“Join us, won’t you?”
For fans of “You Must Remember This,” a buzzy 2-year-old podcast from former L.A. Weekly critic Karina Longworth, those words, delivered in a tone that’s ever so arch, serve as an invitation to go behind the Hollywood sign to examine the love lives, passion projects and scandals of the industry’s biggest icons. Part social history, part fan magazine, part seance, the podcast plays like a mashup of Turner Classic Movies and Elvira.
At a time of Google trends and clickbait conformity, it’s a digital original. Shows range from a 12-part examination of Charlie Manson’s links to the entertainment business to deep dives into the lives disrupted by the Blacklist, or appreciations of largely forgotten stars, such as Gloria Grahame.
“The whole idea was that it would be something about film history that sounded cinematic,” Longworth said.
To that end the host doesn’t offer a staid history lesson. At times, Longworth or guests, who have included Dana Carvey and Adam Goldberg, will assume the voices of various characters, from hardened studio executives to damaged starlets.
Max Linsky, co-founder of the journalism site and podcasting show Longform, says he got hooked on “You Must Remember This” by listening to the Manson series. “It felt like great TV or a great book,” he said.
|“I hope it shows that if you make something that is true to yourself, it’s possible to find an audience.”|
And while no one gets rich podcasting, Longworth noted that after earning “close to zero dollars last year,” she is now making more than she pulled in at the Weekly. That’s because in September, her podcast joined the Panoply Network, a platform for Web broadcasts run by Slate Group that pays creators a portion of ad revenue.
A podcast’s popularity can be hard to measure, but Longworth estimates that listenership has doubled in the past few months.
“It’s the most personal and idiosyncratic thing that I’ve ever produced and just the fact that people like it is baffling to me,” she said. “I hope it shows that if you make something that is true to yourself, it’s possible to find an audience.”
The podcast also has helped land Longworth a book deal. She’ll write about Howard Hughes from the perspective of the women in his life, including Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn.
The dive into podcasting came after Longworth left the L.A. Weekly in 2012, feeling burnt out as a film critic, to write a book on Meryl Streep. The grind of watching a half dozen movies a week and finding clever ways to write about what she was seeing took a toll. Her diet was nutrient-deprived, she developed eczema from the stress, and had trouble sleeping.
“Most movies aren’t good,” she said. “I found it was very difficult for me to generate opinions about things I didn’t care about.”
But old movies have always had a special pull on Longworth. She compares them to a painting — something that demands analysis and investigation, and works of art that can reveal a lot about their creators and cultural backdrops.
“The thing I always return to when I’m researching the stories of making these movies is what did it feel like to be alive at that moment.”