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.

It somehow just seems right the last A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor will be heard tonight, on this weekend of flags, parades, and lemonade stands. The show was recorded last night at the Hollywood Bowl.

The first Prairie Home Companion was in 1974, and all of us who share this sliver on the radio spectrum know we wouldn't be in business if Garrison Keillor hadn't made a new thing called public radio truly sing.

A cooking show has reportedly dominated the recent television ratings in North Korea.

Of course there's just one broadcaster. And it's the government.

Some songwriters are able to write songs about those turns in life too painful to talk about.

When I met Merle Haggard aboard his tour bus in the early summer of 2001, he no longer looked much like the hard-scrabble outlaw of his 20s, but a man who had been tempered by the ups and downs of riches and bankruptcy, love, loss and time. He had come a long distance since his boyhood in a converted boxcar on the wrong side of the tracks, growing up just outside of Bakersfield, Calif., and the troubled times when he served more than two years in San Quentin for robbery.

Another cover-up is in the news.

Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani held a press conference inside Rome's Capitoline Museum this week to announce $18 billion in new business between their countries, now that sanctions against Iran are ending.

There's a house for sale in Los Angeles: 29 rooms, tennis court, swimming pool, and wine cellar, a guest house, game house, movie theater, and a grotto, which is not to be confused with any grotto you've read about in the Bible.

The owner wants $200 million dollars. Local realtors say that's optimistic; which is often their way of saying, that's ridiculous.

But the house is Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion.

At the age of 89, Hef may be downsizing. Insert the double-entendre of your choice here.

Famous names can be hard to live up to. Those who carry them are born with expectations, as well as advantages, and the sons and daughters of famous people have to make their mistakes and learn their lessons under a lot of watchful eyes.

When we spoke with Natalie Cole in June of 2013 (you can listen to the entire interview below), she had just recorded an album of Spanish language music, as her father had, in the 1950s.

Frank Sinatra was born a hundred years ago today. Even if you think his music just isn't your music, it's hard to get through life without uttering what I'll call a "Frank Phrase" from one of his songs at telling times in our lives.

"So set 'em up, Joe ... Fly me to the moon ... I've got you under my skin ... My kind of town ... I did it my way ... I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep ..." And that wry elegy for lost loves and lonely nights: "So make it one for my baby, and one more for the road."

Barbie is about to talk back. She has talked before, with a pull-string in her back, so she could utter a phrase or two, like, "Let's have a pizza party!"

But Mattel is about to roll out Hello Barbie, who has a mic in her waist that connects to a server in a cloud. A company called Toy Talk will analyze whatever a child tells Barbie and play one of about 8,000 replies that will be recorded and updated to stay current.

Program Hello Barbie to say, "Donald Trump," "Chicago Cubs," and, "According to polls ..." and she could do my job.

Ionel Talpazan thought he saw a UFO when he was a boy, and never stopped seeing them. Of course, he created them.

Ionel Talpazan was 60 years old when he died this week, of diabetes and stroke. He was a boy in a small village in Romania, given up by his parents and raised by a succession of foster parents. He told interviewers he escaped into the woods one night because he thought he would be beaten.

He saw a blue, beating light in the sky above, and was sure it was a spacecraft.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I'm not sure a picture is worth a thousand words. But why do some pictures sell for millions and others that seem identical go for just a few dollars?

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A lot of people saw their hopes and dreams fulfilled this week — for just a few hours.

Carnegie Mellon University emailed about 800 people who had applied to graduate school to say, 'Congratulations, you're in.' They were — to quote the message of acceptance — "one of the select few" to be accepted into Carnegie Mellon's prestigious Master of Science in Computer Science program.

A young woman in India who was accepted wrote on Facebook that she quit her job, bolstered by this act of faith in her future. Her boyfriend proposed marriage.

Pope Francis and the Vatican have recognized Oscar Romero as a martyr. This may move the name of the late archbishop of San Salvador a little further in the process that could one day make him a saint.

But being deemed a martyr is also holy. It means the church believes his life can inspire people; Pope Francis has said Romero inspires him.

Romero was considered a kindly, orthodox conservative parish priest when Pope Paul appointed him archbishop in 1977. He did not question El Salvador's ruling regime.

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Martin Luther King Jr. is British. Coretta Scott King, too. So is Lyndon Baines Johnson, Superman, Batman, the last Abraham Lincoln, the ramrod U.S. Marine, and the chisel-chested CIA operative in Homeland, and many of the B'almer cops and hoods on The Wire. So are Philip on The Americans, Eli on The Good Wife, and both of those stealthily adulterous Americans on The Affair.

Every Saturday just before our show begins I get on the public address system here to announce to our crew, "It's a beautiful day for a radio show. Let's do two today!"

It's an admiring imitation of Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame baseball player who died last night at the age of 83. Ernie used to say, especially in the long years of hot summers — including this last one, when the Cubs were stuck in last place — "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two today!"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Satire is a tricky business. The punch lines quickly get stale. The same people who laugh at one joke can get offended by the next.

But this week, with the targeted killings of the cartoon satirists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, we were reminded how dangerous people with no sense of humor can be.

The Onion ran a headline: "It is Sadly Unclear Whether This Article Will Put Lives At Risk."

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.

There are just a few words in the last four minutes of Mike Nichols' 1967 film, The Graduate.

"Elaine! Ben! It's too late! Not for me..."

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/.

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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.

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