Brian Tuohy

people , places and things that I've come across

Dr. Kevin Starr: The California Dream Historian

By b2e | November 17, 2014 | 0 Comment

Kevin Starr - Interview

What happens when three native San Franciscan’s gather at the King George Hotel Ballroom on Russian Hill, on a cool, foggy fall day to assist Kit Tyler in an interview for the Legacy Project’s upcoming public television documentary “Becoming California”? Well, when one of the three is Dr. Kevin Starr and the other two are from the b2emedia team; let’s just say there was plenty of lively conversation and sharing of San Francisco stories, mixed with absolute awe on the part of the b2emedia team. We were honored to be in Dr. Starr’s presence. He is a magnificent Californian. He is a great man.

b2emedia - Dr. Kevin Starr - CrewThis interview was especially compelling to b2emedia because Dr. Starr was born and raised in The City that the founding members of b2emedia were born and raised in. The City by The Bay.
After graduation from the University of San Francisco in 1962, Dr. Starr served two years as a lieutenant in an Army tank battalion in Germany. He returned in 1964 to take an MA and PhD from Harvard, and a Master of Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1973 he became the City Librarian for his hometown of San Francisco, and from 1994 to 2004 he served as the State Librarian. Currently University Professor and professor of history at the University of Southern California, Dr. Starr also has taught at Harvard, the University of California, and the University of San Francisco. His most recent book, being published in July 2010, is entitled Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge.

Therefore, when you read about Dr. Starr and all of his accomplishments, one can’t help but to think “we better just sit back and listen”, this man has so much knowledge to share. But no, that wasn’t the case. Dr. Starr immediately put our team at ease by saying “please call me Kevin” and continued to engage all of our team with as many questions as we had for him. And Dr. Starr certainly lived up to the description that James M. Cain, an eastern writer who visited the Golden State in 1933 of the archetypal Californian “addresses you in easy grammar, completes his sentences, shows familiarity with good manners, and in addition gives you a pleasant smile.”

b2emedia - Dr. Kevin StarrWoven in and out of our interview process there were many stops and starts, with Dr. Starr pausing to get his answers exactly as he intended them to be. And after each and every precise answer, he would pause again to engage us, ask us what neighborhood where we from, where do we like to eat, how come we choose to become members of the South End Rowing Club, instead of the Dolphin Club, what high school did we attend and why did one of you choose public and the other private, do you mind if I call you Miss (and then gave a complete history of the word why we call women Miss and how he wishes there were a better word in the English language to call women that are not girls but not old enough to be “Madam”)? Through those questions and his genuine interest in our answers we learned firsthand that it is Dr. Starr’s love of Californian (with all of it flaws) and the people that are drawn to it that makes Dr. Starr the compelling storyteller and historian that he is.

While the rest of us are living the California Dream (or pondering moving to California), Dr. Starr has been diving head first in to why so many people are drawn to California, and why California has always been a place where dreams have been both realized and shattered. He believes that California is not merely a place, but an idea, and it is the idea of California that keeps the dream alive.
Dr. Starr’s achievements, articles and books have won him a Guggenheim Fellowship, five honorary doctorates, the Gold and Silver Medals of the Commonwealth Club, the Presidential Medallion from USC, the Centennial Medal from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, and the Humanities Medal from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

They have also won him a special place in the hearts and minds of those that love California the way he does. b2emedia are among those that will cherish the time we have had in the presence of DR. Starr with our only regret that we didn’t ask him to grab a meal with us at Lefty O’Doul’s on Geary Street after the interview. With any luck at all, there will be a next time.