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.

It has been nearly a decade since actor Claire Danes first appeared as CIA agent Carrie Mathison on the Showtime series Homeland. Now that the show is in its eighth and final season, Danes is feeling reflective about its run.

"I started the show as a barely married person, and I'm leaving the show as a mother of two. [We] just celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary," she says. "It's going to be a while before I can understand and I can appreciate what this is all meant to me. ... More than anything, I'm filled with gratitude."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry GROSS.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HIGH FIDELITY")

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, with an empire that stretches from Hollywood to Whole Foods — and even into outer space.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

After wrapping up his book about the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs, author Michael Pollan turned his attention to a drug that's hidden "in plain sight" in many people's lives: caffeine.

"Here's a drug we use every day. ... We never think about it as a drug or an addiction, but that's exactly what it is," Pollan says. "I thought, 'Why not explore that relationship?'"

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JOKER")

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: (As Arthur Fleck) Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?

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Writer Eilene Zimmerman and her ex-husband Peter had been separated for several years when Peter, a wealthy, high-powered attorney, began acting erratically. Days would go by and Zimmerman would hear nothing from him. Peter forgot to prepare meals for the kids and missed cross-country meets and school pickups.

Then, when the kids were 16 and 18, Zimmerman drove to check in on her former spouse, who had been exhibiting alarming flu-like symptoms. She was shocked to find him dead on the floor.

In 2008, GM closed its manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio, sending the community into a tailspin. Workers who had been unionized at GM struggled to find jobs that paid close to the wages the plant had paid.

"After that GM plant closed, things were so hard for so long," Ohio-based filmmaker Steven Bognar says. "People lost their homes. The jobs you could get were at the Kohl's distribution center or Payless Shoes warehouse distribution center or fast food. People were making $9 an hour."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today's guest is Antonio Banderas, who was nominated for an Oscar for his starring role in "Pain And Glory," written and directed by his old friend, the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. "Pain And Glory" also is nominated as best foreign language film. The Oscars are awarded next month, but Banderas has already has won best actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival and from several critics associations.

What if a blackout were to happen in a major city in one of America's swing states on Election Day 2020? Or if an error occurred while tabulating electronic ballots? How would the electorate respond if one of the candidates refused to concede the election?

These are all scenarios that law professor and Election Law Blog founder Richard Hasen considered while writing his new book, Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy.

Amy Rigby was a sheltered Catholic teen from the Pittsburgh suburbs when she moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design and fell in love with the '70s punk scene.

"Downtown seemed to be where I felt comfortable," she says. "It was grungy. It was dirty. It was dark. Everyone was smoking. It smelled of beer. And it felt like it was always really, really hot or really, really cold in New York back then."

Rigby spent years hanging out in the punk clubs before she found her calling as a singer-songwriter, playing first with Last Roundup and later The Shams.

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The third Monday in January is a U.S. federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but two Southern states — Alabama and Mississippi — also use the day to celebrate Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces during the Civil War.

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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!")

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