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I Got Interviewed by Terry Gross!

terrygrossinroanoke2.jpgMy Terry Gross is young, has long straight blonde hair, looks a little like the actress Laura Linney, and doesn’t wear glasses.

Terry Gross – the real one who produces and hosts National Public Radio’s interview talk show “Fresh Air” – is petite to the point of looking like Mary Martin playing the role of Peter Pan. She has short cropped hair, wears glasses, and is in her late 50s.

I had been invited to go down to Roanoke with a group from Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts to hear Terry Gross speak at The Jefferson Center. We were in the VIP room before the show dipping our plantain chips into lemon pistachio ricotta when Terry walked in.

Once we convinced ourselves it was really Terry Gross and we got over our initial feelings of being star-struck, we made our way over to meet her.

I was introduced to her as a writer. In perfect interview fashion, she turned to me and said, “What do you write?’
“Funny enough, right now (besides blogging), WVTF Public Radio essays,” I blurted out.

“What are your essays about?” she continued her line of questions.

“My last one was about my mother for Mother’s Day,” I answered and then went on to tell her the essay about my father’s WWII military service, which aired on Memorial Day last year, and how after that my mother asked if I would write one for her.

That was the extent of my two question "interview" conducted by Terry Gross before it was my turn to ask questions.

“Where did you grow up?” I asked, already detecting that she was from the northeast.

“Brooklyn,” she answered.

I asked her about a recent exceptionally good interview I heard her do with Paul Riechoff, author of a book on Iraq from an Iraq veteran’s perspective, before her attention turned to others. Some were waiting for her to sign her book, “All I Did Was Ask.”

Terry knew that most of us had a different idea of how she looked. She opened her show by saying how in one instant she had answered the question on most people’s minds: What does Terry Gross look like?

Letting us get a better look, she did a pirouette as she laughed, saying, “…I know what you’re thinking.”

At first, the only thing recognizable about her was her voice, and throughout the show I would occasionally close my eyes and listen, bringing “my Terry Gross” back to mind. But as the show went on, her familiar wit, calm, and enthusiasm came through. She was engaging, revealing, and seemed to enjoy making us laugh by playing recorded outtakes of past shows that some might consider to be bloopers.

She took questions, and was complimented (or hit on) by one gay woman who expressed her disappointment that Terry was straight, before closing the show by playing a haunting rendition of the classic song “Walk On” by Richard Thomas of Fairport Convention. The song seemed to be Terry’s way to bid us a farewell while also encouraging us to remain hopeful. We sat in meditative silence together, letting the words sink in.

When you walk through a storm …Hold your head up high …And don't be afraid of the dark …At the end of the storm…There's a golden sky…And the sweet silver song of a lark…

Post Notes: The first Photo is of Terry Gross signing Cindy’s book. Cindy is one of the Jacksonville Center’s board of directors. In the second photo, John, Jacksonville's business manager, and Jayn, another board member, are talking with Terry. And…Speaking of interviews, Floyd fellow-blogger Fred First was recently interviewed by Rebecca Blood, author of “The Weblog Handbook” for her online “Bloggers on Blogging” series, which can be read here.


Catching up on your posts, Colleen, wonderful as always. I don't know this lady (well, I sort of do now!) but didn't want to leave without saying hello.

How wonderful! I think she's one of the best interviewers out there; lucky you for the chance to hear her speak.

Congratulations, what a fun interview.

You inspired me to do Google image searches for other radio personalities. I was sure that Diane Rehm looked just like my third grade teacher, complete with horn rimmed glasses. She looked NOTHING like I pictured, way more put together and attractive. Michele Norris, same thing, NOTHING like I had pictured in my mind's eye. The male personalites are a let down though, no real surprises there. They aren't nearly as distinctive and unique as Terry, Michele and Diane. Tom Bodett, Peter Sagal, Karl Cassell, Robert Siegel, all those guys look pretty much the way I would have pictured them.

And after reading what you wrote, Mayberry, I had to see what Diane Rehm looks like too and so googled her. You're right, she is different than I thought...more put together and attractive. I think her voice makes her sound more dowdy. I was interested in why her voice is that way. I had thought she maybe had a stroke. So I looked that up too. She has a neuroligical disorder called "spasmodic dysphonia." I found this article all about her troubled childhood and voice problems http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/features/daily/rehm0823.htm Very interesting stuff! She also has a book "Finding My Voice."

I guess my vision of Terry Gross was much like yours; I recently heard her refer to an interview she did back in the 1980s and that brought me up short with the realization that she had to be older than I was picturing her. Quite a wonderful experience for you!

Ah, the radio personalities have an advantage over their audiences. They can become quite famous and stay unrecognizable out in public. The best of both worlds, I suppose.

I remember the first time I saw Terry's picture on the NPR website and was sooo surprised.

Great job 'interviewing' her :)


Yikes! You and Fred are gettin' to be celebrities :)

Sorry, I don't know who Terry Gross is; perhaps that radio show is not aired around here.
I do know though that if I were you I would have been excited. I wish she had spent more time with you. If so, you might have ended up being interviewed personally on her radio show. Oh well...guess I'll have to keep my fingers crossed for Oprah.

Neat-o! I just never know what you're going to be up to when I pop in Colleen. You're amazing.

Ok I actually do listen to NPR alot... Howard Stern is about the only radio personality whose looks didn't shock me. He is as ugly as his show!

Hey Auntie,
Just noticed you added my link. You are a good auntie! Did you see my ghost picture? Just wondering if you could see the face?
You need to go check out my "way too exciting" trip home and back!
Sending love your way. Haven't visited in awhile.

Wow, how wonderful an experience. It's funny how we get pictures of how radio folks should look. I've been surprised on seeing a photo of the faces behind the voices myself.

It sounds as if you interviewed her as much as she interviewed you. There's no squelching a writer's curiosity.

Bravo to you, Colleen. I've always enjoyed listening to Terry Gross and I'm sure meeting her was a special event for you.

Good job! I often listen to her if I have to drive somewhere in the afternoon.

My vision of Terry Gross was just about the same as yours! Interesting how we assign appearance to voice. Until we moved down here I was doing transcription work for NPR's Living on Earth (their offices were in Harvard Square; they've since moved to Somerville -- but they used to rent office space from my employer in North Cambridge), so got to meet Steve Curwood and the other folks involved there.

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