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Bluff The Listener


BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Mo Rocca, Helen Hong and Adam Burke. And here again is your host, who thankfully just muted his microphone when he went to the bathroom, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. Right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

KERRY CRAFTMAN: Hi. This is Kerry (ph). I am calling from Vergennes, Vt.

SAGAL: Vergennes - OK. And what do you do there?

CRAFTMAN: I read people's brains.

SAGAL: You...

CRAFTMAN: I am an EEG technologist.




CRAFTMAN: (Laughter).

SAGAL: I was afraid you took them out of their heads first. That would be bad.




CRAFTMAN: ...Carrying it - no.


SAGAL: Well, welcome to our show, Kerry. You're going to play the game in which you must tell truth from fiction. Bill, what's Kerry's topic?

KURTIS: Paint me like one of your French girls.

SAGAL: Ah, the artist's muse - the person you paint in order to get them to sleep with you. This week, we read about a rather unlikely muse. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the true story out of the three of them, and you will win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

CRAFTMAN: Sure am.

SAGAL: All right. Let's hear first from Adam Burke.

KURTIS: The remote Scottish island of Coll in the Inner Hebrides has received a striking new tourist attraction in recent months. Visitors to the picturesque yet remote isle will now be greeted by an imposing eight-foot sculpture of a powerful Scandinavian warrior. But while the competition seems to be a nod to the storied Nordic history of the area, rather peculiarly, the name of the composition is none other than Bill Kurtis.

It's probably the first piece I've done where the inspiration was purely audio, explains the creator of the piece, local sculptor Connor McNair (ph). One day, I heard this great, booming, authoritative voice emanating from the speaker, and it somehow seemed to match with the vision of this powerful Viking figure I had in mind.

Though McNair has no idea what Bill Kurtis actually looks like, he did add some homages to the venerable broadcaster with the composition. You'll notice the pommel of the broadsword is a microphone, said McNair. And those runes on his belt buckle spell out lightning round in Old Norse.

As for the figure's granite jaw, dense, flowing locks and, quite frankly, Schwartzeneggerian (ph) physique - well, that's just what comes to mind when I hear that voice, says McNair. And if you're listening, Mr. McNair, the likeness is uncanny.

SAGAL: A heroic statue rippling with muscles based solely on the voice of one William Kurtis. Your next story of someone's inspo (ph) comes from Helen Hong.

HELEN HONG: Being tall is a lofty dream for many men, but not for English actor Stephen Merchant. The lanky star of "Extras" and "Hello Ladies" is a towering 6 foot 7 inches and has the general air of a very skinny, hairless Bigfoot, which makes any sudden movements on his part absolutely mesmerizing.

That's what Grace J. Kim (ph), a mechanical engineer, discovered last year when she found herself in the same car repair shop as the gangly actor. Waiting in the lobby while her Prius was being serviced, Ms. Kim watched another Prius pull up with a very tall driver hunched behind the wheel. At first, Ms. Kim didn't recognize Stephen Merchant. But when he finally managed to unfold himself out of the diminutive vehicle, she thought, wow - that's the hilarious Nazi from "Jojo Rabbit."

ADAM BURKE: (Laughter).

HONG: She kept her eyes on him as he managed to take two steps away from his Prius only to trip on a wayward tire iron and go flailing across the mechanic's shop floor. The image was surreal and beautiful. There were miles of arms and legs flying everywhere, and I could feel the airflow from his limbs whipping against me.

She ran home, jumped onto her mechanical engineering software, and thus a new windmill design was born. It turns out random, desperate flailing creates powerful eddies in the atmospheric vortex, she says. The design is currently being tested in Southern California.

BURKE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: The very tall and gangly actor Stephen Merchant inspires a new design for a windmill. And finally, let's hear an amusing story from Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA: The brain was the true erogenous zone, said the first lady. No, not the current first lady, but fictional first lady Sadie Gray, the lead character in the 1991 best-selling potboiler "Happy Endings." Written by Washington doyenne Sally Quinn, the book's lead character falls madly for a dashing NIH scientist based on none other than Anthony Fauci - yes, the same Anthony Fauci who has seen his face plastered on dolls, alcoholic beverages, even socks, and who sounds strikingly like Jimmy Durante.

BURKE: (Laughter).

ROCCA: And indeed, soon after meeting, the novel's two lovers are inka-dinka (ph) doing it.

BURKE: (Laughter).

ROCCA: Nope, she's not waiting 18 months for his vaccine. You are like a tumor in my brain which is getting larger and larger each day, the fictional Dr. Michael Lanzer coos to an insatiable Sadie. Sally Quinn met the real Fauci at a Washington dinner party. I just fell in love with him, she said.

The novel in parts seems prophetic. The fictional doctor captivates the capital with his decency and candor. He is gobsmacked by the incompetence of administration officials. Meanwhile, an incapacitated president leaves the nation feeling rudderless. Readers who are wise to Dr. Lanzer's real identity will find themselves picturing a very naked Anthony Fauci. Antibody test? More like hot body fast.


SAGAL: All right, Kerry. these are your choices. From Adam Burke, a statue of the one and only Bill Kurtis inspired just by his voice; from Helen Hong, the actor Stephen Merchant and his flailing arms inspiring a new windmill design; or, from Mo Rocca, how Anthony Fauci inspired a very sexy character in a romantic potboiler. Which of these is the real story?

CRAFTMAN: I'm thinking Helen's story, number two.

SAGAL: You're going to go for Helen's story of how the actor Stephen Merchant - all almost seven feet of him - flailing around...

CRAFTMAN: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...Inspired an engineer to create a new windmill?

CRAFTMAN: I just hope so.

SAGAL: All right. You're going to go for that. Well, we actually were able to speak to the very person who was so inspired.


SALLY QUINN: I'd been looking for the perfect prototype for the lover, and Tony was unbelievably smart. And I found him quite sexy.


HONG: (Laughter).

SAGAL: That was Sally Quinn. She's the author of the Washington-set romances "Regrets Only" and "Happy Endings" featuring the character based on Dr. Anthony Fauci.

HONG: Oh, I'm sorry, Kerry.

CRAFTMAN: Oh, no (laughter).

SAGAL: Oh, no. I'm afraid you didn't win. But you earned a point for Helen. And, you know, I think if Stephen Merchant is out there, he's probably very flattered, as well.

BURKE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Thank you so much for playing, Kerry.

CRAFTMAN: Thank you.


MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Baby, let's get down tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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