Gross on Gross

Terry Gross Will Ryan
Terry Gross Will Ryan
Posted: May 11, 2012

When children’s book author Maurice Sendak’s death was reported Tuesday morning, 91 FM WHYY’s Terry Gross knew she wanted to scrap her planned “Fresh Air” broadcast and run a special episode of clips from four Sendak interviews she had conducted.

That episode, Gross says, “Kind of speaks to what I am proudest of about Fresh Air,” which Friday celebrates 25 years of being a daily show on National Public Radio. The show debuted on WHYY, where a longer version is still heard, in 1975.

“Over the years I get the chance to talk to people not only once but several times. You got to hear how he sounded in the 1980s, the 1990s, the Aughts, last September. It was so moving to hear a time lapse of those years, said Gross, who is no relation to Your Humble Narrator.

Part of Friday’s anniversary episode will be music from artists including Nick Lowe, Shirley Horn and John Doe recorded over the past 25 years.

“I fell in love with radio the moment I started doing it. I still find it a privilege to be able to talk to and engage in a pretty personal level with people whose work I respect,” Gross said.

Anybody she’s always wanted to interview but hasn’t? Yes, Howard Stern. It may surprise some of her listeners, but she’s a longtime fan of his radio show.

Gross says public-radio listeners “tend to be so nice and thoughtful about approaching me. Often someone will come up to me and apologize for interrupting me to say they like the show.”

She did share a recent run-in that rubbed her the wrong way. Gross, who gives her height as ‘under 5 feet,” says occasionally she asks a fellow Whole Foods shopper to reach something from the top shelf for her and recently a woman posted on Twitter about handing her cream cheese. “But she didn’t say anything to me about knowing me or the show. You feel like you’re being talked about,” Gross said.

She has no desire herself to tweet. “I’m in front of a book or computer screen enough. The last thing I want to do is find more ways to be in front of a cell phone,” she said.

T.O.’s ‘Dr. Phil’ scores

We’re flattered that our Monday blog post at PhillyGossip.com and Tuesday column item about Terrell Owens appearing on “Dr. Phil” helped the show’s ratings skyrocket. Viewership of Tuesday’s episode, in which T.O. was confronted by three of his four baby mamas over being a deadbeat dad, was up 71 percent over the show’s performance so far in May, according to CBS 3. We suppose there could be another explanation, but we’ll take credit.

Matthews helps La Salle High

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews faces off Monday on “Jeopardy! Power Players Week” with former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and CNN’s Lizzie O’Leary. Each are competing for charity, Matthews chose his alma mater, La Salle College High School, which is guaranteed at least $10,000 but receives $50,000 if the Nicetown native wins.

Rowing film trailer

“Backwards,” the rowing romance that shot in town last year, will debut its trailer before the Dad Vail Regatta Saturday and Stotesbury Cup Regatta May 19. “Dawson’s Creek” and now “Don’t Trust The B---- in Apt. 23” actor James Van Der Beek stars in the film, along with Sarah Megan Thomas, who wrote the screenplay, and Margaret Colin of “Gossip Girl.” Ben Hickernell, who made “Lebanon, PA,” directed the film. He and Thomas will be on hand to screen the trailers at the collegiate and high-school regattas. The trailer will also be posted Saturday at BackwardstheMovie.com.

Mural Arts hosts Roots program

The Mural Arts Program presents “The Roots, The Roots, The Roots Are On Fire: Understanding Their Effect on the Modern Musical Landscape,” on May 19 at the Arts Bank (Broad & South). The program features rapper Dice Raw, a frequent Roots collaborator, along with hip-hop figure Fab 5 Freddy, radio host Tiffany Bacon and writer/director Dream Hampton talking about the Philly hip-hop heroes who will soon become the subject of a mural somewhere along South Street where the Roots, then called the Square Roots, got their start performing in the early 1990s. DJ Statik of the Illvibe Collective will provide music by artists who inspired The Roots. The event is free to attend but you must RSVP to events@muralarts.org or by calling 215-685-0753.

Read Dan’s latest at PhillyGossip.com or recent columns at philly.com/dangross. Follow him on Twitter @PhillyGossip. Have a tip? Call 215-854-5963 or email DGross@phillynews.com

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