Lillian Vernon

Today we’d probably call it a “side hustle.”

Photo by Annie Watt

But that term had not yet been invented in 1951, when Lillian Vernon started a small mail order business from her kitchen table.

At that time she sold personalized purses and belts,targeting young women like her with ads in Seventeen magazine.

Born in Germany, she and her family fled to America in 1933, and she became an American citizen a few years later. As a 24-year-old housewife she started her business like so many do today, to bring in a few extra bucks.

And the business began to grow, eventually becoming one of the nations first and foremost direct mail retailers. You’ve probably gotten a Lillian Vernon catalog in the mail at some point over the years.

I met her in 1996 when Vernon wote a book called An Eye for Winners. So here now, from 1996, LillianVernon.

Lillian Vernon died in 2015. She was 88.

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CeCe winans

Photo by Pastorflex

There are many people who say CeCe winans is one of the greatest gospel artists of all time.

She made her mark early on, as a member of the Wimans Family singing group. While still a teenager, she signed on with the PTL Club TV show run by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

And before long, she and older brother BeBe became stars.

Alongside BeBe, and later as a solo artist. CeCe Winans racked up 15 Grammy awards, 31 GMA Dove awards, and countless other accolades.

She was also Whitney Houston’s best friend, and sang two songs at Houston’s funeral.

In 1999, Winans wrote the first of her three books, a memoir called On A Positive Note. And that’s when I met her and talked with her. So here now, from 1999, CeCe winans.

CeCe winans is 58 now. She llives near Nashville.

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Buffalo Bob Smith

To those of us of a certain age, there is only one answer to this question:

Hey kids, what time is it?

That is how millions of youngsters greeted the opening of the howdy Doody show, which actually ran from 1947 until 1960.

A young radio broadcaster named Bob Smith, from Buffalo, New York, created the Howdy Doody character on the radio, then moved to television when young audiences demanded to actually see Howdy.

Buffalo Bob, Howdy, and a cast of other characters — including a young Bob Keeshan, later known as Captain Kangaroo — enthralled millions of youngsters and defined the early days of television.

Howdy Doody was actually one of the first shows broadcasting color.

Finally, in 1990, after years of hearing people tell him,”you should write a book,” Smith finally wrote one, calling it Howdy And Me.

And that’s when I had a chance to meet him and talk with him. So here now, from 1990, Buffalo Bob Smith.

Buffalo Bob Smith died in 1998. He was 80 years old.

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E Lynn Harris

Our recognition of Pride Month continues, with a look back at an interview with one of the most prominent African American and LGBTQ authors of contemporary literature.

E. Lynn Harris quit his job as a computer salesman in 1990 to begin a full-time writing career. His first novel, invisible life, won widespread acclaim. He followed up with Just As I Am, and that was when I firstmet and interviewed him. We subsequently had several interviews.

In fact, over the next two decades, Harris had 10 consecutive New York times. Best-selling books.

So here now, from 1995, E Lynn Harris.

E Lynn Harris died in 2009. He was 54.

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James O’Keefe

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Since its founding in 2010, a conservative organization known as Project Veritas has stirred controversy, raised many ethical concerns, and has been sued, sometimes successfully, by its targets.

Those targets have included Planned Parenthood, ACORN, CNN, and the Washington Post.

Its founder was then-26-year-old James O’Keefe. His secretly recorded and heavily edited videos were embraced by many conservatives eager to expose what they saw as liberal or leftist misdeeds.

I got a few minutes with him in 2013 while he was promoting his book called Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy.

But just so we are clear, you should not infer from the nature of my questions in this interview that I endorsed Project Veritas or its methods.

So here now, from 2013, James O’Keefe.

James O’Keefe will be 39 next week. He sttepped down as chairman of Project Veritas last February admi controversy over finances and management style.

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Louise Meriwether

American history is a trove of compelling yet largely forgotten stories of courage and ingenuity and principle. Among them is the story of one African American slave who, during the Civil War, showed his true courage.

And in 1994, historian and writer Louise Meriwether used that story as the basis for a novel called Fragments of the Ark , a work of fiction meant to add flesh and blood the the dry bones of history.

With the political tied turning the way it is now in many places in America, it’s more important than ever. That stories like this be preserved.

So here now, from 1994, Louise Meriwether.

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Tim Russert

Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I wanted to bring you a familiar old voice to help us remember our dads.

Tim Russert suffered a fatal heart attack in June 2008 at age 58.

In 2004, the longtime host and moderator of NBC’s Meet The Press, Tim Russert, wrote a book called Big Russ And Me.

It was a son’s tribute to his dad, a World War II veteran who worked two jobs to support the family, never complaining, and always commenting “What a country!”

So here now, from 2004, Tim Russert.

Big Russ died the following year at age 85


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Photo by Gage Skidmore

Well, as everybody knows, Donald Trump has been indicted on federal charges.

So I thought it would be an opportune time to revisit an interview originally posted in Season 2 of this podcast, an interview I did in 2008 with one of the original “Apprentice” contestants.

If you watched the show, you no doubt remember Omarosa.

She was a fiery and combative contestant, so it’s no surprise that her book that she published in 2008 was a how-to on for women to be a bit, well. “witchy” in order to get ahead.

So here now, from 2008, Omarosa.

Several years after our interview, Donald Trump was elected president, and Omarosa — who is 49 now — went to work for him in the White House. She left in January 2018. It’s not clear whether she was fired, or resigned.


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Myrlie Evers Williams

Photo by John Mathew Smith

Today, June 12, is a somber anniversary. It was 60 years ago tonight that a white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan leader gun down a civil rights leader named Medgar Evers as he arrived home.

His killer remained at large for years to come. And Evers’s death was just the first of three high profile assassinations that decade, including Malcolm x and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His widow was Myrlie Evers. Years later she remarried and has been known since as Myrlie Evers Williams.

But she was always a strong woman.

I met her in 1999 when she wrote a book about her lifetime of triumph over tragedy, a book called Watch Me Fly.

So here now, from 1999, Myrlie Evers Williams.

Myrlie Evers Williams is 90 now, and still an active civil rights activist andleader.


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Frank Buttino

Even years after the death of iconic FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the agency continued to discriminate against gay agents.

It wasn’t all that very long ago that the FBI was almost exclusively the domain of straight white men.

That is, until an agent named Frank Buttino came along. The FBI fired him after discovering his sexual orientation, but Buttino filed a discrimination lawsuit.

And as a result, the FBI’s homophobic hiring discrimination ended.

I met him in the summer of 1993, while his lawsuit was still pending. He had written his autobiography, a book called A Special Agent .

So here now, from 1993, Frank Buttino.

Frank Buttino died in 2018. He was 73.

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