TERRY GROSS WAFTS INTO TOWN

Terry Gross’s National Public Radio interview show, called Fresh Air, could hardly have a more apt name.

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The variety of fascinating personalities that cycles through her studio at WHYY in Philadelphia is proof that there is an alternative to the same-old lineup of guests making the talk show rounds to hawk big-budget movies and other dreck.

A recent week’s roster included filmmaker Stephen Frears; the authors of new books on the Bush Administration and the Holocaust; and Ray Manzarek, formerly of the Doors.

But that’s just the beginning. Gross is a seductive can-opener of an interviewer, one who almost always manages to get her guests to reveal surprising aspects of themselves and their relationships to their work.

Then again, sometimes she doesn’t. Next Saturday, Dec. 12, Gross comes to the Count Basie Theatre to show that it doesn’t always work out as well as it sounds on the radio.

Gross will play soundbites from interviews that went especially well and others that went rather badly. Bill O’Reilly angrily terminated his interview with her, and her sit-down with Gene Simmons of Kiss rather obnoxiously boasted of 4,600 sexual encounters “so far,” which inspired Entertainment Weekly to name him “Crackpot of the Year: Male.”

She’ll shed some light on her interviewing methods, and do something she never does on the air: talk about her own life. She’ll even allow the audience to ask her some questions.

If her listeners have learned from Gross, they may elicit some revealing answers themselves.

The show is at 8p. Tickets go for $20 to $35.

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