Terry Gross

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's 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 producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM 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-FM. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Growing up in New York City's Little Italy, as a kid, filmmaker Martin Scorsese spent a great deal of time surrounded by images of saints and martyrs at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

"Those images certainly stayed with me," he says. As did the sermons, which often focused on "death approaching like a thief in the night. You never know when. You never know how."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross. Jazz musician Jack Sheldon died last month at age 88. As a big-band and recording soloist on trumpet, he was featured with Sinatra, Bennett, Goodman, Basie and Gillespie. His bandmates have included Chet Baker, Art Pepper and Zoot Sims. For listeners of a certain age, Jack Sheldon may be even more familiar for singing one of the bounciest and most memorable songs from "Schoolhouse Rock!".

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Today President Trump is the face of the Republican Party, but as recently as 2011, Trump donated $5,000 to Democrat Kamala Harris' campaign to become California's attorney general. American Oligarchs author Andrea Bernstein says Trump's donation history is indicative of a practice he learned from his father, Fred Trump.

Editor's note: This interview contains a homophobic slur.

Author Peggy Orenstein knows that talking to your son about sex isn't easy: "I know for a lot of parents, you would rather poke yourself in the eye with a fork than speak directly to your son about sex — and probably he would rather poke himself in the eye with a fork as well," she says.

But we don't have "the luxury" to continue avoiding this conversation, she says. "If we don't talk to our kids, the media is going to educate them for us, and we are not going to love the result."

Director Todd Phillips is fascinated by what he calls "left-footed characters" — people who are "out of step with the world." His most recent film, Joker, is an origin story — of sorts — for the villain in the Batman series.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week we continue with our Best of the Decades series:

'Fresh Air' Favorites: Jordan Peele: Peele talked about his Oscar-winning social thriller Get Out in this 2017 interview.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today we continue our series of staff picks of favorite interviews from the past decade. Coming up later in the show, Bruce Springsteen. But first, Patti Smith.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORIA")

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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