KINZINGER: It’s been life-changing in a number of ways. So, you know, my father’s cousins, I guess, basically sent me a letter disowning me at one point, which was…
GROSS: Wait, wait, wait, she said you served in Satan’s army when you joined the committee.
KINZINGER: Yep. That’s it. That’s it. I was a member of the devil’s army. But it said things like, you serve in the devil’s army, you’ve lost the trust of great men like Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. And it goes to show, to me, the brain rot – right? – the rot going on, the absolute abuse of people that put their trust in some of these – you know, these radio folks or these TV folks. I had – you know, a year ago, I had – my copilot in Iraq sent me a text that said he was ashamed to have ever served with me. I mean, I can’t imagine what goes through somebody’s head, how angry you have to be to wake up, for whatever reason, to send a person that you fought with in a war that you were embarrassed to have served with them.
I mean, that’s just some of it – having a 24-hour security detail when I’m in D.C., wondering if my family’s protected while they’re back in Illinois. I mean, these are a lot of the sacrifices. But – and a lot of the ways it changed. And now I’m obviously a much more public figure than I was even prior to that. But I have no regrets. If I had to go back in time, knowing everything I know now and how it would turn out, I would still do it.
GROSS: I don’t want to ask you anything that further threatens your security, so if this question does, let me know. But you got a lot of threats after joining the committee. You got voicemails saying things like, I hope you die quickly.
The New York Dolls were so into a sort of pre-punk sensibility. Very raw, high energy. Buster Poindexter is much more lounge, Vegas persona. Buster Poindexter is in a tuxedo…
It’s all drag Terri. Birkenstocks are drag. I mean everyone is saying something with their clothes.
New York Dolls Frontman David Johansen Johansen was a founding member and frontman for the early ’70s glam band The New York Dolls – the band that helped set the stage for the punk movement. Later, Johansen created the lounge-lizard persona Buster Poindexter. He’s the subject of the new documentary Personality Crisis: One Night Only, co-directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi. Johansen spoke with Terry Gross in 2004.
GROSS: By the way, I noticed that when you do your inner voice, when you’re impersonating yourself in telling a story, it’s not your voice. It sounds more like it would be the voice of your father or grandfather.
GRAY: When you listen to yourself on tape – not that you do or should – does it sound like you think you sound?
GROSS: Well, I’ve listened to myself enough that, you know, I’ve learned that that is how I sound. But the first few times I heard myself, I was really just totally embarrassed and thought like that can’t be true.
GRAY: That’s right. So what I’m doing for you is the idiot that I think that I actually am to you. That’s – I’m trying to apply – you know, the opening of “Mean Streets” where Harvey Keitel…
GROSS: In the church?
GRAY: No, it’s when Harvey Keitel sits up in bed. It’s the very beginning of the film.
GROSS: Oh, oh, oh, yeah.
GRAY: Right before that, you hear a voice sing you do it in the streets. And it’s this little bit kind of this pre-film, maybe two- or three-sentence monologue that you hear. And it is supposed to be Harvey Keitel’s inner voice, but it’s voiced by maestro Scorsese. And Scorsese says it’s because you hear your inner voice differently than others hear you. Your inner voice is different. So I thought it was so beautiful. And so maybe that’s part of the reason the inner voice that I have is kind of this idiot voice, you know?
GROSS: James Gray, it’s been so great to talk with you. Thank you so much.
Lynn, who died Oct. 4, grew up in poverty in eastern Kentucky and went on to have 16 No. 1 hits. Her life story was portrayed in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Originally broadcast in 2010.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Loretta Lynn, one of America’s most beloved and influential country music stars, died yesterday at her home in Tennessee. She was 90. Lynn was famous for her singing, her songwriting and her life story, told in the 1980 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The film was adapted from Lynn’s memoir, which described how she grew up in poverty in eastern Kentucky, became a wife at age 15 and, after having four children, started writing songs and performing. She made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry in 1960. Lynn became the first woman to be named entertainer of the year by the Country Music Association in 1972, and in 1988, she was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame. Sixteen of her songs reached No. 1 on the country charts. In her New York Times obituary, Bill Friskics-Warren wrote, quote, “Ms. Lynn built her stardom not only on her music but also on her image as a symbol of rural pride and determination. Her music was rooted in the verities of honky tonk country and the Appalachian songs she had grown up singing.”
Terry interviewed Loretta Lynn in 2010. A tribute CD had been released, which featured her songs recorded by The White Stripes, Steve Earle, Miranda Lambert and others. They started with Loretta’s first recording, “Honky Tonk Girl,” followed by the version on the tribute album performed by Lee Ann Womack.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “I’M A HONKY TONK GIRL”)
LORETTA LYNN: (Singing) Ever since you left me, I’ve done nothing but wrong. Many nights, I’ve laid awake and cried. We once were happy. My heart was in a whirl. But now I’m a honky tonk girl. So turn…
GROSS: Since you worked as an usher at “The Lion King” when you started the process of writing “A Strange Loop” and the main character in “A Strange Loop” is an usher at “The Lion King,” now that you have a hit show, do you talk to the ushers? And do you try to hire ushers for whom this will be a good theater experience, a good opportunity for them to kind of almost be an apprentice?
JACKSON: Well, I don’t have anything to do with hiring the ushers. They’re – they belong to a union, Local 306. They place them in the theaters they work at. But I do. When I go to the show, I do often talk to them. They’re very nice people, but they also have a different situation than I had when I ushered because when you’re a Disney usher, you have this long employee handbook, and you’re considered a cast member. And you’re – and the people who come to see the shows are guests. And they are – and it’s almost like you’re working at a theme park. Like, they want to create, like, an experience for the people coming to see the shows. And so they’re just very strict about everything from grooming to how you can gesture to the restroom and all that sort of stuff. It’s – like, it’s pretty intense.
GROSS: How are you supposed to gesture to the restroom? What’s the proper call?
JACKSON: Open-handed. You’re never supposed to point.
On some of the principles he learned through his research with psychics
There are certain devices that come with the psychic craft. … You find what [people] need the most or what they fear the most and hook them through that. And the other principle is …. “Everybody’s desperate to tell you who they are to be seen,” which is, sadly or not, a reality of our species. We are all desperate to be seen or to be heard, and we communicate constantly through our clothing, our physical language, our inflections. And a skillful psychic will be able to read all the signs. We break down in the movie quite accurately and minutely how these grifts take place. …
There are generalizations that are called Black Rainbow, and that is when you throw the net [to] both sides. For example, you say, “You are quite naïve, but at the same time, you’re very, very shrewd about who you trust.” Or … “You are very friendly, but ultimately you don’t reveal yourself to everyone.” And these are generalizations that fit all sizes, and that’s what they are called Black Rainbow, because they encompass every color.
GROSS: You know, that actually really fits into what you were talking about wanting rules and structure in music.
SONDHEIM: Yeah. Order out of chaos. Order out of chaos. That’s why I like crossword puzzles – order out of chaos.
GROSS: Right. Right. Right.
SONDHEIM: I think that’s what art’s about anyway. I think that’s why people make art.
GROSS: To create order in…
SONDHEIM: To – out of chaos. Yeah.
GROSS: …In a world that’s chaotic? (Laughter).
SONDHEIM: The whole – the world has always been chaotic. Life is unpredictable. It is – there is no form. And making forms gives you solidity. I think that’s why people paint paintings and take photographs and write music and tell stories and – that have beginning, middles and ends, even when the middle is at the beginning and the beginning is at the end.
On the simplicity of Nirvana’s music
I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s proved to be so effective. The guitar playing is very simple. The drumming is very simple. … We would record a song in one or two takes. It was very pure and honest and real. And I think when Kurt wrote songs, he really tried to capture that simplicity because he realized that that’s kind of a direct route to someone’s heart or soul or mind.
On Cobain fluctuating between being fun and reclusive
When I moved up and started living in that small apartment with them, I mean, this was someone that I had never met before. I didn’t know at first — I thought, maybe he’s quiet, maybe he’s shy, maybe he has social anxieties, whatever it is. There were times, too, where he was outrageously funny and really fun to be around. The two of us would get $7 and go to the grocery store and spend half an hour in the freezer section looking for the perfect TV dinner. And those moments were so much fun. So it wasn’t always doom and gloom. …
A lot of the times when we’d go to the apartment after rehearsal, I slept on the couch, so I would kind of get on my couch and he would go in his room, close the door. Little did I know that most of that time he was writing in his journals, and more often than not, the next day at rehearsal, he would have a new song. So I think he had moments of being introverted and sort of reclusive, but that was also balanced with someone that was pretty fun to be around and pretty great to be in a band with, because when we counted into a song, it exploded, and it was real, man, it was real.
Every seven years since 1964, in what’s known as the Up series, Granada Television has caught us up on the lives of 14 everyday people. The subjects of the documentary series were 7 years old when it began; in the latest installment, 56 Up, they are well into middle age.
Apted on what this experience has been like for him
“What can I say? I mean, it’s the favorite thing I’ve ever done, the thing I’m most proud of. It’s nerve-wracking, because you think you’re always going to blow it and you’ll wreck the whole thing. It seems fragile, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons about it. I’ve made mistakes on it and had to correct those mistakes. You know, particularly I got into a situation, I think, early on where I became judgmental about people — that if they didn’t agree with my standards of success, failure, happiness, whatever, then I would feel they were the lesser for it. And also I try to play God. I try to predict what might happen to people, and sort of set it all up for that. And I did that, and that was an embarrassing mistake. And I think what I’ve learned all the way through is the less I do, the better.”
Having this self-awareness — otherwise known as mindfulness — which is what’s developed through the process of seeing your distractions and then beginning again (gently over and over and over again), that is a game-changing skill. Because … this nonstop conversation … is a central feature of your life — whether you know it or not, we’re all walking around with this inner narrator that if we broadcast loud, you would be locked up. And when you’re unaware of this cacophony internally, it’s owning you all the time. And what we’re doing in meditation is dragging all of this nonsense out of the shadows and into the light.
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. For people prone to depression, especially if the depression is triggered by stress, this is probably a really difficult period. That’s one of the things I’m going to talk about with my guest John Moe, who you might know from his public radio podcast “The Hilarious World Of Depression,” which is also the name of his new book. He’s a humorist who’s dealt with clinical depression much of his life. On his podcast, he interviews people – mostly comics – who have depression. In his book, he writes about his own depression and the history of mental illness in his family. His older brother died by suicide. Throughout the book, Moe quotes relevant passages of his interviews with comics. In the preface, he writes that the book is about how he’s been tortured by depression but also found the absurd humor in it.
GROSS: You know, you’re about the facts. You’re about using logic to try to solve this murder, and you’re unwilling to accept any supernatural explanation. Do you relate to that as a person? And ever – have you ever had an experience that couldn’t be explained by rational thinking?
MENDELSOHN: Yeah, I do relate to it as a person. I’m a son of a scientist. And I think in a lot of ways, I’ve had many things that are hard to explain in a mathematical or – in a way that I’m aware of, that are mystical to me. In fact, I think that we – you know, what happened in the scientific revolution, if you like, is that we actually locked off a lot of our mystical faculties and that we, as a being, probably do a lot better with some more of our mystical faculty doors open. So yes, I’ve had many things – you know, like that thing where you’re just thinking about someone and they call you. You know, that one? I mean, I’m sure you’ve had that, right?
GROSS: Yeah, I’ve kind of had that.
MENDELSOHN: I’ve had that so many times, and I get it with certain people. I’ve had situations in my life where, inexplicably, you know, someone’s just there when you just need them. And I don’t know whether we do that as a way of reverse engineering, you know, like, miracle or whether there’s something else operating out there. We can’t explain it all yet by science. That’s my – that would be my point.
‘Outsider’ Actor Ben Mendelsohn On Australian Machismo And Mastering Accents Fresh Air
Note – in the interview Mendelsohn says Scorsese is in Taxi Driver in two places. I know the famous one: “What a 44 magnum would do to a woman’s”… He left the other one for the listeners. Stumped me.