BRITTANY LUSE: Hello and welcome to Sampler, I’m Brittany Luse and this is the show where I guide you through the vast galaxy of podcasts… looking for shooting stars and crazy black holes to climb into. Today on the show I’m excited because we have a very special guest, someone that I have watched on screen since I was a kid… Molly Ringwald. Of course, you know her movies: Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, 16 Candles. But Molly Ringwald has many other sides to her though. She’s written two books, she’s performed on Broadway. She made a jazz album, and…
MOLLY: I listen to a lot of podcasts.
BRITTANY: I’m glad… it takes the pressure off because that is basically what we are talking about today So, for today’s episode, we put together a playlist designed for Molly - podcasts we thought she would love. OK, so let’s get to the show.
MOLLY: I haven’t actually listened to anything in a while - I just moved to New York from Los Angeles and used to do a lot of listening in the car.
MOLLY: And now I don’t have a car… I’m trying to figure out exactly when and where to listen to podcasts.
BRITTANY: Do you listen while cooking?
MOLLY: I don't do the cooking in my family [laughs]. Big, big confession. Um, my husband does most of the cooking.
BRITTANY: I will say, possible suggestion, I don't know if you tried this. Laying down on the couch, while your spouse is cooking and you listened to podcasts.
MOLLY: I don't know if he'll like that very much. But I like the sound of that.
BRITTANY: You have to get your listening in. Somehow.
BRITTANY: So you know what I mean, there's consequences to everything.
BRITTANY: Alright so, we’re gonna start with a subject we know you are familiar with…. Obviously you've acted before.
BRITTANY: Do you ever listen to like, movie, Hollywood or movie podcasts?
MOLLY: No... I totally stay away from everything Hollywood… [laughs]
BRITTANY: Oh! [laughing]
MOLLY: Why, do you have a, do you have a Hollywood one?
BRITTANY: We do... well it's not, it's not like a... this one is actually a little different. It's not contemporary.
MOLLY: Oh! Okay.
BRITTANY: It's this show called You Must Remember This. It's actually, it's hosted by... this woman, Karina Longworth. And she... uh...
MOLLY: Is that a real name?
BRITTANY: Yes! Isn't that gorgeous?
BRITTANY: Karina Longworth.
MOLLY: Yeah it sounds like a 30s actress.
BRITTANY: No and maybe, because that's actually the, that's like the era that she covers is all, like...
MOLLY: She made it up... she must've made it up.
BRITTANY: [laughing] Like her real name's Norma Jean something?
MOLLY: Yeah. Totally.
BRITTANY: So this podcast, You Must Remember This, focuses on this golden age of hollywood and Karina basically tells long stories of what she calls “the secret or forgotten histories from Hollywood’s first century.” She researches them like crazy, and seems to know absolutely everything about the actors and directors and players she talks about on the show. And she just constantly keeps pulling out surprises. The episode I picked for you today is about the movie actress Hedy Lamarr, who’s known commonly as like this 1940s bombshell.
MOLLY: Yea, I think I've only seen black and white pictures, but I imagine her eyes were like, green or...
MOLLY: She, she had coloring a lot like Vivian Lee.
BRITTANY: Yessss! Yes yes yes yes.
MOLLY: But like a little bit more exotic looking.
BRITTANY: Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah... oh yeah. Her hair looked like it was like, raven jet black.
BRITTANY: You could see your face in basically a wave of it, if you really squinted… But she also had another side to her that most ppl don’t know about… And...Karina Longworth, of You Must Remember This, talks about the other side of Hedy…
KARINA: Off the clock Hedy did little to burnish her rep as glamour puss. She didn’t drink she was rarely spotted at fashionable clubs. She spent a lot of money on an art collection. And In her free time, she sat at her drafting table in her drawing room sketching out ideas for inventions. No one was more cynical about Hedy’s appeal than Hedy herself. She famously said: “Any girl can be glamorous all she has to do stand still and look stupid.”
BRITTANY: But Hedy wanted to be known for more than her looks and and she really wanted to help America during World War II. She was devastated by the recent deaths of child refugees. And she had an unusual background… she thought could help America. Back in her native Austria, Hedy had been married to a man who worked as a weapons manufacturer. She attended dinners with all the big players in the weapons business. So she knew a lot about the other side. And their weapons. And she couldn’t stop thinking about what she could do with this information… She got to talking about this over late dinners with her neighbor, George Antheil. Now George was an inventor himself, but his work was about as far from weapons manufacturing as you can get his inventions were focused on player piano. But even though George and Hedy... came from very different backgrounds…. the two found themselves… collaborating...
KARINA: Hedy’s idea as she presented it to Antheil was to set up a remote controlled torpedo using a system of wireless communication so that the signals controlling the weapon remotely would be impossible to jam. This would be accomplished by shift signals. Hedy called this concept “frequency hopping.” Antheil suggested they borrow a mechanism from one of his own inventions, a piano teaching tool called “c-note,” which involved two synchronized piano scrolls, each of them equipped with 88 frequencies. Hedy and George started meeting regularly to perfect what was now a collaborative concept for a weapon, which could be operated by a frequency-hopping signal, controlled by ribbons, perforated with instructive data, in the style of player piano scrolls. They first contacted the national inventors council in December 1940 and the Response was encouraging. In June 1941, they submitted a patent application for what they were now calling the secret communication system. With Heady using her married name on the patent… When Hedy and George got word that their patent application was accepted, they turned the patent over to the U.S. government in hopes that it would be useful in the ongoing war somehow, and Hedy again suggested that she would quit movies and go to Washington to help out the innovation front. But the government was like “Nahh….” Heady was told her talents would be better put to work inspiring the sale of war bonds.
BRITTANY: Hedy never got money for her patent but it paved the way for future technology...technology we still use today and that many of you may be using right now It’s crazy to think about, but yes, the foundation for wireless communication was laid by, of all people, a movie star. And stories like this are why I love this podcast…. it explores people’s Hollywood legends or their legacies really, in full.
MOLLY: It's amazing. But I sort of just wonder why more people don't know that. Why is that something that, that people aren't familiar with?
BRITTANY: I don't know.
MOLLY: You know? I mean I feel like, I mean I'm sorry to get like into the whole, you know, gender bias thing.
BRITTANY: Don't apologize. We love that on Gimlet [laughing].
MOLLY: But I mean come on, if it was an actor, if it was a guy who invented this technology, I feel like everyone would know about it.
MOLLY: I feel like it wouldn't be this, this sort of carefully kept secret.
BRITTANY: Yeah, right?
BRITTANY: It’s one of those things I think about like, if I were her, obviously yes, I would want my... legacy to include like how shiny my hair was, how great my bone structure was, and how great of an actress I was. But like I would definitely want people to know that I was basically responsible in many ways for inventing WiFi.
BRITTANY: It's one of those things, once you like are... that huge. You kind of - like in a way, and I'm hypothesizing because you're like actually one of the few guests that will be able to like confirm whether or not this is true - but in a way like that there's a part of you that doesn't belong to you… in that other people can kind of pick and choose which pieces of your legacy live on.
How would you like to be remembered?
BRITTANY: How would you like to be remembered?
BRITTANY: And like if, far in the future, if Karina Longworth's granddaughter... [laughs]
MOLLY: Um... that's a really interesting question, and I'm not, I mean I can tell you how I think I will be remembered. I think no matter what I will do in my life, I think most people will see me leaning over a cake on... on... a table... you know? Trying not to set my dress on fire, kissing a really cute guy.
MOLLY: I mean, that, that those films that I did, I think, they don't really belong to me anymore, they belong to everyone else. And um… and I'm just like a part of them. And I'm sort of like a receptacle for, for people's' memories. So, I think no matter what I think that's just going to be a part of my legacy. And I'm okay with that! I mean, I think, to be known for something that I actually like… But there's a lot of other things that I do, that I, that I hope don't get overlooked.
BRITTANY: Like what?
MOLLY: Well, like stuff that I've written. Or like, me as a person. The kind of person that I am, the kind of mother that I am. You know, I feel like, I don't know... it's going to be really interesting to see. I mean, I won't be around obviously to… to see how I’m portrayed. But when that happens I hope I haven’t made too many mistakes… I guess.
BRITTANY: Aright so we’re going to get into something that’s kind of um wacky...
BRITTANY: So this is a podcast by these… It’s by these two women who go by the name of Ronna and Beverly. So two women from the Upright Citizens Brigade they created these personas of two Jewish women in their 50s who are from Boston and they basically shell out advice and interview celebrities. So in this episode, their guest is clip...
MOLLY: Who play the women?
BRITTANY: The comedians are Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo. And the clip I’m going to play for you today is from an episode they did in November and their guest was actress Jessica St. Clair. Alright let’s go into…
In: "I don't like any ice cream that tastes like soap...
Out: “I don't believe you should be shedding your skin like a gecko all the time."
MOLLY: That's really funny. They're really good.
BRITTANY: Aren't they so good?
MOLLY: Have you ever heard what they actually sound like when they're not doing those voices?
BRITTANY: I actually haven't, and I almost...
MOLLY: You kind of don't want to...
BRITTANY: Yeah, it'll spoil like... cause they're so like, in my mind, can't you so clearly see them?
MOLLY: Yeah. Totally.
BRITTANY: They look like that old… I don't know if you ever. The shoebox, the shoebox brand, I think it's like Hallmark cards, they have this old woman who smokes and wears sunglasses indoors and has like a cat. And that's like, I so, I soooo clearly see. It's like coffee talk?
BRITTANY: But like... kicked up a notch because of these Boston accents.
MOLLY: Yeah, no, they're really good. They're really really funny. Um.. one of, one of them kind of sounds like Joan Rivers.
MOLLY: I mean, with a Boston accent.
BRITTANY: A Boston accent. I mean it doesn't go down on the ear really easily.
MOLLY: No... I mean, I kind of like it... I like any sort of accent. You know, I had to learn how to do, a Boston accent for a television series that I did. Ummm... yeah.
BRITTANY: How did you practice that?
MOLLY: I don't know! Just like the "pahkkk the cahhh in hahvahddd yahddd." And mahmmmm instead of mom. It was not, it was not so easy to learn how to do it.
BRITTANY: And the fact that you were able to pick it up. My god…
BRITTANY: We’re gonna pause….and take a quick break. But when we come back, we go deep.
BRITTANY: Hi and welcome back to Sampler. I’m your host, Brittany Luse, guiding you through the vast depths that is the podcast universe. And today, I’m interviewing actress, writer, and podcast lover Molly Ringwald.
BRITTANY: So the next clip is from a show called the Mental Illness Happy Hour, which gosh, the more I say it, the more I'm like, that's such a genius title. Um...
MOLLY: It is a great title.
BRITTANY: It’s a really great title. So it’s a podcast hosted by Paul Gilmartin, and he interviews people about their mental health histories. I picked this podcast for you because I think we can all agree it still feels a little taboo to share mental health struggles… and having these people just kind of bravely lay out, um, even if they can't necessarily describe how they feel, sometimes just laying out what it is that they feel compelled to, or what it is they feel that they have to do, to just sort of remain functioning, uhhh... it really paints a very clear picture of what it's like to be in that position.
MOLLY: Yeah that's pretty amazing.
BRITTANY: Some of them are known people that you’ve seen on TV, or you've read the work, or you've seen them tell jokes. And kind of demystifying and taking some of the stigma and shame around from that was one of the goals of Paul’s in starting the show. And I felt it personally super helpful. So I love this episode because it is very honest. It’s with comedian Sara Benincasa. So I know her from her time at MTV when she covered the 2008 election, but what I didn’t know about her is that she struggles with agoraphobia. Oh and just a warning, this next clip has some adult language.
SARA BENINCASA: So agoraphobia for me, at the worst point, was me... staying in, restricting myself largely to one section of my studio apartment in Boston. So just being in, trying to stay in my bed, to the point where I would urinate in bowls and in jars, and like hide them under my bed, um, even though no one was coming to look for them. So like, if I had to take a shit, I would go to the bathroom. I never got to a place, I was like, I was like, that's just crazy... I never got to that place.
PAUL GILMARTIN: When you have a fear, like I can understand the fear of leaving your apartment. Walk me through the fear of leaving your bed to go pee? Is it a fear, or is it, did it just, what does it feel like that is between you and... just getting up to pee?
SARA: I think you just get addicted to the... soothing... drug that is sleep. And... um... the bed becomes... when you're an agoraphobe, you, paint yourself, quite, almost literally into a corner. You start splattering paint on all of the places you have panic attacks. So you start with say, specifically, Star Market on Newbury street, which I don't even know it exists. Um... but... and then that expands from not just Star Market, but uh, you're at Whole fFoods, and you have, there's a place called Bread & cCircus back then. You have a panic attack at the organic grocery store, not just the standard grocery store. So now, you're not just going to decide, you know what, it's not just the grocery store I go to, it's all grocery stores. So you sort of paint over them, and you can't be there. Um… then you're, and you go to a record shop.
PAUL: Is this a thing that you are... just feeling. Or is it a thing that you're thinking intellectually? Or is it both?
SARA: I think it was unconscious. Largely unconscious for me. Your sort of animal-child brain is, is thinking, like... something bad happened there, don't go there. Something bad happened there, don't go to a place that looked like there, something bad happened there don't go to a place located near there. So it becomes not one store, to the entire block, to the whole street, to the whole town, so you know, whatever, you start to eliminate places that are, you, decide are unsafe.
MOLLY: That is heavy.
MOLLY: Um, I have somebody in my life, who is really close to me who has agoraphobia. And... panic attacks. And... it's been really hard for me to wrap my brain around, around it... you know. I spent a lot of time thinking, that, that, she's making it up. You know? And then I'll think, you know, she's not making it up, it's real. But I don't understand... I can't... I can't really understand it. So listening to that... was... was really heavy. And sort of makes me feel like, [laughing] I need to be a little more compassionate. Um, with the person in my life. Because it's really a struggle. I mean a lot of times we'll sort of, we'll make a date to see each other, and then she'll back out at that last minute because she'll have a panic attack. That was sort of, I think, one of the clearest descriptions I've heard of what it feels like on the inside. Because the person in my life is not able to… put it into words.
MOLLY: As clearly as, as this woman... could... so.. I'm definitely going to go back to that podcast.
BRITTANY: Oh you definitely should. You’re hearing somebody struggling with mental illness, without them being in crisis. Or you thinking about a show like Intervention - a lot of that type of entertainment is engineered around, you know, constantly being in crisis. Somebody struggling with it but who is lucid enough, and reflective enough to talk about it for as long as they feel like the need to.
MOLLY: Yeah. Well it's impossible to have any sort of clarity when you're in the middle of it I think. I've done The Moth a few times.
MOLLY: And I've talked to Catherine the director, Catherine Burns, and, she talks about one of the things she looks for in stories, is people who are, far enough away from… whatever story they're telling, so that they’re… it comes from a scar, and not from a wound.
BRITTANY: That’s such a great way to put that… And I love the Moth - the stories told are incredible. I guess we should explain what the Moth is - it’s a live show where people tell personal stories, in front of an audience without notes. And sometimes, there are special appearances by actors, like yourself, who share their own stories… But I love how you described these stories come from scars, not wounds - you’ve processed it. A couple years ago...you told a story at the Moth, about your daughter Matilda, right?
MOLLY: Yeah, um, Matilda is my obsession and my thorn and my muse. And you know, I love her, she's my daughter. I find her the most endlessly interesting person I know. So I tend to talk about her a lot. And so The Moth story that I told was about a very difficult year that I had, with her, that she was seven years old. But when I told the story, she was already in a different place. We had gotten through the year. And I was able to look back on this very charged year that I had with her. And I, and I felt like I had some lucidity, and I had some clarity, and I definitely was able to talk about it with that distance. But if I, if somebody asked me to talk about it as I was going through that, I would've just been a mess.
BRITTANY: Actually lemme pull that up right now...and let’s listen to a bit of that performance, about that year. Your daughter had just changed schools and was having a tough time with the other kids.
In: MOLLY: “The first week, we knew something was wrong…
Out: “…And translated, that’s the 8-year-old equivalent of ‘Fuck You.’”
MOLLY: She still hasn't listened to The Moth talk.
BRITTANY: How long do you think you're going to wait for that one?
MOLLY: Um well I hosted an event for Moth at BAM, and I wanted to bring her with me. So I had to tell her about it… I sort of framed it into a way like it’s been really helpful to a lot of people because a lot of people did come up to me afterwards and say that you know they had a similar experience with their kid, they’d love to know how I got through it. I got a lot of letters from people… So I sort of really helped people. So when, presented it to her, I sort of came at it from that angle, like already, this thing happened and it's been so helpful to people and you're a part of it. It’s our story. THIS IS GREAT. Yeah. I'm sure she saw right through it, but, but that's sort of what I did [laughter]. And then I said, you know, she said is it going to make me upset? And I said, um, I don't think so, but maybe you'd want to wait for a few years, when there’s even more time that’s passed... I mean she was seven years old, she was really little girl, and she's 12 now.
But I told her that she might want to wait even more, and she said, okay, I'm going to wait. And she said, how long, like five years? And she said, yeah... why don't you wait five years and then listen to it? So she said okay, I'm okay with that. So... I don't think. Unless she went and listened to it by herself, which is possible.
BRITTANY: Yeah. Yeah.
BRITTANY: Yeah. That is possible. But maybe not for a little while, though.
BRITTANY: I remember. Like, I don't know. Maybe I also too was a like do-goodery child at 12, still. Um... so yeah, pretty much if my parents told me I had to wait five years, I'd be like, alright! [laughs]
MOLLY: Me too!
MOLLY: Me too... Yeah, Matilda's not that person at all. [laughing] She's never been that person. And it sort of confounds me and her father. We were such do-gooders. Like we were both towed the line… I mean I got more rebellious as I got older. I mean I was definitely rebellious I think in my twenties and stuff, but like, at her age, I was super, super good. Like good child.
MOLLY: So. I mean. Not that she's not good.
BRITTANY: And independent thinker.
MOLLY: She's an iconoclast. For sure.
BRITTANY: Iconoclast at 12. I need to catch up. Um, well thank you Molly, very very very very much.
MOLLY: Oh, oh we're done! No more podcasts?
BRITTANY: No more podcast!
MOLLY: Well that was a good selection though. I'm... I'm definitely going to revisit all of these shows.
BRITTANY: Do you feel like, do you feel like you have, do you feel like we've helped you beef up your playlist?
MOLLY: Definitely. And I really kind of needed it. You know, I've been listening to the same podcasts, for awhile. So I need some fresh blood.
BRITTANY: Well that's what we're here for.
MOLLY: Fresh blood.
BRITTANY: That's what we should've named the show instead. Maybe next week it won't even be Sampler, it'll just be like "Fresh Blood."
BRITTANY: Okay, just to recap the shows you heard today on Molly’s playlist— in order— were You Must Remember This, and Ronna and Beverly, and then after the break we played The Mental Illness Happy Hour. And you just heard a snippet from Molly’s appearance on The Moth. Links to these shows can be found at our website, gimletmedia dot com slash SAMPLER.
This episode was produced by Chris Neary, Matthew Nelson, Rose Reid, and myself.
It was edited by Peter Clowney, Caitlin Kenney, and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian.
Our ad music was made by Build Buildings.
Other original music in the show was written and performed by Peter Coccoma.
This episode was mixed by David Herman.
BRITTANY: The name of the show is Sampler, if you could just say goodbye to the audience.
MOLLY: I'm Molly Ringwald. Thanks for listening to Sampler!
MOLLY: That was terrible! I'm Molly Ringwald. Thanks for listening to Sampler.
BRITTANY: That was perfect.
MOLLY: That was way better.
BRITTANY: Tune in next week to hear Gimlet CEO, and StartUp host Alex Blumberg share his favorite podcast moments, and explain the joys of parenting.
ALEX BLUMBERG: You know how when you’re in love with somebody and everyone’s like, they’re bad news. And you’re like but I love them. It’s that. Kids are definitely bad news. They are maniacal, psychopathic monsters.