I've had fascinating guests on my Audible podcast, but the one with the best voice, the best stories, and the most remarkable take on American sexual history was my father, Bill Bright, who passed away this past week.
In Bed with Susie Bright Special: Bill Bright, 8/13/28 - 10/15/06
My producer, Kerry Donahue, suggested we make a special show of both my dad's appearances to honor him this week. It's free, you can listen to the whole thing here.
In the first segment, Bill talks about his book, Native American Place Names in the United States. You will learn why the origin of the town name, Loleta, CA, comes from an old Wiyot man telling a lumber baron's wife, "Let's fuck!" There's more than one story of American place names like this... He also explains the political and sexual controversy behind the much-abused word "squaw"—which is a lot more complicated than you might think.
In the second show we recorded together, I asked my dad what was his first experience was of looking at something "erotic." He describes a series of "Tijuana Bibles" that circulated on the Oxnard Union High School playground in the 30s, and how his eyes were opened when he came to Berkeley in the post-war years.
When my father was 21, he drove up with a wire recorder to Humboldt County to learn from some of the last remaining elder speakers of the Karuk Indian language. He ended up writing a dictionary, which some still call "Bill's Book," as well as recording many stories and songs.
His own favorites are ones that feature Coyote, who among his other wise and sacred aspects, is also an unrepentant sex maniac and fool for his own impulses.
On our show, Bill recounts some of Coyote's erotic misadventures, and then sings me a song, in Karuk, as girl would sing to capture the attentions of a young man she might have her eye on. He has such a beautiful voice! He learned this song from Nettie Rubin, pictured on the right. She told Bill that since he didn't have a daughter, she was going to have to pass on all her special daughter songs to him!
I hope you enjoy this show— it means a lot to me, of course, but I think even a total stranger would be agog to learn so much of America's secret history from the names and places we call our homes.
If you've never listened to my audio show before, and you decide you like it, you can get a free one-month subscription at http://www.audible.com/susie. You can podcast it, or just download it. And if you want to write to me at my Audible show, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.