October 25, 2002


In this week's show, we celebrate the oft-beleaguered and misrepresented middleman. "Cut out the middleman! Death to the middleman!" the angry hordes cry. Not us. We say, "Hi, middleman. Here are three splendid acts to toast your subtle virtues."


Host Ira Glass talks with Chris, who worked for a company that helped deaf people talk over the phone with hearing people. The deaf person would type what they wanted Chris to say, and Chris would say it, then type back the response from the hearing person on the line. As the man in the middle, Chris was privy to intimate moments in people's lives. He was the middleman on drug deals, breakups. Occasionally, desperate mothers would appeal to him directly to talk sense to their stubborn deaf children with words that they themselves did not possess. As the job wore on, Chris found it more and more impossible to just be a neutral go-between. (7 minutes)
Act One

Show Me The Monet

You can't do a program about middlemen without a story about business. In this act, we hear from a man who made his living buying low and selling high...incredibly high, sometimes at mark-ups of up to 1,000 percent. In the 1990s, when Michael Jordan led the Bulls, "X" took to the streets of Chicago scalping tickets and making what he refers to nostalgically as "phat money." (20 minutes)
Act Two

Stuck Inside Of Memphis

Sal Princiatta is a New York fireman whose unit lost a lot of men on September 11th. Beth Landau was a friend of Sal's, and a couple months ago, she orchestrated a trip to Memphis for Sal and the other guys at the firehouse. She thought it would take their minds off things. In Memphis, they were cheered and feted everywhere they went. People asked for autographs, gave them gifts. Sal realized that as New York fireman, he and his colleagues were acting as a very particular and unusual kind of middleman for the people they met. This story was put together with the help of Lumiere Productions in New York City. (9 minutes)

Act Three

What It Takes To Tromp Through The Desert

Al Jurczynski is the mayor of Schenectady, New York. For the past year, he's embarked on a strange recruitment campaign, to convince Guyanese immigrants living in Queens, New York, to move upstate to Schenectady. He walks through the streets of New York City with a megaphone, inviting people to sign up for semi-monthly charter bus tours of his city, which he provides free of charge. Producer Wendy Dorr spends a day on the tour bus, to see how the mayor serves as middleman between Guyanese-American families in the Bronx and Queens, and his economically troubled, white-ethnic town upstate. (19 minutes)