My name is David Inman and from 1981-2013 I wrote a nationally syndicated column, “The Incredible Inman,” dealing with trivia about movies and TV shows. I am based in Louisville, Kentucky and my home newspaper was The Courier-Journal. Since the column ended I have been involved in several projects — I write material for Ben Mankiewicz, host of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, and I maintain a movie blog, The Man on the Flying Trapeze. I also wrote a book, The Good, the Bad and the Snarky: The Best and the Rest of the Incredible Inman, and I produce a podcast, The Incredible Inman’s Pop Culture Potluck.
Here’s my own personal FAQ.
Are you originally from Louisville? If not, where are you from and how did you end up in Louisville?
I was born in Louisville, but grew up in Jeffersonville. Much to the chagrin of some family members, who couldn’t imagine why I was moving “all the way over there,” I recrossed the river in the early 1980s and have lived in Louisville ever since.
How did you become a trivia expert and syndicated columnist? (Does “The Incredible Inman” run nationwide?)
A “trivia expert” is a nice way of saying I sat in the house and watched too much TV from about 1957-75. And for some reason, my brain has always retained minutiae about TV and movies. Medication hasn’t helped. I was a journalism student at the University of Louisville in 1981 when I heard that the newspaper’s current TV Q&A columnist, Ray Foushee, was leaving. They told me to make up a few sample questions and answers. I did. They liked them.
What was your first “big break” in your field?
In 1988 I was a “loaner” from The C-J to Gannett in Washington, D.C. I kept writing the column from DC and sending it back to Louisville. I showed it to Gannett’s arts editor. He liked it, put it on the Gannett wire, and now the column runs in about 35 newspapers nationwide, from Boston to Las Vegas.
What has been your most satisfying experiences, personally, professionally or both?
Personally: Being the proud father of Sam, 18; and Nora, 16.
Professionally: Publishing a massive reference book called “Performers Television Credits: 1948-2000” in 2001. It was a ten-year project that was very satisfying on a number of levels, and Library Journal named it one of the year’s best reference books. That’s the kind of thing that excites me.
Okay, not the only thing, but one of them.
How do you research and find the answers to the questions readers pose to you?
An inscrutable yet piquant combination of memory, old TV Guides (I have 50 years worth) and reference material from books or the Internet. People say, “Can’t people just look something up on the web instead of asking you?” And I say, “Sure. And before the Internet there was this thing called a library where people looked things up as well, and I did okay then.” The Internet is a huge resource, but you have to know where to look. And if you ask me, I tell you the info and add a witty wisecrack! It’s like the toy surprise in Cracker Jack before it got crappy!
How many questions do you receive from readers each week?
Between 75 and 100.
How do you choose which ones to answer in your column?
I naturally gravitate toward the odd question, especially if it involves a long-ago memory of a movie or TV show that was either traumatizing or treasured. But I also tend to answer questions about more contemporary shows, because I don’t want the column turning into “A Codger’s Memories of 1960s TV.”
What’s the weirdest question you’ve ever received from a reader? (Along those lines, what’s the hardest? And have you ever been posed a question you couldn’t answer?)
Weirdest: When I first began the column, a guy wrote me that the theme song from “Hill Street Blues” made his wife become very, um, sensually excited. He was desperate to find a recording of it. This was before the song had been released on record, so I suggested he learn to play it on the kazoo.
Hardest: One night in the late 1980s I was doing Milton Metz’s call-in show on WHAS radio. I casually mentioned that I’d always heard the rumor that the actor who played Dr. Smith on “Lost in Space” had been seen around Louisville. And it was weird because several people had asked me about it.
We immediately began getting calls from people who had also seen Jonathan Harris around town, but couldn’t believe their eyes. Finally a caller confirmed that Harris’s son used to live in Louisville, and father would visit for a few weeks at a time. That might not have been the hardest question, but nailing that down was very satisfying and a real group effort.
Have I ever had a question I can’t answer? Of course. But people don’t want to read a TV columnist who answers questions with, “Gee, I don’t know.”
How do you pronounce it: Looavul, Luhvul, Loueville, Looaville, Looeyville or other?
Re: the nickname “Incredible” — Where did it come from? Who started it and why?
That came from C-J editor Jena Monahan, who hired me 25 years ago. The columnist I replaced, Ray Foushee, had been called “The Amazing Ray,” and Jena said jokingly, “We’ll call you the Incredible Inman!” They started using it in a promotional headline or two, and it stuck. If you think about it, “incredible” technically means the opposite of “credible,” which makes me sound kind of stupid.
Fortunately, nobody thinks about it, including me.