in memoriam | WAMC

in memoriam

Orson Bean
AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/GETTY IMAGES

Actor Orson Bean, a staple guest on game shows in the 1960s died yesterday after a car accident in the Venice section of Los Angeles, California. He was 91.

Bean was born in Burlington, Vermont and in 2008, The Roundtable did a remote broadcast from The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington and we included an interview with Orson Bean, who had just turned 80 years old. We aired that conversation today, in memoriam.

Caroll Spinney and Big Bird, early 1970s
Robert Fuhring / https://www.sesameworkshop.org/


  Caroll Spinney, puppeteer, cartoonist, author and speaker most famous for playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on “Sesame Street” from its inception in 1969 until 2018, died on Sunday, December 8, 2019 at the age of 85.

 

In 2016, Joe Donahue spoke with the legendary Muppeteer in advance of a screening of the documentary about Spinney’s career entitled “I am Big Bird.” We share portions of that interview today, in memoriam.

Harold Bloom in 1990
Jim Wilson / The New York Times

Harold Bloom, the eminent critic and Yale professor whose seminal “The Anxiety of Influence” and melancholy regard for literature’s old masters made him a popular author and standard-bearer of Western civilization amid modern trends, died Monday at age 89. Bloom’s wife, Jeanne, said that he had been in failing health, although he continued to write books and was teaching as recently as last week.

Bloom wrote more than 20 books and prided himself on making scholarly topics accessible to the general reader. But, he saw his career as a very simple and honorable one.

Professor Bloom was a frequent guest on this program. He would write me short complimentary notes asking if we could talk about his latest project or just about life in general. In truth, in a 45-minute conversation, I may only get 2-3 questions in. But, listening to him hold forth was always a pleasure.

Although he frequently bemoaned the decline of literary standards, he was as well placed as a contemporary critic could hope to be. He appeared on best-seller lists with such works as “The Western Canon” and “The Book of J,” and was a National Book Award finalist and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Harold Bloom spoke with us in 2015.

On Tuesday, February 28th, 2017, the LBJ Presidential Library held An Evening With Cokie Roberts
LBJ Library

Legendary broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts died on Tuesday at the age of 75. Known to millions for her work with ABC News and NPR, Roberts was both reporter and commentator, earning respect from colleagues and subjects alike. She was also the author of many books – several focused on shining a light on the often ignored role of women in American history.

In April of 2018, Cokie Roberts was in Albany for events with The New York State Writers Institute and she came to the studio to speak with us about her career. We re-air that interview today in memoriam.

Harold Prince
Marc J. Franklin

Harold Prince is a legend in the American theatre – the acclaimed director and producer behind a long list of America’s most iconic musicals and the winner of a staggering, record-breaking 21 Tony Awards died yesterday at the age of 91. Prince produced or directed (and sometimes both) many of the most enduring musicals in theater history, including “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Sweeney Todd” and “The Phantom of the Opera” – and so many more.

In 2017, Applause Books published Prince’s memoir “A Sense of Occasion” and Manhattan Theatre Club was presenting a Broadway musical retrospective celebrating his work entitled “Prince of Broadway.” Joe Donahue interviewed him for our show then and we re-aired that interview today in memoriam.

Tim Conway, the impish second banana to Carol Burnett who won four Emmy Awards on her TV variety show, starred aboard "McHale's Navy" and later voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for "Spongebob Squarepants," has died. He was 85.

Besides his Emmys with Burnett, Conway got two more for guest appearances on "Coach" and "30 Rock." He also had a modest but steady movie career, appearing in such films as "The Apple Dumpling Gang."

We spoke with Conway in 2010, in advance of a performance at Proctors in Schenectady.

Tonight, all Broadway theaters will honor Carol Channing, who died on Tuesday at the age of 97, by dimming their marquee lights. Her performances as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” made her a Broadway legend.

In 2003, Carol Channing joined us for an hour in studio here at WAMC for an episode of our afternoon call-in program, Vox Pop. Her book “Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts,” had come out a few months prior and she was en route to an event at Bennington College in Vermont. 

Actor, comedian, director and writer Penny Marshall died Monday night from complications from diabetes.  She was 75. In 2012, she joined us for a two-part interview upon publication of her memoir "My Mother Was Nuts."

Aretha Franklin
Wikipedia

This morning on the Roundtable at 11, Aretha Franklin's six decade long career is recalled by music documentarian Paul Ingles and a panel of music writers and commentators in the wake of Aretha's death at the age of 76.

Please note: WAMC does not have the rights to upload the special to our website. 

Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. The Pulitzer, National Book Award, and Man Booker International Prize-winning novelist first had success in 1959 with his short story collection, “Goodbye, Columbus.”  A decade later “Portnoy's Complaint” earned him great notoriety and a place in the American canon. His 1997 work, “American Pastoral,” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

We spoke with Philip Roth in 2008 when his novel “Indignation” was published. In this archival interview we talk about his career and process. 

Carl Kasell
CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES

Newscaster Carl Kasell, a signature voice of NPR who brought his gravitas to "Morning Edition" and later his wit to "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" has died. He was 84. He fully retired in 2014.

Kasell's radio career spanned half a century. He was a newscaster for 30 years on "Morning Edition" until 2009. Kasell then became the official judge and scorekeeper of the Chicago-based show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" in 1998. He left his voice on hundreds of answering machines as part of that show's prize. We spoke with him in November of 2009 – when he’d decided to step down from doing morning newscasts at NPR.

Comedian Don Rickles has died at age 90 of kidney failure at his Los Angeles home.

For more than half a century, "Mr. Warmth" headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City. N.J., and appeared often on late-night TV talk shows.

Rickles managed to shock his audiences without cutting social commentary or truly personal self-criticism. He operated under a code as old the Borscht Belt: Go far — ethnic jokes, sex jokes, ribbing Carson for his many marriages — but make sure everyone knows it's for fun.

To remember Don Rickles on The Roundtable this morning, we go into the audio vault (or a shoebox in Joe's basement) to play my interview from March 2001 when Don Rickles was promoting an upcoming appearance in Kingston, NY.

Howard Frank Mosher
author's website

Howard Frank Mosher, award-winning author, often referred to as “The Voice of Vermont” died this weekend. A week after announcing he had cancer and was in hospice care, Mosher died Sunday morning at his home in Irasburg. He was 74.

His acclaimed fiction set in the world of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom chronicled intertwining family histories of natives, wanderers, outcasts, and fugitives.

A frequent guest on WAMC, Howard Frank Mosher made his last appearance with us on The Book Show in November 2016, discussing his career and most recent novel, God’s Kingdom.

We air part of that interview today, in memoriam. 

Former three-time major league baseball all-star Ralph Branca has died at 90. Branca had an 11-year career in the bigs including stints with the Tigers and Yankees, but he is best remembered for a landmark moment in New York baseball. Pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers in a 1951 playoff, Branca gave up the “Shot Heard Round The World” — Bobby Thomson’s home run that sent the New York Giants to the World Series. Years later, Branca and Thomson made peace. But as Branca explained in an interview with WAMC in 2011, it eventually emerged that Thomson had received help stealing the Dodgers’ signs in an elaborate scheme. We spoke with him about his memoir A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace.

  Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 83 years old.

We spoke with Wilder around a decade ago about his memoir Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art. Today we share that interview in memoriam for the actor and comic genius. 

  Umberto Eco, an Italian scholar and author of best-selling novels, notably The Name of the Rose, died on Friday at his home in Milan, Italy. He was 84.

As a semiotician – one who studies signs and symbols and how they are used – Mr. Eco sought to interpret cultures and his scholarly studies were infused into his fiction writing.

Umberto Eco joined us on The Book Show in 2012 to discuss his then most-recent novel, The Prague Cemetery – a work that was denounced by the Vatican. We air a portion of that conversation in memoriam today. 

deerbrookeditions.com

  Our dear friend and colleague, Paul Elisha, has died at the age of 92. Paul was an inspiration, a mentor and confidant. He was filled with wit, passion, integrity and an understanding of what made us better people. There was music and poetry which he dispensed with beauty and candor.

Paul had been a part of The Roundtable since its inception. He was a frequent commentator, he hosted our long-time "Performance Place" series, and would regularly interview noted poets for his "A Bard's Eye View" segment.

In remembrance of Paul we share two of these interviews. The first with William Jay Smith and the second with Djelloul Marbrook.

Felix Clay / http://www.theguardian.com/

  British mystery and crime writer, Ruth Rendell, one of the most prolific authors in the genre with more than 60 novels, died at the age of 85 on May 2nd following a stroke in January.

We remember her, and her popular protagonist Chief Inspector Wexford, on this week’s Book Show.

Felix Clay / http://www.theguardian.com/

  British mystery and crime writer Ruth Rendell - one of the most prolific authors in the genre, with more than 60 novels - has died at age 85 following a stroke in January.

Rendell was best known for creating Inspector Reginald Wexford, a character that was later translated for television, becoming a popular series on British and American TV. She brought a psychological depth to the class mystery that gave readers unusual access to the emotional makeup of seeming ordinary people capable of foul deeds.

In an unaired interview we did with her in November of 2014 for her most recent novel, The Girl Next Door, we spoke about how she thought she'd grown as a writer over the course of her career.

    Joan Rivers kept audiences laughing through a 50-year career. It was a career that certainly had its bumps: bankruptcy, getting banned from The Tonight Show, and having her husband commit suicide - however, she was a constant presence on the road. She never stopped working and was always reinventing herself.

In this segment we share an archival interview with Joan Rivers and then welcome Susie Essman to the program to talk about what Joan meant to her.

Listener Essay - Remembering Peter Matthiessen

Jul 2, 2014

    In this essay, Jeanne Hunter remembers her friend, American novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer and CIA-agent Peter Matthiessen who passed away in April of this year.

    Dr. Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet who wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, died on Wednesday in her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis April 4, 1928, Angelou led a life that contained many adventures and accomplishments - any one of which might fill the entire life of another person - in addition to writing some of the most beautiful poetry and prose in existence - she was a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor, administrative assistant, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Tony-nominated stage actress; and a college professor.

Here were share portions of some of Joe Donahue's conversations with her over the years.

    Cuban-American novelist, Oscar Hijuelos died this weekend at the age of 62. His book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was a best seller and earned him the Pulitzer for fiction in 1990 - making him the first Hispanic to earn that prize.

We spoke with Hijuelos on The Book Show in 2010 on the occasion of the publication of Beautiful Maria of My Soul – his 20 years-later muse-twin follow-up to Mambo Kings.

    Elmore Leonard, who died Tuesday at age 87 from complications from a recent stroke, influenced an entire generation of crime writers with his gritty crime novels and shoot-'em up Westerns. Works like “Get Shorty,” “Freaky Deaky” and “Glitz” established him as a modern master of American genre writing. His novels were often adapted for the large and small screen, including a short story, “Fire in the Hole” which was adapted for television as the FX show “Justified” which won a Peabody Award in 2011 in its second season.

Joe Donahue speaking with Elmore Leonard on the occasion of the publication of Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. We re-air a portion of that interview in memoriam.

7/11/13 - Panel

Jul 11, 2013

Today's panelists are WAMC's President and CEO Alan Chartock, Newsman Ray Graf, and Mike Spain, Associate Editor of The Times Union.

Topics:
Remembering Toshi Seeger
Camp Bisco
Plan by NYS Office of Mental Health to close nine state psychiatric centers
 

Musician Richie Havens died at 72 on Monday. The soft-spoken singer and guitarist stayed on the road for 45 years until ill health finally forced him to give up touring in 2012.

    Former New York City mayor Ed Koch died after a brief illness early this morning at 88, ending a long and often rambunctious public life. The former Congressman and permanent Big Apple ambassador spoke with Randy Cohen on WAMC’s Person Place Thing last year. They discussed Koch’s burial place in one of the last open plots in Manhattan.

Andrew Phelps/WBUR

David Rakoff, author humorous essay collections Fraud, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty - and frequent contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life has died.

AP File Photo

Gore Vidal came from a generation of novelists whose fiction gave them a political platform. Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City; Kurt Vonnegut became an anti-war spokesman. And Vidal was an all-around critic. His novels sometimes infuriated readers with unflattering portraits of American history.

He also wrote essays and screenplays, and his play The Best Man currently has a revival on Broadway.