NPR’s Susan Stamberg is in Asheville this weekend researching the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Asheville. Interest in the famous writer seems to have hit a high point this year, what with the release of the big 3-D The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio and the discovery of old papers in which he listed his essential reading list.
Stamberg herself is a star. From NPR:
Stamberg is the first woman to anchor a national nightly news program, and has won every major award in broadcasting. She has been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the Radio Hall of Fame. An NPR “founding mother,” Stamberg has been on staff since the network began in 1971.
Beginning in 1972, Stamberg served as co-host of NPR’s award-winning newsmagazine All Things Considered for 14 years. She then hosted Weekend Edition Sunday, and now serves as guest host of NPR’s Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Saturday, in addition to reporting on cultural issues for Morning Edition.
Stamberg on Friday interviewed Tracey Johnston-Crum, the Grove Park Inn’s spokeswoman and a bit of an expert on the inn’s history. Fitzgerald stayed at the inn in mid 1930s, when his fame as a writer was waning and his reputation as a drinker and womanizer was on the rise. Fitzgerald fired a shot from his handgun inside the hotel in a suicide attempt that was more a cry for help. His wife, the famous flapper Zelda, was facing her own health issues as a resident of Asheville’s nearby Highland Hospital. Zelda died in horrible fire at the hospital in 1948.
At the Grove Park Inn, Fitzgerald struck up a platonic relationship with a palm reader and dated a Texas socialite. He was one of Asheville’s first big beer lovers, reported downing 30 or more (small) bottles of beer a day. Here’s a great round-up of Fitzgerald’s time in Asheville from the University of South Carolina. An Asheville book store owner struck up a friendship with Fitzgerald and wrote about it in his own book, After the Good Gay Times.
I’ve read other tidbits here and there about Fitzgerald’s drunken time in Asheville. He once wandered over to the Old Kentucky Home to see the home of another famous writer of the time, Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe. Fitzgerald reportedly stunk of alcohol, and Wolfe’s mother refused him entry on the steps.
Another time, Fitzgerald wandered over to the local library to check out Wolfe’s books. Because of Wolfe’s complicated relationship with his hometown, the library did not carry any of Wolfe’s work, so Fitzgerald went to a book store, bought an armful and delivered them to the library.
Can’t wait to hear Stamberg’s story.