Sorel, Edward: An Actress, Her Lovers, and a Daft Caricaturist

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Edward Sorel, a satirical caricaturist, and cartoonist, whose first book is Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936, is our guest in this edition Radio Curious. Claiming to be daft about Mary Astor for about a half a century, Sorel describes Astor’s career as a Hollywood-based actress who seemingly more than enjoyed a lustful and salacious life. Astor’s diary, which allegedly revealed the untold stories of her trysts and lovers, was the centerpiece of the sensational 1936 trial to determine the custody of her young daughter.

Sorel, whose pictorial satires have appeared on the covers of forty-six editions of The New Yorker magazine, visited Radio Curious by phone from his home in Harlem, New York City, on February 27, 2017.

The books Ed Sorel recommends are: Iron Dawn: The Monitor and The Merrimack, and the Sea Battle that Changed History, by Richard Snow; and Terrible Virtue, a Novel, by Ellen Feldman.

Axt, Robert: Mixed Messages and the Arts

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Intelligence bears the precious gift
of bringing into being
the dream only imagination
makes possible our seeing.

And the dreams found deep within
the chambers of our hearts
are best expressed and brought to life
by the creative arts.

This poem presents the world view of Robert M. Axt, our guest on this edition of Radio Curious. Axt is a retired contractor who self-studied to become an architect, whose last name was changed three times by the time he was ten years old, and now in his mid-eighties, a poet and patron of the arts.

Axt, who has lived in Ukiah, California, since the 1960s shared his childhood story in the November 2016 presentation of First Person Plural, a monologue series taught and directed by the Ukiah dramatist Ellen Weed.

Axt created an enriched family life for himself along with a live of artistic imagery which he manifests in his work as an architect and in his passion as a poet.

In the first half of this edition of Radio Curious, Axt reads his monologue, Mixed Messages. It describes the loneliness and cruelty of his childhood, while living with relatives or step-parents, and often alone by himself after age 12.

In the second half we discuss how his life might have been had his father not been banished from his life at age 2, and his thoughts about the importance of fomenting the creative imagination.

The book Robert Axt recommends is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Louis Carrol.

This program was recorded on December 11, 2016.

Werdinger, Roberta: A Woman of Words

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Story teller, writer, publicist and editor Roberta Werdinger is our guest once again.

In the course of our November 21, 2016, visit when Roberta Werdinger when her personal story Barbwire and Flowers, it was clear that she had more to say. Werdinger is a woman of words, who studies the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. Fascism is one of those words.

How to recognize and respond to fascism, work with fear and go beyond trauma, is part of our conversation in this program. When Roberta Werdinger and I met in the Radio Curious studios November 26, 2016, she commented that she sees herself as having a hybrid life and modus operandi. We began when I asked to describe her hybrid life and modus operandi.

The book Roberta Werdinger recommends is “The Unconquerable World: Power, Non-Violence and the Will of the People,” by Jonathan Schell

Werdinger, Roberta: Barbed Wire and Flowers

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“Barbed Wire and Flowers”: A daughter’s story of her perception and relationship with her father. He, a survivor of the holocaust, and she, his adult child describes the strength of his life incumbent on her youth, and their visit to one of the two concentration camps where he was interned by the Nazis in World War Two.

Roberta Werdinger, a storyteller, writer, publicist, editor, is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious. Raised as a non-secular Jew and ordained as a Buddhist Monk, plans to include “Barbed Wire and Flowers” in the memoir she is currently writing. I heard her public reading of “Barbed Wire and Flowers” here in Ukiah in June, 2016 I invited her to visit Radio Curious. She did on November 21, 2016. Our visit begins with her reading “Barbed Wire and Flowers,” and I invite you listen for the next 17 minutes. Our conversation follows.
This program was recorded on November 21, 2016.

Norris, Wendy: Emily Dickinson: Hiding in Her Own House

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History remembers poets of past eras as windows into the civilization of their time.  A poet’s words reveal life and feelings we would otherwise never know.  New England, in the mid-19th century, was the center of a renaissance of American poetry.  Emily Dickinson, better known now than she was then, was known for her phrases which sang out in a multitude of forms, meters and styles.  Her words presented her innermost feelings and thoughts.  A passionate and witty woman, she made a craft and an art of her words and her life.

I met with Emily Dickinson in the person of actress Wendy Norris, in the parlor of the Dickinson family home, magically carried from Amherst, Massachusetts, to the stage of the Willits Community Theater, in Willits, California, where the belle of Amherst told her story.  We began our conversation when I asked Emily Dickinson why she chose not to receive visitors in her home for so many years.

Martin, Buzzy — Teaching Guitar in San Quentin Prison

Buzzy Martin began teaching music to at risk kids in Juvenille Hall. He then taught guitar in San Quentin Prison for three and a half years, where he gained a unique “insiders” perspective about prison life, prisoners, and the guards. His book, “Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man,” chronicles his experiences teaching prison inmates, including rapists, child molesters and murderers how to play the guitar. Martin shares his experiences with incarcerated youth, to teach them that prison is not a “badge of honor,” and he reveals how music can be a universal language to open the hearts of people who may think they don’t have one.

Buzzy Martin’s memoir will be made into a movie. Visit his website for more information. 

The interview with Buzzy Martin was recorded on October 11th, 2010.

The book he recommends is, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book,” by don Miguel Ruiz.

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Samson, Don — The Creative Imagination of Playwright Don Samson

The creative imagination of playwright Don Samson is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.  In May 2015, I had the good fortune of seeing a ten minute play entitled “Blind Date,” written by my long time friend, who lives in nearby Willits, California.  For many years prior to becoming a playwright, Don Samson researched and wrote legal briefs for criminal defense attorneys, an experience we also discuss in this program.

After seeing the local production of “Blind Date,” I was curious about the circumstances that came to Don Samson’s mind when he created this play, so I invited him to visit the Radio Curious studios.  We met on May 22, 2015 and began our conversation with his description of those circumstances. 

Don Samson recommends the book, which is also a play, “Antigone,” by Sophocles.

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Vogel, Barry and Gravois, John — A Interview with Radio Curious Host Barry Vogel

For this edition of Radio Curious, broadcast at the beginning of our 25th year on the air, I invited my friend John Gravois to interview me about my experiences, reflections and thoughts over the past 24 years that I’ve been the host and producer of Radio Curious. 

John Gravois is the deputy editor of Pacific Standard magazine and a contributing editor to the Washington Monthly. His work has appeared on This American Life, in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate, among others. He lives in Albany, California.

John Gravois and I visited in the studios of Radio Curious on December 27, 2014.  We began our conversation with his comments about the archives found on the Radio Curious website.

The books that I recommend are “The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” by Isabel Wilkerson and “Jacobson’s Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell,” by Lyall Watson.

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Pereda, Marcos — The New Cuba: Reflections, Stories and Song

Marcos Pereda, a native of Havana, Cuba, and a singer-songwriter who lives in Ukiah, California, is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious. The background music in this weeks program is a song titled “Center” that he wrote and then performed on his guitar in our studios.  Pereda returned from a two month visit in Havana on December 20, 2014; he traveled there to attend his mother’s funeral. 

In our visit, recorded on December 22, 2014, Pereda shares his music and songs, his thoughts and experiences about life in Cuba and in the United States, and his hopes for the new relationship between the the two nations.  We began our conversation when I asked him to tell us about his mother. 

Marcos Pereda’s email is: marcosinsonte@hotmail.com.

The book he recommends is “The Little Prince,” by Antoine St. Exupery.

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Levene, Bruce — James Dean in Mendocino

John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden” was published September 1952 and the movie-made soon thereafter-is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. Our guest is Bruce Levene, author of “James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden.” The Mendocino Film Festival will screen “East of Eden” on Friday, November 21 and Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Soon after “East of Eden” was published, plans began immediately for a motion picture. Warner Brothers bought the rights and director Elia Kazan hired playwright screenwriter, Paul Osborn to write the film script. After several attempts to encompass the sprawling 560-page novel, they decided to use only the last 90 pages—the story of Adam Trask, his sons Aron and Cal, their mother Kate, and the girl Abra.

It’s a story about the search for love, the desperate search for his father’s love, by the son Cal, the fanciful search for his mother’s love by Aron, and the futile quest by Adam for the love of all humanity. John Steinbeck wrote of his book, “The subject is the only one that man has used of his theme. The existence, the balance, the battle and the victory and permanent war between wisdom and ignorance, light and darkness, good and evil.”

By 1954, when Kazan began searching for locale to use for the filming of “East of Eden,” neither Monterey nor Salinas, where the stories took place, looked much like California in 1917. Warner Brothers had made “Johnny Belinda” in Mendocino in 1947, which might have influenced the director.

Or perhaps as one wire service reported:  “Like many other voyagers, he just wandered up the Mendocino Coast and found what he was looking for.”

In late April, preparations for filming began and the fist day of shooting took place on May 27. In that amazingly brief time the Mendocino scenes were completed and by June 3, the Warner Brothers production team was gone, leaving local residents with fond remembrances.

Bruce Levene writes, “I first saw “East of Eden” on the fan tail of a US Navy destroyer in the Caribbean in 1956. I’d read the book but never traveled west of Des Moines. California was unseen, Mendocino was unheard of. I thought “East Eden” had been filmed in Monterey and Salinas, wherever they were.”

“East of Eden” became Levene’s favorite motion picture. Not particularly because of James Dean, although he was certainly unforgettable.

“Whatever the man was in real life, saint or sinner,” Bruce Levene writes, “we will never really know.  It’s undeniable however, that in front of an audience or camera he was remarkable. And that, for an actor, is the best thing that can be said. Dean was just something else.”

For Bruce Levene, it was how he felt about the whole movie—the shoreline, the town, it’s people, the actors: Julie Harris, Joe Van Fleet, Raymond Massey and Burl Ives (Massey and Ives didn’t go to Mendocino), and Leonard Rosenman’s wonderful music. A totality in feeling, rare in motion pictures, was only enhanced to Bruce Levene when he moved to Mendocino in 1969.

When Bruce Levene and I visited from his home in Mendocino, California, on November 11, 2014, I asked him what prompted him to write his book “James Dean in Mendocino.”

The book Bruce Levene recommends is “The Immense Journey” by Loren Eiseley.

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