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biography

In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy.

We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957.

Larry Tye’s new biography, "Demagogue," is a portrait of a human being capable of immense evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. When he made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism.

In "All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard - Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy," Phil Keith and Tom Clavin share the story of Eugene Bullard; the first African American military pilot, who went on to become a Paris nightclub impresario, a spy in the French Resistance and an American civil rights pioneer.

Tom Clavin joined us.

Janis Joplin has passed into legend as a brash, impassioned soul doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history. But in her new biography, “Janis: Her Life and Music,” Holly George-Warren provides a deep portrait of a woman who wasn’t all about suffering.

Up until the 1960s and 70s, there had been few, if any, human beings who were forced to live their lives under such intense media scrutiny as John F. Kennedy Jr. did.

Born in 1960, at the dawn of the television era. His father, a master of the new medium, used his young family to project a false, but highly attractive, image of himself as a wholesome family man. President Kennedy’s assassination increased public pressure on John even though he was only a boy. The salute by that little boy in blue at his father’s casket cemented the belief that John would be the natural heir to his father’s legacy.

"America’s Reluctant Prince" is a biography of JFK jr. by Steven Gillon - Scholar-in-Residence at The History Channel and Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma. There is also a corresponding documentary with A&E, which is based on the book and features Steven Gillon, “JFK JR – The Final Years,” and it will premiere on July 16, the 20th anniversary of JFK. Jr’s death.

Fay Wray was most famous as the woman who captured the heart of the mighty King Kong, the twenty-five-foot, sixty-ton gorilla, as he placed her, nestled in his eight-foot hand, on the ledge of the 102-story Empire State Building, putting Wray at the height of New York’s skyline and cinematic immortality. Wray starred in more than 120 pictures opposite Hollywood's biggest stars.

As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, "Creature from the Black Lagoon," featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre, there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive. As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time.

Mallory O'Meara's book is "The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick."

In this new portrait of Apple’s current CEO, "Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level," New York Times bestselling author Leander Kahney has written the first-ever biography of Tim Cook and tells the story of how one man attempted to replace someone irreplaceable.

Based on interviews with Cook’s colleagues, Kahney chronicles the success of a post-Steve Jobs Apple including how Cook led the company to its historic trillion-dollar valuation.

Leander Kahney is an Apple expert, Cult of Mac.com Editor, and bestselling author of "Inside Steve’s Brain."

During his regular days in London, Kenneth Grahame sat behind a mahogany desk as Secretary of the Bank of England; on weekends he retired to the house in the country that he shared with his fanciful wife, Elspeth, and their fragile son, Alistair, and took lengthy walks along the Thames in Berkshire.

The result of these pastoral wanderings was his masterful creation of "The Wind in the Willows," the enduring classic of children's literature; a cautionary tale for adult readers; a warning of the fragility of the English countryside; and an expression of fear at threatened social changes that, in the aftermath of the World War I, became a reality.

"The Man in the Willows: The Life of Kenneth Grahame" is by Matthew Dennison; the author of several critically acclaimed works of non-fiction, including "Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter."

Sandy Allen did not know their uncle Bob very well. As a child, Sandy had been told Bob was “crazy,” that he had spent time in mental hospitals while growing up in Berkeley in the 60s and 70s. But Bob had lived a hermetic life in a remote part of California for longer than Sandy had been alive, and what little Sandy knew of him came from rare family reunions or odd, infrequent phone calls. <p>Then, in 2009 Bob mailed Sandy his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences more than sixty, single-spaced pages, the often-incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a “true story” about being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic,” and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world.

Ray Connolly has published a number of books, including "Being Elvis." He also directed the television documentary "James Dean: The First American Teenager" and worked with record producer Sir George Martin on the BBC television series "The Rhythm of Life." His new book is "Being John Lennon: A Restless Life."

"Being John Lennon" is not about the whitewashed Prince of Peace of Imagine legend, because that was only a small part of him. The John Lennon depicted in the book is a much more kaleidoscopic figure, sometimes almost a collision of different characters.

Bob Spitz has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Life. In his career in the music business he has represented the careers of everyone from the Partridge family to Bruce Springsteen to Elton John. He is the author of seven books including a biography on The Beatles as well as Dearie, the best-selling biography on Julia Child.

His latest book is, "Reagan: An American Journey". And Joining us today is Bob Spitz.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Arthur Ashe's historic win at the U.S. Open. Ashe became the first African-American tennis player to win a major tennis tittle. After breaking the color barrier in tennis, Arthur Ashe became an influential civil rights activist and public intellectual.

Now, civil rights historian, Raymond Arsenault is writing a major biography about Ashe. "Arthur Ashe: A Life" is the first comprehensive biography looking into the pioneering athlete and American icon. Joining us today Is Raymond Arsenault.

Joseph Crespino is the Jimmy Carter Professor of history at Emory University. He is the author of "In Search of Another Country," winner of the 2008 Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council, and "Strom Thurmond's America."

The publication of "Go Set a Watchman" in 2015 forever changed how we think about Atticus Finch. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation?

In "Atticus Finch," historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions.

From his rapid-fire stand-up comedy riffs to his starring roles in "Mork and Mindy" and "Good Will Hunting," Robin Williams was an innovative and beloved entertainer -- but as New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff shows in his new biography, "Robin," Williams' comic brilliance masked a deep well of conflicting emotions and self-doubt.

While Joe Kennedy was grooming his sons for the White House and the Senate, his Stanford-educated daughter Eunice was tapping her father’s fortune and her brothers’ political power to engineer one of the great civil rights movements of our time on behalf of millions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Now, in "Eunice," Pulitzer Prize winner Eileen McNamara finally brings Eunice Kennedy Shriver out from her brothers’ shadow.

Patricia O’Toole is the author of "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House," and "The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends," which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her latest book, "The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made," is a biography of one of the most high-minded, consequential, and controversial US presidents, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). "The Moralist" is a cautionary tale about the perils of moral vanity and American overreach in foreign affairs.

It's impossible to know what the American Musical would be without the fateful partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Their first collaboration, "Oklahoma!," opened at The St. James Theatre on Broadway 75 years ago.

Todd S. Purdum’s new book, "Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution," is a portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations.

"Fragile Explosion: Nina Simone" is a world premiere production by Passing the Torch Through the Arts.

Nina Simone, known as The High Priestess of Soul, was a pop star and celebrity in the 1960s. Her career was up-ended because of her key role in the Civil Rights movement. “Fragile Explosion” follows Simone from her beginnings in North Carolina to international stardom, through successes and personal failures, and through her struggle with and triumph over mental illness.

Thomas E. Ricks is an adviser on national security at the New America Foundation, where he participates in its "Future of War" project. He was previously a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and is a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prizewinning blog The Best Defense. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, he covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

His newest book, "Churchill and Orwell: The Fight For Freedom," is now available in paperback.

Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's and if they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs and Orwell was a mildly successful novelist. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly against totalitarian threats.

No writer plunged more wholeheartedly into the chaotic energies of the 1960s than Norman Mailer, as he fearlessly revolutionized literary norms and genres to capture the political, social, and sexual explosions of an unsettled era.

Library of America has released a new boxed set of Mailer's work from that decade. There are two novels, two booklength masterpieces of new journalism, and thirty-three essays.

J. Michael Lennon emeritus professor of English at Wilkes University, is Norman Mailer's editor and biographer, and president of the Mailer Society. His books include "Norman Mailer: A Double Life" and "Selected Letters of Norman Mailer."

It has been one hundred years since Agatha Christie wrote her first novel and created the formidable Hercule Poirot. Award winning biographer, Laura Thompson now turns her sharp eye to Agatha Christie. Arguably the greatest crime writer in the world, Christie's books still sell over four million copies each year - more than thirty years after her death - and sales show no signs of slowing.

But who was the woman behind these mystifying, yet eternally pleasing, puzzlers? Thompson's book is "Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life."

Sandra Allen did not know her uncle Bob very well. As a child, she had been told he was “crazy,” that he had spent time in mental hospitals while growing up in Berkeley in the 60s and 70s. But Bob had lived a hermetic life in a remote part of California for longer than she had been alive, and what little she knew of him came from rare family reunions or odd, infrequent phone calls.

Then in 2009 Bob mailed her his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences over sixty, single-spaced pages, the often incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a “true story” about being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic,” and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world.

In "A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise," Allen translates her uncle’s autobiography, creating a gripping coming-of-age story while sticking faithfully to the facts as he shared them.

Brad Gooch is a poet, novelist, and biographer, whose most recent book is Rumi's Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love. He is the author of ten previous works, including: the memoir Smash Cut; the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet; and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and New York Times best seller. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

In Rumi's Secret, Gooch brings to life the man and puts a face to the name Rumi, vividly coloring in his time and place—a world as rife with conflict as our own.

Ali: A Life

Feb 7, 2018

He was the wittiest, the prettiest, the strongest, the bravest, and, of course, the greatest (as he told us himself). Muhammad Ali was one of the twentieth century’s most fantastic figures and arguably the most famous man on the planet.

But until now, he has never been the subject of a complete, unauthorized biography. Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America’s master storytellers, radically reshapes our understanding of the complicated man who was Ali. Eig had access to all the key people in Ali’s life, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He conducted more than 500 interviews and uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files, as well dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Collectively, they tell Ali’s story like never before—the story of a man who was flawed and uncertain and brave beyond belief.

Jonathan Eig is the author of five books, three of them New York Times best sellers. His newest book is Ali: A Life.

The story of Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone's founder, editor, and publisher, and the pioneering era he helped curate, is told in "Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine."

Joe Hagan provides readers with a backstage pass supplemented by a cache of extraordinary documents and letters from Wenner's personal archives.

Griffin Dunne
Chronogram Magazine

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a biographical documentary featuring the life of influential American writer, Joan Didion. Directed by Joan's nephew, Griffin Dunne, the film enlightens the viewer with an unprecedented, intimate perspective on Joan's life and career accomplishments.

The film features interviews from Joan herself, as well as close family and friends, interwoven with contextual archival footage/stills to visualize Joan's astute writing. Joan, famous for bringing order to disorder through her words, exposes, examines and divulges the most pivotal events in American history, making her one of the most recognizable and influential voices within the literary world. The story of this film not only considers Joan Didion the writer, but gives light to Joan Didion, the individual. 

The film will be screened at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY on October 13th at 5:45pm as part of the Woodstock Film Festival with a Q & A to follow with Griffin Dunne. 

John A. Farrell is the author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century. A longtime journalist, he worked at The Denver Post and at The Boston Globe, where he served as White House correspondent and on the vaunted Spotlight team.

His book is Richard Nixon: The Life.

Otis Redding remains an immortal presence in the canon of American music on the strength of such classic hits as “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Respect,” a song he wrote and recorded before Aretha Franklin made it her own.

As the architect of the distinctly southern, gospel-inflected style of rhythm & blues associated with Stax Records in Memphis, Redding made music that has long served as the gold standard of 1960s soul. Yet an aura of myth and mystery has always surrounded his life, which was tragically cut short at the height of his career by a plane crash in December 1967.

Jonathan Gould is author of the new book: Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life – a major new biography of The King of Soul, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Redding's iconic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Jonathan Gould will be at: The Inquiring Mind Bookstore in Saugerties on August 12th; The Spencertown Academy Festival of Books on September 2nd.

In Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980, New York Times bestselling biographer Craig Shirley charts Ronald Reagan’s astonishing rise from the ashes of his lost 1976 presidential bid to overwhelming victory in 1980. American conservatism—and the nation itself—would never be the same.

As a player, Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel's contemporaries included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson . . . and he was the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets.

As a legendary manager, he formed indelible, complicated relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin. For more than five glorious decades, Stengel was the undisputed, quirky, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball--and along the way he revolutionized the role of manager while winning a spectacular ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.  

But for a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight--an astounding fifty-five years in professional baseball--Stengel remains an enigma. Acclaimed New York Yankees' historian and bestselling author Marty Appel digs into Casey Stengel's quirks and foibles, unearthing a tremendous trove of baseball stories, perspective, and history. His new biography is: Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.

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