Swayze In Excelsis: A Remembrance

Wednesday  September 16, 2009

Picture 1

Some say the greatness lay in the oxymoronic premise of its hero: Dalton, "legendary bouncer." (The idea being that when he walked into a bar, any bar, he was known, and every head turned, because, yeah, he was *THAT GOOD*.) A legendary bouncer who, still more oxymoronically, came with a philosophy degree from NYU and a penchant for such Zen pronouncements as "Pain don't hurt" and "Nobody ever wins a fight." A legendary bouncer who, like Bono or Sting or Attila, needed no surname.

Some say the greatness lay in its villain, the evil small-town overlord, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who dressed like Tom Wolfe and whose pastimes included frightening horses with his helicopter and smiling beatifically as his minions screamed monster trucks over the merchandise of uncooperative local car salesmen.

Some say its greatness lay in the screenplay. To wit:

AWED FEMALE BARFLY: You got a name?
DALTON: Yeah.

Or:

DALTON: If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker…be *nice*…remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal.
TRAINEE BOUNCER: Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?
DALTON: No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.
TRAINEE BOUNCER: What if somebody calls my mama a whore?
DALTON: Is she?

Or:

HOT MEDIC: Do you always carry your medical records around with you?
DALTON: Saves time.
HOT MEDIC: …What [is your degree] in?
DALTON: Philosophy…man's search for faith. That sort of shit.

*****

There was greatness in each of these elements, yes there was, and in the very notion of a kind of Jedi bouncer brought from out of town to turn a wretched hive of scum and villainy like the Double Deuce bar, "where they sweep up the eyeballs after closing," into a safe and happy place. But in the end, the element that made Patrick Swayze's Road House truly great was the homoeroticism that throbbed with third-rail intensity through its every cel. Here it is: Road House was—and remains—the most leeringly, queasily, triumphantly gay action film of all time.

This was a movie in which ostensibly straight men greedily eyed Dalton from head to toe and proclaimed, "I heard you had balls big enough to come in a DUMP TRUCK!" and "I've always wanted to *try* you" and "I thought you'd be…*bigger*" and "I see you've found my trophy room...the only thing that's missing is your ASS!"—and then howl, "Your ass is MINE, boy!" before having at him. A movie in which heterosexual sex was either punishing (the remarkably unpleasant sequence in which Swayze belied his assertion that pain don't hurt by pummel-fucking Kelly Lynch against a rough-hewn stone wall) or punished (the scene in which Swayze came upon a bouncer dog-humping what the man had dubbed his "Saturday night thing" in the broom closet and fired him for it). A movie in which one of Wesley's boys got Dalton in a seemingly unbreakable headlock and hissed, "I used to fuck guys like you in PRISON!" A movie in which Dalton, after breaking the prison-fucker's headlock and ripping his neck out, swivel-kicked him into a lake—and was clearly sporting an erection (or at least a cod piece) as he did so.

What's that, you say? Top Gun is the homoerotically superior film? Granted, that film, like Road House, was uncircumspect in its glorification of oiled male torsi. (The famous volleyball scene, soundtracked by Kenny Loggins' piping-high yawpings about "playin' with the boys!") But in the prolonged sequence in which Swayze—his rippling, hairless, oiled torso glistening in dawn light—performed slow-mo t'ai chi while Ben Gazarra watched smirkingly, lovingly, through binoculars, Road House achieved something Top Gun never could: pure creaminess.—andrew corsello

What's a Boom Chicago?

Wednesday  September 09, 2009

Amsterdam’s hippest comedy troupe comes to New York. SNL's Seth Meyers explains

Seth_meyers

The Groundlings. The Harvard Lampoon. Second City. These comedy institutions have been supplying Hollywood with a steady stream of talent for decades. Well, there’s another name—almost as influential—that you’ve never heard of: Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago. Huh?

Since 1993, Boom Chicago—founded by a trio of high school friends from Evanston, Illinois—has been operating out of a theater in Amsterdam’s storied nightlife district, the Leidseplein. Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis, who spent four months at Boom in 2000, describes the crowd as “fucking stoned and drunk Americans, locals that have Heineken coursing through their veins, and horny Australians.” The company, whose very existence was once discouraged by the local government, has since become a Dutch institution, selling more than 100,000 tickets annually. (There’s now talk of opening a second Boom company at The Hague. The World Court of Comedy is in session!) Whatever they’re doing over there, it’s working. Because the list of Boom alumni also includes Allison Silverman (who won an Emmy as the executive producer at The Colbert Report), Seth Meyers (the head writer at SNL), and Joe Kelly (a co-producer on How I Met Your Mother, now penning much of Neil Patrick Harris’s material for this month’s Emmys), not to mention staffers at 30 Rock, The Daily Show, and pretty much anywhere else that is currently bringing the funny.

On September 13, Boom Chicago survivors Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis, Jordan Peele (MadTV), and Pete Grosz (Colbert) will perform in a show, Boom Chicago: All Stars, on New York’s Governors Island as part of NY400, a festival commemorating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage from Amsterdam to New York Harbor.>

In anticipation, GQ.com spoke with Seth Meyers about his time as a little Dutch boy.—MICKEY RAPKIN

Seth, you spent two years at Boom Chicago—from 1997 to 1999. How did you end up doing improv comedy in Amsterdam?
I’d been out of college for less than a year. My friend Pete Grosz—who is now a writer at Colbert—he and I had done improv together at Northwestern, and we were in Chicago on teams at the ImprovOlympic. Pete saw an ad in the paper about auditions for Boom Chicago. I was working at a Mexican restaurant, the Twisted Lizard, in Lincoln Park.

So you figured it would be more fun to get stoned for a year than serve frozen margaritas?
In Chicago, there’s a sense that you wanted to be around all the time—in case opportunity struck. It wasn’t that attractive to check out for a year or nine months. I don’t think anyone saw it as a smart career move. It was more like a paid vacation. But my friends were fairly jealous.

A decent part of Boom Chicago’s business is actually entertaining at Dutch corporate gigs. I love that the head writer for SNL used to write those scripts.
I did it for the cash. And for the enduring love of corporate theater.

Have any corporate horror stories?
We did a gig on a boat once. The engine was underneath the stage. It was deafeningly loud, and we were shaking on stage. We did a gig for a construction company in the middle of Holland—in a prefab cafeteria. We did five shows for five different lunch crowds. The first group was mostly Portuguese laborers who didn’t speak English or Dutch. They were eating hard sausage with knives. We were four Americans with dumb hats.

The Dutch, famously, speak fantastic English. Still, it’s gotta be tough. You can’t fall back on easy pop-culture jokes, right?
That’s probably the best lesson I learned. Pop-culture references that you could get away with at a college improv show­—that doesn’t work. It’s good to go back to the core principles of being funny.

What was it like for you being an American abroad—before Bush, before Obama?
I was there before the new opinion about America took form. When I was there, people’s big complaint about America was that the waitresses were fake-nice. In Amsterdam, you know the waiters generally fucking hate you.

Seriously?
Dutch people are honest to a fault. And they’re proud of it. After the show at Boom, the actors have to walk out through the bar. People would come up to you—hopefully cute Dutch girls, but more often it was tall German businessmen. Anyway, I remember this Dutch guy said to me, “I just caught your show.” “Oh,” I said, “what did you think?” He said: “I did not like it.”

I read somewhere that Sheryl Crow is a big fan of Boom Chicago.
I heard Michael Chiklis came to the show. I was always excited when a Dutch pop star was coming. I wanted to meet someone who was famous who I didn’t know was famous until right then. Like, the Dutch host of a music-video show would come. Later, I made my first U.S. television appearance on Spin City. I was walking home, and I called [Boom co-founder] Andrew Moskos in Amsterdam to tell him about it. I had a great story about my first TV show! But he super-trumped it with his own story. That was the night that Burt Reynolds came to Boom.

I saw that video! Hilarious. If the Dutch reports are to be believed, Boom Chicago is currently embroiled in a turf war with, er, the Anne Frank House? Something about the right to distribute Boom city guides outside? Is this true?
Yes, I heard that.

Uh, who gets in a fight with the Anne Frank House?
It’s like when your friend is in a bar fight—you have to take their side. But I really wish they weren’t in a fight with the Anne Frank House.

There are so many Boom alumni working in comedy. Is there a secret handshake? An alumni job network?
Amongst comedians, everybody’s heard of it now. If you say, “I worked at a comedy theater in Amsterdam,” most people can finish with Boom Chicago. If you take meetings in L.A., everyone has heard of it. It’s an awesome experience. But dropping the name won’t help you get into clubs.

 

BONUS! Joe Kelly, How I Met Your Mother staffer and Boom alumnus, did a stint writing for Saturday Night Live where, in his first week, he was responsible for this awesome Lindsay Lohan/Harry Potter sketch.

MJ's 51st Birthday

Monday  August 31, 2009

Tracy Morgan and Spike Lee

At first we were skeptical. A Brooklyn-style block party to celebrate Michael Jackson's 51st birthday? Two months—and seven thousand hours of dedicated CNN coverage—after his death? But Spike Lee knew that all the mournful glitter at the Staples Center memorial, and likely any tribute to come, neglected one essential fact about memorializing Michael: it takes the sight and heat of a few thousand New Yorkers collectively riding the boogie on a patch of Brooklyn grass, to purge the news crawl of custody battle and autopsy reports.

And this past Saturday, on an otherwise overlooked field in the depths of Prospect Park, Spike and DJ Spinna, along with Tracy Morgan, the Reverend Al (who, in linking MJ with Ted Kennedy, actually uttered the phrase, "…from Flatbush to Hyannisport") and others, evoked the best of the King with five hours of the purest pop. To properly pay their respects, fans from across the city turned out in their best MJ digs. Here, some of our favorites.—mark healy

IMG_3608

IMG_3752[1]

IMG_3614

IMG_3657

Buy (Or At Least Look At) This Book

Thursday  July 23, 2009

Moonfire

If you happen to have $1,000 in your budget right now for a coffee-table book—well, lucky you. Most of us don't. But, thanks to the savvy marketers over at Taschen, that won't stop us from enjoying their latest collector's-edition opus, Moonfire, a mammoth compilation of NASA archival images and a Norman Mailer essay on the Apollo 11 moon landing that happened forty years ago this week.

Taschen's website has a page-by-page preview of the book which is comprehensive and well-designed enough that, with a few easy mouse clicks, you can get practically the same experience as holding the 345-page tome on your lap. The experience is well worth it. First off: The classic photos, many of them previously unpublished, offer an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the human drama of the moon landing. (The shot of Joan Aldrin's agonized face, turning away from the television as her husband's spacecraft touches down on the lunar surface, is just piercing.). And then there's Mailer's writing, which today seems as much a vestige of the age as the men in short-sleeve shirts and thin ties and the women in bright patterned dresses and tortoise-shell sunglasses. On the website, you can zoom in to read Mailer's text—it originally appeared in Life magazine as a three-part series and became the book Of A Fire On the Moon, which Sean Wilsey discussed in his July GQ feature on NASA—and marvel at the notion that, in 1969, a writer for a national magazine could begin a story by adopting the identity of Aquarius as narrator ("Norman on this occasion wonders whether he may call himself Aquarius") and not be laughed out of the profession. (Yes, it was Mailer and yes, such was the Age, but: Wow. Just wow.)

It's a worthy way to spend an afternoon procrastinating, especially during this historic week.—mark kirby

A World Without Gordon

Tuesday  July 21, 2009

Pg1

Sad news today. The passing of Gordon Waller, the non-spectacled half of Peter and Gordon (Peter Asher being the other half), the British duo that were part of the British Invasion.

As a kid, I loved these guys. Their harmonies were nothing short of transporting. You might even say they were Beatle-esque. And you’d be right.

At the time Peter and Gordon were signed to their first recording deal (1963), Peter’s sister, Jane, was dating a young man from Liverpool by the name of Paul McCartney. So they asked him if they had a song he could spare.

Always sounded to me like a scene straight out of A Hard Day’s Night:

Scene: Interior of a train car as it click-clacks through the English countryside.

paul: Well, is it a song you need then?
peter and gordon: ‘Tis, Paul. Would you have any then?
paul: I think I got one in me pocket here, lads.

(Paul reaches into his suit jacket, produces a folded up piece of paper and proceeds to play and sing. Peter and Gordon soon catch up and harmonize along.)

The song, “A World Without Love” went to the top 10 and knocked the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” off of the charts.

McCartney went on to pen three other songs for them: “Nobody I Know,” “I Don’t Want to See You Again,” and, writing under the pseud Bernard Webb (in order to see if he could score a hit anonymously), “Woman.”

Which is not to say they couldn’t write their own hits: (see: "Knight in Rusty Armour" and "Lady Godiva").

Anyway, enough from me. Enjoy some of his work.—michael hainey

Secrets of Mad Men Revealed (Sort Of)

Tuesday  July 21, 2009

GQ0809 (original) 17_Page_1_Image_0001

Mad Men returns on August 16, so we called up creator Matthew Weiner and asked him to explain what season three will look like. He refused. We cajoled. Then he coughed up these tidbits on Don, Roger, and why the hell AMC tried to cut two minutes from every episode.—dan fierman

•"Roger's love for Jane put the company in play, and Roger used Don as an excuse to get out of his marriage. Don thought the whole thing was a betrayal. So they have issues to work out."

•"Time has passed. I won't say how much, but the guys are definitely at different points in their lives."*

*Our guess: two years, bringing us to 1964.

•"I fought AMC cutting two minutes of the show. I love advertising. I write about advertising. I am an advocate of AMC making money. But an extra ad is a very limited financial reward for altering a show that put AMC on the map. Also, you are fighting the TiVo! Why give people less show?"

•"The Cuban Missile Crisis created a situation where the characters could die tomorrow. Of course, some of them—like Betty—don't even notice and just want to deal with their own problems."

•"This season will be thematically different than what we've done before, but it's the same people in the same world. Pete is there. Peggy is there. I want people who love the show to say, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm so glad to be back with these people. What's going to happen?' "

The Other Michaels

Tuesday  July 14, 2009

A Q&A with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter

Michael-and-michael

Thanks to cult hits like Wet Hot American Summer and '90s MTV sketch comedy series The State (out on DVD—finally—today), comedians Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter have won over a slew of devoted fans. These days, they're keeping up their childish-meets-cerebral shtick—and, we're pleased to report, it's still damn funny. Check out Comedy Central’s Michael and Michael Have Issues, premiering tomorrow night, for the proof. We went behind the scenes of the new show to catch up with the duo. There, in between moments of serious filming and staged confrontations (“God, I hate Michael Black…That’s off the record,” Showalter told me), we talked butterfly flatulence, gay-for-pay acting, and what it takes to win a cyberwar with LeVar Burton (stamina, for starters).—andrew richdale

On Michael and Michael Have Issues you two frequently bicker back and forth. Is this art imitating life?
MIB: It's art exaggerating life. We definitely have fights like anybody does. Our conflicts are dealt with more maturely than our characters deal with them on the show—not that much more.

How would you describe your off-camera relationship?
MIB: Cordial, at best.
MS: I would say cordial. I would take away the "at best." I don't think it's less than cordial. It's cordial.

The writing process of a comedy show—the idea behind Michael and Michael Have Issues—seems eerily familiar to another series on air right now, 30 Rock.
MIB: I don't know that I would say eerily familiar. It's familiar. I don't know that it's "eerie."
MS: It's a little eerie.
MIB: Well, different [beat]…primarily the difference is there are no differences.
MS: Tracy Morgan is guest starring?
MIB: Ok, there are similarities. It's an extension of the organic nature of writing what you know. [On 30 Rock] Tina Fey is sort of the calm center around which everything whirls. In our show, we're distorted. At its heart, it's not really about the premise. It's about this relationship—this 20-year plus relationship.

Which is cordial, at best?
MIB: Which is cordial, at best.

The Farting Butterfly sketch from the pilot has been flying around the Internet for some time. Generally in the past, a lot of the humor you guys have been drawn to has been less obvious, more subtle.
MIB: We wanted to contrast ourselves with something so utterly stupid. Hopefully our humor is broad and subtle and everything in between. A lot of people are drawn to one or the other.

Michael Black—you're married to a woman, you have kids. You also repeatedly portray gay characters in projects like Wet Hot American Summer, Reaper, and a sketch in Michael and Michael's pilot. Why the affinity for gay roles?
MIB: I'm only employable as a gay man. I don't want to be cast as a gay guy. But it's all anybody sees me as. It's the only way people want to hire me! I'm sort of squishy. I'm squishy…and I'm attracted to men.

A few months back, you declared a Twitter war with LeVar Burton. What's the latest on that?
MIB: I keep hoping one day to overtake him in terms of followers. I can't beat him! He's beloved.
MS: He has more followers than you? LeVar Burton does?
MIB: Oh yeah. I am the Al'Qaeda to his United States of America. One day I will declare victory though. Right now it's guerilla warfare. In my mind, it's not over until I surpass him.

It's been 15 years since you guys started The State. Skits like "Mr. Magina," "Porcupine Racetrack," "Louie and the Last Supper"—they're cult classics. What stands out most in your mind from those years?
MS: The camaraderie. The sense of community. The joy of an 11-person collaboration. Eleven people all working together toward a common goal…I was kidding, by the way.

Right. A lot changed since then?
MIB: What's changed is that Sho and I are more interested in playing characters closer to ourselves than we were back then.
MS: And now there's only two [of us]. If you multiply two until it becomes 11, then you have the difference—so five and a half. A multiple of five and a half.
MIB: Right. Which is the same thing as multiplying times five and a half. But in a lot of ways it hasn't changed. We still do sketches and release silly, new characters. The answer is it hasn't changed. What would you multiply that by? I mean, a million?
MS: Anything times zero.
MIB: Well, you get a different answer every time!
MS: Do you?
MIB: No. That was a joke. But I didn't know what anything times zero is.
MS: That's when I stopped learning math. What were we talking about? "Mr. Magina"? Funny sketch.
MIB: I was almost sure you were going to say "Oh, that's a sketch I wrote" knowing that you didn't. If anything is complimented, he will say "I wrote that."

Little Big Man

Wednesday  July 01, 2009

Hung

Every once in a while we see a pop-cultural confluence so noteworthy we just can’t resist bringing its key players together. This time—and there’s no point in getting coy about it—the common ground is dick size; specifically, how the length and girth of a man’s penis can be his strength or his undoing. By now, you know that HBO’s Alexander Payne-directed series, Hung, revolves around a well-endowed but otherwise hapless high-school teacher who tries to use his one asset to get him out of debt. Penis as salvation! Alan Wieder’s book Year of the Cock, which comes out mid-July, is a mercilessly frank memoir about a young TV producer’s obsessive dissatisfaction with his seemingly average member, and how it came just a foreskin from ruining his otherwise enviable life. We sent Wieder the first four episodes of Hung, and asked him how the show measured up.—mark healy

GQ: So what did you think of the show?
I thought it created a surprisingly sympathetic character out of a guy most men would be inclined to hate.

Especially you.
When I first heard about the show, I wondered how they would make a guy with a big donger sympathetic. And they clearly worked very hard on the pilot to make you care about him and to show you that he’s a guy who really has nothing else going for him in life. I guess he’s smart enough to be a history teacher, but he lacked any kind of self-insight and was just this… kind of sad dude. He’s just a guy trying to figure out what to do with himself, a guy in a predicament that a lot of men can relate to. But I really had a hard time imagining how they’d make him sympathetic, because after all, there are plenty of guys with average cocks who’re just as broke as he is.

Exactly. As a TV guy—you know, someone who understands what it takes to make a character and a story—could you have imagined anyone caring about a guy who was successful and handsome and smooth and also really well-hung?
No. No, you hate that guy.

Yeah.
But somehow, I cared about Ray and I wanted to watch more, certainly as a guy who wrestled with these issues. The implication is that he’s kind of bad at sex, too—all he’s got is this big punishing rod, but he doesn’t really have any moves, or any suaveness, so you can kind of sympathize with him there a little, too.

In a lot of ways it is the polar opposite of Year of the Cock.
It’s funny how much of an opposition my book is to Hung. There’s a guy who has nothing for him and his penis is his way out. And my book is about a guy who thinks he has everything going for him but his penis is his undoing.

How do you feel about the myth that Hung perpetuates, that larger—at least in the first three episodes—is decidedly and consistently better?
That’s an interesting question. I think it’s true. I think larger is better. I think any guy would say that. When I was a kid, I grew up thinking that big dicks were just porn stars—John Holmes had a big dick, and Ron Jeremy had nine-and-a-half inches, but ordinary guys probably didn’t have that, because if they did, they’d be porn stars!

And then something changed—the year 2005 was a year when the size of a man’s penis started to matter in a really public way. I mentioned some things in my book like, Jude Law, it turned out, wasn’t very well-hung, so everybody was on him, and Fred Durst, who I mention in my book, was a very disturbingly formative moment for me. And I think that now, any chick will tell you that they’d rather have a guy with a big dick. I think that most chicks do care; that’s the frightening thing. They say they don’t, because ultimately they want a nicer guy, but I think they care a lot more than guys think, I’ll put it that way.

And there are those who…
I think there’s this expectation that if a guy has an average cock he’s sort of implicitly small because he’s not as big as the guys who are seen all over the internet, you know? It used to be that the only way to see a big cock was to rent a porno, and so that was a relatively small amount of people; compared to now, where probably every girl in America has seen a video—or something—and knows that they’re out there. So I think the big dick has been totally demythologized, and as a result, guys who have ordinary packages have a lot more to live up to. But I’ve gotten over my own hang-ups about it.

How did you do that?
I don’t know, really. A lot of therapy, I guess. I got really good in the sack, also.

Uh-huh. That helps. I guess that’s the best remedy, really.
It is the best remedy. I think raising your skill level is very important nowadays. If you don’t have a big cock, you need some moves.

Do you feel like you have to work a little harder?
You gotta work a little harder, gotta be a little more attentive, I think. It would be nice for us average guys if larger penises truly weren’t more pleasurable, but I really feel like women think they are. At least if they’re not physically more pleasurable, they’re visually more pleasurable. How could they not be? Now, when I say that it’s important to women, I don’t think it’s all-consuming, but I think that if given a choice between a really great guy with an average cock and a really great guy with an 8-inch cock, they’d probably choose the 8-inch every time, or most times.

How do you think your life would be different—or how do you think you would be different?
Um…

If you did have a big one?
I don’t know that I can answer that question without having… I think if you have a big cock—and I know guys who have big ones, I’m friends with guys who have big ones, certainly for my book I talked to a lot of men about it—I think when you have a big cock it’s something you become aware of from an extremely young age.

You think so?
Yeah, yeah. I have this friend—this is why Hung really resonated with me—there’s three guys I know who are really, really well-endowed. And they knew it in high school because in the locker room, everybody was like, ‘Aw.’ And they got laid a lot in high school, all of them, they were all studs; but now they’re kinda losers. I joke with my writing partner Steve about how guys who have a big cock kind of have a sense of entitlement, they feel like the world is going to just kind of work out. Because when they’re young and discovering themselves they feel like such studs, and typically they are. But in truth, your big cock—while it will help you in the bedroom and maybe earn you some awe from male friends and colleagues who see you in the locker room—it’s not really going to help you get ahead in life at all, and I think that’s what Hung really shows.

What would you give to be well-hung for a week?
I’m happy with where I’m at right now. I don’t really long for a big penis anymore. Even when the thoughts recur, I don’t think [my problems] would be solved by having a big penis. I feel like my thoughts were self-hating and I’m no longer a self-hating person and I like the body I have now. The thoughts occur but they’re hollow. I don’t know that I would even want that.

Now you just want more money?
Yeah. Now I just want people to buy my fucking book. If you gave me the choice between a sensation bestseller and three more inches, I’d definitely take the bestseller.

I Want to Be a Jet Pilot, an Astronaut, or the Governor of Georgia

Friday  June 26, 2009

24 YouTube clips of/for Michael Jackson

Michael-jackson

When the Michael Jackson news broke yesterday, I fired up YouTube the way New Yorkers flock to Strawberry Fields in Central Park when a Beatle dies. It seemed like the right “place” to light a candle for Jackson, who became the first black artist to crack MTV’s honkified playlist in the early ‘80s and never seemed entirely real thereafter, except in music videos—a man who couldn’t really make it work outside the mirror. I kept the news on in the background, bugging out on the disconnect between his tabloid mess of a life and the exquisite and painstaking SFX-and-CGI fantasylands he created around his songs. But by the time a nodding-off Larry King threw it to Anderson Cooper, I’d gone down a rabbit-hole, opening browser-tab after browser-tab of old (young) Michael videos—pre-Jesus Juice, pre-surgically-assisted post-humanity, even pre-Victory Tour. YouTube’s Michael Jackson channel (which still features a background image of the King of Pop surrounded by the walking dead—c’mon, guys!) has the hits, for super-ethnically-diverse street gangs in the mood to hear “Beat It” one more time. But I was in the mood to see a kid born of abusive parentage in white-flight rust-belt Gary, Indiana make like a damn skyrocket—and to do a little cultural CSI on where and when it all started to go so wrong. I could have made a playlist twice as long as this one—he was that good, for that long—but I stopped (when I got enough) at 24.—alex pappademas

Chronologically:

1. “I’ll Bet You,” from ABC, 1970. For a pop-soul Archies, the Jackson Five could bare some pretty serious funk-band teeth when they wanted to. This is a surprisingly heavy cover of the second song on Funkadelic’s first record—the same one the Dust Brothers built the Beastie Boys’ “Car Thief” around, if that whinnying guitar part sounds familiar. (It’s really weird that this was on the same album as “ABC.”)

2. "Don't Know Why I Love You," A surprisingly wrenching take on an underrated Stevie Wonder song about torturous grown-up love, sung by a 12-year-old. (It's really weird that nobody thought this was weird.)

3. Vocal-track-only take of "The Love You Save," originally from 1970's ABC. A geyser of youth and fun and vigor blowing up inside a cautionary tale, with lines like "You're headed for a danger zone" echoing like they're bouncing off the walls of a hyperbaric chamber.

4. "Reach In," psychedelic soul, from 1970's Third Album. Probably about God, although it comes across, eerily, like Michael as Bubble Boy, desperate for human contact.

5. "Get It Together," from Soul Train, November 1971. (Typically great vintage Mike, but Jermaine's bass line on this one is jermasterful as well.)

6. Pure bubblegum rapture in the middle of a media siege: The Jacksons crush "I Want You Back" on their 1971 Goin' Back To Indiana TV special, while "Scoop Newsworthy" tries to invade their space.

7. Another take on "I Want You Back," from the Jacksons' early-'70s Saturday-morning cartoon, The Jackson 5ive, which was better than Yellow Submarine but not as good as Josie & the Pussycats.

8. "Great To Be Here" appeared on Maybe Tomorrow in 1971; Puff Daddy slid it under Biggie's verse on "It's All About the Benjamins" in 1997.

9. You are now freaking out, Pt. 1: Jackson on a 1971 Diana Ross special, singing Frank Sinatra's old-man lament "A Very Good Year," playing a really creepy lovers-breaking-up sketch with Ross, pretending to be the grown man he never really got to be.

10. "Don't Let Your Baby Catch You," from 1972. Singing this many songs about mistrust and cheating has gotta mess you up, relationship-wise; Michael sounded paranoid way before they were all out to get him.

11. Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, 1972. Sonny asks Michael what he wants to be when he grows up. Michael: "I can't make up my mind, whether I want to be a jet pilot, an astronaut, or the governor of Georgia."

12. J5 take on the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic "Reach Out I'll Be There," made famous by their Motown labelmates the Four Tops. Cut sometime in the '70s, unreleased until 1995.

13. "You Ain't Giving Me What I Want"—another rarity, unearthed on 1995's Soulsation box set. This is what they were sticking in a drawer. That's insane.

14. You are now freaking out, Pt. 2: Indescribable Deadwood-meets-Solid Gold medley of War's "The Cisco Kid" and Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff," from a 1977 episode of the family Jackson's CBS Variety show, The Jacksons.

15. 1977 again: Michael Jackson reports three murders, with help from a little-known comedian (and fellow Hoosier)…

16. …and trades punches, kinda, with the Champ.

17. "Forever Came Today." Another clip from the CBS show, with Michael doing shoulder-to-shoulder Temptations lockstep moves with Marlon and Jackie. The choreography can barely contain him; when he busts out around 0:38, it's like, Well, hiiiiii there, solo career!

18. Jackson, sounding eerily like Charlie Brown, to shrink (The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Georgia Engel): "People just don't seem to notice me at all. It's like I don't even exist. I don't know what I'm gonna do if this keeps up. It just gets worse and worse all the time. Why don't people seem to care about me?"

19. "Blame It On The Boogie," The Jacksons, 1978. Michael Jackson made a lot of videos that revolutionized the medium. This is not one of them.

20. Oh, yeah, and remember in 1980, when the Jacksons evolved into golden space-gods and brought peace and harmony to Planet Dianetics? That was awesome. (Fun, un-sourced Wiki-facts: "The song again rose to prominence when in 2006, psycho-illusionist Derren Brown used the song along with various other psychological motivators to convince a group of 4 people to each commit a bank robbery by their own free will. The song was also featured on Jane Fonda's early 80's work out VHS tapes.")

21. Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special, 1983. The Moonwalk. One small step for man.

22. "Leave Me Alone," eighth single from Bad, 1987. The song's a haters-get-off-my-dick rant; the video's a bizarrely self-aware non-denial denial of the Howard Hughes/Willy Wonka rep he'd picked up by the mid-'80s. Michael dances with the Elephant Man's bones while wearing a ball and chain. Michael rides a rocket ship through a tunnel lined with images of Elizabeth Taylor. Dogs read about him in the tabloids. Now he's a giant, waking up and laying waste to the amusement park the dogs have built to imprison him. It plays now like his last moment of clarity; by 1990, he'd be making bazillion-dollar videos full of morphing faces and singing about how it don't matter if you're black or white, clearly unable to imagine why people might find these artistic choices a little odd.

23. Bonus track: "Thriller," performed, possibly under duress and to questionable therapeutic ends, by 300 prisoners at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, a maximum-security prison in Cebu, Philippines. "Before the dancing, our problems were really heavy to bear," says Crisanto Nierre, who plays Michael. "Dancing takes our minds away from our problems. Our bodies became more healthy. As for the judges, they may be impressed with us, seeing that we are being rehabilitated and this could help our case."

24. "Never Can Say Goodbye," 1976.

And for good measure, a kick-ass mash-up of MJ, DMX, and Liam Gallagher of Oasis:

Ein Total Nicht Nicht

Tuesday  June 23, 2009

Censored_GQ_Bruno_on_newsstands

Now we know what it feels like to work at Juggs. A Hudson News outlet at Chicago/O'Hare airport, concerned about the business-traveler-offending potential of Brüno's kugelsack, slaps the July edition of GQ with the Bulletproof Nudity Shield. We knew we should have made him wear a tie.

Read about it here.

An Extended Q&A with Glenn Beck

Tuesday  June 16, 2009

The on-air waterworks of Fox News' most operatic star have made him famous, but he wants to be known for something else: his stand-up comedy. No, he's not joking

By Jason Horowitz; Photograph by Jill Greenberg

Picture 7

Glenn Beck, stand-up comedian. Where the hell did that come from?
It’s not stand-up stand-up. It’s not “What’s the deal with airline food?” I’m not going to Yuck-Yucks on Saturday night. It’s storytelling and a laugh. It’s unique. Everything I do is.

Funny isn’t exactly the first word that leaps to mind when you think “Glenn Beck.”
It’s actually the reason I decided to do radio. Every time I listened to talk radio, the conservatives had a stick lodged in their butt. I never understood why the entire world could have a sense of humor but the conservatives have to be Thurston Howell. I mean, you can’t have a sense of humor and be conservative?

Scientifically? Maybe not. Ohio State University researchers conducted a study where conservatives and liberals both watched The Colbert Report. Everyone thought it was funny, but the right-wingers didn’t get that it’s a send-up of people like…you. What do you make of that?
The people in that focus group were dumb as a box of rocks.

So conservatives lack an irony gene?
Is there an irony shortage? Sure. But is there a sarcasm shortage? Sure. A pun shortage? That too.

Why?
I don’t know. It may be because there is a system set against conservatives doing comedy. But I’m not totally comfortable with that explanation, because I have never attended conservative parties where the doors close and somebody breaks out the funny. It may just be that conservatives, for one reason or another, haven’t developed a good funny. It could be just because…[long pause] I was going to say it could be because they are beaten all the time. But Jews are funny, you know?

What do you think of Colbert saying he fears for your sanity?
Very funny.

So you’re not offended?
It’s smart business for him. I’m a target. I’m in the public eye. If I were in his shoes, I’d go after me too.

Okay, but what about when Shep Smith does it? He ripped you for “ego” and cracked that everyone at Fox existed “to celebrate, worship, and adore Glenn Beck.”
Shep and I joke about it! I went up on his set the day he was mocking me and gave him a fist bump. [Demonstrates the most earnest, straight-armed fist bump ever attempted.] I said, “Shep, you rock!” And he said, “Keep it up, brother!” Now, is he mocking me, or is that good teamwork?

So then it’s just a routine for ratings? Isn’t that totally cynical? Where’s the line between manufactured conflict and news?
What do you mean, “Where’s the line?” I’m not a journalist. If I wanted to be a journalist, I would be Charlie Rose and bore the snot out of people and have fourteen people watching me. I am a guy that firmly believes what I believe. I’ve done my homework. I am a student of history. Now, I can either present that to you in a Charlie Rose sort of way, or I can be entertaining.

But doesn’t that act mean people don’t take you seriously? You’ve called yourself a “rodeo clown.”
I have a hard time understanding that line of thinking. I grew up in an alcoholic family, and I was the one who always made the family laugh. So “This is uncomfortable-laugh!” is what I grew up with. You know, my mom committed suicide. That became a really dark comedic shtick for me for a long time. I couldn’t deal with it any other way, so I would make jokes about it. There is no “act” per se. It’s me.

Okay, so give us a sample of the comedy stylings of Glenn Beck.
I haven’t written the show yet.

But the show’s in a month.
[nods, smiles] I make all the people who work on the show extraordinarily nervous. But it’ll be things like this: One of my producers was riding the train, and there was a big New York City sign that says, “A crowded train is no excuse for inappropriate touching.” [dramatic pause] Since when did we come to the place where we’re like, “Oh, crap, I can’t fondle her in a crowded train. Why ride the train, then?”

That sounds almost like a Seinfeld joke. Is he an influence?
On television [ponderous beat] Jon Stewart has actually influenced me most. He is not afraid of silence, the awkward let-it-sit-there-for-a-minute silence.

I have a hard time seeing Stewart joking that polar bears should be shot in the chest in a “nice tight grouping” and that we should “torture the snot out of” our enemies. That sounds more Sam Kinison to me.
I’ve heard people say I’m Sam Kinison and a little Lewis Black.

Interesting. Have you ever worked blue?
Back in my drinking days, I was pretty nasty—I have an internal battle with that all the time, because I was an artist with the F-word, in all aspects of my life.

Okay, so what was your favorite dirty joke?
Um, I don’t remember a lot of things from back then.

How does it feel working at Fox these days? Ratings are up, but man, it really feels like you guys don’t have anywhere near as much influence.
Our influence is with people. And there are more people coming to Fox than there were under Bush. It’s like moving your party from a hotel ballroom to a stadium and then saying, “Do you really have more influence?” Well, yeah! We are in a stadium now!

That really doesn’t seem to track with what’s going on in Washington.
That’s because the Republican Party sucks. My personal belief is that the Republican Party itself is either dead or will soon be dead in the way it is understood.

What is someone supposed to think when the guy who famously asked a Muslim congressman to prove he wasn’t working with our enemies is also doing stand-up comedy?
It’s me. It’s just me. You know, the name of my company is Mercury, named after Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre. Orson Welles was a brilliant businessman, he was a brilliant stage actor, he was a brilliant filmmaker, he was a brilliant actor—all of those. What was he?

An entertainer? So is that what you are?
You are something like the twentieth journalist that has tried to get me to say that’s what I am. But that taints the intellectual side of what I do, so I am going to have to say no.

So basically Glenn Beck contain multitudes, and you just parcel bits of yourself out into different mediums and platforms?
Exactly. For example, I’m writing a futuristic action novel right now—I just named one of the characters last night around midnight, I wrote it down on a piece of paper someplace—and it’s going to be a vehicle that makes my usual points, but in a totally different way. I’m also a painter, and I’m going to start doing more art. And I’ve made some sketches of things I want to do, and I’m going to do that this summer as well. That’s the point of art; you can make your point in a million different ways. When the left was putting crucifixes in urine, they said, “No, no, no, no, it’s art. It makes you think. It stretches you.” Now, that’s not an exclusive realm of the left. It’s just hasn’t been explored by the right.

Okay, but I still want to know your favorite dirty joke.
[laughs] Yeah, right.

Robert Pattinson: The Other Pandemic

Thursday  June 11, 2009


Video of Twilight fanatics' reactions to the The Twilight Saga: New Moon trailer

As editors of a men’s magazine who put Twilight actor Robert Pattinson on our April cover, we’re aware of a few things. First, that Pattinson has a very promising career ahead of him. (In his profile, Alex Pappademas declared that Pattinson “seethes like Warren Beatty.”) Second, that our readers agree with us—and a few do so for reasons not entirely related to his acting skills. (Sarah Moore from Raleigh, North Carolina, wrote: “The cover should read ‘Hide Your Wives,’ not ‘Hide Your Daughters.’ I can assure you that I, and many other twenty- and thirty-somethings, would gladly trample the 15-year-olds to get a piece of that.”) Which brings us to our third point, that, yes, there is a moblike, high-pitched, rabid following of tweens around the world—mostly girls like these—who are not generally our demographic, who deeply love Pattinson, and who know more about him than any employee wandering the halls at GQ’s headquarters. That is, except for GQ’s in-house Twilight enthusiast and Pattinson-picture-kisser, Raha Naddaf. In an attempt to bridge their world and ours, we recently enlisted Naddaf (27) to reach out to a group of 11- and 12-year-old Pattinson diehards. They kindly took her call during a sleepover.

What do you like about Pattinson?
Abigail: His face.
Olivia: His sexiness.

If he were at your slumber party, what would you ask him?
[simultaneously] Would you marry me?

How many times have you guys seen Twilight?
Olivia: Twice.

Twice? That’s it?
Olivia: Oh, I’ll watch it more.
Maggie: I saw it three times.

How long did it take you to read all four books in the series?
Olivia: A year.
Abigail: I’ve only read the first one.
Maggie: Seven months.

It took me four days.
[Silence.]

I think I’m a bigger fan than all of you.
[More silence.]

What do you think about the rumors that Pattinson dated Camilla Belle?
[Thirteen seconds of mortified screaming.]
Olivia: We don’t like her.
[Three-minute conversation about the Jonas Brothers, with one girl concluding, “They wear promise rings, but that doesn’t mean anything.”]

Now for the big question: Do you ever imagine yourselves making out with Pattinson?
[Again with the silence.]

I do, all the time.
Abigail: We’re only 12.

GQ's 200 Greatest Bro Names

Tuesday  June 09, 2009

00001f

Brozo the Clown
Rag and Brone
Broledad Bro'Brien
Breau Brummel
Brole Porter
Flannery Bro'Connor
Angelina Brolie
Marco Brolo
Plácido Bromingo
Brony Seikaly
Vincent Van Brogh
Brodhistiva
Sandy Broufax
Brosef Stalin
Brojohsephat
Lebrona Helmsley
Tom Brolicchio
Brohan Santana
Brobi-Wan Kenobi
Haley Broel Osment
Brometheus
Fidel Castbro
Brol Pot
Elvis Costellbro
Amy Broehler
Stephen Brolbert
Nabroleon Bronaparte
Broliver Cromwell
Evander Brolyfield
Mario Brotali
Brophia Loren
David Brohansen
Terrell Browens
Tony Bromo
Braubert
Pete Brose
Brony Soprano
Jonathan Safran Broer
Alex Brovechkin
Bro Jackson (you don't know bro)
Bropher Grace
Renzo Pianbro
Santiagbro Calatrava
Broam Chomsky
Evelyn Brah
Bronus Wagner
Brad Brohaus
Giorgibro Armani
Al Brolson
Greg Brostertag
Emilibro Estevez
Paul "Bro" Bryant (Broooooollll Tide!)
Pablo Picassbro
Broto Baggins
Diegbro Velázqeuz
Larry
Bromar Sharif
Scarlett Bro’Hara
Willem Dabroe
Brolden Caulfield
Broni Mitchell
Pebro Almobróvar
Francis Ford Broppola
Truman Cabrote
John Broltrane
Broman Brolanski
Mary-Kate and Ashley Brolsen
Gary Broldman
Bronas Salk
Slobrodan Mibrosevic
Teddy Broosevelt
Marilyn Monbroe
Charles Brokowski
Rimbraud
Brogi Berra
Czeslaw Mibroscz
Paul Brauguin
Tim Tebro
Edgar Allen Bro
Christopher Brolumbus
William Jefferson Clinton
Norah Brones
Brofessor X
Brofiteroles
Rice o Broni
Pete Brozelle
The Sultan of Bronei
Deuteronomy
C-3PBro
Brodhisattva
Brohsaphat
Methuselbrah (oldest living bro)
Gandalf
Bro Chi Minh
Larry, Curly & Bro
Dirk Diggler
Brodo Baggins
Bromer Simpson
Grady Sizemore
Helmut Brohl
Foghorn Leghorn
Brobespierre
Nicolas Sarbrozy
Boutros Boutros-Gali
Broprah Winfrey
Brohan Brohan
Axl Brose
Sherlock Brolmes
Othellbro (not to be confused with Henry IV, Part Bro)
John Brolmes
Frank J. Zambroni
Yoko Brono
Apollo Brohno
Coolibro
Broco Crisp
Broald Dahl
Brophie Dahl
Bronan the Brahbarian
Bro Derek
Brollie Massimino
Mr. Brojangles
Bro Diddley
Yo-Yo Brah
Bro-M-G! (not a name, but still…)
Brosie O’Donnell
Gina Brollo Brigida
Peter Bro'Toole
Brokie Roberts
Brohammed
Brony Randall
Broco Chanel
Brosé Feliciano
Bro. Henry
Brosephine Baker
Bromeo O. Bromeo
Frédéric Bropin
Bromeslice
BrO. J. Simpson
Johannes Brahms
Don Breaux
Jon Favbreau
Jon Bon Jovi
Mephistophbroles
Diego Marabrona
Brony the Tiger
Ben Bronanke
Raffaello Brollieri
Wolfgang Amadeus Brozart
Sen. John Breaux
Salvador Bralí
Giacbrometti
Landbro Calrissian
G.I. Bro
Sonia Brotomayor
Broach K
Brosama bin Laden
Khalid Sheik Brohammed
Nancy Pebrosi
Will Broldham
Sandra Broh
Brozymandias
Bro Vaughan
Erbrol Flynn
Kareem Abdul-Jabbro
Bill Brodley
Fats Bromino
Brollie Fingers
Ringbro Starr
Brorence Henderson
Don Breaux
Broseidon
Brohim
Brosius
Kurt Brobain
Brody Jenner
Tom Brody
Alec Broldwin
T-Brone Burnett
Broald Dahl (and, of course, Brophie Dahl)
Broland the Thompson Gunner
Broe Biden
Bromagnon Man
Brjöron Borg
George Brahshington Carver
James Francbro
Bro Jo White
Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Brobama
Massibro Ambrosini
Brose Feliciano
Dom DiMaggibro
Brokely Carmichael
Bro-klyn Dekker
Brodi Al-Fayed
Hermann Brorschach
Magnetbro
Brol' Dirty Bastard
Shaquille brO'Neal
Muggsy Brogues
Telly Savales is Brojak

Tony Soprano Hits the Tony Awards?

Friday  June 05, 2009

That, and other surprises

Gavin approved single image

We can’t believe we’re about to say this: But we might actually watch the Tony Awards on Sunday night. Seriously! Neil Patrick Harris is hosting. (If you need proof that Doogie can make Broadway funny, check out this clip from SNL.) Meanwhile, James Gandolfini is a nominee. And Will Ferrell—up for his clowning achievement, You’re Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush—is competing with Liza Minnelli for the same trophy. No matter who wins, you’re gonna want to see that crazy-ass acceptance speech.

More reasons to watch: We saw Hair a few weeks ago. And we liked it. Plus, who knew there was so much backstage drama on Broadway.

This is a dirty showbiz story even non-theater fans could appreciate: After a celebrated run in Central Park last summer, a sexually-charged revival of Hair was headed to Broadway. Or maybe not. The show’s producers were taking pot shots at each other in the press. The reported $5.5 million production budget hadn’t yet materialized. And the lead actress quit or was fired depending on whom you asked. And that’s all before Nancy Pelosi (true story) showed up!

“Sometimes the underside of this business makes me want to barf,” says Hair star Gavin Creel. “But now that we’re a success story”—Eight Tony nominations! Packed houses!—“everyone is saying, Look how courageous the producers are!”

It’s tough to describe much on Broadway as courageous. (We’ll reserve that word for, you know, acts that don’t involve sequins.) But we’re glad to see this production—along with Creel’s thoughtful, restrained lead performance—live to see another day. Sure, it’s a Broadway musical. But there’s no need to apologize for cranking “The Flesh Failures” up to 11.—mickey rapkin

The Tony Awards airs Sunday, June 7th on CBS at 8pm.

John Hodgman Reads the Wedding Announcements

Tuesday  May 26, 2009

Weddings_of_the_times

When the newspapers are finally defeated by the computers, we will lose not only an important source of very flammable material that stains our fingers but also three unique human emotions:

First, the reassuring calm of the Funny Pages. (It comforts me to know that Dagwood Bumstead is immortal and that no one looks at him funny just because he wears clothes from the ’30s and has deformed hair. I wonder if he is a Highlander.)

Second, the sheer awful panic of the Obituaries. (But wait! No one is really immortal. All of these people died. This is terrible! This is as bad as reading “For Better or For Worse,” the Canadian comic strip in which everyone ages in real time and then their dog dies.)

And finally, the happy two minutes of hate we call the Wedding Pages. (Go on and grin, you damn preppies. You’re not immune! You will die, too. Just like a Canadian dog.)

I cannot tell you how many Sundays I passed enjoying these comforting rituals before I stopped reading newspapers for good. (They were getting into my head.) And always, it was the third—the Wedding Pages—I enjoyed the most.

I was poor then, having moved to New York with nothing but a degree in literary theory and firm convictions that life owed me a living. I ended up with a job tearing out pages from one book and taping them into another all day, and then retiring to my girlfriend’s apartment, which was very small. It was basically a sink and a bad fridge with some floorboards around them holding up some cast-off furniture and a Cézanne print.

We tried to make a life there, she, I, her roommate, the guy who was crashing on the sofa that had no legs, and the various friends we would invite over for our sad, ridiculously ambitious nine-course weekend dinners in which we would cook a gigantic turkey and attempt to carve it with the only unused butter knife.

It was around that time of fright and yearning that my girlfriend first introduced me to the Wedding Pages. Perhaps she was trying to drop a hint, but I took it differently. Here were people actually beginning adult lives instead of woefully faking it, as we were. They had planned well, majored in finance or better, and were at that very moment in the process of fulfilling the American dream: marrying into money.

Their parents, who sat on boards and foundations and/or oversaw arts centers in East Hampton, did not worry about them. They did not worry about anything.

I was jealous at first. And then I felt something else. There is a German word, I trust, for the feeling they inspired in me, but I do not know what it is. Not schadenfraude. Not pleasure taken in another’s unhappiness, but rather the relief I felt considering the unhappiness I imagined for these smiling couples—that as time wore on, they would age as well, and suffer. This brief moment of newspaper glamour would fade, to be replaced by many more photos full of the same hope and self-congratulation and soft cable-knit sweaters. And this was hilarious to me, as I was young and cruel.

Now I am older, and no longer quite as defensive and fearful. (I am on television.) Newspapers are disappearing. And also, I am married, and we never did get our picture in the paper for it. And I regret it.

For I look at the Wedding Pages differently now. Yes, they are as pompous as they are banal. These are but two keys to the Gordian knot of comedy. But what I am now beginning to understand is how brave these people are.

A wedding announcement is a window into the most goofball daydream a couple can have about itself. To write out your own romance novel, even in glorified newspaper prose, and give it to the world to see is incredibly, ridiculously courageous. It might as well be accompanied by every picture of a horse the bride ever drew in grade school, and every D&D character the groom ever rolled. It is as foolhardy and beautiful as, well, actually getting married.

Wedding announcements are little human stories, full of want and hope, even when they involve falconry. I root for these couples the way I root for all married couples now, and I do not want them to die. I want them to be immortal, Dagwood-style, caught in that frozen moment of hope forever, smiling like morons, happy.

That is all.


Excerpted from the foreword of Weddings of the Times: A Parody. Foreword by John Hodgman and Weddings of the Times by Dan Klein, Robert Baedeker, John Reichmuth, and James Reichmuth. Copyright © 2009 by the authors and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

Read This Book: 'Sunnyside'

Thursday  May 21, 2009

Picture 1

Consider for a moment the fame—at once envious and oppressive—that dogged America’s first true movie star, Charlie Chaplin. As writer Glen David Gold tells it in his long and damn good new novel, Sunnyside (Knopf, $26.95, May), the simple mention of the name might bring trains to a halt and transform hotel lobbies into tittering theaters of the absurd. Sunnyside, the follow-up to Gold’s 2001 novel Carter Beats the Devil (about an early 20th century magician competing with Houdini), finds a fictionalized Chaplin struggling with family life, pressures from film studio bosses and his vanity. Hugely competitive with fellow stars of the time, Chaplin, Gold writes, was also an early master at spin, making sure journalists depicted him “no longer as just a comedian but also as an expert tennis player, composer, pugilist, a clever dancer, golfer, motorist (though never at excessive speeds), and, most of all, a stickler for poetry.” Beginning in 1916, the action at home plays against the fighting in Europe—a war that had its own unique scorecard for members of the American press. Stateside newspapers took note of young and able entertainment types who weren’t fighting abroad; these so-called “slackers” could expect to be shamed in prominently-placed front-page articles. Chaplin and other stars of the era did their bit by raising money through huge public rallies, but the stress got to him. Gold brings in tales of others swept up in the hysteria of the times, but Chaplin, of course, is the book’s star. Though this man would redefine the film industry with the founding of United Artists, he forever feared that he wasn’t living up to his potential. Gold, meanwhile? He’s doing just fine.—kevin canfield

Download This: Passion Pit, 'Manners'

Tuesday  May 19, 2009

Picture_4

In recent years, acts like Justice and MGMT have broadened Electronica’s appeal beyond the Euro glowstick crowd. Helping them hold down the fort are newcomers Passion Pit, whose debut EP, Chunk of Change—a lo-fi experiment crafted in the Emerson dorm of frontman Michael Angelakos as a gift for a girlfriend—has had indie types selling out shows in Portland and New York all year. Look for the band to crossover with their freshmen full-length disc, Manners (out today) which more than delivers on the EP’s promise. This one’s a strobing flood of euphoric beats, manic loops, and refreshingly optimistic lyrics—in short, the kind of turn-it-up album that has you asking, What recession?andrew richdale

The Flu, Stephen King, and You

Thursday  May 07, 2009

King 1 King 2

With Swine Fl… er, H1N1 running rampant across the globe, GQ sought out the man who first predicted a Flu-Driven apocalypse, Stephen King, for his take on the happenings in the world at large. Shockingly, he’s not very optimistic.—alex pappademas

STEPHEN KING: [Loud, worrisome coughing.] Sorry.

GQ: You should get that checked out.
SK: Yeah, I know.

GQ: We’ve read The Stand like eight times, so as soon as people started getting sick, we were like, “Okay—we know how this ends.”
SK: The book is up about 10,000 places on Amazon this week. But I could do without that. [laughs]

GQ: You wrote this book in the ‘70s, when “bioterrorism” wasn’t a household word. Where did the idea of the superflu come from?
SK: 60 Minutes had started to do stories about bio-warfare with horrible graphic images of rats in lab experiments, just shivering themselves to death. So I started to read about the flu. And it’s creepy. The flu is a creepy disease, because you catch the flu and develop an immunity, but only to that strain. The flu shifts its antigen and comes back, and those antibodies that are supposed to protect your cells from invasion don’t work anymore. The idea behind The Stand was a flu that would shift in the body, so that as soon as the body started to beat the flu, it would shift to another kind of flu. It was just plausible enough to scare the hell out of people, I guess.

GQ: It seems like it’s scary because it’s so prosaic. Oh, I have the flu. I’m going to take a sick day. And then, all of a sudden…
SK: Yeah. There’s also a certain paranoia in our society now. Everybody says it’s post-9/11 syndrome, but I’m not sure that’s it as much it is cable news, and even nightly news, jostling for ratings. You know what they say: If it bleeds it leads. And if it coughs, it leads, too. I mean, they had a map on CNN yesterday that showed the possible progress of this flu. And you see a white image of the continental United States and then it starts to turn green, and then it starts to turn red, and then pretty soon, the whole thing is red. And it leads you to the idea that it’s going to be a Stand scenario, you know, and they’re going to be burning dead people in piles outside stadiums. But that’s probably not going to be the case. We’ll find out in the next few weeks. What’s your deadline again?

GQ: I shouldn’t even be doing this interview. I should be stockpiling canned goods and making my way to Boulder.
SK: Look, we’re in an apocalyptic frame of mind, that’s all. The whole country, and the whole world. The news encourages that. I think a lot of people are going to get sick, and I think a lot of people are going to go Howard Hughes. My wife has already started to take a little package of sanitary wet-naps to the supermarket. She scrubs off the handle of her cart before she goes in. Really, you should just wash your hands. I don’t think those fucking masks are going to do a bit of good. That’s ridiculous.

GQ: They’re becoming really popular. Lots of people are wearing them in Manhattan this week.
SK: Yeah. Michael Jackson finally looks like everybody else.

GQ: Michael was way ahead on the mask thing. He’s going to make it. He’ll be the last one left.
SK: That’s it. One human being left on Earth, striding through the ruins with a spangled glove on.

GQ: But what do you think is so compelling about the idea of the apocalypse? Why are we so eager to entertain the notion that it’s going to happen in our lifetime?
SK: Well for me, when I wrote the book, it almost seemed like it would be a relief—instead of picking at this Gordian knot of international relations and economic problems, and the cost of oil, and making the house payments, you just swung through it, chopped it wide open with one big stroke. And it’s just gone. Like that. And I thought there [would be] a good side to that happening, because we were killing ourselves. Our technology had far outraced out moral ability to deal with the problems it creates. We’re still so far behind that we can’t decide what to do with stem cells, you know? We’re still arguing the theological benefits while people sit quadriplegic in wheelchairs, blowing into straws to move themselves from place to place. So how in the hell are we supposed to deal with radical Islamic militants who are willing to blow themselves up? How are we supposed to deal with the pollution in the atmosphere? And, of course, in the back of their minds everybody’s thinking, “Well, I might be the survivor.”

GQ: “If the only people left were people like me, it’ll be paradise.”
SK: But sooner or later it will happen. We’ve seen so many false alarms—Y2K, the Avian Flu—that there’s a tendency to say, “Well it’s all bullshit, it’ll be fine.” One of these days, though, it really is going to be the Spanish Flu again, and it’s going to kill people. I do have some predictive powers—I mean, I’m the guy who wrote The Running Man, where the guy ends up crashing a jetliner into a New York skyscraper at the end of the book.

GQ: Is there anything else in your books that you think will come true in the next few years?
SK: Well, here’s one thing. We can’t talk about this too long, it’s too much of a bummer. But it’s been almost 65 years since anybody’s blown up a nuclear weapon in a city in the world. Everybody knows that’s going to happen. You’re going to wake up one morning to find out somebody exploded a dirty nuke in Baghdad or Islamabad. Or the North Koreans actually did launch some kind of a shit-kicking little missile and managed to blow up part of Tokyo. In terms of death toll, it probably won’t be any worse than what happened at Chernobyl. But the trauma. I mean, look at the situation we’re in—people fly a jet plane low over New York City, and the city goes all Martian Chronicles.

GQ: But you never did the nuclear threat. You went with the biological calamity instead.
SK: Well, the biological burns itself out in a short period of time, and the world that’s left behind is clean. Whereas if we actually did have a nuclear war, that would be the end of all of us. But you know what? The world would come back. We’d be gone, but the world would come back.

GQ: You’re probably right. I hope you’re right. Although I guess I won’t be there to appreciate it, regardless of what happens.
SK: Well, who knows? You might be one of the lucky ones.

GQ: You know, it’s weird—I’ve been having these dreams, man. I don’t know what they mean, exactly…
SK: You just have to go to Nebraska and find the old black woman.

GQ: Yeah. That’s what I thought. I’m on my way.

Zac Efron, Take Heed—Six Methods for Escaping Teen Stardom

Friday  April 17, 2009

THE COREY HAIM

Coreyhaim

Breakout: Lost Boys, age 15
Go from “sweet-faced” to meth-mouthed. Do reality show with costar-for-life Corey Feldman. Botch “comeback” by snorting unidentified substances while mike still hot.

THE KIRK CAMERON

112508_kcameron_growingpains_240x32

Breakout: Growing Pains, age 14
Find Jesus. Alienate costars with Jesus love. Star in unsubtly anti-Semitic end-time film Left Behind. Require real-wife stand-in for costars for on-screen kissing.

THE KURT RUSSELL

Picture_9_150104

Breakout: It Happened at the World’s Fair, age 12
Spent early twenties playing minor league baseball. Shed good-guy image as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (best-named badass ever). Show chops; earn Oscar nod opposite Meryl Streep in Silkwood. Spend balance of career as Goldie Hawn’s man candy.

THE RON HOWARD

123046__american_graffiti_l

Breakouts: The Andy Griffith Show, age 6; American Graffiti, age 19
Agree to act in B-list car-chase movie in exchange for chance to direct. Earn acclaim for behind-camera debut. Use riches to cofound one of most successful production companies in Hollywood. Direct slew of prestige, Oscar-caliber pictures. Achieve cool narrating Arrested Development.

THE LEONARDO DiCAPRIO

Leonardodicapriogrowingpainsgrowing

Breakout: Growing Pains, age 16
Get Oscar nod for (almost) going full retard in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Fall into heartthrob relapse after Titanic. Resume credibility by becoming recurring player for Scorsese. Found production company to fund movies you/Scorsese care about. Adopt uncontroversial cause.

THE JOHNNY DEPP

Depp21jumpstreet400a050307

Breakout: 21 Jump Street, age 23
Land lead in offbeat Edward Scissorhands (first of seven collaborations with Tim Burton). Date Winona Ryder. Upgrade to Kate Moss. Brandish bad-boy rep by checking into hotels as “Mr. Donkey Penis”; trash a room. Manage to keep sex-symbol status while becoming respected actor. Use undeniable charm to somehow not sell out while selling out for Disney franchise; garner Oscar love for said franchise. Do anything you want.—sarah goldstein

Is That a Tricorder in Your Pants?

Wednesday  April 15, 2009

How 'Lost' co-creator J. J. Abrams is sexing up 'Star Trek'

Jjabrams_1

It’s the Perfect Nerd Storm: Lost co-creator and geek deity J. J. Abrams, taking the Star Trek franchise back to its roots with a new film about a couple of young-punk Starfleet recruits (who happen to be named Kirk and Spock). But at first Abrams didn’t think he was the right man for the job. “There would be moments,” he says, “when I’d look around and see all these bald dudes with tattooed faces and pointy ears on the set and think, Shot wrong, this could look like the Ice Capades.”alex pappademas

You’ve said that when you were a kid, you always preferred Star Wars to Star Trek. Why?
Star Wars was about a character everyone could relate to—the average kid, who started out as a farm boy, suddenly called to adventure. And it was this massive, exciting, fast-paced, thrilling spectacle where he ended up meeting people who changed his life forever, and became this hero. I never really felt like I was Kirk; I never really connected with Spock. So for me, it was a no-brainer.

Yet here you are.
I was involved as a producer first. I finally read the script, and it had emotion and it had action, it had comedy—all the things I love about movies.
I gave the script to my wife, and she said, “You should direct this movie.” I just knew I’d be jealous of whoever was directing the film.

So you did the Dick Cheney search-committee thing and chose yourself.
I tend not to use Dick Cheney as a point of reference, but I suppose you can.

You hadn’t seen anything past the first few movies, though?
I think I’d seen the first four. I’ve since seen others. But at the time, I’d sort of lost track of Star Trek. It was a shock to me that this would be Star Trek 11

I looked up the box-office numbers, and I was surprised to see that all the Star Trek movies actually made money. The eighth one was the second-biggest one ever. The franchise isn’t broken in a financial sense. But I can’t think of the last time the release of one of these films seemed like an event. Do you think that’s why the studio felt the need for a fresh take on Star Trek? Were they concerned that it was no longer relatable for people who aren’t already steeped in the mythology? 
Well, at a certain point—and this is something that Lost, for example, has gone through—you realize, “This is our fan base. These are the people who watch the show. These are the people who show up for the movies.” And at a certain point a decision was made not to reach outside of that core group. And that’s terrific, because it ended up playing to a completely focused, dedicated club. But that sort of magnified what I was talking about before—the movies felt like they were for a specific group that I wasn’t part of. We wanted to do a movie for fans of movies. For people, not just Trekkie people. That’s not to say we weren’t incredibly diligent about servicing the fans who in many ways are the reason this series has gotten so many lives. But it was very important that we not make Star Trek 11, because that’s a movie that I don’t think would be for you or me, necessarily.

The movie is a straight prequel—it ties into the continuity of the shows and the other eleven films. Was there ever a discussion of just doing the Batman Begins treatment and starting the story over, so that you wouldn’t be hampered by fifty years of baggage, plotwise?
I think we stumbled on a story that’s a better version of that. We’re telling a story that uses the backstory, the history of the world that Gene Roddenberry created, but doesn’t suffer from that thing a lot of prequels suffer from, where you think, “As exciting as this is, I’ve seen the other movies—I know they live. You can’t get me—I’ve seen Alec Guinness play that guy!” That’s a default problem with any film that’s a true prequel. So this movie is a strange hybrid. We’re not completely restarting everything. Leonard Nimoy’s in this movie, and he’s playing Spock. It connects. And at the same time, it’s its own thing, and it’s alive and vital. But this movie’s intended for people who’ve never seen an episode of Star Trek, so even though it’s not a complete restart, the work we had to do is in many ways the same. You have to make sure you’re giving people a way in, and that requires telling a story that assumes nothing. But if you love Star Trek, there are so many references and allusions in the film that’ll be rewarding, because you’ll finally get to see scenes that have been discussed but never seen before. You’ll finally understand how certain things happened in Kirk’s backstory, or Spock’s. I love that there’s two ways you can experience this film: If you happen to be a fan, it’s fantastic, and if you’ve never seen it before, all the better.

The first scene of the trailer takes place in Iowa. There’s no clue that it’s even sci-fi until we see the hover bike. It seems like you’re trying to ground this story in a reality people can relate to.
I think the thing about Star Wars that’s undeniable is that it’s “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” and Star Trek is us. The idea that it’s connected to us, and our future, is an important component. “To boldly go where no man has gone before”—it’s kind of a funny little cliché. But the idea of a diverse group of humans and other species working together bravely, going places that are unknown and actually terrifying, not to destroy or own them but to explore, is…

Impressive, yeah. That early-’60s, pre-Kennedy-assassination, progressive vision of the future is in the DNA of Star Trek going back to the original. The idea that someday a black woman and a Russian and an Asian guy and a Vulcan would be on the bridge of a starship together, on the same mission, was utopian thinking on Gene Roddenberry’s part.
And it came at a time when there was incredible fear and massive suspicion and uncertainty about the future. Now everyone’s saying, “Oh, look, this movie is about hope, it’s about change, it’s the perfect Obama film.” We started this thing more than two years ago. It’s just a coincidence that this movie’s coming out at a time when people could use an optimistic view of what our tomorrow might look like.

You know the die-hard fans will be pissed if you—an outsider!—mess up the Star Trek mythology.
Roberto Orci, one of the screenwriters, was the voice of the fan base throughout the production. He’s a devout Star Trek lunatic who knows every crazy arcane detail. His love is off the charts.

Does he speak Klingon?
Honestly, I bet that guy could marry you in Klingon.