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Other segments from the episode on May 18, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 18, 2005: Interview with Ryan Murphy; Commentary on Frank Werber.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
From 'Nip/Tuck' To High School 'Glee'


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross.

The new Fox musical-comedy series, “Glee,” about a high-school glee
club, will have a special preview episode tomorrow night, right after
“American Idol’s” final night of competition, but the series won’t begin
until the fall.

My guest Ryan Murphy is the creator of “Glee.” He also co-created the WB
teen-comedy series “Popular” and the FX series “Nip/Tuck,” about two
cosmetic surgeons. Murphy directed the film adaptation of the Augusten
Burroughs’ book, “Running with Scissors.”

“Glee” is about a high-school teacher trying to put together a winning
glee club with a group of students who are largely unpopular misfits,
and with a couple of exceptions, don’t appear to be particularly

Reviewing “Glee” in Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker called the show:
terrific. Here’s a scene of some students auditioning for the glee club.

(Soundbite of television program, “Glee”)

Ms. AMBER RILEY (Actor): (As Mercedes) My name is Mercedes Jones, and
I’m singing

(Soundbite of song, “Respect”)

Ms. RILEY: (As Mercedes) (Singing) R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means
to me. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take care TCB. Hey baby, yeah.

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Hello, I’m (Unintelligible),
and I’ll be singing “Mr. Cellophane.”

(Soundbite of song, “Mr. Cellophane”)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Singing) Cellophane,
Mr. Cellophane, should’ve been my name, Mr. Cellophane ‘cuz you can look
right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there, never even
know I’m there.

(Soundbite of song, “Kissed A Girl”)

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (As character) (Unintelligible) “Kissed A
Girl.” It’s not what I’m used to, just want to try you on. I’m curious
for you, caught my attention. I kissed a girl, and I liked it…

(Soundbite of school bell)

GROSS: Ryan Murphy, welcome to FRESH AIR. Now you know, the premise of
this show is that there’s a teacher trying to put together a really good
show choir who can make it to the nationals and even win, even though
he’s working with this kind of like ragtag group.

I’m not familiar with a show choir, and I assume that these exist, that
you didn’t just make it up for the series, but the show choir, it’s like
a choir, and it’s a singing competition, but what they compete with is
big, like, song-and-dance production numbers. It’s not just, you know,
people in robes standing there singing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RYAN MURPHY (Creator, “Glee”): No. I mean, it was an interesting.
When I was a kid, I was in choir, but it was, you know, 16 of us in sad-
looking tuxedos and acetate dresses, singing, you know, Christmas songs.
But the world has changed since then. When we started writing this, we
would go into YouTube, and we would look at these videos of these
extravaganzas, and they are literally like Broadway-level shows.

I mean, we were working with a choir, during the pilot, from Burbank who
I think literally would spend $100,000 a year on costumes and sets in
production value. So they had, I think, one woman who was a full-time
sequin-sewer. So we sort of tap into that a little bit, but on our show,
you know, our show was about underdogs, but we have the world’s worst
glee club, and I think the fun of the show, to me, is being able to sort
of chart these kids who have nothing going for them but heart and, you
know, natural talent, and then over the course of the series, they will
hopefully become national champions.

GROSS: So while you were going onto YouTube to look at all these show-
choir production numbers, what were some of the most unlikely songs that
you saw show choirs do?

Mr. MURPHY: I think – you know, it was very interesting about how moving
it was to me. I was not expected to be so moved by it, but I think
there’s nothing more moving than kids singing and performing their
hearts out, just because it seems like they’re tapping into something so

MARTIN: That’s why I’ll even look at, like, high-school musicals

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s sweet, and you know, I remember
being that age, and when you do perform, and you are in high school, I
mean, I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, but I thought that I was on
Broadway. You know, you have this sort of weird misconception that the
whole world is open to you, and maybe that’s not a misconception, maybe
it’s the truth, but I pulled from that.

That feeling is in the show, but to answer your question, the funniest
thing I saw was a boy-band tribute, where they did like a medley of 15
boy-band songs that I thought was pretty amazing, but they did it
through the prism of Western wear. So they all wore cowboy outfits, and
so it was sort of this weird smash-up of elements that you kind of can’t
believe would work, but it did, and it worked because it was just so
earnest, they believed in it so much, and that’s what I loved about it.

GROSS: So how did you go about, like, shopping for songs that you should
use, and what were some of the more unlikely ones you decided on? I’ll
name on: “I Kissed a Girl” for the audition.

Mr. MURPHY: Right. The best part of my job is I pick all the songs, and
people ask me how I do it, and it’s just bizarre. I don’t really know.
Like for instance when we were doing the pilot, there was the sort of
arch-nemesis group, the world’s best show choir that’s competing against
our little ragtag group of losers called Vocal Adrenaline, and they’re
sort of like, you know, the neo-Nazis of show choir, that they train for
12 hours a day, and there really are groups like this. So it’s not too
much of a leap of faith.

But I wanted them to do something that was sort of big and ironic, and
then I was in my car, and I was listening to the Amy Winehouse album
“Back to Black,” and “Rehab” came on, and I thought well, that’s it
because I think it would be funny for 16-year-olds to be singing about
rehab and not really knowing what they’re singing about, put through a
prism of show choir.

So that’s how we did that. There are other songs that, you know, I just
loved as a kid. Like you know, we’re working on a show where we do a big
finale to the Queen song “Somebody to Love.” We’re doing our version of
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Also the show was fun in that, you
know, we try and pick songs where there’s something for everybody.

You know, in almost every episode, we’ll have a standard, we’ll have a
Broadway, we’ll have an R&B, we’ll have a Top 40, we’ll have a hip-hop.
We’re doing country and western. So we’re trying to hit everything.

GROSS: Now one of the kids in the choir is, like, the real nerdy guy who
plays a real, like shredding guitar, but he’s in a wheelchair.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

GROSS: So how do you cast, like, the nerdy guy in the wheelchair? Like
what were you looking for for that character?

Mr. MURPHY: For every character. You know, I mean, I think when you do a
show like this, you need to do archetypes, but you also need to do
things that are just original, and I wanted to do a character that, from
day one, is in a wheelchair and remains in a wheelchair for the rest of
the show, and the show is really about – you know, the show choir thing
I think is a metaphor for being different and embracing your difference
and being able to express yourself no matter how hard or how much pain
you’re in.

So for instance for that character, we just read and read and read, and
the actor we cast, his name is Kevin McHale. He actually was in a boy
band and is in a boy band, and I think the name of their boy band is – I
think it’s called Not Like Us.

But he’s hilarious, and we actually had to give him what we call a make-
under because, you know, in this boy-band stuff, he’s in his tight
little T-shirts and come-hither looks, and we sort of put him in these
polyester, horror-show outfits, but that’s how we cast that part. We
just read and read, and you know, the rule was the best performer wins
for every role, and that’s how we cast it.

GROSS: Now in the TV series, “Glee,” there is a jock who it turns sings
really well, and he’s kind of recruited into the – enlisted into the
glee club, and he’s accused by one of his fellow jocks of joining the
homo explosion. Were you accused of being gay when you were in choir –
and you are gay – so what…?

Mr. MURPHY: I had a very strange experience with that. I mean, I’m from
Indiana, which is a very conservative state, and I don’t know what
happened to me or by what grace of God I sort of was imbued with all
this confidence, but I dealt with my sexuality at a very early age. I
was 15, and I just sort of announced it, and I was that, and I guess
because I was popular, and I hung out with popular kids, you know, one
of my best friends - and who is still one of my best friends - was the
quarterback, I kind of was embraced.

People didn’t really understand me, but I projected a certain confidence
so they left me alone. I mean, certainly I got teased a little bit, but
I had a very sort of wicked tongue, and I could go right back at them.
So it didn’t last very long. But looking back on it, I’m sort of moved
by the fact that I didn’t have a struggle, and I know so many people who
did have a struggle and were terrified of dealing with it, and I dealt
with it with my parents very early on.

And they, of course, were not happy about it. And they, of course, took
me to therapy. But I had a great therapist who, after two sessions,
basically called my parents in and said this is who your son is, and
this is who he’s always going to be. And you either have a choice to
love him or accept him, or he will leave you, and it’s your choice. And
they sort of said okay, and they chose accepting me, and so we never
really had much drama about it again.

GROSS: Oh, you are so lucky, especially since they were - the parents
who wanted you to change were the ones who put you into therapy and to
find a therapist who got it is kind of so lucky and amazing.

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah, you know, and I don’t blame my parents about that at
all. I mean, also I was 15 and having an affair with a 22-year-old,
which was not good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right.

Mr. MURPHY: When I have a child, and I will, I would not allow that to
happen, either. So I sort of look back… Yeah, but certainly I write
about all that, and you know, as we move to series, we have I think a
very moving storyline about a father who is coming to terms with the
fact that his child is singing and is different, and he’s a blue-collar
guy. And a friend of mine who is a great actor named Mike O’Malley plays
the father of the gay character, who works at a tire shop and just
cannot believe the fact that his son is dealing with skin care and
astringents and singing. And that is to a certain degree based on my
life a little bit, but you know, the show is – that’s one-tenth of the
show. The show I think is so much more consuming about every aspect of
being young, not just that.

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Murphy, the creator of the new Fox series
“Glee.” Here’s the version that’s performed in “Glee” by a champion show

(Soundbite of song, “Rehab”)

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) They tried to
make me go to rehab, and I said no, no, no. Yes, I’ve bad, but when I
come back you’ll know, know, know. I ain't got the time, and my daddy
thinks I'm fine. He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go, go,

I'd rather be at home with Ray. I ain't got 70 days, ‘cuz there's
nothing, nothing you can teach me that I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway.
I didn't get a lot in class, but I know it don't come in a shot glass.

They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said no, no, no…

GROSS: We’ll talk more with the creator of “Glee,” Ryan Murphy, and hear
about creating his series, “Nip/Tuck,” after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Murphy, the creator of the new Fox musical-
comedy series “Glee,” about a high-school glee club. A preview episode
will be shown tomorrow night after “American Idol.”

Now in “Glee,” all the kids in it are in some ways losers. Like everyone
in it is in some way a loser.

Mr. MURPHY: They’re all losers.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. MURPHY: Yeah.

GROSS: And it sounds like when you were in high school, you were pretty
popular and confident. So why do you relate to losers so much?

Mr. MURPHY: Well because I was different, you know, and my friends were
different. I had two groups of people. I had a group called the clique -
there were eight of us - and then I had my other group of friends. And
the group that we called the clique were all the people who were like in
drama club or in honor society. And we were just different and unusual,
and our dreams were bigger than where we were, and we wanted to get out,
and that feeling I really understand.

And that’s the sort of the feeling that’s in all those characters, that
you know, that their dreams are so big that their little heads almost
can’t contain them. That’s what’s moving to me, and I certainly draw on
my experience when we’re writing the show in that way.

GROSS: So “Glee” is going to have a preview, like an episode shown, on
Tuesday, May 19. So it’s like the day before the finale of “American
Idol,” and the series doesn’t actually start until September.

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

GROSS: It’s genius in a way, isn’t it, to start a series about a singing
competition right after “American Idol,” but who came up with the idea?

Mr. MURPHY: Well you know, even when I pitched the show to them, what I
said was I’m not interested in having characters sort of walk down a
hallway and break into song. I’m not interested in that. I want the
performances to be sort of rooted in performance on a stage or in
rehearsal like “American Idol,” and I don’t want original music. I want
to interpret songs from kids now and sort of see their versions of it.

And that’s what “American Idol” is. It’s sort of the great, one-hour
karaoke show, and we wanted that – that feeling is what I wanted on my

So we did the pilot, and when we turned it in, we started production in
February, and they called me around in March, and they said look, we
have this idea, which is to sort of preview it after the penultimate
episode of “American Idol” this year, and what do you think? And I said
well, I don’t know. That seems a little scary to me because, you know,
then the show will be off the air for three months. It doesn’t make
sense to me.

But what they then said that they were going to do was, you know, they
said look at it as a marketing opportunity, and that’s what I’m looking
at it as, and I think it’s very smart. To me, it’s like having a movie
trailer before James Cameron’s “Titanic.” It’s just, like, a really
great thing to do. It’s just about sampling the show right now, because
it’s an original show. It’s a different tone. I think people have to be
sort of educated about what they’re watching before they watch it.

GROSS: Music rights are so expensive. Like if you want to perform a song
in a series, it can cost a fortune, especially if it’s a popular song.
So how are you handling the music rights for “Glee.” Do you have access
to the “American Idol” songbook because Fox already paid for the rights?

Mr. MURPHY: No, we’re not tied into that at all, you know. And the
interesting thing about – even when we were writing the pilot – is okay,
well let’s try and get “Rehab,” and let’s try and get “Don’t Stop
Believin’,” and chances are we won’t because they don’t license those
songs very often, and B, it’s too expensive. And much to my delight and
surprise, the artists said yeah, we love this idea.

So what is happening with the show is, you know, I just sort of write
what I want to write, and then we go after these big artists, and if
they say no, which they have, we’ve shown them the pilot, and they can
see that their songs can be reinterpreted by kids for a different
audience, and then nine times out of 10, they’ve all said okay, we love
this idea. Let’s do it.

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Murphy, the creator of the new musical-comedy
series “Glee.” The preview episode will be shown tomorrow night on Fox,
after “American Idol.”

Murphy also created the FX series “Nip/Tuck” about two successful
plastic surgeons. Here’s a scene from this season’s opening episode
featuring the two surgeons, Dr. Sean McNamara, played by Dylan Walsh,
and Dr. Christian Troy, played by Julian McMahon. The prospective
patient is the anesthesiologist from their practice, Dr. Liz Cruz,
played by Roma Maffia.

(Soundbite of television program, “Nip/Tuck”)

Mr. JULIAN McMAHON (Actor): (As Dr. Christian Troy) Tell me what you
don’t like about yourself.

Ms. ROMA MAFFIA (Actor): (As Dr. Liz Cruz) My back. It’s in agony from
supporting my front.

Mr. DYLAN WALSH (Actor): (As Dr. Sean McNamara) A breast reduction? Oh,
I don’t know, Liz. Those are your two best assets.

Ms. MAFFIA: (As Cruz) They’re like having a pair of Louis Vuitton bags.
They’re great to look at, but they’re not a lot of fun to lug around.
Look, I have wanted this for a long time, and I figured what better time
than now? My boobs will be the first thing you get to put your hands on.

Mr. WALSH: (As McNamara) That’s very sweet of you, Liz.

Mr. McMAHON: (As Troy) Don’t you worry, buddy. You won’t be scaling
those mountains alone. That’s a two-man job if ever I’ve seen one.

Mr. WALSH: (As McNamara) Well, you seem like a perfectly good candidate.
I’d recommend a post reduction.

Mr. McMAHON: (As Troy) All right, fantastic. Why don’t we say tomorrow?
The sooner she gets her boobs reduced, the sooner we can give her belly
button some room to breathe.

GROSS: That episode of “Nip/Tuck” began with an opening line that all
the episodes begin with - What don’t you like about yourself? – a
question I suspect viewers ask and answer about themselves.

Ryan Murphy told me how he came up with that line and with the idea for
the series.

Mr. MURPHY: I was a journalist before I was a writer and a director, and
I went undercover to do an article about plastic surgery in Beverly
Hills. And I was going to write this sort of hilarious, snarky article
about calf implants for men, which had just come out, which I thought
was absolutely insane and ridiculous. And basically what that is they
look like plastic shoe horns that you shove up under the muscle in your
calf, and it gives you definition. So it’s a great way to look like you
go to the gym everyday when you don’t.

But I went into this plastic surgeon’s office, and I’m not allowed to
mention his name, and I pretended I was just there to get calf implants,
and he used that line on me - Tell me what you don’t like about yourself
– which started me into a spasm of, well – and I was young at the time.
I think I was like 28, but he – by the hour-long – the end of the hour-
long consult, he had me convinced about a lot of things, and he actually
said to me in the meeting, you know, beauty is symmetry, and I’ve used
that on the show so many times.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. MURPHY: So the line came – I left that meeting, that consult with
the plastic surgeon, and A, I didn’t write the article; and B, it sort
of threw me because he really made me feel that I would have a happier,
better life it I would just sort of work on what he deemed my physical
imperfections. But that line came from him, and I’ve used it every
episode, and it does what you said it does. The audience, I think, can
really relate to it because everybody has stood in front of a mirror and
looked at their face and thought, well, what if I do that, or what if I
fix that, and that moment came from that guy.

GROSS: Ryan Murphy will be back in the second half of the show. He’s the
creator of the FX series “Nip/Tuck” and the new Fox musical-comedy
series “Glee,” which will have a preview episode tomorrow night right
after “American Idol.” The series premieres in the fall. Here’s the glee
club singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I’m Terry Gross, and this

(Soundbite of song, “Don’t Stop Believin’”)

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) Just a small-
town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train going
anywhere. Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit. He took the
midnight train going anywhere.

I seen her in a smoky room, the smell of wine and cheap perfume. For a
smile they can share the night, it goes on and on and on and on…

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross back with Ryan Murphy, the
creator of the new Fox musical comedy series "Glee" about a high school
glee club. A preview episode will be shown tomorrow night after
"American Idol." Murphy also created FX series "Nip/Tuck" about two
successful plastic surgeons. Each episode of "Nip/Tuck" starts with one
of the doctors asking a perspective patient, what don't you like about
yourself? When we left off, Murphy told us he first heard that line when
he was a journalist reporting on plastic surgery.

Can I ask what you said about yourself when the surgeon said what don't
you like about yourself?

Mr. RYAN MURPHY (Creator of "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee"): I was stunned and I
didn’t say anything and he took out this really bizarre measuring thing
and had me convinced that with my right ear was like a millimeter higher
than my left and that like that was throwing off my face, and that life
was all about first impressions, and even though didn’t know it, if I
got my ear fixed then people would look at me differently. It was just
really this convoluted crazy thing. But he put me in touch. He wanted me
to write the article because he thought it would be good publicity and
he put me in touch with couple of his patients and then I spoke to them
and they were all just these amazingly I felt sad people who were
working on the wrong things, and that's what I felt at the end of that
session, that I was like maybe I should go to a shrink instead of a
plastic surgeon.

GROSS: And did you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: But I did. But you know the funny thing about "Nip/Tuck" is
to me is it's always been a show that's completely against plastic
surgery. It is a show that basically says to the culture you’re working
on the wrong things. And I'm always amazed that somehow people think
that the show is pro plastic surgery. And indeed, I've gotten letters
and calls from people who had procedures that they’ve seen on the show
because they think that it would make them look better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: So apparently I didn’t do my job, but...

GROSS: Well let me tell you why I find that really impossible to
believe. The procedures that you show, it's so hideous to watch and

Mr. MURPHY: I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ... like you're watching like rear ends split opened so that
implants could be put in.

Mr. MURPHY: Uh-huh. Yes.

GROSS: ... and you're watching lipo and it’s oh, it’s just gruesome to
watch. I'm sure every surgery, I'm sure tonsillectomies are probably
gruesome to watch and appendectomies that you need done and...

Mr. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ... open-heart surgery which you need done. But nevertheless,
it's gruesome. And to sit and watch this and think how can I get one of

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: I agree with you. I...

GROSS: Really hard for me to imagine.

Mr. MURPHY: And when I pitch the show I was very adamant about that. I
wanted to show the violence of the surgeries because I said unless you
do, it's like doing a cop show where you where none of the cops ever
fired the guns. It makes no sense. And that's the thing I've battled you
know with broadcast standards and practices the most about how far can
you be realistic with what your showing you know? But to FX's credit
they’ve always let me do, and you know with the rare exception I've have
had to change any of the surgery's content because I think that they
realized that you know that that's what this show is about and we have
to show what happens in these surgeries.

But you’re right. They're horrific, and violent, and scary, and to the
point that you know we devise the show for the audience. You know a
surgery is coming when you have a Bang & Olufsen CD player, when they
open up that CD player to put that CD in because we always score those
surgeries to pop music. A lot of people say to me I know that's where I
have to either fast forward through or I’ll turn away or I’ll go into
the kitchen and get something to eat because the surgeries are pretty in
your face.

GROSS: Yes. Well you know you told us how you came up with idea of
plastic surgery as the center of a series, but you know "Nip/Tuck" is
also part crime show, part family drama.

Mr. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Well how did you come up with the idea of putting all that
together into one package?

Mr. MURPHY: Well the thing with "Nip/Tuck" is - I always feel that
"Nip/Tuck" has been you know, very misunderstood. To me the show was
really sort of a look at the culture that we were living in then that is
now, I think, kind of ending, which I think it's fitting that the show
is ending after a hundred episodes. You know I created that show at the
height of the in the beginning I felt of the luxury consumer industry
where I felt that everything in our culture was incredibly Baroque and
overdone and oversaturated. So I wanted to do a show that was just about
too much excess, too much everything, too much, too many choices
available to you, too much placating. And my jumping off point for the
show actually was Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." I thought that's what I
wanted to do. I wanted to do a show about the creation of this monster
in our culture.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Hopefully people have gotten the idea that we really are
satirizing the culture and that's why the show has always had so much in
it - so much crime, so much sex, so much surgery, so much money, so much
glamour, so much skin. It was always about excess.

GROSS: Now you live in the LA area where a lot of people have had
cosmetic surgery in part because it’s a, there's a lot of wealthy
communities there, and part because a lot of actors live there who are
almost like required nowadays to get plastic surgery in order to get the
parts - sadly. Can you always tell? Do you feel like...

Mr. MURPHY: I can always tell. I'm really good at that.

GROSS: What do you look for?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: I don’t know. It's sort of like my friends have a joke with
me that I can spot you know, I can spot any amount of plastic surgery at
10 paces and I think it's just because I've watched so many operations
and I'm so familiar with the surgeries now after doing this show for six
years. The thing that's interesting about plastic surgery in Hollywood,
I feel, is that it’s sort of on the wane. I think they're you know, I
remember when we first started to do casting for "Nip/Tuck" I would say
95 percent of the women who came through that door had breast implants.
They just did. It was sort of like you know it was the trend at the
time. And also the big overinflated, horrible lips.

But with every passing year you see less, and less, and less of that.
And, in fact, many of these actresses have had those implants and lips
taken out or underemphasized because it cost them roles. They don't look
real. They can play sort of the hot chick with a window of four years
and then you know it doesn't work anymore. And I think the culture has
turned against that look. I think that you know it used to be a sign, as
we're you know as we were writing the last episodes we're trying to sum
up well what was this era about? And I think you know plastic surgery in
its day was sort of seen as luxury item and a status symbol. But now
it's so affordable and it's so cheap and anybody can get it. You can get
it at a strip mall - that it's no longer I think like wearing the new
Chanel sweater or carrying the new Dior bag. It's sort of it's taken on
a different tacky vibe, I think. And I think that you know now plastic
surgery is not so much about the surgeries and the barbarism of the
face-lifts, it's about injectables and less radical ways to preserve

GROSS: Well you had your fun with Botox on "Nip/Tuck" too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: I did. I had a lot of fun with Botox over the years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Different and new and unusual ways to kill people with Botox
and we sort of did it all.

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Murphy, the creator of the FX series "Nip/Tuck"
and the new Fox musical comedy series "Glee." We'll talk more after our

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Murphy. He created the FX series "Nip/Tuck" and
the new Fox musical comedy series "Glee."

Now you covered Hollywood for the Miami Herald (unintelligible)...

Mr. MURPHY: A lot of places the Washington Post, Miami Herald, Daily
News. Yes. LA Times.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So you covered Hollywood before actually becoming
a part of it in the sense of like creating television shows.

Mr. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: When you were just like covering it and you were writing about
you know new shows, and you know, the lives of famous actors and stuff,
did you think I really want to be a part of that, or did you think oh I
could do that or I could do better than that? Like what was your
relationship to Hollywood as a journalist and did you want to get deeper
into it?

Mr. MURPHY: I did. I mean I always wanted to do that. I couldn't really
afford to go to film school even though I was accepted. But I always, in
the back of my mind, thought well I'll get out there somehow. I don't
know how and how it happened was I was transferred to LA at a very young
age. I was sort of like the LA bureau chief of the Miami Herald back
when newspapers had money and could afford to do things like that. And I
was going to start writing about news, but there's not a lot of news in
LA so it became about celebrities and the business of Hollywood and all
that stuff. And I had a syndicated column and it never was that I wanted
to be a part of it, I just, at one point I think what happened was I had
interviewed Cher for the fifth time and I as like okay, you got to do
something else.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: Even though I love her, I can’t keep writing about her. We
had joke about it. But… And I went and I wrote a script, and - at night
when I was done working, I would stay up every night till like three in
the morning writing. And I sold that script to Steven Spielberg and that
started my career. It just sort of happened. It was very miraculous and
- easy is the wrong word because guess that I had been preparing for
that moment all along. But I literally just sort of wrote it, sold it,
and fell into it and have never stopped working since. So it...

GROSS: What was the script?

Mr. MURPHY: It was a great script. It's never been made but it’s called
"Why Can't I be Audrey Hepburn?" That was a big romantic comedy and
Spielberg particularly to a shine to it because he directed Audrey
Hepburn in her last movie which was "Always," so he had a great
relationship with her. And it was just about what she means as a
metaphor in terms of romantic comedy to so many people and this sort of
this paragon of style that so many girls at a particular age always aim
to emulate.

GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Ryan Murphy. He's the
creator of the FX series "Nip/Tuck" and the new Fox series "Glee" which
is about a high school glee club or a show choir. And that new series
has a preview right after the next to the last episode of "American
Idol" on Tuesday, May 19th.

So your parents were religious; they were church people. Did that make
it harder for them when you came out?

Mr. MURPHY: Probably. Yes. I think you know we were Catholic and that
was a you know, the things you don’t want to do when you're a Catholic
person is talk about abortion or gay rights. So yes, I think it probably
was more difficult for them. And I went to Catholic school as well.

GROSS: Well so how did you deal with Catholic school and with going to
church. I mean you had been in the church choir. Once you were out like
could you stay in Catholic school?

Mr. MURPHY: I only went to Catholic school when I was in you know first
through eighth grade. But I was just a weird kid. I mean I really, I
lived in a weird fantasy land and I was obsessed with you know movies
and TV shows and books and anything to sort of get me out of there and I
got through Catholic school because I became obsessed with the idea that
I could be the Pope.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: I was very...

GROSS: You got to be kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: No, I was - I wanted to be Pope. It was like - and so in
first grade I announced to family that I really wanted to be Pope and I
was very confused about how do you be the pope. And so my mother would
tell me that you became the pope by not committing any sins, so I would
sort of begin my day every morning with a prayer, please don't let me
sin. And, of course, by the time I got off the bus I would've committed
three and I was like well this day's ruined. I'll start again tomorrow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: But I would practice with my staff and I had this outfit of
robes. I would pretend to, I mean I was really into it for very very
many years, and then slowly it dawned on me that I would not be able to
go through a day committing no sin, and chances were that I wasn't going
to be the pope. So I had to come up with another dream because I wasn't
interested in just a priest. I wanted to aim really, really high.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: But that was my childhood.

GROSS: Outside of being like the top guy, why did you want to be pope?

Mr. MURPHY: I was also obsessed with a book about the saints and I
thought it would really cool to be the pope because then you could
decide who would get to be saints. And I was very interested in that
process of sort of sitting people down or investigating them and
figuring out what if what they had done made them worthy of that. I
don't know I was just very drawn to it. I think it’s the same - there's
no difference to me in my head about the little six year-old kid who was
obsessed with “Funny Girl” and who wanted to be the pope. It's the same
thing. You just wanted a way out. You wanted a way to express yourself
and just sort of not staying in Indiana and be an insurance salesman or
a farmer. And they both were so grand and bigger than life, I was just
drawn to that. And I was actually encouraged by my friends and family to
keep doing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: So I did. I was just a weird little kid. I liked weird
little things.

GROSS: So since you had at one point wanted to be pope, when you came

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ... and you were kind of persona-non-grada...

Mr. MURPHY: Doesn't it sound ridiculous?

GROSS: Well...

Mr. MURPHY: That you wanted to be the pope but did. It's sad. I did.

GROSS: Yes whatever you know. But so when you came out and making your
little kind of officially persona-non-grada in he Catholic church, did
it hurt to be rejected by the church or were you already done with the
church by then?

Mr. MURPHY: I was already kind of done with the church in an early age,
but I'm very very glad that had that religious upbringing because you
know it really taught me about storytelling and it really taught me
about theatricality. I mean you know the Easter services and the idea of
people being raised from the dead and curing leprosy and the, you know,
the stations of the cross and all that stuff I was really drawn to and I
realize now that I was probably drawn to it because it was just about a
way to tell a story.

And so, I feel like I was very well served by that. And I still go to
church, you know, even though the church is not very embracing. As a
whole, I think if you look at individual archdiocese, you see that, you
know, many of the priests and the nuns and the people who work at the
church are so, I do go to church. I go to church, you know, here in Los
Angeles and I have always been embraced in the church. The different
kind of churches that I go to seem to have a sort of large gay
contingency and no one says anything. So, I just think that it’s a
different world than it was. I don’t think anything is black or white

GROSS: As the creator of “Glee,” which is a musical and a music

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …about music competitions, I have to ask to you if you could get
up on stage now and sing any one song, what would you choose?

Mr. MURPHY: That’s a good one. It would probably have to be “Don’t Rain
on My Parade” because I remember that was the first movie I ever saw and
“Funny Girl.” And I practiced that one a lot with a kitchen spoon in
front of the mirror…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MURPHY: …so I would probably give that one a try.

GROSS: Well, I wish I could see it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Ryan Murphy, thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. MURPHY: Thank you.

GROSS: Ryan Murphy created the new musical comedy series “Glee.” Fox
will show a preview episode tomorrow night after “American Idol.”
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Trident And The San Francisco Rock Scene


The rise of the San Francisco rock scene in the mid-1960s is a well
known story, but one which might have taken an entirely different
direction. Before the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead rose to
stardom, Frank Werber of Trident Productions was trying to get his own
stable of artists together. Ed Ward looks at what might have been.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) What’s going on? What makes me think that I
see where I’ve been wrong? How I come I feel that I’ve been down too
long? Oh, someone tell me please, what’s going on. Why am I seeing
things inside my head?

ED WARD: Frank Werber was in a great place in 1964. A Holocaust survivor
who'd worked his way up the show business ladder, he'd gotten a million
dollars when the Kingston Trio, the act he'd groomed and developed since
they were frat boys at Menlo College south of San Francisco, signed to
Decca Records. He invested in real estate, including a turn-of-the-
century skyscraper, eight stories was skyscraping when it was built,
called the Columbus Towers and installed San Francisco's best recording
studio in its basement.

Next he needed talent. And John Stewart of the Kingston Trio told him
about a group called the Ridgerunners in Los Angeles that his brother
Michael was playing in. Stewart took them into his studio as the Michael
Stewart Quintet, and sent Werber the tapes. Here the next logical step
passed the Kingston Trio. Folk harmonies with a light electric overlay.
Werber moved the band north, rehearsed them at his house, and took them
into Columbus Recorders as fast as he could because he heard hit.

(Soundbite of song, “You Were On My Mind”)

WE FIVE (Band): (Singing) When I woke up this morning, you were on my
mind. And you were on my mind. I got troubles, oh. I got worries, oh. I
got wounds to bind. So I went to the corner just to ease my pains. Just
to ease my pains. I got troubles, oh.

WARD: With the astounding voice of Bev Bivens up front, the band, re-
christened We Five, was soon signed to A&M Records in Los Angeles, which
so far had mostly put out stuff by its co-founder Herb Alpert. It shot
into the top ten in the summer of 1965 and vied with the Byrd’s “Mr.
Tambourine Man” for the title of the first folk rock record. Werber was
probably happy to know that he still had ears for a hit, and soon he was
signing and recording more bands. In 1966, Werber had signed a deal with
Verve, which up to then had mostly been a jazz label, and several
interesting records resulted. Perhaps the most famous is the lost
masterpiece by Blackburn & Snow “Stranger In A Strange Land.”

(Soundbite of song, “Stranger In A Strange Land”)

BLACKBURN & SNOW (Band): (Singing) I am a stranger in a strange land.
Traveling through (unintelligible) what love I can. The love I find
becomes part of the lie. Well, my love, I (unintelligible).

WARD: If this record had come out in early 1966, when it was recorded,
and when interest in Robert Heinlein’s book was peaking among proto-
hippies, it might well have been a hit. But as sort of a symptom of the
problem which would soon destroy Trident, Werber sat on the record for a
full year, killing its chances and Blackburn & Snow’s career. The other
band which might well have made it out of the Trident fold was the
Justice League. They recorded numerous times but nothing was ever

(Soundbite of song, “Love Me Not Tomorrow”)

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Band): (Singing) There’s a (unintelligible) I couldn’t
cry when I was young. I was sheltered by my dreams (unintelligible) in
the sun. But I’m asking you, please don’t go away and say it with me
like you never say, and love me not tomorrow. Love me as a child of
sorrow. Love me not tomorrow, but today. Oh…

WARD: The lyrics aren’t so hot. With better production, “Love Me Not
Tomorrow,” would have fit in with what was happening on the radio in
1966. The band changed its name to West, put out two albums which went
nowhere and disbanded. But two Trident acts were eventually to make
waves on the greater San Francisco scene. The Sons of Champlin were
famous for their energetic shows and Bill Champlin’s great voice.

(Soundbite of song, “Sing Me A Rainbow”)

Mr. BILL CHAMPLIN (Singer): (Singing) Never get tired. I want so much to
have a good time. Doo-doo-roo-doo. Just try to forget that that girl
will never be mine. Never be mine. Sing me a breeze. Sing me a sky. Sing
me a rainbow but don’t play (unintelligible).

WARD: And then there was the Mystery Trend, whose name came from leader
Ron Nagle’s mishearing a Dylan lyric. They were older. Why, Nagle was
going bald. And their songs were too literate for Top 40 Radio.

(Soundbite of song, “Johnny Was A Good Boy”)

MYSTERY TREND (Band): (Singing) (Unintelligible) All his neighbors say
Johnny was a good boy, did what he should, boy. He just wouldn’t act
that way.

WARD: But by the time Verve was ready to make something of its deal with
Trident in 1967, Werber was losing interest. He’d already passed on the
Mamas and Papas, and both the Jefferson Airplane and the Charlatans, two
of the leading groups in town, because he couldn’t deal with their lack
of showmanship as he understood it. That same instinct saw him pushing
more Broadway material on We Five, whose second album, for reasons that
are still not clear, was delayed by a year, sapping the band of
momentum. They broke up that May.

In 1967, when he could have been one of the most important players in
American popular music, Frank Werber folded Trident Productions to
concentrate on his real estate, his boat and his restaurant in
Sausalito, also known as the Trident. In 1968, Werber was busted for 268
pounds of pot and went to prison for six months. Much of his real estate
wound up in the hands of Francis Ford Coppola, whose empire was
administered out of the Columbus Towers. And the Trident restaurant was
a fixture for many years on Sausalito’s waterfront and had the
distinction of being possibly the only restaurant ever robbed by
Frogman. Frank Werber died in 2007.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in the south of France. There is a two-CD anthology
of Trident productions called, “Sing Me A Rainbow” on the Big Beat
label. You can download Podcasts of our show on our Web site, I’m Terry Gross.
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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