Glass speaks to presenter Katie Puckrik about her new podcast

EVERYTHING dancer, producer, podcast maker, TV presenter, prototype influencer and professional scent enthusiast Katie Puckrik has ever done, creatively, has been infused with such a sense of enthusiasm, bonhomie and infectious curiosity, that’s it’s impossible to not get drawn into her go-to joie de vivre for whatever she happens to be doing. And she does a lot.

A CV encompassing long professional stints on the screen in both her native America and in the UK, as well as a being a world touring dancer, documentary maker, and writer, she approaches whatever she’s keen on with a playfulness, without the seemingly obligatory sense of irony.

Katie Puckrik

She first came onto my radar as the seemingly irreverent but not really insouciant presenter on The Word- an iconic early ‘90s bonkers version of Top of The Pops. She then popped up presenting the more mainstream interview style The Sunday Show on the Beeb, and most recently, telly wise, she conceived quite a serious and meditative documentary, The Last Igloo, which charted, slowly, the life of an Innuit hunter and igloo builder.

She is first and perhaps not foremost but significantly, a gal’s gal. She may know what boys like, with her dancer’s body and ageless complexion, but more importantly, she also knows what girls like, ALL GIRLS.  I say this with some local authority. Whenever I mention to other women, that I am interviewing Katie, they go, “Oh I LOVE her.!” 

Katie Puckrik

Some of those younger than I, which is significant lot of you, may have caught her BBC4 two-part series on Yacht Rock, a musical format that encompasses middle of the road, engagingly bland but certainly melodic middle of the road American soft rock music that came into its own from the mid ‘70s to the early ‘80s.

Some of us thought that anyone who still liked this stuff, now, the likes of Hall and Oates for example, would do so with air quotation marks, except I have found many young people love this stuff. Hall and Oates. The Doobie Brothers.  My God, even Toto. The mind boggles, but much respect to those who own what they love. Life is too short to be worried about liking the wrong thing. This is what Katie thinks, and what I think, too.

Puckrik says, “Why even bother to pretend to like things you don’t, or not like things that you do? I really liked punk, edgy music but I also like melody and pretty sounds. I was a dancer and the music was classical. I remember telling my punk friends that I really liked Aja by Steely Dan, and that kinda took guts, back then, to admit to liking that. I think owning what you like, forms character.”

She had a very popular YouTube channel called Katie Puckrik Smells – about all things perfume. There are hundreds of these now, but her one came first. That is, she was an influencer before such things really existed, in the social media world. This is currently on hold, but due to demand from her followers, is set to return in some format, maybe even telly.

Katie Puckrik

At the moment, she does a wildly entertaining and informative podcast We Didn’t Start the Fire (on Apple Podcasts) with co-presenter Tom Fordyce, based on the 1989 list song by Billy Joel, We Didn’t Start the Fire. Each week, Katie and Tom interview an expert on whatever comes next in the long list of seemingly unrelated people, places and things that form the carapace of Joel’s slightly bizarre, potted history lesson of great and terrible public figures, cultural movement and world events that shaped Joel’s life.

If Billy Joel is not on your cultural radar, but he probably is, ask your parents. He was and still is a massively commercially successful singer songwriter, with record sales in the bazillions, and once notably married to supermodel Christy Brinkley and on regular rotation on those radio stations they play in minicabs.

Four episodes into the podcast, which has been highly praised not only by The Observer but by Billy Joel himself (and he will appear in the podcast at some point), Puckrik and Fordyce have spoken eloquently and engagingly about subjects as diverse as China and the musical South Pacific and, most recently, the broadcast journalist Walter Winchell.

Like everything she does, there is s story behind the story.

Now Billy Joel is the first to admit that this is not his best song, but the reason he wrote it has nothing to do with being cynical, even though he says himself it is not the most nuanced tune.

“He was having a conversation with Julian Lennon and his friend (they were young men at the time) and they commented ‘life is crazy right now, we have so much going on and you didn’t have that in the 50s and 60s’,) and Joel was provoked by this, and told them something like, ‘You say the world is going to hell in a handbasket now but it’s never been different’. So, it was a rebuttal,”Puckrik explains.

And it’s also a very clever and handy way to talk about history.

Katie Puckrik

“We launched in January and by then had only made about ten podcasts. We did think maybe one day we could trick Billy Joel into coming on. We knew it was going to go on for a while because there are 120 topics, so this can go on for two years. I do like job security.

“But the day after the very first episode went out, we heard from his PR woman who said, ‘I love this, I can’t wait to play this for Billy but I am sure he will want to come on’. He did hear it the next day and thought it was great, and he absolutely did want to come on, so we are thrilled about that,” Puckrik tells me.

Katie Puckrik

Moving onto matters of skincare and beauty during Covid-19, I ask Puckrik, what are her top tips for her seeming eternal youth and and say, “if you tell me it’s because your genes are great, I’ll give you that, but that’s not going to help the rest of us not related to you.”

She tells me, “In lockdown life, I have got used to seeing myself without make up, even though I don’t wear a tonne, but I did when I was doing TV. But now I accept myself without make up but still need to look not disgusting. So, I massage my face, I use Ren skincare , it’s a recovery balm. 

“It’s very self-soothing and puts a bloom in my cheeks then some tinted moisturiser, and cream blush. Rosy cheeks and lipstick are always the baseline. And I have a genius haircutter. And yoga. Working against gravity. That’s the general thing, but mainly having Dorothy and Augustine Puckrik as my parents.” (She said it anyway).

by Michele Kirsch

‎We Didn’t Start the Fire on Apple Podcasts

Katie Puckrik Smells

BBC Four – I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock