Frank Stasio's Fondest Moments From Hosting WUNC's 'The State Of Things'

Dec 1, 2020

In more than 14 years as the leading voice on WUNC's signature program "The State of Things," veteran broadcaster Frank Stasio hosted countless memorable shows. Stasio interviewed famous and regular folk alike, had conversations about history, film, culture and race, and shined a light on all the issues and communities across North Carolina.

Stasio's final live show was on Nov. 25.

Before he retired, Stasio picked out a few of his fondest segments from the past decade and a half, all of which will re-air in December.

Here's a rundown of Frank's Fondest:

'Meet Magician Joshua Lozoff'

When Chapel Hill-native Joshua Lozoff was 19, he moved to Los Angeles to be an actor, and the move paid off. He played a recurring role on the sitcom "Cheers" and he was part of the ensemble cast in the hit movie "Clueless." He was also on the cult favorite nighttime sitcom "Sisters."

Actor-turned-magician Joshua Lozoff was one of Frank Satsio's favorite interviews on The State of Things.

But after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, Lozoff decided to devote himself to public service. He volunteered with a Red Cross emergency crew, traveled through Latin America and eventually returned to North Carolina. It was then that he fell in love with magic. Lozoff created a close-up magic show that was wildly popular when Stasio spoke with him back in 2007.

This is one of the conversations that stands out for Frank because, "On the one hand, it was a profile of a man with a fascinating life story: actor-turned-volunteer-turned magician. But it was more. It was also a close look at the nature of human perception and attention, and he read minds over the radio."

'Meet Preeminent Scholar And Tireless Activist John Hope Franklin'

John Hope Franklin died in 2009. State of Things host Frank Stasio spoke with him in 2006 and considers that conversation one of the high points of his career.
Credit Duke Performances

When John Hope Franklin chaired former President Bill Clinton's initiative on race in the 1990s, he started with what he called "the naivete that often accompanies optimism." That he could be either naive or optimistic after documenting the long struggle for civil rights is remarkable, and was no doubt, the kind of optimism born of intellectual integrity and an open mind.

Almost from the time he was born in Oklahoma in 1915, Franklin encountered racism. As a 6 year old, he was thrown off a train for sitting in a whites-only coach. That same year his father's law practice was burned to the ground during the infamous Tulsa Race Riot. When he was 19, he was nearly lynched in Mississippi. When he was a graduate student at Harvard, he was denied service at a restaurant. At age 45, he was denied a home loan, and on the very night he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he was mistaken for a coat-check attendant. Franklin pursued one of the most remarkable academic careers of the 20th century.

In 1947, he published "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes," which quickly became the definitive history of African Americans and sold more than 3 million copies before his death. He wrote or edited almost 20 other books, including his autobiography "Mirror to America." Franklin passed away in 2009. Stasio spoke with him in 2006 and considers that conversation one of the high points of his career.

'19 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned: Meet Darryl Hunt'

Darryl Hunt served 19 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. The crime committed against him by the state, his wrongful conviction and wrongful imprisonment, stands as one of the most egregious examples of the injustice built into our penal system. Hunt was accused in the 1984 rape and murder of Deborah Sykes, a copy editor at The Sentinel, a former Winston-Salem newspaper. Hunt was found guilty in Skykes' stabbing death despite the lack of a murder weapon or any physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Darryl Hunt served 19 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. He was interviewed on 'The State of Things' in 2007.
Credit Justin Valas, via Flickr

Despite two trials, no physical evidence, questionable witnesses and a deeply-flawed police investigation, Hunt was still unable to get a new trial. It wasn't until DNA linked another man to the crime that the real murderer was found and subsequently confessed.

After he was released, Hunt created a nonprofit called The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. 12 years after his release from prison, he was found dead of an apparent suicide. As Stasio reflected on his tenure with the State of Things, the story of Hunt was one that stuck with him. Stasio spoke with Hunt in July 2007, and Hunt was joined in studio that day by his longtime attorney Mark Rabil.

'Brazil And Branford And Beyond: The Classical Side Of Branford Marsalis'

Saxophone master and Durham resident Branford Marsalis joined Stasio to talk about the legacy of Villa-Lobos and what it took to reinvent classical works for a contemporary audience and adapt them for the saxophone.

'The Curious Comedy Of Mickey Rooney'

Frank Stasio spoke with Hollywood star Mickey Rooney in 2006 as he prepared to stage a show about his life in North Carolina.
Credit Jeremy Emerman, via Flickr

Mickey Rooney's Hollywood acting career began in the 1930s. He starred as an all-American teenager in the "Andy Hardy" series. He was Judy Garland's partner in musicals from the 1940s, and a cautious old trainer in the 1979 classic "The Black Stallion." He was married eight times, including a partnership with North Carolina's own Ava Gardner. Stasio spoke with him in 2006 as Rooney prepared to stage a show about his life in North Carolina.

Rooney was given an honory Academy Award in 1983. He died in 2014 at the age of 93, the same year he was featured in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb."

'Lumbee Scholar And Filmmaker Malinda Maynor Lowery Explores 'What Makes A 'Real Indian''

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a Lumbee Indian whose family goes back more than 10 generations in Robeson County. Lowery earned a masters in documentary film from Stanford University and worked on three films exploring questions about what constitutes a so-called "real Indian," and who gets to decide.

'Activism And Community Building With Bree Newsome'
In 2015, Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia, S.C.
Credit Bruce Smith / AP

Bree Newsome gained national attention in the summer of 2015 when she was arrested for scaling the flagpole at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, and removing the Confederate flag. It took place in the wake of the killing of nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Newsome grew up in Columbia, Maryland, and continues to engage in political activism in Charlotte.

'Meet Surf Philosopher And Educator Maia Dery'

Surfer, educator and philosopher Maia Dery spoke with Stasio about her upbringing, her podcast that captures probing conversations about surf culture, and about the transformative effects of plunging your feet in the water.

'Meet Cecilia Polanco: With Her Abuela's Recipe And Her Mother's Ambition, She Runs 'So Good Pupusas''
When she proposed the idea of a pupusa business, her mother naturally had some concerns. Cecilia Polanco did not even know how to make the traditional Salvadoran fare.
Credit Courtesy of Cecilia Polanco

Cecilia Polanco's parents did not dream of their daughter owning a food truck when they emigrated from El Salvador to the United States in the early 1980s. Their expectation was that she would get a respectable profession after college, or even better, a career, like her older sisters who work in law and insurance.

Polanco, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, talked with Stasio about balancing work, passions and mental health as a young entrepreneur.

'North Carolina's Unions And Organized Labor Saved Lives In 2020'

Only 2.7% of workers in North Carolina are unionized, which places the state second-to-last in the nation. North Carolina's long history of anti-labor law and vigilante violence leaves many workers afraid of retaliation.

Stasio discussed the history and future of North Carolina's labor movements with professor David Zonderman, journalist Maxwell Millington, teacher Kristina Horton as well as Molly Hemstreet and Walter Vicente of Opportunity Threads.

'Meet The Hip-Hop Heads Behind Little Brother'

  • Original airdate: July 23, 2003
  • Reairing: Dec. 31, 2020

Before he was a member of 'Little Brother,' 9th Wonder was a DJ at the radio station at North Carolina Central University while attending school there. This photo of him was taken in 2008.
Credit FallingShaun, via Flickr

In 2003, Stasio spent time in North Carolina guest hosting "The State of Things," and one of the conversations from his early days on the show is one of his most-memorable from his 15-year tenure as host: sitting down with hip-hop group "Little Brother."

At that time they had just broken through with a video on MTV and the release of their first record "The Listening." 9th Wonder, Phonte and Big Pooh were just starting out back then, and went on to have successful careers as a group and individually, including Grammy awards and nominations. "Little Brother" got back together for a surprise show in 2019, and Phonte joined host Anita Rao earlier this year to share more of that story.

'The Music Of The Bucket Brothers'

Stasio talked with Logan and Casey Valleroy about developing their talents and playing everything from old-time folk music to gypsy jazz. The pair play a myriad of instruments like the violin, keyboard, drums, saxophone and guitar, but started out as kids banging on pots and pans around the house.