When children’s book author Maurice Sendak’s death was reported Tuesday morning, 91 FM WHYY’s Terry Gross knew she wanted to scrap her planned “Fresh Air” broadcast and run a special episode of clips from four Sendak interviews she had conducted.
That episode, Gross says, “Kind of speaks to what I am proudest of about Fresh Air,” which Friday celebrates 25 years of being a daily show on National Public Radio. The show debuted on WHYY, where a longer version is still heard, in 1975.
“Over the years I get the chance to talk to people not only once but several times. You got to hear how he sounded in the 1980s, the 1990s, the Aughts, last September. It was so moving to hear a time lapse of those years, said Gross, who is no relation to Your Humble Narrator.
Part of Friday’s anniversary episode will be music from artists including Nick Lowe, Shirley Horn and John Doe recorded over the past 25 years.
“I fell in love with radio the moment I started doing it. I still find it a privilege to be able to talk to and engage in a pretty personal level with people whose work I respect,” Gross said.
Anybody she’s always wanted to interview but hasn’t? Yes, Howard Stern. It may surprise some of her listeners, but she’s a longtime fan of his radio show.
Gross says public-radio listeners “tend to be so nice and thoughtful about approaching me. Often someone will come up to me and apologize for interrupting me to say they like the show.”
She did share a recent run-in that rubbed her the wrong way. Gross, who gives her height as ‘under 5 feet,” says occasionally she asks a fellow Whole Foods shopper to reach something from the top shelf for her and recently a woman posted on Twitter about handing her cream cheese. “But she didn’t say anything to me about knowing me or the show. You feel like you’re being talked about,” Gross said.
She has no desire herself to tweet. “I’m in front of a book or computer screen enough. The last thing I want to do is find more ways to be in front of a cell phone,” she said.