Every Los Angeles neighborhood is a trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered — unusual points of interest, fun local businesses or people with fascinating stories to tell — but without a personal tour guide, you might be missing out.
Well, worry no more — La Cañada resident Linda Roth and longtime friend Pam Hillings of Pasadena are embarking on a mission to uncover the very best local communities have to offer and share their findings with the public in a new talk show series, “What’s Up Neighbors?”
After months of planning, the pair has produced a handful of episodes they’re rolling out on their own YouTube page. Filmed inside Roth’s La Cañada Flintridge home, which doubles as a studio set, or on location, the short segments feature interviews with notable locals both on and off the public’s radar.
Hillings and Roth decided to begin the series by focusing on people and points of interest in La Cañada Flintridge. Their second show features a talk with Mayor Terry Walker, who shares the history of how the city got its name.
Other episodes yet to be released take the pair to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they talk to aeronautical engineer Sara Hatch, and inside Descanso Gardens and locally owned clothing boutique Cowgirl Princess.
After that, the friends plan to span outward, producing shows that focus on the nearby communities of Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and San Marino, among others.
“I just love the biographies of people, and I love networking,” said Hillings, who works in real estate and studied speech, theater and public speaking in college. “I just love getting to know people.”
The idea for a talk show came to Hillings last year after she’d fully recovered from a life-saving kidney and liver transplant and was wondering what came next.
“I’d been given a second chance at life. How could I give purpose to it?” she recalled. “I just realized now that I feel healthy, I feel great, I want to pursue something like a talk show.”
Although Roth jokes she must have been at the end of a long list of potential co-hosts, she was instantly on board. Having worked in public relations and retail department management before raising her children, now grown, it was the right time to try something new.
“You stopped working, you’ve raised your kids and you still have all this potential,” she said. “That is a common thread you hear from women — you reach a wall suddenly, and you go, ‘I want to do something for myself.’”
“It’s a good time to get out of your comfort zone,” Hillings agreed.
The two friends, now in their 60s, drew up a business plan to identify their target audience (slightly older, perhaps, than the core demographic pursued by TV outlets and interested in the subtleties of a place and its denizens). They made a list of topics and went out to secure the necessary permissions and interviews. So far, they’ve recorded several episodes and are working ahead of production to pin down future topics.
Roth and Hillings aren’t pinning their hopes on the camcorder-recorded show to be picked up by a major network anytime soon — their focus is learning new things and enjoying the journey.
“We’re winging it, because if we wait for perfection, we’ll never do the show,” Hillings said. “Our goal was to have fun.”
And it’s working. So much so, the friends have gotten their husbands involved. Hilling’s husband, John Tegtmeyer, is the cameraman and does editing and voice-over work for each episode, while Roth’s husband, Fernando, an avid bicyclist and cardiologist at Pasadena’s Huntington Hospital, stars in their third episode, released Saturday.
“The salary may not be high,” Roth reckoned of her new venture. “But if you’re working for a big corporation, you’re sort of boxed into whatever they want. Here, we have total freedom.”