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Prologue

The tendency toward self-reinvention is so deep in American culture that we have an entire industry, a self-help industry, telling us how to transform ourselves into someone new. And usually, we see this as a positive thing.

Act One

Over the course of his life, Keith Aldrich was a child of the Depression in Oklahoma; a preacher-in-training in booming California; an aspiring Hollywood actor; in the 1950s, a self-styled Beat writer, and then a man in a gray flannel suit; in the 1960s, a member of the New York literati, and then a hippie; in the 1970s, a denizen of the suburbs with a partying, Ice Storm kind of life. Then in the 80's, when the moral majority helped put Ronald Reagan in office, he became a born-again Christian. Today we're devoting our entire show to story of Keith's life, as told by one of his nine children, Gillian Aldrich.

Prologue

We ask 18-year-old Chana Wiliford and her father in Texas if they'd be willing to have a conversation on tape in which each of them gets to ask the other the questions they've never asked before. In the conversation, Chana is half his child, half his peer.

Act One: Pandora's Box

More tape of Chana and her father Bob Wiliford discussing all the things they've never talked about before. Though Chana grew up in Waco, Texas, she left to go to college in Philadelphia.

Act Two: Mack Daddies

In this part of the show, stories about fathers who haven't gotten quite so close with their children. Two-thirds of all African American children are raised in single parent homes, usually by mothers and/or grandmothers.

Act Three: Bond, Dammit, Bond

Another case study of a dad who's waiting to feel closer to his kid. Writer Dan Savage writes the syndicated sex advice column Savage Love. He and his boyfriend Terry spent months trying to adopt and finally adopted a baby boy.

Act Four: Age Of Enchantment

This is a story about an odd breach of trust between father and child, done unintentionally, and what happens next. Lawrence Weschler is an author and journalist. He and his 11-year-old daughter Sara tell the tale.

Act One: Father's Day

Margy Rochlin sees a new side of her father when, in his seventies, he becomes a monologist like Spalding Gray. Her dad, Fred Rochlin, is a huge hit.

Act Three: Phone As History

We think of our phone calls and phone messages as so transient. We have another example of phones recording personal history: this story from Barrett Golding in Bozeman, Montana, comprised of telephone messages about his father.

Act Two: Gangster's Daughter

Susan Berman, author of the memoir Easy Street, the True Story of a Gangster's Daugher, reads from her book about her father Davie Berman, a Jewish gangster and one of the men — with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel — who created modern Las Vegas. (7 minutes) Act Two continues after the break.

Act Three: Reverb

Ellery Eskelin never met his father but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father's death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of "song-poems." These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, "Send us your lyrics, and we'll write and record your song." Ellery's father's musical output was prodigious — and very odd.