Episode 150: James Franco, Paul Theroux, and a Cowardly Display

This week: Actor/polymath James Franco rebels against beds… Preeminent travel writer Paul Theroux offers etiquette advice to globetrotters (and public radio hosts)… Nashville raconteur Todd Snider tells of his brush with NASCAR fame… The NY Public Library remembers Noel Coward… and Hollywood’s top auctioneer remembers memorabilia. Plus: We learn the history of blue jeans, hear a new Twin Shadow tune, sommeliers for your ears, and listen to some (Guinness) rock records.

Icebreaker: James Franco

Actor and artist James Franco kicks things off in the most orderly fashion possible.

Small Talk: Amber Bravo

Amber Bravo, senior editor of music mag The Fader, talks about a recent spate of rockers breaking records instead of hotel rooms.

A History Lesson with Booze: Blue Jeans and “the Arcuate”

This week back in 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis landed a patent for what may be the best-known item of clothing ever – denim jeans. Learn about the surprisingly international history of the All-American “waist overalls,” then salute your shorts/pants with this custom cocktail.

“The Arcuate,” as fashioned by Jonny Raglin, saloon-keeper of The Comstock Saloon in San Francisco, where Levi Strauss is headquartered.

Into a shaker add:

  • 1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (e.g. Old Overholt)
  • 1/2 oz. high-alcohol Jamaican rum (e.g. Smith and Cross)
  • 3/4 oz. pineapple gomme syrup
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Add ice, shake, and strain into a glass (either straight up or on the rocks). Go ahead and spill some on your jeans — they can handle it.

Guest List: Joseph Maddalena

Joseph Maddelana is president and CEO of Profiles in History – one of the world’s top auctioneers of historical documents and movie memorabilia. He’s authenticated or priced everything from Marilyn Monroe’s subway dress, to Dorothy’s ruby slippers, to letters penned by Abraham Lincoln. The second season of his show “Hollywood Treasure” launched this week on the SyFy network. We asked Joe to give us a list of his most memorable (memorabilia) moments:


Etiquette: Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux knows his way around the world. In masterful travel books like The Great Railway Bazaar, The Mosquito Coast, and Dark Star Safari, he transports readers to far-flung places with vivid prose. His new novel, The Lower River, (out this week) recounts a man’s ill-fated return to Malawi long after he first experienced the place as a Peace Corps volunteer. (Paul himself served there in the 60s.) He tells us about a one-time escape from Africa, then addresses listener questions about travel secrets…and epizeuxsis?!

We’re always looking for new etiquette questions. Would you be so kind as to send yours to dinnerparty@americanpublicmedia.org? With apologies to Mr. Theroux: Thanks so, SO much.

Eavesdropping: Todd Snider

Acclaimed musician Todd Snider is known for his folk-rock tunes… and for his onstage stories. Today we overhear him telling one about his brother’s hero: Nascar driver Bill Elliott. (Todd is on tour now in support his two 2012 albums Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables and Time as We Know It:The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker.)

Main Course: Musical Menus

A recent LA Times article talked about the rise of “music sommeliers” – professional compilers of music playlists for restaurants. Like the folks at Prescriptive Music, an LA-based company that saw a 40% increase in business last year. (An example of a recent Prescriptive business order: a shabu shabu restaurant wanted music that’d recreate the feel of the movie “Drive.”) Brendan speaks with Prescriptive founder Allen Klevens about creating a song menu for every place… and every person.

Chattering Class: Noel Coward, Remembered

The late performer, playwright and songwriter Noel Coward gets a much-deserved close-up in the exhibit “Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward,” on display at the the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts through the summer. Curator Brad Rosenstein walks Brendan through some of the highlights of the self-made artiste’s career.

Guest of Honor: James Franco

The “Spiderman” trilogy, “Pineapple Express,” and dramas like “127 Hours” and “Milk” have turned James Franco into a major Hollywood player, but he doesn’t act the part; he’s also a writer, a student, and an artist. This month, he’s assembled an art exhibit called REBEL (via LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art) in which he and other artists riff on the myth and iconography surrounding the James Dean classic “Rebel without a Cause.” (Franco first played Dean in a 2001 TV biopic). James tells Rico about Hollywood’s short term memory, the infantilization of actors, and why he hates going to bed.

One for the Road: Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds”

Electro-pop act Twin Shadow (a.k.a. George Lewis Jr.) just released a propulsive first single off the forthcoming album Confess. The song is called “Five Seconds,” but here’s a sixty second preview.

Other Music In this Week’s Show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Christin Mendoze & Musica Antiqua Provence – “Saltarello della battaglia”

Seeburg “Style E” Piano @ the Yaller Dawg Saloon -“Silver Threads Among The Gold”

Belle & Sebastian – “String Bean Jean”

Remix Artists Collective – “Star Trek theme Remix”

Jerry Goldsmith – “Theme from Star Trek: Voyager”

John Williams – “JFK – Prologue”

Baths – “You’re My Excuse To Travel”

Bill Frisell – “Pipe Down”

Les Paul – “Guitar Boogie”

Todd Snider – “In Between Jobs”

Barry White – “Never Gonna Give Ya Up”

Noel Coward – “Mad Dogs & Englishmen”

Noel Coward – “Sail Away”

Henry Cow – “Half Asleep, Half Awake”

Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds”