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Storybeat with Steve Cuden

Arts & Culture Podcasts

A Podcast for the Creative Mind


United States


A Podcast for the Creative Mind



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Scott M. Hoffman, Author-Episode #296

Author Scott M. Hoffman was a witness to historical events concerning major mob families. His book, Inside, tells the eye-opening tale of the son of a mobster growing up learning the harrowing life within a ruthless crime family. Scott absorbed the inner workings of the mob from his dad, who loyally served The Chicago Outfit for over 55 years –never spending a day in prison. Now 74, Scott is a graduate of Long Island University-Brooklyn with a B.A. in Journalism. For 35 years he worked for the City of Chicago in the Departments of Purchasing and Finance. I’ve read Inside and can tell you, it’s a beautifully written, fascinating, and sometimes disturbing insider’s look at what it’s like to grow up as a mobster’s son.


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Richard Skipper, Entertainer-Singer-Episode #295

Richard Skipper is an entertainer, singer and host known for his award-winning tribute to Carol Channing, which was endorsed by Carol herself. He can be seen in the film, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life. Richard’s appeared in legendary venues from Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal and Hilton to Carnegie Hall. And he’s shared stages with some of the biggest names in show business including Carol Channing and Lesley Ann Warren. And he’s appeared on the Windstar Cruise ship, Las Vegas to Windsor Ontario and all points in between. Because of Covid he created his popular virtual series, Richard Skipper Celebrates...with over 900 episodes under his belt. In New York, his live events include: Richard Skipper Celebrates, featuring the biggest names in cabaret and theater. Prior to Covid, Richard performed his highly acclaimed live talk/variety show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Directed originally by the late great Jay Rogers, Richard starred in The Magic of Believing (which was originally called From Conway to Broadway), as well as in the fully staged concert version of Hello, Dolly! at The Revision Theater in Asbury Park. Richard is an expert on the history of Hello, Dolly! and has done many talkbacks about it. His most recent solo project is, Still Going Strong: Richard Skipper Celebrates 60 Years of Hello, Dolly! This current production was co-conceived by director James Beaman along with Musical Director Dan Pardo. Among Richard’s achievements: He won the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival Competition. He interviewed and helped to promote the release of the CD of a favorite StoryBeat guest, Julie Budd. He’s been named Cabaret Scenes Magazine “Top of the Century Premiere Cabaret Acts,” and Cabaret Hotline’s “Top Ten Cabaret Performers.” Richard has also won 4 MAC Awards and a Bistro Award. Aside from teaching privately, Richard also presents master classes combining positivity and creativity.


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Dr. 'Niyi Coker Jr., Professor-Director-Episode #294

Dr. ‘Niyi Coker, Jr., is a Professor and the Director of the School of Theatre, Television, and Film (TTF) at San Diego State University in California, which is ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as a top 10 Film production program. ‘Niyi has served as Visiting Artistic Director to several theatre companies including: K3 at Malmo Hogskola in Sweden, the National Theatre of Nigeria and The Black Box Theatre in Bermuda. He’s also the founding Artistic Director of the African Arts Ensemble in New York City. ‘Niyi’s plays include: Ouray, written in collaboration with the Southern Ute Tribal Council. Commissioned and sponsored by the British Council, it toured England. And also Preemptive, a drama about Islamophobia, initially developed at the Indiana University Playwrights lab and staged at London’s West End Shaw Theatre. ‘Niyi’s Off-Broadway writing and directing credits, include, Booth! a musical on the reflections of Edwin Booth after the assassination of Lincoln (written in collaboration with Barbara Harbach & Jonathan Yordy); Miriam Makeba-Mama Africa–the musical,” about the struggles of the anti-apartheid singer and civil rights advocate. ‘Niyi’s also made features and documentary films, including Black Studies USA, and Pennies for the Boatman. His most recent documentary Ota Benga – Human at the Zoo, is the true story of an African kidnapped from the continent and put on display at the Bronx Zoo. ‘Niyi is the Founding Director of the Africa World Documentary Film Festival which is in its 14th season. The festival screens in numerous countries worldwide. He’s the author of 2 books, The Music and Social Criticism of African Musician Fela Kuti, and Ola Rotimi's African Theatre: The Development of an Indigenous Aesthetic. Further, ‘Niyi has contributed numerous chapters and articles to books, journals and magazines. 'Niyi’s a full member of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers, and he's also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Merit Award in Directing.


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Steven Kunes, TV and Film Writer-Episode #293

What a wonderful fun and funny interview with a fellow who’s toiled at the highest peak of Hollywood as a screenwriter. TV and film writer, Steven Kunes, has worked on numerous sitcoms and movies. At the age of 26, legendary TV producer, Norman Lear, hired Steven to write and develop half-hour comedies for his company, Embassy Television. This led to assignments in one-hour TV shows and eventually led him to motion pictures, where Steven became one of Hollywood's most successful script doctors. He's worked on TV shows like South Park, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Out of This World, Cheers, and on movies such as Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde, Cast Away, The Pelican Brief, Groundhog Day and more. In 2015, he created the hit comedy series Over My Dead Body, which streams on Amazon Prime. About Over My Dead Body Norman Lear said, "This is the best idea for a TV series that I can remember. It's absolutely hilarious." In 2021, Steven delivered a TEDx talk in Philadelphia entitled "Square One at 60.”


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Danielle Sunberg, Author-TEDx Speaker-Episode #292

Danielle Sunberg, a multi-award winning author and TEDx speaker, coaches high performers and advises social-impact organizations on authentic leadership. Specializing in conscious self-development, she guides individuals and groups to cultivate personal mastery as the key to experiencing our full potential. A former commercial litigator at a Washington D.C. law firm, Danielle's journey took a pivotal turn after successfully defending a client against a $6 billion judgment. Extreme burnout, stress, and overwhelm led to a diagnosis of depression, causing Danielle to leave her firm and travel six continents exploring how to create authentic well-being. Her exploration led to authoring her book, Atlas of Being, and founding a wellness CPG company that was publicly acquired in 2023, and her current work guiding high performers.


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Andrew Erish, Author-Teacher-Episode #291

Noted author and teacher Andrew Erish’s first book, Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood, was hailed by the L.A. Public Library as “One of the best books of 2012.” And The Huffington Post declared, “…it may well be the film book of the year.” Andrew’s most recent book, Vitagraph, America’s First Great Motion Picture Studio, received the Peter C. Rollins Award for the best book of 2022 by the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association. I’ve read both of Andrew’s fascinating and entertaining books, and can tell you that, despite my having been a student of films and Hollywood for more years than I care to admit, I learned a great deal about the beginnings of the movies that I had no clue about. If you like knowing all about Hollywood, I highly recommend both books to you. Andrew also contributed five essays to American Cool, published in conjunction with an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. And he’s written for various publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Quarterly Review of Film and Video. Andrew has lectured at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the L.A. Central Library, Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Santa Fe Film Festival, and the Shubert Archive in New York. In the United Kingdom, he’s lectured at the Oxford Literary Festival and London’s Cinema Museum. He’s also programmed films and was honored at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy. For several years he has taught film history at universities and colleges in the Los Angeles area.


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Rosanna Staffa, Playwright-Author-Episode #290

Rosanna Staffa is an Italian-born playwright and author. Her debut novel, The War Ends At Four, is a beautifully rendered tale about an Italian acupuncturist in Minneapolis who returns home to Milan and rediscovers all that she left behind, who she is, and what her life is really about. I’ve read The War Ends at Four and found it to be a moving and poignant personal story about a woman trying to find herself. I highly recommend it to you. Rosanna’s work has been featured in Gargoyle Magazine, the Brevity Nonfiction Blog, The Sun Magazine, The Examined Life Journal, and JuxtaProse. Her essay, Holy, is a prize winner in the TSR Review and nominated for the 2022 Notable in Best American Essays. Other writing can be found in the Best Small Fictions Anthology 2021. She received an Honorable Mention for The Tiferet Journal’s 2019 Writing Contest. She’s also a Short Story Finalist for The Masters Review Anthology, the 47th New Millennium Writing Awards, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Rosanna’s plays, which have been seen on stages in Tokyo, New York, Seattle, and other cities, include: The Biggest Little House and The Innocence of Ghosts which was staged Off-Broadway in New York and filmed for inclusion in the Lincoln Center Theatre on Film Library. Rosanna also happens to be a licensed Acupuncturist from the California Acupuncture College in L.A. and The Zhejiang College of Acupuncture in Hangzhou, China. Rosanna’s plays are published by Heinemann and Smith & Kraus.


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Charles Rosenay, Actor-Author-Promoter-Session 2-Episode #289

This is Charles Rosenay’s second time on StoryBeat. He’s been in the entertainment business for over four decades as an actor, promoter, music aficionado, entertainer, MC, DJ, humorist, and author. Recently, he released his latest book, The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists, which contains dozens of top ten lists from pop-culture notables, like Pete Best, Dick Cavett, Tommy Chong, Melanie, and even Dave Winfield, all laying out their favorite songs by the Beatles, who are, for me, the greatest rock band of all time. Among all of his other accomplishments, Charles has produced Beatles Conventions and Festivals since 1978, and he’s been the organizer and host of the “Magical History Tour” since 1983, bringing Beatles fans to Liverpool and London. Charles published and edited the magazine, “Good Day Sunshine, one of the world’s most famous Beatles/Sixties magazines. He has also promoted Monkees conventions since the early ‘80s. As an MC, Charles has shared the stage with countless entertainment figures, including Charles Grodin, Geraldo Rivera, and the late Danny Aiello. For the record, Steve was part of a group that Charles led on an outstanding Dracula tour of Transylvania. Charles also leads GHOSTours in England.


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Terry Press, President, Strategy & Communication Amblin Partners-Episode #288

Terry Press recently joined Amblin Partners in the newly created role of President of Strategy and Communications. Terry oversees the execution of all elements of marketing, publicity, consumer products, and communication for the film and television divisions of Amblin Partners and Steven Spielberg, who said of Terry, “Since the earliest days of DreamWorks, Terry has been a vital part of our DNA, championing our films with her marketing expertise and passion for film. Her reputation in the industry for excellence is well known and we have a long-shared history of great experiences together.” Terry also continues in her role as a consultant at Turner Classic Movies, where Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson advise the channel. Recent movies that Terry has worked on with Mr. Spielberg include: The Fabelmans, West Side Story, Lincoln, The Post, and Amblin/Universal’s award-winning 1917. Previously, Terry was President of CBS Films, where she oversaw the production, marketing, and distribution of such titles as: The Woman in Black, The Duff, Last Vegas, Hell or High Water, At Eternity’s Gate, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ron Howard’s documentary, Pavarotti. Prior to forming the branding, publicity, strategy, and media and digital positioning company, 7570, Inc., Terry served for ten years as the Head of Marketing for DreamWorks SKG where she oversaw the campaigns for all live-action and animated features, including Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Shrek, which won the first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Terry began her career with a nine-year stint at the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Studios. For several years, she taught marketing at UCLA (which is her alma mater, and for the record, mine, too). Recently, alongside Scott Feinberg, Terry was a guest instructor at Chapman University, Dodge College. Terry also happens to be married to a favorite StoryBeat guest, the brilliant writer, and photographer, Andy Marx.


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Jimmy Roberts, Composer-Lyricist-Poet-Episode #287

Jimmy Roberts is the composer of the second longest-running Off-Broadway musical in New York theater history, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, which ran for over 5000 performances. It’s been produced around the world in languages as diverse as French, Spanish, German, Finnish, Mandarin and Cantonese. Jimmy's second Off-Broadway show The Thing About Men, won the New York Outer Critics Circle award for Best Musical. His latest show, Welcome to the Big Dipper, co-written with John Daggett and one of my favorite StoryBeat guests, Cat Filloux, is set to open at the York Theatre in Manhattan in November 2024. Jimmy’s also a sought-after performer, presenting entertaining programs that combine classical and popular music. Recent engagements include: Merkin Concert Hall, the 92nd Street Y, Steinway Hall, and the National Arts Club. The New York Times called Jimmy’s performances, “Brilliant.” He’s a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with noted pianist, Constance Keene. He’s also a published poet, with several of his poems appearing in the New York Times Metropolitan Diary. Jimmy reads two of his poems during the show. He's also a collector of historic letters and interesting people. Please stick around at the end of the show because Jimmy has generously lent us a wonderful song sampler from Welcome to the Big Dipper for your enjoyment.


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Branden Cobb, Marketing Specialist-Episode #286

Branden Cobb is a 15-year Marketing executive at the forefront of industry evolution. In a time of heightened concern regarding Artificial Intelligence, content generation, and responsible Marketing, Branden stands out for merging innovation with market insights, by insisting that successful Marketing is a dynamic fusion of both art and science. As a pioneer in crafting courageous strategies, Branden aims to not only grab customers’ attention but also launch them into a robust, memorable journey. His passion lies in helping companies add real value to the world while aligning corporate interests with consumer needs. Branden has great insights into utilizing AI within the creative process. Branden’s also worked in the motion picture and television industry in various capacities, including in the development and producing movies and TV shows.


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Michelle Danner, Actor-Director-Episode #285

Actor-director Michelle Danner is also an acting coach at the Los Angeles Acting School who specializes in the Meisner, Strasberg, Adler, Hagen, Chekhov and Stanislavsky techniques. Alongside Larry Moss, she’s also the founding and Artistic Director of the Edgemar Center for the Arts. In 2006, Michelle made her feature film directing debut with, How to Go Out on a Date in Queens, winning the L.A. Film Awards' Best Acting and Best Movie awards. Her 2013 film, HelloHerman, catalogs the effect that peer abuse, parental neglect and the general coarsening of society has on a typical high school student. Michelle has acted in and directed over thirty plays in Los Angeles and New York, with her favorite acting credit cited as the Dramalogue award-winning Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo. Among her other award-winning stage work, she produced The Night of the Black Cat at Edgemar, she directed the world premiere of Mental the Musical, and she wrote and directed You're on the Air, an improvisation-based comedy. Michelle also produced and acted in the award-winning short Dos Corazones, directed by Larry Moss. And she was voted favorite acting coach by the readers of Backstage. Notable projects Michelle has directed include: Bad Impulse with Paul Sorvino, Ticket to the Circus, a one-woman play about the life of Norris Church Mailer, starring Anne Archer. And most recently she produced and directed the feature, Miranda's Victim, a biographical crime drama depicting the origins of the well-known Miranda warning. The movie stars Abigail Breslin, Luke Wilson, Andy Garcia, Donald Sutherland, Ryan Phillippe, Kyle MacLachlan, Mireille Enos, Taryn Manning, and Emily VanCamp. I’ve seen Miranda’s Victim and can tell you it’s an intense and deeply emotional story about how the legal system can be impacted and changed by overcoming injustice amid challenging circumstances.


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John Vorhaus, Comedy Writer-Author-Session 2-Episode #284

What a great deal of fun it is to chat with the dynamic John Vorhaus, who is making his second StoryBeat appearance because you never know which direction he's going to take in any answer. John is best known for his classic comedy writing textbook, The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You’re Not. Now available in five languages, John’s “bible of comedy writing” continues to be a definitive source of information and inspiration for TV, film and fiction writers. John’s been a meaningful change-agent for tens of thousands of writers around the world. An international consultant in television and film script development, John has worked for TV networks, film schools, production companies and film funding bodies in 37 countries on five continents. He created his own situation comedy in Romania, ran the writing staff of the Russian version of Married… with Children, and co-created two social action TV dramas in Nicaragua. John’s scriptwriting credits run from sit-coms to episodic drama, and from web-based programming to theatrical-release screenplays, feature animation and documentaries, including the provocative Misery Loves Comedy. His latest books include The Little Book of Standup and The Book of Practice: How to Do Better What You Want to do Well. I’ve read the Book of Practice and found it to be both thoroughly entertaining as well as greatly inspiring. If you’re looking to kick your productivity and success rate into high gear, I recommend you check it out. John is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, a member of the WGA, and a gold-medal athlete in the sport of ultimate frisbee.


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Thaao Penghlis, Actor-Author-Greek Historian-Episode #283

I had a blast chatting with the great Australian-born actor and world-class raconteur, Thaao Penghlis, about his career and creative process. If you’re a fan of NBC’s long-running soap opera, Days of Our Lives, then you’re also likely to be a fan of Thaao's. He's had a remarkable four-decade, 1500+ episode run on the show playing both the seductively villainous Count Tony DiMera and the Count’s evil look-a-like impersonator Andre DiMera. Thaao has earned 3 Emmy nominations for Outstanding Leading Actor and a Soap Opera Digest Award for Favorite Return. Thaao’s infamous dual roles are on top of playing a wide-range of characters on various TV series, movies, and plays, including two other daytime series, General Hospital and Santa Barbara, as well as appearances on the 1980’s prime time reboot of Mission Impossible, in which Thaao played master-of-disguise Nicholas Black. Other notable appearances include the films Slow Dancing in the Big City, Ken Russell’s Altered States, The Bell Jar, Sadat, Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight, Under Siege, Tribe, and as Dame Edna’s lover, Colonel Godowni in the cult classic Les Patterson Saves the World. A world traveler and celebrated host of Hollywood dinner parties, Thaao has authored his memoir Places: The Journey of My Days, My Lives, and also the cookbook Seducing Celebrities One Meal at a Time. Thaao, whose family were Greek immigrants to Australia, has poured his passions for all things Greece into a new podcast, The Lost Treasures, a fantastic detective story-style exploration of Greece’s greatest contribution to the world’s literature, the poet Homer. The Lost Treasures explores the Iliad and the Odyssey through the amazing life of German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who changed history when he discovered the real-life locations and treasures in the epic poems. Written and narrated by Thaao, the podcast draws on his exclusive access to 60,000 pages of long-hidden documents and diaries.


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Richard Bakewell, Writer-Director-Cinematographer-Episode #282

Writer-director Richard Bakewell is a veteran cinematographer and television camera operator who has worked with major media figures like Gordon Ramsay and Oprah Winfrey, and on noted TV docuseries such as Cops, Last Chance U, and Cheer. Richard has written and directed the feature film, Roswell Delirium, as a response to both his own journey back from PTSD and the global response to the 2020 pandemic. The film stars 1980’s legends like Anthony Michael Hall, Lisa Whelchel, Dee Wallace, Reginald Vel Johnson, and Sam Jones. I’ve seen Roswell Delirium and can tell you it’s a complex story set in the 1980s that explores the emotional depths of a strong-willed young woman driven to uncover her own truth, even as she faces her own destruction.


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Damyanti Biswas, Fiction Writer-Episode #281

Damyanti Biswas is a Singapore-based fiction writer. Her short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, and Puerto del Sol, among others. And she's the coeditor of The Forge literary magazine. Her popular blog, where she speaks about the writing life and interviews publishing professionals, turned 15 this year. She's the author of You Beneath Your Skin, an Amazon-bestselling crime novel, which has been optioned for screens by Endemol Shine. Her next crime novel, The Blue Bar was published by Thomas & Mercer USA. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Goodreads named it one of 2023's Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon, is out now and receiving positive buzz from readers.


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Fritz Coleman, Emmy-Winning Comedian and Weathercaster-Episode #280

Fritz Coleman is a 5-time Emmy Award Winning Stand-Up Comedian and former NBC Weathercaster. He’s opened all over the United States for entertainment icons like Ray Charles, Debbie Reynolds, Jay Leno, George Benson, the band America and too many more to mention. He made 8 appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. He spent 40 years as the main weathercaster for NBC Los Angeles until he retired in 2020. He currently has a new comedy special “Unassisted Living” that is available now on Tubi! And his Award-Winning special “It’s Me Dad” played on KCET as their Father’s Day programming for several years in a row. Fritz also co-hosts a wonderful podcast called Media Path with Louise Palanker in which they have insightful conversations with great guests about meaningful subjects. If you want to see Fritz perform live, you can catch him at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood in 2024 on February 25, March 24, April 28, and May 26.


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Skye Fitzgerald, Documentary Filmmaker-Episode #279

Skye Fitzgerald founded Spin Film to bear witness to unfolding crises with the intent to deepen empathy and understanding. He recently completed a trilogy of films on the global refugee crisis. The first, 50 Feet from Syria, focused on doctors working on the Syrian border and was voted onto the Oscar® shortlist. The second, Lifeboat, documents search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya and was nominated for an Academy Award® and national Emmy®.The third, Hunger Ward, explores the impact of the war and famine in Yemen on children, families, and healthcare workers and was nominated for an Academy Award®. I’ve seen Lifeboat and Hunger Ward and can tell you they are both powerful and insightful explorations of people working to prevail under the most challenging and harrowing of circumstances. I highly recommend Skye’s excellent work to you. As a Fulbright Research Scholar, Skye directed the film Bombhunters and has worked with organizations as varied as the Sundance Institute, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Mountainfilm. He’s an honorary member of SAMS (the Syrian American Medical Society) for his work with Syrian refugees. And he’s a Distinguished Alumnus at his alma mater Eastern Oregon University for documentary work. Skye also happens to be a member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Before filmmaking, Skye cut fire-lines as a member of a HotShot wildland fire crew.


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Shelley Herman-Writer-Actress-Host-Episode #278

Shelley Herman is an Emmy-nominated writer, actress, and host whose career began as an NBC Page in Burbank, CA. Shelley’s written over 1000 hours of television, contributed to numerous books for Dove/Phoenix Books, starred in the TV series Off the Wall and Night Rap, and co-hosted ESPN's Battle of The Monster Trucks and Mud Bog Spectacular. In addition, Shelley has guest-starred on numerous TV shows and hosted eight infomercials and national talk radio programs. She’s perhaps best known for her work on the game shows Supermarket Sweep, Liar's Club, Love Connection, Breakaway, Outdoor Outtakes, Trivia Unwrapped, Balderdash, Show Me the Money, and The Million Second Quiz. Shelley was twice a contestant on The Dating Game. And in 1985, for her work on Breakaway, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Writing. Shelley's autobiographical memoir, My Peacock Tale: Secrets Of An NBC Page, details her time at NBC in the 1970s where, as a Page, she worked on several variety shows, talk shows, and game shows such as The Tonight Show, The Gong Show, The Midnight Special, Hollywood Squares, Password, Sanford and Son, and Chico and the Man.


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Leslie S. Klinger, Author-Editor-Annotator-Lawyer-Episode #277

Leslie S. Klinger is the multi-award-winning New York Times best-selling editor of more than 75 books, focusing primarily on the history of crime and supernatural fiction. In addition to heavily-annotated editions of classics like the stories of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, the work of H. P. Lovecraft, and most recently, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he’s edited numerous anthologies of classic and contemporary fiction. Les served as co-editor of the 8-volume Haunted Library of Horror Classics series sponsored by the Horror Writers Association and published by Poisoned Pen Press. He’s also the current editor of the Library of Congress Crime Classics series (now spanning more than 15 titles), co-published by the Library of Congress and Poisoned Pen Press. Les is currently Secretary of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is actively involved in the Baker Street Irregulars, the international literary society. He also served as Treasurer of the Horror Writers Association for 10 years. When not practicing law (which is his “day job”), Les is a frequent lecturer at colleges and libraries.