My previous post was about the fabulous podcast YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS, created by the equally fabulous Karina Longworth. After writing the post I had an idea to write an email to Ms. Longworth and thank her for the wonderful podcast. At the same time I would ask a few questions and see if she would be interested in a brief ersatz interview. Imagine my complete and utter shock when she responded and agreed to answer my questions!
First and foremost, I would like to thank Ms. Longworth for this interview. She was extremely kind, friendly, and responded to me so quickly I could not believe my good fortune!
What inspired you to create YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS?
I had been teaching and doing a few other things which sort of aligned with my interests, but left me feeling creatively frustrated. As a podcast listener I felt like there was an opening for a podcast about old Hollywood, which approached the storytelling in a cinematic way, so I decided to try to make one.
How long have you been interested in classic Hollywood and movies?
Forever! Well, most of my life. The only live action movies I was exposed to before I was a pre-teen were old musicals and things like Topper and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which were on the Disney channel. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s, the local news was full of stories about classical Hollywood greats doing stuff that had nothing to do with movies — Elizabeth Taylor’s charity efforts and marriages, Bob Hope opening his house to the community once a year — and I think that helped spark my interest in the idea that the whole picture of stardom contains much more than just the movies themselves.
How do you come up with episode ideas?
Every now and then, I make lists of people or films or time periods that I would like to know more about, and often when I’m researching one episode, I’ll come across a story that sparks an idea for another. And we have a forum in which listeners can suggest ideas! It’s at http://www.vidiocy.com/you-must-remember-this-forum/
How long does it take for you to make an episode of the podcast?
It takes two weeks to one month to do the research, and then a couple of hours to record and about a day and a half to edit. I do everything myself; if the podcast ever becomes a money maker, perhaps I’ll hire help, but right now it’s hard to imagine ceding control of any aspect of making it.
How has your previous experience as an author, editor, and film critic affected the making of YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS?
I don’t know if it has, other than that everything I’ve done previously hasn’t quite felt right, and the podcast is like Goldilocks finally finding the right fit.
What has been the most surprising thing about making this podcast?
That anyone likes it! There was no reason for me to think that this weird handmade thing that I was making to please myself would connect to an audience of any size, but it seems like it’s gathering a small, very devoted fan base, and that’s awesome.
What is your favorite episode of YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS and why?
That’s tough, because each one is special to me in its own way. I suppose I’m most proud of the episodes in which I’m doing something a little more sophisticated in terms of the storytelling, such as the use of voice talent in the Frances Farmer and Rita Hayworth/Orson Welles episodes, or the recent Lena Horne episode in which I used a lot of archival audio of Lena telling her own stories. And the Carole Lombard story just breaks my heart.
What are your plans for the next year of YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS?
Obviously, I would like for more people to listen to the podcast, but I also just want to feel like it’s constantly getting better in terms of the storytelling and the technique. I think it’s possible for podcasts to be and to do a lot more than replicate different established modes of radio, and what’s exciting to me is being able to try new things to suit the telling of each new story.
What is one thing that you have learned while making an episode that surprised you the most?
So many things, but probably the biggest surprise came while doing the Bette Davis episode. I had no idea that there was an actual secret communist plot behind the scenes of the Hollywood Canteen.
If you could go back and interview any star for an episode of you podcast who would it be and why? What would you ask them?
This is probably not the answer you want to hear, but: I don’t particularly like interviewing stars at all, because in my experience, they’re always performing. Part of what I think the podcast is about is sorting through a star’s performances off-screen as well as on, and all of the information produced around a star, and all the ways in which the star has presented themselves to the world, in order to try to figure out something real about what it was like to be them during these times. So I don’t know that going back in time and doing an interview would help my end goal, when it comes to most stars. However, after doing the Lena Horne episode, I would love to travel back to 1950 and come over to her house for afternoon cocktails with Lena and Ava Gardner.
Finally, why do you think that Howard Hughes had his finger (among other things) in so many pies of classic Hollywood?
Yikes…that’s a hell of a question. For all of my research, Hughes is still something of an enigma to me. It’s possible all of his affairs had to do with proving his manhood, which was called into question the moment he inherited his father’s estate when he was a teenager. But I think that reducing any person’s motivations in regards to anything to a single answer is a dangerous thing to do.