Episode 123: John Jeremiah Sullivan, Dick Cavett-iquette, and Wild Flag

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John Jeremiah Sullivan/Harry Taylor

This week: Essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan takes a hard left turn…Talk show giant Dick Cavett spits out etiquette tips… We learn the meaning of “peplum”…Mega-producer Nile Rodgers gets revenge on Studio 54… The Edsel flops right into a cocktail glass… And Caldecott Award-winner Brian Selznick shares unforgettable picture books – for adults. Plus a playlist from indie-rock supergroup Wild Flag.

Icebreaker: Adam Felber
Adam Felber, writer for Real Time with Bill Maher and occasional Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me panelist, name-drops at a bar.

Small Talk: Ivy Beleaguered
Dwell Magazine Deputy Editor Aaron Britt shares what he’s going to be talking about at dinner parties this weekend: a new retro-fashion book that could spell the end of prep.

A History Lesson with Booze: Driven to Failure and “The Edsel”
This week back in 1960, the last Edsel automobile rolled off Ford’s assembly line, marking the end of one of the worst blunders in automotive design. Learn why Edsel became a synonym for disaster, and then try not to wreck yourself with this stiff drink from Motor City.

The “Edsel,” as gassed up by Robert M. Nelson, entertainer and bartender at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy in Detroit, MI:

Combine in a highball glass:

  • 1.5 oz gin (alter to taste)
  • 1 oz. cream… or soy milk
  • Top with Vernor’s Ginger Ale (the nation’s oldest soft drink, invented in Detroit in 1866)

If you really want to get into into the spirit – stir with a rusty transmission shaft or a dipstick. Drink it down and proudly fail.

Guest List: Brian Selznick
Author/illustrator Brian Selznick has earned high praise (and a Caldecott Award) for his novels The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck (just out in October). His fantastical hybrids of image and text create an almost-cinematic effect. So it’s fitting Martin Scorcese took an interest; his Selznick film adaptation Hugo hits theaters next Wednesday. For the occasion, we asked Brian to list his favorite picture books…for grown-ups:

Etiquette: Dick Cavett
Over the last four decades, actor, commentator and talk-show host Dick Cavett has interviewed basically every interesting person on Earth. He currently writes an Opinionator column for The New York Times, which gives his take on current affairs, alongside engaging snapshots of his life. Oh, and he was pals with Groucho Marx. For our etiquette segment, Dick talks about his most “notorious show,” inconvenient kids, and the Japanese term inspired by a sick President.

Eavesdropping: Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers, member of the seminal disco band Chic and producer of some of the biggest hits in pop history (for nobodies like Madonna and David Bowie), shares a choice excerpt from his new memoir Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny. Somehow, he was once denied entrance to New York’s disco institution Studio 54. History ensued.

Chattering Class: Stylist Aya Kanai on Emerging Fashion
Holiday party season is nearly upon us and we have no idea what to wear. Aya Kanai, a fashion stylist who works with Nylon Magazine and dresses celebrities such as Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart, comes by to school us. We learn that tuxedos aren’t just for men, pajamas aren’t just for sleeping, and that a peplum is a piece of clothing — not a mythical creature.

Main Course: Best Resto-Restrooms
This week, the food blog-empire Eater handed out their annual awards, honoring restaurants in each of the cities they cover. One new award category caught Rico’s eye: “Best Restaurant Bathroom.” He payed a visit to the L.A. winner – Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood – for a classy discussion of bathroom feng shui…set to “Dancing Queen.”

Guest of Honor: John Jeremiah Sullivan
Remember when you were young and wanted to travel around and write first person essays about America, and then you realized you would never get paid to do that and besides you weren’t very good? Well, John Jeremiah Sullivan gets paid to do that and he’s very, very good. Pulphead, his new collection of essays, explores American culture in all its highs and lows, from Michael Jackson to prehistoric-cave explorers. Sullivan talks to Brendan about baroque counterpoint, his lefty tendencies and the “test tube babies of Whitman and Poe.”

Soundtrack: Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss
On the heels of its much touted fall debut, grrl-power supergroup Wild Flag is crisscrossing the US and Europe on a hell-raising tour. Drummer Janet Weiss, who’s also played with Sleater-Kinney, Bright Eyes, and Stephen Malkmus, takes a break to recommend four killer songs for your next dinner party (or potluck).

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Bob Thomspon – “Starfire”

Los Straitjackets – “Car Hop”

The Police – “Driven To Tears”

The Minutemen – “History Lesson Part II”

Michaely Ezersk – “Asking Around”

Karen O and the Kids – “Rumpus Reprise”

Judy Caplan Ginsburgh – “Manners”

Chic – “I Want Your Love”

Chic – “Le Freak”

Modern Mothers – “Tuxxxedo”

Abba – “Dancing Queen”

My Brightest Diamond – “High Low Middle”

The Flamingos – “I Only Have Eyes For You”

Elyse – “Houses”

Sam Cooke – “Bring It On Home To Me”

Wild Flag – “Racehorse”