I started out in radio at an auspicious time. It was the mid-1970s. Radio and television and radio stations were feeling the heat to put more women on the air. I became the beneficiary of a women’s movement that was gathering steam. And of course, Gloria Steinem was one of the engines of that movement.
I became the producer and host of a weekly one-hour radio show called “A Woman’s Place.” It aired at 11 p.m. on Sunday night, not prime time but who cared. I got to talk to many interesting women including Margaret Mead, Gilda Radner, Nora Ephron, Yoko Ono and Gloria Steinem.
But of all those interesting women, Gloria remained a presence in my life. After being the host of “A Woman’s Place,” I became a street reporter who covered breaking news and just about everything else that happened in New York City including City Hall and the UN. I remember going to Gloria’s house in 1996 to talk to her about politics for a story I was doing on the presidential election.
But I didn’t really get to know Gloria well until we both found ourselves in the intimate setting of writers in residence at Hedgebrook. Though we spent all day working, in the evening we would often take walks after dinner, sometimes going to the lavender farm and strolling the serene roads of Whidbey Island talking about our writing and our dreams.
We formed a bond, as people who are lucky enough to spend time at Hedgebrook, do. And when we left, those of us who lived in New York decided to organize a writers group. Gloria offered her home as a meeting place and we gathered there, in her lovely brownstone on the upper east side of Manhattan. There were about 10 of us and we’d go into her living room and sit around the big coffee table in the high-ceilinged space, a warm and majestic, yet cozy place where many important meetings have taken place. We shared our writing and our thoughts and we all felt lucky to be part of such a dynamic gathering and in the company of Gloria Steinem.
After the group, which lasted for about a year, stopped meeting, I would see Gloria occasionally, at a writers conference in Mexico, at a gala for some organization and even at a small dinner given by a mutual friend. I always loved catching up with her and I always had this impression of her. Gloria is the real thing. She is someone who lives what she believes. She is gracious, modest and fun to be around.
Often, we would talk about work. She would talk how much she loved her life as a writer who could come and go as she pleased. I talked about my experience working at a full time job as a reporter and producer at a large news organization.
Then my life changed. A little more than a year ago, I left the job I had worked at for 15 years. The workplace had become my community. My colleagues were a kind of family and their absence in my life was a kind of shock to my system. I left on a Friday and when I woke up the following Monday I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stared at the Chinese paintings on my living room wall and asked myself “Now what?”
Eventually, that question coalesced into an idea. Why not go back to my roots at the FM radio station where I first started out in the media and do another interview program. This one would be a podcast about the place in my life where I now found myself. It would be a program about transitions, re-inventing yourself, inspiration and how you navigate those curves in the road.
The first person I thought of talking to was Gloria. She was busy finishing her book and traveling but when I told her how much it meant to me to interview her for this project, Gloria graciously set aside time for me to come to her house to tape the debut episode of “Now What?”
I arrived there on a warm late summer day. After settling into two big chairs we talked about writing, mortality and living in the moment. When I asked Gloria to describe the best moments in her life each day, she said, “Well, I love the little things. You know, just walking in the street, getting a chai, whatever. It isn’t achieving big things though that’s important for a work point of view but it’s almost distracting, you know, that a sense of well being comes from little things.”
And she told the story of riding in a taxi one day and looking out the window. It was a moment in which she had this realization. “I don’t want anything that I don’t have.”
We also talked about shopping and clothes. We even went into her closet and she showed me her concha belts and the vest with fringes she had just bought at her favorite store in Manhattan.
I will be forever grateful to Gloria for making the time to help me launch a project that is very important to me.
Here is a link to Episode One starring Gloria Steinem: http://apple.co/1S4900L
I would be grateful if you would subscribe to Now What? With Carole Zimmer and go to iTunes and write a review. You’ll get to hear all the inspiring things that Gloria Steinem, who doesn’t like to be called an icon, has to say. Upcoming episodes feature comedian Robert Klein, actress Karen Allen and Robert Thurman, father of Uma, and the first Westerner to ever be ordained as a Tibetan monk.
If you’re in the Seattle area on November 8, 2015, come see Gloria speak in person at Benaroya Hall. She’ll be in conversation with Cheryl Strayed, and Hedgebrook alumna Hollis Wong-Wear will have a special performance. Learn more and get tickets at www.Hedgebrook.org/Gloria-Steinem-at-Benaroya-Hall/.