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Why Not Al Franken?

Satirist Al Franken, former writer for Saturday Night Live, and creator of Stuart Smalley (author of "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"). His new book is "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency" (Delacorte Press). It's the story of America's first jewish president, himself, Al Franken! His crisis-plagued presidency culminates with his cooperation with the Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings, the release of his personal diaries, and his resignation.


Other segments from the episode on January 13, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 13, 1999: Interview with Al Franken; Commentary on Red Bird Records; Obituary for William Whyte.


Date: JANUARY 13, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011301np.217
Head: Al Franken
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

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

As President Clinton's fate is placed in the hands of the Senate, political satirist Al Franken is imagining what it would be like if he were president. He's written a new book called "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

His book charts his campaign, his fluke election, and his forced resignation after 144 days in office. The book includes all the documents of the Franken presidency: the press interviews, the self-made man memoir, the Bob Woodward expose, and the embarrassing private journals which were published after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that they were not protected by executive privilege.

Al Franken's previous book is the best-seller, "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot." Franken is an alumnus of "Saturday Night Live" and now stars in the newly revived TV series "Late Line," a satire about a late night TV news program.

Let's start with a reading from the new book. Here's candidate Franken drawing the line between his public and private life. He's married to Frannie (ph), who he met after college.

AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN; AUTHOR, "WHY NOT ME: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF THE FRANKEN PRESIDENCY": "Although a child of the '60s, Frannie harbored some traditional views on the sanctity of marriage, views that I now share in principle. I admit that during the "SNL" years I caused pain in my marriage, specifically the sort of pain that might have been caused if I had been repeatedly unfaithful to my wife and spent a number of holidays and anniversaries away from home in the company of a series of mistresses.

When I decided to run for president I knew there would come a time when I would have to address this issue. It's become an unfortunate fact of life that anyone running for president in this day and age must not only present a compelling vision for the future of the country which is time consuming enough, but also expose his private life to the closest possible scrutiny.

As others have pointed out, I am not perfect. No one is perfect. Not my opponent, whoever that may be, he or she is just a man like me. I don't think the American public wants a president who has never had any problems. They want a president who can solve problems, and my wife and I have solved our problems time and time again.

With that in mind, I want to set a few ground rules for the forthcoming campaign. First of all, having already acknowledged causing pain in my marriage I will not dignify with an answer any further questions concerning my past, present or future sexual behavior. This ground rule should not be regarded as an admission that I am currently involved in any improper relationships. It is simply my attempt to elevate the level of discourse beyond the tawdry obsessions of tabloid journalism.

The second ground rule is much like the first ground rule. It is simply that I will not confirm or deny any reports of my involvement in any improper sexual relationships. Again, nothing about this ground rule should be construed as an admission of anything.

Third, I will not be drawn into a debate about what is or is not a proper sexual relationship or, like I said, whether or not I'm having one. I'm just not going to talk about that.

Fourth, my facial expression while I am listening to other people discuss improper sexual relationships should not be construed one way or the other. Also, I would caution the media against employing body language experts or voice stress tests in order to determine whether or not I am having improper sexual relations. If you do, I will sue you.

The next ground rule is a little complicated, so please read it carefully. If, at any point during my candidacy or my term in office, I am accused by a woman of having had improper sexual relations with her my silence should be interpreted as a sincere belief that the woman in question is crazy or a skank or both. Although it would not be appropriate for me to say so out loud.

Finally, listing these ground rules in no way precludes my coming up with more ground rules later."

GROSS: That's Al Franken reading from his new book, "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

Al Franken do you ever wonder who in their right mind now would go into politics?

FRANKEN: Not me. I wouldn't. Part of the reason I wrote this book was that after my last book, "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," a number of people came up to me and asked me to run for public office -- or suggested I do it. And I explained to them I would be a very bad office holder. Part of what this book is about is sort of proving that, because in it I become president and I'm a terrible president.

GROSS: And you're subject to terrible mood swings.

FRANKEN: Yes. Yes. And ultimately the Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the President's Mood Swings subpoenas my diary's, which are very incriminating, and I must resign.

GROSS: Listen, if you really were running for office do you think Larry Flynt would be investigating your private life?

FRANKEN: No, because I'm a Democrat.


You know, I -- it's a little embarrassing to have Larry Flynt sort of on your side. Although he has done some great things that a lot of people don't know about. Because of him every sex shop in California has a wheelchair access ramp.

GROSS: Is that just a joke or is that true?

FRANKEN: No, that's a joke.

GROSS: Just checking.


Just trying to improve my reputation as the worst audience in the world.

FRANKEN: Well, I'm testing the joke and you didn't get it.

GROSS: No, I just wasn't sure if it was true. It could have been true. So what do you think of Flynt's approach to unmasking hypocrisy, as he describes it?

FRANKEN: Well, you know, to me it's sort of like an alcoholic has to hit bottom before he can start recovering. It feels a little like we're hitting bottom on this politics of personal destruction. So I think we have him to thank. Larry Flynt is sort of dictating what's going on now. I think it might be a wake-up call that we should stop this.

GROSS: All of this is forcing us to imagine all politicians having sex lives and what their sex lives are like. Gosh, I mean, even Bob Dole is doing Viagra commercials. Would you compare this to your image of politicians when you were young and the presidents were Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon.

FRANKEN: Well, yeah, when I was young I couldn't imagine JFK having sex.


GROSS: Well, what about LBJ, though, or Eisenhower?

FRANKEN: Well, Ike evidently, of course, had an affair and you got to cut the guy some slack here.


He had a lot of responsibilities then, during the war. And he was away from home. And LBJ, evidently, was a bit of a philanderer. You know, I mean, our past presidents have not had spotless moral lives. Jefferson, evidently, had sex with a slave which is an improper relationship, if you think about it, on at least two counts.

First of all, if you have sex with a slave what message is that sending to the other slaves?


You know, oh, I see, if I have sex with the master I get to be a house slave. And FDR, you know, had sex with a woman not his wife. We've heard that Eleanor Roosevelt may have had sex with a woman not her husband.

GROSS: My guest is political satirist Al Franken. He has a new book in which he imagines his own successful run for the presidency. It's called "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

Why did you decide to write a book that follows through the premise that you decided to run for president and actually got elected?

FRANKEN: Well, it was an opportunity, I thought, to fantasize about running for president and winning. And the other is it gave me an opportunity to basically talk about the process of running for president and, you know, make a scathing satire of the political process, which I think I've done.

And, again, it was kind of addressing this idea that some people thought I'd be a fit office holder.

GROSS: Did people seriously suggest that you run for office?

FRANKEN: Yeah. Well, here's the deal: I think I'm intelligent. I have some notoriety. Fairly -- somewhat well-known. I'm obviously interested in politics. I'm used to being on camera. And I'm very good-looking.


So -- and I've been married for 23 years and have two beautiful children. So, yes, people have said to me, why don't you run for office? And I -- this is my answer, I would be terrible. I'm very indecisive.

GROSS: What reasons does candidate Al Franken give for running?

FRANKEN: Very few reasons. But he -- basically "Why Not Me" is very operative -- as an answer to that question. In the first part of the book I have -- the first little section of the book is that sort of official campaign autobiography like Jimmy Carter wrote, "Why Not the Best." And I write this little book called "Daring to Lead," which explains why I should be president. But it's very unsatisfactory in terms of -- if you read it you would not want me to be president. But somehow in this I win.

GROSS: Now, the book jacket for this phony political biography -- autobiography, "Daring to Lead" has a cover that parodies Newt Gingrich's book cover. Do you want to describe it?

FRANKEN: Yeah, in "Daring to Lead," in which -- by the way I explain that I am the son of the son of immigrants. And the son of a daughter of a son and daughter of immigrants. That's one of the reasons to vote for me. But, anyway, in "Daring to Lead," it's me with a golden retriever and a leather jacket and a plaid and kind of work boots on a tree stump outdoors. It's exactly like Gingrich's "Lessons" -- what was his book? "Lessons of Leadership?"

GROSS: I forget what the title was, but the cover of Newt Gingrich's book seemed to be about proving that he was actually a real casual guy with a nice leather jacket.

FRANKEN: Yeah, which is what I do in this.

GROSS: Right.

FRANKEN: I prove it. And there's a picture of made doing that. That's the proof.

GROSS: And even though this book doesn't really exist it has a ghost writer. Tony Schwartz.


FRANKEN: Well, yeah, I -- that's right. "Daring to Lead" by Al Franken with Tony Schwartz. I just figured the candidate Al Franken would have a ghost writer.

GROSS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, Newt Gingrich is one of the people you satirized in your previous book, "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot." Did you ever expect that Newt Gingrich was going to end up resigning from being speaker and resigning from the House?

FRANKEN: Yeah, I was very disappointed because he's just a great guy to kick around. But I think, you know, in an odd way I think that at least he was a man of -- he sort of had a large vision. I mean, he had an inflated view of his own role in the world but there were times when he was statesmanlike -- certainly in foreign policy. And I think we're going to, in an odd way, miss the man.

GROSS: My guest is political satirist Al Franken. His new book about the Franken presidency is called "Why Not Me." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is political satirist Al Franken. His new book "Why Not Me" imagines what it would be like if he ran for president, won, and was forced to resign. The book includes Franken's official political autobiography "Daring to Lead."

The kind of campaign autobiography that you parody in your book is usually so filled with self mythology about how the person got to the point where they are today. You know, all the hard work that they did and the problems that they overcame at home and in their profession and the problems their parents overcame and so on. How does the candidate Al Franken self mythologize himself?

FRANKEN: Well, the candidate Al Franken is sort of a combination of the real Al Franken, so he talks about his years at "Saturday Night Live" and discovering that people -- the audiences just loved him. And it talks about him growing up in Minnesota -- I grew up in Minnesota. Candidate Franken grew up in Christhaven (ph) -- a small town.

GROSS: Why did you choose that name?

FRANKEN: I'd just thought to be fun to -- as part of mythology -- to be the only Jew in a small town. And so we own Franken's department store which had three departments: lawn furniture, men's work clothes and driveway ceilings.

And my father Herman Franken became very bitter when the store went bankrupt and started suing the town to take down the Nativity scene at Christmas. And as a result I was ridiculed by other kids, and once another student drew a swastika on my forehead in magic marker.

Looking in the mirror, I could see what that was. It was anti-Semitism. It was as plain as the swastika on my forehead. So I talk about, you know, I am -- I become the only Jewish -- the first and only Jewish president. Well, actually the first because the second one is Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman's my vice president in this, and when I resign Joe Lieberman becomes the president.

GROSS: Did you read a lot of campaign autobiographies before writing your own phony one?

FRANKEN: I read Jimmy Carter's. I read Lamar Alexander's, which is more conversations with people as he traveled the country.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

FRANKEN: He didn't -- he walked -- candidate Franken takes a lesson from Lamar Alexander -- he pledges to walk the state of New Hampshire diagonally and then side to side. But it turns out to be a very slow process. So, I read his, which was pretty ridiculous. And I looked at a couple of others: George Bush's, the Dole's had one as a couple.

A lot of -- sometimes candidates tend to give you a plan -- their plan. That was what the Clinton one was.

GROSS: There are some things that you just really capture well about how politicians often speak. Just one small example here is the way that men in politics often talk about their great relationships with their wives. And they don't realize how condescending they're actually being toward their wives in this description.

Candidate Al Franken says, "The most important person in my life is Frannie Franken. Not just my wife. She's not just the mother of my children. She's not just the woman who cleans my house. She's also my best friend. By that I mean we have sex together, but after the sex we often have a conversation."


FRANKEN: Yeah, I always love it when candidates say my best friend, my wife. Come on up here, honey.


And my second best friend, my kid. And my third best friend, my other kid. And my fourth best friend, my father. My fifth best friend is mu uncle who has an incredible story. I'll bring him up here and he can tell it. Yeah, it is a -- I love patronizing women. It's one of my favorite things.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Al Franken. He's the author of the new look, "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

You had a real political adviser help you with this book -- Norm Ornstein (ph). How did he help you?

FRANKEN: Well, in it Norm is my campaign manager and becomes my chief of staff. Norm is a really good friend of mine. He's a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and he's also a Jew from Minnesota. So -- but Norm is -- Norm and I have been friends -- real good friends --since '92. And he just, you know, I just picked his brain.

GROSS: What kind of things did you talk with him about?

FRANKEN: Well, the first thing I did was I assembled Norm and Mandy Grunwald and Howard Feinman. We had lunch -- I took them to lunch down in Washington, and Howard came up with my campaign strategy -- my issue -- which is ATM thieves. That's my only issue -- is eliminating ATM thieves.

And it works because of a break. The millennium bug -- the Y2K -- only effects ATM machines. And since that was my only issue I look prescient and I've tied Vice President Gore to the banks. I've colored him as a stooge for the banks. And everything just works, that's why I beat Gore in the Iowa caucuses.

And Gore attacks my brother, Otto Franken, who is one of -- was part of team Franken. He is a recovering sex addict and alcoholic, but he's my brother. And when Gore attacks him it's all over for Gore.

GROSS: Al Franken will be back in the second half of the show. His new book is called "Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency." He stars in the newly revived TV series "Late Line," a satire about a late-night TV show. There are two episodes this week, tonight at 9:00 and tomorrow at 9:30 on NBC.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


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

Back with political satirist Al Franken. His new book examines the strange state of American politics by imagining what it would be like if Franken ran for president, won, and was forced to resign after 144 days. The book is called, "Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

In the acknowledgements for your book you thank Dick Morris for agreeing to have his picture taken for the book even though he wasn't happy about his portrayal in the book. And as an example of his portrayal in the book, I thought I would ask you to read something from page 130. This is from your campaign diary. This is an excerpt. It's called "Notes from Staff Interviews."

FRANKEN: This is a point in the campaign where I've actually picked up some momentum. And now I'm looking for a real high level sort of campaign consultant and media adviser. So, "Notes from Staff Interviews:"

"Ed Rollins, interesting ideas about winning support in inner cities, but very sleazy. His ideas, but not him. No. Pat Cadell (ph), sad face. Loser mentality. No. James Carville, give that act a rest, buddy. It's tired. No.

Peggy Noonan, couldn't understand what the hell she was talking about or what she was doing here. Struck me as desperate. No. David Gurgen (ph) too wishy washy. No. Harold Ickes, he scared me. And if he scares me, then he's likely to scare others. No.

Dick Morris, I like him. A can do, go getting, straight shooting hard-hitting, look you in the eye, no BS kind of guy. He told me he wasn't just going to tell what I wanted to hear. I like that about him. He also told me I have a good chance of winning. Yes."


And the last part of the Franken presidency is basically, as you know, told through the Bob Woodward book on the Franken presidency's first hundred days called, "The Void." And I really like this section because "The Void" is pure Woodward.

And one of the things that Woodward tends to do is rely on -- over rely on one source. And in this case it's obviously Dick Morris. So, it's a very self-serving story for Morris.

GROSS: Morris is the "Deep Throat" of the book about you.

FRANKEN: Yeah, he's obviously the "Deep Throat," and also "The Void" is full of unnecessary detail, which is one of my favorite aspects.

GROSS: Do you want to give an example?

FRANKEN: Well, Woodward, in "The Void," just tells you the weather all the time. For no reason. But it's Woodward basically saying I've done a lot of research. But it's usually just unnecessary.

He says in the introduction, "Overall more than 250 people were interviewed. Some as many as 250 times, and a few by me personally. Dialogue and quotations have been recreated based on what I think the participants probably said.

When someone is said to have thought or felt something, that description comes from my research assistant Gary, who is particularly good at that kind of thing. When someone is said to have smelled something, Gary means that they either thought they smelled it or felt they smelled it.

For all intents and purposes, these concepts may be regarded as interchangeable. Weather conditions cited were obtained from my editor's neighbor's son Paul Zervos (ph), a 33-year-old idiot savant who can remember the weather conditions for every hour of every day of his life even though he's unable to dress himself without assistance."

GROSS: There's a lot of real people, obviously, who figure into your book. I'm wondering if you had a lot of lawyers reading the book before it was published to prevent the possibility of lawsuits?

FRANKEN: Well, no. Yes. Yes. They did read the book. It was vetted by the Delacorte lawyers. But the basic -- it's satire so you can pretty much -- if Larry Flynt can do an ad where Jerry Falwell is in an outhouse, you know, having incest with his mother, and is protected by the Supreme Court, I think my stuff is protected. But the Delacorte people did make me put a disclaimer on the book.

GROSS: Which, of course, is very funny.

FRANKEN: Well, yeah. I mean, the part of the disclaimer that I like the most we took out. Which is just the phone number of the lawyer that made me put the disclaimer in.


GROSS: Well, getting back to Larry Flynt a second. I mean, what you said is actually true that the case that Larry Flynt took before the Supreme Court -- or that took Larry Flynt before the Supreme Court set a precedent that actually enables you to be free with your satire.

FRANKEN: Yes, God bless Larry Flynt. The First Amendment champion.

GROSS: What an ambiguous figure he is.

FRANKEN: Yeah, but as I say, you know, all those ramps at the sex shops in California.


Which isn't true by the way.

GROSS: I'm still laughing.


GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Al Franken. And his new book imagines an Al Franken presidency. It's called, "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

Did you watch a lot of the impeachment hearings and have you been watching the opening of the Senate trial?

FRANKEN: Yes. I have been watching as much as I can. I was working -- I've been working a lot too, but yes, I've watched a lot. If I miss stuff I turn on C-SPAN late at night and catch it again.

GROSS: Is there any congressman or senator who you've had a change of heart about, watching them?

FRANKEN: Wow. That's a good question. I don't think so. I -- let's see -- that's a very good question. I'm trying to go through these people. Henry Hyde I'm a little surprised at. I think -- Lindsey Graham is someone who I met and liked, and feel like he's gone a little off the deep end. I didn't really change -- I wasn't that impressed with Maxine Waters. I thought she was a little harsh.

I mean, it was amazingly partisan in the impeachment hearings, and I wasn't that impressed with the whole group. Although I like Barney Frank.

GROSS: He has a very good sense of humor.

FRANKEN: Yeah, I think he's a funny guy.

GROSS: Do you think that -- do you agree with people who say that the impeachment hearings and the subsequent trial is an extension of the cultural wars of the '60s?

FRANKEN: I've read a lot of that, and sometimes you look at these guys and you say, yeah. I mean, I remember -- Bob Barr in 1969 was the guy who didn't like me because I had long hair. It turns out he might have some personal problems of his own, Bob Barr.

And I think there's an element of that. There's an element of anger, self righteousness, and indignation. I guess, maybe on both sides, but I particularly feel it coming from the president's accusers. And it reminds me of some of the same feelings -- it reflects the same kinds of feelings that I saw during the '60s and early '70s.

GROSS: Is it easier to be a political comic during a time when politics has become the national soap opera?

FRANKEN: I don't know. I think there's always stuff to do. Actually, I do believe in certain ways that because this whole thing has been so salacious that it has been, in a way, too easy to do comedy about it.

So, I'm glad I got to write a book and really take my time and really develop a story and write, really, about the whole political process than having to go on late-night television night after night and do the latest joke about oral sex.

GROSS: The strange thing, I think, about what's happening now -- I would imagine the strange thing for a political comic about the whole Clinton scandal and the impeachment is that on the one hand it's a very serious, austere process that's underway. And on the other hand there's so much that's -- well, just really comic about it.

FRANKEN: Really?


GROSS: But, anyway, the austerity is constantly there.

FRANKEN: No, yeah. You have this incredible -- it's the first impeachment in over a hundred years.

GROSS: Exactly. Exactly.

FRANKEN: Like 130 years, and it's a big deal.

GROSS: Yeah, exactly.

FRANKEN: These guys decided to impeach him over this, and I -- Henry Hyde said, before the impeachment hearings started, was that you can't do this on a partisan basis -- this has to be bipartisan. But evidently, he changed his mind.

So they have taken the very incredibly serious step of impeaching the president for lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky, which -- what I'm worried about is that we're going to have these witnesses and she's going to have to testify as to where he touched her. Because part of the first article of impeachment is perjury.

And he said that his testimony in the Paula Jones deposition had been true and in the Paula Jones deposition he said that he hadn't had sex with her under the definition provided him by the Paula Jones attorneys who said that it involved touching someone else on either, I guess, the genitals, the buttocks or the breast with the intent to arouse or gratify.

So, this may come down to the president having to testify that he did touch her breast, but that it wasn't for the intent of arousing or gratifying, but that it was for balance.


I mean, that's what this may come to if the House Managers have it their way and that we'll have a long drawn out -- with witnesses. That's what it could come down to.

GROSS: Al Franken. His new book is called "Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency."

This is FRESH AIR.

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


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Al Franken
High: Satirist Al Franken, former writer for Saturday Night Live, and creator of Stuart Smalley (author of "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"). His new book is "Why Not Me: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency." It's the story of America's first Jewish president, himself, Al Franken! His crisis-plagued presidency culminates with his cooperation with the Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings, the release of his personal diaries, and his resignation.
Spec: Entertainment; Politics; Lifestyle; Elections; Government; Culture; Al Franken

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Al Franken

Date: JANUARY 13, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011302NP.217
Head: Ed Ward
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:45

TERRY GROSS, HOST: If anybody remembers the Red Bird record label today it's probably because of the Shangri-Las, the quartet of twins whose teen dramas set a standard for pop music kitsch. But there's more to the story as rock historian Ed Ward tells us.


Going to the chapel
And we're going to get married
Going to the chapel
And we're going to get married

ED WARD, ROCK HISTORIAN: It was 1963, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were riding high as songwriters and producers, there songs up and down the pop charts. So, Jerry said, many years later, "After a while we got to thinking. Why should we settle for two cents when we could have our own record company and get 21 cents. Red Bird Records was born.

Almost immediately some of the brightest young talent in New York's Brill Building showed up to pitch songs and maybe get a shot at producing one. Leiber and Stoller, hot off their success with Atlantic Records wanted to pursue a direction that would come to be known as soul.

Instead, Jeff Berry (ph) and Ellie Greenwich (ph) wrote "Chapel of Love" for a New Orleans group called the Dixie Cups, and Red Bird had its first million seller. Still, Jerry and Mike did have the right idea, even if the records didn't sell too well.


We've already said
I said she's got to go
Honey you had better go now

Go now go now
Go now
Before you see me cry

WARD: Percy Banks' "Go Now" is still hailed as an early soul masterpiece, even though it was the Moody Blues' remake that made the charts. And then there was Alvin Robinson who, perhaps, sounded a bit too much like Ray Charles for his own good.


Lord I swear
I'll play to you anywhere
(Unintelligible) turnip greens
Every time I kiss you girl

You taste like pork and beans
Even though you're wearing them
Citified high heels
I can tell by your giant step

You been walking through them cotton fields
Oh you're so down home girl

WARD: Again, the Brits were listening. This song's probably better known in its version by the Rolling Stones. One of the young wannabe producers who caught the boss' years was George Morton, nicknamed "Shadow" because he had a knack for disappearing.

He took two pairs of twins from Queens, an Ellie Grant song, and Red Bird had its next number one record.


Is she really going out with him
Well there she is let's ask her
Betty is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing

Gee it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today
By the way where did you meet him
I met him at the candy store

(Unintelligible) you get the picture
Yes we see
That's when I fell for
The leader of the pack

My folks are always putting him down

WARD: Early on, Leiber and Stoller had taken on a partner, George Goldner (ph), whose legendary doo-wop recordings had defined the New York sound in the 1950s. He knew the Brill Building, but he wasn't too sure about this other thing his partners were on to. So the label split.

Red Bird for the pop recordings, Blue Cat for the soul. But it was Red Bird which kept having the hits.


Ooh wah ooh wah
Boo boo kitty
Tell us about the boy
From New York City

Ooh wah ooh wah
Come on kitty
Tell us about the boy
From New York City

He's kind of tired
He's really fine
Today I hope you'll make him mine
All mine

And isn't he
And all so sweet
Just the way he looks at me
Will sweep me off my feet

Ooh wee
You'll have to come and see
How he walks
And how he talks

WARD: The backup singers are male, but the Ad Lib's "Boy from New York City" is one of the classic girl group records. Even when the girls didn't come in groups, that's the kind of records they made.


I've been trying
To make you love me
But everything I try
Just takes you further from me

You don't love me no no
So you treat me cruel
But no matter how you hurt me
I'll always be your fool

But if you don't want me forever
And if you don't need me forever
And if you don't love me forever
Take me for a little while

So I can hold you baby
So I can make you want me

WARD: Songs like "Take Me For A Little While" by Evie Sands (ph) however, came out on Blue Cat. That is a fine example of an early experiment with white soul. And, of course, it only sold locally. Eventually Leiber and Stoller had had enough. They weren't doing what they wanted. A lot of their 21 cents disappeared around George Goldner who was addicted to gambling and involved with shady characters.

And so in 1966, they sold him their share of the company for a penny, but wisely kept their share of the publishing. Times were changing and the Brill Building pop Red Bird did so well was losing its popularity. The Shangri-Las faded away. Shadow Morton went on to produce Vanilla Fudge. And an era was over.

GROSS: Ed White currently lives in Berlin.

This is FRESH AIR.

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


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Ed Ward
High: Rock historian Ed Ward remembers the record label, Red Bird, founded by songwriters and producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Their hits included "Chapel of Love," and "Leader of the Pack."
Spec: Entertainment; Culture; Lifestyle; Music Industry; Jerry Leiber; Mike Stoller; Ed Ward

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Ed Ward

Date: JANUARY 13, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011303NP.217
Head: William Whyte
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST: William Whyte defined a crisis of corporate conformity in his 1956 book, "The Organization Man," a study of people who had surrendered their individualism for financial security. Whyte died yesterday at the age of 81. Whyte had a second career as an urbanologist serving as an urban planning consultant for many large American cities, including New York.

His research included walking the streets observing how people used them. He also observed people in the city by filming them with hidden cameras perched high above the streets.

I spoke with Whyte in 1989 after the publication of his book, "City: Rediscovering the Center."

You started doing your current research during a period when planners thought it was very important to relieve the high-density population in urban areas to relieve some of the pedestrian traffic. And what you found in your study was people actually really like crowds, or at least they gravitate to crowds.

WILLIAM WHYTE, URBANOLOGIST; AUTHOR, "THE ORGANIZATION MAN": That's right they gravitate. One of -- to me, the most fascinating piece of research we ever did -- I always thought it would be a very fine idea to find out when a couple of people meet on the streets -- old friends and what not -- and of course naturally they're going to get out of the way of the pedestrian traffic stream. And my thought was that they would move right to the lee of the building.

And I set up time lapse cameras and recorded what they did over a long period of time. To my surprise, I found that they were moving, not away from, but into the pedestrian traffic stream. And the longer the conversation, the more apt it was to be smack in the middle. So, people talk one way, but there is tremendous impulse to centrality.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. If we follow with your finding that the best solution for public places is to make the place attractive for everyone. What kind of public space seems to be attractive to everyone? What recommendations do you have to designers of public places?

WHYTE: First thing I do is still the designers to spend some time on the busiest street corner in town. The greatest open space in the city is a wonderful street corner. Because the most important ingredient of a successful place is a great mixture of people. And this is one -- one of the first things I noticed when I sort of stood out on the street and started taking films was, to me, the surprising number of chance encounters -- old friends running into each other.

And I saw this happening day after day with a frequency which really floored me. And I began to realize that this was not accidental. That this was really an actuarial probability. When you get a good tight downtown -- all the great downtowns are tight, that is most of them have tight grid patterns -- the chances are that you're going to run into a lot of people that you know. That's one of the great attributes of a center city. It's much more social than a lot of people realize.

Now, you asked me about what are the common spaces. I think the small urban park -- this is a personal bias on my part -- the small urban park is an utter delight. By that it could be -- well, I think of Paley Park in New York which is all of 42 by 100 feet. Now, that's a very small space.

And curiously enough, it attracts -- well, on a nice day you'll get about 180 to 200 people sitting there. Now that is a very strong -- a very high density. And Paley Park and Green Acre park in New York are the two places that are most often cited for being very comfortable, very relaxing, not overcrowded, quiet and so forth. In actual fact, they're rather noisy, they are usually crowded. As a matter of fact, of the places that you go to voluntarily they are the two most crowded places in New York.

But they have a number of sort of standard ingredients which seem to be rather surefire. There's a water wall that makes a wonderful sound, so it masks the speech sounds. Most important, there are removable chairs all over the place. Not one has ever been stolen, by the way. They have a wonderful canopy of honey locust foliage overhead. Very deceptively simple in a way. Incidentally there's a nice little food counter. And it's a wonderful place to stop or to meet somebody.

GROSS: You've told us some of the successful designs of public spaces. What do you think are some of the worst mistakes designers of small parks and plazas have made?

WHYTE: The worst mistake they can make is to shut it off from the street. Now the most usual way of shutting it off from the street is a great big wall. We've seen quite a few of those. Or they may sink it down 10, 12 feet to get them away from the bad people. But the wall is the worst of all.

And almost invariably these places are dog places, nobody uses them very much. Bryant Park in New York is a beautiful park with its lovely oak trees and what not, but it was built on the idea of let's protect people from the street. So, lining the street facade of the park are -- for one thing it's elevated, about four feet above the street -- are fences and shrubbery and so forth.

But the thing has always been a flop. People haven't used it very much. And there's now a very heroic and an extremely intelligent effort to redo the park. And the main thing that is being done -- aside from the band concerts that they're going to have, and the restaurants and all these wonderful things -- is they're bringing back to the street. Cutting down on sort of the things that make it difficult to wander in there on impulse. And all the great spaces you sort of move from the street into the space without quite realizing that you've made any transition.

GROSS: Well, you also object to how inside megastructures which are the mixed used places that are a part hotel, part shopping, part office, part restaurant -- how those and the shopping malls control behavior inside. Impromptu street performers aren't allowed in, people with handles and pamphlets aren't allowed.

WHYTE: I've just come from Cincinnati, a wonderful city, and it has one of the great public squares in Fountain Square. They also have a new atrium -- an indoor area -- part of the Westin Hotel there. And part of the deal was that they were going to -- in exchange for getting to build higher -- they're hotel -- they were going to make a big public place. Well, they didn't do it.

And this is characteristic of what is happening in many cities. If you're a nice middle-class person, you're well-dressed -- that's all right, they don't give you a hard time. But what they really want are shoppers and they shoo out other people. And I think it's also very shortsighted. You can't have a public place and get all the benefits of having a public place and say we're only going to have those members of the public that we approve of.

One of the great geniuses of the city is it's a place where people come together, and that includes, unhappily, but necessarily some people we don't particularly like.

GROSS: William Whyte, recorded in 1989. He died yesterday at the age of 81.

I'm Terry Gross.

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


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: William Whyte
High: We remember writer and urbanologist William Whyte. He died yesterday at the age of 81. The former editor of Fortune Magazine began a second career studying the life of urban cities. Whyte was best known for his 1956 book "The Organization Man," a groundbreaking work that examined the mechanized rituals and routines of the corporate culture. His other books included, "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces" (1980), and "City" (1989).
Spec: Lifestyle; Culture; Cities; William Whyte

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: William Whyte
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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