NAME: Nelson Price
TITLE: Host & Author FOR: “Hoosier History Live!”, a radio show on WICR-FM (88.7) that explores all aspects of Indiana history, from neighborhood and town histories to sports, art, music and rotating shows about ethnic immigration (Germans, Irish, Scottish, Italian stonecutters, Greeks, Cubans, Brazilians, etc.)
I’m also the author of “Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman”, “Indianapolis Then and Now”, and other books about famous people from Indiana and city history of Indy.
SINCE? The first edition of “Indiana Legends” was published in 1997; the book is now in its fourth edition and seventh printing, with newly added famous Hoosiers. “Hoosier History Live!” went on the air in January 2008. We’ve now broadcast more than 215 shows.
ORIGINALLY FROM? Indianapolis. I’m a fifth-generation Hoosier. My pioneer ancestors had settled in Indiana by the 1830s.
YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? I read all of the books of authors featured on my radio show, and immerse myself in the expertise areas of non-author guests. I always over-prepare. I hope the preparation is reflected in the quality of my interviews.
YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? 60 + hours, easily
PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Aside from my books and radio show? Well, for 20 years, I was a feature writer/columnist for The Indianapolis Star (and its sister newspaper, the bygone Indianapolis News). I specialized in interviewing and writing profiles of Hoosier newsmakers in all walks of life such as David Letterman, Jane Pauley, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Ryan White, Rev. Theodore Hesbsurgh, Florence Henderson and Hoosier astronauts.
OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? I do commentary on tours, day trips across Indiana (and within the city of Indianapolis) drawn from my books about famous Hoosiers and Indianapolis city history. For example, I’ve taken motor coach travelers to historic sites in South Bend, where I talk about Notre Dame’s notables, or to the French Lick and West Baden hotels. My tours within Indy – featuring sites such as the N. Meridian Street mansions, historic homes in Woodruff Place, the Madame Walker Theatre and Oceanaire (former L.S. Ayres) – are drawn from my “Then and Now” visual history book. Oh, one other thing: I’m on the fourth-grade speaking circuit. Accompanied by an extensive display of historic photos and illustrations featured in my famous Hoosiers books, I speak at schools across the state. PTAs and PTOs sponsor my presentations to fourth graders (that’s when kids explore Indiana history), so I’ve spoken to thousands of young Hoosiers from Lake County down to the Ohio River.
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? Interviewing people, whether for my book projects or for the radio show. It’s my role to ask anything on my mind. Truly thrilling.
WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Limits on (air) time or (in print) space.
HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Happiness and fulfillment with your current life. Although I’m immersed in history, the best time of life is “now”. It’s always been “now”.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Forge on.
IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Syndication of “Hoosier History Live!”
WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? Enthusiasm for my jobs. Also, the support of my parents.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? I’ve been blessed (or cursed) with curiosity and energy. Those are my rocket fuels.
WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? Many folks have mentored me in many ways. They range from my high school speech coach Susan Bravard to the editor of my first book, Nancy Niblack Baxter. In terms of interviewing style, my role models are sportscaster Bob Costas and “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopolous.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? Maybe it was my grandmother taking me as a young boy to the beloved L.S. Ayres Tea Room. Maybe it was my dad’s law office, initially located on Monument Circle in the Art Deco-style Circle Tower Building — which, mercifully, we have not torn down. Maybe history enthusiasm rubbed off from my mom, who was a long-time docent at the Morris-Butler House. Maybe it was, at a formative and impressionable age, living through the notorious Blizzard of ’78, the worst blizzard ever in city history. I could go on, but you get the drift. My life has been intertwined with Hoosier history.
MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? I call myself a “garbage can of useless Hoosier trivia” and throw out trivia questions during my radio show. So identifying one tidbit is a challenge. How about drawing on my swimming and Olympics passion: Where was the largest outdoor pool in the country during the 1920s? Answer: The Broad Ripple Park Pool. We hosted the 1924 Olympic Trials there. Who was the superstar of those Olympic Trials? Johnny Weissmuller, the future Tarzan.
YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? Any of the famous Hoosiers profiled in my book. Maybe I’d start with Booth Tarkington because he hosted unforgettable dinner parties at his North Meridian Street mansion. Guests included the Marx Brothers, Katharine Hepburn and Helen Hayes.
YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? My dream would have been to be a panelist on “What’s My Line?” the classic TV show. My first crush was TV personality Arlene Francis, who lit up that panel. Before you snicker, visit YouTube.com video clips featuring Arlene. You will fall in love, too. Guaranteed. Also, I would have loved to have been an Olympic swimmer. I’ve been a lifelong, lap swimmer; as a teenager, I was a lifeguard.
“What’s My Line” featuring Frank Lloyd Wright, with Arlene Francis on the panel
ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? Gosh, can we broaden this to Indiana as a state? As a high school student, my dad played basketball against James Dean. (They attended rival, pre-consolidation high schools in Grant County during the late 1940s.) In Indy, I grew up two blocks from Jane Pauley, my role model in media. Following in Jane’s wake by about eight years, I attended every school that she did, from Moorhead Elementary to Warren Central High School to I.U. She was the superstar of the neighborhood. During some of my motor coach tours around the city, I’ve pointed out her girlhood home to the travelers. Jane’s so modest (a typical Hoosier trait) that she’d probably dislike the fact I do that, but, hey, people are interested. In recent history, my next-door neighbor for four years (in downtown Indy) was Reggie Miller. When he was recruited to the Pacers, Reggie moved into the downtown condo next to me. Because I was writing for The Star/News then, I told him, “Reggie, it’s your worst nightmare. The press lives next door to you.” He laughed. And I might add that he was a wonderful neighbor.
FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? As a huge Olympic sports and tennis fan, I loved the views of the cityscape from the Indianapolis Tennis Center at IUPUI during our wonderful, bygone tennis tournament. Alas, despite a glorious run (during which the tournament was known by various names, but primarily as the RCA Championships), the tournament and the tennis courts are history now. The courts are being transformed into parking lots.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Just one? Well, I love local ownership. So I’m going to tout R. Bistro and Aesop’s Tables on Mass Ave,, Zest in SoBro and Iozzo’s Garden of Italy
FAVORITE CITY BESIDES INDIANAPOLIS? New York City.
FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? I’ll exempt my own books about Indy history and famous Hoosiers. I love to read biographies about anyone. Also, I love social history. My favorite movie is “Hoosiers”, written by my friend Angelo Pizzo of Bloomington. It captures our state’s heritage in a lyrical way.
ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? Lattes. Iced, peppermint-flavored lattes, to be precise. Also, I’m a big fan of Sun King, the Indianapolis-brewed beer.
COLLECT ANYTHING? Files about all aspects of Hoosierdom. My hundreds of files are stacked everywhere in my condo/home office. Half of my refrigerator even is filled with files. (Obviously, I don’t cook.)
FAVORITE QUOTE? May I share two? “You don’t escape from life, you escape into it” – playwright Moss Hart. “Life is the best party I’ve ever attended.” – Arlene Francis (see above)
IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, IT’D BE? A song? I’d want it to be anything written by one of our genius composers from Indiana such as Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael or John Mellencamp.