October 31, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Well it’s my real pleasure to have on the show next the award winning author of ‘Skinny Bitch,’ Rory Freedman. It’s a fantastic book, beautiful cover, and it’s selling off the shelves. Now there’s a whole line of products attached to it, including ‘Skinny Bastard.’ I wish I still was one. Welcome to the show, Rory Freedman.
Rory Freedman: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Dr. Kent: What an incredible concept. How did you start coming up with this book title, and the things inside it.
Rory Freedman: The title was just a provocative, cheap, attention-getting ploy. Basically I changed the way that I eat, and changed my life, and I wanted to make sure to share that information with other people, and get that information out there. But I also know that people don’t necessarily want to sit down and learn about their health, and learn about their food origins and learn about what’s going on with their bodies with the food they’re eating, so I figured that if we made a fun, sassy, easy-to-read guide, and put it with a silly title, and good artwork, then people would dig it.
Dr. Kent: The title, it is silly, but it’s so edgy. It’s got the thing that every woman wants to be, and the thing that every woman doesn’t want to be.
Rory Freedman: Yes. Unfortunately, nobody cares about their health in this day and age. We’re in a time of mass media and pop culture, and everybody just wants to be thin, and ‘bitch’ seems to get a lot of attention. The title’s been a great attention-getting ploy, and I’m happy that people are reading the book because there is so much sound information and compelling, motivating stuff that gets people to really make those lasting changes once and for all.
Dr. Kent: One great thing about the book – and the title and the cover hint at it – is that it really is a no-nonsense guide. It’s edgy. The way the book is written, the way you’re advice is given is very edgy. What’s the feedback you get from women?
Rory Freedman: Basically they read the book, and they laugh their asses off the whole time they’re reading it, and because of that, the information sort of sticks. I’m not a scholar, I’m not a real writer in a sense – this was the first book I ever wrote, and I just write in a really conversational way. It’s not a stiff, boring, hard-to-read diet book: it’s more of a fun lifestyle book, but there’s again, tons of information in there that is just easier to swallow when it’s written in a really informal way.
Dr. Kent: Both of you got to know each other in the modeling world, right?
Rory Freedman: Right. I was an agent, and Kim was a model, and we bonded over food and laughing. We found that we had similar senses of humor, and we both liked eating more than anything else on the planet. That was, I don’t know how many years ago, but we became fast friends, and then eventually when we each changed our own crappy diets to a better diet, that’s eventually when we started to think that we could make a difference in the lives of other people and how we could best go about doing that.
Dr. Kent: Tell me about the crappy diet first. I am definitely attracted to that concept.
Rory Freedman: You name it, I ate it. Basically, I used to eat Burger King seven days a week.
Dr. Kent: Seven days!
Rory Freedman: Yup – seven days a week. Actually, maybe it was five days a week. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say seven. It was probably five days a week. Every morning I used to eat a Taylor ham-fried egg-and-cheese on a roll, and I drank soda, and chocolate bars, and bags of chips, and anything from a convenience store, I was interested in eating.
Dr. Kent: Well, you got my mouth watering. So tell me how health food can make me just as excited.
Rory Freedman: It can’t overnight. If you’d told me back then that I was going to get excited over eating something healthy like a salad or steamed vegetables and fruit, I would have barfed on the table. But, once you do start making small changes, something happens inside your brain and inside your body, something shifts and it doesn’t happen overnight, but eventually it does happen, and once it happens, you cannot believe the changes that you experience: your taste buds, your brain, your personality, your positivity, your energy: everything in your body of course just becomes different and better, and it’s life-altering.
Dr. Kent: So there’s a lot of folks out there that say, okay, we’ve seen them on these big shows, or we see them on the shelves of all the stores, and they look skinny, the woman on the front cover of their book is skinny. Of course it’s easy for them.
Rory Freedman: Not at all. Food is an addiction for all of us. Even now, even being skinny and even being healthy, I still struggle with food, because I love eating more than anything on the planet. I actually just had to take a vow to not eat sugar for 30 days because I was feeling like I’ve gotta get this under control: all I want is cookies, all day every day. I’m not even PMSing! So I’ve gotta figure this out. I just took a 30-day pledge to myself, and actually I think it’ll be longer than 30 days: I’m not going to eat any sugar until Thanksgiving.
Dr. Kent: Holy cow!
Rory Freedman: I know! It’s a big deal. So if people think that it doesn’t matter, if you’re thin, or if you’re overweight: food is hard for all of us, and making changes is really difficult, but once you make that commitment to yourself – and I think a really good idea for people to do is to just say for 30 days, I’m going to try something. Don’t worry about the rest of your life. Don’t say from now on I’m going to bla bla bla. Just pick something you know you can do better, start today, and do it for 30 days.
Dr. Kent: So I’m curious about ‘Skinny Bastard,’ a little bit. That’s the newest fun book in the series. What inspired that, and how was it writing that one?
Rory Freedman: It was a lot of fun to write that one, because I got to come up with as many euphemisms as I could for the male operating equipment. That book was basically the same as ‘Skinny Bitch,’ because men and women have mostly the same dietary needs, the only difference being that men often have a higher calorie need, but basically the same foods are healthy for all of us, and people have the same concerns. Of course with men we talked a little bit more about exercise, and athletes, and protein and weight-lifting, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction, and how your diet effects all of those things. It also was fun to kind of – even for me, because I’m already bawdy to begin with – but to step out and be a little bawdier, and doing a little locker-room talk. It was fun.
Dr. Kent: It’s an incredible thing to see a book that’s on the bestseller list. It’s literally, you walk into Borders, there it is, all around the country. It’s a book that’s really edgy. It doesn’t have the things you’re supposed to say in it. It is bawdy, it is edgy, it’s fun. Have you gotten any people saying to you, ‘Hey, this is a little bit over the top’?
Rory Freedman: Oh, of course! I certainly didn’t set out to offend anyone; I just have my own specific sense of humor, and I think a lot of that stuff is hilarious. The feedback in general has been in agreement with that, that it’s hilarious. But if you’re somebody who’s easily offended by four-letter words, or somebody calling your johnson a ding-a-ling-ling, then don’t read the book! You’re going to be horrified because there’s ten-times worse stuff in there than that. But if you have a good sense of humor, and you want to feel good, and you want to eat well, and you want an education that doesn’t feel like an education, then you’re going to love it, and you’re going to laugh out loud multiple times, I guarantee it.
Dr. Kent: Diet books, gosh, they’re a dime a dozen. There’s so many, and everybody’s hooked to them, and they buy one after the other after the other. The hush-hush industry thing is we know it’s not going to work, but we’re just trying to find the next edgy concept that everybody will flock to, whether it’s Atkins diet or this and that. Your book is a little different, because it’s kind of timeless. You’re dealing with women personally, but have they actually lost the weight? Have you gotten some feedback?
Rory Freedman: The reason that this book is popular – certainly Posh Spice picking up the book and being photographed holding it absolutely made a difference for us – but the book was really successful before that ever happened, and before we had any publicity at all, and that’s because people were reading the book, and it was a huge word of mouth success. People read the book and then tell the friends and family around them, ‘You have to read this book.’ Because their minds are blown when they read it. There’s just so much compelling information, and it’s also a really fun read. But it does change people’s lives, and the way the information is presented makes it for the first time easy for people to actually make these changes. I’m not tooting my own horn, I’m just saying, the book is effective. It’s not like we have reinvented the wheel. I didn’t invent this way of eating. I just collected information from all sorts of scientific sources and put it in one easy-to-read, fun package. People are responding to it.
Dr. Kent: If you were to boil down what changes are needed to become what you’ve become, which is somebody who’s in control of their own body. What would it boil down to for you?
Rory Freedman: I think that everybody knows what their weak spots are. Some people have no idea what their weak spots are because they just don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not, so this books is going to give a good education on that. For other people, they just need the motivation. They know what their weak spots are but they don’t really feel excited or compelled or motivated to do anything about it. I think that’s one of the really good things about the book: when you’re done, you’re excited, and invigorated. Instead of dreading making the change, you kind of feel like ‘Wow! If I don’t do this…’ For example, I’ll start with a little silly one: soda. I know a lot of people drink soda, whether it’s diet or regular soda, and there’s nothing in there that’s beneficial for your body at all, and in fact it’s harmful for your body. So for people that can get rid of the soda and have water instead, it’s going to make a huge difference. Not only just because of that, but because it’s also going to influence other things in your diet, and your health as well. So just start somewhere, do something.
Dr. Kent: So what about celery, are we going to have to eat a lot of celery on the ‘Skinny Bitch,’ or ‘Skinny Bastard’?
Rory Freedman: I don’t think we mention the word ‘celery’ in the book ever. I’m definitely not someone who sits down to chop carrot sticks, and chop celery sticks. I’d rather eat a pile of poop; how boring! There’s lots of fun food that you can eat on the ‘Skinny Bitch’ and ‘Skinny Bastard’ diets. That’s the reason they also work. We’re not saying, ‘No more cake! No more cookies!’ We’re saying, food is meant to be enjoyed and nobody likes eating more than us. Just figure out what you’re eating, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel crappy. Make better choices for the food that you are buying, but still enjoy the same stuff.
Dr. Kent: Now you also have, ‘Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.’
Rory Freedman: Right, that’s a cookbook, it’s a recipe book. For some people, this is a new way of eating, and we wanted to make it as easy as we could as possible, and there’s a cookbook that’s got tons of fun, great recipes.
Dr. Kent: I have to say, my fiancé is really into Larabars, and it looks like you guys are too.
Rory Freedman: Yes, I love Larabars. There’s a lot of those protein bars or snack bars out there, and a lot of them are just kind of crappy for you, but people think that because it’s called like a nature bar or a nutrition bar that it’s healthy. But if you read the ingredients, there’s sugar or corn syrup, or God forbid, artificial flavors or colors, and it’s like, who the hell wants to eat that? The ingredients in Larabars are just really pure and really simple. It’s always just a few ingredients and they taste really good.
Dr. Kent: So what are you working on now? There must be another three or four books in the hopper, right?
Rory Freedman: Oh, yeah. I’m just cranking them out. We actually have a boxed set coming out in December or January. It’s a couple in a box. It’s the hardcover editions of ‘Skinny Bitch’ and ‘Skinny Bastard.’ A boxed set so that if there’s a man and woman living together, and they both want to get their groove on, that’s a good little gift option there.
Dr. Kent: Of course, the funny thing about the book industry is often times a lot of the men’s books are bought by women. That’s a big market.
Rory Freedman: That’s definitely something that happens all the time. I think men aren’t known to be trolling the diet book section of bookstores, but I think women, because just in general we tend to be naggy, we tend to fix things, we’re definitely the type of creatures that will buy a book for our man.
Dr. Kent: I bought your book for the first time, actually, for a client because your title is so edgy, and your style is so fantastic in the book. I use it with my clients, and recommend it to all of them. So I was in the bookstore buying a copy, and I’ve got to say, I was turning a bright shade of red. I sandwiched it between another few books.
Rory Freedman: It takes a certain kind of man to have enough confidence to hold a book called, ‘Skinny Bitch,’ whether it’s on the subway or in an airplane. I know a couple of women who want their men to read the books, but they say, ‘He won’t read it! He doesn’t want to read it!’ I would just say ‘Leave it in the bathroom. It’ll get picked up.’
Dr. Kent: Exactly. That’s the place men read. Exactly. All right, it’s been such an honor talking to you. Tell me where we can find out more. Of course, there’s the Bitch List, and there’s SkinnyBitch.net, and all sorts of places.
Rory Freedman: Right. We’ve got SkinnyBitch.net and SkinnyBastard.net, and all the bookstores and Amazon and Barnes & Noble: we’re everywhere. I want to thank you for having me. It’s been my honor and privilege to be here.
Dr. Kent: Oh sure. You’re book rocks. Are you going to stick with the Skinny Bitch thing, and when you’re 80 you’ll still be a skinny bitch?
Rory Freedman: We’ll see how it goes. A little of this, a little of that; we’ll see how it goes.
Dr. Kent: Awesome. It’s been such an honor. I’ve been talking to the coauthor of ‘Skinny Bitch.’ What a fun book, fun title, and really practical. Rory Freedman, thank you so much.
Rory Freedman: Thank you so much.
October 31, 2009 | Comments Off
From Her Website:
Rory Freedman co-authored the L.A. Times Best Seller, ‘Skinny Bitch.’ She is a former agent for Ford Models and has studied diet, health, traditional, and holistic nutrition for more than ten years. She lives in Los Angeles and has successfully counseled models, actors, athletes, and other professionals using the Skinny Bitch method. The following is Rory’s and co-author, Kim Barnouin’s, philosophy about ‘Skinny Bitch:’ Don’t judge a book by its cover. We titled the book, ‘Skinny Bitch,’ for one reason: So people would read it. Sadly, people seem to be more interested in their appearances these days than their health. But neither one of us puts any stock in being skinny. We care about being healthy and want to inspire people to take better care of themselves. We’ve all been so brainwashed by fad diets, magazine articles, and advertising that we have forgotten how to think for ourselves. With obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression at all-time highs, it’s time for us to smarten up and use our own heads. ‘Skinny Bitch’ is not a diet. It’s a way of life. A way to enjoy food. A way to feel healthy, clean, energized and pure. It’s time to reclaim our minds and bodies!
October 26, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Welcome back to Sound Authors. It’s my pleasure on the show to welcome Peter Brown, who has written a gorgeous book, and the book is called, ‘The Curious Garden.’ Welcome to the show Peter Brown.
Peter Brown: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Kent: Your website is equally as fun and fascinating as your book. It’s at once retro and new. Tell me about this book, ‘The Curious Garden.’
Peter Brown: ‘The Curious Garden,’ was inspired by a real place called the High Line which is an elevated railway in Manhattan that was used for about 75 years to transport commercial goods up and down the west side of Manhattan, and then in 1980 they shut it down, and for about 30 years, what happened was all sorts of wildflowers, and plants and trees started growing there, all by themselves. It became this sort of strange urban wilderness area up on this elevated platform in the middle of Manhattan. So I was really inspired by that, and I began noticing other places like that, other examples of nature kind of surviving in unlikely places. So I decided to make a story about a boy who discovered nature living in a really unlikely place – in the middle of his gray, dreary city, and then he takes care of it.
Dr. Kent: It’s such a great word, ‘curious.’
Peter Brown: It means a lot in this book too because the boy’s curious. His curiosity leads him to discover the few scraggly plants in the beginning of the story. The plants in the garden sort of take on their own personality: they’re curious, and the plants begin exploring the forgotten corners of the city. The concept of curiosity is a big part of the story.
Dr. Kent: So you are both the author and the illustrator, which I love because I’m a huge fan of Doctor Seuss, and a lot of those early books kind of have the vibe that your book has. You’re looking at it, and it’s art, and it’s tangible, it’s simple, but it’s also got that level of complexity to it. Who were your role models in figuring out how to do all this, and how do you work in both text and artwork?
Peter Brown: Well, I’ve loved storytelling ever since I was a kid. I had a great time writing silly little stories and drawing pictures for as long as I can remember. Some of the books that really made me want to make picture books were ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak, and a lot Dr. Seuss’s books, and later in life, when I was in art school, I discovered a book called, ‘The Stinky Cheese Man,’ by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith which was really inspirational to me. Those are some of my influences.
Dr. Kent: ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is now a movie. I’m actually planning on checking it out tonight. I’m a kid at heart.
Peter Brown: I actually just watched it a couple of hours ago on the IMAX. It was really great. So you’ll have a good time.
Dr. Kent: It’s one of those books that, when I was a kid, I opened up that book, ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ and you’re transported to a new world. I’m just looking at one of the layouts from your book, and there are these scenes, scenes with all sorts of little fun details, and there’s the kid way in the background. How do you picture these scenes in your mind before you sketch it out?
Peter Brown: This book was a long time coming. I first discovered the High Line, the inspiration for this book, back in 2002, and was kicking around this idea for years. Over the course of about five years, I was visualizing all different scenes of the world that I was slowly solidifying in my imagination. In that period of time, I’d do everything, I’d do tons of different scenes, most of which never made it into the book, the best of which did make it into the book. I had a lot to work with when I actually sat down and sunk my teeth into this project. I had a lot of background material to work with at that point. I really just imagined what it would be like to be this kid, to be Liam living in his dreary, grey city, and there’s not much color, there’s really no parks or trees or greenery or anything like that. Then all of a sudden he discovers a few things that are just barely surviving. I pretty naturally slipped into that kind of perspective and the story began to unravel itself before my eyes once I really got into his mindset. The perspectives in the different scenes just sort of made sense to me. He takes care of the garden and the garden recovers and thrives and spreads down the railway, and then out across the city. It had its own logic to it, and a lot of the illustrations reflect that straight line that I saw from the beginning of the story to the big finale.
Dr. Kent: Do you picture your reader when you’re writing this? Do you go back to being that age – the age of your readers? How do you get into the mindset of writing these books?
Peter Brown: I definitely have a big imagination and I definitely enjoy trying to picture the world from the point of view of my audience. I don’t have tons of interaction with kids. Some people will either have their own kids, or they’ll go to some sort of place where they can read their stories that they’re working on to an audience of children. I actually don’t have that – at least not yet. For me, it’s more about just remembering my childhood and remembering how I saw the world, remembering what was really exciting to me, or mysterious, or confusing, or funny, or silly. I spent a lot of time thinking about the things that I did for fun when I was a kid.
Dr. Kent: In your bio, you talk about your grandfather, who loved to paint. How did you get into this? Of course, at a very, very young age, you crafted some books of your own, and you painted and drew. How did you get into all of this?
Peter Brown: I grew up visiting my grandparents and seeing my grandfather hunched over his desk, painting these little landscapes mostly from memory of places he’d seen on trips. Some things were more abstract as well. So I grew up realizing that making art was a good use of one’s time. I followed in his footsteps. He was never a professional artist, he was just an amateur artist, but I still learned that lesson. So I just drew, and I knew that that was a perfectly good thing for me to be doing. Like most kids, we wanted to be good at something, almost anything would be fine, so the thing that I happened to be good at was drawing. Once I got labeled as the artsy kid in class, I just went with it. I took that as permission to just be the art kid, and I just drew like crazy. That was how I started on my path to making art. A lot of the art that I would make would be telling stories, coming up with interesting characters, or interesting scenes that told a story. It was at a young age that I really fell in love with the storytelling, both with words and with pictures.
Dr. Kent: How do you do your final illustrations? Is it all on paper? Do you use your computer at all? What’s your method?
Peter Brown: I sketch the book out with pencil, and I’ll use the computer to cut and paste different little drawings that I might have done, to put them together in a single composition. Before I ever sit down to paint the final art, I’ll have each page printed out. I’ll have a computer printout of each sketch, but that sketch will be composed of different things that I cut and pasted all together. That’s the extent of my use of the computer. Although I do use the computer for color studies, so I’ll plan out the color for each illustration on the computer as well. Then when I sit down to make the final artwork, which is all done by hand with paint – with acrylic and guasch paint – I have these finished sketches; I have the finished color studies, so all the decision making is done, and really it’s just about me looking at those things as reference and putting paint on the canvas. I don’t paint on paper, actually. I paint on what’s called illustration board, which is essentially heavy duty cardboard with a really nice toothy paper surface to it.
Dr. Kent: How would you describe your style? It kind of has a little bit of – when you said your grandfather painted miniatures – it almost has a little bit of that feel to it, a little feel of American primitive. How would you describe your style in these books?
Peter Brown: I would say, my early books, ‘Flight of Dodo’ and the charter books, it was more dimension, it was more light and shadow and form. ‘The Curious Garden’ is a little bit flatter. For the earlier books, I was really trying to combine naive art, art by self-trained artists that have almost a childlike quality to them – I was trying to combine that sensibility with something like what you’d see in a Pixar movie: these realistic, detailed, rendered, dimensional forms of art. I thought if I could find a way to combine this really modern, hyper-realistic Pixar style with this childlike, naive art style, I could come up with something cool. So that’s what I was doing for the first few books. With ‘The Curious Garden,’ it’s similar to that, but as I said, this art is a little bit flatter, there’s not as much dimension to the shapes. Mostly because I knew there was going to be so much detail: so many flowers, so many bricks, and birds, insects, and flower stems, and all that kind of stuff. I wasn’t going to have time. It just wasn’t going to be practical for me to render every single detail as thoroughly as I had in some of my earlier books. So that’s why this book feels like my art, but with a little bit less dimension to it.
Dr. Kent: Tell me a little about your earlier books. It’s all great stuff. You’ve got ‘Chowder,’ and ‘Barkbelly’ and ‘Flight of the Dodo.’ How did you come up with these concepts? Are they still out there? Are you still promoting them?
Peter Brown: Yes. ‘Flight of the Dodo’ was my very first book. It was my first born, which is about a penguin who’s a flightless bird, obviously, and he gets pooped on by a flying bird, and decides that he’s had enough and he wants to see what flying’s all about, once and for all. So he gets his flightless friends together, and they build this hot air balloon. The fact of the matter is that I’ve actually, as silly as it sounds, I’ve actually been pooped on by a lot of birds over the course of my lifetime. One of those times just got me thinking. It was a pretty embarrassing incident: I was on a date, actually, with a girl. I remember being really embarrassed and humiliated, and for some reason I thought to myself: you know what would be even worse than what I’m going through right now is if I were a flightless bird being pooped on by a flying bird. As soon as that idea popped into my head, I knew I had something. So I jotted it down, and from there, that story wrote itself after that point. So that was a lot of fun.
Dr. Kent: You jotted it down on a napkin and impressed your date?
Peter Brown: I always bring my little notebook with me wherever I go. I was in the public restroom and [laughs], I don’t even think I’d finished cleaning myself up before I started jotting down these ideas. I think she was impressed that I was able to turn those lemons into lemonade, so to speak. There was not a second date, unfortunately.
Dr. Kent: [Laughs] At least you got something out of it, exactly.
Peter Brown: I really did. It was probably the best date of my life.
Dr. Kent: There’s a little spot on your website, it’s called, ‘My First Book,’ and then you’ve got this little how to build your own little book for kids. It shows a book that you actually put together at six years old or so.
Peter Brown: That’s right.
Dr. Kent: Were you digging through old materials, and there it was? Or was this something that your folks said, ‘Hey, do you remember you did this?’
Peter Brown: When ‘Flight of the Dodo’ first was published, my mom sent me a little care package, including a lot of artwork that I made when I was a child. One of the things was this book, ‘The Adventure of Me and My Dog Buffy,’ which was the first book that I ever made for fun when I was six years old. I had completely forgotten about it. As soon as I saw it, it really brought me back. The funny thing is, that books is about a tree-climbing dog, and that factors into the story, because he can see out into the forest. Peter and his dog get lost in the woods and Buffy climbs the tree and he can see their house far away. As I was discovering this book that I’d made when I was a child, I was working on ‘Chowder.’ The really weird thing was that at that exact moment I was actually working on this illustration of Chowder the bulldog in a tree, which is a weird coming-around-full-circle back to this idea I’d had as a kid, but I hadn’t even thought about it. So maybe somewhere in the back of my head I have this obsession with tree-climbing dogs.
Dr. Kent: That’s great.
Peter Brown: So, yes, that was the first book I made. I made other books after that, but that book has been really handy because I do quite a bit of school visits these days. I go to schools and libraries all over the country, really, and do these presentations and I brought that book with me, the first book I ever made, and it’s been a great addition to my presentation. The kids get to see this book that I made when I was their age, and it’s a fun little story, but it’s certainly not brilliant; it’s just kind of silly – the kind of things that they’re working on, so it drives home the point that if they like writing and drawing, they should stick with it, because they could really do something with it, the way I have. The teachers of course love that I’m teaching that lesson to their students.
Dr. Kent: Right. All of your websites are fun to play around in also. Your Chowder website is very simple; it looks like a normal webpage, the pictures aren’t moving, and then all of a sudden, Chowder of course is drooling. Do you do those Flash illustrations also?
Peter Brown: Yes, I make my websites myself. My knowledge of Flash is quite limited, but I know enough to add some fun little details to my website. So, yes, the drool coming off of Chowder’s tongue was a lot of fun. On my website, Peter Brown’s Studio dot com, there’s this windmill that’s turning.
Dr. Kent: I like the sheep.
Peter Brown: Yes, you can roll over the sheep with your cursor, and they ‘Baa,’ and they run all over the place. I have a lot of fun with those websites, but they always end up being a lot more involved than I imagine. I always think I can bang it out in a couple of weeks, and six weeks later I’m still sort of slavering away on these things.
Dr. Kent: The books are fantastic. ‘The Curious Garden’ is out there in stores. It’s for children from three to eight, but honestly, I’m a huge fan of children’s books. I think it should be three plus.
Peter Brown: Yes, I agree, thank you.
Dr. Kent: It’s called ‘The Curious Garden.’ Awesome illustrations in there. I hope to chat with you again some time.
Peter Brown: Oh, thank you so much. This has been great.
October 26, 2009 | Comments Off
From the JacketFlap website:
Peter Brown is a published author and an illustrator of children’s books and young adult books. Some of the published credits of Peter Brown include ‘Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House,’ ‘The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder,’ ‘Snowbone,’ and now ‘The Curious Garden.’
October 25, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Welcome back to Sound Authors. It’s my pleasure to have the New York Times Bestselling author, Ronald Kessler, to talk to us on the show today about his newest release called, ‘In the President’s Secret Service.’ Ronald Kessler, of course, has written many books, and they all are very investigative and fascinating. This newest one intrigues me the most of all of them. Welcome to the show, Ronald Kessler.
Ronald Kessler: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Kent: Now this is an incredible topic. How did you get access to former agents to write a book like this, ‘In the President’s Secret Service’?
Ronald Kessler: Usually I would water board, that worked pretty well [laughs]. But I’ve written previous books on the FBI and the CIA, and I think I tell an honest story, and that helps. An FBI agent introduced me to a Secret Service agent sometime back, I started anecdotes, and then more recently, several current Secret Service agents came to tell me about corner cutting that has been going on at the Secret Service, basically since the Homeland Security Department took over in 2003 (they used to be part of Treasury) to the point where they’ll actually not do magnetometer, metal detection screening at some events, or they’ll shut it down early, which really risks an assassination, just like letting people into an airplane without putting them through metal detectors. So that got me into the current Secret Service, and the Secret Service itself cooperated as well.
Dr. Kent: It was really in the news recently, you know folks have started bringing small arms or larger arms to these presidential events. Of course, they’re blocks away, but Secret Service does have a lot on their plate.
Ronald Kessler: Yes, in fact threats against Barack Obama are up 400 percent since he took office as compared with President Bush. A lot of them were, unfortunately, racist based. They’re not necessarily the town-hall meeting type people because they’re not really that political, they’re more just racist. They go onto white supremacist websites, for example. The people who run around with weapons near Obama’s events as you say kept at a distance, and they are certainly watched, and if they did try to get closer, they generally would be arrested, or detained. They’re idiots in my opinion, but they’re not really a threat to the president.
Dr. Kent: I know, even from that first speech on November 4, when Obama won, I remember one of the networks showed the very, very thick bullet proof glass that lined his stage. And from that moment, of course, now he has the presidential car, which is very, very safe. What kind of dangers are there to the president of the United States?
Ronald Kessler: There are so many different threats out there: there’s Al Qaeda, which would love to wipe out the president; there are these right-wing militia types; there are just nuts, and they’re the type that did actually kill JFK: Lee Harvey Oswald, and Hinckley who tried to kill Ronald Reagan; people who just think that it would be really nifty to kill a president. They don’t really care who it is, they just think the number one authority figure in the country is the president, and that’s the way to really get your name in the paper. It’s really a wonder there hasn’t been a successful assassination, and the agents that I talk to say that because of this corner cutting, the risks are even higher. Not only are they not doing metal detection screening, but the Secret Service has been cutting back on the size of counter-attack teams. They’re not keeping up today with the latest firearms; they’re using the MP5 submachine gun, as opposed to the newer and more powerful M4, which both the FBI and the military use, and they’re not even allowing agents the time to do firearms requalification or regular physical training, and they’re covering that up by asking the agents to fill out their own test scores. So this is the last time you would want the Secret Service to be cutting corners, and that is one of the aspects of this book. The other aspect is what are the presidents really like. The vice president, the first family, even cabinet officers, what are they like behind the scenes, because agents are really like human surveillance cameras: they see everything that goes on in private. That’s quite a wild story. It ranges from Jimmy Carter, who’s known as the most phony and nasty president, because he, for one thing, didn’t even want Secret Service agents to say, ‘Hello’ to him in the morning. It was just apparently too much trouble to say, ‘Hello’ back. He would pretend to carry his own luggage, but it was actually empty, or he would just carry it in front of the cameras, and as soon as the cameras were gone, he would give it to aids. He would also come into the Oval Office at five or six in the morning sometimes and tell the press office to tell the press that he was in there working hard for the American people at five AM, but then he’d fall asleep on the sofa. On the other hand, Jenna and Barbara Bush were also very difficult with the Secret Service. Jenna would even go through red lights to try to evade her agents. She just thought that was a game, a nifty thing to do. She wouldn’t tell them when she was leaving, or where she was going, so they had to conduct surveillance of her car, to find out where she was going and when.
Dr. Kent: What is the Secret Service? You mentioned the CIA and the FBI, and I guess we know a little bit more about the CIA – they’re abroad, and the FBI, they’re within the country. But what does the Secret Service do? Is it anything attached to the president? What is the Secret Service?
Ronald Kessler: It’s main function is protection of the president, and the first family, and that includes even the grandkids. For example, Dick Cheney’s grandkids were guarded. Michelle Obama’s mother is guarded because she lives in the White House. But it also investigates financial crimes such as counterfeiting, ATM fraud, phishing, stuff like that. Actually about two-thirds of the budget goes for protection, the rest goes for those investigations. It was ironically signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, who of course was assassinated – he didn’t want any protection at all, even though the Civil War was going on. He finally agreed to it just before he was assassinated, but the one DC policeman who was guarding him on the night he was assassinated decided to go off and get a drink at the local tavern, so Lincoln was totally unguarded when John Wilkes Booth killed him. When the Secret Service was started, it was just to go after counterfeiters, because that was a big deal at the time. About a third of the nation’s currency was estimated to be counterfeit because state banks would issue the currency, and each one would have a different imprint, so nobody even knew what the currency was supposed to look like. It wasn’t until years later when the Secret Service in a very zigzag sort of way started to guard the president, because a gang of counterfeiters happened to also threaten the president, so the Secret Service assigned two agents to guard the president, and that’s how they first got into protecting the president.
Dr. Kent: You’ve got all these great stories. I’m sure you have many more than you detail in the book. How do you cull through them and choose what will stay on the pages?
Ronald Kessler: I think I have a good sense for what will grab people’s attention, and what’s newsy: I used to be on the ‘Washington Post’ and ‘Wall Street Journal’ – but also, what might give some insight into either presidents or how agents think. They really are very dedicated; they will take a bullet for the president; they’re courageous. But it’s been the management that’s been the problem with the corner cutting. Luckily I had wonderful material to work with, and the book really worked. It’s on the New York Times bestseller list, and it’s available everywhere.
Dr. Kent: You mentioned some sort of negative stories about presidents. Are there any sort of positive gems that you uncovered? Sort of secret stories of real honesty and integrity and kindness?
Ronald Kessler: Well, Ronald Reagan was known as the nicest president. He would spend a lot of time with the agents, schmoozing, joking. He and Nancy would give them food. He one time came out of his California home, and he was wearing a pistol, and one of the agents said, ‘What are you wearing that for?’ And he said, ‘Just in case you guys need some help.’ Another time, he was about to go into an elevator at the White House residence, and an aid came and told him about Gary Hart’s affair with Donna Rice, and the fact that that was about to come out in the paper the next day. Reagan said, ‘Well, boys will be boys.’ Then he went up in the elevator, and said to the Secret Service agent, ‘But boys will not be president.’ Laura Bush also was a real sweetheart. She was loved by the agents. Mary Cheney, on the other hand, Dick Cheney’s daughter, was very difficult with agents. She would ask agents to take her friends to restaurants, which of course was not their job. When the detail leader objected, she got him removed, which of course tells you something about Secret Service management, and how spineless they are. They should not be removing people for doing their job. Joe Biden does not like Secret Service protection. He wants them to only have two vehicles in the motorcade guarding him, as opposed to the usual eight. So that’s not very good, especially if you have a whole bunch of terrorists who could have gotten the Secret Service. When Biden revealed at the Grid Iron dinner that there was this secret bunker at the vice president’s residence, that tells you what he thought about security. He later claimed he didn’t really say that, but the Secret Service e-mailed agents and told them that he had in fact compromised the location of those bunkers. When Biden threw the first pitch at the Orioles game last April, the Secret Service did absolutely no magnetometer screening. Both the Baltimore field office and the detail were outraged, just stunned, that the Secret Service would take a chance like that. Otherwise, he’s known as a good guy, and so is Obama. Obama treats agents with respect and consideration, and both he and Michelle have invited them to dinner several times, including when he was campaigning; that’s pretty unusual. Although he is continuing to smoke on a regular basis despite his claim to have given it up 95 percent.
Dr. Kent: Right. Once an addict, always an addict, right?
Ronald Kessler: Afraid so.
Dr. Kent: But he does treat them with respect and I guess there’s been many folks in several ways that compare Ronald Reagan and Barrack Obama, sort of strange bedfellows, but indeed they have a lot in common. Tell us a little more about our current president, and his code name, and any other details you might know about his detail.
Ronald Kessler: His code name is Renegade, and Michelle’s is Renaissance. The Secret Service assigns the same letter to all the code names for each family, so Bill Clinton is Evergreen, Hillary is Energy. No – I got that reversed. These code names are assigned by computer basically, they’re just randomly spewed forth. Then if a protectee doesn’t like a particular code name, they can get it changed. So George W. Bush, for example, initially was code named Tumbler, but he didn’t like that maybe because it reminded him of his drinking days, so he got instead the code name of Trail Blazer, which he chose. Dick Cheney was Angler because he’s a fisherman. Lynne Cheney was Author because she is a prolific author. With Barack Obama, well there are a lot of other tidbits. One is that he did meet secretly with Reverend Wright about three weeks before Reverend Wright gave the big speech at the National Press Club. We don’t know what happened, but Barack Obama met for about an hour in Reverend Wright’s home. I would assume that he was trying to get him to shut up, but he obviously was not very successful. The fact that he does treat agents with respect is certainly a good sign.
Dr. Kent: What’s it like for the life of an agent? What do these guys go through every day? Do they just show up and escort them? When I see them on television or whatever, their eyes are all over the audience, and it seems like each guy has a different region of the audience or whatever. What’s their job like?
Ronald Kessler:What their looking for when they’re actually protecting is anything out of the ordinary: a person who, for example, is not smiling when everybody else is smiling, or is sweating when nobody else is, or is wearing an overcoat in the summer, or they will also watch their hands to see if they’re making a dive for a pistol, let’s say. George H.W. Bush, would typically just leave the Oval Office and go greet people at the White House fence without telling the Secret Service beforehand – they wanted him to warn them so they could screen these people – but no, he liked to go out spontaneously and greet people. Well, the ‘Washington Post’ ran a story about this, and a few days later, agents noticed in the crowd this guy who sure enough was wearing an overcoat, sweating, wasn’t smiling when everybody else was smiling. They patted him down and sure enough he had a pistol on him, and he probably would have used it. So a lot of plots that they uncover, ranging from something simple like that to more complex – again it was Hezbollah that had a plot to take out George H.W. Bush after he left the White House. The CIA got onto it, and the Secret Service changed his route so that he was not in harm’s way.
Dr. Kent: These presidents do get protection, of course, for the rest of their lives, right?
Ronald Kessler: They used to, and Bill Clinton is the last president who will receive it for the rest of his life, along with spouses. After him, a new law has dictated that presidents beginning with George H.W. Bush will only receive it for 10 years, and his spouse, although the current president can always extend protection, which he has done with Jenna and Barbara Bush, and Dick Cheney, and Lynne Cheney. They can extend it on a temporary basis. That’s the new twist, when it comes to protection.
Dr. Kent: What are you working on next? What’s your next book project? Did I lose you? Of course, I’ve been speaking to Ronald Kessler. I lost him there for a second. I was just going to ask him one last question of what his next book project is. I will talk to him again in one second, but in the meantime, I’ll talk a little bit about his book. It’s called, ‘In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire, and the Presidents They Protect.’ We’ve heard some fascinating inside information, and of course, Ronald Kessler is the author of eighteen nonfiction books, and he’s a New York Times bestselling author. He began his career back in 1964, and ever since then has been putting together these incredible thrilling nonfiction books. Again, this current book is called, ‘In the President’s Secret Service.’ It’s available everywhere. Some incredible details in here about the former president, about his daughters, about Dick Cheney, and then Barack Obama: his smoking habit. Really fascinating stuff all the way on back to Ronald Reagan and others. If you want to check the book out, go to Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, and you can also order it from Borders. You can check out his website at Ronald Kessler dot com. I’ve got him back for my final question here. I just wanted to ask you, what are you working on now?
Ronald Kessler: I’m not really sure. It’s going to be another book that reveals secrets, because people love to get the inside scoop, and that’s what I’m working on.
Dr. Kent: So you’ve done these eighteen books through the years, and you love to get the secrets yourself it seems like.
Ronald Kessler: Yes, it’s a challenge. Maybe I’m perverse, but I don’t like to do subjects that are just too easy. Of course, that makes the books unique, and I also like to tell about something that is important. Certainly protecting the president is one of the most important things that you can do in this country.
Dr. Kent: Well, it certainly is. Thank you so much for being on the show. I’ve been speaking to Ronald Kessler, author of ‘In the President’s Secret Service.’ Thank you so much.
Ronald Kessler: Thanks, I appreciate it.