Profiles

When British politician Margaret Thatcher was first dubbed "the Iron Lady," it was meant to be an insult. A Soviet newspaper gave her the name three years before she became Prime Minister. The biographer John Campbell calls Thatcher a "feminist pioneer" who rose to global political power through her own ambition and determination. Campbell's portrait of Margaret Thatcher was the basis for the new biopic starring Meryl Streep, and Thursday he joins us for an unvarnished look at "The Iron Lady."

Tuesday, we're talking about a new American Experience documentary, Billy the Kid. His real name was Henry McCarty and he was just days from hanging when he made his last daring escape from jail. Billy was one of the nation's most notorious criminals and after he was shot a few weeks later by Sheriff Pat Garrett, he became one of the West's most enduring legends. Doug is joined by filmmaker John Maggio and historian Mark Lee Gardner to separate the fact from the myth of Billy the Kid.

Doug talks to Mitchell Zuckoff, author of the book Lost in Shangri-La. In 1945, a site seeing plane of American soldiers crashed in a remote, mysterious valley in Dutch New Guinea. The local tribe was rumored to be head-hunters and had never before been in contact with white people. But the three survivors were caught between the valley and the Japanese enemy. Zuckoff joins us to tell the story of the time they spent with the Dani tribesmen and the daring rescue that brought them home. (Rebroadcast)

Library of Congress

Labor icon Joe Hill was executed by firing squad for the murder of a Salt Lake grocer nearly a century ago. His controversial conviction rested largely on two pieces of evidence: the gunshot wound he sustained the night of the murder and the IWW membership card in his wallet. The writer Bill Adler has made new findings he says debunk the evidence against Hill. He'll join Doug on Thursday to talk about his book, The Man Who Never Died," and make the case for Hill's innocence. (Rebroadcast)

Image by Chuck Coker via Flickr, http://bit.ly/LN7xQ7

Some of you may be expecting a visit from that jolly Santa Claus next weekend.(If you've been good that is.) But just who is this man that will magically slide down your chimney? His family tree goes back to the fourth century Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas, and with the passing generations, his story has changed to suit the times. Historian Gerry Bowler joins Doug for a biographical look at Santa Claus. (Rebroadcast)

Alain Klein/NPR

Robert Krulwich began his radio career as a boy in the tub. His pseudonym was Don Roberto and his fist was the microphone. He grew up to be one of the most inventive and compelling reporters in radio. Whether he's explaining interest rates through opera, parsing Reaganomics with the help of "lab mice" or using video to illustrate how viruses work, Krulwich makes understanding complicated subjects fun and easy. Doug will talk with him on Thursday about his career and what makes good radio tick. 

A canine orphan of World War I, Rin Tin Tin was rescued from a bombed-out French battlefield and went on to become one of the most renowned names of 20th century entertainment. In her new book, writer Susan Orlean documents the life and legend of the famous German shepherd, his descendants and their owners, tracing in the process the rise of dogs in American life and exploring the bond between humans and animals. Orlean will talk with Doug on Thursday about Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.

For 10 years, writers Gregory White Smith, Steven Naifeh and a team of researchers delved deeply into the life of Vincent van Gogh. They read the books he read in his day, dissected his numerous letters and scoured every text and record they could find on him. Their new biography of the fabled artist lays bare van Gogh's deeply troubled, fanatic and passionate soul, and it offers a revisionist history of his death. Gregory White Smith joins Doug on Thursday to talk about Van Gogh: The Life.

Andrew Tilin, a journalist and amateur cyclist, wanted to write a story about a regular guy taking performance enhancing drugs. He was unable to find a citizen doper willing to come clean, so decided to become his story's subject. In his new book, Tilin details, with startling honesty, his amped-up and guilt-ridden year taking testosterone, competing in races and breaking USA Cycling rules. Doug talks with Tilin on Tuesday about the highs and lows of taking roids in pursuit of youthful vigor.

Friday, a conversation about Roald Dahl with his biographer and friend Donald Sturrock. Dahl is of course the creator of the children's classics "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach," and his own life was as funny, dark and fascinating as the fictional worlds he created. We'll talk about his story and about his evolution as a storyteller. (Rebroadcast)

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