On May 31st, Stak launched Bernie: Who killed the Prince of Soho? The podcast is a three-part production exploring the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of The Groucho Club front-of-house manager and Soho institution, Bernie Katz. Stak’s first foray into the world of true crime podcasts, the series describes the sudden unravelling of Bernie’s life, from the abrupt end to his career at the Groucho, to the disappearance of his money from his private art collection, while all the while being pursued by Albanian gangsters.
Who was the real Bernie Katz, and what events led to his untimely death? In Bernie: Who killed the Prince of Soho?, journalist Mark Edmonds speaks to Bernie’s closest friends and the celebrities who knew him to better understand how Bernie became ‘The Prince of Soho’ as well as the demons he left behind.
I sat down with Pete Donaldson, who’s the Creative Director here at Stak, to talk a bit about stepping into true crime podcasts…
What was the process behind getting this podcast made?
Pete: I knew Bernie for a long time as I lived in Soho for six or seven years. He was one of the people that really made it feel like a community. Then we brought Mark Edmonds on board and he breathed life into the project with some wonderful writing. And Sami El-Nany’s sound design was instrumental as well – if you’ll forgive the pun.
What goes into producing a true-crime series as opposed to any other podcast?
P: By design, this podcast was a celebration of Bernie and his life. I loved him dearly, and every single one of my friends did too. Like Richard Bacon said in the show, I think losing Bernie means we lost a moment in time – he represented a period of our lives where we had fewer responsibilities, had more legendary nights out – and he was a man who understood Soho like so few others. More than anything else, he cared about people and he made the place come alive.
This project may have led us to pull at some difficult threads, but that wasn’t what we set out to do. As we interviewed more and more people and heard more and more audio, stories of his final weeks started to take a more complex and difficult turn. If listeners are enthralled by Bernie’s unspeakably sad end, it’s because the testimonials of our guests are so vivid and loving. The man was seriously that important to so many.
Without giving too much away, what surprised you most about Bernie’s story?
P: His funeral was a very public affair. The great, the good, the rich and the famous all rolling around Soho for an afternoon, pieces on BBC London about the sad loss of one of Soho’s greatest characters, but actually very few, save for a couple of pretty close friends, knew what the final weeks of his life were like. And, for someone who knew him but really didn’t know him well enough, I found the interviews rather shocking and wish that I’d been closer to him.
You can listen to all three instalments of Bernie: Who killed the Prince of Soho? via your favourite podcast player. Our writer and presenter is Mark Edmonds who can be found on Twitter @MEdmondsLondon, and sound design is by Sami El-Enany, @SamiElEnany on Twitter.
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