The World and Everything in It: December 26, 2019

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning! During this week of special Christmas programming, we continue with notable deaths this year. This time, people from the fields of film, radio, stage and history…

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Plus more of your Christmas memories.

And, a Christmas hymn from the 12th century.

BASHAM: It’s Thursday, December 26th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!

BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Protests resume in Hong Kong » After weeks of relative calm, clashes have resumed in Hong Kong between police and anti-government protesters. 

AUDIO: [Sound of protests in Hong Kong]

Many protesters took to shopping centers, some donning Santa Claus hats. 

Others, dressed in black, smashed store windows. Police responded by firing tear gas and arresting numerous demonstrators. 

Protesters are demanding more freedom and protections of existing rights, but chief executive Carrie Lam has shown no signs of budging on those demands. 

Notre Dame stood silent at Christmas for first time in two centuries » For the first time since the French Revolution more than two centuries ago, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris did not hold Christmas Mass. The Paris cathedral has remained closed since a fire destroyed the roof and spire in April.

Notre Dame’s congregation and choir celebrated a midnight Mass on Wednesday at another Gothic church. 

Cathedral choir member Mathilde Ortscheidt said she was kicking herself for missing last year’s Midnight Mass.

ORTSCHEIDT: To think that I was ill last Christmas, and I missed Christmas at Notre Dame, thinking that I would go again this year with no problem. And yeah, no—I can’t believe that I’m not going to do Christmas. 

Notre Dame kept up its Christmas services during both world wars, but this year, the fire-damaged structure was too fragile to open it to worshippers.

Americans traveling for holidays in record numbers » More travelers have been hitting the roads, rails, and airways this holiday season. An estimated 116 million Americans are traveling through the new year. That’s the highest number on record—up about 4 million from last year.  

AAA’s Jeanette Castellanos…

CASTELLANOS: If you’re traveling by car, there are going to be about 105 million of your best friends on the roadways alongside with you. 

She said with Christmas falling on a Wednesday this year, the worst time to drive is right now. AAA expects the thickest traffic today and tomorrow. 

And if you’re flying, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein reminds you to arrive early.

FARBSTEIN: Two hours before a domestic flight, three hours before an international flight. It’s going to be a bigger challenge to park. It’s going to take you a little longer to check in, to get your boarding pass, to check your luggage, and of course, to wait in the TSA line. 

About 7 million Americans are flying. That’s the most in 16 years. 

Christmas spending up in 2019 » And travel isn’t the only thing on the rise. Retailers enjoyed a very merry Christmas this year, with holiday spending up an estimated 4 percent. And Black Friday was not the biggest shopping day of the year. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The United States saw its biggest shopping day in history on Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas. 

Sales topped $34 billion. That beat Black Friday’s total of $31 billion in sales and Cyber Monday’s $19 billion. 

Online shopping accounted for more than half of the sales growth over last year. But Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners said traditional shopping malls also saw “their best weekend of the season.”

A booming economy and high employment likely spurred the spending this year. The unemployment rate hit 3.5 percent this month, a 50-year low. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

COVINGTON: I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: remembering notable people from stage and screen who died in 2019.

Plus, your Christmas memories.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: It’s Thursday the 26th of December, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. With only a few days left in the year 2019, we continue our look back at notable people who passed away this year.

Now, we know everyone is notable in the eyes of God. But today, we mark those who passed away who were notable in a broad sense, who were widely known or who exerted great influence —whether for good or maybe not-so-good.

The current year-end issue of our sister publication WORLD Magazine includes short obituaries of more than 100 such people who died this year.

Here on WORLD Radio, we don’t have time to include the full listing. But now, we continue to give you a sampling of that full list of those who departed this earthly life in 2019.

Today we continue our recap of notable deaths in film, TV, radio, stage and history.

BROWN: You may already know about some of the people who died in these arenas this year. People like long-time NPR political reporter, Cokie Roberts, and the golden-voiced singer and actress Doris Day.

WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg picks up our coverage of other notable names in these fields and begins with the man who became known as the “master of the musical.”

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: You’ve probably had one of his tunes stuck in your head, at least once. 

MUSIC: “I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain! ….” 

MUSIC: Bless your beautiful hide, wherever it may be. We ain’t met yet, but I’m a willing to bet you’re the gal for me…” 

In the 1950s director Stanely Donen brought these songs and many more to life in movie musicals Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, and Royal Wedding. 

Despite the success of his musical movies, Donen never received an Oscar nomination. But in 19-98, the Academy of Motion Pictures honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Stanley Donen died in February at the age of 94. 

MUSIC: [My Fair Lady] 

Now, a composer and musician who did win awards—four Oscars and 10 Grammys. André Previn wrote film scores for dozens of movies including Gigi, Porgy and Bess, and My Fair Lady

Previn was best known for his versatility. He blurred the lines between jazz, pop, and classical music. He also wrote musicals, operas, and concertos. He died in February. He was 89. 

And this year, a member of one of TV’s most famous duos lost her voice. 

MINNIE: I must leave the ball by 5 o’clock… because that’s when the spell wears off and everything goes back to the way it was. 

Russi Taylor voiced Disney’s Minnie Mouse for more than three decades. She won the role in 1986 after beating out more than 150 other contestants.

Off the screen, Mickey and Minnie Mouse became a real life couple when Russi Taylor married the voice of Mickey, Wayne Allwine, in 1991. They were together until Allwine’s death 10 years ago.

Over her career, Russi Taylor also lent her voice to The Simpsons, Strawberry Shortcake, Smurfs, and the Flintstones.

Taylor once said, “I never wanted to be famous. The characters I do are famous, and that’s fine for me.” She died in July at the age of 75. 

MINNIE (Singing): Come on let’s dance together… We’ll be best friends forever. Who else could it be, but you and me? 

We now remember actor and comedian, John Witherspoon

Born into a poor family in Detroit, Witherspoon got his start at a Los Angeles comedy club in the 1970s. One night, actor and director Clint Eastwood scouted him on stage and began casting him in film roles. 

Today, Witherspoon is best known for his comedic role as the grumpy father in the Friday film franchise.

WITHERSPOON: Everytime I come in the kitchen. You’re in the kitchen…. Eating up all the food. All the chicken. All the pig feet. You ate my dinner.

The film’s success earned him roles in the TV comedy Wayans Bros. and the Tracy Morgan Show. John Witherspoon died in October at 77. 

Next, an actress and singer trailblazer who found success on both the big screen and the stage. In 1962, Diahann Carroll became the first black woman to win the Tony Award for best leading actress in the Broadway musical No Strings

CARROLL: The sweetest sounds I’ll ever hear are still inside my head. The kindest words I’ll ever know are waiting to be said. 

Later, she also earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series in Julia. It was one of the first TV series featuring a black woman in a non-servant role. Carroll was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in the film Claudine

In a 2013 interview with Oprah, Diahann Carroll said success aside, she struggled with the pain of her parents abandoning her with an aunt when she was a child. 

CARROLL: She and my dad had decided they needed a year without the responsibility of a small baby. 

Carroll said in her 50s, she was finally able to let go of that anger.

CARROLL: Forgiveness is an incredible thing. It gives freedom. 

Diahann Carroll was 84 when she died in October. 

Now, Harold Prince, the Broadway director and producer who won 21 Tony Awards—the most in Broadway history. Harold Prince brought famous musicals like Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Phantom of the Opera to life.

MUSIC: [Phantom of the Opera theme song] 

Many Broadway observers credit Prince with keeping Broadway relevant through challenging times including the decline of Times Square, and the rise of rock ’n’ roll.

Prince was known as a workaholic. At one point he had three shows running at the same time. In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, Prince said he never rested on past success. 

PRINCE: No show gets a free ride because you had a success before. You’re as naked as you were the first day you worked and you’d better make it good. 

In 2006, Harold Prince received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He died in July at age 91. 

Next, on to literature where we first remember acclaimed African-American novelist, Ernest Gaines. Gaines wrote nine books including A Gathering of Old Men and A Lesson Before Dying. The latter earned him a MacArthur “genius” grant in 1993. 

Gaines’s work featured stories of black struggle that turned into universal stories about the human condition. 

His writing grew out of his own childhood on a Louisiana plantation where sharecroppers and former slaves lived on the poverty. Gaines remembered the plantation in an interview in 2000.

GAINES: We lived in cabins of course. These cabins had been built in the times of slavery… So we lived on that one plantation about six generations. When I was 8 years old I was already going into the fields to work 8-10 hours a day.

After World War II, Gaines moved to California and won a writing fellowship to Stanford University—giving him his start. Ernest Gaines died in November at age 86. 

Now, to famous literary critic Harold Bloom. He is best known for defending the Western canon of books from critics who denounced them as products of white oppression.

As a Yale professor, Bloom argued that works by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Kafka and others should be enjoyed for their creative genius and not examined for their political or historical content. 

During his career, Bloom wrote more than 40 books, including the best-seller How to Read and Why

In a 2018 interview, Bloom worried that Western culture no longer values great literature. 

BLOOM: If you don’t read deeply, and you don’t read in fact the best that has been written, then you never learn how to think.

Bloom was 89 when he died in October.

Finally, we turn to people who represented living history. First up, Nick Clifford, the last surviving rock carver to work on the Mount Rushmore monument in South Dakota. He died in November at 98-years-old. 

It took 14 years to chip Gutzon Borglum’s presidential monument out of Granite Rock and nearly 400 men and a few women to do it. Nick Clifford was the youngest carver at age 17. He got the job in 1938 after his father abandoned the family.

In an interview this year, Clifford said he’s been the last surviving worker for 12 years now. 

CLIFFORD: They’re all gone now. I’m the last one. 

Clifford spent much of his life in the Black Hills area able to admire his work. 

One of the last surviving World War II Navajo Code Talkers also died this year. Alfred K. Newman was 94 when he died in January. 

During the war, the U.S. military struggled to create codes the Japanese couldn’t crack. Military leaders eventually asked the Navajo Nation to develop a code based on their complex language. 

By the end of the war, more than 400 Navajo men, including Alfred Newman, were trained code talkers. The Japanese military never cracked their messages.

MUSIC: [40s music]

And last today, we remember “The Kissing Sailor.” On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies. 

AUDIO: The day of days for America and her allies.

People spilled into New York City’s Times Square to celebrate. George Mendonsa was among the crowd. Mendonsa had served on a U.S. Navy destroyer and was on leave when the war ended. 

He was actually on a date that day. But with his date standing just feet behind him, Mendonsa grabbed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a young dental assistant in a white nurse’s uniform. He dipped her back and kissed her.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the moment in an iconic image published in Life Magazine. The photograph became known as the “The Kiss” and was one of the most famous images of the 20th century. 

In 2015, Mendonsa recalled that Friedman reminded him of nurses he saw care for wounded soldiers in the Pacific.

MENDONSA: And I say that’s why I grabbed the nurse. When I saw her in Times Square. 

Oh and Mendonsa’s date? Well she forgave him and became his wife of nearly 70 years. George Mendonsa died in February at age 95.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

MYRNA BROWN: A group of New Jersey residents made Christmas a little brighter for a waitress at an IHOP north of Newark. 

As a group of a dozen people were leaving their table, one of them handed the waitress, Alisha, an envelope.

She told WPIX tv that the envelope was heavy, and when she looked inside—it was full of cash. She thought this has to be a mistake!

ALISHA: Told the guy who gave me the money that he gave me too much money. And he said no, that’s for you. Merry Christmas!

The group left a tip of $1,200! 

An onlooker captured the moment on video and posted it to social media.

AUDIO: Oh, you’re gonna make me cry. Thank you!

Each person in the group gave $100. 

One of the men in that group said he hopes it will inspire others to give. After all, It is more blessed to give than to receive!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Thursday, December 26th. Happy Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, Canada and certain other parts of the world! Thank you for joining us this day after Christmas. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. This week we’ve featured your memories of Christmas, and we continue that today. Here’s one from a listener who learned a bad turn in life can lead to something very good.

STEVENS: Hello, fellow World and Everything in It listeners. My name is Russ Stevens and our Christmas memory is from over 35 years back. It was actually immediately after our second anniversary. Kathy and I had met at work, dated, and gotten married. Regrettably the economy was not in very good shape. And in the middle of our first year of marriage, we were both laid off. My layoff was in June and Kathy’s in September. 

It was a terrible economy and the scarcity of jobs was appalling. We were both looking but were unable to find anything. With our blended family of six, we spent our second Christmas together collecting unemployment insurance.

We knew we couldn’t spend much money because there just wasn’t much money to spend. Instead, we had garage sales for a little money and primarily made things for gifts. This was far from the norm in our not-so-far-from-the-beach Orange County, California, neighborhood. But we both agree that this was probably the best Christmas our family ever had.

That Christmas was not only much less expensive and much less hectic, but it was a time to worship more and spend time with family. It was quite a contrast to the usual shopping like lunatics and spending more than we should.

By God’s grace, He blessed me with a great job in January, and Kathy with a great job in March. We couldn’t have planned for a better Christmas.

MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Thursday, December 26th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. All this week we’ve concluded each program with a Christmas hymn. Our last selection is a very old carol handed down for generations. The lyrics come from before the 12th century, and its traditional Irish tune likely predates the 18th century.

BASHAM: Its opening stanza calls each of us to consider what God has done in sending us His beloved Son. Here’s the Wheaton College Concert Choir from a 2016 television performance—singing the “Wexford Carol,” arranged by John William Trotter.

MEGAN BASHAM: On tomorrow’s program: John Stonestreet joins us for a year-end review of cultural news.

And, I’ll review the latest film version of a beloved American novel.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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