BOB EDWARDS' "FRIDAYS WITH RED"
TO: NPR listeners, Red Barber fans
FR: WBFO, NPR News and Jazz
RE: BOB EDWARDS BOOK -- Book EXCERPT
DT: SEPTEMBER 27, 1993
Listeners, here is a print excerpt from Bob Edwards' new book
about his radio friendship with legendary sportscaster Red Barber.
This excerpt from Bob Edwards' forthcoming book, "Fridays With Red: A
Radio Friendship," courtesy of Simon & Schuster. "Fridays With Red"
will be available in bookstores beginning October 1993.
"FRIDAYS WITH RED: A RADIO FRIENDSHIP"
MORNING EDITION Host Bob Edwards' new book about Red Barber
"Morning Edition" is heard on WBFO Monday through Friday, 6 till 9am.
A year ago this October, public radio and the world of sports lost
a beloved voice -- that of Walter Lanier "Red" Barber. The legendary
sportscaster died at the age of 84, in the Tallahassee hometown from
which he often spoke to NPR listeners.
MORNING EDITION Host Bob Edwards spoke to Red each Friday morning
at 7:35 ET, during a weekly chat that began as a sports segment and
over its 12-year span turned into one of NPR's most popular regular
slots. During their segment, Red and Bob spoke about much more than
sports or the business of broadcasting -- they covered the Barber
family's cats, and the camellias and crepe myrtles that seemed forever
blooming in Barber's Tallahassee backyard; they discussed history; and
they mused over the value of family and friends.
Listeners would write to say they looked forward to catching
important lessons about life, and gaining perspective from Barber's
wisdom each week. "Most of them didn't care for sports, but they loved
Red," Edwards says. "Red knew what worked on radio; he made it seem
like we were just a couple of old friends talking over the fence."
Since late last year, Edwards has been chronicling those chats to
honor Barber in a new book, "Fridays with Red: A Radio Friendship"
(Simon & Schuster, October 1993). As Edwards puts it, "My Fridays with
Red were HIS four minutes; I just went along for the ride. We talked
about whatever he wanted to discuss, and Red went at it...."
Here's an excerpt from the chapter WILD KINGDOM in Edwards' new
The Barber family's affinity for cats may have predated Red's use
of the "catbird seat" expression. There were many cats over the years,
and there were reminders of them in the Barber home in Tallahassee.
There were photos of cats they had known and loved, Lylah's paintings of
cats, ceramic cats sitting in corners, a ceramic cat sleeping on a
ceramic pillow, pewter cats in the knickknack case, cat books, cat
switchplates, cat candleholders and cat ashtrays. Outside were cat
My favorite was a cat statue hidden in some tall, ornamental grass
near the swimming pool. This cat was crouched low in that
poised-to-strike position, as if it were waiting for a sculpted bird or
plaster squirrel to pass by. No doubt the Barbers' friends and
relatives would see objects with cat themes and conclude that they had
just discovered the Barber family's Christmas present for that year.
NPR listeners were apprised of the cat world right from the start.
This conversation is from our program on October 16, 1981.
RED: The important business of the week, Bob, which has had my
attention, was to drive on down to Titusville Wednesday and pick
up an Abyssinian kitten.
BOB: An Abyssinian kitten?
RED: An Abyssinian kitten.
BOB: What are they?
RED: Well, what they are is very, very wonderful. They're ruddy
little fellas. I've never had a cat that's so intelligent, so
alert, so loving. We had heard about them. Lylah and I have had
a total of about four*** cats. We've had domestic cats. We've
had a Persian. We've had four Siamese. We've had a Burmese.
And the last cat we had, strictly a long-haired domestic named
Bella, and she lived with us, Bob, for over twenty-three years.
And when we lost her earlier this summer, it was really like
losing a member of the family. And so this little fella, this
little Abyssinian whose name is Arwe, he is the replacement. And
so far he is replacing beautifully.
RED: Yes, this is Coptic. We have a professor, John Priest, at the
Florida State University Department of Religion. And Lylah asked
him to get a genuine, authentic name, an Abyssinian name. Of
course, Abyssinia today is called Ethiopia. But in the Coptic
language, he got a name for "wild beast," which is A-R-W-E. And
it's pronounced "ARE-way." So he is a thoroughly authentic
Abyssinian with an authentic name.
BOB: You wouldn't call a cat Reggie or Yogi or anything like that?
RED: Well, the first cat we had, we called him Sam. And the next one
was Archie. Then Salome and then Only Son. And we've had a
Siamese called Mr. Walkie-Talkie, and the name for that is, of
course, obvious. The Burmese was called Richard the Lionhearted.
We had a Siamese called One Too Many. And when I was a patient
in New York's Ear, Eye and Nose Hospital, the hospital agreed and
Lylah brought the cat to see me, and he spent a day and a night
BOB: How come you like cats so much?
RED: Oh, my wife introduced me to cats. My daddy was a pit bull
terrier man in Mississippi. And we've had five dogs--a pit bull,
an English bull, a wirehaired, we've had a poodle and we've had
a dachshund. But there's just something about cats that speaks
to me, Bob.
BOB: The dogs got along with the cats?
RED: Yes, yes. At the time we had the English bull and the dachshund,
that's when we got a Siamese kitten. And one night at the dinner
table the two dogs went right under my feet, and the cat right in
back of them. And I said, "Oh, he's one too many." And that's
how he got named.
BOB: How 'bout those playoffs, Red?
RED: I'll start thinking about them next week.
We were at it again a year later on November 26, 1982. This time
the subject was celebrity cats.
RED: Did you happen to see the Sunday Times, The New York Times, for
November the four***th, Bob? There's a four-column story and
a two-column wide picture of an Abyssinian cat named Tu.
BOB: Not again, Red.
RED: Yeah, but the thing is the headline: "Stolen Cat Leads Police
to a Burglary Suspect."... This burglar is supposed to have
stolen some three million dollars worth of paintings, jewelry
and antiques from a hundred thirty homes around the northern
area of San Francisco. And one of the mistakes he made is that
he stole somebody's Abyssinian cat named Tu. And that's how
the police checked him out and found out about it. And the cat
is being held as material evidence. That's a very famous cat.
Now, I think that's important.
Listeners were kept informed of Arwe's adventures over the years.
By July 13, 1984, Arwe had found an adversary.
RED: Something serious in sporting is going on down here in my
front yard. There's a mockingbird that's got a nest and he's
got some young ones in there. And you know about our
Abyssinian cat, Arwe?
BOB: Yes, I certainly do.
RED: His life is now miserable. He likes to go out, but he doesn't
anymore. He's just*** inside because, I want to tell
you, the father mockingbird is a rough customer. He is
dive-bombing our cat.
BOB: I don't blame him. Are you keeping him inside or is he inside
RED: Well, for a while. Before the mockingbird, we couldn't keep
him in. And now, with the mockingbird, he doesn't want to go
And just one week later...
RED: Ernest Hemingway said a man's first duty is to defend his
house. And I think that's what this mockingbird is doing.
Lylah and I are delighted for several reasons, one of which is
that Florida has a great many fleas. And now that Arwe is
quite content to stay in the house, that means we have less of
a flea problem.... And also yesterday, Robbit, one of the
young mockingbirds, maybe on his first flying expedition,
landed in our swimming pool. Fortunately, Lylah saw the bird
fluttering there and we were able to fish it out in time. In
a few minuttes, after it shook the water off, on the way it
BOB: Well, I'm glad the cat is okay. After all, it's getting
national publicity. There's a lovely picture of you and the
beast in the July twenty-third edition of Sports Illustrated
and a very nice article about you, Red.
RED: I told Arwe about his picture, and he doesn't seem to be very
impressed at all, Bob.
BOB: He seems to be looking the other way. I'll bet he's got his
eye on the mockingbird, and I wouldn't blame him.
By February of 1985, Red had a little different animal problem.
Scott Simon was filling in for me, but Red managed to get a few words in
SCOTT: Listen, Red, Red. A few Fridays ago, you began to talk about
how some mangy squirrels down there in Tallahassee have been
filching food from out of your bird feeders. Now as I
remember that conversation, I might have been a little short
with you. I was sort of thinking, "Come on, Red, this is a
sports segment." But I tell you, Red, we have received more
letters about your birds and squirrels than anything I've ever
seen when you've spoke out about the Super Bowl, or ***
or boxing. So I tell you what--this morning, by popular
demand of the American public, let's talk about your squirrels
and birds, okay?
RED: Well, first off, Scott, I never said they were mangy because
they're very fat and very well fed. And further, my wife
thinks they're cute.
SCOTT: Well, I guess she has a point. Forgive me, I was reaching.
RED: ...I have nine. In fact, I don't have them--they come from
these live oak trees all around. And I don't know whose
squirrels they are.
SCOTT: Nine! How do you tell the difference between their little
RED: I don't know them as individuals. I just know that they eat
up all of the birdseed, and there's no way that I can defeat
them. The thing that distresses me is that they drive the
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