Debra Kletter's job is to be food-guru to some of the world's most discerning palates. Once one of New York theater's most respected lighting designers, Kletter found herself in the early 1990s disillusioned by budget-cuts and shaken by the loss of a generation of colleagues to HIV. So she pursued her second calling, far from the first: figuring out where you should eat dinner. After all, as she tells Alec, "reading menus was always my happy place." Now, years into her new business (which she conducts through her website, ), Kletter can tell you the best injera in Harlem or the oldest-school trattoria in Rome. But her real genius is an ability to match that encyclopedic knowledge with the needs -- and personalities -- of individual clients. One of those clients is Alec Baldwin, and you can tell from their teasing that the two go way back: all the way, in fact, to the stage of Prelude to a Kiss in 1989, which Debra lit, and where the two became friends.
Roger Daltrey, Founder and Lead Singer of The Who
Roger Daltrey put The Who together while working in a sheet-metal factory. The band took many forms before settling into the guitar-smashing, mic-swinging amalgam of testosterone and sensitivity that changed the world. But even before The Who began moving toward rock-stardom, Daltrey had walked a difficult path. Born into a working-class family, he spent his infancy evacuated from Nazi-bombed London, crammed into one room of a Scottish farmhouse with his mother and many others. He returned to a shellshocked father and real privation. But he tells Alec that the environment was "rich" with love and opportunity, and eventually he found himself in a grammar school with songwriter Pete Townshend and bassist John Entwistle. The rest is Rock history -- a history Daltrey helped define. He recounts it with humor and pride on this episode of Here's the Thing, and in his new memoir, , out now.
Ben and Jerry Warm Up
In the late 70s, Ben Cohen was a rootless pottery teacher, laid off when his school closed down. Jerry Greenfield was a diligent pre-med, realizing he was never going to get into med school. They'd formed a deep friendship years earlier, as the two chubby kids in their middle-school gym class. Their joint reaction to their separate crises was to open a small ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont. That decision would change the face of the industry, and give America a model for a new set of corporate values. At the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington -- just a couple miles from the site where Cohen and Greenfield set up shop in 1978 -- Alec talks to Ben and Jerry in front of a crowd that idolizes their hometown heroes, and the energy is infectious. From their Long Island childhood to the tensions surrounding Ben & Jerry's acquisition by Dutch conglomerate Unilever in 2000, the conversation is open, honest, and brimming with the deep bond these two men continue to feel, 40 years after they first put their names together on a sign in Vermont. Thanks to Vermont Public Radio for making it possible.
American Alexandria: Susan Orlean on the Great LA Library Fire
As a staff-writer at the New Yorker, Susan Orlean has embedded with fertility shamans in Bhutan and profiled a dog (a boxer named Biff). Her book The Orchid Thief inspired one of the most successful art-house movies of the past 20 years. Her latest deep dive is the burning of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It is, to this day, the most damaging library-fire in U.S. history, but it's almost unknown outside of Southern California because national attention was focused on the Chernobyl meltdown. As with all Orlean's books, the nominal subject is a vehicle to tell human stories: those of the man arrested for the arson, of the cops who investigate, the librarians whose lives were changed, and the preservationists who insisted on rebuilding. It's a topic close to Alec's heart. He and Orlean discuss with warmth and enthusiasm the critical role libraries played in their respective childhoods (Alec is the son of a schoolteacher, after all), and their shared commitment today to the universal ideals of the public library.
Maggie Gyllenhaal Knows What She Wants
Maggie Gyllenhaal's in a good place right now, at least as far as work and family go. Her latest starring role is as a troubled teacher named Lisa Spinelli in The Kindergarten Teacher . It's an unsettling portrayal of, as Gyllenhaal tells Alec, the "f***ing dire" consequences of "starving a vibrant woman's mind." In the film, Lisa's mind-starvation manifests in an unhealthy, exploitative relationship with a kindergartner. It's not an easy thing to watch, and Gyllenhaal tells Alec, "I almost didn't do the movie because I thought, 'no movie is worth disturbing a child, even for a few minutes.'" But her concerns were addressed, she said yes, and the result is a performance Gyllenhaal feels really good about. In fact, she says she feels better and better about each role she takes on these days. It's from this career high that she and Alec talk about The Deuce, her college years, her alternate career in skating, and the happy joining of lives, careers, and vowels in her marriage to Peter Sarsgaard.