Monday, August 20, 2007

Chrissie Hynde: A Rockin' Animal Advocate



For better or worse, I'm old enough to be a fan of Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders pretty much from the get-go.

Not just that glorious debut album--remember how damn near every song was fantastic, as the band roamed confidently all over the musical countryside from fiery rawker to tender ballad to Kinks cover to reggae number and back again?

It was more than that, though. It was also their first shows Stateside...which, for me, meant a 1980 concert at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, where The Pretenders opened for The Boomtown Rats.

And, as my buddy Randy Fender & I were recalling the other day, The Pretenders smoked. They were a terrific, muscular band, while Chrissie Hynde was an extraordinary singer and an absolutely riveting presence onstage. Over the years, the personnel changed, but that assessment never did.

It was a good handful of years later that I became aware of Chrissie's work on behalf of animals. But for quite some time, it's been pretty difficult to be unaware of that work, especially for anyone plugged into the world of animal welfare.

Of course, you didn't have to be all that plugged in to notice some of her work, which in no small measure because it's done by Chrissie Hynde--has often been rather high-profile and colorful.

For instance, she was arrested in Paris while protesting KFC and their inhumane treatment of chicken in the processing plant, arrested another time in New York protesting the use of leather by The Gap in some of its clothing.

And then there was that time nearly 20 years ago, when she famously said "I firebombed McDonald's," and the next day a McDonald's in Buckinghamshire was firebombed. But some of her work on behalf of animals isn't at all marked by that sort of dramatic flair--for instance, in April she wrote a sharp, powerful piece in the Toronto Globe & Mail about Canada's annual seal hunt.

So as a longtime fan of her music and the animal work, it was probably no surprise that I sought to have Chrissie Hynde join me on "Talking Animals." And probably no less surprising that this was quite difficult to pull off.

During a period spanning more than three years, The Pretenders' manager and I became e-mail pen pals, with her generally--and quite courteously--explaining why Chrissie was not available or not doing interviews. But, crucially, she never told me to quit sending the e-mails, never said something akin to "we'll contact you when Chrissie can do the interview"--typically, in this scenario, the polite kiss of death.

Then, in July--in response to my latest invitation, noting the forthcoming opening of VegeTerranean, Chrissie's vegetarian restaurant in her native Akron, Ohio--she e-mailed back, starting the note with "Good things really do come to those who wait," explaining that Chrissie had agreed to do the interview.

I was thrilled, a degree of enthusiasm that was unwavering, even when the interview itself started out on somewhat curious footing: Chrissie sounded wary, maybe even a touch hostile initially. Turned out, a complicated day and the machinations of being in the midst of a Pretenders tour had prevented her from seeing notes that described the focus of "Talking Animals."

But the conversation was no less solid and vibrant for that (heck, probably more so), and toward the end, she was recognizing that "Talking Animals" was a show about animals and animal issues. I answered a few of her questions about the show, including mentioning some past guests--this was all on air, mind you--and then, landing about 180 degrees from where she started at the beginning of the conversation, she said brightly, "I'll do your show anytime."

Those were her final words in the interview. But, based on a few things--including an immensely kind voicemail she later left on my cell phone--probably not her final words on "Talking Animals."

And, to me, that was rockin' good news.

3 comments:

Gladys said...

Great job! I love interviews that don't just sprint right out of the gate. As animals, we humans don't always instantly trust another that we are meeting for the first time.
I loved listening to you two find common ground and work it out!
Awesome.

Troy Corley said...

Any chance that your friend Randy Fender is originally from California?

jrfender said...

I am originally from California, Stockton to be specific. Is this the same Troy Corley that once gave me a Jimmy Carter joke book for a Christmas gift? If it is, I would very much like to speak to you: jamesrfender@yahoo.com