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    21 Questions

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    David Karem, 75, who for more than three decades served as president of the Waterfront Development Corp., recently announced his retirement. He lives in the Cherokee Triangle.


    What would be the title if Actors Theatre staged a production about your life?

    A Walk in the Park.”


    What are you wearing?

    “Shorts, because it’s hotter than hell in Louisville right now.”


    Describe the space you’re in.

    “My office, which is overflowing with memorabilia and a dog bed and toys. I have a near obsession with toys, which people have given to me over the years and have been picked up in the park. Reproductions of wind-up robots, a wood version of the Belle of Louisville, this really cool penguin that has no motor but walks down a slanted plank. You press the belly of one of the toys and he says, ‘Here, you take the remote. As long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.’ He’s the perfect husband. Nunzilla shoots sparks out of her mouth when you wind her up.”


    Favorite possession?

    “I have too many toys to pick from and don’t want to offend any of them.”


    Earliest childhood memory?

    “A big dog biting me in the butt while walking down Transylvania Beach near Prospect.”


    When/where are you most creative?

    “When my head is on the pillow at nighttime.”


    If you could be mayor of Louisville for a day, what would you do?

    “Fund Waterfront Park at the same level as all other Metro Parks.”


    When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    “Doctor. Toy doctor kits fascinated me, and at Christmas I would look through the Sears catalog for the fanciest one.”


    What’s on your nightstand?

    “Magazines like Consumer Reports and Food & Wine and books. Marlene Grissom, who has raised a lot of money for Waterfront Park over almost 30 years, gives me all her old New Yorkers. I read all the cartoons and the book reviews.”


    The most unusual benefit of your job?

    “Being surrounded by dogs in the office every day.”


    First thing on your bucket list?

    “Spending at least a week in Barcelona, visiting Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces.”


    Something unexpected you love in Louisville?

    “Mid City Mall — the quirkiest collection of stores, restaurants, a movie theater, a library.”


    Do you believe in ghosts?

    “Absolutely. When Anne and I were first married, we had two cats and lived in an apartment on Douglass Boulevard off Bardstown Road. One night there was no question that a ghost of a woman was in the doorway of our bedroom. At the same time, both cats reared up and hissed at her.”



    “I don’t believe in superstitions and purposely walk under ladders and step on cracks in the sidewalk.”


    Best book you’ve read over the past year?

    “Any of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels by Alexander McCall Smith. The series is about Mma Ramotswe, the only woman who’s a detective in Botswana. I own and have read every one in the series and just last week finished the newest one.”


    Secret talent?

    “Unfortunately, and my wife would tell you it’s true, I have predicted numerous divorces before they happened.”


    Least-favorite word?

    Shut up. That phrase irritates me unbelievably, and I taught my children not to say it. I charge my staff one dollar if I hear them say it. We call it the Shut Up Fund.”


    What three people (living or dead) would be on the guest list to your ideal dinner party?

    “Poet Kahlil Gibran, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth I.”


    What makes somebody a Louisvillian?

    “They understand they do not live too far north or too far south, and they appreciate diversity and tolerance.”


    Biggest regret?

    “Frankly, I really don’t have time to worry about regrets at my age.”


    If you could write it yourself, what would your headstone say?

    “He dead.”



    How’d you make your first dollar?
    “Baking cheesecakes as a teenager.”

    Can’t-miss TV show?

    Favorite movie scene?
    “Diner scene, Pulp Fiction.”

    Greatest movie ending?
    The Princess Bride.”

    Would you rather sleep or work?

    Your drink?
    “Gin and tonic. Only three ice cubes, please.”

    What song is stuck in your head? 
    “‘Down to the River to Pray,’ by Alison Krauss.”

    All-time-favorite album?
    Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkel. I’m sensing a water theme….”


    This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine as the 21 Questions. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Shae Goodlett,

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