by Will Leitch (Chivas Regal)
and Bob Sassone (Gimlets)
Here we are, with Round 2. Like most things I write, I never know how to start these little lubricated conversations. So let me tell you that I had mentioned that I was going to be drinking Campari and
Soda this time around. Then I realized since I drank Cointreau the last time, something quirky and unknown to many people, maybe I should go with something that was mainstream. Something that readers could relate with. Something that would hit me just a little bit harder, a little bit quicker. (Also: I checked my bar – I’m out of Campari).
The Gimlet, from Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye:”
“The bartender sat the drink in front of me. With the lime juice it has a sort of pale greenish yellowish misty look. I tasted it. It was both sweet and sharp and the same time. The woman in black
watched me. Then she lifted her own glass towards me. We both drank. Then I knew hers was the same drink.”
Woman, writing, and alcohol. Isn’t that what life is all about?
A good evening to you sir. I come to you live from our den, which is a fancy term I use for “coffee table.” I sit here with a Chivas Regal scotch whiskey. It’s just the way I like it, like R. Kelly: aged
I’m sorry it took me so long to show up. It’s always amusing when I’m gone for a while, because when I finally write you back, you’re all piss-drunk by the time you respond. Is this really the second time you’ve drunk heavily since 1999? That is just fantastic. I’m telling you, if you ever actually came here, we’d rip you apart. In a good way. Like Mike Tyson having sex with one of the Olsen twins. Hell, both.
Anyway, I have a few topics for us. First off, I’m gonna be a blatant self-promoter and ask you what you think of the Black Table. AJ, Gillin and I are pounding the shit out of the pavement on that thing, but, truthfully, none of us have any idea if it’ll catch on or not. (These days, I’m not even sure what catching on is.) But it’s certainly exciting. I’m reading that book about Saturday Night Live right now, and it reminds me of what that show was like in the early days. Just a bunch of punk kids, creating whatever shit amuses them, hoping there are other people out there who see the world the same way they do. We care enough about it that we’re constantly getting on each other’s nerves, but perhaps that’s the way it should be. None of us are ever willing to give an inch, even though AJ and Gillin are constantly wrong, and I’m always right. It’s different than what Ironminds used to be; it feels more real, less needy. Plus, we get to run interviews with porn stars. Anyway, I was just curious what you thought.
Secondly, I wanted to check back in with you about your whole moving-to-New York thing. Last time, I had some rather choice words about the notion — that is to say, I thought you might have been acting a little rash — and an update would be nice. I know you’re publishing your book right now. It’s been a while, right? I can’t imagine self-publishing. You’re a bigger man than I.
Bob, I also get the sense that you’re not into reality television. I do not understand this. Reality television, as far as I’m concerned, is the only thing worth watching. If you want art, go see a movie. Television is by its very nature a passive, brainless medium; if I wanted to think, I’d leave my apartment. But you’re still stuck on this whole Ed thing. Screw that, man. Last night, I watched a woman with large breasts stuffed uncomfortably in a 10-year-old’s sports bra bobbing for rings in a large vat of cow blood. Cow blood, Bob! I mean, what more do you want? And Joe Millionaire … I think that’s deeper than you give it credit for. You’ve got a guy who couldn’t spell his own name in the snow, yet somehow he’s choosing between three women who perfectly capture the female archetypes: The hot kinky blond, the spunky little sister type, and the quiet sensitive mysterious lady who won’t put out. And he came across them all accidentally! And then, at the end, he has a big lie to confess! Don’t tell me that isn’t reality! Have you read Lindsay Robertson’s recaps of that show on Flak? They’re brilliant, but a show like that writes its own recap.
And tonight is an all-female Fear Factor. There is a God, Bob.
OK, Sassone … speak, boy, speak!
You’re right. I sit here and sit here, clicking on “check mail,” and still nothing for the longest time. I think it’s some strategy by you: “make Bob wait, until he’s good and shitfaced, and then I’ll come across sounding like Noel Coward.” And as I sit here with gimlet #3, you’re right.
Damn, I love “Fear Factor.” Last night they had the “gross” episode. First they had to bob for rings in a vat of cow’s blood. Then they had to eat something called a tomato worm (a slimy worm with pretty neon green color), and then race through a sewer filled with dead skunks. This is America! So why am I sitting here getting drunk with you while I could be watching the all-new female version? With their breasts bouncing and their trash talk, I know I’m missing something special. It’s almost 8pm. Time to turn on the television…
The Black Table: I love it. And I must admit I didn’t see it coming. While I constantly teased my readers with “Professor Barnhardt’s Journal is coming” tidbits, TBT came out of nowhere. You and Eric and AJ are doing a very cool thing. I do wish it was updated more, but I completely understand the whole “technical difficulties/getting writers” thing. I’m all for the bootstrap, let’s put on a show, let’s do our own mag thing. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder about publishing, why I started writing in the first place. There’s something undeniably cool about being able to be a little bit more free to do the type of articles you want to do. The satire, the irreverence. And not having to worry about advertisers or deadlines or overhead? I think everyone should self-publish SOMETHING, and do the regular writing on the side. That’s the perfect scenario.
I read the SNL book. I love the way it’s set up, just all these paragraphs/quotes from various cast members, seperated by era. A master stroke. Damn, no one liked Chevy Chase, eh? When you have that many people who agree, then it must be true. People always talk about the early years as being the best. Screw that (and I watched the very first episode in ’75). The best years, in my opinion, were the Hartman/Carvey/Myers years of the late 80s through mid 90s.
Joe Millionaire? Did you see the episode where he got the hummer and FOX captioned it with “slurp” and “gulp?” Holy Jesus we’re in a different era of TV. The rumor on the web is that he really IS a
millionaire, which would be a masterful stroke on FOX’s part. Decieve the viewer while decieving the women. God I hope that’s true.
As for moving to New York, I don’t see it happening. Fuck, I’m 37! I’m not saying I’m an old man, but it’s too far along to completely pull up stakes and move to NYC and do the whole starving writer thing. I’m in Boston, which is a big cityin it’s own right and very close to NYC. I can write from here and make frequent trips to visit friends and meet with editors and agents. Yeah, I can picture myself doing that a lot. Your couch is still available, right? I’m comin, man, I’m comin. You have to show me your town.
As for my book, thanks. As if I don’t have enough work getting this self-published thing printed (my apartment is covered in various pieces of paper and text, scattered everywhere), today I made a deal to co-author a book on writing. I guess it’s better than the alternative: food stamps and being a waiter.
You’ve given me a lot to chew on here. But it’s time for gimlet #4.
OK, Bob, you were making too much sense there. I have a suspicion you’re not actually drinking. That brings up another question: How the hell did you come up with this idea in the first place? I mean, the guy drinks twice a decade and then contacts a complete stranger to get drunk and yammer back and forth? And why me, man? I’m a dork who covers investment brokerages — not very well, I might add — during the day and then pumps heroin into his veins before babbling about ex-girlfriends for 1,500 words. (By the way, an ex-girlfriend of mine read our last correspondence and got all pissed at me for writing about her. You’d think she’d be used to it by now.) Nothing much going on upstairs over here, I’m afraid.
You’re co-writing a book about writing? Man, do I have a lot of questions about that.
Yeah, the Black Table has been slowed slightly by a fried motherboard of the official Camp Bowery computer. We’ll be back to daily in about two weeks. (We just updated tonight, actually.) It’s funny;
you’re the third person to speak of the Black Table as a “let’s put on a show” type endeavor. To me, it’s just that there are so many freakishly talented people who have absolutely no place to go with their talents. AJ Daulerio, Lindsay Robertson, Johan More, Claire Zulkey, Amy Blair, Greg Lindsay, Jim Norton … 60 years ago, they’d be Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite and Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost. It’s a different world right now; it’s difficult to make a name for
yourself. There’s too much static out there; everybody’s dog has a weblog these days. We take a rather serious approach to what we’re doing, actually; this might sound strange coming from a guy who has
written 141 columns about himself, but we’re of the belief that there are just about enough personal essay sites out there. They’re good at what they do, and they’ve been doing it longer. We couldn’t beat that if we wanted to — which we don’t. We want to be a serious voice based on hard work. There’s no time for people who won’t put in the muscle.
Plus, we get to interview porn stars.
We’re also trying to get an interview with Joe Bob Briggs, who has written for your site. He hasn’t written me back yet; put in a good word, will you?
I will say, Bob, I am relieved that you’re not moving to New York. It’d be nice to have you out here,
but I’m a firm believer in staying in your comfort zone to produce your best stuff. Besides, I need a host when I go to Fenway Park.
How’s your love life, Bob?
Hey, my dad told me a joke the other day.
Q: What do you get when you put a baby in a blender?
A: An erection.
My father, Bob! My father!
Hey, a friend of mine just go the job as editor-in-chief of mediabistro.com. I hate MediaBistro.com. I guess I have to start pretending I don’t think they’re not a bunch of in-joke dweebs who think they matter, but don’t. You know who’s good, though? Gawker.com.
This is turning into a long infomercial. That’s OK. They all deserve it.
My roommates have switched to American Idol. You won’t convince me every male on that show isn’t spending his off-camera time having sex with dudes.
Rest assured that I am indeed drinking. You should see my kitchen counter: a bottle of Beefeater, a bottle or Rose’s lime juice, and a measuring cup, with various puddles and stains scattered around
the counter surface. I just noticed: I have 7 – seven! – different bottles of gin, all opened under the bar. Why does that happen?
How did I come up with this idea (I seem to be asking many questions, some rhetorical, some not)? Writers are supposed to drink a lot, right? That’s the classic sterotype. I thought, what if two writers
who like their liquid refreshment (even though I don’t do it to inebriation as much as I used to) just drink in real time and type their thoughts? Voila! Here we are. (I thought about what your exes might say about some of your columns, and now I know).
You’re right. I think that there are many people on the web – many of the poeple you name – who are making a name for themselves in the cyber arena. And I use the word “cyber” with hesitation as I’ve always hated that word. But I see certian web writers as the Serling and Cronkite of our era. But, at the same time, I don’t see that, since the web is so immediate and ever-changing and so massive, and most things that have been done have been done. What would the famous writers of the 40s and
50s and 60s be doing today? I hope and believe they’d be doing The Black Table and PBJ and Flak. I wish I had been alive in 1955. For SO many reasons. I really belong in that time.
Oh, and Fenway is on me when the new, sure-to-be-disappointing Sox season starts. Though don’t be surprised if I spend the summer in NYC. It’s time. I really LOVE gawker.com. That’s what a web site should be: gossipy and personal yet universal and so in touch with the vibe of a particular city. Boston needs something like that.
Your dad’s joke: that’s just sick. Sick, sick, sick. Which, roughtly translated, means “I’ll be repeating it to evryone I know.”
American Idol. Holy crap, what possesses some of these people to audition? Do they *really* think they sing well? Some of them are truly abysmal. This country is way too Whitney-ized and Mariah-ized. Whatever happened to smoothness and style and underplaying it? Tone and style
over vocal gymnastics?
My love life? What love life? Right now I’m all about books and writing. No time or money for concentating on the opposite sex. Does that make me weird?
So what is it you hate about mediabistro.com? Come on, come on, tell me.
MediaBistro? There was a time where their presence could be confused with clout, but that has long passed. Now they’re just a bunch of aging wannabes who still think what they have to say is important. It isn’t. At best, they’re a portal for desperate unemployeds to talk amongst themselves and try to grasp at something that as long since passed them by. I know this for a fact; I was once one of them. People like to fart around and convince themselves they still matter, rather than do what they’re supposed to: Cut the shit and actually start working for a living. That’s my problem with MediaBistro. They’re the elderly diva still demanding what they didn’t even deserve when they meant anything.
That said, their new editor-in-chief is my friend, and he’s a bright guy. But, as the great Butt-head said, you can’t polish a turd, Beavis.
Let’s segue. Bob, I’ve decided I want to have a threesome. It is a measure of my inherent shallowness that if you made a list of the 10 things I must do before I die, having a threesome would be near the top of the list. In fact, I’m having trouble with coming up with nine other ones.
What’s the goal we’re all striving for, Bob? What do you want to do? Do you want to have an agent and write big books? Do you want to have a column in the New York Times magazine? Do you want to review television shows for the Boston Globe? We make such sacrifices for some larger goal, but I’m not sure any of us have a clear idea of what that goal is. I’m not sure I do. I think I”m probably just like everybody else raised in this media culture; I just want to be heard.
You should tell all your readers to read Zulkey.com every day. It’s tough to come up with any other site that makes me laugh, consistently, every day.
So, seriously, put in a good word with Joe Bob, would you? We want that interview.
Hey, Bob, what’s in your CD player right now? I’m still listening to Nirvana bootlegs, 12 years later.
Your friend at Mediabistro, is that David? Is he still there? Or is it someone else hired recently? It can be an invigorating place, a rare site on the web where real writers could get together. There’s still some of that there, but it’s hard to find. I like it, but it’s mostly wannabe writers and people who would rather TALK about writing and complain and network than really get down to writing, which is rally what’s it’s all about, right?
We’re all striving for something different. Or maybe in genearl it’s all the same. I think age and experience has something to do with it. What am I striving fgor? I think the ULTIMATE, if I can use ultimate in all caps, is to just write whatever I want, whether it’s books or articles, have an agent, be known enough to get my stuff read, and have money. But I’ve always been blessed (cursed?) with a realitisic streak, and that tells me that I’m always going to have to have some sort of journalism job (or – gasp! – something else) while I pump out the freelance work. My scenario: I write a book every couple of years, either a novel or book of essays or work of non-fiction, while I write clever essays and interviews and features for The NYT Magazine and web sites and Gear and Details and The
Boston Globe and other pubs. It really is within every writer’s grasp, if you finally realize that you’ll have to do some writing that you’re not crazy about. Like you, I want to be heard. But I also want to listen, and write about what I hear.
As for your admission of wanting a threesome, you have balls to admit that. Here’s my stance on a threesome: it has to me and two other women. None of this “two guys and a girl” shit. I mean, if I’m
going at it and look up and see a cock, it sure as hell better be mine.
On my CD player right now, and for the past 3 months, non-stop: Frank Sinatra, and Tommy Keene’s “Based On Happy Times.” Have you ever heard Tommy Keene? Wow, that’s all I have to say.
Uh, I was obviously referring to sex with two chicks. I have enough issues without some dude standing next to me while I’m waxing my jimmy, yeah.
Naw, the MediaBistro guy is Jesse Oxfeld, whom I used to work with at Brill’s Content. He just got hired. We’ll see how it goes.
Hey, Bob, will you be mad at me if I think about wrapping up? I would like to say that I’m too drunk to stand upright, but to be honest, my roommates are about to go to bed, and I’d like to feel myself while watching Cinemax once they’re gone. That’s OK to say, right? Right?
I think every two months is right for this. Hell, at the pace, the next time we do this, baseball will be going on.
One last question: What do you think of Johan More?
No, I don’t mind you wrapping up at all *cough* pussy wimp *cough* cough*.
I’ve about reached my limit on the gimlets tonight. I’m going to finish this one up while I grab something to eat myself. Hey, Judging Amy is on. Judging Amy, Will!
Oh, as for Johan More. Will, I know Johan’s secret. You know what I mean. I figured it out months ago and pissed him off by telling him I knew what his secret was. But it’s a secret I don’t mind keeping to myself.
For a price, of course.
OK, I’ll let you finish this off. As I down the last of my drink, sign us off with something sparkling.
I suppose I had that coming. Every two months it is. And, to close … ladies … who wants a threesome? I’m begging here!