Column: ‘Patt Morrison Asks,’ and now you can listen in


For almost seven years, I've been having conversations that you haven't been able to hear.

That is about to change. Beginning today, “Patt Morrison Asks” will become a podcast as well as a transcribed interview, giving you a new means of taking a seat at my conversational table.

The printed column has been an invitation to eavesdrop on more than 300 of the most interesting and engaged people around, people with a stake in government policy and politics, in the arts, the environment, the economy, sports, crime — all sorts of matters of moment, in the moment.

Over the years, I've heard from many of you about how much you enjoyed the cut and thrust of each week's conversation, on the printed page and in pixels on the screen. But there's so much more you didn't, couldn't get by reading alone. You couldn't hear:

The ardor in Steve Martin's voice as he spoke about an artist whose works he admired so much he co-curated a show of them.

Hugh Hefner sounding startled when I asked him to dispense break-up advice: “That's an unusual question. I would have expected the question to be how to hook up.”

The lion kings of the local National Park Service, Seth Riley and Jeff Sikich, who track and collar L.A.'s big cats, revealing the sorrow behind their matter-of-fact professionalism as they described collecting the corpse of one of the Santa Monica Mountains' imperiled mountain lions.

Or the way Iranian American comedian Maz Jobrani, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, swung between vehemence and amusement as he explained that it's a comedian's job to bust hypocrisy wherever it may be found.

Harry Shearer's voice — a voice that is so many voices, on “The Simpsons” and beyond — conveyed his love for New Orleans; feminist Mavis Leno's was passionately indignant about why women's rights are the first to get thrown under the political bus in places like Afghanistan. Former L.A. prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's commanding tone got Charles Manson convicted; with me he used it to deplore the cottage industry of Manson notoriety.

Maybe you've spilled a Starbucks in your car when you braked too suddenly? Then you would have loved hearing chef and restaurateur Susan Feniger recount, with horror and hilarity, the time she slammed on the brakes and sent 10 gallons of fresh hollandaise onto the floor of her old Datsun.

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Familiar names and faces seem even closer to you when what they say comes off the printed page and into your ears: California-born soccer star Landon Donovan admitting he came around to calling the game “football” in Britain and “futbol” in Latin America. Or Tim Gunn's distinctive “Project Runway” delivery, on how wearing his dapper suit-and-tie ensembles in L.A. made him feel “like I was walking around like a mortician.”

Two of the most intimate orifices in the human body are your ears. There's a second-person familiarity to using our ears — to listening — that's different from what we see, the way we read. The voices humanize and welcome, they engage people on subjects they might not have thought to Google or to pursue past a headline.

Beginning today — with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck assessing President Obama's new gun policies and the responsibility any L.A. NFL team will have to young Angelenos — you'll be hearing from thoughtful people who have a stake in the news, complete with the accents, the laughter or the catch in the throat that makes what they say come alive.

And you can still read all about it online, where each interview will be posted along with the podcast, and from time to time on the printed page.

Head to the Opinion section of The Times on Wednesdays, and lend me, and my interview subjects, your ears.


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