Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

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CARL KASELL, Host:

From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell, and here's your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Thank you, Carl. Thanks everybody. Thanks everybody. It's August, and that means it's a great time to relax and hang out with some old friends and see what they've been up to.

KASELL: What Peter is trying to say is that we are taking the week off, and the old friends are some of our favorite TV and movie stars who've joined us to play Not My Job. So, in general, what they're up to now is exactly what they were doing when we recorded the interview.

SAGAL: Thanks a lot, Carl.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KASELL: We'll begin with actor Kevin Bacon, who joined us in June of 2011, with panelists Amy Dickinson, Paula Poundstone and Alonzo Boden.

SAGAL: Kevin's movie "X-Men: First Class" has just come out. So I asked him, with all the movies he does, how in the world he even had time to appear on our show.

KEVIN BACON: Yeah, it's just a lifelong dream of mine.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I understand. So you've gotten on the big comic book movie bandwagon, which is totally cool. Did you get that stuff that like, everybody else has gotten, from Michael Keaton in "Batman" to Toby Maguire, with all the fans going, that's not him, what a terrible idea to cast that guy?

BACON: Yeah. You know, you have to be careful what you look at online, because there was plenty of that. If you actually look at the way my character is drawn in the comic books, he is a gigantic, behemoth, muscle-bound man with a long, black ponytail that dresses like Benjamin Franklin. And it just wasn't really the way we wanted to go visually with it. Plus I...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's funny, because that actually describes me. And I don't know why...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We need to ask you, of course, about the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game.

BACON: OK.

SAGAL: If I'm not mistaken, this was developed like, as a college thing in the '80s. Somebody realized that you've done so many movies that you can take pretty much any actor who's ever lived, and connect him to you in six steps or less.

BACON: That's right. These four guys were sitting around their college dorm in Albright College, and one of my movies was on TV and they kind of came up with this concept. And I think it was kind of at the beginning of when things were being spread exponentially on the internet. And, you know, people started coming up to me and saying, you know, "my cousin invented a game about you," or "I'm go hung over because I was playing your game last night." And, you know, I didn't really know what it was.

SAGAL: And did you like it? Were you flattered?

BACON: No, I was horrified.

SAGAL: Why were you horrified?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: Well, because I really thought it was a joke at my expense. I mean, I thought they were saying, can you believe that this lightweight can be connected in six degrees to Laurence Olivier?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Wow.

BACON: And then I went onto a television show, and I met these young guys, and they were real fans. It wasn't something that they had devised to, you know, bring my career down.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: And so then I just kind of said, well, I guess I've got to embrace it.

SAGAL: Absolutely. It has been computerized. There's a website called the Kevin Bacon Oracle, and we went there because we have nothing better to do. And we found out - this is very cool - you are three degrees from Benito Mussolini.

BACON: Oh.

SAGAL: Did you know that?

BACON: That's great.

SAGAL: He was in this movie called "The Eternal City" with Joan Bennett, who was in "House of Dark Shadows" with Dennis Patrick, who was in "The Air Up There" with Kevin Bacon.

BACON: That's amazing.

SAGAL: This is like - through the focus of this game, you become the seminal figure of the 20th and 21st centuries.

BACON: Yeah.

SAGAL: I do not think this is a bad thing.

BACON: I don't know about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We read - I wanted to ask you about this - that you once, maybe as an experiment or just because you were tired of it, you actually invested money in a disguise so you could go out and not be recognized.

BACON: I did, yeah. I had it made by a special-effects makeup artist.

SAGAL: And what was it, this disguise?

BACON: I can't say. I don't want to say what it was, because, you know, what if I want to use it again?

SAGAL: You might use it again.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: Right. I can tell you that it was pretty subtle but it was incredibly effective. I went out and experimented with it - went through a very, very big, popular, outdoor shopping mall in southern California. And honestly, it was awful.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? Because it must have been so weird for you to be wandering about and...

BACON: It was weird, and not in a good way.

SAGAL: Why? Why was it not...

BACON: Because people weren't nice to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Welcome to our world, Kevin Bacon.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

AMY DICKINSON: There you go.

SAGAL: Really? Did you really have that reaction? Like why aren't I being allowed to cut to the front of this line? Why are they not giving me free appetizers? I don't understand this.

BACON: Exactly.

SAGAL: Really?

BACON: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I mean, because you know, you hear from - and Barack Obama is one of many people to say this - oh, I really miss it. I can't just walk down the street anymore, I'm not anonymous anymore. And you're like...

BACON: Yeah. I mean, look, there is a part of me that misses that. But would I trade it for all the great things that I've had, you know, with this lucky, lucky life? No, not in a second.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We had our new intern, Amy, go over your filmography to prepare for this interview, and she had one question that she really wanted us to ask you.

BACON: OK.

SAGAL: It's my pleasure to do this for her. You made this movie called "Where the Truth Lies."

BACON: Yes.

SAGAL: And in this movie, you have a threesome with Colin Firth and Rachel Blanchard.

BACON: Yeah.

SAGAL: So Amy would like to know: so what's Colin Firth like intimately?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: In bed?

SAGAL: That was the question.

BACON: Oh that was great.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: He'll be so happy to hear that that was the question. When you have those kinds of scenes with people...

SAGAL: Yeah.

BACON: Sometimes it can be kind of horrifying, and sometimes you can really form a lifelong bond.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? So, does, like Colin still text you in the middle of the night.

BACON: That's the problem that I have.

SAGAL: Really?

BACON: Yeah, I mean, I'll tell you, I saw him recently in London. I was coming from the "X-Men" premiere, and I had all this swag, you know, T-shirts and hats and DVDs and little toys, and stuff like that. And I brought it over to his house to give his two sons, because they were fans of the movies and stuff like that. And I handed them each a bag, and I just couldn't resist whispering to them: I bet you didn't get any of this stuff from "King's Speech."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Kevin Bacon, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling?

KASELL: "Six Degrees? Schmix Degrees."

SAGAL: So yeah, we've talked about the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, you can take any movie star and connect them eventually to you. But that's movies. We decided to ask you about three cases of different kinds of unexpected connections.

BACON: OK.

SAGAL: Answer two of these questions correctly; you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is actor Kevin Bacon playing for?

KASELL: Kevin is playing for Connor Griffin of Seattle.

SAGAL: All right, here is your first question. Hedy Lamar, as you know, a movie star in the '30s and '40s, probably most famous for playing Delilah in "Samson and Delilah." But without her, we may not have had what? A: skorts, or the combination of skirts and shorts that women sometimes wear? B: cellular phones? Or C: the political career of Al Franken?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: What was the first one?

SAGAL: The first one was skorts. Those are those skirts that are like shorts or shorts that are like skirts.

BACON: Oh, I didn't know what that was. OK. You know, it's so out there that I'm going to say Al Franken.

SAGAL: Who knows what caused the political career of Al Franken?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But as far as we know, it wasn't Hedy Lamar. Hedy Lamar contributed significantly, though, to cell phones.

POUNDSTONE: How?

SAGAL: Because in addition to being a gorgeous and successful movie star, much like our guest, she was an accomplished mathematician and patented a method for encoding broadcasts - called frequency hopping - that is used in cell phone and wi-fi technology.

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

BACON: Wow.

SAGAL: All right, you still have two more chances. Next, we're going to ask you about the ventriloquist Paul Winchell. You may remember his classic characters Jerry Mahoney, Knucklehead Smith, or his work as the voice of Tigger in all those Winnie the Pooh movies. You know.

BACON: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But did you know about Paul Winchell that A, he discovered the young Arnold Schwarzenegger in Austria; B, he invented the artificial heart; or C, he was the inspiration for Chewbacca?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: Whoa.

BACON: Oh, man.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: Discovered Schwarzenegger in Austria?

SAGAL: Yeah.

BACON: Hmm. You know, I think I'm going to go with that.

SAGAL: You're going to go with discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger and the theory being that there's Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting weights, up comes a ventriloquist and says, you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You, sir, are going to be a movie star and the governor of California, mark my words.

BACON: Are you giving me a chance to change my mind?

SAGAL: I am.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BACON: OK. Then I will say - that was a dumb idea, now that I think about it...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: I've got to say, I'm leaning to the artificial heart.

SAGAL: I think you're right, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Paul Winchell was a ventriloquist and an inventor, and he invented and patented the first artificial heart. In fact, another weird connection: His partner in this project Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver.

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

SAGAL: All right, the last question. Here we go.

BACON: All right.

SAGAL: We're talking about Roger Ailes now. He is, of course, the powerful chairman of Fox News, and he has spent his life working in TV and consulting with Republican candidates. But he had a brief intermission from both of those in his career, in the early '70s, in which he did what? A, he produced a Broadway musical on environmental themes, called "Mother Earth."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, he opened a health center in L.A., called What Ailes You; or C, he created a disco dance that he called the Jolly Roger.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: What Ailes You.

SAGAL: His name being Roger Ailes.

BACON: No, that's too lame.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: I'm going to go with "Mother Earth."

SAGAL: You're right.

POUNDSTONE: Whoa.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It was a Broadway show called "Mother Earth," very early '70s. The music was by Toni Tennille, of Captain and Tennille fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He then went on to become a successful Broadway producer after that, before going back to politics.

BACON: That's great. Who knew?

SAGAL: Who knew? I didn't know.

BACON: We could use a new musical about the environment.

SAGAL: Maybe it's time for the "Mother Earth" revival.

BACON: There you go.

SAGAL: Carl, how did Kevin Bacon do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, Kevin had two correct answers, and that's enough to win for Connor Griffin.

POUNDSTONE: All right.

SAGAL: Well done, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That was pretty good.

BACON: That was fun.

SAGAL: How does this feel compared to the other accomplishments in your life?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BACON: This is definitely one of them.

SAGAL: There you are.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Kevin Bacon is a world-famous movie star, has been so for many years. You can see him now in the movie, "X-Men: First Class." Kevin Bacon, what a delight to talk to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you for those movies.

BACON: Take care, bye-bye.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

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