USA TODAY AWARD

Aural History Productions   


CONTRIBUTING PRODUCER:
David Isay and Sound Portraits Productions.

David Isay at work.

Established in 1994, and headed by David Isay, Sound Portraits Productions is an independent, not-for-profit production company dedicated to creating radio which brings rarely-heard American voices to a national audience. It is an important and growing contributor to the Talking History consortium. Sound Portraits has produced innovative works of lasting educational, cultural, and artistic value. Its unique, finely-crafted, and award-winning documentaries—airing throughout the nation on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition—chronicle the lives of Americans living in communities that are neglected or misunderstood. Often produced in collaboration with the subjects themselves, the documentaries of Isay and the other members of Sound Portraits Productions represent some of the most exciting and innovative audio documentary work taking place in the U.S. today.

Producer: David Isay.
David Isay is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's news-magazines. Over the past ten years his radio documentary and feature work has won almost every award in broadcasting including: two Peabodies, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards and two Livingston Awards for young journalists. He has also received the Prix Italia (Europe's oldest and most distinguished broadcasting honor), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1994). In addition to his radio production work, Isay has published a number of essays and books based on his documentaries, including Holding On (1996) and Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (1997).

Associate Producer: Stacy Abramson
Stacy Abramson has worked at Sound Portraits since June of 1996 when she started working on Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago. She has worked as Associate Producer on Looking for Mary and recently on The Sunshine Hotel. She has co-produced Letter to Butchie, a dying woman's letters to her son, and the upcoming Charlie's Story. As development director, she has secured over $250,000 in grants from local and national foundations. In addition, she has worked on numerous educational outreach programs.

Production Assistant: Meagan Howell
Meagan Howell began working at Sound Portraits as an intern in the fall of 1998 and speedily advanced to the position of full-time production assistant. Meagan graduated with a major in religion from Swarthmore College in the spring of 1998. She has also worked as an intern and researcher for the Library of America and as an editorial assistant for Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

For more information about Sound Portraits, go to their WWW site at: www.soundportraits.org.

All compressed audio streaming versions of the documentaries appearing below were processed by Talking History at the University at Albany, SUNY.


The Jewish Giant.  (1999)
An audio biography on the life of Eddie Carmel (1936-1972). The Jewish Giant is the story of Jenny Carchman's search to uncover the story of her cousin, Eddie Carmel, the "Jewish Giant." Eddie was normal sized until he became a teenager, when he began to grow uncontrollably (he suffered from acromegaly, a glandular problem resulting from a tumor that had developed on his pituitary gland-- an incurable condition at the time). According to the Guiness Book of World Records, Eddie grew to be 8'9". As an adult, the only work he could find involved exploiting his freakishness. He starred in B-grade monster movies (The Brain that Wouldn't Die), made two 45 records (The Happy Giant and The Good Monster) and was billed in Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden as the Tallest Man on Earth. Eddie died in 1972 at the age of 36 in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. His coffin was custom made. Producer: Stacy Abramson; Narrator: Jenny Carchman (Eddie's cousin); Executive Producer: David Isay; Production Assistant: Meagan Howell; Music: Henry Sapoznik; and Peter Sokolow; Editor: Gary Covino; Airdate: October 6th, 1999 on NPR's All Things Considered.

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The Sunshine Hotel.  (1998)
A profile of one of the last flop-houses on the Bowery, narrated by long-term Sunshine Hotel manager Nathan Smith. Part of the American Sound Portraits series.

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Charley's Story.  (1998)
The story of Charlie Geter. A sidebar piece to The Sunshine Hotel.

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Ghetto Life 101.  (1993; 1997)
This Peabody Award-winning documentary was recorded on March of 1993 at the Ida B. Wells projects in Chicago, Illinois and premiered on WBEZ in Chicago in May of that year (as part of WBEZ's Chicago Matters series). It was produced by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, with David Isay, and edited by Gary Covino. Jones and Newman used Marantz PMD221 recorders and SM58 microphones. This version was released on CD in 1997.

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Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse  (1995; 1997)
This documentary was recorded 2/95-2/96 in Chicago, IL and premiered on NPR's All Things Considered soon afterwards. It was produced by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, with David Isay, and edited by Gary Covino. Jones and Newman used Marantz PMD222 recorders and SM58 microphones. This version was released on CD (along with Ghetto Life 101) in 1997.

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Mississippi Jews.  (1991; 1995)
A short documentary on the Jewish community of Greenwood, Mississippi. Recorded in November of 1991 and first aired on National Public Radio's All Things Considered in December of 1991.

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Julius Knipl: The Remains of Dinner.  (1995)
A segment from the Julius Knipl series. Features the voice of Ben Katchor as narrator, Jerry Stiller as Julius Knipl, Dick DeFrietas, Brother Theodore, Bob Fass, Joey Faye, Eddie Lawrence and Jeanne Kaplan. Music by Henry Sapoznik and Peter Sokolow. Introduced by Gary Covino. Originally broadcast on Weekend Edition Saturday on September 15, 1995. Mixed and mastered at Sound Portraits.

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Remembering Stonewall.  (1989)
Produced in 1989 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Here is a full description of the documentary, from the Sound Portraits WWW site: "On Friday, June 27, 1969, eight officers from the public morals section of the first division New York City Police Department pulled up in front of the Stonewall Inn, one of the city's largest and most popular gay bars. At the time, the vice squad routinely raided gay bars. Patrons always complied with the police, frightened by the prospect of being identified in the newspaper. But this particular Friday night at the Stonewall Inn was different. It sparked a revolution, and a hidden subculture was transformed into a vibrant political movement. What began with a drag queen clobbering her arresting officer soon escalated into a full-fledged riot, and modern gay activism was born. This documentary marked the 20th anniversary of the riots and is the first documentary--in any medium--about Stonewall. It weaves together the perspectives of the participants in the riots, from Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who marshaled the raid, to Sylvia Rivera, one of the drag queens who battled most fiercely that night. The revolutionary impact of the riot is better understood by looking at life for gay men and lesbians in the era before Stonewall, seen through the eyes of people like Bruce Merrow and Geanne Harwood, a gay couple who have been together for 60 years, and Jheri Faire, and 80 year old lesbian. Remembering Stonewall also examines how Stonewall affected gay politics through the voices of people like Randy Wicker, the first openly-gay person to appear on television and radio, Joan Nestle, founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and yippie leader Jim Fouratt, who helped found the Gay Liberation Front on the third night of the Stonewall Riots. Remembering Stonewall made possible by a grant from the Pacifica National Program Fund. Credits: Remembering Stonewall premiered on Weekend All Things Considered 7/1/90 Running time: 23 minutes Producer: David Isay with Michael Schirker Editor: Amy Goodman Mixed by Spider Ryder at WNYC."

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All the Way Broken: Iolene's Story.  (1995)
The story of Iolene Catalano. Catalano was former prostitute and heroin addict who died of AIDS. This was produced by David Isay and Catalano only a few months before her death.
Iolene was born on May 10th, 1948, in a carnival trailer somewhere in Pennsylvania. Her mother was an exotic dancer, and her father ran a crooked carnival concession. Iolene spent her childhood in orphanages, reform schools and mental institutions. By the age of 20, she was living on the streets of New York City as a heroin addict, prostitute, thief, and some-time rock and roll singer. Iolene was diagnosed with the HIV virus just one month after she shot heroin for the last time. Together Catalano and Isay recorded more than 30 hours of interviews. In April, 1994, Iolene had a collapse and was admitted to Roosevelt hospital in New York. They suspended the project, hoping she would recover enough to pick up with the recording. While the pain made it too difficult for Iolene to focus on her story, she insisted on keeping a tape recorder by her bed-side to try to keep an audio journal. At night, she'd have a nurse tape a microphone to her chest so that she could record her thoughts as she was falling asleep. Iolene died at Roosevelt Hospital on June 3, 1994. Isay and Iolene got as far as age 14 in her story. She was clean for the last 8 years of her life. Credits: Producers: David Isay with Steve Zeitlin; Assistant producer: Shelle Davis; Editor: Gary Covino; Original music composed and produced by: Arthur Bloom; Performed by: Arthur Bloom, Jack Vees, Dan Pompa, Shawn McClowry, Vincent Rawls, Mike Asetta, Ken Freed and Jon Rodgers; Technical consultant: Caryl Wheeler. Length: Approximately 25 minutes. Premiered Sept. 9, 1995, on Weekend All Things Considered. All The Way Broken was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Interviews were recorded digitally on a Sony TCD-D10 Pro II with a Neuman RSM190 microphone. Iolene's diaries were recorded on a Marantz PMD 222 tape recorder with as Shure SM58 microphone. The program was mixed on Pro Tools at Sound Portraits Productions in New York. All The Way Broken is a co-production of Sound Portraits Productions and City Lore.

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The Museum of Jurassic Technology.  (1996)
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a small non-descript storefront on Los Angeles's Venice Boulevard. Inside, it is a museum like no other. Museum creator David Wilson, a man of prodigiously unusual imagination, has been mounting a series of unbelievable exhibits there for the last 15 years. Spore-inhaling ants, x-ray bats, human horns, peach-pit carvings, novel theories of oblivion. Unusual -- undeniably, but factual -- possibly not. Lawrence Weschler investigated the natural and unnatural phenomenon Wilson has assembled at the museum in his book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, which Kirkus Review called "A small jewel of a book, as intricate as the wonder it describes." The book was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1995. In this documentary, Weschler has teamed up producer David Isay to bring the Museum of Jurassic Technology to radio in an unforgettable half-hour work of magic-realist nonfiction radio. This program is part of the American Sound Portraits Series/ Public Radio Writers Project, funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Credits: Writer/Narrator: Lawrence Weschler; Producer: David Isay; Editor: Gary Covino; Supervising Engineer: Caryl Wheeler; Executive Producer for All Things Considered: Ellen Weiss; Based on: Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler (Vintage). Premiered December 6th, 1996 on All Things Considered. The Museum of Jurassic Technology was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was recorded in digital stereo on a Sony TCD-D10 Pro II with a Neuman RSM190 microphone, and mixed on ProTools at Sound Portraits Productions in New York.

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Ward Two West.  (1991)
Ward 2-West presents an honest and direct profile of twenty-six men, all found "not guilty by reason of insanity," all incarcerated at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, a hospital for the criminally insane located on Ward's Island near Manhattan. Ward 2-West houses a group of men who have committed some of the most notorious and gruesome crimes in New York City history. Are people capable of committing monstrous acts of cruelty monsters themselves? In 1990, Producer Dave Isay spent one week, day and night, with the men of Ward 2-West to better understand the circumstances behind such extreme criminal behavior. Isay found that nearly every patient at Kirby had lived a life of almost unspeakable physical and mental abuse before committing his own crime. The sensitive portraits that emerge from the documentary present disturbed men whose personal suffering cannot be denied, and offer the hauntingly human voices of a group of men that we would all rather forget. Credits: Producer: Dave Isay; Broadcast Date: Premiered on Soundprint in July, 1991; August 25, 1991 on Weekend All Things Considered; Running time: approximately 25 minutes; Producer: David Isay; Editor: Dan Collison; Engineer: Caryl Wheeler. Special Thanks to: Moira Rankin, the staff and patients at Kirby.

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Looking for Mary.  (1997)
This half hour documentary special looks at the phenomenon of men and women reporting visions of the Virgin Mary. Producer David Isay, Associate Producer Stacy Abramson and writer Beverly Donofrio take listeners to apparition sites around the country -- from New York to California to Georgia to Arizona -- speaking to people who believe they are communicating with the Blessed Mother. Prompted by the enormous increase in sightings of Mary in every region of the United States, the program is reported by Donofrio, who, like many Catholics, regards Mary as a central figure in her spiritual life. Like many Americans, Donofrio has long been fascinated by -- and skeptical of -- people who claim they are speaking to Mary. So in February, 1997, she set off on a physical journey, visiting apparition sites across the United States; and a spiritual journey, trying to understand the role that Mary has played in her own life. Credits:Writer/Narrator: Beverly Donofrio; Producer: David Isay; Associate Producer: Stacy Abramson; Editor: Gary Covino; Music: Arthur Bloom; Assistant Producer: Suzanne Clores; Supervising Engineer: Caryl Wheeler; Senior Editor, Weekend Edition Saturday: Gwendolyn Thompkins; Senior Producer, Weekend Edition Saturday: Ken Hom; Premiered December 6, 1997 on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon. Looking For Mary was funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the American Sound Portraits Series/ Public Radio Writers Project. It was recorded in digital stereo on a Sony TCD-D10 Pro II with a Neuman RSM190 microphone, and mixed on ProTools at Sound Portraits Productions in New York.

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Letter to Butchie.  (1997)
The audio letters of a mother with AIDS to the son she abandoned as an infant.

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The Gods of Times Square.  (1994)
Photographer and poet Richard Sandler documented the variety of religious expression found in New York City's Times Square. Produced and adapted for radio by David Isay.

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Marine Talkers.
A short piece based on Valentine audio messages to family members from marines from Milwaukee, Wisconsin serving in the Pacific during World War II. The archival recordings were drawn from recordings held by the Library of Congress. They are complemented by recent interview segments with some of the marines. This program was part of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday's American Talkers series (1993-present).

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Coney Island.  (1990)
The story of Coney Island, the world's pleasure palace, its characters and amusement. Matt Kennedy, the 86 year old employee of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, is one of many longtime and devoted Coney Island employees interviewed by Dave Isay in this historic audio tour of Brooklyn's famous shoreline amusement park. Isay and his interviewees recall Coney Island's glory days.

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Jefferson County Gospel Quartets.  (1992)
A documentary on the gospel music tradition born in the steel mills and coal mines of Jefferson County, Alabama during the first half of the 20th century.

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Joe Franklin.  (1990)
A profile of the talk show host legend Joe Franklin. Joe Franklin is the man credited with creating the television talk show. In 1990, when this documentary was produced, he had hosted over 28,000 episodes of The Joe Franklin Show and had interviewed over 150,000 guests, some famous and some not so famous.

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The Folksbeine Theater.  
A short documentary on the Folksbeine Theater, the oldest and only surviving Yiddish Theater in the United States. Founded in 1915, the theater helped preserve eastern european Jewish culture and provided immigrant actors with acting opportunities as they adjusted to a new culture and a new language.

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My Grandma Was a Slave.  (1993)
Mary Lou Lollis remembers the stories of slavery that her grandmother told to her. Part of the American Talker series, a series of 2-6 minute American oral histories which aired on Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen.

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The Fish Crier.  (orig recording 1939; produced for radio by David Isay)
An oral history, collected by the WPA in 1939, of a fish crier. Produced for radio by David Isay as part of the American Talker series, a series of 2-6 minute American oral histories which aired on Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen.

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Roz Perry.  
A short piece on Roz Perry and her recollection of events at a concert directed by Leonard Bernstein. Part of the American Talker series, a series of 2-6 minute American oral histories which aired on Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen.

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The Lifeguard.  (1996)
The recollections of a very special lifeguard, Reggie Jones. Reggie Jones tells about his many experiences as a long time lifeguard in Coney Island. Part of the New York Talkers and the American Talkers series. Reggie tells of the grueling training and tryout he went through to get his job. Lasting for over 3 weeks (without pay!) and competing with over 100 other beachbound hunks, Reggie exults when he is picked from the crowd: "I thought I had won the Olympics. I said 'Yes! Yes! There is a God.'"

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Blues Hotel.
Blues Hotel.

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Coon Dog Graveyard.
Coon Dog Graveyard.

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Eddie Randall.
Eddie Randall.

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Fox Hunting.
This piece is part of the American Folklife Series. "Hinkel Schillings and Shade Pate are uncle and nephew. For over sixty years, along the Texas-Louisiana border, they have gone fox hunting. Several times a week, they sit around a fire from unset to dawn listening to their hounds bark. That's all there is to fox hunting -- listening. There's no kill. A pack of hounds simply chase a fox around and around in circles through the woods until the dogs get tired and return to their cages. The dogs bark all the while -- the hunters call it "giving mouth." The men know the voice of each of their hounds, and can tell from the bark how close each dog is to the fox. The hunters root for their favorite dog, reminisce of hounds of old, tell stories. But mostly they just sit quietly and absorb 'the music of the chase.' When a visitor's present, the men spend a great deal of time baying and yelping -- imitating the barks of hounds past and present to illustrate the finer points of the sport."

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Fred Bloodgood.
Fred Bloodgood.

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Hoboes.
Hoboes.

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Kipperman's Pawn Shop.
An aural portrait of Kipperman's Pawn Shop in Houston, Texas. It's "the only pawn shop / wedding chapel on the planet. You can get married and buy a gun all at the same time. Buy buy a ring from this store, and you get a free wedding. Owner Ted Kipperman's slogan is: "When you're in the mood to say I do and you really care, think of Kipperman's Wedding Chapel where love is always in the air." Kipperman's Wedding Chapel is located behind a church facade in the pawn shop. It came to be during the tough economic times of the early 1980s when customers routinely hocked their wedding rings. As Kipperman was reluctant to melt down "all the memories," his collection of rings grew and grew. In 1984, God spoke to Kipperman and said a wedding chapel would be a good thing to build in the pawn shop. Since becoming a chaplain by mail, Kipperman has developed a unique matrimonial business in his pawn shop where ceremonies with free rings and rentable everything else (bouquets, dresses, cakes, cameras, and an organ for sale) join loving couples under a seven foot long wrought iron heart threaded with plastic flowers."

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Lincoln Highway.
Lincoln Highway.

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Mattie Dellinger.
Mattie Dellinger.

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Prophet Blackman.
Prophet Blackman.

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Seltzer Man.
Seltzer Man.

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The Grotto.
The Grotto.

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They Shall Take Up Serpents.
They Shall Take Up Serpents.

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Tommy Bass.
Tommy Bass.

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