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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, how a young Jewish girl came to play the piano to survive and for the unlikeliest audience.

But first, I have a real special guest in the studio here. 1973, a young housewife - sorry, but that was the term we used in those days - showed up for her first day as a volunteer at her local public radio station in Washington, D.C. She got ushered into the studio because the host of "The Home Show" was sick. Who did you interview that day?

Ms. DIANE REHM: A representative of the Dairy Council...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: ...for 90 minutes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: Can you believe that, Scott?

SIMON: Well, let me, let give you a more formal introduction. Of course, that's Diane Rehm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: And "The Diane Rehm Show" turns 30 years old this fall. Nobody knows more about dairy than you, Diane.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: "The Diane Rehm Show" was heard every week in over 150 public radio stations across the country and on satellite around the world by more than two million listeners. She has interviewed Nobel laureates and novelists, Supreme Court justices and presidential candidates, presidents, movie stars, Cabinet officials, everyone so far but an extraterrestrial.

Ms. REHM: I'm waiting.

SIMON: Yeah. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: I'm waiting.

SIMON: All right, they're calling now. I can see the phones lighting up. Of course, Diane's in our studios. And we have to ask, you're going to be back on the air on Monday, but you had an injury recently.

Ms. REHM: I'm going to be back on the air Monday. I spent nine days in the hospital having caught my heel in the hem of my slacks and broke my pelvis.

SIMON: Let me get you to go back to 1973 for a moment.

Ms. REHM: Okay.

SIMON: In 1973, were women expected to do like recipes on the air and that sort of thing?

Ms. REHM: And that's what I did for a little while. But, Scott, you got to recognize that I, as a young Arab girl...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. REHM: ...was not expected to go to college. That my life was planned as a mother and a housewife, and that's all I ever expected.

SIMON: Over the years, what interviews, what people you've interviewed particularly stay with you?

Ms. REHM: Well, I'll never forget talking with Mr. Rogers. I'll never forget...

SIMON: Fred Rogers.

Ms. REHM: Fred Rogers.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. REHM: He was in Pittsburgh at his piano and he was doing all those wonderful voices. And I said to him, Mr. Rogers, what do you do when you're sad? I don't know why I asked him that except that he always seemed to be so happy. What do you do when you're sad? And he said, I play the piano. And he said, I think I'll be playing the piano a lot today. And I said, why are you sad? And he said, because my stomach hurts. And Scott, I did not have the courage to say to him, why does your stomach hurt?

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

Ms. REHM: I was afraid.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. REHM: I was afraid. And he was dead three months later.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. This was the cancer that claimed his life. Yeah.

Ms. REHM: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

Ms. REHM: And whether he knew it then, I presume he did. But he was so lovely.

SIMON: We're going to play a clip.

Ms. REHM: Okay.

SIMON: For all of my disdain of they want you to do recipes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: The clip we're going to play is of you interviewing Julia Child.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: Oh, how wonderful. She's fabulous.

SIMON: Yeah. No, well, she is.

Ms. REHM: She was.

SIMON: Yeah, she was.

Ms. REHM: She is.

(Soundbite of Diane Rehm's 1985 interview with Julia Child)

Ms. REHM: Your energy level, I mean you manage to maintain a schedule that would tire a great many people.

Ms. JULIA CHILD (Chef, Author and Television Personality): Well, that's because I eat properly: red meat and gin...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CHILD: ...or whatever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Now, people will hear that clip and a lot of people listening to it nowadays will say, oh, my gosh. I think it's fair to say your voice is different.

Ms. REHM: Oh, golly. My voice. My voice. When I hear clips of myself, earlier clips, and I think gosh, you talk fast.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: And I did. I talked so fast. And now, you know, it's harder for me to get these words out. Spasmodic dysphonia is in part a disorder of initiation...

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. REHM: ...which means that you have to force those words to come out. And having had that finally diagnosed and then being treated for it once every four months with an injection into the vocal cords of botulinum toxin, it sort of smoothes out…

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. REHM: …the voice. But my voice has made me far more concerned about whether I can get through an interview with this voice that people will continue to listen to. Or whether they will simply say - what is that woman doing on the air? I can't stand her voice. Now, people say, oh, no I love your voice. Well, I don't love my voice. And that's the hard part. I don't love my voice anymore.

SIMON: Well, you sure make it work.

Ms. REHM: Well, I work at it.

SIMON: The way I crunched the numbers, this is the 30th anniversary of your show. And speaking to someone who works with Dan Schorr, you could be doing your show for another 30 years…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: I don't think so, Scott.

SIMON: Well, he has no intention of…

Ms. REHM: I know.

SIMON: …giving up anytime.

Ms. REHM: Isn't that wonderful? I think that as long as our minds keep working, as long as people are willing to bear with us, we're not running across the street anymore, as I did to…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REHM: …fall and break my pelvis. We are moving a little more slowly and maybe that's a good example to be setting for people who are coming along. You have to take care of yourself, and you have to take care of your family. And I feel the same responsibility. I also feel that responsibility to my listeners. They are the smartest people I have ever come across. And I feel honored and privileged to have the airwaves to share with them.

SIMON: Diane Rehm, who may have the most famous pelvis since Elvis Presley…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: …host of the, "Diane Rehm Show," which is celebrating its 30th year on the air. Thanks so much.

Ms. REHM: Thank you.

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