A Face Made for Radio. Radio, OK?

I was scheduled for a radio interview with Paul Harris of KTRS in St. Louis via Skype. Two minutes before, the producer calls as expected and then asks me to turn on the video function because they like to stream their interviews.

Panic! Under the impression that no one would be able to see me—because it was, how you say, radio—I was sweaty, wearing no makeup, had my hair scraped back, and was sitting next to a window in full daylight so all wrinkles looked like crevasses.

There was no time to run upstairs to remedy the situation but I was desperately bargaining (like with Death) for a moment to at least put on some lippy and brush my hair.

This strikes me as another illustration of the gap between how men and women experience the world. It wouldn’t occur to most men that they might need to prep their appearance before their image was sprung on an unsuspecting public. However, I think it would occur to most women.

But then I was saved by technology, or should I say under-performing technology. The connection wasn’t fast enough to deliver a clear picture so they decided to abandon the visual aspect. Saved!

The interview itself worked out well and in fact I will be speaking to Paul again on Sunday morning at 10:45 on his syndicated America Weekend if that plays anywhere near you. No Skype and no video, he promises.

A Clue to the Mystery

Big in Buffalo! “No one has ever told the story better than this” says the Buffalo News.

Critic Jeff Simon wonders why it took so long to write. Jeff, it didn’t take decades to write but it did take quite a while to be published. All I will say is, Rupert Murdoch is at the bottom of it (as of so many things).

Further update from the Twilight Zone

One more weird coincidence: I went up to Sirius XM to do a radio interview (on Seth Speaks) and there were all these cables and lights around because the new Chris Rock movie was filming just down the hall.

Then the next day I went to a bar in the West Village to be interviewed for Doug Girola’s documentary on the Lampoon and the CR movie was filming across the street!

Chris, if you want to meet me, just come out and say so. No need to go to all this trouble in the hope we’ll bump into each other.

The Same, but Different

Some things about New York never change.

It’s still hard to know whether those droplets from on high are the start of a shower or air conditioner condensation.

Manhattan still runs on doormen, who are to New York what concierges are to Paris, only much better-tempered and more helpful. And with a mystical ability to find taxis. As for New York buildings that have “concierges”,  they’re basically doormen who don’t go outside and hail taxis. What’s the point?

But some things are different.

Street hot dog stands increasingly seem to be giving way to street fresh fruit stands. The proprietor of same near 96th and Lex is a devout Muslim. I say this only because  he would place a small  none-too-clean prayer rug on the sidewalk behind some building scaffolding and pray several times a day, presumably accessing the divine in the middle of the (literally) pedestrian.

Grand buildings formerly occupied by banks or civic institutions are now giant drugstores, which are drugstores only in the sense that they have a small prescription dispensing area. The rest is full of over-the-counter remedies for ailments you didn’t know you had, like diet aids (one aisle over from the giant bags of candy) and the kind of miscellany you used to find at Woolworth’s.

Just as the population is being divided into the superrich and the financially insecure with no middle ground, so retail is being divided into giant brands and very small independents eking out a precarious survival. The US may have won the Cold War, but our cities are looking more and more like Soviet Russia, with limited consumer choice sold in giant outlets.

Launch…In the Twilight Zone

Three very weird coincidences so far:


1) I’ll be appearing at The Strand bookstore in NYC with former NatLamp stalwart Sean Kelly on Tuesday, 6/25 (7 pm, since you ask). Appearing the previous night in support of her  new book is Julie Kavanagh, who I last saw when we shared a tent at a camp run by emigré  Russians in the South of France when we were 15 (long story).

2) On Wednesday I’m going to a sound studio on NY’s Upper West Side for an interview with WBUR in Boston. The  studio is run by a man named Larry Josephson http://www.prx.org/group_accounts/19672-radioart, who was the notoriously cranky, eclectic, and funny morning DJ for WBAI in New York when I interned there while still in high school and for whom I interviewed NatLamp founding editor Doug Kenney right  before the first issue appeared.  Being a teenager and living wholly in the now, I of course didn’t think to preserve the tape.

3) I’ve discovered the husband of  my oldest friend from school is a fellow Norton author and in fact his oldest friend from school is an editor there.

Further evidence that it’s best to avoid being an asshole when you’re young, because your past will come back when you least expect it if  you hang around long enough.

I Was David Bowie’s Cleaning Lady

In the course of researching TNFTS, I was invited to a Saturday Night Live show by Ned Chase, Chevy’s father (Chevy had long since left the cast). Ned was an editor and a big supporter of the book, God bless him. Anyway, not only did he get me into the studio audience but he took me to the after-show party backstage.

Even though this was when SNL was in its mid-80s doldrums when Lorne Michaels wasn’t involved, it was still a pretty hot scene. Since I didn’t know anybody except Ned and was in any case there to observe, I lurked on the sidelines. The cast, of course, was the center of attention, all on the manic high of adrenaline and sheer relief that follows getting through a live show in one piece.

In the middle of the actors, commanding even more attention, was Madonna, then about 26  and still coming off the success of Like A Virgin. Far from wearing a something tight and revealing, she was dressed down in leggings and a gorgeous oversized leather baseball jacket that obviously still sticks in my mind. At her side was her new husband Sean Penn.  But while Madonna was animatedly chatting to everyone else in the magic circle, Sean said not a word but just stared moonily at his bride, clearly totally smitten. Her, not so much.

But that was in the metaphorical roped-off section. However, also on the periphery with us non-celebs was a well-dressed thin man with reddish blond hair talking to a boy of about 12 who was in a wheelchair. The boy had some sort of neurological condition and the man was kneeling so his face was on the same level as the boy’s to make conversation easier. I had always rather suspected David Bowie was a mensch but this confirmed it, as he completely ignored all the self-congratulatory hobnobbing to speak with the boy (who I later discovered was the son of a crew member) for more than 20 minutes.

I wanted to meet Bowie for all the usual reasons, but also to to tell him I had crossed in his path–well, almost crossed his path–in an unusual capacity. While in college (or university in UK-speak) in England, I had made some money during the spring vacation by working for an agency called Universal Aunts, an agency that supplies highly responsible people to do whatever household tasks clients might need–dog-walking, silver polishing, baby-sitting, etc.

One morning myself and two other Aunts got a cleaning job for a client in Chelsea. We never saw him because it was the morning after the night before and he never emerged. In any case, even if the cigarette ash you’re vacuuming up  out of the carpet was dropped at a rock legend’s party, it’s still not that exciting. But it paid off in the end. When Bowie finished the conversation with the boy I saw my chance and said, “Hello, David. I used to be your cleaning lady.”

As I thought, this was not an opening gambit he heard very often and he was intrigued enough to carry on the conversation. I could also see he found it pretty amusing, and, because he is primarily an artist (in the original sense as opposed to the X-Factor sense) who just happens to be world famous, being amused and intrigued is high on his list of priorities. Did we become besties? Alas, no, but neither was he looking for the exit. So he spent the majority of the party talking to two relative nonentities, merely because he found them interesting. Like I said, a mensch.

PS: This was the first and last time Ange and Dave used my clean-up services. We could be cleaners, just for one day.