DATE September 13, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Kristin Gore discusses her new book, "Sammy's Hill,"
and growing up in a political family
TERRY GROSS, host:
After being known to the public as the second oldest daughter of Al and Tipper
Gore, Kristin Gore is taking on a new public identity: novelist. Her new
book, "Sammy's Hill," is about a subject she knows well: life on Capitol
Hill. The main character, Samantha "Sammy" Joyce, is a young health-care
analyst for a US senator from Ohio. The novel follows Sammy's political and
personal life as she starts dating a rival senator's speechwriter. Kristin
Gore was born in 1977. She graduated from Harvard, where she wrote for the
"Harvard Lampoon." She's also written for the animated TV series "Futurama."
Let's start with a reading from "Sammy's Hill." Sammy has just spent the
night with the rival senator's speechwriter, breaking her long-standing policy
of never sleeping with anyone on the first date, but she's more worried about
having just violated a political rule about dating.
Ms. KRISTIN GORE (Author, "Sammy's Hill"): `R.G. had just warned me to be
wary of all Bramen staffers. I was now lying naked in bed with one of them,
which suggested I'd let my guard down just a tad. Had I just slept with some
sort of enemy? Had James Carville and Mary Matalin felt this way after their
first night together? Even if they had, they've clearly managed to make their
relationship work. And Aaron and I had the advantage of working for people
who were supposedly on the same side. I decided not to dwell anymore on the
negative because I wanted to stay in my pleasantly glowing good mood, and the
night really had been fun.'
GROSS: That's Kristin Gore reading from her new novel, "Sammy's Hill."
Kristin, welcome to FRESH AIR. This reading is about your main character and
a man she has just slept with for the first time, so tell us about who each of
the characters are.
Ms. GORE: Well, Sammy is the main character in the book, and she is 26 years
old. She's new to DC from Ohio and has moved there and is working for a
senator from her home state, Senator Robert Gary, who she calls R.G. She has
been warned by him to stay away from the staff of another senator, Senator
Bramen, because they're rivals and sort of Bramen's crew is not to be trusted.
She has met Bramen's speechwriter, a man named Aaron, and been very intrigued
by him and, despite her boss' warnings, has gone out on a date with him and
now has found herself waking up with him the next morning.
GROSS: So what are some of the hazards that you think face politically
involved single people in Washington? It's certainly something you've thought
about for this book and must have also thought about in life itself.
Ms. GORE: Sure. Well, it was fun to explore it in the fictional world,
because I did grow up in DC and knew so many people who worked on Capitol
Hill, and it's an interesting place because it has this reputation that I
think I understand why people see it as sort of stiff and boring and a place
where old people don't get anything done, but that's not really the DC I know
and it's also a place where all these young people flock to try to change the
world, and they are doing that with this backdrop of, you know, national
power, and there's all this energy and activity all the time that's very
exciting, but also a lot of them are in their 20s and 30s. A lot of them are
single, and there's a huge social scene, because they're all thrust together.
You know, there's no sort of bride and groom seating in the House and Senate
office buildings. You're right next to people from different parties, and you
end up interacting all the time. And so that leads to all sorts of strange
friendships and romances, and I just wanted to explore that a little bit
because it's, I think, a unique part of DC.
GROSS: And I think when you're growing up in a political family, you have to
develop a thick skin. You can't survive in a political world without one.
Was it ever just emotionally difficult for you, particularly when your father
was running for president, to watch him being attacked for everything, from
his policies to being stiff?
Ms. GORE: Yeah, sure. You know, I mean, no one wants to hear that about
their dad or a loved one, you know, and usually, in any other life, you don't
often get barraged with, you know, something like that. So, yeah, it can be
very tough, but again, you have to just know it comes with the territory, and
I know what he's really like. I know how great he is, and that's the only
thing that really matters to me. I wish everyone knew him the way I did. But
luckily, a lot of people feel the same way, too.
GROSS: During the era when he was running for president, one of the big
things was, like, no, Al Gore is too stiff. Did you give him any advice about
Ms. GORE: Yeah. It's hard because I think people get these--particularly in
politics, they get these images grafted on to them and then it just gets
perpetuated, you know, kind of takes on a life of its own, whether or not it's
accurate or not all the time. So that is a lesson I learned and you just kind
of have to go with it. But, you know, again, he I think is--I didn't have to
give him advice because I don't want my national leaders to be stand-up
comics, you know. I want my national leaders to be serious and to know what
to do during times of crisis and times of prosperity to bring us forward, you
know. I mean, I think what's important in that world is your ideas and your
commitment and the reasons you're in it, and so I never doubted any of those
things with my father, and so that other stuff was just kind of silly to me.
GROSS: Where were you during the recount era and how do you think you were
changed by that experience?
Ms. GORE: I was home with my parents. I actually took a leave of absence
from "Futurama," which was the show I was writing on at the time, because I
was sort of useless as a comedy writer for just 36 days, and the show was
thankfully very supportive and let me do that. But it was an emotional roller
coaster, definitely, and the whole time, even as different things went up and
down and back and forth and there was something new happening every day, I was
so sure that all the votes were going to be counted, that it was surprising to
me that that was halted. I hadn't factored that in as a possibility. So I
was pretty shocked, but, you know, also really proud of my dad's decision to
end such a crazy time when no one knows how to resolve that. I mean, it was
really unprecedented. You have to respect the law. I mean, it's dangerous
not to. And no matter what you think the court's motivations are, it's the
Supreme Court, and I was raised to respect that. And so, you know, I looked
to him to be a leader in that time, both for me personally and for the
country, and he did not disappoint me.
GROSS: Now your mother in the '80s and probably early '90s was particularly
famous for being co-founder of the Parents Music Resource Council, which was a
group predominantly of mothers who, you know, were concerned that lyrics in
popular music had offensive sexual language that would be damaging for their
children to hear. So this is a group that talked to Congress, campaigned for
stickers on records that would warn of explicit lyrics. What was that period
like for you? I mean, kids want to listen to what they want to listen to.
They don't really want their parents involved. And I can...
Ms. GORE: Right.
GROSS: ...see how it could have been--well, almost embarrassing to have your
mother campaigning for control over exactly the kind of thing that kids want
to control themselves.
Ms. GORE: Right. Right. You know, it's funny because I think my sister, who
is four years older than me, had a little bit of a tougher time with it
because she was about 13, but, you know, I was nine and not quite at the--you
know, I was still listening to nothing too racy. I don't think nine--well,
maybe it's different now, but in the '80s, 9-year-olds certainly liked music,
but they're not into sort of the hard-edge stuff. But I, as I got older,
still had to deal with the sort of misrepresentation of a lot of what my mom
was trying to do, because people talked about censorship, which it wasn't at
all. You know, it was voluntary labels. And so that was difficult because I
just felt that it got--the way it was talked about tended to sort of
misrepresent it, and then that would get perpetuated. And also, I just knew
my mom as someone who loves music and loves creativity and art in all forms.
GROSS: Did she try to control what you listened to?
Ms. GORE: Oh, no, no. She didn't, actually. She was very...
GROSS: Did you listen to hip-hop that had the kind of lyrics that she
wouldn't have liked?
Ms. GORE: You know, yeah, I think we went through a phase where we learned
all the lyrics to "Colors," which was a rap song at the time. I think my
sister taught us all the lyrics when we were nine, and so we would kind of
recite them in the van just to let her know that we knew what was going on. I
think as a lot of people who were criticizing her at the time got older and
had kids of their own and realized what was out there, that a lot of them have
actually come to her and said, `I'm so sorry that I didn't really understand
what you were trying to do then, and now that I have a kid and see everything,
I like having these tools,' so I think that's gratifying for her and, you
know, it's all been a while ago now.
GROSS: My guest is Kristin Gore. Her new novel is called "Sammy's Hill."
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Kristin Gore, daughter of Al and Tipper. She's written
her first book, a novel set on Capitol Hill called "Sammy's Hill."
Now when your father was on "Saturday Night Live," you wrote one of the
sketches for him, right?
Ms. GORE: Yes, I did. I wrote...
GROSS: How did you get to do that?
Ms. GORE: Well, in college, I went to Harvard and I wrote for the "Lampoon."
That's how I sort of got into comedy writing and got the idea to do it as a
career, and a lot of my fellow "Lampooners" after school applied to different
shows, and four of them were on "Saturday Night Live," and so they asked me to
be a guest writer because I had been working in comedy. I was at "Futurama"
and was working on another show at that point with Nathan Lane, and I was in
LA, but I went to New York for the week, and I think they thought, you know, I
know my dad better than they do and I'm in comedy writing, and so why not join
the team? And that was really, really fun for me because I think I would have
been terrified under other circumstances, just because of "Saturday Night
Live's," you know, reputation and the way that they work there. But the
people that I knew from college who I had been writing with before were very
welcoming, and I had a really fun time. It was a great week.
GROSS: So what did you write?
Ms. GORE: I wrote the introduction, the monologue that went into "The
Bachelor" parody where he ended up, you know, handing out roses to potential
vice presidential candidates. That was the sketch that I worked on, and it
was really--I thought he did a great job with it. It was sort of fun because
"The Bachelor" was--it's sort of now--and I don't know what incarnation it's
in now, but at the time, it was new and kind of take--everyone was tuned into
it and couldn't believe sort of the new influence of reality television,
particularly that show, and so it was fun to kind of put my dad in that
context, and he ended up in one scene in a hot tub with the actor playing Joe
Lieberman, just sort of drinking champagne, and he was the one that won the
rose, so it was fun to be able to get--to sort of comment on this "Bachelor"
phenomenon and put my dad in there and mix in politics. I really enjoyed that
GROSS: Now one of the sketches on the show as a parody of the famous kiss
Ms. GORE: Yeah, I did work on that one, too.
GROSS: ...Did you?--at the convention...
Ms. GORE: Yes.
GROSS: ...and then this one--like, you know, your father playing himself and
I forget which actress playing your mother, Tipper Gore, you know, have that
kiss but it becomes this kind of like mad smooch-fest.
Ms. GORE: It was my mom. My mom did it.
GROSS: Oh, it was your mom.
Ms. GORE: Yeah. It was...
GROSS: I couldn't remember.
Ms. GORE: Yeah. It was at the--my mom--it was the very beginning of the
show, and it was my actual mom and my actual dad, yeah, sort of re-enacting
it. But obviously, it was ...(unintelligible).
GROSS: So you co-wrote that?
Ms. GORE: Yeah. I did. You know, I sort of helped out with that. There was
not a lot of dialogue because they were mainly kissing, but there was some.
GROSS: So was it hard to sell your parents on the idea of doing this?
Ms. GORE: No. It actually wasn't. I mean, they both love "Saturday Night
Live" and were big fans of the show and are completely--they have great senses
of humor and good senses of humor about themselves, too, and they were very
game for it. They thought it was hilarious. My dad actually still says, when
people say, `What would you do differently in 2000?,' he says, `Well, I
definitely would have kissed Tipper longer.'
GROSS: How involved or emotionally involved are you in the presidential race
Ms. GORE: Well, I am involved to the extent of, you know, being tuned into it
and watching it and doing whatever I can to make people realize the stakes and
to play an active role by voting and by, you know, educating themselves about
what's going on. And it's interesting this time not being so intimately
involved, then I get to see that sort of that a lot of what goes on isn't
personal. It just happens, you know, no matter who's running, and that's
valuable for me, too, to have this other perspective, because for so long, I
was looking at it and looking out from the inside, and it's different this
GROSS: Kristin Gore. Her new novel is called "Sammy's Hill."
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross. We'll close by remembering the lyricist Fred Ebb,
who died Saturday of a heart attack. With his longtime musical collaborator,
John Kander, Fred Ebb wrote the songs for the shows "Cabaret," "Chicago,"
"Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "Flora, the Red Menace," and the songs for the
film "New York, New York." Here's Fred Ebb singing one of their most famous
songs at the 92nd Street Y in New York in 1973. John Kander is at the piano.
(Soundbite of music; applause)
Mr. FRED EBB: (Singing) What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear
the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret. Put down
the knitting, the book and the broom. Time for a holiday. Life is a cabaret,
old chum. Come to the cabaret. Come taste the wine, come hear the band, come
blow a horn. Start celebrating. Right this way, your table's waiting. No
use permitting some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away. Life is a
cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret. I used to have this girlfriend known
as Elsie, with whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea. She wasn't what
you'd call a blushing flower. As a matter of fact, she rented by the hour.
The day she died, the neighbors came to snicker. Well, that's what comes from
too much pills and liquor. But when I saw her laid out like a queen, she was
the happiest corpse I had ever seen...
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