Throwback Thursday with Michael Garofalo
It’s another glorious Throwback Thursday here at StoryCorps. All month long, we’ve been taking the time to pause and reflect on the last 10 years of our organization. Yesterday, we celebrated our official 10 Year Anniversary and in honor of our birthday week, we thought we’d talk to someone who has been here for the long haul.
Senior Producer, Michael Garofalo, was kind enough to do the time warp with us.
“I grew up here.” –Michael Garofalo
Ten years ago, Michael was living in a temporary room at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. “I was working several part-time jobs, surviving on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and frozen burritos. After three years trying to make it in NYC, I felt like maybe the city had me beat.”
Lucky for us, Michael did not give up! He found himself in the same room as StoryCorps founder Dave Isay that same year. “It had to be late October 2003, right after StoryCorps launched in Grand Central Terminal. I was at Barnes & Noble in Union Square and saw that Studs Terkel would be appearing to promote his latest book. I had read Working so I decided to stick around,” says Michael. “Studs was well into his 90’s at this point and was, as he liked to say, ‘deaf as a post.’ There was a younger guy on stage with Studs to take questions from the audience and yell them into his ear. That younger guy was Dave Isay.”
This crazy happenstance was the first time Michael discovered StoryCorps, and it would eventually lead him to his new career. “My curiosity was piqued. I went home and looked up the website (on dial-up). Flipping through, I noticed that Dave was the same person who had produced a radio documentary about the Bowery called The Sunshine Hotel, which I had heard and had floored me. I decided then, that I had to work here.”
Michael began as an intern for Sound Portraits, Dave’s documentary production studio. “My first day was January 3, 2004,” he says.
Curiously enough, he did not begin his career in the Production department, but as a Development intern.
“When I looked at the website there were two internships–a radio production internship and a development internship. Even though radio is what I wanted to do, I had no experience and was intimidated looking at the bios of the Sound Portraits staff. So, I applied for the development internship and was hired,” says Michael.
It wasn’t long, however, until Michael found his way to production. “I sat in a closet at our old Grand Street office in Little Italy. While printing thank you letters for donors, I took a chance and pitched a story idea for Sound Portraits. It ended up being a radio piece about the world’s longest model railroad,” he says. “I was able to work on the piece as a production assistant and that experience hooked me on radio.”
From that moment on, Michael stayed true to his love of radio and production, sticking with Dave and the team from Sound Portraits to StoryCorps.
“When my internship ended I just kept showing up every day, and when a full-time position opened up I was lucky enough to be there at the right time. I ended up becoming the first StoryCorps production assistant. I became a Producer in 2005 and Senior Producer in 2007,” says Michael.
After hearing Michael talk about the early days of StoryCorps, we had to ask the now Senior Producer, “What was your most memorable moment working at StoryCorps?”
“By far the most memorable is recording the final interview between Danny and Annie Perasa at their Brooklyn apartment, a week before Danny died in 2006,” says Michael. Danny and Annie’s story is not only one of the first to be collected by StoryCorps but also one of our most iconic.
As someone who has been with StoryCorps through it all, it seems fitting that Michael would list this beautiful story of love and connection on his docket of most memorable experiences. It’s an equally fitting story to end this week’s throwback on: