Jean Stapleton may be remembered for her television work, especially portraying Edith Bunker, the slow-witted housewife with a huge heart in the groundbreaking series, “All in the Family.” Her screechy duet with Carroll O’Connor, singing “Those Were The Days” opened that show. Yet both before and after that hit sitcom, she made a name for herself on the stage, appearing in everything from “Damn Yankees” and “Funny Girl” (opposite Barbra Streisand), as well as in works by Harold Pinter and Eugene Ionesco. Off Broadway, she was an incredible Julia Child in the one-woman mini-musical, “Bon Appétit.” She died at her home here in New York City at the age of 90. And you can hear the three-time Emmy-winning actress speak with Leonard, in her own, natural voice, in April of 2002.
At one point, Andrew Greeley mockingly suggested that his obituary would read, “Andrew Greeley, Priest; Wrote Steamy Novels.” But, in addition to writing sexually frank novels, the Roman Catholic priest was also quite an equal-opportunity maverick, taking on both scandals in the American Catholic church, as well as secular intellectuals. Andrew M. Greeley died in his sleep at the age of 85. And you can hear his interview with Leonard from June of 1991.
Jean Bach's lifelong love of jazz, and fascination with a black-and-white photograph of a group of 57 musical titans gathered on the stoop of 17 East 126th Street, would lead to her making a documentary about that moment, called "A Great Day in Harlem." It would be nominated for an Academy Award in 1994. The always fashionable former radio producer was such a fixture in the New York jazz world that reputedly Frank Sinatra would always ask upon coming to town, "What's happening down at Jean's?" She died just recently at the age of 94. And you can hear Leonard's interview with her from 1995 about the making of "A Great Day in Harlem."
A chance encounter between keyboardist Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison led to their founding what would become The Doors. As Jeff Jampol, who manages the Doors’ estate, said, “Ray was the catalyst, he was the galvanizer. He was the one that took Jim by the hand and took the band by the hand, and always kept pushing. Without that guiding force, I don’t know if the Doors would have been.” And there might not have been “Light My Fire,” which would become so associated with the Summer of Love. Ray Manzarek died recently at the age of 74. You can hear his conversation with Leonard from January 2002, when he was here to talk about his novel, The Poet in Exile.
Roger Ebert’s career as a film critic spanned over four decades in both print, television and Twitter. In 1975, he was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer. He died after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70. Hear his interview with Leonard from 2005.
Even though you may not know Phil Ramone’s name, you probably know the music stars whose work he produced – including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and Barbra Streisand among them. Phil Ramone admitted in his memoir, Making Records, “Unlike a director (who is visible, and often a celebrity in his own right), the record producer toils in anonymity.” Billy Joel acknowledged that “I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band. He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage… So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.” Phil Ramone died at the age of 79 (though it was until recently reported he was only 72.) And you can hear Leonard’s interviews with him from November 20, 2006 and October 16, 2007.
Anthony Lewis won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1955 for his reporting on the US government's loyalty program during the McCarthy era. He won his second in 1963 for his reporting on the Supreme Court for the New York Times. Lewis wrote for the Times until 2001, and his interest in justice continued to permeate his reporting and columns. He died recently at the age of 85. He was part of a panel discussion on censorship on the Leonard Lopate Show in 2008 and you can hear that conversation by clicking below.
Chinua Achebe was considered by many to be the father of Nigerian -- and modern African -- literature. His novel, Things Fall Apart, which was first published in 1958 and has been translated into 45 languages. Mr. Achebe died earlier today at the age of 82. I had the opportunity to speak with him several times...and you can hear to my 2008 conversation with Chinua Achebe and fellow Nigerian writer Chris Abani below!
Stanely Karnow was not only a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, but a foreign correspondent and television documentarian. His books include Vietnam: A History, Mao and China: From Revolution to Revolution, and the memoir, Paris in the Fifties -- which prompted his friend, Bernard Kalb, the former CBS reporter, to recall, "Stanley has a great line about how being a journalist is like being an adolescent all your life." You can hear him speak with Leonard as part of a panel discussion about the accuracy of historical movies from November 1995.
Clara Ann Fowler was one of 11 children born to a railroad laborer in a small town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. As “Patti Page,” she would become one of the most successful singers in the 1950s. Her honeyed voice made hits of songs like “Tennessee Waltz,” “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window,” “Allegheny Moon,” and “Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.” She died recently at the age of 85. And you can listen to her reminisce with Leonard in an interview from March 2001.
Robert Bork made history back in 1987 when his nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Congressional Democrats. As a result, modern boundaries of cultural fights over abortion, civil rights, and other issues were drawn. As solicitor general in the U.S. Justice Department, Bork had been involved in the 1973 "Saturday night massacre" of the Watergate era, carrying out President Richard Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The former federal judge and conservative legal scholar died just recently at the age of 85, and you can hear his 1989 interview with Leonard.
The Wall Street Journal just published what was Ada Louise Huxtable’s last article about the 42nd Street Library’s restructuring on December 4th of last year. Her prose was vigorous as ever, belying her 91 years. She had accomplished many “firsts” in the course of her long career at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal – including as the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper, as well as winning the first Pulitzer Prize for criticism, awarded in 1970. You can hear her December 2008 interview with Leonard here.
Russell Means starred as Chingachgook alongside Daniel Day-Lewis' Hawkeye in "The Last of the Mohicans." He also voiced Chief Powhatan in the 1995 animated film "Pocahontas" – and he had an advantage, in that he was a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He was also the first director of the American Indian Movement. He just died at the age of 72. And you can hear his interview from 1995 with Leonard for his memoir, Where White Men Fear to Tread.
Senator George McGovern remained true to his liberal Democratic roots, nurtured in South Dakota, throughout his long life. He just died at the age of 90 in South Dakota, near where he’d spent his formative years. He won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the Vietnam War. Though he lost to Richard Nixon, he continued to uphold progressive causes – and opposed with equal vehemence the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke to Leonard Lopate several times and you can hear his conversations with Leonard from 1996 and 2005.
Writer David Rakoff died Thursday at the age of 47. His humorous essays examined a wide range of subjects, from his annoyance at first-world problems to undertaking a 21-day fast to his own bout with cancer. His most recent essay collection, Half Empty, won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor. He was a frequent contributor to This American Life, and the author of the essay collections Don’t Get Too Comfortableand Fraud. He responded to our Guest Picks question “What’s one thing you are a fan of that people might not expect?” with “As someone often seen as hating everything and being immune to pleasure, which isn’t true, I love everything (except sports). I’m just scared of it.” He was on the Leonard Lopate Show a number of times, and was always a generous guest. You can listen to those interviews below.
Robert Hughes brought great gusto and eloquence to the craft of art criticism. The native Australian could be scathing in his opinions, saying the art world had "finally turned into a kind of entropic, institutionalized parody of its old self.” He just died August 6, at the age of 74. You can hear his interview with Leonard from 2006, when he described his life before, and after, a traumatic car crash in 1999, from which he’d never quite recovered.
It’s hard to list all the professions Gore Vidal managed to juggle over the course of his long life. He wrote his first novel while he was still in a US Army uniform at the end of WWII. The grandson of Senator T.P. Gore of Oklahoma, he ran unsuccessfully for the US Congress as a Democratic-Liberal candidate in New York in 1960. And you can see his play, “The Best Man,” in a revival on Broadway right now. The novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and essayist (to name just some of his accomplishments), did not suffer fools (or conservatives!) lightly, and was gifted with an acerbic wit. He always enjoyed being interviewed by Leonard over the years, however. He recently died at the age of 86, and you can hear some of their conversations below.
Gore Vidal was many things—a writer, social critic, playwright, political candidate, sometime actor, and perennial iconoclast. He was on the Leonard Lopate Show several times. You can listen to two of his more recent conversations below.
Celeste Holm’s breakout role was as Ado Annie in the original Broadway production of “Oklahoma!” in 1943. And she went on to have a career that spanned 6 decades and stretched from Broadway to Hollywood. She won the Academy Award in 1947 for her performance in “Gentlemen’s Agreement” and was nominated for her work in “Come to the Stable” and “All About Eve.” She often returned to the Broadway stage between film roles. Celeste Holm died recently at the age of 95. She spoke to Leonard – along with co-star Fritz Weaver – back in 2000, when she was starring in a production of “Don Juan in Hell.”
Marion Cunningham spent the first half of her life raising two children and struggling with agoraphobia. In the second half of her life, she encouraged home cooks to embrace the joys of the kitchen. Along the way, she gained devotees who became friends, among them, James Beard, Judith Jones, Ruth Reichl, and Alice Waters. She’s best known for updating The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and for her own popular Learning to Cook. Marion Cunningham recently died at the age of 90. You can listen to her conversation with Leonard in May of 1999 about Learning to Cook.