Remembering KPFK's Mike Hodel – Gone But Not Forgotten
July 12, 2017
( July 12, 1939- May 6, 1986)
Mike Hodel would have been 78 today.
My older brother Michael died of lung cancer in 1986, at the relatively young age of- 46. (His early death was the catalyst for my decision to retire from LAPD and “move on.”) Mike had a brilliant mind and was a voracious reader, often reading two books a day throughout his entire life. He wore many hats. He was a writer, radio news reporter, and Sherlock Holmes scholar. One of brother Mike’s proudest moments was receiving investiture into the Baker Street Irregulars Society. (BSI was founded by Christopher Morley in 1934, and fellow members included: U.S. presidents FDR and Harry Truman, science fiction author, Issac Asimov, and mystery writer, Rex Stout, creator of P.I. Nero Wolfe.) In 1980 Mike, along with co-author, Sean Wright, published the novel, Enter The Lion: A Posthumous Memoir of Mycroft Holmes.
Mike’s entire life was dedicated to people and causes. His conduit For The People was through local Los Angeles, listener sponsored FM radio station–KPFK. He loved science-fiction, and his show aired on KPFK as—Mike Hodel’s Hour 25, where, over several decades, he interviewed hundreds of guest authors, from the greatest legends to brand new unknowns.. (His show continues to this day on the Internet, and can be found at- http://www.hour25online.com)
Mike was awarded radio’s prestigious, Golden Mike Award, (no relation) for his 1970s radio coverage of WATERGATE. During his 20 years at KPFK, he was on staff as News Director, Public Affairs Director, and fund-raising administrator. Roy Tuckman, the current host of KPFK’s Something’s Happening, had this to say about his lifelong friend and early mentor:
Mike was the main ‘voice of KPFK,’ a major fundraiser and a voice of sanity and humanity during the many staff battles. As a teacher and mentor, he helped many people over the years begin their work on radio. In his final years, his main concern was the increasing illiteracy in America. He produced a series of 13 programs on “Illiterate America” which remain in the Pacifica Archives.
Mike had a large and loyal listenership, and following his untimely death in 1986 (melanoma) many regular listeners deeply mourned his passing.I believe the current Internet show, named in his honor, continues to respect his memory with a “Goodnight Mike” even now, some two decades after his passing.
Michael Paul Hodel was a true force for good and defender of the little guy in the Los Angeles community and was much beloved. His two surviving brothers and his many friends miss him dearly. Mike, like his brothers, never knew or suspected that his father was anything other than a rather eccentric genius, a physician, a lady’s man, and a rather poor poker player. (A Hodel poker game was often the highlight of our father’s frequent business trips through L.A. on his way to or from New York, in the 1970s and 80s.)
Mike Hodel reading to our new puppy, “Boots”, circa 1951 at age 11.
Mike circa 1979 – age 40
Your brother sounds like he was a very interesting guy. I’m 46 myself so yes, that is too young to die. Best wishes to you and Mike!
Lucas P. Yes, his show “Hour 25” was highly rated by SciFi fans throughout SoCal. Beautiful speaking voice and totally dedicated to all “causes”. Thanks. Steve H.
I still listen to the old shows TY
Yes, nice to have his voice and thoughts available at the push of a button, or rather click of a mouse I guess it is now. Best, Steve.
Seems that your brother inherited the best traits from your mother and father and, more importantly, put them to great use. Rare is the man who accomplishes as much as he did in his all too brief lifetime.
JH: Yes, very true. Mike had a brilliant mind, read a minimum to two books a day (no exaggeration) and was the most genuinely humble man I’ve ever known. SH.
Steve: I was a loyal listener but I think Harlan Ellison had just taken the reins when I tuned in. “Goodnight, Mike!” is burned into my memory banks. Between HOUR 25 and Joe Frank’s WORK IN PROGRESS on KCRW those was good times, indeed. -LW
LW: Yes, the “Goodnight Mike” ended every Hour 25 Show after Harlan took over and I think even to this day? The three-day tribute to Mike in LA after his passing just blew me away. I knew he was loved by his many listeners, but never realized just HOW MUCH. His work on Watergate reporting won him a Golden Mike (no relation) Award. One of the really really Good Guys. skh
Steve, you brother sounds a remarkable individual with a plethora of talents. I am in awe of the fact he reported on watergate, what a fascinating case to have been involved in. Clearly as with yourself the talents didn’t stop with your brother. May he be remembered for all the truely remarkable things he achieved and the joy/insight he brought to his many listeners. I’ll be sure to visit YouTube to see if I can tune in from across the pond. Warmest regards as always Su
Hi Su: Thanks for the kind words for brother Mike. He was a special man who left us way too soon. Best from LA. Steve
The photo with the puppy is adorable. So sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing–it appears your brother was a truly amazing person.
Stephanie D: Thank you. He was a very special person.
Steve, Your brother Mike sounds like a very talented and much-needed person not only in his profession but in your life! His unfortunate passing so young was, as you state, your impetus to “move on” from the LAPD. It certainly appears that you carried on his talents and investigative work into the world of true crime! I’m sure he has been “nudging” you all along the way in your very important discoveries relating to so many murders committed on the CA coast and beyond. Hopefully you were able to view the NetFlix presentation of “The Keepers”, the murder/abuses in the late ’60’s which are now being actively investigated again in Baltimore, MD. It was presented this morning on CBS “This Morning” as a news item and credit for further investigation was given to “The Keepers” documentary! Hoping you are having positive results in your idea to present such a documentary on your investigations of “lone woman murders”, “Black Dahlia” and “Zodiac”. I think it is much needed not only by the many victims’ families but for at least two to three generations of CA residents who lived through these violent murders. Carry on and best of luck, Steve….remember, Mike is with you!! Pat O’
Hi Patricia: Thanks again for the kind words. I have not yet seen “The Keepers” but have it at the top of my “To View” list maybe can catch it as a binge watch this next weekend? Heard a lot of very good things about it. Things are looking positive in my own efforts to get the books adapted as either a scripted miniseries and or documentary. Maybe see some movement this year? Best, Steve
Hi Steve, So sorry for your loss. Mike was taken from us at far too early an age. He sounds like a really remarkable person. There are so many good causes in the world and it sounds like he really contributed a lot. I viewed some Youtube postings recently and one of the things that stood out from a younger person age (20-30’s ?) was he said that one should get his/her children to read as it is so invaluable later in life…even if all you can get children started on is comic books – get them reading. Hope he is resting in Peace. Waiting for your next book or a miniseries or documentary. Best Wishes, Kathy
I learned a lot from Mike when I started out at KPFK in 1980. I took on “Read All About It” something Mike had championed, and we’d often talk about what each of us was reading. Watching Mike read was incredible — he’d hold the book or paper right next to his eyes. He liked that way I read aloud — and he told me, “if you ever make a mistake, or mispronounce a word on air, do it with authority!” I’ve never forgotten that piece of advice, or the kind, interesting — to say the least — man Mike was, always friendly, always smoking a pipe.
Yes, brother Mike Hodel was super cool and I miss him dearly. Wish he was alive today. He never knew about our father and would have loved today’s world and technology. Mike from birth had very bad eyesight. He was diagnosed with “atrophy of the optic nerve” so glasses didn not help him. (The root cause was a lack of light.) So he had to hold books very close to read them. He averaged reading two books a day and had an encyclopedic mind. Best, Steve
I met Mike when I was a 14 year old volunteer at KPFK in the newsroom (and otherwise about the station.), ca. 1971. he was patient, playful, dedicated (he volunteered there for years before the paid position in the news dept opened up), incredibly productive. I do remember hearing that he had a brother in the police dept. RIP Mike. and yes, I remember the omnipresent pipe. the NO SP<KING conventions and laws of the late 1980s were a world away then.
Yes, Mike would have loved to be covering social events and politics in today’s news world. Greatly missed.
Steve, I knew your brother from 1975 until his death, and liked him immensely. We met when we were both on the writing staff for Daws Butlers’s KPFK comedy special THIS HERE IS YOUR LIFE, SHERLOCK HOLMES, and then both also acted in it, he playing Watson, I playing Oscar Wilde and Count Dracula. After that we worked on many projects together. (Though I never worked at KPFK, I did work in radio for years, at KABC, KEZY, KHJ, and mostly at KGIL, where I worked on the station staff and as a writer-performer-producer for “Sweet Dick” Whittington. I also worked at KHJ-TV as a writer on FRIGHT NIGHT WITH SEYMOUR).. Mike hired me to write for a Sherlock Holmes radio series he was producing. Together we produced a Sherlock Holmes Music Hall stage show, featuring the Firesign Theater, and emceed by myself. I also had the honor of guesting once on HOUR 25 with Mike. His death so long ago left me very sad. He came to mind tonight because I happened to watch the first episode of I AM THE NIGHT this evening. I hadn’t known what it was about. I’d recorded it because a close friend had an under-5 role in it, and I just intended to catch her scene. But when I realized it was about your family and the main character was Mike’s and your niece, I became a lot more interested. I have your excellent book. (I’m going to miss a book that identifies a friend’s dad as a notorious murderer? Hardly.) I’ve written 5 books myself. And of course I read ENTER THE LION. (It was Sean Wright who referred me for the writing job where I first met Mike.) Anyway, just wanted to touch base when I found this page this evening. So many of us still love Mike.
Douglas M: Hi Douglas. Thanks for sharing your memories of brother Mike. He is definitely missed. I haven’t and probably won’t be watching the TNT miniseries, “I Am the Night” which of course is 95% fiction. I’ve only seen an early trailer, but enough to tell that it is an all imagined story that apparently springboards from my neice’s early life and search for her biological mother, my half-sister Tamar into a search and discovery of her grandfather being the Black Dahlia killer. Truth be known, she never met her grandfather, my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel, in life and was never at the Sowden/Franklin House until long after his death in 1999. That said, you being a radio-guy in good standing, I would highly recommend you catch the eight-part podcast, Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia. It is ranked No. 2 in podcasts right now and is very well done. While I had no part nor even knew that the IATN production existed or was being made, I did agree to participate in interviews of this podcast which is a good counterbalance to the fictional version. Thanks again for helping us “Remember Mike.” And, to you own many years in service to radio. Best Wishes and Good Health, Steve p.s. Here’s a link to the aforementioned podcast. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/root-evil-true-story-hodel-family-black-dahlia/id1450277129?mt=2
Mike Hodel meant a lot to me. I listened to Hour 25 (“the hour that stretches”) from the time of John Henry Thong and Kathryn Caulkin. Long time ago but I remember how every friday night was special in a great way. Discussions and readings; personalities and interplay. It was unique among all the entertainment one could find back then. 98.1 on the FM dial.
I still have many tapes and listen to them on occasion. It was such a long period of really smart and funny radio that Mike helmed. You could hear his strength in his voice.
I am sorry we haven’t had his influence here all these years.
Mike N: Hi Mike. Thanks for remembering brother Mike. I think of him frequently. HE IS MISSED.
I am saddened that we lost him so young. Just 47 when he lost the battle with cancer. (Melanoma)
He would have been amazed at the Light Speed changes from 1986 until now. I am confident he would have adapted and chronicled the world “news”
with his usual perfect pitch of humor and intelligence. Goodnight Mike.
Greetings Steve. Thank you for reminiscing about your beloved brother Mike Hodel. In my opinion Mike was the “Edward R. Murrow of Science Fiction & Fantasy.” His class, skill as a writer, reporter, interviewer, broadcaster, keen insight and yes…brilliance, help elevate the genres above in ways that can not easily be accessed. The ever lasting impact of “Hour 25” resonates to this day. May God Bless Mike and his darling wife Terry, who also contributed in so many ways to their enduring legacy. “Good night Mike.” James in Los Angeles
James L: Thanks. Yes Mike was one of those rare humans that walk the earth doing good. Like I said, he never had an enemy and only lived “to serve others.” Dearly missed. Thanks for helping share his good deeds and memory. “Good Night Mike”.
So there is hope in the world. I didn’t know of Mike until I found this:
Mike was a genial presence in the KPFK newsroom when I was a volunteer news reporter there in 1971. We had a little group of friends who played poker in Echo Park and Silverlake from 1970-1972 on Sunday nights. Mike introduced me to the great science fiction authors of that era. He is very much missed.