Jeopardy host Alex Trebek thinks Justin Trudeau wears a buzzer under his shirt to signal his assistants
Share this story Jeopardy host Alex Trebek thinks Justin Trudeau wears a buzzer under his shirt to signal his assistants Tumblr
Alex Trebek says he once spent “almost an hour” with Trudeau — and was rudely interrupted by a buzzer under the Canadian prime minister’s shirt.
“I’m keenly aware of little nuances,” Trebek said, “and I noticed at one point, after about 45 minutes, that Justin did something like this (scratches under his shirt) and about 10 seconds later, there was a knock on the door and one of his assistants came in and said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, you have a meeting.”
His interviewer, Vulture writer David Marchese, was confused. So Trebek elaborated.
“He has a buzzer under his shirt that he can use to signal his assistants when it’s time to come and get him,” Trebek explained of Trudeau.
Jenna Amatulli, the HuffPost reporter, summed up a majority of people’s reactions to that factoid in one word: “WHAT.”
Hayes Davenport tweeted: “we have ruined alex trebek. he is haunted by buzzers. he believes everyone he meets has a buzzer they use to deceive him.”
On Twitter, Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, set the record straight.
“Not true, but not the worst idea I’ve ever heard,” Butts wrote. “Also, Alex Trebek is a national treasure.” Not true, but not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.Also, Alex Trebek is a national treasure. 🇨🇦 https://t.co/PFanLRtwJ3 — Gerald Butts 🇨🇦 (@gmbutts) November 13, 2018
Why, then, did Trebek believe Trudeau had a hidden buzzer? One Twitter user floated a theory. “Alex Trebek has spent the bulk of his professional life around buzzers he cannot use and must obey,” the person wrote. “Perhaps it has driven him insane and he now believes buzzers are responsible for everything that happens in the world.”
It’s a well-documented fact that Trebek can talk at length about almost anything. Things were no different when the longtime “Jeopardy!” host spoke with Vulture’s Marchese for a piece that appeared to be about the 78-year-old’s much discussed retirement plans.
But in reality, it was, at times, a bizarre interview that went far beyond a discussion of his experience as the beloved host of one of television’s longest-running trivia game shows.
The Q&A, which Vulture noted had been edited and condensed from two conversations, was published Monday on a number of topics. Trebek commented on the #MeToo era —“This has got to be a scary time for men,” he said, noting his dream “Jeopardy!” contestant used to be Kevin Spacey, “but now you can’t say that.” The host also dove into politics, most notably claiming Trudeau wears that secret buzzer under his shirt and opining that President Donald Trump isn’t funny.
There are guys out there — young guys are stupid in their teens.’ There’s nothing stupider than a teenage boy. They’re operating on testosterone
The piece began with Trebek joking that he does know all the answers to “Jeopardy!” questions, “because they’re written on a sheet of paper in front of me.” Trebek said viewers are “always surprised” to learn he enjoys fixing things around his house and is “not a nerdy person who spends all his time researching information that might come in handy” on the show.
“But I don’t mind surprising people in that way,” Trebek said.
“At least it’s a relatively benign surprise,” Marchese remarked.
Then, Trebek proceeded to surprise many of the people reading the interview by giving an unsolicited, and generally unpopular, opinion on #MeToo.
“You know, when the #MeToo movement started, I had discussions with the staff during production meetings,” he said. “I said, ‘My gosh, this has got to be a scary time for men.’”
The Canadian-American continued: “I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a position of power where I might be able to lord it over somebody sexually. I said, ‘But there are guys out there — young guys are stupid in their teens.’ There’s nothing stupider than a teenage boy. They’re operating on testosterone.”
When Marchese responded that youth isn’t always an “acceptable excuse” and that “young men are not the only ones who are a problem,” Trebek launched into an explanation of a scene from the 1994 film “Disclosure,” starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas.
It’s the year of the woman, so I suspect that the producers might give serious consideration to having a woman host
“This conversation has taken a turn,” Marchese said.
“You took a turn,” Trebek shot back.
On social media, Trebek was almost instantly excoriated for echoing an opinion voiced by Trump as well as his son, Donald Trump Jr. and other conservatives. (Trebek, who says he is an independent, was critical of Trump during the 2016 election.)
Elle Magazine writer R. Eric Thomas slammed Trebek for giving “a terrible, unprovoked NotAllMeToos take … in the OPENING LINES of this interview.”
“I was actually screaming,” Thomas tweeted.
HuffPost’s Amatulli described Trebek’s comments as “head-shaking” and called the interview “wild.”
Later in the Q&A, Trebek returned to #MeToo while discussing his potential successor. He surmised that the new host of “Jeopardy!” could very likely be a woman.
“We’re in the #MeToo movement now, it’s the year of the woman, so I suspect that the producers might give serious consideration to having a woman host,” he said. “She’ll obviously be younger; she’ll have to be personable, bright, have a sense of humor.”
He joked that his recommendation would be Betty White.
More seriously, however, in a July interview with TMZ, Trebek named CNN analyst Laura Coates and Los Angeles Kings announcer Alex Faust as potential replacements.
In another #MeToo reference, Trebek said his dream “Jeopardy!” contestant used to be Spacey. The two-time Oscar winner and former “House of Cards” star swiftly fell from grace after he was accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct last year.
“He’s bright, and there would be so many funny moments because of all his great impressions,” Trebek said. “But now you can’t say that.” Alex Trebek, saying he may leave ‘Jeopardy’ in 2020, suggests two replacements
Beyond #MeToo, Trebek also discussed the current political climate, which doesn’t have “enough humor,” he said. Taking a shot at Trump, Trebek said the president doesn’t make jokes but rather, “picks on people.” When he was asked later how Trump would do on “Jeopardy!,” Trebek quipped, “He might not agree that any of the correct responses are correct.”
Trebek has not met Trump, but his story about his encounter with Trudeau went viral on social media.
During the Vulture interview, which was done before it was announced that Trebek would be staying on the show through the 2021-2022 TV season, the host said he has already started seeing indications that retirement could be near.
“Instead of saying ‘1492′ I’ll say ‘1942,’” he said. “I love doing crossword puzzles, and recently I’d be looking at a clue, it’d be 23 across, and I’d be trying to fit the answer into 26 across. I was always off.”
He said he even underwent testing for early Alzheimer’s disease, but was told he was “OK” and there was “no need to worry.”
“When it’s clear that it’s time for me to go, I’ll go,” he said, adding that he already has a plan for how he would like to do his final episode.
“All I want on my last show is 30 seconds, and I’ll do what Johnny Carson did: ‘Hey, folks, thank you. Been a good run and all good things must come to an end,’” he said. “Then I’ll move on.”
Caroline Rose Hunt, mother of The Crescent and The Mansion, dies at 95
Caroline Rose Hunt, mother of the Crescent and the Mansion, dies at 95 Filed under Business at Get Daily Dallas News Headlines Sign Up Get Unlimited Digital Access Your first month is less than a dollar. $0.99 for first 4 weeks Subscribe Now
Oil heiress Caroline Rose Hunt, daughter of legendary wildcatter H.L. Hunt and once the richest woman in America, died Tuesday night after suffering a stroke on Oct. 31.
The philanthropist, hotelier, author, world traveler, gourmet, entrepreneur, mother of five, grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of 23 was 95.
“My mother changed the complexion of the city,” said her only daughter, Laurie Harrison. “She bought land in an area that nobody wanted to be in and created The Mansion on Turtle Creek. She took something that was historical and made it useful and beautiful. She took 13 acres that was a car lot and created The Crescent — one of the most beautiful Philip Johnson buildings in America.
“My mother lived three or four lifetimes in one. She was something else.” Caroline Hunt at the Mansion on Turtle Creek at the entrance to the dining room in 2009 (David Woo)
Caroline Hunt was born in El Dorado, Ark., to H.L. and his wife Lyda Bunker, the third child of H.L.’s so-called “first family” that also included her late brothers Hassie, Nelson Bunker and Lamar Hunt; her late sister, Margaret Hunt Hill; and her only surviving sibling, William Herbert Hunt.
After H.L. discovered the massive East Texas oilfield, the family moved to Tyler and then to Dallas and the now-famous Mount Vernon along White Rock Lake in 1938. The J.R. Ewing character in TV’s superhit Dallas was modeled after H.L.
The patriarch, once the world’s richest man, later married Ruth Ray, mother of Dallas billionaire Ray Hunt and his three sisters.
In the early 1980s, Caroline Hunt’s Rosewood Corp. began assembling a tract of land just north of downtown that would anchor the company’s signature development, the Crescent, and later Rosewood Court.
Her net worth at its height in the late 1980s was about $1 billion — more than $2 billion in today’s dollars — and also included the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.
She outlived two husbands, Loyd Sands and Buddy Schoellkopf, and her longtime companion, Charles Simmons, who died nearly eight years ago.
In recent years, Hunt was squired by Robert Brackbill Sr., who will turn 100 next summer.
She dropped Schoellkopf as her last name after their divorce in 1987, preferring Mrs. Hunt in formality. But mostly she was known as Caroline in her hometown of 50 years. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her Moozie.
Hunt was never one to seek the spotlight and rarely gave interviews. Her last was with The Dallas Morning News . That story ran a year ago — almost to the day.
When she was proclaimed the wealthiest woman in America, she gave interviews to The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times but reportedly turned down 60 Minutes . Uptown girl
It’s impossible to know just how much Caroline Hunt was worth when she died.
Like her father, who was the Jeff Bezos of his day, she held such matters close to her chest.
Rosewood — owned by the trust established for Hunt in 1935 by her father and mother and run by others — still has vast holdings in ranching, real estate, investment funds and oil and gas, and it buys and sells turnaround companies.
But Hunt’s legacy on her beloved Big D is indelible. There was no Uptown until she came along.
“The city of Dallas has been the recipient of the results of my Aunt Caroline’s love of beauty,” said Dallas billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist Lyda Hill, whose mother, Margaret Hunt Hill, was Caroline’s sister. “Rosewood’s projects are elegant with superb architecture and art that reflect her grace and sense of style. The renovation of the Mansion on Turtle Creek preserved a beautiful old home and gave Dallas a grand hotel. The Crescent development renewed a deteriorating area on the north side of downtown and produced a shining star that became a beautiful entry into downtown Dallas.”
John Zogg of the Crescent said, “Several of our employees started their careers with her, and her passion for top-quality customer service is the bedrock that drives Crescent’s culture today. “
Developer Lucy Billingsley held Hunt in her highest esteem.
“Caroline Hunt was raised in the age of steel magnolias — beautiful, charming and powerful,” said the partner of Billingsley & Co. “She was the quietest, boldest and most creative lady in real estate in the city. Her eye for excellence and beauty and her ability to deliver on both created the magic of the Rosewood brand.”
Hunt graduated from the Hockaday School in 1939 and attended Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., during her freshman and sophomore years. She received a bachelor of arts degree in English and art history from the University of Texas in 1943.
Hunt’s first job at the family oil business was in the mailroom of Hunt Oil. Caroline Hunt walking down the aisle with her father, H.L. Hunt, for her marriage to Loyd Sands. (Courtesy Caroline Rose Hunt) Caroline Rose Hunt with actor Larry Hagman aka J.R. Ewing in 1991. (Courtesy Caroline Rose Hunt) Caroline Hunt with her award-winning halibut that she caught in Homer, Alaska o,n a trip with her second husband, Buddy Schoellkopf. (Courtesy Caroline Rose Hunt) Caroline Rose Hunt, 94, at an event at the Dallas Arboretum in 2017 (Dallas Arboretum) Caroline Hunt with her mother, Lyda, at her Hockaday School graduation in 1939. (Courtsey Caroline Rose Hunt) Selling the crown jewels
Rosewood Corp., which she founded 42 years ago, got into the hotel business in 1979 when it converted the Sheppard King mansion into The Mansion on Turtle Creek.
In August 1989, Hunt stunned the hotel world when Rosewood Hotels and Resorts sold its Hotel Bel-Air in Beverly Hills to a Japanese company for $110 million, or a record $1.2 million per room. That was followed in quick order by another sale to Japanese investors — the secluded luxury resort Hana-Maui Hotel in Hawaii and surrounding 4,500 acres for a reported $200 million.
Rosewood Hotels had 18 owned and managed properties by 2011, when the umbrella company sold its hotels and interests in the Crescent to a Hong Kong billionaire.
When Harrison, 62, executive director at Rosewood Corp., asked her mom why she’d agreed to sell the family’s crown jewels, she received one of her mother’s well-honed pieces of business advice.
“She goes, ‘Laurie, I told you, don’t get emotionally tied to any one line of business,’ ” Harrison recalled. ” ‘Business is cyclical. And now is the time to sell. We’ve got a Chinese [tycoon] getting ready to overpay. Besides that, you children can buy it back for 30 cents on the dollar in about 15 years.’ “
Hunt’s unofficial title at Rosewood was “the guiding spirit.”
Don Crisp was one of Hunt’s first employees at Rosewood Corp. more than 40 years ago and served as its president and CEO until he retired in 2015 .
“We had both a business and personal relationship, but I think of her first of all as a dear friend,” he said. “She genuinely cared for people and made those around her feel valued and respected.”
He said that Hunt was actively involved in the company but always sought out the opinions of her family and management. “Caroline had a keen mind and was a very practical person with a lot of common sense, so when she did offer opinions, we listened very intently,” he said. Caroline Rose Hunt is surrounded by her immediate family from her five children of Loyd B. Sands in May at Carmel Valley Ranch, where Rosewood Corp. held its 15th annual stakeholders meeting. (Courtesy Caroline Rose Hunt family)
There’s an 18-year spread between her eldest child, Stephen Sands, 73, and her youngest, Patrick Sands, 55. She lost two sons, David Sands and John Bunker Sands, to cancer.
For the last 15 years, the stakeholders of Rosewood Corp. have gathered for an annual family retreat to absorb Caroline Hunt’s core values. Harrison said that tradition will live on.
“The most important word to my mother was integrity ,” Harrison said. “She thought that should be in every aspect of business and relationships. My mother’s favorite quote was ‘Happiness is not a destination, but a way of traveling.’ “
In her later years, Hunt was extremely hard of hearing and lost most of her eyesight to macular degeneration, but she continued to go to her Uptown office almost daily, hosted a women’s Bible study in her office every Monday and kept an active social calendar that included having lunch and dinner with friends and family. She had planned to attend a Dallas CASA event before she was felled by the stroke on Halloween, according to Dallas book agent and close friend Dedie Leahy, who had been working with Hunt on her memoir for several years.
“She was kind, thoughtful, highly intelligent, well read, well traveled, and loved to laugh,” Leahy said. Twinkle in her eyes
When the Texas Business Hall of Fame wanted to honor her in 1999 — along with former president George H.W. Bush — she accepted but with the stipulation that the organization recognize her entire family.
She received countless awards reflecting her service and contributions to business and the arts and honoring her focus on philanthropy, both personally and through her leadership at the Rosewood Foundation.
Over the years, she quietly spread her largesse to innumerable causes dear to her heart, including Dallas CASA, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, the Junior League of Dallas and the Crystal Charity Ball.
Hunt became involved with United Way after World War II when she went door to door in her neighborhood collecting donations for the Dallas Community Chest, which evolved into United Way. Her contributions to the charity included co-chairing the Alexis de Tocqueville Giving Society in 1990 and 1994. In 2013, United Way presented her with its greatest honor, the J. Erik Jonsson Award.
“Mrs. Hunt told us she was drawn to the mission of Dallas CASA because she had a wonderful childhood and felt deeply for vulnerable children who do not,” said Kathleen LaValle, CASA president and CEO. “Through her endorsement, Mrs. Hunt helped bring attention to the plight of child victims of abuse and neglect, making it possible for us to serve many more children who need constant, caring advocates to be their voices in the courtroom and the community.”
Hunt was also a longtime advocate of the Dallas Arboretum and spoke last year as part of the opening for its new edible garden, A Tasteful Place, which she thought was a fabulous idea.
“She was a beautiful woman, inside and out, and always had a twinkle in her eyes,” said Mary Brinegar, CEO of the arboretum. “She loved the beauty, the design and of course the flowers of our garden. She will be sorely missed.” Mischievous wit
In her interview last year, Hunt reflected on how she nearly burned down the family house in Tyler when she was little by leaving her toy electric range turned on in the attic, and how she flipped her Chevy into White Rock Lake when she was 16. After that watery incident that only injured her pride, Hunt never liked to drive or had any interest in cars.
She had a reputation for having a spunky wit and for being frugal yet refined when it came to food, clothing and her way with words.
She was an accomplished gourmet cook and the author of a novel, Primrose Past: The 1848 Journal of Young Lady Primrose , published by Harper Collins in 2001, and a cookbook, The Compleat Pumpkin Eater , published in 1980. One of its 440 recipes — banquet elephant stew for 3,882 people — was dropped into the middle of the book as a ruse.
“I love humor, and that was one of my made-ups,” Hunt said.
Asked what her favorite pumpkin dish was, she responded, “Actually, I like raspberries better.”
How did she become so infatuated with pumpkins? From left: Caroline Rose Hunt, Charles Simmons and Victor Costa are shown in 1989. (Joe Laird/File) Laurie Sands Harrison with her mother, Caroline Rose Hunt, at the Dallas Arboretum on Oct. 20, 2017. (Courtesy Dallas Arboretum) Caroline Rose Hunt, Robert Brackbill Sr. at the Dallas Symphony Gala benefiting the DSO in 2015. (Kristina Bowman Photography)
Hunt wanted to come up with a way to use the cast-off innards from her kids’ jack-o’-lanterns, so she started developing her own recipes. And she loved the color of pumpkins.
When Hunt and her second husband, the late Buddy Schoellkopf, an experienced World War II pilot in the South Pacific, started a helicopter charter company, he honored her by naming it Pumpkin Air.
“My husband must have been a little bit colorblind, because he painted the helicopters bright orange. Colorwise, I like everything more subtle, as you can tell,” she said, holding up a silk scarf of softly hued pumpkins.
“My mother was not only loved by her immediate family but by the extended family as well,” says Harrison. “Everybody loved my mom.”
Caroline Hunt is survived by her son, Stephen Hunt Sands and wife Marcy; daughter, Laurie Sands Harrison; son, Patrick Brian Sands and wife Kristy; daughters-in-law Nancy Sands Esber and Gayle Sands; her brother, William Herbert Hunt; and half-brother Ray Hunt and half-sisters Ruth June Hunt, Swanee Hunt Ansbacher and Helen Hunt Hendrix.
She is also survived by 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.
Hunt was a 50-year member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and its first woman deacon.
Services are pending.
‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Marvel Comics Writer And Editor Stan Lee
‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Marvel Comics Writer And Editor Stan Lee ‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Marvel Comics Writer And Editor Stan Lee Embed Embed A True Believer Remembers Stan Lee
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. We’re going to listen back to an interview with Stan Lee. He died yesterday at the age of 95. He co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Black Panther and other Marvel Comics characters. Over the years, he worked as Marvel’s head writer, art director and publisher. When I spoke with him in 1991, he was overseeing the adaptation of Marvel characters into films and TV shows, and he had just written the introduction to an illustrated history of Marvel Comics. He told me how he came up with one of his most famous superheroes, Spider-Man.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
STAN LEE: Before I came up with the name Spider-Man, I had decided I wanted a superhero who could crawl on walls, stick to the ceiling and so forth. And I said, gee, that’s a real insect power. What’ll I call him? And my first thought was insect man, and that just didn’t do it for me at all. And then I thought, well, let’s see. There’s a mosquito man.
LEE: That really had no appeal at all. And I went down a whole list. And when I got to spider man, I mean, it was like a bell rang. A light went off above my head. Spider man was it. And when I put the amazing in front of it, I knew we were home free.
GROSS: What makes a superhero a Stan Lee superhero? What are some of the qualities?
LEE: Well, it has to be magnificently written. The creation has to be a work of genius. But to be serious, (laughter), the one thing that I’ve tried to do is give them the most human and realistic qualities possible. Now, it may sound like a contradiction in terms because our superheroes are fantasy characters with superpowers that no human being possesses, and yet I try to be realistic about it.
But the basic idea is you take one fantastic element, like, well, with the Hulk, like somebody who’s got the strength of 50 men and green skin. And then you say, suppose such a character really existed? What would his life be like in the real world? Where would he live? What would he wear? Who would he relate to and so forth? And having asked the reader to suspend disbelief in the area of the character’s superpower, you then try to make everything else as realistic as you can.
And then the other thing that we try for very much is humor. Now, I guess before Marvel comics started, there wasn’t too much humor in superhero adventures. But for instance, with Spider-Man, I tried, again, to inject the humor in such a way that it was realistic. For example, there was a time when he had received a check as a reward for something he had done, and he was so happy to have this money, this check made out to Spider-Man. And he went to a bank to cash it in his Spider-Man costume. And the teller behind the counter said, well, I can’t cash this check. I need identification. And he said, I’m wearing a Spider-Man costume. He said, anybody could wear a Spider-Man costume. You know, who are you? And he said, I’ve got a secret identity. I can’t tell people who I am.
And anyway, this went from bad to worse. And he was never able to cash the check. Now, to me the interesting thing about that was I really wasn’t trying to be funny so much as I was trying to be realistic. Because what would happen if a guy in a Spider-Man suit had a check that he tried to cash?
GROSS: How did the superheroes that you created compare to the kinds of heroes in comics when you started working at Marvel back when you were a teenager?
LEE: Well, when I started working for the comics, all the heroes were really cut out of the same mold. They were tall and handsome and strong and noble. And as far as their dialogue went, I felt insufferably dull.
GROSS: Like, give me an example of the type of writing you thought was really square and dull.
LEE: OK. I want you to imagine something. I want you to imagine that you’re walking down the street and you see a monster coming toward you. And this monster is 12-feet tall with purple skin, forearms, a tail, and he’s breathing fire and he’s got two heads. And in those days, if Superman or Batman or one of our own characters, Captain America or anybody, any typical superhero, had seen this monster walking down the street in one of the stories, I think the dialogue would have gone something like this. A creature from another world – I’d better capture him before he destroys the city.
Well, I would like to feel that in one of our comic books, one of our heroes, such as Spider-Man, might say, who’s the nut in the Halloween costume? I wonder what he’s advertising. And it was just that shade of difference. I tried to do dialogue that represented the way real, flesh and blood, three-dimensional people would talk and would react to things. And it came across as satire. But I wasn’t trying to write humor. I was trying to be realistic. So I must be funnier than I thought.
GROSS: What about deciding on the alliterative sounds that you would use when somebody got hit?
LEE: I loved sounds. And again, I think what it is, I’ve always hated cliches. As you can imagine, formally in the comics, if somebody was hit or if there was a sound effect of a loud noise, the sound effect would be pow or bam or sock or bop – something of that sort. So I tried to make up crazy sound effects that would at least be original. I would have P-F-Z-Z-A-K-T, which I cannot pronounce.
LEE: But that might be the sound of a bullet going through a wall or something. One of my all-time favorite sound effects was btkooom. And it was spelled B-T-K-O-O-O-M, with three O’s. And then I put a little asterisk at the end of the word with a note on the bottom of the panel saying the third O, of course, is silent.
LEE: And so I had fun with the sound effects. As far as the alliterative names, most of our characters had alliterative names. There was Peter Parker and Bruce Banner and Reed Richards. And I had a very pragmatic reason for doing that. I have a terrible memory, always did. And it was difficult for me to remember the names of my characters. But by having the same first letter for a – if I could remember the Peter, it gave me a clue that the last name also began with P. And I would eventually remember it was Parker, you see. So it made it easier for me to remember the names by giving them the same first letter.
GROSS: What was the comic book code like when you started working?
LEE: Well, it wasn’t there when I started working. But when we began to have some pressures from certain groups, we instituted a code that was similar to the motion picture code at that time. And it was what you’d expect. There couldn’t be too much untoward sex. The female characters had to be pretty covered up – just what you’d expect. There mustn’t be any blood shown if there were any violent battle scenes. Nobody could have a head chopped off or, you know, the usual things.
GROSS: We’re listening back to my 1991 interview with Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. He died yesterday at the age of 95. We’ll hear more of the interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF DANNY ELFMAN’S “MAIN TITLES FROM SPIDER-MAN”)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let’s get back to my 1991 interview with Stan Lee. He died yesterday at the age of 95. He co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther and other Marvel Comics characters. He had been Marvel’s head writer, art director and publisher.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but why do superheroes so often wear tights?
LEE: I don’t know. I think it is simply precedent. It started out that way. The first books – and I wasn’t around at that time – had them that way. The funny thing is when I did our first superhero book, the “Fantastic Four,” in an effort to avoid the cliche, I told the artist, I don’t want costumes on these guys; I just want them to wear clothes.
So they didn’t have skintight costumes. We sent the book out. It was published. We received a lot of fan mail. The kids said they loved it. We knew we had a winner, and we were on our way now. But every – virtually every letter said, we think it’s the greatest book; we’ll buy it forever; we love it; turn out more; but if you don’t give them colorful costumes, we won’t buy the next issue. And I do not know. I think you’d have to be a psychologist or a sociologist or something and do an intensive study.
But there – for some reason, unless these characters are garbed in some sort of outlandish outfit, the readers don’t seem to accept it. Even the Hulk – I had no great reason for giving him green skin, except I knew if he had normal-colored skin, we probably wouldn’t sell as many books. There has to be something colorful about the way they look visually.
GROSS: Are you a colorful dresser yourself?
LEE: No, I’m the most conservative guy you’ll ever see. I wear jeans a lot, but I don’t know if that’s very colorful.
GROSS: What about physically? Do you have any special physical strengths (laughter)?
LEE: Oh, I’m incredibly powerful.
GROSS: Right (laughter).
LEE: I mean, I’ve got these broad shoulders and bulging – no, I’m kind of tall and skinny. And I mean, nobody would ever mistake me for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
GROSS: I want to get back to what you were saying before, that you couldn’t create a character without a colorful costume ’cause the readers swore they’d never read it…
LEE: Oh, I…
GROSS: …No matter how they sell the character.
LEE: That’s right.
LEE: I could create it, but it’s just – I don’t think we would’ve sold it.
GROSS: Yeah. Right, right. Well, now with women superheroes, I bet the equivalent is no matter how wonderful the character, you have to give her a large bosom or else they won’t buy it.
LEE: Well, I guess you’re right. But I don’t know that it’s anything sexist as much as symbolic. For example, you’ll find that most of the heroes, as I say, they have broad shoulders and big biceps and, you know, they were all sort of Schwarzeneggers. And most of the women are Marilyn Monroes. And I think it’s just that the artist tried to draw idealized men and women. And I guess that’s the way most people idealize people.
GROSS: What you’ve been doing for years now at Marvel is overseeing the adaptation of Marvel characters into television and film stories. So do you initiate these things or do people come to you and…
LEE: Well, it…
GROSS: …Make you offers?
LEE: It works both ways. And I’ve been out on the coast long enough now that I know most of the so-called power players in the movie and television business. And it’s taken a while to get started. But right now I think you’re going to be seeing a lot of Marvel product on the screen or a lot of our characters.
Now, for example, Jim Cameron, who did “The Terminator,” “Terminator 2,” is about to do a – about to write, direct and produce a very big movie of Spider-Man. And I’m incredibly excited about that. I think he’s the best possible person to do this movie. And I think it’s going to be an absolute blockbuster.
GROSS: So how do you like being Spider-Man’s agent…
GROSS: …Instead of Spider-Man’s creator?
LEE: Oh, I enjoy doing what I’m doing. I moved out to Los Angeles about 10 years ago to set up a Marvel animation studio. And I worked there for a few years to get that going. And then little by little, I got into motion pictures and television. And it’s very exciting to be in a new field at a time when a lot of guys are starting to think about retiring. And I’ve got this whole world opening up in front of me, and I’m still able to keep in touch and keep my finger in – on the comic books. So I figure I’m about the luckiest guy around. I really love what I’m doing. And each day seems to be more exciting than the day before.
GROSS: So Stan Lee, maybe one last thing you can clear up for me before we have to say goodbye – your birth name is Stanley Lieberman.
LEE: No. No, dear.
LEE: Yeah. I was…
GROSS: Stanley Lieber.
LEE: I was born Stanley Martin Lieber, which is a very, I think, lovely, normal name. And as I said, I wanted to write the great American novel. And when I got working in a comic book company, I said, I’m not going to use my name for these silly comics. So I – you know, I was 17. And when you’re 17, you don’t know that much. I thought, I need a pen name. And I made up the name Stan Lee. And I started using it. And what happened was everybody, as the years went by, started to know me as Stan Lee, and nobody knew me anymore as Stanley Lieber.
So I would go to buy something and tell them to charge it, and they wanted to see my identification. I said, charge it as Stan Lee. But I had to show them my driver’s license, which said Stanley Lieber. And it got so complicated that I finally legally changed my name to Stan Lee, which was a dumb thing to do because Stan Lee is such a stupid name. And people always say to me, Stan Lee, what? So I’m thinking of changing my name now to Stan Lee What.
LEE: So when they say that, I can say, that’s right (laughter).
GROSS: So is Stan Lee short for Stanley or short for…
GROSS: …Stan Lieber?
LEE: I don’t know. I don’t know, really. I can’t remember whether I cut Stanley into two names or whether I figured Stan from Stanley and Lee from Lieber. I don’t remember what the thinking was. But I figured Stan Lee sounds right for comic books.
GROSS: Well, it certainly worked, hasn’t it?
LEE: (Laughter) It hasn’t hurt, really.
GROSS: Stan Lee, thank you so much for talking with us.
LEE: Oh, it’s been a real pleasure, Terry. Thank you for having me.
GROSS: My interview with Stan Lee was recorded in 1991. He died yesterday at the age of 95. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Sandi Tan, the director of a new documentary called “Shirkers” about being conned by her own mentor, a man twice her age. Also, we’ll hear from Steve Yeun of “The Walking Dead” and “Sorry To Bother You.” He stars in the new film “Burning.” I hope you’ll join us.
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GROSS: FRESH AIR’s executive producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Mooj Zadie, Thea Chaloner and Seth Kelley. I’m Terry Gross.