Mickey Rooney got his first laugh on stage when he was just 18 months old, launching him to a long career in show business. He became a major box office draw in the late 1930 and early 1940's, and was best-known for the nine films he made with Judy Garland. He died recently at the age of 93. He was on the Leonard Lopate Show in 2004 with his wife Jan - his 8th - to talk about their off-Broadway show "Let's Put on a Show," which looked back at Rooney's long and varied career.
Jonathan Schell spent a lifetime exploring war in all its various incarnations. His 1982 book, The Fate of the Earth – in which he called for complete nuclear disarmament -- was called “the new Bible of our time, the White Paper of our age,” by Helen Caldicott, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He had been a lead writer at The New Yorker till 1987, a columnist for Newsday and New York Newsday, and, most recently, a correspondent for The Nation. He died recently at the age of 70. You can hear his interview with Leonard from May 2003, when he spoke about the greatest non-violent moments in modern history, from his book The Unconquerable World.
Unlike most comedians who went on The Tonight Show and headed straight to the couch, David Brenner performed first. The reason was, as Johnny Carson would explain, "I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes." The lanky, toothsome Philadelphia native started out as a writer and director of television documentaries, before deciding to try comedy, relatively late, in the 1970s. He would appear on The Tonight Show over 150 times, as both a guest and a substitute host. He died recently at the age of 78. You can hear his conversation with Leonard from October 2003, about his book, I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup, about staging a comedy tour in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
Joe McGinniss had a nose for news, and was tireless in pursuing, and immersing himself in stories, be it then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon (The Selling of the President 1968) or 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (The Rogue). Along with Joan Didion and Tom Wolfe, he was known as one of the writers of New Journalism. He died recently at the age of 71. He spoke to Leonard in April 2009 for his story about the deal that Palin struck to build a $40 billion pipeline, which had little chance of being built.
It’s a common fantasy for many aspiring writers to move to Paris, in hopes of becoming famous. Mavis Gallant is one of the few who did; plus she succeeded where so many others fail, in only a matter of years. The Montreal native became known as a “writer’s writer” in the course of 10 collections of short stories, which originally appeared in the New Yorker. She died recently in Paris, the city where she worked for most of her life, at the age of 91. We were lucky to have had the chance to speak with her back in 2006 when she reflected on a career that had already spanned half a century.
Andre Schiffrin was a force of nature in the publishing world for 50 years. He championed the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Gunter Grass, Simone de Beauvoir, and Julio Cortazar, among many others, first at Pantheon, before founding the independent New Press. He died in Paris at the age of 78. And you can hear his interview with Leonard from September 2000, when he discussed his polemical memoir, The Business of Books.
Chico Hamilton was a triple threat – a drummer, bandleader, and composer, whose smooth, understated style led to California’s cool jazz sound. He was a charter member of Gerry Mulligan’s quartet before founding his own quintet. And he wrote the music for Roman Polanski’s 1965 film, Repulsion. He died at the age of 92. You can still hear his interview with Leonard Lopate in August of 2007 below.
When Doris Lessing was confronted by a bunch of reporters outside her home in London one day in 2007, and was told she'd just won the Nobel Prize, she retorted, "Oh, Christ!... I couldn't care less." The outspoken, independent, and sometimes irascible author reinvented herself over the course of novels, short stories, essays and poems, whether drawing upon her childhood spent in the Central African bush, or imagining a dystopian future. It was The Golden Notebook, her 1962 novel, though, that brought her the most acclaim. She died recently at the age of 94. You can hear her distinctive voice in an interview with Leonard from 2003 below.
The day before Charlie Trotter’s award-winning restaurant closed in Chicago last August, the city unveiled the “Honorary Charlie Trotter Way.” He said at the time, “I love what I do. I pinch myself every day that I get to do this for a living, but on the other hand, one must change their way.” The influential chef’s namesake restaurant had been open for 25 years, and he had trained many others who moved on to great careers – including Grant Achatz. He died suddenly on November 5 at the age of 54. You can hear his November 2004 conversation with Leonard.
Officially, Patrice Chereau was a director – but his provocative work in theater, opera, and film defied traditional forms. French President Francois Hollande called him “one of France’s greatest artists.” Chereau died recently at the age of 68 after a long battle with cancer. You can hear his interview with Leonard from 1999, when he discussed his film, “Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train.”
Oscar Hijuelos was a warm, robust, Cuban-American writer who brought to life in his books the colorful neighborhood of northern Morningside Heights, where he grew up. In the process, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 1989 work, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The novel was later made into a movie starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas. Hijuelos died suddenly while playing tennis this Saturday, at the age of 62. You can hear his 2002 conversation with Leonard Lopate about his novel, A Simple Habana Melody (from when the world was good), and their 2011 conversation about his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes.
Scott Carpenter was the fourth American astronaut in space, and one of the last two surviving astronauts of America's original space program, Project Mercury. He admitted he'd volunteered for it because "Pioneering in space was something I would willingly give my life for." It was actually feared he had died after his Mercury mission in 1962, when he landed 250 nautical miles from his target! Scott Carpenter died recently at the age of 88. You can hear his conversation with Leonard from 2003, about his uncommon journey into space.
If Julia Child taught Americans how to cook French food, Marcella Hazan taught them how to cook Italian food. She taught herself to cook when she and her husband Victor came to the US in 1955 and soon Hazan was teaching New Yorkers how to cook noodles, meat sauce, and risotto, enjoying their work during lunch at the end of class. In 1970 New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne came to one of the lunches. The rest, as they say, is history. Her popular cookbooks were known for their simple, straightforward recipes. She died recently at the age of 89. You can hear 2 of her conversations with Leonard.
Famed television interviewer David Frost was best known for his conversations with former president Richard Nixon. He died this weekend, and you can hear Leonard's 2007 conversation with Frost about his experience preparing for the Nixon interviews below.
Marian McPartland, the renowned jazz pianist and host of NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” had a career that spanned six decades. And she had no intention of stopping! “Retire? Why retire?” she asked an AP reporter in 2007. “I’ve got a job, I’m making money, and I like what I do. Why retire?” She told of the difficulty of breaking into the jazz scene as a woman in the ‘50s in her collection of essays, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. After a set, a man approached her: “You know, you can’t be a respectable woman the way you play piano,’” she wrote. “For some reason or another, this struck me as a great compliment.” Marian McPartland’s career just ended when she died at the age of 95. She was on the Leonard Lopate Show several times, including a live performance in our studios – and can hear them below.
The laconic Elmore Leonard once noted, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” His ultimate object, he wrote, was “invisibility.” Even punctuation was avoidable. Dialogue and blank space ruled. In the process, he wrote countless bestsellers over his long career, starting out with Westerns. His novels and short stories often became films, including “Hombre,” “3:10 to Yuma, “The Tall T,” “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight.” He died at the age of 87, but you can hear many of his interviews with Leonard over the years below...and his sense of humor comes through loud and clear.
One of the most memorable interviews on our show was when Kongar-ol Ondar came by our old studios at One Centre Street. He was a master of Tuvan throat singing -- where the vocalist can produce two, or more, notes simultaneously. Margalit Fox said in the New York Times that it "sounds like the bewitching, remarkably harmonious marriage of a vacuum cleaner and a bumblebee." With Leonard's coaxing, Ondar demonstrated on air. And it suddenly felt like we were on the steppes of Mongolia...You can hear for yourself...
Ondar died recently at the age of 51.
Dennis Farina came late to acting – after he had spent 20 years as a police officer in Chicago. His acting career would eventually last longer than his years in law enforcement, though – between stints on series “Law & Order,” “Crime Story,” and “Luck,” and movies that included “Get Shorty,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Midnight Run.” He died at the age of 69. He spoke with Leonard back in November of 2001 for his film, “Sidewalks of New York.”
Helen Thomas was the first woman to become a chief White House correspondent for a wire service, and the first to not only join, but lead the White House Correspondents’ Association, where she covered every president from Kennedy to Obama with intensity, tenacity, and humor (when called for!). She died at the age of 92. And you can hear Leonard’s interview with her from May 1999.
Reporter and war correspondent Michael Hastings is best known for his Rolling Stone article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in which he quoted McChrystal criticizing the Obama White House and mocking certain members of the Administration. Gen. McChrystal retired shortly afterward. Hastings died on Tuesday and you can hear his conversation with Leonard Lopate below.