Cult Q & A: Karen Krizanovich

❉ We’re asking, they’re answering: This week; writer, journo, researcher, and ‘Sharon Stone of Agony Aunts’, Karen Krizanovich.

 In the ’90s, writer, journalist, broadcaster, public speaker and researcher Karen Krizanovich was Dear Karen, Sky Magazine’s Agony Aunt.

In 2010, Karen conceived, researched and presented ‘Svelte Sylvia and the Hollywood Trimsters’. 

As a researcher, Karen’s film credits include ‘Gravity’ (2013), ’24: Live Another Day’ (2014), ‘Patient Zero’ (2015), and ‘The Conjuring 2’ (2016). 

What were you like at school?

I can’t really judge that but I guess a troublemaker. Used to make jokes and get yelled at a lot. Never did my homework, at least not that I recall. Have repressed most school memories. I think I was a bully though, out of pure boredom. I used to get massive nosebleeds, like biblical ones. All over everything.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to ride in the Equestrian Olympics. Like we had millions.

What advice would you give to your teenage self? 

Be bolder. Be more confident. Get more sleep. Buy fewer clothes. Have more self-respect.

What are your best and worst qualities? 

Best: Um… I don’t like to give up, but that cuts both ways. I hope I’m a good friend but maybe not. Maybe I’m great in bed? No idea. Worst: Lazy and self-absorbed.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Temporary secretary. I got fired because I called my boss Hitler and did a goose step out of his office using my finger as a Hitler moustache.

Who were your heroes growing up?

Harlan Ellison was key. Um… Jackie Stewart, but that’s a secret. I liked unusual people. It changed a lot. Of course, everyone liked David Bowie. That was a given.

What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?

Greatest? I loved early ‘Saturday Night Live’ although it was often as flabby as it is today. I’m not a big TV person, although, saying that, ‘I, Claudius’ was good. Or ‘I, Clavdivs’ as we called it.

Monty Python: Is it funny?

God yes. If you think it isn’t you’re just being a snob.

What was the last film that you watched?

Lion on a Critics’ Circle screener.

What film could you watch every day?

I think I’d kill myself if I had to watch the same film every day.

What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

Ancient ones like ‘Dr No’ or ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Thunderball’. That’s the whole soundtrack not just bits. Otherwise I did enjoy bits of 2016’s ‘La La Land’. This is a whole feature topic though. I could drone on about soundtracks.

Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?

Robert Downey Jr, Tom Hiddleston, Amy Adams and Joe Alwyn in a some kind of drama – period or whatnot. I’m not a real listy person when it comes to actors: it’s more the material they’re working with. Proper casting is key. Hiddleston is, mark my words, a lasting talent.

Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?

Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’. I liked it but it worn thin quickly. Filmwise, there are a lot of so-so ones which is why I love ‘Arrival’. Book? I need to finish more of those.

Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?

Depends on the friend. Dunno. Currently. I like Nadia Rose and Nao but equally Tame Impala and … this could go on.

Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?

None. Digital. Yay.

Which book would you save if your house was on fire?

None of them. Digital.

What’s your definition of what makes something cult?

Something that isn’t really current or appealing to the widest common denominator but still piques your interest. Something that makes you feel that you might not be neurotypical 🙂 Anything you like that your friends don’t know about.

What are you reading at present?

‘Side-Saddle’ by Doreen Archer Houblon, ‘The Age of the Horse’ by Susanna Forrest, Emily Witt’s ‘Future Sex’, Joe Lycett’s ‘Parsnips, Buttered’, ‘The Book of Etiquette’ by Lady Troubridge.

How did your media career as a broadcaster and journalist begin?

I was working at Jonathan Cape and asked Auberon Waugh if I could write a review in the Literary Review. He changed my name and that was that.

In the nineties, you were the “Sharon Stone of agony aunts” with your Dear Karen column in Sky magazine – what are your memories of that time, and what were the weirdest or funniest things you remember finding in your mailbag?

A woman with two vaginas, 10 year olds having sex and a guy who said I stopped the bullies in his school by putting his letter in my column. It was a weird time but exciting as Sky was one of the few if only magazine read by both men and women. Name one today? I can’t.

Alongside Kim Newman, you were film critic for the short-lived Channel Four Daily, which was replaced by The Big Breakfast. What are your recollections of that gig?

I made terrible wardrobe choices then, looking back. Trying to look like a girl never works for me. Penny, the makeup artist, used to put blue mascara on me which I would only see when I watched myself on TV. David Roper was quite self-contained … I hit him over the head with a rolled up script once live on the air. He has a voiceover agency now I think. It was, like most film reviews on TV, fairly dry and curtailed. It felt odd at the time. Kim is really good and knows, like, everything. I’m happy he’s a mate.

You conceived, researched and presented the documentary Svelte Sylvia and the Hollywood Trimsters, about ‘Sylvia of Hollywood’ – Tinsel Town’s greatest fitness/beauty expert. Can you tell us a little about that?

I kept seeing this woman mentioned in footnotes and discovered that she was actually really pivotal in early Hollywood so I brought her back to life, as it were. Now she was a Wiki page, which I built. I couldn’t let history forget her. It was great that Whistledown Productions’ David Prest made that happen and I’m thrilled Radio 4 put it out. It is available on my personal museum website if you want to hear it.

What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?

I have been given LOTS of great advice. My father’s is probably the best: There’s always room at the top.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?

Mat Snow taught me basic journalism; he spent hours letting me argue with him. But there were many people who helped me along the way. Tons. Also, spending literally days writing and rewriting stuff. You have to do that.

Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?

Yes probably but you can if you remember that they’re people not their public image. I’ve met every single one of my heroes except the two I mentioned above. Were they how I wanted them to be? Mostly, yes.  David Bowie, Paul McCartney (not really a hero but), Peter O’Toole, etc.

What would you like to be your epitaph?

SHE HAD FUN

We are at a bar, what are you drinking?

Champagne. Always. It’s not a snob thing. It’s just that that is the only thing I can handle without becoming violent, sleepy or sick.

What are your three favourite cities?

London, Sydney & Wellington NZ. I like Chicago too and Glasgow.

What do you do to chill out?

I don’t chill out.

Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?

Not really, no. Oh, at present I’m a polo addict. Not the mints. The kind with horses. I have just started to play it and it is SO MUCH FUN I WANT TO PUKE.

What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Oh, come on, you know the answer….

What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?

I’ve worked as a researcher on several big feature films like ‘Gravity’ and working long hours in a team is a tremendous thrill after so many years writing alone in a room, naked. It’s not writing but it is half of journalism/writing – the research part is great and hard but in a different way than writing. Of course, doing ‘Sylvia’ was rewarding. I try not to look in the rearview mirror very much on the whole though….

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have two book projects – one under another name (and no, you can’t know the name) glaring at me right now. They are both bastard swines.

How can our readers discover more about you and your work?

They can follow me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat or whatever the next platform is. I don’t share everything because overkill.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us!

Yeah, it was longer than I thought it would be but thanks for asking me. I feel special. No. Really.


❉ Check out Karen Krizanovich’s homepage, or follow her on Twitter.

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