Gina Hyams Author

Category Archives: death

Interview with Pie Evangelist Beth Howard

Beth Howard: Pie Baker, Writer, TV Producer, Host

Before becoming known as a pie evangelist, Beth Howard had a long career as a journalist (Shape, Elle, etc.), PR executive (from Hyatt Hotels to “Beverly Hills, 90210”), and web producer (2002 Olympics, MSN.com, Quokka Sports). Needing a break from the long hours behind her computer, Beth quit a six-figure job to spend a year on a pie-baking sabbatical in Malibu, California, where she baked pies for the stars. Today, she blends her pie passion with her media background, blogging about the pie life, writing a pie memoir, teaching pie skills through her pie party business, and developing a pie TV series, all under the name The World Needs More Pie.

TV Series Synopsis

Pie is comfort. Pie builds community. Pie heals. Pie can change the world. That is what Beth Howard, journalist, blogger, and former pie baker to the stars in Malibu, always believed. But when her 43-year-old husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly, she must put her theory to a personal test. As part of her grieving process she packs up the RV her husband left behind and hits the American highways and byways in search of the real healing powers of pie. During Beth’s journey, documented in the forthcoming TV series “The World Needs More Pie,” she interviews an eclectic array of people – pie bakers, shop owners, apple growers, social activists, philanthropists, cartoonists, song writers, 92-year-old grandmothers, and even a pie-delivering bike messenger – people who make the world a happier place, and who help Beth ease her grief, all because of an iconic American dessert.  “The World Needs More Pie” is a docu-reality series of one-hour episodes co-produced by Emmy Award-winning producer/cameraperson Janice Molinari and co-produced and hosted by Beth Howard.

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Gina: Can you talk about how focusing on pie has helped you cope with the loss of your husband?

Beth: A mentor of mine always preaches, ‘If you’re feeling blue do something nice for others.  I interpret ‘nice’ to mean ‘bake pies and give them away.’ Since my husband died unexpectedly seven months ago, I have been feeling verrrrrrrry blue and as a result I have been baking a lot of pie lately and giving it all away. In fact, on National Pie Day (January 23, 2010), I baked 50 pies and handed free slices out to strangers on the streets of LA. That’s 400 slices of pie. That made me feel a little better.  At least for that day.  If only every day could be National Pie Day! But also, Marcus loved my pie and he was very supportive of me writing my pie memoir. He was reading my manuscript up until the day he died. Knowing that he wanted to see me get this book published keeps me going.

Gina: Why do you love pie?

Beth: Why pie? I am still asking myself this. I love many baked goods – brownies, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake – but there is something truly special about pie. I think it has something to do with a nostalgia that goes way beyond our parents and grandparents. Maybe because pie’s origins go way back to the Egyptians and Romans it’s baked deep in our DNA.

Gina: What is your fondest pie memory?

Beth: Age 8, Banana Cream Pie, The Canteen Lunch in the Alley, Ottumwa, Iowa. I was with my dad and four siblings. My dad was in charge because my mom was in the hospital.  We all sat around a horseshoe shaped counter on bar stools. We each got our own whole heaping-high piece of pie. And that was after eating Maid-Rite hamburgers. Banana Cream is my dad’s favorite pie by far. My mom got my dad to marry her because she made him of this pie. So I wouldn’t have been born if not for banana cream pie. Thus, all my memories of banana cream are fond ones. But The Canteen Lunch in the Alley was where my pie initiation began. And, by the way, the place is still there – check it out!

Gina: What is your favorite kind of pie?

Beth: My favorite pie is apple crumble. And blueberry. And blackberry. And peach.  And…you get the idea.

Gina: What is the oddest pie you’ve made, seen, or heard about?

Beth: Stargazy pie from England, where whole fish are laid under the top crust with their heads poking out, eyes looking up toward the stars.  Truly disturbing. There’s a pic in my blog post from when I heard about it, though never actually saw or ate one.

Gina: Have you ever participated in or judged a pie contest? Please tell me about your experiences. Do you have any competition tips?

Beth: No, I’ve never judged a contest of any kind, which makes me especially  nervous to go straight to the National Pie Championships as a novice judge! I feel sorry for the contestants who get me for a judge because not only do I have a hard time making decisions (I’m a Gemini), I am not terribly discriminating when it comes to pie because, basically, I like almost any pie I eat!

Gina: What criteria should pie judges consider? Is there a proper technique to tasting pie?

Beth: Pie should look (and taste) like it’s made with love. You can always tell. Pie should reflect life; it should be slightly imperfect – it should look homemade. It shouldn’t be too fancy, no manicured or coiffed crusts, it’s not a French pastry going to a ball; it’s hardy American fare so the crust should look a little, shall we say, rough around the edges. Proper tasting technique is this: always, always, always chew with your mouth closed. And use a napkin to wipe your mouth. Please.

Gina: What is the secret to a perfect crust?

Beth: Butter. End of discussion. Okay, that and do not, I repeat, DO NOT overwork the dough!

Gina: Do you think great bakers are born rather than made? Can anybody learn to make pie? What personality traits make for the best pie bakers?

Beth: Anyone can learn to make pie. However, in my teaching experience, I’ve learned that pie making is well suited to people who are not perfectionists, not overachievers, not Type-A.  (These types almost always overwork their dough.)  Pie making is good for free spirited, creative types who are not afraid to ignore recipes, break rules, improvise, and who are open to experimentation. Overall, I see pie making as an equal-opportunity, all-access, all-age activity.

Gina: Why does pie matter today?

Beth: Pie makes people happy, happy people want to do nice things for others, when everyone is doing nice things for each other all the time there can be no war, and therefore pie can save the world.

Movies About Journalists

 

 

(Updated November 30, 2015)Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

Last night I decided to channel my grief about the death of the newspaper industry into compiling a list of movies about journalists. I queried the Twitterverse and Google (which, interestingly, came up with different suggestions). Here’s what I’ve found so far. Please add others in the comments section or email me and I’ll add titles to the list.

Movies About Print Journalists:
A Mighty Heart (2007)
Absence of Malice (1981)
Ace In The Hole (1951)
Adaptation (2002)
All The President’s Men (1976)
Almost Famous (2000)
The Bedford Incident (1965)
The Big Carnival (1951)
The Big Clock (1948)
The Blessed Event (1932)
Blood Diamond (2006)
Call Northside 777 (1948)
Capote (2005)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Continental Divide (1981)
Dan in Real Life (2007)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Deadline USA (1952)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Die Hard (1988)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Fletch (1985)
Five Star Final (1931)
The Front Page (1931, 1974)
Green Zone (2010)
Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)
Johnny Come Lately (1943)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Killing Fields (1984)
I Love Trouble (1994)
The Mean Season (1985)
Meet John Doe (1941)
The Paper (1994)
The Parallax View (1974)
Park Row (1952)
The Pelican Brief (1994)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Quiet American (1958, 2002)
Reds (1981)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Salvador (1986)
Scandal Sheet (1940, 1952)
Sex and the City (2008)
The Soloist (2009)
Shattered Glass (2003)
Spotlight (2015)
State of Play (2009)
Superman (1978, 2006)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Under Fire (1983)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Woman of the Year (1942)
The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)
Zodiac (2007)

Movies About Television Journalists:
Broadcast News (1987)
The China Syndrome (1979)
Eyewitness (1981)
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
The Insider (1999)
Live from Baghdad (2002)
Mad City (1997)
Network (1976)
Street Smart (1987)
Switching Channels (1988)
To Die For (1995)
Up Close and Personal (1996)

Movies About Radio Journalists:
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Documentaries About Journalists:
Citizen McCaw (2008)
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)

New Year, New Glasses

First things first: Here’s a photo of me in my new glasses. They were designed by Frenchman Cyril Dray of I See GB in Great Barrington and manufactured by Zip+Homme in Japan. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks now and like them very much, even if they’re not magic like my much-lamented former green pair.

My family didn’t warm to them until we toured the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective at MASS MoCA. We were taking in LeWitt’s middle period work, the drawings with the softer geometry and vibrant, not yet screaming color, and Annalena turned to me and said, “You know Mom, your glasses are starting to grow on me.” Dave looked around the gallery, “Yes, they make sense here.”

They seem to be preaching to the choir of good glasses lovers glasses rather than ones that promote world peace by uniting all of humanity with their mystical rightness. So be it. I’m grateful that I can see and that my little New England town is home to such an excellent eyewear shop.

I’m in professional limbo at the moment, having recently drafted a proposal for a new publishing project and waiting to hear what my agent thinks of it. I hate waiting, but love being at a beginning again.

I want to keep the sense of uncharted territory and freshness going with this blog as it enters year two. The more people read my blog (8859 visitors in ’08), the harder it becomes to stay loose with it, but that’s the key.

And since this is my blog where nobody’s the boss of me except me and, as many editors have noticed, I don’t care much about formal transitions…

Dave and I met on January 3, 1989 at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and moved in together three weeks later. I remember telling a friend at the time that our blazing romance was “not trivial.” Here we are 20 years down the road. It’s a miracle and a mystery.

My heart goes out to Ericka Lutz, whose marriage in many ways seems to have mirrored my own. Her husband, Bill Sonnenschein, died unexpectedly over the holidays and she wrote this incredible blog post about it. I don’t know how she found the strength and clarity to write it…except that I do…words are solace.

R.I.P. Lucky Green Glasses

My glasses frames sprouted an irreparable crack over the weekend. I called Dave from the Petco parking lot in Pittsfield to report the sad news. He tried to comfort me with “honey, you are more than your glasses,” but I wasn’t so sure. These weren’t just any glasses. They were the best glasses in the history of glasses, or at least the history of my face and glasses.

I found them at Next Eyewear on College Avenue in Oakland six or seven years ago. As I recall, I didn’t really need new glasses at the time and I was broke as usual, but when I tried them on, there was something so extraordinarily right about them, so me only better best self about them, that I whipped out my credit card with the justification: no one will deny me if I’m wearing these glasses…which actually more or less proved true, plus they generated an incredible amount of good will and conversation.

Literally hundreds of strangers, from all walks of life and of all races, thought enough of my glasses to stop me on the street or on the bus or in the spa locker room to compliment me about them. Society matrons. Homeless men. Hip baristas from coast to coast. These glasses helped me learn to graciously accept a compliment. I’d smile like I’d never heard it before, look the person in the eye, and offer a sincere thank you in return.

It’s hard to say what exactly made these glasses compelling to such a wide range of people. All I know about their origin is that they were French and one of a kind. There’s no label on the frames. I just sent the above photo to Next Eyewear hoping that someone there will recognize the designer.

The glasses were subtly spectacular. They did a slow burn. When they caught people’s attention, the design somehow made them look closer. The liquid green pattern, the not quite cat’s eye shape, and the flirty black rhinestones combined with the feng shui of my face in a mysterious way that compelled people to talk to me.

I’m not a particularly fashionable or put-together person and sometimes the compliments felt like compassion…like the people thought: damn that geeky girl got something right, let’s prop her up and celebrate.

These glasses let me walk into any room and know that even though I might not be the smartest or the prettiest or the best writer or the most patient mother, odds were I’d have the best glasses. I will miss that power.

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