NPR `mother' to speak at Johns Hopkins

Program: Susan Stamberg is scheduled to discuss `Memorable Guests,' but she says her talk will revolve around four individuals, including Frank Sinatra.

October 20, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Susan Stamberg doesn't mind being referred to as one of the founding mothers of National Public Radio, even if that does make her sound more like a museum piece than a working journalist.

And, like all good mothers. Stamberg believes the best of NPR is yet to come.

"Oh, absolutely," she says over the phone from her Washington office, where she continues to report as a special correspondent for NPR, concentrating on cultural affairs (which includes, she jokes, everything that "is not Wall Street or the White House or Capitol Hill").

"I knew from the beginning it would be successful," she says of the news-oriented format she helped establish. "I was enormously ambitious for it from the first moment. But it still has yet to exceed my expectations."

Stamberg, 61, a part of NPR since its 1971 debut and, from 1972-1986, co-host of its flagship program, "All Things Considered," is scheduled to speak at the Johns Hopkins University tonight, the latest in a series of lectures sponsored by JHU's Odyssey Program on "American Icons (and Scoundrels) of the 20th Century."

Tonight's talk is titled "Memorable Guests" -- an appropriate subject for a woman who's come to be known as one of the finest interviewers in the business.

By her own estimate, she's conducted about 30,000 interviews in her career, and veteran listeners of "All Things Considered" can testify to both their entertainment and information value.

But Stamberg says she's tweaked her topic a little. The talk, she says, will center on people she believes have made a major impact on recent cultural history.

Specifically, she'll talk about stage and film director Elia Kazan, artist Georgia O'Keeffe, author Ernest Hemingway and singer Frank Sinatra.

"I want to talk about people who really made their mark on the century, in one way or another," she says. "Kazan, because he showed us a type of performance we hadn't known before. O'Keeffe, because she taught us to look at art in a new way. Hemingway, because I believe there isn't an American who hasn't been influenced by him in one way or another. And Sinatra, because he was Sinatra."

With that, Stamberg lets loose with one of those full-throated laughs that has always let her listeners know she's having as much fun doing the interview as they're having listening to them.

Of course, she admits, there is a little more to her choice of Sinatra than that.

"He was the first to look at this popular singing as an art form."

Of the four, Stamberg has interviewed only Kazan. "O'Keeffe, I actually attempted to interview once, but you'll have to come to hear me. That's another story."

Her talk, she guesses, will last about an hour and include a little bit of all sorts of elements.

"I'll actually be sort of a star of stage, screen and radio," she explains. "There'll be a screen, if anyone can figure how the slide projector works. And they've put me on a stage. And I'm going to play some brief excerpts from some of my radio reporting over the years."

Tickets for tonight's talk, scheduled for 8 p.m. in the Bloomberg Physics Building on Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus, are $20. For more information, call 410-516-0780.

The Odyssey Program has three more talks scheduled over the next month. On Oct. 27, Richard Cohen, a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and author of "Tough Jews," will speak on "Romantic Gangsters," spinning tales gleaned from his father and Brooklyn friends. Pulitzer Prize winners Richard Ben Cramer and David Maraniss will speak on sports icons Joe DiMaggio and Vince Lombardi on Nov. 3. And Sun national political columnist Jack Germond will tell "Tales I Couldn't Tell Before" on Nov. 10.

Green turns to L.A.

"The Tom Green Show," MTV's bizarre showcase for the bizarre antics of its host, is shifting its base of operations to Los Angeles beginning tomorrow. (Are L.A.'s city fathers aware of this?)

And that's not all that's changing: Sidekick Glenn Humplik is gone, replaced by someone else who will, no doubt, be just as adept at drinking coffee and laughing at Green's jokes.

"The Tom Green Show" airs Thursdays at 10: 30 p.m.

`Early' contributor choices

Ray Martin and Brian Finnerty have been named financial contributors to CBS' "The Early Show," which will bring Bryant Gumbel back to early-morning television beginning Nov. 1. Gumbel will serve as co-host alongside Jane Clayson. Martin, a contributor to NBC's "Today" from 1994 to 1999, will also write a weekly column for cbs.marketwatch.com. Finnerty, managing director of a New York investment firm, has been offering stock tips on New York's WCBS-TV since 1998.

Nick turns up the horrors

Kids looking to get spooked may want to check out Nickelodeon beginning Monday, as the cable network begins its five-night "Primetime Halloween Jam."

Each night from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., new episodes of Nick shows "CatDog," "100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd," "Kenan & Kel," "Rocket Power" and "SpongeBob Square Pants" will seek to send shivers up kids' spines. Also set to air are favorite episodes of "The Wild Thornberrys," "Hey Arnold!" and "Cousin Skeeter."

Serving as overall hosts will be the animated comedy duo of Henry and June.

CBS to profile Lippman

The Sun's own Laura Lippman, author of four mysteries featuring the exploits of reporter-turned-sleuth Tess Monaghan, is to be the subject of a profile airing Sunday on CBS News' "Sunday Morning." The program airs 9 a.m.-10: 30 a.m. on WJZ, Channel 13.

Pub Date: 10/20/99

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