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The LAist Interview: Kristine McKenna

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Veteran journalist and cultural chronicler Kristine McKenna has profiled, documented, and interpreted much of what and who has impacted Los Angeles over the past several decades. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and publications including the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, and the erstwhile great Wet magazine. The subjects of McKenna’s tête-à-têtes reads like a virtual who’s who of influential thinkers, artists, writers, musicians, and personalities of our times. Many of these interviews have been collected into two volumes: Book of Changes and Talk to Her. She is currently curating an exhibition about and writing a biography of the artist Wallace Berman.

Age and Occupation:

51, writer/curator/filmmaker

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How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?

29 years, I live in Santa Monica.

In what ways has Los Angeles most significantly changed since you’ve lived here?

It’s gotten hugely crowded and the traffic has become completely hellish.

How for the better, and how for worse? I don’t see any improvements. I don’t see things like The Grove, and the Theme-Parkization of this city – and the entire country—as an improvement. The city’s lost a lot of its character now that there’s a Starbucks/Noah’s Bagels/Jamba Juice on every corner. I hate that stuff! I also object to the various forms of harassment the homeless population is now subjected to. The city’s become a little less tolerant and eccentric, and I find that unfortunate.

Do you feel deeply nostalgic for any artistic and cultural movements in Los Angeles you’ve written about, (e.g. punk scene)? Or do you feel OK with some having evolved into something else, and some having run their course?

Yes, I feel nostalgic about the early punk scene. It was incredibly fun to be a part of that and I feel privileged that I was. Questions like this are confusing because they have to do with age: I assume that all people in their 20s and 30s are turned on by some crazy new thing happening in the streets, as I was. When I look at the streets now they seem dull and deracinated, but I may just be too old to see what’s hip!

What are the key components of your interview preparation process?

To read everything available on the person, then put all that aside and ask myself: what would I really like to ask this person, and what questions am I personally struggling with right now? Those are the things I ask about.