Producer and Host of National Public Radios Fresh Air
Benaroya Hall, Tuesday,
April 24, 2001
Terry Gross was born in 1951 and grew up in Brooklyn. She earned her undergraduate
degree in English and a masters degree in Communications from the State
University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. Ironically, her career in radio
was launched almost by accident. After graduate school, she began work
as an 8th grade teacher, a position for which Gross felt totally
unequipped. She was fired after six weeks, but quickly moved into
a full-time position at Buffalos public radio station WBFO in 1973,
where she had been volunteering. At WBFO she began hosting and producing
several arts, womens and public affairs programs, including This
Is Radio, a live three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two
years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as a producer
and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music
program. In 1985, WHYY launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh
Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since
1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been
produced by WHYY. The show is now distributed to 280 stations nationwide.
Widely regarded by her fellow colleagues, listeners, and guests as one
of todays leading interviewers, Grosss effectiveness lies
in her distinctive style, a remarkable blend of empathy, warmth,
genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence, observed The San Francisco
Chronicle. Her interviews are comprised of difficult questions, but
what puts guests at ease is Grosss understanding of their work.
I dont think of myself as having any tricks, Gross
remarked. The main thing I try to do is know the most I can about
a person and their work. I think the more you know about someone, the
more you genuinely care about who they are, the more likely they are to
trust you with the story of their life. Gross is renowned for her
painstaking preparation in finding and interviewing guests; she reads
at least one book a day, as well as countless journals and magazines,
and regularly listens to new music releases. Since Fresh Air began,
Gross has interviewed thousands of artists, politicians, and religious
leaders, including Audrey Hepburn, Aretha Franklin, David Mamet, and former
President Jimmy Carter. The Boston Phoenix wrote, Terry Gross
. . . is almost certainly the best cultural interviewer in America, and
one of the best all-around interviewers, period. Her smart, thoughtful
questioning pushes her guests in unlikely directions. Her interviews are
revelatory in a way other peoples seldom are.
Over the years, Fresh Air has received numerous awards, including
the prestigious Peabody Award and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Award for Best Live Radio Program. In 1999, American Women
in Radio and Television named Gross a winner of the Gracie Award in the
category National Network Radio Personality. The award recognizes an individual
who fosters the development of accurate and realistic portrayal
of women in radio programming. In addition to her work on Fresh
Air, Gross has served as guest host for NPRs All Things Considered
and has appeared as a guest host for CBS Nightwatch. Two collections
of interviews from Fresh Air have been published in tape form including
Fresh Air on Stage and Screen (1998) and Fresh Air Laughs
(1999). Terry Gross lives in Philadelphia.
Taken from "Fresh Air," Terry Gross interviews David
Hyde Pierce of Frasier on November 5, 1998
My guest is David Hyde Pierce, and he plays Niles on the series Frasier.
Now, the story goes that no one knew that Frasier had a brother when
Frasier was a character on Cheers, I don't think Frasier knew he
had a brother. And then when he was given the new series he still wasn't
supposed to have a brother, but the story goes that the creators of the
show were given a picture of you, saw this incredible facial similarity,
then watched tapes of you, loved your performance and thought, Well,
let's write him in as the brother. Did you see the similarity when
you looked at Kelsey Grammer?
DHP: My mom, when I first came out to LA, which is about six or seven
years ago, said to me, Now, you look like Kelsey Grammer, maybe
you could be on his show. That was back on Cheers.
TG: Oh, really?
DHP: Yeah, and no one else thought that at the time. But then, totally
without me having anything to do with it, this casting director, Sheila
Guthrie, who was working with Jeff Greenberg, the casting director for
Frasier, she brought them my photo. They didn't know who I was,
like most people, and like you said, she also brought them some tapes
from the only other TV show I'd ever done, the only other sitcom, which
was called The Powers That Be. It was a Norman Lear political satire,
and John Forsythe played a senator, I played a suicidal congressman. And
they looked at those tapes, and based on those tapes they actually met
with me. And this is the humiliating part, because they met with me for
about half an hour and then they went away and wrote Niles. So I don't
know what that says about me, but that's the way it fell out.
TG: Right. So, it's funny because although I see certain similarities
between you and Kelsey Grammer, you're a much more kind of refined version
of it? You know, smaller and more elegant?
DHP: Refined is nice, I like refined. You know what? If you see pictures
of himI saw a shot of him just out of college, it was taken in New
York, or also he was on a soap opera back then when he was still going
to Juilliard, and he looksit's me. It isn't even that he looks like
meit's me. And so I think we, depending on the year of the show,
we look more or less like each other. But there's definitely a familial
resemblance kind of thing.
TG: I'd like to run through some of the movies that you've been in, and
maybe you could just say a few words about your part in each one, and
what it was like for you. Let's start with your movie debut, Bright
Lights and Big City.
DHP: Yes, that was my first ever. It cost me more to join the union than
they paid me to do the film. My agent had to advance me the money so I
could do this movie. And I had one line. Michael J. Fox was in this movie,
and if you ever see it, there's a scene where he goes to disrupt a fashion
show that Phoebe Cates is doing, and I'm standing behind the bar, and
I say, I'm sorry, the bar is closed. That was my first movie
TG: Did you practice saying that a thousand different ways before doing
it for real?
DHP: Well, for one thing I was a nervous wreck. I mean, I had been a stage
actor for many years, I'd been on Broadway and off Broadway and gone all
over the place, but I'd never done a movie. And they don't know that and
they treat you as if you're an old pro, and it's, Okay, now this
is what's gonna happen, he's gonna come up, the camera's gonna be here,
and you're gonna hit your mark, you're gonna. . . . And of course
you say, Yeah, right, I'll be there. And you're thinking,
What do I hit? Who do I hit? Who's Mark? It was very disturbing,
but I got through that, and no one was injured, so I think I did okay.
Fresh Air on Stage and Screen (Audio) 1998
Fresh Air Laughs (Audio) 1999
Fresh Air's web site
Terry Gross interviews
author William Gibson