Tag Archives: NPR

Bob “Happy Little Trees” Ross had  naturally straight hair 

He got his hair permed when he got out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, says longtime business partner Annette Kowalski.

Danny Hajek, NPR:

“He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts. So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again,” Kowalski explains.

Before he could change it back, though, the perm became his company’s logo — Ross hated it. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” Kowalski says. “He got tired of that curly hair.”

Ross was a meticulous businessman whose every move on his TV series “The Joy of Painting,” was scripted in advance. He did three copies of every painting he did on the show. His art supply company is still in business today, more than 20 years after his death, and the show is coming to Netflix.

Kowalski discovered Ross “in the aftermath of a family tragedy.” Her oldest son was killed in a traffic accident. All she could do afterward “was lay on the house and watch television.”

She watched a painter named Bill Alexander, who was big on PBS back then. Kowalski’s husband was desperate to get her out of the house, so he signed her up for Alexander’s painting class, 900 miles away in Clearwater, Fla. But then Alexander stopped teaching and passed his classes off to an unknown protege.

“I was very disappointed,” Kowalski says. “I so wanted to paint with Bill Alexander. But my husband said, ‘Get up. Get in the car. We’re going.’ ”

It was a five-day class in a hotel conference room. At the easel upfront was a guy with a perm who went by Bob. His paintings were good, but when he started talking to the class, that’s when Kowalski knew she had met someone special.

From gladiator duels to Caesar’s last words: the myths of ancient Rome

Fresh Air podcast:

Our guest, historian Mary Beard, can give you the real story of the Spartacus uprising. And in a bit, she’ll share what we think Julius Caesar really said as he was being stabbed by Roman senators. It wasn’t et tu, Brute?

Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Cambridge University who’s spent a career studying Rome and written a dozen books. She also does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog and has become somewhat famous for taking on Internet trolls. Beard’s latest book covers about a thousand years of Roman history, but it isn’t just kings and emperors. She offers insights into the reasons for Rome’s prosperity and military expansion and provides fresh interpretations of turning points in Roman history.

And she makes ordinary Romans a central part of the story, describing both their impact on important events and their daily lives. Mary Beard’s book “SPQR: A History Of Ancient Rome” is out in paperback next month.

As a small boy, the ferocious mad Emperor Gaius was a pet of the Roman legions, who dressed him up in a child-sized uniform and gave him the nickname “Caligula.” History teachers today translate the name to “Little Boot,” but Beard says it’s more properly translated “Bootykins.” No wonder Caligula was always pissed off.

“SPQR” looks like a good one — I’ve put it high on my Amazon wishlist.