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Tom and Ray Magliozzi

The Car Talk guys talk with Terry about their first garage and more.


Other segments from the episode on April 4, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 4, 2001: Interview with Tom and Ray Magliozzi; Review of the television show "That's my Bush."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Tom and Ray Magliozzi talk about their first garage
and more

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Listeners tune in to NPR's "Car Talk" not just to diagnose their car troubles.
In fact, some of the listeners don't even drive. "Car Talk" is one of NPR's
most popular shows because it makes people laugh. It even makes Tom and Ray
Magliozzi laugh and they're the hosts of the show. They also write a
syndicated column and are the authors of the book "In Our Humble Opinion."
"Car Talk" fans may still not be sure how these two MIT graduates became the
car guys. After graduating MIT, Tom worked in the marketing department of a
corporation speculating about trends of the future, but he abandoned the
corporate life to happily collect unemployment insurance. Ray was 12 years
younger, had moved to Vermont after graduation where he taught at a middle
school. Ray says his mother urged him to try and rescue Tom from his
lay-about life. Ray returned to Boston; and Tom came up with the idea of
starting a garage.

Mr. TOM MAGLIOZZI ("Car Talk"): See, that was one of the things I had come
up with when I was sitting at this company speculating about the future. I
had my feet up on the desk and I put together all the different trends that I
could see, and I said, `You know what would be a great idea? A place where
you could fix your own car.' And people would have the tools for you. They'd
have a lift you could put your car up on, all the tools that you would never
buy yourself 'cause you only needed them once. And they would have a roof
over your head and someone to advise you. I said, `What a great idea,' and
then I quit my job and became a bum and promptly forgot all about it.

GROSS: So, Ray, when Tom had this idea of a do-it-yourself garage, did you
like the idea? Were you involved with cars already?

Mr. RAY MAGLIOZZI ("Car Talk"): I did. I was involved with cars.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, he was a boy genius when it came to cars. My brother
won the science fair with an invention for a new kind of engine which is yet
to be made. Until recently, I think, maybe people have been thinking about

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Right.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Right?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Right.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I mean, this kid was like eight years old and he
developed a concept for a combination one-cycle, two-cycle, four-cycle,
eight-cycle engine. We don't even know what it was.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was brilliant, guys.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It was brilliant. So, yeah, I mean, he was into it.

GROSS: I want to...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: By the way, Terry, we should tell you that we have made a
concerted effort--we are making a concerted effort to not rant and rave,
because you're such a...

GROSS: That's what you do in your book, yes.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: You're such a calm person that we have purposely lowered
the lights in the studio so that it will tone us down. And you may have
noticed that we're even speaking a little bit more quieter.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And we haven't drunk any coffee at all today. So if...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: So if I do lose it once in a while, feel free to just
remind me.

GROSS: So you're trying to make that transition from the "Car Talk" vibe to
the FRESH AIR vibe.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: To the FRESH--exactly.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Right.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I'm trying to honor the respect that you deserve.

GROSS: That's right. There you go.

Now when you started the do-it-yourself garage, it seems to me the time must
have really been right for that. 'Cause, for example, like in 1970--I think
you started the garage in '73--and around 1970, I was tuning up my own car. I
mean, that's how...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: There you go.

GROSS: That's how much people were into do-it-yourself mechanic.


GROSS: It was a short-lived period in my life.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And it was really an idea whose time had come. And it

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Unfortunately, it didn't stay.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And it was one of those things that--you couldn't make any
money at it. And, you know, it was a great concept. And we have never had as
many laughs as we had the year that we opened that garage. I don't think I've
ever had as many laughs as I had that year.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No. We had a rollicking good time.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: We had a rollicking...

GROSS: What kind of laughs?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Belly laughs, because we attracted every kind of inept
weirdo that the city of Cambridge and the surrounding towns had to offer.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. And there were--there was no shortage.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: There was no shortage. And I was amazed to find out how
many wackos inhabited our fair city. And those who came in who thought they
knew what they were doing and didn't really expected us to do the work for
them for $2.50 an hour or whatever we were charging them. And we soon
realized that we were doing all the work for everybody, running around like
nuts doing everyone's work while they were standing there paying $2.50 an hour
having professionals work on their cars. It even got so bad that we had to
hire extra people...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Watching us.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: help out. And while we did make some money during
the days before every major holiday, it was pretty much a bust.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And then we hadn't figured out that the good people of
Cambridge were going to steal our tools and all that so...

GROSS: Oh, did they do that?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, yeah, but what really drove us out of business was
the fact that, in 1973, fixing one's own car was within the grasp of the
average person but as emission controls came into being and cars got more
complicated, it soon disappeared. That ability soon disappeared and we found
that the business diminished considerably. And people in Cambridge who had
had the time, because they were unemployed bums like my brother, to work on
their own cars went out and got jobs and bought newer cars and, fortunately,
you know, took them to us to get them serviced.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: But it's interesting how much fun the bums could be. I
mean, these...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, no question.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: These were complete wackos, weirdos, as my brother said.
He's absolutely right, but, man, were they fun. And they weren't worried.
You know, when the guy jacked up his Lincoln Town Car and drove the floor jack
through his oil pan, did he cry? He just said, `Uh-oh.' I mean, people could
take a joke and people were not as uptight as they are now. You know, it was
only a car.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, you know what contributed to it, too, that those
people who were working on their cars weren't pressed for time. If they were,
they wouldn't have the time to work on their own cars.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Of course.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And what makes us frantic these days and unwilling to laugh
at something that should be funny is that we're all so stressed out because
we're running around trying to do too many things and we don't have time to
stand back and laugh at something that you should laugh at.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And we're too stressed out because we think of the
consequences. `Oh, my God, I put the jack through my oil pan. And now I
can't laugh about it because I'm going to miss five days of work and this and
that and I'm gonna be yelled at and it's going to be a disaster,' instead of
saying, `Boy, this is really funny. I should have a good laugh and think
about the consequences later on.'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And what was really sort of spiritual about it was that
nobody ever got hurt. I mean, in all the years that we did that, with
complete rank amateurs using very dangerous equipment...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, like acetylene torches and...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, man.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And we really didn't know any better. `Hey, you want to
use the torch?' `Yeah, go ahead. We'll be standing on the other side of the
brick wall when you do it.'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. `Wear this football helmet. Call us if anything
happens. We're going out for coffee.' I mean...

GROSS: So when the do-it-yourself concept failed financially, why did you
start a real garage after that?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, because we had had a real garage, too, in the same

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was sort of a gradual transition, you know. In the
beginning, everyone--all the customers were doing the work themselves,
ostensibly, and little by little we found ourselves doing more and more of it
and then people would come and say, `Gee, you know, I really can't do this
myself. Would you guys do it?' So we had professionals working side by side
with amateurs. And it just so happened that the amateurs began to disappear
and the cars increased in number and so it became just a plain old repair shop
when all those crazy weirdos got jobs, I guess. I don't know where they are.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, some of them got sent back to the mother ship.



GROSS: Tom, were you doing mechanical work yourself?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, for many years he did.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Many years. I stopped doing it many years ago because it
was much too much like work. And I've been trying all my life to avoid, you
know, real work and that was--I mean, in the beginning it was just so much fun
that I didn't realize it was work. We were literally putting in 12-, 14-hour
days. And these were hard, hard days. I mean, I remember going home,
plopping on the bed, falling asleep, waking up the next morning and dragging
myself back to the shop. And...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, there weren't many days spent with your feet up on
the desk.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, man.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: But it was fun.

GROSS: When you guys started your garage, were your parents ever embarrassed
to say, `My sons are mechanics,' as opposed to being able to say, `My sons are
teachers,' `My son is a marketing consultant.'

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: They hung their heads in shame.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, they didn't really hang their heads in shame, I don't
think. They just kept shaking their heads, like, `What are you guys doing?'

GROSS: Yeah, we should mention you're both graduates of MIT.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. How about that?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Dad worked his fingers to the bone to send us there and
when we told them that were opening up an auto repair shop, their hearts sank.
I mean, they took it like champs, you know. It's sort of like when my
wife's--my soon-to-be wife's mother met me. In fact, it was during this very
time. I had been working in the garage all day and she was coming into Boston
from somewhere and she was with her mother. So I went to--being a nice guy, I
went to meet her at the airport so I could drive her home, and her mother was
going to go on to New Hampshire, where she lived. And it was one of
these--they were overseas and it was one of these fly-by-night airlines. And
I get there at 10:00 when it's supposed to arrive and I can't even find the
terminal or anyone recognizes the name of this airline. And it turns out that
it's gonna be late and it turns out that it's gonna be like eight hours late.
So I sleep on a bench in the airport. I've been there all night, never having
had a chance to get home and take a shower. I'm wearing the greasy coveralls
of the mechanic and I've been sleeping in the airport all night. I've never
met her mother, so finally this trans-international global airline thing lands
and out they come. And I stumble over there at 6:00 in the morning and
Joanne(ph) says to her mother, `This is Tom.' She evidently had mentioned me.
And her mother sort of looked at her and said, `I trust your judgment' and she
walked away. What was that introduction to? I forgot.

GROSS: Oh, about your parents', you know, reaction to you becoming a

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, and my parents were sort of the same way. You know,
`What's your son do?' `What are your sons doing?' (Mumbles) `Oh, they own a
garage,' you know. `I trust their judgment.'

GROSS: Now the first time you were on the radio I think was for a panel
discussion on cars on WBUR, a Boston NPR affiliate. Were you relaxed that
first time on radio? Did you feel like you sounded and behaved like

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. I think so, only because we didn't know that it was
a real radio station. I mean, it's part of Boston University. And at the
time, the studios--I mean, you'd think it was like 1920. And...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: The equipment resembled the tin cans and the string.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I mean, it was this kids...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And you would expect Marconi to walk by any minute. And so
our assumption was, you know--first of all, who's listening to this station?
And we thought it was a station that only broadcast like on wires within the
school, within BU.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, we thought it had, you know, 50-watt capacity.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And then we found out it had 50,000 watts, so...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, when they turned on the microphones, the lights
dimmed. So, yeah, I think we were pretty relaxed.

GROSS: When you started doing your own show on WBUR, before the show was
national, back in the early days when you were first starting, how did you
sound compared to how you sound now, do you think?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, it sounded surprisingly like the new shows do.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It did?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. I mean, we tended to--if we got someone on the line
who we thought was interesting, we tended to talk to that person for whatever
period of time we thought was appropriate; sometimes 25 minutes. And our
producer, Doug Berman, would never allow that now. He's giving us the cut
sign and waving his hands and jumping up and down. If we go more than five or
six minutes, he gets nervous. But other than that, I would say the show is
pretty much the same.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Really?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Which begs the question, why do we need Berman? An egg
timer would do, wouldn't it?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I've been asking that question from day one.

GROSS: My guests are Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" and
authors of the book "In Our Humble Opinion." We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of
NPR's "Car Talk" and authors of the book "In Our Humble Opinion."

When you started on radio, did anyone ever say to you, `Tom, Ray, you're
laughing too much. You know, you have to be more serious. Tone it down.'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Terry, no one ever told us anything. We--until maybe a
week ago we would walk into the studio and say, `Are we on?' I mean, we had
absolutely no information--we knew the room we would go to, we knew where to
sit and that was it and that's pretty much the same.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And the only reason we knew that is there was a show on the
hour before us called "Shop Talk," which was two or three guys talking about
stereo equipment.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And, you know, recording and the like. And we would watch
them through the glass and we would see how far away from the microphone they
sat and we noticed that they wore headphones and we noticed that they pressed
the lighted buttons on the phone to talk to callers and so we patterned
ourselves after what they did.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And I'm proud to say that after 23 or 4 years on the radio,
we have learned absolutely nothing. No, it's absolutely the truth. I mean,
people say, `Tell us about radio.' We have no idea. We sit in front of the
microphones and we know nothing about radio, nothing.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: We've never made any attempt to learn anything either. And
we do laugh a lot, too much sometimes, and I'm sure people complain. And
there are many people who can't stand us because...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, plenty. My wife is one of them.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: My brother laughs so much, especially--right. Well, that
goes without saying. Which wife?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: All of them.

GROSS: So when you started doing the radio show, did it change the business
at the garage? Were more customers coming? Did they treat you differently
because you were on the radio?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, one of the reasons that we did the radio show--we did
it--when they asked us to continue doing it, we did it for no money. And why
would we do that? And the only reason we did it was we were able to mention
the name of our garage on the air. And that was the only reason we did it.
And we did it until like a month ago for no money, as long as we could
mention the name of the garage.

GROSS: That's a real long month, that month ago.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: So we mentioned the name of the garage and, yes, business
did pick up because people had heard of us.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, that was the reason we initiated the puzzler on the
show, because we asked people to send the answers to the puzzler to the

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, because they told us we could not plug the garage, so
we devised this clever scheme of a puzzler and then we said, `And if you have
an answer to the puzzler, with which if you win, you can win a free oil
change, mail it to,' and we gave and address of the garage.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: We don't mention the garage anymore.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No. It doesn't really exist.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: We don't mention the name of it anymore.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No, it doesn't really exist anyway.

GROSS: Well, it does, but you don't want to be plugging it shamelessly on the
air now.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Exactly.

GROSS: Unlike the earlier days, when you did want to be plugging it
shamelessly but couldn't.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Right.

GROSS: So you still have the garage. Ray, you still manage the garage. Tom,
you don't really work at the garage anymore so...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I don't work at the garage. I decided that it was too much
work and I...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Plus we have a restraining order.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I think it's 500 feet now. I can't go within 500 feet of
the garage.

GROSS: How have you each liked over the years having responsibility for a
business, for making sure you make a profit, making sure the customers are
treated OK, for having responsibility for employees?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, I hate it. It's incredibly stressful.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: That's part of the reason I left. It was horrible. No, it
was horrible. I mean, we had to fire a guy once and it broke my heart, real.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I mean, he was our buddy and he was such a screw-up it was
unbelievable. And he was so unreliable, it was hopeless and he even said--he
came in one day and he said, `I want you to fire me.' And we couldn't do it,
'cause he was our pal. And Jerry...


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: ...same thing.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No, it's tough.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It's horrible.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And it's tougher, however, I think, having responsibility
for the customers' cars, because you're responsible for people's--well, first
of all, you're responsible for people's safety. You have to make sure you put
all the pieces back and their wheels don't fall off and their brakes work.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I was just laughing at the memory of the one that you
took real good care of; the one, the Nissan.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: The one that took the plunge.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I did have a car fall off the lift one day.

GROSS: Oh, God.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And I don't know how it happened. But I...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: That's every mechanic's nightmare.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And the guys at the shop have never, ever let me forget it.
Every time a Nissan comes in, they ask me, `Would you like us to put the thing
up on the lift for you or do you think you can handle it?'

GROSS: How loud was it when it fell off the lift?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was so loud that people from every surrounding building
came running over to see what had happened and I stood there and laughed and
laughed. And the reason I laughed is, but for a few seconds, I would have
been under this car when it fell off the lift, because I had walked over to my
toolbox to get a wrench and when--as I turned around, I noticed that the car
was at a peculiar angle and no longer parallel to the floor. And I said,
`Hmm.' And I didn't have much time to think about it and six feet to zero
happens very quickly. And within a wink of an eye, this car was on its side.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: What did you say to her?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was an interesting call.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It had to have been.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was a fellow whose name I don't remember who owned the
car and I told him that there had been an incident.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yes, I would say so.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And his car had fallen off the lift. And, again, I was
giddy because I hadn't been under it. And I told him that. I said, `Look,
we'll replace your car or the insurance company will replace it, or whatever,
but I'm just so happy that I wasn't crushed by your car.' He was not amused.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: He wasn't?


GROSS: Tom and Ray Magliozzi are the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" and authors of
the book "In Our Humble Opinion." They'll be back in the second half of the
show. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of car horn, car starting, engine revving)

Unidentified Man: Hey, man, did you see that doll in that big green car?

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Well, I saw my baby just the other day in a big
green car on the wide highway. I saw my baby with another man. I got to
admit they're really quite a pair. I saw my baby, but what can I do? Just
walking on and singing the blues. I saw my baby; yeah, my pretty baby. I saw
my baby in a big green car.

GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, saying goodbye to the beloved Dodge Dart. We continue our
conversation with Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Tom and Ray Magliozzi,
the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk." Listeners tune in not just for the
information, but for the laughs. Tom and Ray also write a syndicated
newspaper column and are the authors of the book "In Our Humble Opinion."

Now a lot of people think of you as Tom and Ray, you know, and they're not
always sure which is which. It's like Tom and Ray, they're the car guys. So
let's talk a little bit about who you are both as individuals. There's 12
years' age difference between the two of you. Tom, you're 12 years older than
Ray. Were you close as kids? That's a really big gap when you're young.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, you know, in between, there's a sister, and she
claims that she has no recollection of my little brother for the first, like,
15 years of his life. She claims that we were the only two siblings, and she
said, `Where the heck did he come from?' But, I mean, we were close, if a
12-year-old can be close to a no-year-old, and a 20-year-old can be close to
an eight-year-old.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Phew. I'm glad he got that right.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: So I guess we were close because I remember him fairly
well, you know?

GROSS: Tom, did your mother make you take care of Ray?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I don't think so. I thought it was fun.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No, because Grandma lived with us.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Our mother's mother lived with us and she took care of all
of us for a time. I don't know if it was her responsibility, or she just
enjoyed it, but she took charge of us, and she was the one who, when she went
to do the shopping, took the kids along and whatever. We don't know what Mom


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: What did she do?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I don't...

GROSS: Ray, did Tom bully you as the older brother, or was he too old to

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, no, not at all. He was too old to bother and we had a
great relationship, but I do remember going places with him, and his
friends--you know, why a kid who was a senior in high school would want to
take his little brother to the beach with him, I don't know, but I willingly
and gladly went along.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, I have to let you know.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: They were paying me off.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I thought so. I thought so.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I was making 20 bucks a week. Back then that was big

GROSS: Ray, did Tom expose you to things that your parents didn't know you
were getting exposed to that they might not have been pleased about?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Like dangerous chemicals in the--no, not really. No.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: No, I mean, we--the memories I have is we went to--get
this: I take my little brother to see, in person, the Three Stooges. Wow.
You remember that? I mean...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I do remember.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: about memorable.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I remember it. You also took me to see Benny Goodman at
Symphony Hall.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yes, I did.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. And he also used to leave me places, Terry, and
that's how I learned my way around the subway system of our fair city.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: `You can get home from here.' `I don't want to.'

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Don't take it personally.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: `I'm only nine.'

GROSS: Were either of you more sociable as kids?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Was one of us more sociable than the other, you mean?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Beats me.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Gee, I don't know. I think Tommy was probably more
sociable than I was.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, I mean, some of the happiest years of my life were
high school.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: All six years of them.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: All six years of them. So I don't know if that would be
sociable, but it was a very sociable time.

GROSS: Now who taught each of you how to drive?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Dad. Yes.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. In fact, my father, when I was a kid, he had a very
old, even then, 1932 Chevy, and I was fascinated with driving. I remember I
was 11, 12 years old and I was watching him all the time, and it wasn't a
simple thing to do. I mean, there was clutch, brake, the starter was
underneath the gas pedal. It was very confusing, and it wasn't like a modern
car. And one quiet, beautiful spring Sunday morning, we were driving down a
street on the back side of Cambridge. It was pretty deserted. And he turns
to me--I'm 12 years old--and he says, `Do you want to drive?' I almost peed
my pants. Man, I was so thrilled.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And to this day, he has the same reaction if someone asks
him if he wants to drive.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I got behind the wheel and I did it. I mean, it was
amazing. I stalled it a couple of times and I was actually able to drive. I
was so thrilled. And from that moment on, I just couldn't wait to get my
license, which led to another incident.

GROSS: What?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Because one day--I figured he had let me drive so I now was
a driver, you know, and one day, we were getting ready to go on our little
family outing. It was a Sunday morning. The car was parked in front of the
house, and I decided, I'm gonna be a good guy. We were loading up the car
with stuff. You know, we were going to the beach. And the door was open, and
I decided I would start the car and warm it up for dad. And the car happened
to be in gear, and I forgot to step on the clutch. And so I...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: So it became a three-door, huh?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I engaged the starter, the car lurches forward and the door
falls off. I mean, it had big iron hinges and they just broke. And there's
the door, lying on the sidewalk, and I'm terrified. Man, I said, `Oh, my
God.' My father comes out of the house and he says, `Eh. Door fell off.' He
got some clothesline and tied the door back on and we went to the beach. He
never said anything about it. The next day, he took it down to one of his
buddies and they welded the hinges back together, but it was the incident.
It's sort of like dropping the car off the lift, you know?

GROSS: Was your father always that relaxed about things?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Gee, I guess he was.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, for the most part.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, he was.

GROSS: So, Ray, did you learn to...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: He just passed away a few months ago.

GROSS: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: He was 93.

GROSS: Really?



My guests are Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" and authors
of the book "In Our Humble Opinion." We'll talk more after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are Tom and Ray Magliozzi. You know them as the hosts of
NPR's "Car Talk." They also have a book called "In Our Humble Opinion."


GROSS: What was your first fender bender?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Jeez, my first fender bender? Oh, I remember my first
fender bender. It was with my dear friend Johnny Mellum, a friend of mine
who had a car, and I was in college at the time, because in high school I was
too young to drive a car. No, no, I was in high school. And he had come to
my house in his car, and again, it involved a door. I'm bad with doors.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Evidently.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And he was pulled up alongside me somehow, and I didn't
realize he was getting ready to leave and I opened the door of my father's
car. Johnny pulled away and the door and his car met, and it was ugly. It
was ugly.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I don't remember my first accident, but I can tell
you about my most recent accident.

GROSS: Uh-oh.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, it was this morning.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: No, I had the great pleasure a few years ago of buying for
myself from a customer who had melted the engine a 1987 Dodge Colt Vista, and
even then, which was three or four years ago, it was an old jalopy. And not
that I had always had nice cars, but I always tried to, even if I had an old
car, keep it looking good or in good shape. But with this car...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I never took the trouble.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, with this car, I decided that it was a jalopy from
the start and it was gonna remain one. I wasn't gonna fix the dents or the
rust or anything.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And you realized how liberating that is.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It is unbelievably liberating, and my accident occurred one
night as I was driving home from work. I was in Harvard Square, and a woman
driving a Honda evidently wasn't paying attention and smashed into the back of
my car, jarring, you know, me out of the driver's seat almost. But I wasn't
hurt and instead of the usual where you get out of the car and you exchange
papers, I rolled down the window and stuck my head out and I asked her--she
was also driving a jalopy--if she was OK. And she said, `Yeah.' And I just
waved and said, `See you later.'

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Forget about it.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And I drove off. And that's the first car I ever would
have done that with, and it felt great. And I...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Done that with every car I ever owned.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And I didn't look until days later...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It didn't matter.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: ...and realized that she had ruined my car! No, it didn't

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It didn't matter.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And isn't it crazy that we have cars that are all shiny and
polished and ripple free and dent free and we have to worry about them? You
buy a new car, you can't go to the parking lot for six months, afraid that
someone's going to dent your door? So you don't eat for six months.

GROSS: Well, were you ever that way with a car?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Yes, I was once that way with every car, and I realized one
day how stupid it is.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It's only a car.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It's only a car. It's absolutely nuts. And I think
we--there are certainly more important things to do with our time and our
lives and our energies.

GROSS: Like fixing the cars.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, whatever, but, you know, there are certainly more
things to be concerned about than the finish on your car.

GROSS: Do you both drive old and new cars now?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, we drive new cars because we kind of have to because
we should be up to date on what's going on.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: We test drive a lot of new cars.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: So we test drive, yes.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: But our wives own newer cars. They wouldn't be seen dead
in the things that we drive. But Tommy and I own--Tommy owns a really old

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, and I always believed in old cars and my wife started
to get really angry at me because we always had old cars and they always made
noises and things broke and, you know, she said, `I'm driving little babies
around and can't we get a little better car?' And I didn't know what she was
talking about because the cars were perfect as far as I could tell. You need
all those doors? I mean, come on.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Do all the brakes have to work at the same time?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I mean, come on. You don't need all that stuff. And she
kept saying to me, `Well, you can live with it because when it breaks down,
you get out and you fix something and it keeps going.' She said, `But what
about the little babies that we're carrying around?' I said, `Whose babies
are they anyway?' It turned out they were mine, so I finally...


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: ...relented and...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: That baby argument always works.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, man.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It's a killer.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It's powerful.

GROSS: Well, Tom, your prize Dodge Dart was, I think, totaled in a collision
while your son was driving.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, yeah. He wasn't responsible. He was sitting at a
traffic light and some complete bozo from the town of Arlington,
Massachusetts, driving a snowplow testing his brakes on one of the most busy
streets in the town decides to step on the brake and they don't work, and he
plowed literally into the back of the dear old Dodge Dart.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It's a good thing he was driving a plow, huh?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: He was driving a plow and plowed into the Dodge Dart, and
unfortunately it was terminal.

GROSS: For the car.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. For the car.

GROSS: Was your son hurt?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Nobody was hurt, luckily.

GROSS: Yeah? Yeah?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And if I had had--if I had found the driver of that truck,
he'd be hurt. Because...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Wow. You were so in love with that car?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I mean, it was so irresponsible to test the brakes of
a 10-ton truck on a major street. To test the brakes? Duh? I mean, how dumb
can you be? Whoever you are out there, you're dumb.

GROSS: How sorry were you to lose that Dodge Dart?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It was horrible. It was horrible.

GROSS: What year was it, '63 or something?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I was devastated.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: '63.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It was a '63 Dodge Dart.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, actually it was a '60, '61, '62, '63. It had parts
of a lot of different cars, but there was a lengthy period of mourning, Terry.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: There was. There was. 'Cause it was a dear old friend. I
had bought it as an interim car. All my cars have been interim cars. My
brother keeps telling me, `Well, it's only an interim car. Buy an interim
car.' So I bought it as an interim car and it was one of those, you know,
after a period of time I realized I was in love with it, because it asked so
little of me, it gave so much to me. And it was ugly as sin.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Ugly? Man. Butt ugly. People got paid to design that

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, you know...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It was from a different time.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I mean, it was a convertible, but, of course, the top
didn't work. You had to get in the back seat and pull it up by hand. And it
was great.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: That meant that the top spent the entire summer in the down

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: In the down position.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: You can imagine what that meant.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And, you know, it was so great because, you know, if it
rained, so what? It got wet, but what was gonna happen? It got wet. Big

GROSS: So you guys drive old cars and new cars. What do you like most about
the new stuff on the new cars and what do you find most pointless?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Boy, oh boy, oh boy. What do we like most about the new
cars? Well, I guess they're safer...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And they handle better. Even the cheapest of the newer
cars. I mean, you can buy a Hyundai Accent which is, I don't know, 7,000
bucks or something, and it handles better than any car my brother has ever

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: That's an absolute truth. That's an absolute truth.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And it stops better. I mean, modern cars handle great,
they stop wonderfully. And they are safer. I mean, I don't think I'd want to
be hit broadside driving a Hyundai Accent if I could have a choice of driving
a '56 Buick...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Or a '63 Dodge Dart, yeah.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Or a '63 Dodge Dart.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: But a head-on collision, I'd rather be driving the Accent
because I think you have a better chance than those older cars.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Now what I hate about the newer cars--we don't have enough

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: That's a lot longer list.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I hate the complexity of the controls. You remember
the old days when you had a car, like a '63 Dart, and you wanted to turn on
the defroster and you wanted the defroster to blow warm air, you pushed two
levers all the way to the right and then at the same time, if you were deft
enough, you could also hit the fan switch...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Which was part of one of those levers maybe.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Or was just above it.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Simple.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: So in one fell swoop, you could turn the defroster on to
max heat and full fan output without having to take your eyes off the road.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And you know what? That was good enough.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And it still is. And why manufacturers make cars where you
have to take you eyes off the road to look at a touch screen to control things
like the heat and the radio, I'll never understand. It's bad enough we have
all these distractions from cell phones and the like. We have cup holders in
cars which allow you to have a nine-course meal. Pretty soon they're gonna be
putting tray tables in.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: With stewardesses. Yeah, it's unconscionable.

GROSS: Do you...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Go ahead.

GROSS: Do you spend a lot of time together when you're not on the air? Do
you, like, hang out together a lot?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: God, we try not to.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I can't stand him. Only if he's buying.

GROSS: Well, do you?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, we do.


Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Can't get rid of him.

GROSS: What do you do together?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: We eat mostly. It's funny, we've gotten to this strange
point where the only way that we can socialize is to eat.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It's an Italian thing.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Is it?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I think so.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, I mean, what we do, food is involved.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, food is pretty important.


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, sure.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: It's like cars. It's like...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Try going without food for a week.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: But we've made it so important. At least this is the story
my wife tells me. She says, `Food is not that important. This business of
three squares a day, forget about it.'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, we could do other things, but whenever I try to get
my brother, for example, to appreciate nature...


Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: We were in San Francisco a few years ago, and I managed to
lure him out of the hotel to go for a walk in the Muir Woods to see the
coastal redwoods.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I was drinking espresso maquiato in the cafe.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Right. So I tell him they have espresso maquiato...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: In the Muir Woods.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: the Muir Woods.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Lied to me.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And he cried and moaned the whole time. We were there for
about two hours.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Have you been there, Terry?

GROSS: I have actually.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Yeah. Well...

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: It's breathtakingly beautiful, isn't it?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI:'s what happens. We drive there, and just to drive
there was, I thought, pleasant enough. Then we park in the parking lot, and
then there's this long walk, where you're walking under these monstrous trees,
What are those, anyway? Sequoias?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And it's--redwoods.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Redwoods.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: And it's--the walkway is paved so that...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: The walkway is paved.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: ...people in wheelchairs can access it.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Exactly. So you walked out to the end of this thing, which
is--I don't know, a couple of hundred yards. I mean, it's a long way, and
what that does is it brings you to the entrance to the trails.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: At which point my brother says, `OK, that's enough. Let's
turn around and go back to the hotel.'

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I walk to the end of the thing, I said, `That was great.'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: `Where's the espresso?'

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And I turn around to leave and he says, `No, no, no, no,
no.' Four hours later, we're trudging through--who knows what we're trudging
through, and what am I seeing?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Fighting off dinosaurs.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Carbon copies of the very same trees that I had seen on the
first hundred yards.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Well, you're just a yahoo and there's no--I mean, you
couldn't for a moment stand there and appreciate the serenity and the
uniqueness of every tree.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: I did. I did do that. I stood there, I appreciated the
serenity and it was time to go back to the city.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Oh, my God.

GROSS: One last question. You're both most famous for cars. You must drive
a lot. And yet, from what I understand, you don't leave home very much. You
don't go very far from home, in spite of all the cars that you have. Is that
right? And why do you not like to go far?

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Well, I can speak quickly on that one. I mean, A, I've
already been every place and, B, I hate airplanes, airlines, airports and
everyone remotely associated with the airline or transportation industry.
Does that cover it?

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Don't hold anything back.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: So, yeah, you're right. I hang around.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I, on the other hand, travel and I haven't of late
traveled, but we've, you know, made the obligatory trip to Europe and we've
seen the entire of the 48 states, I think...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: And every God damn tree... Get this. He comes back from
one of his wonderful trips out West where he rents a car and drives around for
a hundred days. I don't know. And he gets back and he says, `Hey, want to
see the videotapes of the trip?'

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: I had 200 hours of raw videotape filmed through the
windshield of...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Filmed through the windshield of his car. Trees through
the windshield of his car, in many cases with the windshield wipers, and so 10
of us are sitting there in front of the TV watching windshield wipers go back
and forth, looking out the windshield. That's his idea of a good time.

GROSS: Well, thanks so much for coming, and...

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: Terry, it's a pleasure.

GROSS: ...really enjoyed talking with you.

Mr. T. MAGLIOZZI: You're a wonderful person.

Mr. R. MAGLIOZZI: Thanks for inviting us.

GROSS: Tom and Ray Magliozzi are the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" and authors of
the book "In Our Humble Opinion."

This is FRESH AIR.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New TV show "That's My Bush"

The creators of the animated TV series "South Park" have a new series
premiering tonight on Comedy Central. It's a live-action sitcom about life in
the White House and stars Timothy Bottoms as President George W. Bush. TV
critic David Bianculli has this review.


I'd better start out by explaining where I stand on "South Park." That's the
Comedy Central series and recently the movie about a bunch of grade-school
students. It's crudely drawn and it's crude, period. Lots of insults,
bizarre situations, bleeped obscenities and outrageous characters. Usually
I'm not big on raw crude. "WWF Smackdown!" on UPN strikes me as a colossal
waste of time. "Son of the Beach," the FX cable network's "Baywatch" parody
produced by Howard Stern, is too dumb to watch, even though, if a program ever
existed to be ridiculed, it's "Baywatch." But "South Park," I like. There
are ideas behind the misbehavior, and creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone
attack pop culture like a cartoon Mad magazine run amok. Somehow, they find
ways to pick on everyone from Brian Boitano to Saddam Hussein and make it
work. Plus, their show features the funniest musical interludes this side of
"The Simpsons."

So I came to the new Parker and Stone series with high expectations. The time
definitely is right for political satire in a weekly series. "Saturday Night
Live," after all, did its best work in years lampooning Bush and Al Gore
during the never-ending presidential campaign last fall. And when Timothy
Bottoms was cast as George W. Bush, it sounded like a sure thing. A
generation ago, Bottoms starred as the earnest young Texas hero of "The Last
Picture Show." Now as a middle-aged man, he not only has the accent down, he
looks uncannily like the real George W. Bush.

In addition to Bottoms as the president, this new sitcom stars Carrie Quinn
Dolin as the first lady, Kurt Fuller as Karl Rove and Marcia Wallace from "The
Bob Newhart Show" as a sassy housekeeper. It also features Kristen Miller as
a beautiful but dumb secretary and John D'Aguino a goofy White House
neighbor--all standard sitcom staples.

The problem, though, is that Parker and Stone are much more interested in
making fun of sitcoms than of politics. Their series, which launches tonight
on Comedy Central, is called "That's My Bush," and it's full of standard jokes
and rejoinders and riske remarks. And while I initially thought the studio
audience was playing along and acting like one of those rude crowds from
"Married...With Children," it turns out there is no audience, just Parker and
Stone fiddling with the soundtrack in post-production and adding loud laughter
after every joke and even rude sounds whenever the secretary says anything or
walks anywhere. To say that this gets old fast is an understatement.

(Soundbite from "That's My Bush")

Mr. TIMOTHY BOTTOMS: My fellow Americans, this week I plan to unite our
country and bring both sides of the abortion issue together in a historic
summit. Abortion is a very serious, very personal issue, and let me assure
all of you that tonight you promised to have dinner with Laura.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOTTOMS: I mean, let me show all of you out. I'll do my best. Good

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOTTOMS: Laura, you have to stop putting reminder messages to me in the

Ms. CARRIE QUINN DOLIN: I just don't want you to forget our dinner plans and
you don't have time to talk to me.

Mr. BOTTOMS: I'm talking to you now.

Ms. DOLIN: All right, fine. I was thinking...

Ms. KRISTEN MILLER: Mr. President?

(Soundbite of catcalls and cheers)

Ms. MILLER: Mr. President? Mr. President, I was reviewing your schedule on
my PalmPilot and realized you only have 10 minutes to save the Earth from
the Zinthians.

Mr. BOTTOMS: That's not a PalmPilot, princess, that's a Game Boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MILLER: Well, wait. Then what's this?

Mr. BOTTOMS: That's a cheeseburger.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOTTOMS: Come on, princess. Let's have another review session.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: In theory, I still like the idea for "That's My Bush." I like
that plots involve federal executions and abortion debate summits instead of
forgotten anniversaries and poorly cooked dinners. And when Fuller's Rove in
next week's show launches a diatribe against improv comedy, I like that, too.
Unfortunately, it was the only time I laughed during the two episodes I
previewed. Making fun of sitcoms is one thing, but if you're going to do it,
you ought to at least make sure you're funnier than the comedies you're

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

This is NPR, National Public Radio.
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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