Episode 122: Sir Richard Branson, Jonathan Lethem, and Masters of Etiquette

Sir Richard Branson/Photo by Lisa Maree Williams

This week, Sir Richard Branson drops the ‘sir’ for us… writer Jonathan Lethem squeezes Gertrude Stein, Jack Kerouac, and Drew Barrymore into a hot tub…. why we wanted our MTV… the (non-Portland) trailblazer of b-ball backboard-breaking… “Extreme Makeover: Urban Food Store Edition”… and iconic singer-songwriter Judy Collins muses on being a muse.

Icebreaker: Craig Marks
Craig Marks, co-author of the new book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” sticks with a joke. (Craig joins us later in the show for Chattering Class)

Small Talk: Paint It Bromance
The Atlantic Wire’s Richard Lawson shares what he’s talking about at dinner parties this weekend: A Canadian paint company that’s changed the name of their color shades to appeal to men. This can’t end well.

A History Lesson with Booze: Darryl Dawkins Dunks and “The Chocolate Thunder”
He came from the planet Lovetron, sent to Earth to astound us with thunderous basketball dunks that gave backboards nightmares. His name was Darryl Dawkins, and 32 years ago this week the Philadelphia 76er made a historic dunk against the Kansas City Kings. Long before “boom goes the dynamite,” a man nicknamed Chocolate Thunder made the loudest noise.

Here’s the dunk, below you’ll find the drink.

The “Chocolate Thunder,” as created by Paul Rodriguez of Village Whiskey in Philadelphia, PA:

In a shot glass, combine:

  • George Stagg Bourbon (uncut, unfiltered, 141 proof)
  • top with Italian Chocolate liqueur Varnelli Moka

… Drop (or dunk) into a glass of your favorite dark beer stout or porter. Slam it back. Smash empty glass against bartop. Hightail it out of town and repeat next month in another city.

Guest List: Judy Blue Eyes
Singer-songwriter Judy Collins has a new memoir named after the epic song Stephen Stills wrote for her… and we can tell you those blue eyes are still striking. She lists a few songs she wishes were written for her, though she insists one classic’s enough.

Etiquette: The Emily Post Institute
Usually we have punk rockers or romance novelists solve our listeners’ etiquette crises. But this week… we turn to the pros. Daniel Post Senning and Lizzie Post are great-grandkids of Emily Post, and help run the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont. They recently put out the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, a dictionary-sized guide to manners. We have it on good authority that the Posts’ predilection for politesse is a condition known as ‘genetiquette.’

Eavesdropping: Jonathan Lethem
For bestselling author Jonathan Lethem, it all began with a harmless fashion magazine assignment: write a piece for a Drew Barrymore-centric issue. The result is a strange, hilarious, and affectionate piece of meta-fiction, which Jonathan reads us this week. It’s part of his new collection The Ecstasy of Influence.

Chattering Class: The Birth of MTV
Back when cable television was only for rich people, a channel called MTV decided to start playing 24-7 music videos, even though almost none actually existed. 30 years later, Craig Marks has co-authored a new book about the history of the network called “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution.” He stops by to teach us all we need to know about MTV’s formative years… including how it led Oklahomans to wear mullets.

Main Course: Food Swamps
Maybe you’ve heard of a “food desert”? That’s what public health experts call neighborhoods where healthy food is scant. But some call East LA more of a “food swamp;” a place where good food is just buried beneath a morass of bad. Enter UCLA, with its new “cornerstore conversion” project. They’re trying to see if redesigning shops to make healthy food more accessible will change eating habits — and boost shopkeeps’ bottom line. Brendan pays a visit to the swamp.

Guest of Honor: Richard Branson
Richard Branson has broken speed records, ballooned around the world, and built Virgin Group into a media, travel, and lifestyle brand recognized throughout the world. He’s also probably the only person to both bankroll The Sex Pistols and be knighted by the Queen of England. Branson tells Rico about his ongoing involvement in the nuclear disarmament movement Global Zero, the genesis of the “Virgin” moniker, and his dinner with Al Gore.

One for the road: Tennis’ “Origins”
Maybe you met them when they were guests on this very show, or maybe you met them on the 7 month boating trip around the Atlantic that spawned their breakthrough 2010 debut. Either way, you’ve come to love the Denver husband-and-wife duo’s infectious pop, while also seething with jealousy at their storybook lives. This week we have a sneak peek of their forthcoming single “Origin” — out December 6th on Forest Family records.

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

In One Peace – “In One Peace”

AC/DC – “Breaking the Rules”

Tight Bros – “Bring Your Thunder”

Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”

Chet Baker – “My Funny Valentine”

Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Adele – “Lovesong”

Judy Caplan Ginsburgh – “Manners”

Bernard Hermmann – “Theme From Vertigo”

John coltrane – “In A Sentimental Mood”

Django Reinhardt – “La Mer”

Roy Budd – “Black Is Beautiful”

The Dylan Group – “Running In Pairs”

Fine Young Cannibals – “Johnny Come Home”

Devo – “So Fresh”

Peter Gabriel – “Down To Earth”

Tennis – “Origins”