Neal Thompson

  • Aired:  08/05/13
  •  | Views: 11,882

"A Curious Man" author Neal Thompson discusses the life and travels of "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" founder Robert Ripley. (5:12)

MY GUEST TONIGHT CURIOUS MAN,

PLEASE WELCOME NEIL THOMPSON.

NEIL, WE WERE TALKING A

LITTLE BACKSTAGE, HOW IS IT

POSSIBLE THAT THIS IS THE

FIRST AND ONLY BIOGRAPHY

WRITTEN ABOUT SUCH A WEIRD

AMERICAN MAN.

>> SUCH A WEIRD AMERICAN

MAN.

A BRILLIANT WEIRD AMERICAN

MAN.

I THINK IT JUST SORT OF IS

FORGOTTEN GUY, THIS OVERLOOK

LIFD.

I'M NOT SURE HOW IT HAPPENED

BUT I'M GLAD I STUMBLED UPON

IT.

>> LET'S PUT IT IN CONTEXT

THIS WAS ONE OF THE MOST

POPULAR MEN IN AMERICA OVER

DECADES.

>> YUP, YUP.

>> HUGELY INFLUENTIAL DURING

HIS DAY, HUGELY WEALTHY,

FAMOUS, POPULAR.

HE WAS SORT OF THE PT BARNUM

CHARACTER CROSSED WITH HUGH

HEFNER, TRAVELED THE WORLD.

>> THAT IS A HELL OF A

CROSS.

>> I KNOW.

>> PT BARNUM CROSSED WITH

HUGH HEFNER THAT IS AN

UNGODLY.

>> OKAY.

>> ELMER FUDD.

>> OH MY GOD.

>> I CAN SEE IT, YES.

>> RIPLY WAS INSPIRATION FOR

THE ORIGINAL ELMER FUDD.

>> THAT'S HOW POPULAR HE WAS,

HOW WELL-KNOWN HE WAS.

>> HE WAS HUGELY, WE NOW

KNOW HIM MAINLY AS THOSE ODD

LIKE AT TK CITY BELIEVE IT

OR NOT MUSEUMS BUT HE WAS A

CARTOONIST AT A TIME WHEN

CARTOONISTS KIND OF RAN

AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS.

>> YEAH, YACHLT IT'S

INTERESTING TO TRACK HIS

STORY.

AND THIS IS WHAT I LOVE

ABOUT IT, THIS RAGS TO

RICHES STORY, SOW STARTS OUT

AS THIS POOR BUCK TOOTHED,

STUTTERING, AWKWARD MISFIT

OF A KID BUT FINDING

SOMETHING HE IS GOOD AT

WHICH IS CAR TOOK.

HE TRANSFERS THAT INTO

BELIEVE IT OR NOT CONCEPT

AND LITTLE BY LITTLE THAT

GROWS.

THEN BECOMES MORE POPULAR.

BUT HE TOILED IN OBSCURITY

FOR A LONG TIME UNTIL HE HIT

THE BIG TIME IN THE 1930s.

AND THAT'S WHEN HE TOOK OFF

AND TOOK THIS BELIEVE IT OR

NOT IDEA TO RADIO, TO FILM,

TO MUSEUMS.

BEST SELLING BOOKS, IN

ADDITION TO HIS CARTOONS.

IT WAS ALSO BUILT AROUND

INITIALLY THE CARTOON WHICH

IN THE NEWSPAPERS OF HIS DAY

THAT IS HOW PEOPLE GOT THEIR

VISUAL, YOU KNOW.

HE WOULD DRAW PICTURES FROM

SOME FOREIGN PLACE OR OF

SOME RELIGIOUS FANATIC IN

INDIA DOING SOMETHING

HORRIBLE TO HIS BODY AND

THAT'S HOW PEOPLE LEARNED

ABOUT OTHER CULTURES.

>> WHICH HE HAD OFTEN SEEN.

IT WAS THOUGHT THAT AT ONE

POINT HE IS WAS PO

SSIBLY THE

MOST TRAVELED HUMAN BEING ON

EARTH.

HE WAS LIKE A ONE-MAN

WALKING INTERNET FOR A

WHILE.

>> HE WAS.

LIKE THE WICK PEDESTRIAN YAF

HIS ERA IN A SENSE.

WHAT WAS GREAT ABOUT

RESEARCHING HIS LIFE IS THAT

HE ACTUALLY WENT TO ALL

THESE PLACES THAT HE BROUGHT

TO PEOPLE IN THEIR DAILY

NEWSPAPER OR ON THEIR RADIO

PROGRAMS.

HE TRAVELED OBSESSIVELY.

AND TO REALLY REMOTE CORNERS

OF THE WORLD AT A TIME WHEN

IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

THE PEAK OF HIS FAME WAS

DURING THE DEPRESSION.

SO HE WAS REALLY OUT THERE.

>> YEAH, HE SPANNED AN

AMAZING TIME FROM THE FIRST

WORLD WAR THROUGH THE WALL

STREET CRASH NOT SECOND

WORLD WAR, SOMEHOW MANAGED

TO BE WELL IN THAT WHOLE

TIME.

DID YOU LIKE HIM AS A MAN?

>> I ABSOLUTELY DID.

IT'S A GOOD QUESTION THOCHLT

YOU START RESEARCHING

SOMEBODY, SOMETHING, YOU

THINK YOU'RE GOING TO LIKE

THEM AND WANT TO SPEND TIME

WITH THEM.

I NEVER GOT BOARD OF THIS

GUY.

>> I SWUNG BACK AND FORTH

FROM KIND OF ROOTING FOR HIM

THINKING THIS IS AN UNDERDOG,

HE HAS A CHILDLIKE

CURIOSITY.

HE SEEMS TO SWAY FROM

CHILDLIKE CURIOSITY TO

ADULT-LIKE IGNORANCE.

>> WELL, YOU KNOW.

>> WHEN HE TRAVEL ADD BROAD

HE COULD BE OFFENSIVE.

WHEN I SAY COULD BE, HE

COULD BE AND WAS.

>> HE COULD -- YES.

HE COULD BE A TOTAL BOTHER.

HE WAS THE GUY, THE UGLY

AMERICAN TRAVELER.

HE WOULD GO SOMEPLACE AND

FLAT OUT REFUSE TO LEARN

THEIR LANGUAGE.

>> OR TALK LOUDER.

>> TO SPEAK ENGLISH LOUDER

THAT IS HOW HE DEALT WITH

FOREIGN LANGUAGES.

>> AND HE SEEMED TO SEE AS A

KIND OF CURIOSITY BUT NOT A

PROBLEM THAT NEEDED TO BE

SOLVED.

LIKE HE SAW TERRIBLE PROBLEM

WITH-- STARVATION IN INDIA

AND CHINA AND WAS AFFECTED

BY IT BUT NEVER TO DO

SOMETHING ABOUT IT, HE SAID

WHATEVER HE WITNESSED HE

WANT READY TO REFORM THE

WORLD.

AND HE TALKS ABOUT PEOPLE

LIKE THE ZOO ANIMALS, LOOK,

CHECK, I GOT THEM, GOT A

LOVELY CARTOON OF THAT BOY

JUST STARVING IN THE CORNER,

LOVELY.

>> HE WAS THIS

ANTHROPOLOGIST.

I THINK HE HAD SOME SYMPATHY

FOR THE PEOPLE HE SAW BUT

WHAT CODO ABOUT IT, HE WAS A

CARTOONIST.

I THINK HE VIEWED HIS JOB AS

SEEING WEIRD STUFF FROM

AROUND THE WORLD AND

BRINGING IT BACK TO AMERICA

AND TEACHING PEOPLE ABOUT

THESE OTHER PLACES.

>> AND THEN FROM THE

CARTOONS HE THEN BECOMES A

PIONEER OF RADIO TECHNOLOGY.

>> PEOPLE CAST IN THE BOTTOM

OF THE GRAND CANYON IS

THOUGHT HE IS THE FIRST

PERSON TO BROADCAST TO THE

WHOLE WORLD AND THEN A

TAFERPING ITS MICROPHONE TO

A PARACHUTE JUMPER SO PEOPLE

CAN HEAR WHAT IT WILL BE

LIKE JUMPING FROM A PLANE

AND WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE IS

THIS.

>> E OH MY GOD.

>> BUT DID IS THAT KIND OF

CURIOSITY THAT DOES S SO

APPEALING.

>> YEAH.

AND HE'S AN APPEALING GUY

ULTIMATELY BECAUSE HE'S SUCH

A GOOF BAUCHLT HE FIND ITS

EVERYTHING CURIOUS AND

FASCINATING AND INTERESTING

AND WEEFERMENTD HE'S LIKE A

CHILD.

>> GOT IT.

>> IT'S A FASCINATING STORY,

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING

HERE.

>> CURIOUS MANSON THE BOOK

SHELVES NOW, NEIL THOMPSON.

Loading...