The S.B. Questionnaire: Kathleen Sharp
Talking Greed and Fun Hogs with the Bestselling Author and Investigative Journalist
It’s a delightfully tricky task to interview best-selling author and award-winning investigative reporter Kathleen Sharp, who slyly keeps attempting to turn the tables and ask questions about me while we’re having lunch. She simply can’t stop being a journalist.
Kathleen is currently adapting her Amazon top seller, Blood Medicine: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever, for television in partnership with Seismic Pictures. She’s also preparing to start teaching cinematic storytelling at SBCC’s School of Extended Learning on February 7. Last November, she lectured at SBCC on the very timely topic of Hollywood’s Overarching Influence on the Body Politic.
“Hollywood has been part of politics since the Prohibition era,” she tells me. “Actor Robert Montgomery consulted with Dwight Eisenhower and advised him on how to look his best in his television appearances before the nation.” The widely published journalist, who’s written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Elle, Vogue, Fortune, and many other publications, goes on to explain how the Donald Trump White House is a uniquely American scenario. “Europe is more interested in policy,” she says. “The U.S. is interested in personality.”
Kathleen always wanted to be a writer. At age 4, she recalls her mom plopping her down onto a floor covered with magazines. By age 6, she was keeping a journal. “I’ve always been fascinated relating factual ideas with fictional techniques,” she explains.
After college in California, she moved to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and started reporting on the timber industry. In the late 1980s, a N.Y. Times bureau chief who was her mentor recommended Kathleen for a job at the Santa Barbara News-Press, where she became a cub reporter on the business beat. “There were so many talented people in the newsroom,” says Kathleen, who’s lived in Santa Barbara with her family ever since.
In 2003, she published the book Mr. & Mrs. Hollywood: Edie and Lew Wasserman and Their Entertainment Empire, a biography of the legendary power couple, which two years later was turned into the acclaimed documentary The Last Mogul. Up until then, Lew Wasserman had never given interviews. But after Kathleen spoke with Steven Spielberg about the Wassermans, the director facilitated a meeting.
“Lew Wasserman’s wife was a fascinating character as well,” Kathleen says. “While Lew was in the boardroom, Edie was in the parlor giving useful tips to young women about how to navigate Hollywood.” The book, which is a timely mix of politics, sex, and power, has just been released in paperback, and there will be a book-signing party on Saturday, January 13, 3 p.m., at Tecolote Book Shop (1470 East Valley Rd.).
Kathleen Sharp answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you like most about your job?
I love spending time with unusual people who are doing amazing things in the world, and then returning here to craft a riveting narrative so that you, too, will be gobsmacked by their story.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Throwing a party in which my friends and relatives are having such a good time, they don’t even notice me standing there, grinning like a fool.
What is your greatest fear?
I dare not even say it.
Whom do you most admire?
I’ve hung around some teachers, PTA parents, and mentors of at-risk kids and have been bowled over by their work and commitment. I’ve spent a lot of time lately with some Hopi leaders in the Four Corners whose humor, dignity, and long view in the face of so much injustice really changed me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
An honest-to-goodness vacation with no deadlines, duties, or dirty dishes.
What is your current state of mind?
Right now, I feel anxious and sad. The Thomas Fire has been raging along the South Coast for days and has hurt so many people. I’m waiting for a friend and her menagerie of animals to show up now that she’s been evacuated from her home. I just wish these monster fires would stop.
What is the quality you most like in people?
A good sense of humor and a dry wit.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Greed; it gets me every time.
What do you most value in friends?
Their tendency to act like fun hogs at almost any time and any place.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Maybe my persistence, which can slip into mule-headedness.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Wow” and “Are you kidding me?”
Which talent would you most like to have?
To sing like Aretha.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d listen more and worry less.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It’s too soon to say, don’t you think?
Where would you most like to live?
Right here, right now, with a summer in the Great Northwest.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wedding ring, which I’ve almost lost a few times.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Two of my sisters and one girlfriend in particular can make me laugh so hard, I can hardly breathe.
What is your motto?
Onward and upward!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Colette and the late Molly Ivins.
On what occasion do you lie?
When strangers ask for my weight, height, or shoe size. You’d be surprised what people will ask you.