LeVar Burton and the (Paper) Cut Threat

Back in November, we hosted our first-ever live DPD — witnessed by a sell-out crowd at public radio station KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum in Los Angeles, CA. this week we’re sharing some highlights of the evening for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Our audience that night submitted etiquette questions to us – and a lucky few got ’em answered by LeVar Burton – with some help from guest of honor Aubrey Plaza.

In the 1970’s, Burton starred in the miniseries “Roots” — one of the most-watched TV event sin history. Fans of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” know him as Geordi LaForge (a blind character who wore high-tech eyewear called a VISOR to see).  But he’s maybe best known as host of the PBS TV series “Reading Rainbow,” which for 23 years encouraged children to turn off the TV and “take a look in a book.”  Many of those kids apparently grew up to be in our audience.


Rico Gagliano: So, we’re in a public radio station. This place must be like visiting an embassy for you, right?

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s like this and libraries you can go into and they’ll give you refuge, right?

LeVar Burton: I feel most at home in libraries and public radio stations.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And ComicCons, I’m guessing, too.

LeVar Burton: ComicCons are a little awkward.

Rico Gagliano: People love you too much.  All right — so your latest project is a Reading Rainbow app. The question is, why an app?  Why not do a new TV show; I think everybody here would love to see the TV show continued.

LeVar Burton: Rico! Kids today… the television screen is just one screen that they use during the course of any given day. If you want to reach kids today, you need to be on a tablet computer. You need to be on a mobile device.

Rico Gagliano: That’s scary.

LeVar Burton: It can be, but look… I don’t care if it’s in a bound book or on a tablet, I simply want kids to read.

[some in audience applaud]

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, I don’t want kids to read, but I don’t want to get into that…

Rico Gagliano: Yeah — I wanna know who are the people that didn’t applaud that line? What is wrong with you guys?!

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, So, we told folks coming tonight to submit their questions.

LeVar Burton: About etiquette. I know nothing about etiquette, you know.

Rico Gagliano: So what.

LeVar Burton: Okay.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Is Neil Spinler out there? All right, Neil.  Neil wrote: “Is it okay to dog-ear a page in a library book if I don’t have anything nearby to act as a bookmark?”

Rico Gagliano: Destroying public property, basically.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I know, this is a no-brainer.

Neil: I wanna know where I left off! The good thing is that I’m checking out library books, right?

LeVar Burton: Neil… no. It’s not okay. You cannot dog-ear a library book, man!

Rico Gagliano: Really?

LeVar Burton: No!

Rico Gagliano: [fearfully] I mean, I’ve never done it. I would never do that, LeVar. I’m just saying —

LeVar Burton: I will cut you, man!

Rico Gagliano: But, really, is it that gross misconduct? Come on!

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s public property. It’d be like ripping up a tree in a park, so you remember where you hiked to.

Rico Gagliano: It would be folding up a tree… That’d be pretty awesome.

Aubrey Plaza: It’s true, I mean, are folds ruining the pages or are they beautiful?

Rico Gagliano: Thank you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But, when you read a library book, I mean, you know it was special…

LeVar Burton: It’s called a bookmark, Neil! It’s called a bookmark. They’re everywhere. Anything can be a bookmark.

Neil: What if I’m in a park and I don’t have some… I could use a leaf, I guess. A leaf. I’ll use a leaf.

Rico Gagliano: I guess use a leaf, dude. Or LeVar will cut you. I think we’ll just let you sit down now, sir.

LeVar Burton: I’m comin’ out there after the show, Neil.

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something some from Joanne Lin. Joanne asks, “As someone who has donned electrical eyewear for years on ‘Star Trek,’ I think you would be uniquely-equipped to weigh-in on Google Glass. When and where can you wear it? Is it appropriate at a dinner party? What would Geordi say?”

LeVar Burton: I think Geordi would say, “Been there, done that, bought the soundtrack and the t-shirt.”

Rico Gagliano: What would LeVar say?

LeVar Burton: What would LeVar say? You know, Google Glass… I recently met the guy at Google that I’ve been wanting to talk to since the Glass project was announced, and we talked about the technology as it is evolving. My initial response when I saw someone with it on for the first time was, “Am I being recorded?” Right?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I thought, like, “Can they see through my clothes?” You didn’t get that vibe?

LeVar Burton:That is the VISOR. Glass isn’t that sophisticated yet.

Photo credit: Luis Gomez, KPCC
Photo credit: Luis Gomez, KPCC

Rico Gagliano: That’s what you were doing the whole time on “Next Gen”? You were just looking at people naked?

LeVar Burton: Yep, I was just lookin’ at naked people.

Rico Gagliano: I’m gonna watch that show differently now. By the way, there’s something in that box, isn’t there?

LeVar Burton: Yes: I am asked all the time, “Could you see out of the VISOR?” And so I brought the VISOR to demonstrate just how difficult it was to see.

This is the box, by the way, that the VISOR was delivered in by the propmaster, Charlie Russo, every time. It’s a wooden box. It’s got a little brass plate on it that says “Geordi LaForge”.

Rico Gagliano: You better hold on tight to that, by the way, after the show —

LeVar Burton: I will cut you, Rico!!

Rico Gagliano: …It’s not just gonna be me, man; I think about half the audience is gonna bum rush you for that.

LeVar Burton: So, this is the VISOR, and it is molded to my face. It’s a piece of machined metal. Here’s the thing: We screwed the Visor into my head. For the folks at home, there are two cotter keys that… one goes clockwise, the other goes counter-clockwise… [he turns screws on each side of the VISOR into his temples] and I am literally screwing that puppy down.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow. Does that hurt at all?

Aubrey Plaza: He’s shaking his head around and it’s not falling.

LeVar Burton:Thank you for the play-by-play, Aubrey, for the folks at home.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Have you ever worn that at a dinner party?

LeVar Burton: No.

Aubrey Plaza: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve worn that?

LeVar Burton: In bed with my wife.

Aubrey Plaza: Yeah — there it is.  That’s what I wanted to hear.

LeVar Burton: Warp speed, baby. Warp speed. Warp speed.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Does your wife want ‘warp speed’? Maybe we should talk about that after. That’s another etiquette question — you can submit it and we’ll get someone to answer it.

LeVar Burton: Anyway, Google Glass! Yeah, Google Glass… you know what? Google Glass… it’s a downgrade. It’s a downgrade.
Aubrey Plaza: No!

Rico Gagliano: You’re saying no, no to Google Glass, Aubrey?

Aubrey Plaza: No. Put your dumb glasses away!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, they look weird. Let’s skip ahead. Next is Hannah? Hannah, are you going to show your face?

Rico Gagliano: We’re not going to give her last name, by request, and you’ll see why in a second.

Hannah: In my defense, I thought that the questions were anonymous, so…

Rico Gagliano: Come on, now, you gave us permission to say your first name.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You asked us not to use your last name, but you’re standing right there.

Hannah writes: “I love my mother dearly, but she has bad breath. Often! Should I just grin and bear it, or should I say something to her? If so, how can I address it without hurting her feelings?”

Aubrey Plaza: [gasps as though realizing something]

Brendan Francis Newnam: Go ahead, Aubrey, you wanna chime in here?

Aubrey Plaza: No, I just had an idea for an app. I did! It’s called the “Bad Breath App.” You just anonymously send a note to someone that has bad breath, and the note comes from the app, but it’s really polite, and gives you links to how to fix it. Someone pay me a million dollars so I can create that, and now everyone will steal it — good-bye.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No; this can be bundled into the Reading Rainbow app, because people read close to each other. Breath is important.

LeVar Burton: Hannah, you’re very close with your mother?

Hannah: Yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Too close.

LeVar Burton: Are you certain that it’s your mother that has the bad breath?

Hannah: Yes.

LeVar Burton: Then, you should be able to have that conversation with her. The woman gave birth to you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What do you do now? Do you give her mints?

Hannah: Occasionally, I’ve been like, “Oh, here’s a piece of gum”.

LeVar Burton: I’d invest in Altoids, if I were you. Send her a bushel. Anonymously, of course!

Rico Gagliano: Using the app, perhaps.

Hannah: Yes. I’ll pay for that app.

Aubrey Plaza: Okay! I really want to do it!

Brendan Francis Newnam: You know, Hannah, if you give us your last name, I don’t think your mom’s breath will bother you anymore.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah — she’ll be out of your life, permanently.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So we can solve that right now.