Two Degrees of KPCC Separation

Nov 18, 2010

Tom Hanks trying to think if he knows Mel Malmberg.

Cruising out on a Wednesday morning toward the Arroyo Seco, tuned to KPCC as nearly always, I was listening to the pledge drive. Demi-desperate, very funny host Steve Julian and general manager Bill Davis were pitching a membership challenge from supporter Tom Hanks, who told an amusing little story about how he first heard about NPR:  “Back in 1984, I was building sets in my apartment with my friend Mark Shumate when he said, “It’s time for All Things Considered.”

Now you wait just a dern minute, Tom! I’m friends with Mark Shumate! He lives in Altadena, on Boulder Road, and designs theme parks.Our kids have been best friends since they were in utero. His wife is a writer, his oldest son an aspiring filmmaker, his youngest a game-crazed 8th grader. I’ve known Mark since before 1984, and he has told us many a time about his college days (Sac State) with Tom Hanks. But that’s okay, because I went to college (Occidental) with Bill Davis! You see where this is going?

As I’m driving, I’m frantic to call in a pledge and to call Mark and Margaret—does he know he’s famous?—but my phone is dead. Pledge premiums and tension are piling up. Madeleine Brand and Larry Mantle are in on the act by now. I finally get home and call Mark—no answer; he’s probably off designing a new drawbridge for Hogwarts, or a corral for warthogs. So I  call KPCC, figuring to put my husband on as a new member (it totally pays to have separate last names). Then I have a brainstorm: Is Mark a current member? No, but they had him on the books. Bingo!

After the credit-card  rigamarole, I told my story to the person on the other end of the phone. I don’t know if it got on the air, but I got a kick out of it. I think they should have Mark on the next pledge drive (he’s got a great voice), talking about how he turned Tom Hanks on to NPR. And I did not take a premium, since the one they offered was Eat: Los Angeles—and I’m a contributing writer to that wonderful publication.

As it turns out, Mark called that morning to pledge, too. So he’s got two memberships to KPCC, they are that much closer to their goal, and once again, Hometown Pasadena is the nexus of the world, and the airwaves.

You can still pledge to support KPCC—and get a copy of the new EAT: Los Angeles 2011 in the process! Go to



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