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Karl Rove, 'The Architect'

Journalist Wayne Slater has written extensively about the influence of Karl Rove on President Bush. His new book is The Architect: Karl Rove and The Master Plan for Absolute Power. Rove has been involved with the Bush family for nearly 30 years and worked with George W. Bush on every one of his campaigns.


Other segments from the episode on September 6, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 6, 2006: Interview with Wayne Slater; Interview with Diane Lane.


DATE September 6, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Journalist Wayne Slater discusses the life and
career of Karl Rove and the new book "The Architect"


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

In the new book "The Architect," Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political
adviser, is described as the most powerful unelected official of our time, the
architect of George W. Bush's political success and of a considerably larger
goal to establish an enduring Republican majority, not just for eight years
but for a generation. The new book examines Rove's strategies for reaching
that goal. My guest, Wayne Slater, is the co-author of "The Architect," and
of a previous book about Rove called "Bush's Brain." Slater has been
interviewing Rove and writing about him since the late '70s. He's a senior
political writer for the Dallas Morning News and former Austin bureau chief of
the paper.

Wayne Slater, welcome back to FRESH AIR. I don't know if you read the article
in this Sunday's New York Times about Karl Rove. It was headlined "Rove's
Word Is No Longer GOP Gospel." Let me just read an excerpt of it. It said,
"The party's candidates are going their own way in this difficult election
season, far more than they have in other campaigns Rove has overseen. Some
are disregarding Rove's advice. They're criticizing Bush or his policies.
They are avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove. Some
Republicans are ignoring Rove's efforts to hold the party together on issues
like immigration and Iraq." Would you agree with that?

Mr. WAYNE SLATER: I do agree with that. I think that Karl Rove, in building
what he hoped would be this sustained long lasting Republican hegemony, was
almost there. And then about a year ago, bad things began to happen. Clearly
it is the war in Iraq that's really defining the problems for the
administration, for George Bush, and now politically for Karl Rove going into
the next election.

Now I have a slightly different take. While all that's true, and that Rove,
who has been sort of the master planner for years of George Bush's political
success and Republican success in Congress, while his sort of standing is a
bit smirched right now I think something else--the real true test of this may
not be this fall but will be two years from now. And the reason I believe
that is really what we've written about in this book, and it is the
construction not simply of a message or an idea or a particular candidate but
the construction of an enormously effective political machine of many parts.
And if they can get Iraq right, or at least not quite so wrong, then this
Republican machine really could see that this is not just--this is not the end
of Rove's rise and the sustained majority, but this is only a hiccough along
the way.

GROSS: You know, talking about the problems for the Republicans during this
election year, you point out that there were three main areas that Rove was
working on this year: immigration, the courts and Social Security. How do
they look now?

Mr. SLATER: Oh, they look awful. It's just a disaster. We remember that
after George Bush won re-election in 2004, one of the things that happened
was--he had the famous news conference where he called Karl Rove the
"architect" of his re-election and Rove changed jobs a bit, at least he
appeared to. And that was to expand beyond political to, in a more robust
way, the policy side of the White House, and those areas were his areas. And
those areas--Social Security and the others--really were areas that were
largely unsuccessful. Social Security's over. I mean that's not going to
happen for quite a while. And if you look at what's happened here, I think
that Rove, in part, was distracted. He has always focused mightily on the
task at hand, which was the election of political candidates, particularly
George Bush. But the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation, I think,
distracted him in a way. And I think, in a sense, Karl may have for the first
time in his political life, really misread, in a fundamental way, what not the
voters but more importantly the voters in his--on his team--Republican voters

really wanted. The result really has been a disaster for the Bush

GROSS: Your book "The Architect" is subtitled "The Master Plan for Absolute
Power." Do you think Karl Rove has a master plan?

Mr. SLATER: You know, it's not a plan you put down on paper, A through Z,
but, yes, he actually--the mystery about Karl Rove was not that he wanted to
elect George Bush president and then re-elect him president, although that has
been his number one goal. It is that he always has seen, in a more academic
way, that the mission was to create an environment, to build a machine, to
cultivate the constituencies, so that after George Bush, the Republican Party
wouldn't be just one of a two-party system that would sometimes win and
sometimes lose, but his goal was to create a machine, a master plan, if you
will, that would make sure that Republicans dominated politics in the White
House and in Congress for a generation or more. That was the plan. It looks
like he's got problems right now but that really was a plan that he put

GROSS: In writing about Rove's strategy to get the Evangelical vote and a lot
of the Catholic vote and the Jewish vote, you write about his--the importance
of his alliance with Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition
and you describe them as having the same goal--getting out the Christian
vote--but for different ends. How would you contrast their larger goals?

Mr. SLATER: You know, I remember seeing Ralph Reed in Texas when Rove tried
to bring him on board back in about 1998, and I've talked to Ralph on a number
of occasions. I really think that Reed had his own mission. Reed had a
sense, despite some of the bad things that have been written about him, that
Christians ought to have a voice in government because Christian values have a
place in our public policy to some extent.

Reed was active early on with the Christian Coalition and Pat Robertson and
later in the election/re-election of George Bush and other Republicans, I
think in part because he believed in the mission. Ralph Reed is an
Evangelical Christian who was successful in bringing Evangelical Christians
around for political ends. Karl Rove is just the opposite. He is, in fact,
an agnostic. He has told--he told a friend in high school that he grew up in
a largely a-religious household. He told a friend at the University of Texas,
where some years ago he was teaching, that he would like to be a believer but
he's an agnostic and he couldn't be otherwise. So Rove's approach has always
been not that religion and the values of religion ought to have a place in our
public policy, which is the message that he sent. Rove's approach is that
Christians are a marvelously effective voter delivery system that can be
rallied, motivated, energized, and delivered for the political candidate of
your choice.

GROSS: Are you confident that Karl Rove would still consider himself an

Mr. SLATER: I know that he felt that way two years ago. I don't know of any
reason to think that he has changed that view. He certainly hasn't told me
that he has. It's certainly possible. I think the evidence and the history
is that he remains something of an agnostic, though he sees the Christians,
and not just Christians but also orthodox Jews, to some extent, as a valuable
voter source. With Rove, it's about winning. With Karl Rove, it's how can
you put together a team and a constituency or a cluster of constituencies that
delivers you 50 percent plus one of the vote? And that's what it's all about.

GROSS: You describe Ralph Reed and Karl Rove as together categorizing and
dividing religious voters differently than anyone had before.

Mr. SLATER: Right. Yeah, I think this was a central insight that Ralph had.
Also, there was another conservative thinker among Catholic thinkers who came
to the same conclusion that you tend to think of religious and nonreligious
voters as the two constituencies. You have people who are religious and
people who are actively religious on one side, and you have those people who
are secular, or only modestly religious, on the other.

In fact, the division is something different. It is a division within
religion, not between religion and nonreligious people. That is to say that
you--the way you find and identify your voters is to identify those people who
are really religious. One measure of that is, do they go to church? If you
go to church once a week or more often, you're more likely, substantially more
likely--a few studies showed this--to vote Republican. If you go to church
much less likely, you are more likely to be--maybe a month or less a
year--then you're more likely to be a Democrat.

So what Rove and Reed were able to do was to help identify--not simply whether
people were Christian, identified themselves as religious, whether faith was
somewhat important in their lives--but to subdivide the community of faith
between the really religious, using a certain criteria, and the somewhat
religious, or active in church group, and to focus the attention on those
really religious people, whether they be evangelical or conservative
Christians, whether they're conservative Catholics or orthodox Jews.

GROSS: And I think that we're probably also dividing the religious voters
according to whether they were religious in a more traditional conservative
way or not.

Mr. SLATER: Yeah, I mean, one of the things that came to Karl some years
ago, as George Bush was preparing to run for president, he ran across an
article, a series of articles in Crisis Magazine--which was a conservative
Catholic magazine that effectively identified the same thing--and said, you
know, it is the conservative more traditional Catholic voter that is more
likely to vote Republican, to have the values that are consistent with
conservative Republicans. When Karl saw that, he called the editor of the
magazine, a guy named Deal Hudson, asked him to come to Austin, Texas, to meet
with George Bush. And what happened there was not only a successful sort of
beginning of a cultivation of Catholic votes, many of whom--many of these
Catholic voters were not all that comfortable with the Protestant
Evangelicals--but with the cultivation of Catholic voters in ways that really
benefited George Bush. In a short way, what you saw among these conservative,
more tradition-bound religious Catholics was a sense of community in a certain

When George Bush, for example, would use the word Bible, Deal Hudson, in some
sites, would say, `Use the word scripture.' Hudson would get a speech in which
George Bush was going to use the word "moral relativism," and what Hudson
would say is, `Change it to "social renewal."' It was Hudson, conservative,
traditional Catholic constituency, that said, `Use the word "culture of life."
That's a phrase from the pope.' And so when you saw in the George Bush 2000
debate with Al Gore, at one point Bush said, `I think it's important that we
work together to create a culture of life.' That wasn't simply an abstract
phrase. That was a careful, calculated use of the language to appeal to this
particular group of Catholics, but also not offend and to cultivate the
Christian conservative groups that he also wanted to bring on board in the

GROSS: My guest is Wayne Slater, co-author of "The Architect." We'll talk
more about Karl Rove after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Wayne Slater. He's the author
of the new book "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute
Power." He's the co-author of an earlier book about Karl Rove called "Bush's

Now you credit Rove with developing fear of homosexuality as a political
weapon. I mean, he's not the first to try to use fear of homosexuality as an
organizing tool, but what do you think is unique about what he's done?

Mr. SLATER: I think there are a couple of things unique. You know, a long
time ago it was race was our most effective political tool among
conservatives, often conservative Democrats in the South. They would scare
you--scare voters with the idea that black people might--should not vote.
That they want to take your job, they want to take your--the benefits that you
have. That obviously has fallen by the wayside. That's not acceptable in a
modern campaign. But homosexuality, the fear of homosexuality, its place as a
stigma in the minds of many modern and conservative voters, remains really the
most potent political wedge issue out there that can so effectively define and
divide the field.

What Rove has done, over the years, whether it was in 1994 in Ann Richards'
gubernatorial race where Rove ran his first campaign with George Bush. He was
successful in electing him governor of Texas in a very effective and virulent
whisper campaign about Ann Richards and people who were--whether she had
surrounded herself with homosexuals and lesbians in her office and in
government. A whisper campaign that had effect and contributed to her defeat.
Or in that same year, a Rove candidate in Alabama defeated an incumbent
Supreme Court justice in that state in part by a campaign that really simply
raised questions about whether he, this Rove opponent, was a child molester,
was a pederast. It was a subtle campaign as it were but it was really

Even most recently when you see the effectiveness of Proposition Issue 1, or
the gay marriage issue, on the ballet in various states, 2004, George Bush I
am convinced, would not have won Ohio without the enormous turnout of voters
in that state, many of whom were motivated by the desire to vote for, to
campaign on behalf Issue 1, the gay marriage ban in Ohio.

Now, you're right, candidates have often--campaigns have often used
homosexuality as a wedge issue. I think Karl has done it more successfully
than a lot of people. I think he has really become a master at identifying
those constituencies that would be most susceptible to that message and has
again and again has elected candidates.

GROSS: Since Karl Rove has been associated with, for instance, legislation or
amendments to ban gay marriage, and since his strategies have involved fear of
homosexuality, it's interesting to learn that his stepfather was gay. Tell us
a little bit about Karl Rove's relationship with his stepfather and when his
stepfather actually came out. When did Karl Rove find out about this?

Mr. SLATER: Karl's stepfather, who, when I mention to him it's his
stepfather, he always says, `Nope, he's my father. He's my adopted father.
He's the man I love.' The father left the family on Christmas day when Karl
was 19 years old. They were living in Utah, and the marriage between Louis
Rove, that's Karl's father, and Karl's mother ended. He--the father left.
The circumstances were, Karl said, somewhat mysterious. Really, the family
just didn't get along. The mother and father didn't get along together, but
that the father left and at least at that point Karl didn't know why. It was
years before he understood exactly what had happened here.

Louis Rove moved to California and Rove continued to have a fairly close
relationship with his father. By all accounts, and everyone I talked to, Karl
would frequently see his dad, would go to California and see him, or the two
sometimes would go on vacation or a short vacation. It was a relationship
that was a really strong father-son relationship. This was his stepfather,
but this was the only father that Karl Rove--who Karl Rove really ever knew.
And by all indications, Karl was close to him. It's unclear to me exactly
when his father came out, though I suspect it was not long after leaving the

Louis Rove settled in California and retired, where he and another group of
people, including a number of older gay men, struck up a friendship, and a
sort of social group that they would see each other. Louis was dying slowly
of a series of respiratory diseases. And as the father got worse in 2004,
Karl went to California on a couple of occasions and worked with his brothers
and sisters to attend to his father's needs. And by all indications, Karl was
close to his father, was attentive, said he was a loving son. People who are
friends of his father said when Karl would visit he gave every indication of
not being uncomfortable with the idea that his father was gay.

And when his father died in 2004, Karl attended to the affairs as his father
wished. There was no funeral, per se. There was a very small memorial
service. His father's ashes were distributed as he wished. And then as soon
as that was over, Karl left California and went back to the issue at hand,
which was really, the most effective anti-gay political campaign, ever put
together in a number of states designed to re-elect George Bush president of
the United States.

GROSS: Have you ever been able to ask Karl Rove how he reconciles his love
for his father, who was gay, with his own anti-gay politics.

Mr. SLATER: No. I have not, although we've talked from time to time, that
is something that he doesn't talk about other than to say that there was a
memorial service and, previously in conversations that I've had, to reinforce
his affection for his father. But it really is a central sort of conflict, an
interesting psychological dimension that he was so successful at being able to
divide his personal feelings, personal attitudes on the one hand with the task
at hand, which has always been, `What does it take to crush the opposition?
And I'll use it no matter what it is.'

GROSS: Wayne Slater is the co-author of "The Architect." We'll talk more
about Karl Rove in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross and this is


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with journalist Wayne Slater,
co-author of the new book "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for
Absolute Power." Slater also co-wrote an earlier book about Rove called
"Bush's Brain." Slater is the senior political writer for the Dallas Morning

Karl Rove was the chair of the White House Iraq Group, which was created in
August of 2002, and you describe its function as marketing the invasion of
Iraq. What techniques would you say Karl Rove used to do that?

Mr. SLATER: Well, he understood, you know, better than anyone that Iraq is
an issue, especially as it's got more problematic, is not a very good selling
point for a majority voters. But the fear of terrorism is. And more than any
other single person, it was Karl in 2002 in the off-year elections, Karl in
the presidential election of 2004, and again this year, who is attempting to
steer the party on the message, toward the message of, `It's the terrorism,
stupid.' And, in effect, that marketing effort, which I guess in retrospect
seems obvious, really wasn't that obvious several years ago before Karl used
it, exploited it, and was enormously successful with it.

GROSS: Now we're hearing a lot about Iran and about Islamofascism, Islamic
fascism. Do you think that this is in part a campaign strategy and do you
think that Karl Rove is encouraging this kind of talk?

Mr. SLATER: Absolutely. The use of language, from the beginning, has really
been important. How do you define your opponent? How do you define your
enemy? Can you define it in a way that really is successful on your side?
The use of the phrase Islamofascist--which has really been bullishly used by
Republicans, by Republican hangers-on and by the president himself--is the
product of a series of focus groups and polls, despite the fact that the White
House says they don't use that. Because it's an effective term to label the
opponent in a way that scares voters and to define the enemy in a very, very
negative way. So Karl has been instrumental, not so much in the activity in a
particular military unit in Iraq. That's not what he does. It's to devise a
message that is successful with enough voters to make sure that your team wins
the next election. That's what he's always been about.

GROSS: You know, Sunday there was an article about Rove in The New York Times
by Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, and I want to quote something they write
in that article. They say, "The White House said that Rove would consider an
interview for this article if it were conducted off the record, with the
provision that quotations could be put on the record with White House
approval, a condition, it said, was set for other interviews with Rove. The
New York Times declined." Is that a typical condition that Karl Rove sets for
an interview? That the interview's off the record, but after the fact that he
could decide that something could be on the record.

Mr. SLATER: Sometimes he's done that. But I have to tell you that--when I
saw that paragraph, it shocked me because it really points out the difficult,
I think, that Rove has right now. He still holds out hope that the
Republicans can hold onto the House and Senate in the fall. And maybe they
can, maybe they can't. This idea of so carefully limiting his access
reinforces kind of the larger idea of a White House that over the years has
become very circumscribed, very secretive, very limited in what it talks to
other people about, and the way it reflects and it is available to the press.
It is amazing to me, although Karl has done that before, I've never seen quite
the same thing before. Every conversation I've had with him has been pretty
much on the record. A few cases he'll go off the record and make those areas
known. I think it reflects a White House that is in deep, deep trouble. And
Rove, who among all things, is pretty good at seeing when trouble is on the
horizon, is doing what he can to protect himself before the deluge.

GROSS: And what impact do you think it will have that The New York Times not
only described Rove's condition but said it declined to agree to those

Mr. SLATER: I think it really shows that, for years, Karl and others have
understood that the relationship with the media was one in which you cultivate
reporters--even if you're publicly denouncing them or denouncing the media at
large--and that you use access or the denial of access as an active part of
the political landscape, as a political tool that you use. What this tells me
is that after many years, which the White House Press Corps and the National
Press Corps has by some measure played footsie with the White House, gone
along with the various restrictions and limitations that it imposes, maybe
there's a break here. Maybe the White House has weakened in such a way that,
from now on, the mainstream press isn't going to play any more.

GROSS: Have you gone along with Rove's conditions over the years?

Mr. SLATER: Yeah. I've gone along with his conditions over the years. When
he's off the record, I've tried to keep those issues private. When he
has--sometimes there's been a disagreement. I remember after the first book
we published, Rove sent me a 10 to 15 page single spaced critique which
ultimately became public because he had not said that it should be private.
He later called me and said, `That should have been private.' We had a
disagreement on whether it was off the record not, and then he, in a
light-hearted way explained to me, `I know where you live. You drive on
Interstate 35. I can have some patriot missiles get you. Boom, boom, boom.'
And then laughed. It seemed like a funny thing to say when you consider that
he's a guy I've know for years. On the other hand, he was calling from Air
Force One and he was at the right hand of the president of the United States.

GROSS: Well, if you're hit by a patriot missile, we're going to suspect

Mr. SLATER: Thank you. You're my savior on this.

GROSS: Wayne Slater, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. SLATER: Good to be with you.

GROSS: Wayne Slater is the co-author of the new book "The Architect."

Coming up, Diane Lane, one of the stars of the new movie "Hollywoodland." This


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Actress Diane Lane discusses her career and new
movie "Hollywoodland"


My guest, Diane Lane, is one of the stars of the new movie "Hollywoodland."
She's also starred in such films as "Under the Tuscan Sun," "Unfaithful," "A
Walk on the Moon," "Streets of Fire," "Rumble Fish" and "Cotton Club." As
we'll hear, she got her start professionally when she was six in avant garde
theater. Her father was an acting coach. Her mother had been Playboy's Miss
October in 1957. They divorced 13 days after Diane was born.

"Hollywoodland" is a fictionalized account of the mysterious circumstances
surrounding the death in 1959 of George Reeves, who played Superman on TV.
Lane plays Toni Mannix, the wife of MGM Studios' general manager Eddie Mannix.
When Reeves is trying to establish himself in Hollywood before landing the
part of Superman, Toni Mannix takes him on as her lover and supports him
financially. She's several years older than him. In this scene, they meet
for the first time, accidentally, at an exclusive restaurant. Reeves wants to
get in the papers, so when he sees a photographer shooting Rita Hayworth and
her companions, he walks over and leans into the shot. That's when Toni
Mannix notices him.

(Soundbite of "Hollywoodland")

Ms. DIANE LANE: (As Toni Mannix) Just made it?

Mr. BEN AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) Beg your pardon?

Ms. LANE: (As Toni Mannix) Into the picture?

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) Was someone taking a picture? I hadn't

Ms. LANE: (As Toni Mannix) Hm. You're awfully well trained. Mr...

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) George Reeves.

(Ms. Lane laughs)

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) Was it the line or the delivery?

Ms. LANE: (As Toni Mannix) I laugh when I'm happy.

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) I see. Well, who is it I'm making so happy?

Ms. LANE: (As Toni Mannix) I'm Toni.

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) Just a poor girl with no last name.

(Ms. Lane laughs)

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) I had no idea I could spread this much joy.

Ms. LANE: (As Toni Mannix) Who knows what you might be spreading? Your

Mr. AFFLECK: (As George Reeves) I'm afraid you've got me.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Diane Lane, welcome to FRESH AIR.

You play an older woman who's having an affair with a younger actor.

Ms. LANE: Mm-hm.

GROSS: I think the character is actually older than you are?

Ms. LANE: Yes. Interestingly, Ben Affleck, who beautifully portrays George
in the film, Ben Affleck and I have the same age difference that I believe
Toni had with George. So even though we're both younger than the characters
we're playing, we have the equal distance between our ages. Does that make

GROSS: Right. And that's what, eight years?

Ms. LANE: I think, seven or eight, yeah.

GROSS: So, you know, Toni Mannix, who you portray, is in part, you know,
relying on her sexuality to keep George Reeves, and at the same time she knows
she's getting older and that he is likely to be seduced by a younger woman.
Can you talk a little bit about acting that kind of sexuality that she has?

Ms. LANE: Well, that kind--I mean, I don't know how many kinds there are. I
just know that it's interesting...

GROSS: Well, there's the kind that's more overtly seductive and more...

Ms. LANE: Right.

GROSS: ...more manipulative in a way, too.

Ms. LANE: Because she had the purse strings and because she had the promise,
or hope, dangling all the time that she could be of benefit to his career--she
was married to the head of MGM, she had a lot of connections that George
couldn't get into the room of without her--that sexuality, it wears very
comfortably because you have all the cards. The only disparity is the age
difference and she addresses it right away. She says, you know, `I'm much too
old for you,' almost like a dare, almost like a challenge. And I found it
very winsome actually how Toni was so vulnerable, even though I think she did
her very best to conceal it, and it got the better of her because the things
we shove down wind up winning. You know, she's pretty vulnerable about the
fact that she's the older woman and he's the younger man, and that whole
cliche of being traded in at 40 for two 20s, you know, is just--it's always
hanging over her head like a piano, I think.

GROSS: My guest is Diane Lane and she's starring in the new movie

You started acting professionally when you were six. What got you started?

Ms. LANE: It was a clipping out of the Village Voice which, if memory
serves, in 1971, that was--it seemed to me a very thin publication. It didn't
have much advertising in it. It was mostly advertising for actors to
audition, you know. They found this little tiny one-inch advertisement to
audition seven to 10-year-olds down at La MaMa, on East Fourth Street in New
York, La MaMa Experimental Theater, La MaMa ETC, but I just auditioned.

My father asked me, he said to me, `So, Diane, do you want to be in a play?'
He drove me in the cab and he said, `It's right up there at the top of the
stairs.' I walked in. I walked up the five flights of stairs, and I said,
`I'm here about the job.' And I had no front teeth. And the gal who
auditioned me was Elizabeth Swados--Elizabeth Swados, depending on who you
ask--who was all of 18 then, and must, you know--to me she was all grown up.
And the audition consisted of singing some notes back on a guitar to see if I
had pitch and could I say some words backwards. You know, `What is car
backwards?' `Rac.' `Ooh.' Made me feel really smart, you know and I just--I
got the part. I walked out with the part because they just wanted someone who
was going to be able to say the Greek words. We were doing the original
Euripides text of Medea and then we wound up...

GROSS: You were doing it in Greek?

Ms. LANE: Oh yeah.

GROSS: I didn't realize that.

Ms. LANE: Oh yeah. I still know my lines. They're blazed into my brain
stem because I--if you forget these lines, the great thing is you can
improvise and hopefully nobody will notice that you completely screwed up your
lines. When we performed it in Greece--because we toured with these plays all
over Europe, every summer. We would tour in all the theater festivals. We
were the American entry from La MaMa. And, yeah, we wound up making a trilogy
of plays: "Medea," "Electra," "The Trojan Women." And it was truly avant
garde theater before it was even--that phrase was coined, because that's sort
of a hindsight perspective you know.

GROSS: So you were a child, you were like six and seven when you were doing
avant garde theater with La MaMa. What are some of the principles you learned
when you were six about avant garde theater that you didn't realize were some
of the innovations of avant garde theater at the time, that you just took for
granted because it's the things that you were taught?

Ms. LANE: Well, interestingly, I had no boundaries, no filter, no
self-consciousness yet. I was the perfect pupil for the workshops we would
do. You know, Andre Serban was our director and he has become quite famous
for many productions over the years. He got into opera, and he's done lots of
things. But he directed all those plays. And he was fresh from Romania,
barely spoke any English, and the communications that we had were quite
literally primal. And I had, being the child, I had no shame. I--some of the
exercises were, `OK, be an animal, pick an animal, be one, and go around the
group as the animal.' I don't know if you've seen "Little Miss Sunshine." It's
a great movie.

GROSS: Yes it is.

Ms. LANE: It's this little girl at the end and she's getting coached by Alan
Arkin how to be...(roars)...a lion or whatever that leopard is. I--that was
me at La MaMa going around the group. I wanted to be a black panther. You
know, I just--here I am seven years old, snarling at people, not realizing
that I was either making a fool of myself or adorable or precocious or
whatever people want to label. I was free. Yeah.

GROSS: So just about the time that a lot of children are learning how to
control certain impulses and learning, you know--they're getting socialized,
you were with a group of people whose goal was probably to be uninhibited and
express themselves as freely as possible within the structure of the theater.

Ms. LANE: Well, the theater is a brilliant teacher. My father called it his
church, you know. Those years taught me how to be a team player. Those years
taught me respect, responsibility. I learned everything, Terry. I learned to
go to the bathroom before the show.

GROSS: Good advice.

Ms. LANE: I had to play dead. I had to play dead and I actually, you know,
did it so well, that, you know, I--my--I don't know how to say this, I
urinated, but at least I played a convincing corpse, you know. I must commit
to the role. And, you know, other times you learn what not to eat because you
get sick. You learn not to fall asleep backstage by the heater in winter
because you'll miss your cue. Basic, basic stuff. You know, don't interrupt
the play and say in English where the props should be. It's just little kid
stuff but I learned all of it.

GROSS: Are you saying you urinated on stage in the part?

Ms. LANE: Yeah.

GROSS: And were you, were you...

Ms. LANE: I was being held in Jason's arms. I was Medea's murdered child.
So he was screaming and spitting and flailing around in Greek, clutching my
body, and I'm supposed to be dead. And I needed to stay limp with a very full
bladder. He realized what happened halfway through but he had to keep going.

GROSS: Were you criticized for it by the director?

Ms. LANE: Not those things. As long as the show goes on, you see, you're
fine. It's when you blow the moment or--yeah.

GROSS: Now what prevented you from being like horribly embarrassed after

Ms. LANE: That I think there was praise for not breaking character.

GROSS: Mm-hm.

Ms. LANE: You know, I mean, there were other times we were--we performed in
some outrageous places. We were in the ruins of Balbec, literally. We were
in Persepolis.

GROSS: In Lebanon, ruins.

Ms. LANE: Yeah. The ruins of Persepolis, and think that's outside of
Shiraz, if not--we were in Shiraz and Tehran. I can't remember which is which
now. But Italy, Germany, France, Scotland, Finland, Yugoslavia, just all of
the--Berlin, you know, wherever. We did it all and we would always have the
coolest venues for these shows. We were in Taormina in that fabulous
amphitheater there in Sicily, and I recognized it from the U2 videos in the
'80s. I was like, `We were there! Wait a minute! Yes!' It was great times,
you know. I would have to play dead in all of these plays because invariably
the death of innocence is always the backdrop theme, so the kid always gets
killed in these plays. I've started to feel really, `What's happening? Why
am I dying in every play that I'm in? But I have to tell you, it was some of
the best times in my life.

GROSS: My guest is Diane Lane. She's starring in the new movie
"Hollywoodland." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Diane Lane and she's starring
in the new movie "Hollywoodland," which is about the death of George Reeves,
who played Superman.

When you were a teenager, you were cast by Francis--in Francis Ford Coppola's
movie "The Outsiders." And then you were in his movie "Rumble Fish," and then
after that in "Cotton Club." Did Coppola have anything special going for him
in terms of directing teenagers? And I should mention for anybody who's
forgotten that in "The Outsiders," you know, it was you, Matt Dillon, Rob
Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, an incredible cast.

Ms. LANE: Yeah, yeah. It's true. C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Leif
Garrett. I mean, yeah, the list goes on. Yeah.

GROSS: So did he have something special in terms of how he directed young

Ms. LANE: Well, he certainly is a paternal person. You know, being around
him and seeing how he conducts himself and, you know, worked very well for me,
personally, because I'm such a daddy's girl, and the father figure of a
director is just prototypical for my reflex and how I respond easily and well.
But I would also say that he is a very family-oriented person and also has
high standards, so people responded in kind. Also, he would create scenarios
that made us feel as much in character as possible. He had a disparity that
the Socs got more per diem, spending cash, while we were there filming than
the Greasers did. But also he created a wonderful rehearsal experience for
everybody, which was revealing and grounding at the same time. We basically
filmed the movies on video before we filmed them on film. We rehearsed them
as a play. We performed them in front of a blue screen. We'd have popcorn
and sit and watch our efforts, and realize how very much we needed a director,
which is very smart for him because, you know, young egos running amuck. I
mean, it can really become a lot of distraction when you have that much growth
hormones on your set.

GROSS: Now, your mother had been Miss October in Playboy magazine in 1957.
What was your reaction when you saw that centerfold of you mother? You know,
for a lot--a lot of children find it almost impossible to imagine their
parents as sexual creatures.

Ms. LANE: Right. Right.

GROSS: When your mother's posed in a centerfold, you know, there's probably
no way around thinking about that.

Ms. LANE: You know, it--in--I don't think I was any more embarrassed by my
mother than most kids are by their mothers. The ingredients may change but

the emotion was no more painful or foreign. The ingredients were different.
You know, I think I experienced both of my parents as individuals, certainly
because I was a child of divorce, but also because they were such characters,
and also because hearing each one's story, I grew an empathy or that kind of
concern about them that is, you know, supposed to not be the domain of the
child. You know what I'm talking about? I mean, traditional psychology will
always say, `It's not good for the child to feel like they have to raise the
parent.' And there were times where I felt like I didn't want to let Daddy
down or I was worried about Mommy.

GROSS: One more question. The films that you've made, I'm going to ask you
to choose one of the not as well known films that you particularly like.

Ms. LANE: You're going to ask me to choose one?

GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. LANE: It was called "All Washed Up" for years, which I made jokes
saying, `Which I will be when it comes out.' Because we never even filmed an
ending. And then MTV got born, and the director who directed "Rocky Horror
Picture Show" and "Up in Smoke," Lou Adler, said, `I've got the ending, come
back.' Two years later now. I shot it at 15 with two guys from the Sex
Pistols and one guy from the Clash, and Laura Dern was in it, and it was my
third or fourth movie, and it became "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous
Stains." It's kind of a cult hit actually. I--it never got released. It was
a Paramount picture and it got zero distribution, but people still saw it on
like Night Flight or some strange East Coast cable show. I don't know. It
was really, really fabulous and embarrassing and bizarre and great and iconic
and just ridiculous. It was before "Spinal Tap." It was truly 1981.

GROSS: Did you do your own singing?

Ms. LANE: You betcha, and I got egged. And they were right to egg me.

GROSS: What do you mean?

Ms. LANE: We were supposed to suck, Terry. We were supposed to be awful and
lousy. And the director caught us rehearsing in our room and had an absolute
fit. I said, `Are you worried about the fact that we're actually going to get
good here? We're 15, we can be bad on purpose. It's OK. We're actors. We
will act like we're lousy, but let us at least see if we can hit the notes.
You know, it's not so bad.' So, yeah, it was a great movie about a spoof of
the really low, low, low ends of the rock 'n' roll industry.

GROSS: Diane Lane, thanks so much for talking with us.

Ms. LANE: Thank you. I love your show. It's really wonderful to be on.

GROSS: Diane Lane stars in the new movie "Hollywoodland." We'll close with
Diane Lane singing in the final scene of "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous

(Soundbite of "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains")

Unidentified Man: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous

Unidentified Singers and Ms. LANE: (Unintelligible)...calling us again.
The commies are coming did I hear you say?
Who can...(unintelligible), maybe I will one day

Who knows what you're gonna see?
Not me, not me, not me
Who knows when your turn will be?
Not me, not me

You're no professional...

(End of soundbite)


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains")

Ms. LANE and Singers:
Do they really have a say
of what goes on with you each day?
Does your country mean that much to you?
Who knows what you're gonna be?
Not me, not me,not me
Who knows when your turn will be?
Not me, not me

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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