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Lost in Shangri-La with Mitchell Zuckoff

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in July 2011

While doing research on World War Two, Mitchell Zuckoff stumbled upon a far more interesting story - one that was widely reported in the summer of 1945 but has since been largely forgotten. In May of that year, a plane carrying 24 US servicemen and women on a sightseeing tour above New Guinea crashed atop a mountain in the middle of a dense rain forest. 21 of the passengers died but two men and one woman survived the crash and the jungle and the native people - stone age cannibals who had likely never encountered a foreigner and had no concept of the outside world. Zuckoff is now a professor of journalism at Boston University and was once an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. He used those skills to write a book called Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and The Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II. Remarkably, ahead of the rescue mission, a filmmaker parachuted into the valley along with US troops and recorded the native tribes, the survivors and the daring escape. Here is some of the archival footage filmed by Alexander Cann.

Click here for lots more multimedia goodies related to the survivors, the rescuers and the book Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff.


Bob Edwards Weekend (May 9-10, 2015)


We wrap up National Teacher Appreciation Week with several interviews about education and schools. Bob talks with Jason Kamras about being named the National Teacher of the Year in 2005 and we get an update on what he’s been doing over the past decade. We’ll also hear from former teachers Ninive Clements Calegari and Daniel Moulthrop co-authors of a book titled Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers.    

Bob talks with Rafe Esquith a fifth grade teacher at a public school in Los Angeles, the only teacher in history to receive the National Medal of the Arts. Esquith has written several books including Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World and a book of advice titled Real Talk for Real Teachers.

Bob talks with Irish writer Frank McCourt – who won the Pulitzer Prize for his first book, Angela’s Ashes.  He died in 2009, but Bob spoke with McCourt about his memoir Teacher Man, which focuses on his three decades spent teaching English in New York City’s public school system.  Then, Bob talks with another former teacher.  Taylor Mali is now an advocate for teachers and a poet who defended his profession with the poem and the book titled What Teachers Make.



May 6th would have been the 100th birthday of Orson Welles. Perhaps the most influential director in film history, Welles nonetheless suffered numerous setbacks in his career as he battled studio heads who withheld money and support… and the stigma of appearing overweight and washed-up as a television pitchman in the 1970’s.  Joseph McBride hopes to set the record straight with his third and most recent book on the enigmatic auteur, entitled What Ever Happened To Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career.  Then, Bob talks with Chris Welles Feder about her dad – his devotion to his art, and his distance from his family. Welles Feder is the author of In My Father’s Shadow.  



The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (May 11-15, 2015)


Monday, May 11, 2015: Bob talks to This American Life host and producer Ira Glass. A long time ago, Ira made Bob pretend to be a wizard for a radio play he wrote.  And before that, Ira worked with Bob as an intern at Morning Edition.  Despite forays into television, film and podcasts … Glass swear his core business is still radio. This American Life is one of the most popular public radio programs ever.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015:  Famed director John Waters—the man behind Hairspray, Pecker, and many other films—made a cardboard sign that read “I’m Not Psycho” and hitchhiked from Baltimore to San Francisco.  His book Carsick is his account of what happened during his unforgettable and unconventional “vacation.” It comes out in paperback today.  Then, the story of another famous road trip. Peter Carlson isn’t sure which anecdote it was that turned him into a self-described Khrushchev-in-America buff. It could have been the one about the irascible Soviet leader throwing a fit because he wasn’t allowed to go to Disneyland. Or it could have been Khrushchev’s suspicion that Camp David was really a leper colony. Or it could have been Khrushchev arguing with Nixon over which kind of animal dung smelled the worst. But Carlson synthesized the stories into K Blows Top, a book about Nikita Khrushchev’s great American road trip he undertook in the summer of 1959.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015: In May of 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and women boarded a plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a mysterious valley on the island of New Guinea. It was supposed to be a pleasure tour but it became something entirely different when the plane crashed killing all but three. Badly injured and unequipped for the jungle, the survivors set out to try to find help and instead found a primitive tribe who had never seen a white person. Mitchell Zuckoff tells this true story of survival, adventure and rescue in his book Lost in Shangri-La. Then, Bob talks with Rhett Miller, the founder and lead singer of the Old 97’s, about the band’s two decades together and about the music from their latest album.  Their latest CD is titled Most Messed Up.

Thursday, May 14, 2015: American artist Chuck Close is a master of highly detailed, larger-than-life portraits that bring out his subjects’ intellectual depth.  Writer and personal friend Christopher Finch also joins Bob.  Finch’s biography Chuck Close: Life takes readers through Close’s art student days in Seattle to his professional success with critics and the public alike.  In 1988, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse, leaving him wheelchair bound but still painting.  In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Close with the National Medal of Arts.  Then, Bob talks with philosopher Denis Dutton who says evolution explains why we have become a species obsessed with artistic expression. In his book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution, Dutton debunks a century of art criticism and scholarship by arguing that human tastes in the arts are not determined by local culture or social constructs but are instead inborn and universal.

Friday, May 15, 2015: It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but Jim Henson died 25 years ago. Today, we look back at the life of this visionary artist.  In his biography, writer Brian Jay Jones tells Henson’s personal story, revealing the man behind the Muppets.  The book by Jones is titled simply Jim Henson: The Biography.  Then Bob talks with Stephen Christy about one of Henson’s lesser known works. Tale of Sand is a Jim Henson-written screenplay that was eventually released as a graphic novel. Christy was the editor of the project.


Happy 100th Birthday to Orson Welles

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in November of 2009

By Geoffrey Redick, producer

Orson Welles was a visionary. He remade radio drama with his broadcast of War of the Worlds. He remade the theater with his all-black production of Macbeth. And he remade cinema with Citizen Kane. But his artistic ability didn’t always translate to box office success, and he spent much of his career scrambling for funding and feuding with studios. 

Orson Welles was also a father. And his eldest daughter, Chris Welles Feder, has just written a memoir that reveals him as simultaneously loving and distant. The book is titled In My Father’s Shadow, and in it, Welles Feder describes a nomadic childhood, bouncing between her father and mother, the actress Virginia Nicolson. Welles Feder grew up surrounded by movie stars, but learned early on that filmmaking was not for her. She has a strong appreciation for her father’s work though, and the legacy he left.

Here, Welles Feder reads a passage from her book in which she views The Third Man with her father:


Rafe Esquith

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in October of 2009

By Ariana Pekary, producer

Bob originally interviewed Rafe Esquith in 2007 for his book, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, in which Esquith revealed the tactics that have helped turn his disadvantaged, inner city, first generation fifth graders into Ivy League graduates. Then Bob interviewed him for our education series.  Esquith, who is the only school teacher ever to receive the president’s National Medal of the Arts, was an ideal person to comment on the types of reforms we’d been discussing throughout that series. He was eager to chime in on issues like No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, parental involvement, and teacher tenure – and I for one was anxious to hear what he had to say.

Now, Esquith is back on the show to discuss his second book. This one is for parents and is titled Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World.  Rafe Esquith is a teacher I wish I had had in the fifth grade – that’s not to disparage any of my wonderful fifth grade teachers….Mrs. Wirt, you were the best! – but he is particularly engaging and knows how to motivate students.  Or rather he knows how to get students to motivate themselves.  I enjoyed reading his book as much for myself as for any child (student) I might (but probably won’t) have in the future. 

As a reminder, Rafe was the teacher featured in the Hobart Shakespeareans documentary that aired on PBS.  To see that program, click here.

For current information about the Hobart Shakespeareans, click here.


Listen to Bob's Intervew with Rafe Esquith