Need An Interviewer.
April 22, 2010 9:54 PM   Subscribe

I have lived for half a century and packed in a century or more of life. And I need an interviewer. I need someone near me who will ask the right questions and get the story out of me.

Believe me, what I've been through could fill several books.

For example: Spending time with Tiny Tim and Liz Eden at clubs. Drugs done. Being arrested at the Hellfire Club. Spending a weekend with Mark Stevens. Having a girlfriend that was on a greeting card. With a snake. Being beaten up by a bouncer at an after hours club where the night before the bartender cut the stitches from my finger.

This and more.

How about the fact that I did live sex shows in various theaters in Times Square in the 70s?
posted by Splunge to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Who is your target demographic? What do you want to achieve? I mean, I bet that it could be really interesting but if you want to appeal to younger people, you're going to have to put this in context. As is, and I mean this lovingly, it sounds like "old person who wants to be relevant and cool, like they used to be." I literally do not recognize a single one of those names. I mean, I bet it would be FASCINATING, but I think a ghostwriter or something might be better? A blog? I feel like an interview isn't the best format to really squeeze out the content and make it fresh and interesting.
posted by wooh at 9:58 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about it!

Do you have any family between the ages of 14 and 24? Like a nephew or neice or godkin or someone? See if they're interested.
posted by carsonb at 10:02 PM on April 22, 2010

NPR/American Public Media has a radio show - The Story - which solicits listener nominations for interviews. I've heard some pretty oddball stuff on there, so they may be worth contacting (you'd probably want to pick an incident or two to focus on.)
posted by Wulfhere at 10:03 PM on April 22, 2010

I mean this in all seriousness (and only the slightest hint of snark), but why should we care? Is there something learned in all this? Is there a story arc? Is it a bunch of funny vignettes stitched together? I mean, yeah, great, but what are you asking for here? Because it sounds to me like you need an angle. And when you figure that out, the type of person to seek will be much clearer. Good luck; the process should be fun and if you end up with a nice read, you must share all with us!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:05 PM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]

what's the logline? guy experiences abc and then what? what are you taking away from it all?

look at david carr's "the night of the gun" ... the message is "guy does drugs, goes through abc and survives." (sort of). you didn't tell us the third act here.

figure it out, write up a page and approach people with it. you'll find out if it's interesting.
posted by krautland at 10:15 PM on April 22, 2010

If you need an interviewer, you should pay a freelance journalist to record your story. That way, they will have a reason to care, and the skill to elicit the interesting stuff from you. Then you can try to sell it, publish it, put it on Twitter in small chunks for library of congress and posterity purposes.

I don't think you should view your story as inherently worthy and interesting. For better or for worse everybody has amazing emotions, experiences and thoughts tucked away in there; that's what makes humanity.
posted by smoke at 10:17 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess there is no target demo. What I am looking for is someone who will sit and listen to a bunch of interesting stories. And perhaps record them. And maybe I could get them transcribed, eventually. This is not so much about funny stories, although some are funny. It's more about how do I find someone who would do this without asking for money up front. Although I'd be happy to pay for the service if I knew what the going rates are.


I'm hoping that someone might find the stories interesting enough to sit down with me and a recording device and listen to me. Maybe it's not worth it. I understand. But I do have a few stories that would be worth it. You would have to get me to open up. I would love to write it myself. But I'd like that person outside, the person that asks questions.
posted by Splunge at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2010

Start a podcast! For an example, try listening to a few episodes of the Tobolowsky Files... each episode is one or two autobiographical stories told by an actor who's had some interesting times.

I see you're in NYC. You might also try getting in touch with The Moth; even if they don't put you up on stage, they might be able to hook you up with a "curator" --- someone who can help you prepare your stories to be told.

Either way, the first step is probably to write down a few of your strongest stories and pitch them.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:20 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assuming that you are after getting your story recorded and not so much spreading it I think someone younger in your family is a brilliant idea.

For me it would be a real opportunity to interview an older relative and get to ask all the stupid questions I have. And be prepared for stupid questions, you will probably have to explain a lot that you take for granted.
posted by furisto at 10:21 PM on April 22, 2010

The Oral History Association should be able to help you find an interviewer and figure out how to compensate them. Try the regional organization from their wiki that's closest to you.
posted by RogerB at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is there a Studs Terkel of the New York club scene?! There must be a sex-positive museum or archives in the city somewhere that would want to hear about your experiences. The 70s are proper history now, after all.

I think you've definitely got elements of an interesting story -- have you been writing everything down? That way, you'd be recording the stuff you remember best, which might well be unique to your life. Be your own archivist.

Also, since you know what you did, you'll have all the details right there, rather than waiting for an interviewer to draw you out.

I do lots of oral history interviews in San Francisco, and I know how to ask leading questions -- but it sounds like you should ask a peer who hung out in the same scene to talk to you, on tape or video. That way, he or she can say, "Hey, tell me about that crazy Thursday when we woke up in Times Square with each other's underwear on," and you can get that all on the record. Then again, an experienced interviewer will research your life first so he or she can ask informed questions.

Are you near a StoryCorps recording facility? I know lots of people who have gone there with friends and family to tell their own life stories.

Richard Strange has been around and seen a lot in a parallel English sort of way, and he does one-man shows talking about his life. What about putting together about yours, if you want to take it further than just talking to an interviewer?

Good luck!
posted by vickyverky at 10:26 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

putting *a show* together about yours. Argh.

And just an addendum: I really, really wish I'd talked more to my grandparents about their memories when they were still alive. (That may be why I spend so much of my life interviewing older people ...) Even if you don't have younger relatives or friends, I guarantee you that someone, somewhere, will thank you for sharing your story.
posted by vickyverky at 10:29 PM on April 22, 2010

Just run for office, governor, small town mayor, JP, whatever. You don't have to win, you don't have to want to win, you don't need a platform. If you tell the story, or stories, well they will go viral.
posted by Some1 at 10:31 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hey there! I've done a fair bit of oral history related work as a student of history, primarily the 60's and 70's. I can guarantee that there is some historian out there who might be interested, but they might not necessarily live nearby. Look for a historian or history student interested in popular culture; email some professors and they might be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:32 PM on April 22, 2010

"... It's more about how do I find someone who would do this without asking for money up front. ..."

See, it would have helped, now, if, back then, you'd reproduced, and then been real with your offspring and gentle with their offspring. Because, then, they, like me, might have taken pains to come ask you questions about your life, and record them, and subsequently, make sure those recordings of your voice, describing your life, were transcribed to new media and new formats, and were still you speaking about your life then.

I'm ever so happy to listen to my grandfather, Ernest Fredrick Sch------, tell me about how he dodged the WWI (yes, World War One) version of the Selective Service, at a payroll office checkpoint the SS set up, at the pay office of an iron mine he and his brother Augustus were working in Minnesota, in 1917, from digital copies of cassette recordings I made in 1968, the year before he died. Whenever I want the comfort of his quiet voice, and hesitant delivery, that I remember would have been interrupted, oddly, by his smile, and sometimes soundless laughter at what he couldn't, still, tell of Augustus, in that damn payroll line, I listen to some .mp3 files I've made of those long ago analog recordings. And when I get to those quiet seconds of interview "tape," from long ago, I look down at my hands, which he and I often measured against each others, as I grew to manhood, and were astonished, each time we did so, to find that we were, in our hands at least, still, "identical twins." For I was born on Ernest Fredrick's birthday, December 7, just 57 years after him.

But if you've fucked up in the long view, and haven't sympathetically reproduced in an appropriate era, hell, you'll have to do as everyone else does in that circumstance, and hire the job done.
posted by paulsc at 11:10 PM on April 22, 2010 [10 favorites]

posted by bardic at 11:34 PM on April 22, 2010

You might be able to get a historian/other interested party to interview you over skype (isn't that how the mefi podcasts are done?) so they don't have to be local.
posted by handee at 12:05 AM on April 23, 2010

Go to the IAMA subreddit on

Take a look at the format. Basically somebody starts a thread saying "I AM A hooker, preschool teacher, or guy who died five times but came back to life, etc. etc." and then people submit questions.

Take a look at the most popular IAMAs. It can be a fun and fascinating place.

People will ask you questions about your life, once you've submitted an IAMA.

Yes, there are some fake accounts, but several of them are real, and fascinating. (Those with stars next to them have been somewhat verified by the moderator that the identity is real.)

If you want a simple way of telling people about your life and get somewhat instant gratification, this is one way to do it.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:31 AM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

Open up a spreadsheet program and enter in, row after row, blurbs about points of interest in your life. Now this, now that; now write why you moved to Des Moines Iowa without any winter clothing except for that one hat and your favorite red scarf, next write about that time you awoke behind the bar with someones underpants on your head, and who you suspect the underpants may have belonged to, etc and etc. Just blurbs, small bits.

You might be surprised at how difficult it is to get all these things to come out as you sit there, ready to type them in, might be it'll take you a while to remember all that you want to remember. You're fishing here, you're throwing your line out, time after time, and reeling in what needs put onto the page. My experience is that these bits of life experience didn't/doesn't come to light in any order, just whatever my casting about brings to light.

Then order these, probably by timeline but really using whatever makes sense to you, I guess -- Your experiences with love, your experiences with work, your experiences in North Vietnam or in South Dakota, what it was like to drive your uncles tractor, what it was like to hold your first wifes hand that first time, how NYC smelled in the early on a 1977 Sunday morning after a night of carousing, how the light through that bedroom window lay on your lover as you wept for happiness, etc and etc. Whatever.

Now you've got an outline, a framework of sorts to begin to hold this story / these stories and bring them into one, "The Adventures of Splunge: A Man Of His Time" or whatever it is you'd want to name it.

The reason I suggest doing this is so that you have all the relevant bits laid out should you decide to do this yourself. Or even should you hire it out, the person who is going to interview you will now have a bit of the lay of the land, some bits of information about you and the other players in these stories.

In my family, we've a written history by my grandfather, telling us his experience as a youth in Denmark, taking a wagon behind a horse, headed to a market, falling asleep on the way home, awakening in his yard -- the horse took them right on home. We've got him telling us of coming to the US at 18, finding himself a nice Danish-American girl -- my grandmother -- from a Danish farming community in Wisconsin, and tells us a bit about his sparking her. Told us enough that we've recently found cousins back in Denmark, who we're going to meet this summer, one of his brothers children.

And my younger brother spend hours with my parents, getting their stories recorded; I hear my fathers laughter in my head always but it's so nice to be able to hear it, the immediacy of his dining room as the stories unwound. His businesses, his various business failings and successes, his time in during the second world war, his happinesses and sadnesses. And my mother the same -- what was it like to have come up poor in those hard years, the 1920s and 1930s, almost no money, lots of siblings, how it was to be with those siblings, who liked who and why; my mother is the last of them all, 90 next year if we're lucky and her health holds. My parents stories of my aunts and uncles and their time and times maybe wouldn't mean anything to you all but they mean the world to us; these stories from them give us continuity, maybe, or something, a sense of where we come from and who we were and are, how it is that this thing unrolled, and why maybe.

Your writings will be the same, a message to the future, giving whoever it is that may come across them a window into your life and into your heart; I'm glad you're getting it down on the page.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:49 AM on April 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

In the early 90s I answered an ad for someone to 'interview' and transcribe the advertiser's story. It paid well and was a writing gig so I took it. I would have loved it if it was a gig akin to an addendum of Richard Neville's Power Play but it wasn't. It was a tale of self-absorbtion with a particular edge that made me uncomfortable (and I'm a gal that likes edges). I gave it up after a couple of sessions. But the concept still fascinates me.

I think the OP is seeking help in drawing out her/his story through the method of interview and question asking. S/he could do that for themselves if self-recording satisfied their need but I don't think it does. I think they are asking for the interview experience. The experience of being under the gaze of someone interested in your past and present is very appealing.

OP, I'd give interview and record your story if I lived nearby, particularly because I'm interested in the era and recognised some names. But you'd have to pay me. You'd get your story in printed form and on audio or even DVD. But it wouldn't come for little money. You are asking to be given something (the interview experience) which is an intensive activity and I doubt you'll find someone willing to deliver an outcome for you without recompense.
posted by Kerasia at 4:03 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

What I am looking for is someone who will sit and listen to a bunch of interesting stories.

With all respect and in sincerity, I think what you are looking for is grandkids.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:44 AM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just an idea: Your anecdotes could be interesting serialized as a comic. Think Harvey Pekar. But then, of course, you'd have to find probably two people (at least): a scripter and an artist. Or the rare someone who does both.
posted by limeonaire at 6:01 AM on April 23, 2010

I agree with everyone who recommends grandkids, but if you don't have those and you aren't interested in recording yourself, you might get in touch with the anthropology department at your local college or university. Beginning anthro students might welcome a chance to practice their interviewing and transcribing skills in a low pressure setting, or you might be just the informant someone is looking for. Ask the department if they would be interested in having a volunteer interview guinea pig and/or if any of their students are working on projects for which you would be suited (an ethnography of former live sex show workers, for example).
posted by phisbe at 6:01 AM on April 23, 2010

Seconding grandkids. with all due respect, no one is half as interesting as they think they are.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

What bardic said: blog. Or, take a course in memoir writing. There are plenty of those around. You live in NYC; the Gotham Writers Workshop offers one.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:44 AM on April 23, 2010

With all due respect to those who suggest grandkids, that's really offensive thing to sa, depending on the OP's circumstances. First, there's no way to know that he doesn't have grandkids. Sometimes grandkids don't want to listen. Sometimes people are infertile or their children are infertile. Some people don't want to have kids. Have some empathy, people!

And for the OP, in addition to the other great suggestions here, I'd suggest that you do it yourself -- be your own interviewer and write and produce your own stories. You could have a whole new adventure as a YouTube star. (Also, how about contacting some of those famous names if they are still around and collaborating on a book?)
posted by metametababe at 8:55 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your profile says you're in NYC. When I was in the graduate writing program at Columbia, we occasionally had job offers from people in exactly your position: they wanted their stories set down, but didn't have the writing skills to do it themselves. You could send the nonfiction division secretary an e-mail and see if they're still passing those sorts of jobs along.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:42 PM on April 23, 2010

Response by poster: I've had an offer from someone to meet and discuss a possible "thing".

Thank you everyone for replying.
posted by Splunge at 7:58 PM on April 24, 2010

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