Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio earth summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Nobles' Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. He is completing a book on their last week together that will appear in time for Mother's Day 2015.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker.

I've always had a good time in Cuba. The people are friendly and funny, the rum is smooth, the music intoxicating and the beaches wide, white and soft.

But you're accompanied everywhere by government minders. They call them responsables. Any Cuban you interview knows your microphone might as well run straight to their government.

If you want to talk to someone with a different view, you have to slip out of your hotel in the middle of the night without your minder — though dissidents say other security people follow you.

Everyone has days in which we wonder if much of anything works. Websites crash. Screens blink, go blank, or taunt: I'm sorry. Try later. We have an unusually high volume of calls. Download to update. Click here if you've forgotten your password.

But for a couple of hours on an afternoon this week, people got glimpses of excellence.

Dr. Doug Butzier died on duty this week. He was 59 and crashed in his own small plane flying home to Dubuque, Iowa.

Doug Butzier was a former paramedic who put himself through medical school and became chief of the emergency room and medical staff at Mercy Medical Center and the Dubuque Fire Department. An EMS supervisor named Wayne Dow told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, "We adored him ... He appreciated what we did, and he never forgot where he came from."

Dr. Butzier leaves behind his wife, two sons, and three step-children.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

When you think about robots, if you do, you might think of famous images from science fiction, some kind of tin can built to vaguely resemble a human being.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE")

Every now and then you can see a short story come to life right in front of you.

We were on a train this week while a man in a seat nearby spoke in a voice loud enough to carry above the whoosh of the rails to a man whose name we have changed to Phil, to tell him that the company had deliberated and decided they had to make "a transition" in his department.

The U.S. may have added jobs to its payroll last month, but the losses are still huge in Atlantic City, N.J., where four casinos have closed this year. A fifth teeters, and more than 7,000 people — dealers, greeters, cooks and maids — have been laid off.

The job losses could mean a future of boarded windows and abandoned buildings.

In the 1970s, Atlantic City had lost the glitter of its golden years — the 1940s and '50s, when it was a favored summer spot with a broad beach, the Boardwalk, pastel resort hotels and the home of the Miss America Pageant.

Here's an idea for weekend fun: Pick up a banned book.

Look for "the good parts" — the sections of Ulysses, The Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple, Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lolita, the Harry Potter series, Animal Farm, A Farewell to Arms or In the Night Kitchen that have scenes and language that once made people gasp, blush or shudder. The parts that made them say, "We can't let people read this!"

A man known around here as "The Host Whisperer" has died.

David Candow was 74. He was a slightly tubby man from Newfoundland with a sly smile and a soft voice. I wanted nothing to do with him.

David was a consultant, brought in to work with NPR hosts and reporters on writing and delivery. People who make their living on the air often distrust consultants. We figure they've been brought in by executives who have usually never recorded more than a voicemail message, and want all hosts to sound the same.

There might be a recliner rebellion going on.

At least three flights have been grounded in little more than a week after passengers had disputes over reclining their seats, or not being able to. On most airlines these days, passengers are packed so close that — insert your favorite Joan Rivers joke here.

Why can't some of the people who seem to bring the most joy into this world find it for themselves?

The death of Robin Williams, by his own hand, in his own home, possibly after he learned he was in the early stages of Parkinson's, caused a lot of people to ask that question this week.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

What's behind the man who is below The Blue Room?

This week, conservators at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., revealed that underneath Pablo Picasso's noted 1901 painting The Blue Room is another painting of a mustachioed man in a jacket and bow tie, resting his face on his hand.

Experts have long suspected something more must be below, as there were brushstrokes that didn't match the composition of the nude, bluish woman. Now, advanced infrared technology has revealed the man with the mustache, who also wears three rings on his fingers.

The men and women who brought down Adolph Hitler's war machine cannot defeat mortality. As the dwindling number of veterans who served during D-Day are saluted on the 70th anniversary, we might consider how different our lives might have been if those soldiers and sailors had been turned back from the beaches.

We remember Lewis Katz, who once said, "Life is meant to have as much fun as you can conjure up." Katz made a fortune as a sports team owner and gave millions of it away.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Seoul, South Korea's making some changes to its urban landscape. The mayor's office says the women-friendly Seoul campaign will make the city more comfortable for women. They say a lot of urban design focused on men when they were the sole workers in a family and that's changed. So, they're installing pink painted parking spots reserved for women that are a bit wider and longer than the average spot and closer to elevators.

Portraits of world leaders painted by former President George W. Bush go on exhibit in Dallas on Saturday. He took up the hobby after he read Winston Churchill's essay, "Painting as Pastime."

Would Tennessee whiskey by any other name taste as sweet?

A debate in Tennessee simmers over a legal definition of what makes Tennessee whiskey "Tennessee."

The state legislature passed a bill last year saying whiskey can be labeled "Tennessee" only if it's made in the state from a mash that's 51-percent corn, trickles through maple charcoal, and is aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Amid all the of necessary analysis of what Russia's move into Crimea means geopolitically and strategically, it might also be good to remember Reshat Ametov.

Mr. Ametov was buried this week. He was 39 years old, married and the father of three young children.

He was last seen at a demonstration on March 3 in Simferopol, where he joined other Crimean Tatars held a silent protest before the pro-Russian armed men in unmarked uniforms who surrounded the cabinet ministers building.

Sports are supposed to be separate from politics, but athletes and games can't always be kept separate from life and death.

Scores of people were killed in Ukraine this week, as the security forces of President Viktor Yanukovich opened fire on anti-government protesters in Kiev's Maidan, now called Independence Square.

While some 800 miles away, more than 40 Ukrainian athletes have been skiing, skating, working hard to win medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Girl Scout cookies are never that hard to sell, but this week, one 13-year-old San Franciscan may have outsmarted the competition altogether.

Shirley Temple really could be as effervescent as a jolt of ginger ale and as cheery as a maraschino cherry in the kid's cocktail that is still ordered by her name. When Shirley Temple Black, the name she used after her marriage to Charles Black, laughed — and she liked to laugh — tears came to her eyes.

She told us how once she'd been called to jury duty, and learned the case involved erotic bondage.

The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are certifiably the most expensive and allegedly staggeringly corrupt.

Upwards of $50 billion has been spent to turn a place that's been best known as a Black Sea beach resort, where rich Russians could warm themselves under palm trees during long Moscow winters, into a winter sports capital with ski slopes and bobsled runs.

Who knows who'll win the Super Bowl tomorrow, but history will be made before the coin toss.

Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. She is the first opera star to be asked, and it seems so utterly fitting, both for the first Super Bowl to be played within view of the towers of New York, and in the 200th anniversary year of the national anthem.

There's been a publicity circus trailing Dennis Rodman to North Korea to present a big, bouncing birthday present of a basketball game to Kim Jong Un. But did you see the score of the game?

The U.S. team of former NBA players lost the first half, 47 to 39, before the sides were combined.

Well, if you play a team sponsored by a ruthless leader who recently had his own uncle iced, losing is probably the smart move.

By the time he died this week, Nelson Mandela was considered one of the few — perhaps the only — giants on the world stage.

But the man who was prisoner 466/64 on Robben Island was a giant among heroes who offered their lives for freedom as valiantly as he did. In a way, the acclaim the world now heaps so justly on Nelson Mandela commemorates them, too.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now, another take on jazz hands...

(SOUNDBITE OF FINGER SNAPS, SLAPS)

SIMON: It may sound like Savion Glover tapping, or some kind of tin pan Buddy Rich, but this is digital music in the true sense. You're hearing the fingers and hands of Darren Drouin snapping and slapping out a percussive freestyle in a YouTube video that he uploaded this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF FINGER SNAPS, SLAPS)

I was in a grocery store one night this week when a sturdy young man approached with a smile.

"Do you remember me?" he asked. "Bini."

Bini — Erblin Mehmataj — was a bony-shouldered 9-year-old boy with a full, toothy grin who lived in an Albanian Muslim housing complex in Pristina, where we stayed to cover the war in Kosovo in 1999.

Elmore Leonard was a writer who hated — and I don't mean disliked; Elmore had a contempt for putting pretty clothes on hard, direct words, so I mean hated — literature, or at least what he believed a lot of people mean when they say liter-a-ture, as if it were a Members Only club.

Elmore Leonard wrote for a living, from the time in his 20s when he turned out ads for Detroit department stores and vacuum cleaners during the day, and wrote cowboy and crime stories for pulp magazines at night.

I hope we've heard the last of people saying, "This would never be a scandal in Europe." They usually mean "sex scandal," and by now I think Americans are entitled to boast that we've become as blase about politicians with their pants down — or, in the case of Anthony Weiner, pec-flexing with his shirt off — as Europeans like to think they are.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOTING)

SIMON: Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators in downtown Istanbul during a second day of protests. The clashes were triggered by the government's plan to build a shopping mall in a downtown park. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for an immediate end to the protest. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Istanbul. Peter, thanks for being with us.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

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