was crazy. And they restrained him. He must have been screaming or yelling or doing something that was anti-social. They restrained him with fire hoses in an underground garage.

And they devoted about three minutes of the world news to this story. So that's what the news is. You know, if you have a woman; she's on fire; she's jumping from the 38th storey of a building -- they'll lead with that because they have the picture. Now, if they didn't have the picture and that story happened, you wouldn't know that that woman existed, you know.

BOGAEV: Now, there are two very funny and relentlessly weasely producers on the show. They're played by comedians. They're not actors...

FINKLEMAN: No.

BOGAEV: ... and you said somewhere that the only thing you demanded of these guys is that they don't try to crack jokes or try to be funny.

FINKLEMAN: Yeah.

BOGAEV: What did they take that to mean, that they not try to be funny?

FINKLEMAN: Well, what you don't want to do is to start, you know, 'cause they were stand-up comics, right? And you don't want them to do that in the midst of this type of show because there's no sort of setups and punchlines in this show.

But I like these guys because I find stand-up comics to be good playing themselves, because they just have a natural sense of timing. And they play themselves on the stage when the -- you know, to a certain extent.

So they wouldn't -- they're not intimidated by the camera. So if you go out and if you tell them "don't act," they'll generally -- if they are pretty good stand-up comics -- some kind of entertaining persona will emerge. Do you know what I mean? 'Cause they most likely were class clowns, and they like the idea of having a camera on them.

And I just sort of asked them to be themselves, and they generally did very well.

BOGAEV: So it will spark some snide, sarcastic comments and retorts.

FINKLEMAN: Well, they pretty well follow the script, but they kind of -- I don't know, they bring sort of some kind of subtle air of comedy to the whole thing, because it's not really that funny a show. I'm not that good a comedy writer.

BOGAEV: Well, you're not an actor by profession either.

FINKLEMAN: No, no. No, no.

BOGAEV: And when you portray your character, do you just...

FINKLEMAN: Yeah.

BOGAEV: ... slip into it in the same way -- it brings out that same persona? That class clown in you?

FINKLEMAN: Yeah. Yeah, well, I wasn't -- well, I guess I sort of was the class clown. But one -- you know, sort of a class clown. But I -- no, I just sort of play the character because I find a lot of those impulses that he has in myself.

BOGAEV: Those impulses to obsess about your material possessions and...

FINKLEMAN: Yes. Obsess. Be obsessive and be petty and be self-absorbed and -- yeah, all those things.

BOGAEV: So you can kind of revel in it on stage.

FINKLEMAN: Yeah, yeah. You can do that. And then if you -- and then in one of the episodes which is about a nuclear melt-down at the end, he -- the news director can't deal with it. He goes into denial, and he just -- and he starts to sort of conjure up his past life and all these women that he's been -- had affairs with in his life.

And I realized how much fun that is -- when you have that kind of control -- is that that you can actually just sort of create a -- an entire romantic world for yourself; write it; shoot it; and put yourself at the center of it as the actor, and sort of walk around in a nice suit and have these sort of attractive women kind of wanting answers from you.

And you just write the real questions that you've always had in your life about these characters, and you -- and it's just -- it's a tremendously exciting thing to do.

BOGAEV: Kind of brings out the best and worst in you.

FINKLEMAN: Oh, yeah. Terrible. Terrible. Brings out the terrible part in me.

BOGAEV: Now, your style as a director on the set -- do you introduce ideas and let the actors run with them sometimes?

FINKLEMAN: Not really. No. I ad-lib a lot because I don't remember -- I have a lot of lines and I don't -- I don't remember any of the scripts when I'm about to shoot. I don't memorize a script at night or anything like that. I have no idea, really, what to say -- what's in it -- until I start to shoot it.

And so I'll end up ad-libbing a lot and people will be left kind of in the cold because they don't get cues and they don't know what to say and stuff. But after a number of takes, I'll generally have the script, and sometimes out of those messed up takes when I'm just sort of ad-libbing and we get sort of an exchange going, there's good stuff and we use it.

BOGAEV: Writing for TV must be pretty frenetic, especially when you're the director and the producer and every other...

FINKLEMAN: Well, no, I -- it's actually not that -- for me, it -- you know, I burnt out. I did 13 shows. I had nothing else to say. And it was -- I didn't sort of -- I -- and I wrote very, you know, intuitively and I didn't -- I didn't really follow any rules that I -- 'cause I'd written in Hollywood and I know what notes are and I know what, you know, structure is and I know what the necessities of story and plot are.

And I wasn't really terribly concerned with any of that stuff. So, I was just -- felt that, you know, in satire, it's not really where -- how the story ends, but how you get there. And then I would just sort of look at my computer and say, when I'm on page 29 or something, I would say: "oh, I should stop it now." And I would write two more pages and finish everything off.

So it was all very -- it was all -- actually, very undisciplined.

BOGAEV: You did research by hanging out in a CBC newsroom in Toronto, right?

FINKLEMAN: Yeah. Yeah.

BOGAEV: What were you looking for?

FINKLEMAN: I was looking to see how the people dressed, and they dress terribly here. So wardrobe had a very easy go of it, you know. They -- amazingly, sort of unstylish, unfashionable -- you know, dowdy place.

But no, none of them have ever shopped at Maxfield's (ph) in Los Angeles.

BOGAEV: Were you interested in the rhythm of the workday? What people talked about?

FINKLEMAN: Oh, yeah, I was interested in that. I was interested in how the story meetings happened. They always start the morning off with the story meetings, and different producers pitch their ideas and -- actually, reporters also pitch their ideas in the story meetings.

And I tried to imagine myself a the center of it, and what -- how my personal life would sort of mix with that. And that's how this -- the -- I became...

I also looked at the news room and how it was laid out, and when I went to the art director, I said don't build sets, you know, with walls that can swing out so cameras can get in and stuff like that. Just build -- actually, bring the construction people in and build the actual room, the newsroom. So we actually built a room.

BOGAEV: And it's pretty claustrophobic, too.

FINKLEMAN: After a while it was.

BOGAEV: You had a CBC Radio series earlier in your career with Rick Moranis, and it was called "The Wednesday Report." What was the premise of the show?

FINKLEMAN: Well, that was all -- I always done basically, you know, the same thing -- I'm a kind of one-note person, you know. I -- that was also a satire of a CBC current affairs radio show. So that didn't have a laugh-track; didn't have an audience; didn't have jokes. But it was a little sort of documentary seg -- it was like a documentary, you know, show and we did sort of fake documentaries.

BOGAEV: Have you ever performed before an audience?

FINKLEMAN: I had, a long time ago with Rick Moranis, performed the -- which -- the closest thing I can describe it to, would be to those Bob and Ray kind of interviews? You know, those characters that used to do those interviews, Bob and Ray?

And we did these on a late-night CBC talk show. And I was so -- I was terrible and I was petrified. And one night, we used to do these live to tape, just do a tape with no audience. One night we had to do it in front of an audience, and I was on -- and Tom Waites was on this show, and Rick and I had to do this thing.

And I was so paralyzed with fear, I couldn't speak. And so he said, well, why don't you just go across the street and get some beer? And I went across the street and I got six beers and I got drunk. I got so absolutely drunk that I could hardly stand up. But I had no fear. I also had no talent.

BOGAEV: How did the act go?

FINKLEMAN: It was terrible. It was absolutely frightening. It was just horrible.

BOGAEV: Ken Finkleman is the creator, writer, producer, director and star of the CBC sitcom The Newsroom.

It's being picked up by PBS stations around the country.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, THE NEWSROOM)

FINKLEMAN: You could be a thinking journalist. You know, you remember Charles Kuralt "On The Road"? Charles Kuralt...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yeah, yeah, no. I use to watch him all the time. You know, he did very smart (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

FINKLEMAN: Exactly. And this is your chance to do (EXPLETIVE DELETED) just as smart.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Absolutely.

FINKLEMAN: OK, look. Fifty-three percent of this province loved Mike Harris, right? This is your audience. They love you. These are people who have values that you relate to, right? Golfing; hunting; fishing, family; hard work; church.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Alcohol.

FINKLEMAN: Alcohol. You know, these guys get out there; they have a couple of drinks; they kill a couple of animals; they blow off some steam; the odd guy comes back and slaps his wife around.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They're my audience.

FINKLEMAN: People are sick of hearing about condoms and lesbians.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yeah, yeah. No, I -- I think this is great.

FINKLEMAN: You know, I love this. This gives you an opportunity to play it -- the best of public broadcasting, which is...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Ideas.

FINKLEMAN: ... ideas, ideas -- with the best in the private sector which is...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Being a guy? Being a guy. Being a guy with a motor.

FINKLEMAN: The private sector.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yeah.

FINKLEMAN: Being a guy with a big motor...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yeah.

FINKLEMAN: ... a big motor.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yeah.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Ken Finkleman
High: Ken Finkleman is the writer/producer/star of "The Newsroom" -- the hit satirical comedy series out of Canada's CBC. It's broadcast in the U.S. over many PBS stations. There's no studio audience, no laugh track, and the show is shot with one hand-held camera.
Spec: Media; News; CBC; Canada; The Newsroom
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Newsroom
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: AUGUST 13, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 081304NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: New Hendrix Album
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Jimi Hendrix's last studio recordings were released piece-meal on a series of albums after his death -- albums which had doctored tracks and other questionable material on them.

After protracted legal action, the Hendrix family has gotten control over all of the existing recordings, so now we get to hear the album Jimi Hendrix left incomplete at his death.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, JIMI HENDRIX PERFORMING TRACK FROM ALBUM "FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN")

ED WARD, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: There's a new Jimi Hendrix album out, which considering that he's been dead for over 25 years, is certainly news. It bears the title of the one he was working on when he died, "First Rays of the New Rising Sun." But the big question is if it's really that album at all.

There's no way to find out, of course, but having listened to it, I'm willing to say it is. Since it's part of a five-album release from Experience Hendrix, the company that the Hendrix family has formed to produce Jimi's legacy -- a legacy that's been shoddily treated in the years since his death -- it carries with it a certain cachet after all.

The other four albums are the ones issued during Hendrix's life time -- "Are You Experienced?" "Acts as Bold as Love," "Electric Ladyland," and "Band of Gypsies."

Newly re-mastered from the original tapes, they're a feast for Hendrix lovers and for fans of Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, the only rock drummer to have approached the heights of his jazz contemporaries Elvin Jones and Ed Blackwell.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, JIMI HENDRIX PERFORMING TRACK FROM ALBUM "FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN")

JIMI HENDRIX, SINGER, SINGING:
Drifting, on a sea of forgotten teardrops
On a life boat, sailing for
Your love
Sailing home...

WARD: There's no question that the finished record would have sounded different of course. Hendrix had become a studio-obsessive, constantly mixing and remixing his tapes, and several of the tracks here were incomplete at his death in September, 1970.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS")

HENDRIX, SINGING: I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Well, I'd take my spirit and I'd crash my pillars
And now the whole world is here for me to see
I'm saying the whole world is here for me to see
Now, I searching for my love to be

WARD: "Room Full of Mirrors" for instance, is a rough mix of a song he'd been working on for over two years. It sounds fine to us, of course, but did it to Hendrix? What comes across in this reconstruction is what we've known all along: things were changing.

Noel Redding (ph), the Experience's bassist, was gone -- replaced by Hendrix's Army buddy Billy Cox (ph), who had deeper roots in traditional black music. On some tracks, Buddy Miles drums instead of Mitch Mitchell, although his approach is more mainstream rock than Mitchell's was.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, TRACK FROM ALBUM "FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN")

HENDRIX SINGING: There goes easy, easy rider
Ridin' down the highway of desire
He said the free wind takes him higher
Tryin' to find his heaven above
But he's dyin' to be loved

WARD: And although Hendrix was telling interviewers that the new album would have answers to the questions the protesters were asking, mostly what comes through is a sense of Hendrix having fun.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, TRACK FROM ALBUM "FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN")

HENDRIX SINGING: Here I come to save the day
A little a boy inside a dream
Just the other day
His mind fell out of his face
And the wind blew it away
A hand came out from heaven and pinned a badge on his chest
It said: get out there, man,
And do your best

WARD: This might have been because he was trying to put together a new band and spent a lot of time in his upstate New York house jamming with all and sundry -- the jam he brought to the stage, with mixed results at Woodstock.

Interestingly, the jam tune he used most often, called "Beginnings" here, was finally recorded using Mitchell and Cox. "First Rays" has both sides of what was to be the next Hendrix single, "Dolly Dagger" and "Stepping Stone," which had been released, but was withdrawn so Hendrix could replace Buddy Miles on the track with Mitchell.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "DOLLY DAGGER")

HENDRIX SINGING: Ah sho' got the blues this morning, baby
Yeah, and I'm here to tell you about it
So you might as well pick up on it
Yeah

I'm a man, at least I'm tryin' to be
But I'm here before the other half of me
I've lived before, that's true enough to me
But I ain't gonna search for nothing desperately

And I'm trying, trying
Not to be a fool
Well, I'm trying, trying hard
To keep our cool, baby.
Tryin' so hard to keep it together
After, I found baby, that true love of mine

I'm just rollin' -- screamin', cryin',
Flying and adjusting
(Unintelligible)
Rolling stone

WARD: It's also got a couple of tracks played at the opening of his new studio Electric Lady in New York. But the whole thing weighs in at 69 minutes -- clearly, too much for a 1970 LP. So we're left to wonder what would have been discarded.

Thanks to CD technology, nothing has, so even 27 years later, its release is still an exciting event.

BOGAEV: Ed Ward is a music writer living in Berlin.

Dateline: Ed Ward, Berlin; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Music critic Ed Ward reviews the new Jimi Hendrix album -- yes, you read that right -- "First Rays of the New Rising Sun," the album he left incomplete at the time of his death.
Spec: Music Industry; Deaths; Jimmy Hendrix
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: New Hendrix Album
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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