Todd Boyd is the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. An author and media commentator as well as a scholar, he often writes and speaks on entertainment, sports, and music. Before joining a Zócalo/Museum of Contemporary Art panel discussion on a tumultuous time in Southern California—“Were the ’90s L.A.’s Golden Age?”—he talked in the Zócalo green room about his vast shoe collection, his love of cashews, and why he doesn’t follow trends.
You’re known as the “Notorious Ph.D.” and “Dr. B.” today. What nicknames did you have as a kid?
When I was young there were some people who called me “Tip Lite.” This was in reference to the way I walked. So that wasn’t very cool, or at least I didn’t think so. They thought so. When I was in college, I was known as “Real.” And I don’t know that I need to share the story of what it involved.
If you weren’t a professor, what would you be?
A basketball coach.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I don’t know that numbers go that high. A lot. [Laughs.] Quite a few. Very many. Multiple closets full. I have a lot of shoes.
What was the most important year of your life?
1988 was the year I started graduate school. 1992 was the year I became a professor at USC. So ’92 and ’88. You asked for one; I gave you two.
What 1990s trend do you miss most?
I don’t consider myself a follower of trends, so it’s difficult to answer that question. Also, most things these days come back around, so as soon as I say it’s a trend and I miss it, it’ll be back.
What food are you most likely to binge eat?
These days that would be cashews.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I don’t know that I could reduce it to one thing—I have so many. I just saw someone riding a bicycle, talking on the phone, and drinking coffee in the process of having an accident. People who talk on their phones amongst the public as though they’re at home. People who call me on the telephone, period. Text and emails are wonderful. Calling me on the phone is a pet peeve.
What movie would you love to see remade?
What’s the most memorable sporting event you attended live?
Long list. It would have to be the Super Bowl of ’93 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Who is your favorite Beatle?
None of them.