Bob Edwards on Red Barber,"FRIDAYS WITH RED"

Bob Edwards on Red Barber,"FRIDAYS WITH RED"

Post by WBFO 88.7 FM -- David Benders, Program Directo » Thu, 30 Sep 1993 05:27:37


TO: NPR listeners, Red Barber fans
FR: WBFO, NPR News and Jazz
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.

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.
    BOB:    Arwe?
    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
            with me.

    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
              birds away....


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