Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the founder of Pajamas Media Roger Simon to the studio to discuss what it was like going to school with left-wing famed actresses, writers, and activists and his take on the city kid known as Donald Trump.
Leahy: We are talking with Rogers Simon who is the senior political columnist for The Epoch Times, Academy award-winning nominated screenwriter, and also a very very good novelist. Roger, you grew up in New York.
Simon: Yes, and after college and graduate school I left for LA, but I grew up in New York.
Leahy: You grew up in New York and you went to Dartmouth. So like me, you’re a recovering Ivy Leaguer.
Leahy: Slowly. You and I worked together when you were my boss at PJTV, but I didn’t even know this about you. Very interesting. You went to graduate school at the Yale School of Drama.
Simon: That’s true. And it was kind of an interesting place then because it was right during the Vietnam war. So I had classmates who were writing serious anti-war plays.
Leahy: They were serious people.
Simon: Barbara Garson wrote this play Macbird which was a parody of Macbeth with Lyndon Johnson as Macbeth. All that kind of stuff is going right there and another woman wrote this awful play called VietRock.
Leahy: How original.
Simon: It became a big hit off-off-broadway.
Leahy: If you watched films and movies along with a lot of people who have been very successful in movies went to Yale School of Drama. The one that comes to mind of course is Meryl Streep.
Simon: Oh, yes. She’s the most famous. And Sigourney Weaver was there when I was there.
Leahy: Okay, we got to ask you. Were you hanging out with Sigourney Weaver?
Simon: A little bit. I was in the playwright’s program so I directed some of them because I would also direct. And Talia Coppola who was in The Godfather movies. Those are the two who were there that became a film star. Sigourney definitely a star.
Leahy: What is it that you do at a school of drama? I mean what’s a day like?
Simon: That’s a good question. because what I did was avoid being in the Vietnam War. I got a student deferment
Leahy: But you have of course an interest in playwriting and an interest in writing. So you are out of Dartmouth, did you go right to the Yale School of Drama?
Simon: Yes. And during that period if you were not going to school you went to Vietnam. I was a lefty I’m ashamed to say.
Leahy: You grew up in Brooklyn?
Simon: No. Manhattan. My father was a doctor.
Leahy: Of course, you’re going to be a lefty.
Simon: Shamelessly typical.
Leahy: I grew up in Upstate New York and I was probably shamelessly typical a little bit after you.
Simon: I wanted to be so left when I got to LA and hung out with Abbie Hoffman a little bit and like that.
Leahy: The late Abbie Hoffman. What kind of guy was Abbie Hoffman?
Simon: He was light-hearted and fun. I also hung out with Tom Hayden.
Leahy: The late Tom Hayden. He and ended up marrying Jane Fonda.
Simon: Yeah, and he was not fun.
Leahy: So it’s interesting you say that because some of these people on the left that are on these moral high horses and want to transform America are utterly humorless. That’s been my experience.
Simon: But there were a few back then who you know, Abbie had humor and Jerry Rubin. I think it would seem very forced now, they’re kind of humor. It didn’t make them solemn left-wingers.
Leahy: You’re a movie guy. What I think of the people on the left today the humorless nature. Do you remember the old classic Doctor Zhivago movie?
Simon: I loved it.
Leahy: And you remember the apparatchik guy who was in love with Julie Christie’s character, but then turned out to be utterly a politburo apparatchik without any remorse or any redeeming moral qualities. That guy.
Simon: Yes. That happens today so often it’s ridiculous And it’s sad. I think that’s the essence of a certain kind of leftism actually because you seem to be human and then it’s all about power.
Leahy: It’s all about power. That’s my take on it as well. At some point they start off with this concept of moral superiority and then it transforms in their mind into the acquisition and exercise of power. To me, that explains everything about what’s going on with the Democratic party today.
Simon: Absolutely and it’s anti-working class. Most of these people do not come from the working class. They’re from elite families or semi-elite families. It’s a stupid word really. It’s not about the worker. Trump was really the working-class president. Ironically the most working-class president in years.
Leahy: His father did have money but the thing about Trump which was appealing about him is he did every job in his father’s business. I mean he went in and he cleaned the warehouses. He prepared the houses. He’s a very detail-oriented kind of guy.
Simon: Oh, yeah. Here’s my take on Trump which is slightly different from other people because I am roughly his age and I grew up in New York. So I used to know guys like that. In the schoolyard, we had a word for a guy like that. We used to call them a “scorch.”
Leahy: A scorch. Roger, you know you always expand our vocabulary here. I’m dying to find out…
Simon: That’s not a fancy word. That’s a down-home word.
Leahy: Okay. What is a “scorch?”
Simon: Okay. I’ll give it to you. (Leahy chuckles) You’re playing stickball on the street And and a “scorch” is on a team with a Puerto Rican kid. The ball goes way out, a flyball, and a Puerto Rican kid drops it. The “scorch” starts counting and I’m not going to give you the real language here.
Leahy: It would be the language that would get us a complaint.
Simon: It would keep you off the air for two years. (Leahy laughs) So he hits the Puerto Rican kid. He uses bad terms that in the 1950s people used them and thankfully they are gone. But he would use them and the Puerto Rican would feel bad and then the game was over. And among the bad things is I’ll never talk to you again. You are a lousy outfielder. He said I’ll never talk to you again. You’re such a lousy outfielder. You’re the worst person who ever lived and a lot of bad words and then the games over and the two of them walk off arm in arm and buy some french fries. That’s the way it was.
Leahy: That’s a “scorch.”
Simon: That’s a “scorch.” It’s a city guy. And he’d have no bad feelings about Puerto Ricans the “scorch.” It was the “scorch” that would scorch him.
Leahy: He wanted to win.
Simon: He wanted to win and it was like what we call doing the dozens. He would take off on you as an Irish guy. You would be standing there and he’d say oh you are from Dublin. Blah blah blah.
Leahy: He would pick out whatever he could use when you made a mistake.
Simon: It would not really be racist or whatever anti-Irish or whatever it was. Because in those days people didn’t think that way. It was just more funning around. Of course, now the sensitivity level has gone to 150. (Laughter) But so that’s what Trump comes out of. And some of the attacks on him as racist I think evolved from that.
Leahy: He’s just a “scorch.”
Simon: He’s just a “scorch.” In fact, the reverse is true. He loved those people. But other people think of it as racism. It’s very weird. But that’s the way culture has evolved.
Leahy: And you are a culture guy since you do movies and plays and novels. You understand it. You look at it. Culture has gone so wrong.
Simon: Oh man.
Leahy: It’s gone so wrong. And the question is will get back to this after the break and tie it into some of our current events here. Culture in the form of oh, I don’t know and Oprah Winfrey interview of an American divorcee who married British royalty. (Laughter)
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