I've begun my 40th year in radio, yet there's still a long list of people I've longed to interview and haven't. I'm happy to report that three names have come off that list in the space of just one week.
My interview with A.E. Hotchner ran last week. In the late 40's, Hotchner went to Cuba to talk with Ernest Hemingway about a magazine story. They formed a close friendship that lasted the rest of Hemingway's life. Hotchner adapted Hemingway's stories for TV, wrote original drama for theater and 1950's "live" TV, and among his many books is a fabulous biography of Hemingway that I devoured as a college freshman. Paul Newman starred in one of Hotchner's teleplays, and THAT longtime friendship endures. Newman and Hotchner are partners in Newman's Own, the food products business that has earned many millions for charity. My main reason for interviewing Hotchner was the re-publication of his two childhood memoirs, "King of the Hill" and "Looking for Miracles." Hotchner was a child in St. Louis during the Great Depression and has a tale as sad as Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." The Hotchners were living in a single room in a hotel that doubled as a whorehouse for taxi dancers. When tenants were behind in rent, their possessions were seized and padlocks were put on their doors, so it was important to have someone home at all times to refuse entry to the hotel management. Then Hotchner's mother had to be put in a TB hospital, his little brother was farmed out to a relative and his father hit the road to cover his four-state territory as a salesman for Elgin watches. That left A.E. Hotchner, age 12, living alone in a hotel room he was too scared to leave for fear of eviction. He got so hungry that he literally ate food ads he tore from ladies' magazines, a meal that made him very sick.
Jennifer Warnes is on Tuesday's program. I've been her fan since we were both 21 and I saw her on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She sang Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and I immediately wanted to accept her offer. Jennifer had a big hit in the 70's with "Right Time of the Night," but her real success has been with the movies. She and Frank Sinatra are the only singers who have performed THREE different songs that won the Oscar for best original song. Jennifer's three were a solo called "It Goes Like It Goes" (from "Norma Rae"). a duet with Joe Cocker titled "Up Where We Belong" (from "An Officer and a Gentleman), and a duet with Bill Medley, the surviving Righteous Brother. That song was "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" (from the movie, "Dirty Dancing"). The duets with Cocker and Medley also won Grammy Awards. A former back-up singer for Leonard Cohen, Jennifer Warnes produced and recorded an album of his songs called "Famous Blue Raincoat." That album went platinum. Now she has re-mastered it for digital technology, added four additional tracks, and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Famous Blue Raincoat sounds better than ever.(PRODUCER'S NOTE: Here is the Hunter S. Thompson quote mentioned in the interview: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.") Jennifer Warnes lives in Southern California, so I interviewed her when I went to Los Angeles to pick up the Gabriel Award we earned for the documentary "Exploding Heritage." We needed to rent a studio for the interview, but the public radio stations could not accommodate us.
We finally ended up booking, of all places, the NPR bureau in Culver City. What a trip! I got to see wonderful onetime co-workers I hadn't seen in three years. While you're listening to Jennifer on Tuesday, I'll be in New York interviewing poet Sharon Olds, the third name recently removed from the list of people I've longed to chat with. A winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds writes with brilliance, beauty, wit, honesty, intensity and raw language---sometimes all at once. Family, sex, violence, life and death are favorite subjects. What you and I think but never say, Olds puts on paper. And because she won't censor herself, she forces readers to confront our own fears, judgments, crimes and misdemeanors. She is as fearless as Allen Ginsberg and she is our sexiest poet since Edna St. Vincent Millay.