Ep. 52 – Rick Sebak answers your Pittsburgh questions

To celebrate one year of podcasting, we interview one of our favorite Pittsburghers

by Stephanie Brea
November 3, 2020

iTunes | Spotify | Direct Download Episode 52

The Slaw is all about what makes Pittsburgh, well, Pittsburgh. For the past year, we have been profiling Pittsburgh places and Pittsburgh people. In honor of our one-year anniversary, we have a very special guest: documentary filmmaker Rick Sebak. In some ways, Sebak is as much a part of our city as bridges and Primanti sandwiches. While he makes both national and local programs for public television, he explains, “I know that no one can love the national programs as much as Pittsburghers love the Pittsburgh shows.” While this episode is a bit longer than a regular episode, according to Sebak, “if you look at something long enough, it becomes interesting.” From pro tips to surprising history to inherently Pittsburgh traits to rules for road tripping to favorite takeout spots and recipes, we think there’s something here for everyone. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve got a bonus playlist from DJ Arie Cole and a best-of bridges segment.

In this episode we discuss:

Who’s this Rick Sebak dude and what does he do exactly? [01:45]

Some surprising things about the Pittsburgh area, including our ties to the first oil well, smallpox blankets, and the earliest known evidence of human habitation at Meadowcroft Rockshelter. [08:10]

Sebak reveals his Pittsburgh pro tip. [14:15]

“I never go with a goal in mind.” Sebak talks about his approach to searching for antiques, shouts out Millers Crossing Fleatique, and shares some recent finds. [18:12]

Rick Sebak podcast
Rick Sebak shows us one of his latest finds.

“My only sort of rule and how I determine what I am going to play next is that I don’t want it to be logical.” Did you know Sebak spins a DJ set at The Independent Brewing Company on Wednesdays? You can stream it: twitch.tv/independentpgh [24:45]


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Since the day we opened, we’ve played only vinyl here at the IBC. There’s just something special about pulling the right record from the stacks at exactly the right moment. While it’s certainly more work than just throwing on a streaming playlist, the magic of sharing an album—a real, physical album—is hard to beat. In this socially distanced era, we’ve found a way to continuing sharing all our beloved and battered records with you. Every Wednesday night, tune into our Twitch stream for an all-vinyl DJ night. Hear old favorites and discover new stuff you never knew you needed. Local legend Rick Sebak has been joining us every week, spinning from his vast and eclectic personal collection. And for an extra incentive, the stream always features a promo code good for 10% off your IBC takeout or delivery order. Rock out with us, won’t you? 📷: @shakerofspirits

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The Smithfield Street Bridge is our oldest bridge, but it is also on the site of the first bridge to cross any Pittsburgh river. Confused? Sebak explains. [32:44]

Everyone’s got their favorite takeout spots, Sebak shares his socially distant favorites. [37:44]

Earlier this month, we asked folks if they could ask Rick Sebak any question, what would it be? Some questions required too much research and might make a great topic for a future documentary, but we selected some and asked a few at the end of the interview, including: “What filmmakers influenced you?” and “Have you had something to eat in all 90 neighborhoods?” [43:34]

Want to learn even more about Rick Sebak?

Earlier this fall, we asked (and answered) the question: “How did Rick Sebak become Rick Sebak?” Read more here. Even further back in our archives, freelancer Boaz Frankel took Sebak on a sandwich date to Emil’s Lounge in Rankin.

You can see what spots Sebak loves by following him on Instagram. Learn more about Pittsburgh history from his Pittsburgh Magazine articles, and watch some of his WQED programs mentioned in this interview.

Remember Arie Cole from Episode 1?

DJ Arie Cole (aka Ron Coleman) was our first guest on The Slaw a year ago. In that episode, Coleman spoke about how he transitioned from his day job to full-time DJing. A year later, things are a little bit different. Some spots have closed and his dance party Slappers N Bangers just celebrated its five-year anniversary virtually. Since it is not safe to congregate in person, we asked him to create a playlist for us to celebrate our anniversary episode. Think of it as a Pittsburgh party in your living room.

“I took Pittsburgh artists like Benji and Sierra Sellers, Pat Coyle, Sad Girls Aquatics Club, and I intertwined them with some more international or national acts like Peggy Gou, Tame Impala, Toro y Moi. The reason for that is I believe we have a lot of talent here. And a lot of the acts that you can see here locally, belong on those national and international stages. So feel free to hit play. Feel free to hit shuffle. You’re going to get to a point where you can’t even tell the difference between some of the national artists and some of the local ones that are on there. Because Pittsburgh is great. It’s the city of champs,” Coleman explains.

What’s your favorite bridge in the city and why? A best-of segment

At some point in the past year, we started ending our interviews by asking guests what their favorite bridge is in the city and why. We almost always receive a surprising answer. And even if there’s some duplicates, it is interesting to hear what sort of memories a Pittsburgh bridge can evoke. We edited some of our favorite responses together. Did your favorite make the cut?

This episode was hosted by Stephanie Brea & Aadam Soorma, recorded, engineered and edited by Epicast Studios.

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Stephanie has been organizing events since 1998, starting with a series of motorcycle rides through the Arizona desert to support her father’s business. She’s probably crossed your name off a presale ticket list or served you a beer somewhere around town. An undergrad degree in poetry means she has lots of unpractical knowledge about iambic pentameter, while a brief stint as a copy editor for Alternative Press taught her that twenty one pilots is stylized in all lowercase letters. Wanna throw a party in a vacant parking lot? She’s interested. At the onset of COVID-19, Stephanie took on the role...

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