The inimitable Sarah Spitz is retiring from KCRW to pursue her passion for Master Gardening and Preserving. After giving us so much of her brilliant mind and voice, the lucky earth gets her hands and heart! Here, Sarah gives us all an inspiring goodbye:
The feeling at KCRW in the earliest days was one of purity and optimism. We were on an uphill trajectory, right place, right time, the right people with all the right passions and instincts. We built steadily upward with our amazing wall-to-wall news coverage of the Gulf War, the Rodney King Riots, which generated Which Way, LA and blessed us with Warren Olney; the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Hearings, the Iran-Contra Hearings, the Soviet Coup, the release of Nelson Mandela…people knew this was where you turned when important news stories needed serious coverage, on-the-spot.
We also created some of the best must-listen-to cultural coverage, including live performances from Trumps (restaurant, famous then, gone now) for the LA Arts Festival with Peter Sellars at the helm; Live from 72 Market Street, a Sunday night cabaret series that spawned “In Town Tonight,” a show that attracted the talents of a young guy named Matt Holzman and the eventual creation of “Castaways Choice” (our version of BBC’s Desert Island Discs); the live broadcasts from The Getty Center opening; the inaugural concert at Disney Hall and the documentaries about the creation of Disney Hall and Segerstrom Hall…milestones all, and there were so many more.
We were leaders nationwide with our literary and radio drama productions: from inviting Joe Frank to be the resident dramatist, to our award-winning Jewish Stories series; Short Stories from Modern Mexico, Contemporary Japanese Stories; the word-for-word dramatized reading of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt (26-1/2 episodes!) — these are just the tip of the iceberg.
We invented Summerday, our spectacular wine and food auction and festival — I still have my wineglass! We did beautiful Archangel brunches at Maple Drive restaurant. And of course we had A Sounds Eclectic Evening concerts to be proud of.
CNN was just coming into its own back then, and the media landscape was tremendously simpler, compared to the whole splintering cable news, Internet universe and numerous niche outlets that we face today. The challenges today are far greater and the competition much fiercer for ever smaller audiences whose appetites for news have been ruined by the political dysfunction all these outlets now spew, 24/7.
But the mission is still the same: excellence, quality, and intelligence driven by a passion for wanting to be and do our best. This is what the station stands for. This is what you must strive for going forward.
I have two shelves in my kitchen cabinet filled with KCRW mugs from across countless pledge drives; I have somewhere in boxes KCRW T-shirts from over the ages. I also have a collection of bromeliads and one remaining Gerber Daisy plant — all of which were originally centerpieces on the tables at Summerday and Maple Drive. A history of KCRW in plants…giving me the opportunity to exercise my love for both KCRW and gardening.
But this isn’t about looking back. It’s time to look ahead. For me, and for the station.
I meant what I said: I had a degree in English literature but my cultural and political education is entirely due to KCRW. And I really do owe much of that to Ruth. I spent many years under her influence and my mother’s — two very strong women, who made a deep impact.
I have always defined myself by my identification with KCRW. Ruth’s retirement and my mother’s passing last year have made me look inward to see who’s there.
I am off to grow food, preserve it, to share with and teach others how to do the same — how to be more self-reliant and self-sustaining. I like planting seeds and new beginnings and I’ll have a chance to put everything I’ve learned at KCRW to work to help another wonderful program grow, the LA County Master Food Preserver training course, which goes hand in glove (!) with my Master Gardener work.
Going forward, I hope I can maintain an identity of my own, to see who I may be without KCRW appended to my name — even though KCRW truly is in my DNA and will forever be with me.
It’s a new era now, kids. All I want is for all of you and for KCRW is to thrive and create your own new unique identity. That would be the greatest tribute of all.
Onward. You’ve got it in you. Put it all to use.
And thank you, thank you, thank you.