Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bridie Clark, Because She Can

Because She Can is about Claire Truman, an eager editor who gets the once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Vivian Grant, the most powerful and successful women in publishing.

Claire’s delight and excitement slowly evaporate as she begins to learn just what an evil and unkind person Vivian Grant really is. At the same time, Claire meets and falls head over heels with a man named Randall who is extremely handsome and very wealthy and lavishes gifts on Claire- gifts that his secretary picked out because he’s too busy. Claire’s heart is being pulled in another direction to Luke, a handsome novelist with none of the money or flair that Randall offers. She must figure out where her heart lies- with the rich, extravagant businessman or the meager writer?

We have all had bad jobs and bosses from hell. I’ve had my share but no one as bad as Vivian Grant. This is a quick, entertaining, humorous read and I enjoyed every page. Bridie Clark is definitely an author to watch as I am certain anything else she writes will be a must-read.

I want to read your name as Birdie, instead of Bridie. What's the story behind your name?

I respond to either because I get called Birdie so much! I was named after my paternal grandmother, a feisty and inspiring lady who immigrated from Ireland when she was in her early twenties. Bridie’s an Irish nickname for Bridget.

I think the world of publishing has a glamorous connotation: fancy book parties and intelligent authors, literary geniuses working together while cute editors labor over the next bestsellers. Tell me about the seedy underbelly that we don't hear about.

It’s neat—and I guess, even glamorous—to work on books that you later see covered by the press, or read by strangers. Books can change people’s way of thinking, make them laugh out loud, help them imagine a slice of life they might not otherwise get to see. I think there’s some inherent glamour in a line of work that can have that much impact. But as you know, a ton of effort goes into producing a book – a lot of late nights, doubt, and discipline. There was nothing remotely glamorous about the two weeks before my final deadline, as my husband will tell you.

The comparison between Because She Can and The Devil Wears Prada is inevitable. What do you say to the critics who will compare these two books which both feature bitchy, demanding designer- clad bosses from hell and young ingénues who are eager to please?

I say: thank you! I loved The Devil Wears Prada – book and movie – and think Lauren’s a very funny writer, so the comparison is flattering. To the charge that it’s “just more assistant lit,” I’d say that there’s room for a few books on the topic. I think readers like fiction that’s in some way reflective of their own experiences. Lighthearted, entertaining books centered on the workplace – and making sense of one’s career – seem to resonate with young women who are heavily invested in their careers.

Are you or were you anything like Claire Truman when you began working in publishing?

Our backgrounds are similar. I grew up in a very close family, but was raised in Connecticut – not Iowa. My mom really is a natural beauty who favors flannel shirts and jeans (on the other hand, my dad’s alive and kicking, and a huge part of my life). I was an English major in college, then moved to New York… so yeah, our backgrounds are similar. But Claire’s much more laser-focused on her career goals – becoming an important editor – than I ever was. And I never had two hot suitors like Randall and Luke knocking down my door at the same time, alas.

What was your worst job and how long did you last? Mine was working at a day care center- I lasted one afternoon and never went back.

My worst jobs, in retrospect, are among the jobs I’m most grateful to have had. Being a waitress at a country club. No tips, heavy trays, a few memorable snobs. But everyone should wait tables at some point – it makes you appreciative of good service and tolerant of not-so-good. Substitute teaching was tough for me, too. It requires super-human multi-tasking ability to keep track of 25 third-graders. But if I have kids, I’ll be more grateful to their teachers because I’ve—very, very briefly—walked in their shoes.

What did you dream of being when you were a little girl? I doubt you grew up saying that you wanted to work for a ruthless boss with no integrity like Vivian.

Funny, my mom and I were just going through boxes in the basement, so I have these aspirations in writing. In second grade, I wanted to be a writer, a model, and a professional basketball player for the Celtics. Larry Bird was my first crush. I guess the model thing was just wanting to be pretty. And I wrote a ton of books when I was a kid. My parents had a whole library of my books, most of them bound very elegantly with duct tape.

Living in New York City, you have access to the best restaurants, Broadway shows and museums. What are some of your favorite places in the city? Where do you go to unwind?

I love living here. I wrote most of my book in a small west village coffee shop called Doma. Now I’m uptown with my husband, so it’s Central Park, yoga at the Reebok Club, and lots of dinners with friends. Telepan is around the corner from us, and usually our date spot. We kind of beat ourselves up for that – we have this feeling that we shouldn’t go to the same place twice because there are so many good spots to try out. But we love it.

Tell me about the Halloween Handbook. How did you ever come up with 447 costumes? The most creative idea I could come up with was dressing my kids as a washer/dryer combo last Halloween. (they refused, but wasn't it a great idea?)

Love the washer/ dryer idea! That could've been number 448. I can’t take credit for coming up with 447 – I co-wrote the book with one of my best friends, Ashley Dodd (now Phipps), who’s incredibly creative and funny. And most of our “brainstorming session” involved multiple bottles of wine. That kept the ideas flowing.

I hear publishing and Hollywood are both ruthless places. Full of villains who will slice your throat to get ahead. So what's the appeal? Many people would love to be a famous in some way but at what cost? Would you ever want to be famous?

I’d like my books to be famous. The nice thing about being a writer is that you’re not really in the spotlight. You’re just in competition with yourself to produce the best work you can. No office politics when you’re working from home by yourself. If there is, you might want to up your medication.

Are you still working in publishing? What is your ideal job- besides writing books of course, because that's a pretty awesome gig right there.

Writing full-time would be the best. I’d love that. But I could also see hopping back to the other side of the fence, if the right opportunity came up. I don’t spend much energy trying to plan, because right now there are so many variables.

How was the publishing experience working on the other side- author instead of editor? What will your next book be about?

It was great, mainly because my editor Karen Kosztolnyik was a godsend. Her imagination and humor came in handy countless times during the revision process. Being an author is easy and fun when you have an editor who does her job well.

Next book – welcoming suggestions. I have a few ideas brewing, we’ll see which one sticks.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Good Mood Diet

As a rule, I avoid diets. Although I would love to lose an extra five pounds, I refuse to "diet" and always try to eat sensibly and get daily exercise even if it's just ten minutes on the elliptical trainer. I read The Good Mood Diet with great interest. Not only is this diet completely ideal- it allows carbs!- but it's a way of eating that you can maintain forever.

It's about changing the way you eat to have energy and feel happy rather than eating endless bowls of salad and feel hungry. I'll never forget the time I tried losing weight by making powdered diet shakes and ended up adding ice cream to the powder to make it taste better. Yeah, didn't work.

I got inspired by reading The Good Mood Diet and am going to keep it on my bookshelf so I can page through it when I feel like I'm headed down the wrong path (fries! burgers! skipping meals!). The book boasts you will feel better in a day, erase depression in one week and lose weight within one month! Sounds fabulous , doesn't it? I certainly feel completely better mentally and have more energy when I eat healthy foods. This is such a great book about how to make better choices about the foods you eat. Eat healthy, feel better and as a bonus, you will look better.

Author Susan Kleiner includes delicious easy to make recipes, shopping lists and menus (among other valuable information) that make this book a keeper.

You speak very highly of eating lots of fish. Is taking an Omega 3 supplement the same as consuming a piece of salmon daily? What if you don't like fish?

While the oils in fatty fish contain the important marine-based omega-3 fats, critical for brain health (and heart health), when you take a supplement that's all you get. When you eat fish, you get the wonderful proteins and other nutrients found in fish:

Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin A, vitamin D
Major mineral contribution: Iodine, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium

You don't have to eat fish daily, and you don't have to eat salmon. Numerous fish and shellfish are high in omega-3 fats: black cod, catfish, shrimp, crab, halibut, sardines. And all fish have some omega-3 fats. If you really can't eat fish, then the supplements are a very wise alternative.

I know some people who are allergic to Splenda as well as other sugar substitutes. What do you think about Stevia?

Stevia is a very sweet herbal sugar-alternative. I have based my recommendations on the following paragraph published in the Journal of the American Dietetic ASsociation Online:

Stevia (Steveoside), derived from a South American shrub, imparts a sweet taste but cannot be marketed or sold as a sweetener in the United States. The FDA has not received sufficient scientific evidence to assure that this substance can be safely used as a food additive. JECFA evaluated steveoside in 1998 no ADI was set because insufficient data and specifications were available. Stevia can be sold as a “dietary supplement” and may be available in packets that resemble tabletop sweeteners. Consumers should be informed that Stevia is not approved as a nonnutritive sweetener.

So, while it sounds great, there is actually little safety data on Stevia. Because I am giving broad based public health advice, I do not recommend the use of Stevia in any appreciable amounts.

What are your favorite "feel good" foods? And what foods do you eat for an instant burst of energy?

I am a major fan of dairy. I love milk, yogurt, kefir. I love to make milk-based smoothies with extra whey protein added, along with great fruits like berries, peaches, bananas, mango. Each adds to the other to boost energy and mood.

I love the hot cocoa at night. I also love nuts and nut butters. Apples with peanut butter are a great energizer for mind and body. I love cereal. I love corn on the cob and BBQ chicken and a great big salad.

It's so hard to eat out and maintain a healthy diet. Just look at the majority of restaurants and what they offer. Can you make good choices without feeling like you are missing out? A dry chicken sandwich on plain bun with a wilted iceburg lettuce leaf is not enticing.

Yuck, that sounds terrible. I'd rather eat at home. And I have to admit that I usually do. I have high expectations for my food, but that can take high dollars that I'm not usually willing to fork over. I'd rather buy really high quality food at the market, like great vegetables and fruits, a wonderful piece of fish, a fabulous crusty bread and an awesome olive oil to dip in, and eat at home. It doesn't take much preparation. And it tastes fresh and delicious, and is less expensive than a restaurant.

When I do eat out, I usually save up for a great sushi dinner. That's my favorite, and it's time consuming to make at home.

But we do have two kids, and so eating out happens occasionally. Our favorite family choices still seem to tend toward Asian style, where the food is made fast and fresh. We love Vietnamese, especially pho. Thai comes in second and Chinese is actually pretty close, too.

When we're looking for fast and practical, Subway is a great choice. Pizza is always fun, and we're pretty selective when we order. Always vegetarian, thin crust if possible, and just regular cheese; never double. We load up on salad there, too.

We also can do Mexican-style, on occasion. Again, vegetarian, unless they have fish/shrimp, and we try to find a fresh-style place that's heavy on the vegetables and lighter on the rice. We have a great place in Seattle that we love called World Wrapps.

I can easily pass up dessert but put a plate of French fries in front of me and I cannot resist. What do you indulge in?

I love great bread. We have incredible bakeries here in Seattle, and I do indulge. But I don't eat bread alone. I eat it with a sandwich, or I dip in great olive oil, or I spread a little peanut butter and apple butter on top. A great rye bread is great dipped in plain, Greek-style yogurt, believe it or not.

So even when I'm indulging I'm putting my food to work for me. By always combining with protein and/or healthy fats, I'm feeding my muscles and my brain, and really enjoying it at the same time.

What would you say to someone who is on the Atkins diet? That diet scares me- it doesn't seem healthy at all but it's a very popular way for people lose weight.

The good thing about low carb diets is that few people actually stick to them for much more than a few weeks. They get bored, grouchy, crabby, miss other foods, crave variety, feel lousy, and finally go off the plan. Weight loss is a great motivator to go on a diet, but it's not enough of a motivator to keep you on a diet that makes you feel lousy. That's what's so great about The Good Mood Diet. The whole premise is about feeling good, but the cutting edge science of sports nutrition, helping you lose fat, is built in. So you feel great, you stick to the plan, and if you need to lose weight, you will.

What are your favorite exercises? How do you get into the mood to exercise when you rather sit on the couch and watch the E! channel? (or show of your choice)

You know, what drives me is what makes me feel good. I know that exercise makes me feel good, so that's why I go. But I also have another motivator. I frequently do group exercise (take an exercise class). The social part of it is very important. WE all support each other, and we kind of hold each other accountable for showing up. We laugh, sweat, and feel great. The class that I probably like the most really kicks butt, it's a high intensity interval training class. We have great music that really pumps me up. I really like to weight train much more than I like to do cardio exercise, but since the cardio is my mental challenge I feel great when I'm done.

When I exercise I need to maximize my time. I don't want to dilly dally. I want to work really hard, feel like I'm moving forward by getting stronger, gaining endurance, and having fun. I sweat like crazy, and the reward is a smoothie and that great shower at the end.

I also do a lot of activitiies that I don't necessarily think of my "exercise routine". I love to ski, cycle, hike, dance.

Here's a common scenerio: Someone tries to lose weight only to get frustrated and binge on the food they are trying to stay away from-- only to repeat the process. How will we ever put an end to that cycle?

I talk about that alot in The Good Mood Diet. This is a typical scenario. So after someone binges, they beat themselves up, tell themselves that now that can't eat anything, and then try very hard to follow through with that for hours. But they can't. They will get hungry no matter what they ate or binged on. So the strategy is to just accept that you binged, and then think about what you still need to eat. You may still need to eat your planned dinner, and the hot cocoa at bedtime. Then you'll feel much better because you've fed yourself feel great foods. Otherwise, at some point during the evening you would have broken down and eaten more instant gratification foods that continue a downhill feel bad slide.

When you eat what you need to eat, you wake up in the morning feeling great and back on the plan. You have your breakfast and off you go. You've broken the cycle. If you continue to beat yourself up and focus on depriving yourself, you will continue to crave the feel bad foods, and be stuck in that cycle. So I encourage people to let go of the past and live in the present and the future. Think about what you NEED to eat, and feed your brain.

I haven't seen the movie Super Size Me, but I read about the guy who ate at McDonalds every day and ended up feeling horrible, being sick and of course gaining weight. If you could put healthier items on the menus at fast food restaurants, what would you add?

You see, the problem with McDonald's and other chains isn't adding healthier choices, it's getting rid of the really lousy ones. As long as those are there, the healthy choices are just marketing ploys. Customers come in for the huge fries, burgers and big sodas. Not the healthy choices.

Would you appear on Oprah in a bikini like Kirstie Alley? I'll tell you right now- no, I would not. Ever. Okay for a million dollars I might.

No, because The Good Mood Diet is not about me. It's about creating a lifelong plan that helps people feel better. I am a scientific expert, not a celebrity.

Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

There was once a time in my life when I did not have a Valentine. It seemed like the whole entire world was in love except me. Everywhere I looked, there were happy couples kissing and holding hands and existing to make my life miserable or so it seemed. But that was a long time ago. Just because I have a Valentine doesn't mean everyone else does, so here are two books for those who are single. You don't need a partner for validation though- you are wonderful as you are!

First up is a book from Susan Shapiro called Secrets of a Fix-Up Fanatic. Susan has been setting people up for years and has an outrageous success rate. She writes with a sense of humor and warmth which makes me think we could be good friends. I like funny, kind people. Wouldn't it be super if a friend who knew you well could match you up with a person who was your ideal fit? Like two puzzle pieces snapping together.

The next book is called I Love You, Let's Meet- Adventures in Online Dating by Virginia Vitzthum. I have several friends who met their significant others via the online emporium. I tried classified ads once before the advent of myspace et al, and ended up with a chubby football player who had fingers like sausages. He sent me a dozen long stemmed roses after we met. No he didn't end up being my husband, by the way.

Did you realize that there are words and abbreviations used in cyberdating? Who knew that RL stands for Real Life? To me, it's Ralph Lauren. Virginia interviews those who have plunged into online dating and details everything in I Love You, Let's Meet. The book is a peek into other people's online dating emails and stories. It's almost voyeuristic!

Whether you are single or with someone special, I wish you a Happy Valentines Day!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Brad Listi, Attention. Deficit. Disorder.

Seems like I can't go on any Myspace page without seeing Brad Listi listed as a 'friend'. For the longest time, I would see his name everywhere and his frequent bulletins announcing a new blog were showing up like clockwork, every single day. Who was this guy that was all over the place?

I decided to check him out and found that he wrote a book called, Attention.Deficit.Disorder. His blog is updated all the time hence the frequent bulletins heralding a new entry. Brad is one of the most popular Myspace members around and his book was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and has garnered rave reviews from readers of all ages.

I have to admit, I rarely have an interest in novels that guys write. I suppose I expect books written by men to be about things like sports, beer, military espionage and science fictiony topics like flying saucers and robotic women.

was a great book with no sports themes or weird sci-fi stuff. It's about a guy named Wayne whose ex-girlfriend commits suicide. He learns that while they were dating, she was pregnant with his baby and had an abortion. When she dies, he begins to question everything about himself, the girlfriend, life in general. He embarks on a journey that takes him to Cuba among other places, and culminates at the Burning Man Festival.

Peppered throughout the book are random factoids so really you get a novel and a study guide for Jeopardy rolled into one handy book. Attention.Deficit.Disorder. is a quick, often humorous, entertaining read. Now I find myself seeking out those bulletins for Brad's blog so I can read along with everyone else.

What did you do today?

I got up early and went out and got my fiancee some coffee from Starbucks. A venti iced non-fat latte. That’s her thing. She has a big day at work today and needed to be outrageously caffeinated in order to deal with the logistical hoopla that was waiting for her.

After that, I drove over to this juice place that I always go to and got a juice, freshly-squeezed. An odd concoction. Vegetable juices mixed with frozen bananas. I’m convinced it’s gonna make me live to 115. And the guy who works there is a character. This morning we were talking about the pros and cons of home-schooling for some reason. He’s adamantly against it. Says that it fucks up a child’s social function. I’m mostly in agreement with him, but I do think that it’s possible for home-schooling to be reasonably effective, but only if the parent is an incredibly bright and talented teacher, and the child is given proper social outlets elsewhere.

Then, after that, I came home and started work. I wrote a blog this morning about going to a local Barnes & Noble last night. My fiancee hand-sold a copy of my novel to Norm MacDonald of Saturday Night Live fame. He happened to be in the store at the time, and he was trying to buy a painting off of the wall. A silkscreen of the Of Mice & Men cover. Kind of odd. He appeared to be incredibly baked. And he was incredibly friendly and unpretentious. I signed a copy of the novel for him, and he bought it right then and there.

What were you like in highschool?

Nervous. And woefully under-sexed. I was a pretty good student all throughout my youth, until about the middle of my junior year. Then I got tired and said to hell with it. I flunked a couple of classes my senior year. My parents were distraught. And one of my teachers offered to throw a cupcake party for the class if I passed my test. But I failed. Miserably. And for some reason I was happy about it.

I had clear braces my freshman and sophomore year. And I had a big crush on one girl throughout most of high school. But she didn’t realize that she liked me until the night before I left town to go to college.

How have you changed in the last ten years?

Well, I’ve gotten older, for one thing. I’m 31 now. Going on 32. And I’m engaged to a lovely woman and am generally pretty content.

But really, I imagine I’m pretty much the same person, essentially speaking. Not all that much different from who I was at 16. Most of the changes I’ve made are probably cosmetic or peripheral.

That said, hopefully I’ve gotten a little wiser through the years. Hopefully I’m a better writer. Hopefully my sense of humor is a little bit stronger, a little bit more indestructible. One of my main goals in life is to make sure that I don’t lose track of my sense of humor at the hour of my death. I’m thinking it’s probably harder than it sounds. I’m training for that one.

Do you get nervous doing book readings?

I get a little nervous, sure. But I don’t go into a state of paralysis or anything. I teach college, so I have a lot of experience with speaking in front of crowds. It’s not something that bothers me all that much. You get used to it.

How do you choose what passages to read from?

Depends on the crowd. Usually I try to read stuff that will play well live—stuff with good dialogue, good humor, and so on. And then other times, I’ll read stuff that’s really heavy, emotionally speaking. Funeral passages. Naked introspection.

I try to read the crowd a bit before deciding. I try to feel the temperature in the room.

If the people are drunk, I usually read a passage from the Uncle Brian section, wherein a mentally disabled Cajun man has a panic attack while spelunking.

I’m scared of rodents and going to the dentist. What scares you?

I don’t like bees much, because I was swarmed by a hive of angry yellow jackets as a child.

And I’m scared of bad things happening to people I love.

And generally speaking, I tend to be scared of being devoured by a large predator. A large jungle cat, for instance. Or a shark. That would probably scare the ever-living shit outta me. At the same time, I’d probably experience such a profound level of physical shock if such a thing were to occur that the pain would be minimal, as would the fear.

So in the end, I guess there’s really not much to be afraid of. It’s only life and life only.

What surprised you most during the publishing process?

I think what surprised me the most is how much work one has to do after the book comes out. As a writer, you imagine that all of your work will be over on publication day, and you’ll get to sit back and watch the magic unfold. But the truth, nine times out of ten, is that the work is just beginning. Publication day, like so many other days, is a false summit. It never really ends. You just keep going. Until you stop.

Do you think you could write a book from a woman’s point of view?

Yeah, I do for some reason. Maybe that’s hubris, but I do. I was raised in a house dominated by women. And my mom comes from a family of seven girls and two boys. And I genuinely adore women. I tend to get along with them. I’ve always felt comfortable around them (except when I was in high school and trying to get them to fondle me), and I’ve always had lots of women friends.

So I’m hopeful that I could write fiction from a female POV in a way that feels authentic.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I’ll listen to anything. When I work, I usually listen to various kinds of instrumental or ambient music. Jazz. Classical. Ocean sounds. Pan flute. Xylophone. Lounge. Techno. Whatever. And then aside from that, I’ve got pretty wide-ranging taste. I like what sounds good at the time when I hear it. And I like what I’m in the mood for, whatever that may be at a given time.

Ever go one day without writing? You update the blog all the time.

Once in a blue moon. But really, I enjoy what I do. I like to do it. It’s fun. It isn’t a hassle for me. I actually prefer to work.

It’s can be challenging, sure, but I feel pretty fortunate to be able to do it for a living. There are worse ways to pay the rent. I feel like I got a lucky hand.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Groveling, probably.

Or else I’d be a monk.

Or a bongo player.

Or a farmer.

I have a farming fantasy that I’ve been nursing for years. I want to one day own a big plot of land, and I want to have a menagerie of barnyard animals that I will keep as pets. I will frolic with them. It will be spectacular.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

David Dalton, Edie Factory Girl

Before there was the bohemian style of Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, there was Edie Sedgwick. A beautiful girl born into a wealthy but cursed family, Edie was a free spirit who loved to party. Like a fairy, she would flutter about here and there and dance and spin and be charming and pretty. She was a muse to famous artist Andy Warhol, who was both an icon and an enigma.

I am so intrigued with the 1960’s and the music, art and fashion and of that era. I found Edie Factory Girl interesting and entertaining, a peek into a time that is completely unlike what I have experienced in my life. David Dalton provides the words and Nat Finkelstein provides the photographs and together the book is brilliant.

There is picture after picture, showing us inside the place known as The Factory, where Andy Warhol created strange movies, where people got together to hang out and party and do whatever the hell they pleased. Edie was the center of it all, an untamed girl with a wild streak, up for anything including drugs which would ultimately be her downfall.

David Dalton was at The Factory as a young man, working beside Andy. You must know that David is a most accomplished writer and he lived what he wrote which makes the best kind of writer. If you are like me with a hunger for learning about other time periods (especially the 50's and 60's) and artists then you need to read this book.

David has so kindly taken the time to answer my questions and the result is a fascinating look at what he has experienced firsthand. It makes me want to tell him to hurry up and get his memoir written!

David, what were you—a young boy of what, 17 years old?—doing hanging around the Factory?

Actually, there was no Factory yet. My sister Sarah and I first met Andy Warhol at a commercial artist’s hipster Christmas party in 1961. In those days Andy worked in his house at 1342 Lexington Ave. The entranceway was like the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel: pinball machines, wooden cigar-store Indians, soda pop signs. His crazy, martyr-obsessed mother lived in the basement—there was a bit of a Psycho vibe to this arrangement. A small woman clutching a bottle of vodka shouting in Czech about the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. On the ground floor in the front Andy did his commercial art: drawings of shoes and little rubber stamps with folksy flowers and butterflies. He made whimsical books of drawings like Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother (she actually did do the lettering).

In the back room—a library with no books, just movie star fan magazines—Andy was working on what was the beginning of Pop art paintings, such as a painting of Dick Tracy and a before-and-after nose-job painting of a woman from a newspaper ad. Sarah and I were two little English boarding school Existencialistas in quest of rock ’n’ roll, gangsters, all-night diners and the flash & thrum of subterranean New York. In Andy, we found our magus. He was like an alien from the future who looked at everything with x-ray specs, and we became his first assistants. Actually, my sister introduced Andy to the photographic silk-screen process (she was studying to be a fashion designer), and at 14 years old edited his first real movie, Sleep.

For the people unfamiliar with the Factory, what words would you use to describe the scene as you walked through the door?

Andy moved into the Factory, a commercial loft on East 47th Street in 1964. By then, I was more like 20. By this time Andy had become famous for the soup can paintings and Brillo boxes, and had morphed from the shy, sweet character we knew into the quasi sinister Rain-Man-in-shades who only spoke in superlatives: “Wow! Oh, that’s fab-u-lous.”

The requirements for admission to the Factory club of deviants and drugs addicts—I’m still in touch with the little monsters—was that you had to be gay and shoot speed. That seemed a little steep, and by then my sister and I were in college. We still came by the Factory often, though, to see Andy, and in late 1964 I started work on a book about Andy with Brit photographer David McCabe. It finally came out a few years ago, called A Day in the Life of Andy Warhol.

The scene was very bizarre. It was sort of a cross between a railway station where everybody was shooting meth, an art studio, and a sort of underground movie factory. In fact, the Factory was the first downtown Club of Immaculate Hipness. There were all these sort of, avant-garde tourists, voyeurs of the lower depths, German art collectors, graduate students, journalists, socialites and the odd princess (like Lee Radziwell). Anybody could come and go as they pleased. Rock ’n’ roll or opera blared from the speakers. Chuck Wein and Edie would be dancing acrobatically. Someone would be making a movie of a horse shitting as you came into the Factory from the elevator.

It was Felliniesque in a grungy sort of way. There were several couches, people sitting around. Very funky, nothing like the chic, together-looking place in the movie Factory Girl. In a certain way the Factory looked like Berlin after the war, where people have scrounged all the furniture off the street. I mean, nobody had actually gone out and bought anything. It was as campy as possible. One of those mirrored disco balls sat on the floor and the whole place was either painted in silver paint or covered in tinfoil—which gave the Factory a deliberately tacky effect. Billy Name was the skinny speed-freak-in-residence. People have said he lived in the silver toilet, but that was just where he had his darkroom. He actually lived behind some sheets of 4x8 plywood.

I love the ’60s, it was such a time of change, going from the wholesome 1950s into a drastically new decade. What was the vibe of that era as you remember it?

Well, I think the sixties were actually far more wholesome than the fifties! The fifties were repressed, soviet, uptight and robotic. Everybody conformed to stereotypes. Men were guys in suits with crew cuts, women were big busty blondes. They were cold-war cartoons. Nobody, of course, would call Andy’s crew wholesome; they would have hated that. They were ostentatiously decadent, poseurs. But the truth of the matter is that these people look far more sinister in the photographs taken by Nat Finklestein, Billy Name, etc. than they actually were.

Photographs of skinny guys dressed in black and in the demonic spin-cycle of amphetamine made them look far more threatening and ominous than they really were. Billy, Gerard Malanga, Chuck Wein, Ondine, Danny Williams—a bunch of gay speed freaks who talked brilliantly, gossiping in a meta-language unintelligible to all but themselves. If anyone really wants to know what these people actually said, their short-circuit raps are all more or less there verbatim in Andy’s tape-recorded “novel” a.

How did being around all those bohemian, artsy, interesting, wild people shape the person that you were to become?

At the time I was a graphic designer, and then briefly I became a not-very-good photographer. What can I say? Basically any excuse to hang out with mind-zinging rappers, drug addicts, crazy people, aliens and rock stars who in those days often fulfilled the requirements. And then I discovered the W-O-R-D. Jann Wenner, said he needed some words to go with my photographs in Rolling Stone, and I said, “Oh, man, I can do that!” Hung up the phone and thought, Shit, now I’ve gotta write! I wanted to write synaptic prose and rabid rants. I’ve always thought that the speed-freak vibe was the best style for interpreting an incomprehensible reality (especially after psychedelic drugs). A multiphrenic approach to life, everything at once, a thousand thoughts and digressions, and you know that’s what really I try to aspire to as a writer, a sort of cubist prose.

Do you think Edie's destiny was predetermined by her family "curse"?

Well, I think she conceived of herself, her life trajectory as a sort of anti-matter particle to her monstrous ancestors, her fiendish father. I think Edie’s quest in life was to exorcize these demons from her family, a rabid Puritan virus that began in this deadly gothic New England family, her father being the chief Dracula of the family. In a way she was trying to outrun all this grotesque stuff, and hide in the future. She was going so fast she eventually ran into herself sometime in 1971. And in a certain way, she did time travel. People are using her style, in fashion, in ads, in movies, it’s contemporary—she’s our contemporary. We’ve finally caught up with her.

Could anyone have saved her?

Edie was someone who really didn’t want to be saved. To Edie being saved is what her puritanical ancestors supposedly were doing; you know, burning witches at the stake, while suppressing and perverting life. Salvation to her was Hell itself.

What was your own impression of Edie?

A sweet person. Despite all the speed and craziness, mental unbalance, disasters, Edie was always very sweet. Never bitchy. Or arrogant. Very adept socially, yet she never did anything she didn’t want to do. Edie had an innate courtesy, whether it came from her family or her own equilibrium. Even under extreme stress. She was like a fairy princess with big eyes on tip toe. You almost expected to see her fly off on big glassine wings.

Is there any celebrity today that comes close to having that special something that Edie possessed? And if she were a young woman in today's society what do you think she would be doing?

Well, craziness and self-destruction never goes out of style. As for the special something, that’s been going on since Cleopatra. Edie had no monopoly on any of these things. What’s interesting about her is that she was the quintessence of that silver moment in the sixties.

Now, of course, we see excess as pathological, as something to be treated, rather than as heroic. And everything is now hip. You have to go to strange mid-western towns to find a square person these days. Today, even outrageous people are focused. Partly because of her addiction, partly because of her demons, Edie was scattered, easily distracted; she went from one thing to another. She was a designer, a painter, a jeweler, a model, an actress, a writer, a mad shopper and scenester. She was also very smart and intellectual, but it all went up in pipe dreams. Her legacy unfortunately is to have created a whole breed of people who are famous for being famous. That’s why it’s really terrible that someone like Paris Hilton became her legacy.

You must tell me about Andy Warhol. Before reading your fascinating book, I didn't know much about him at all. Describe him to me, please.

Andy was somebody who basically let all the genies out of all the bottles. He realized that these two elements—high art and crass commercialism—were actually the same thing. Like somebody inventing a bomb by putting two combustible elements together: it just causes a sort of nuclear fission, a chain reaction that’s still going on. The energy of the crass and the transcendence of art in a satanic Pop marriage.

Physically he seemed very frail, and he looked like an albino. Andy seemed almost like somebody who had been exhumed. He was very pale and shy—his manner diffident and recessive. But, fragile as he appeared. Andy was actually a little Czech tank. He really was absolutely unstoppable. In a certain way, he would get these ideas, or he would grasp a certain idea, and he would just relentlessly plough through it. Through the Maginot line, so to speak, of modern art!

His affectation was this sort of Aubrey Beardsley frail decadent person, and probably he wasn’t that healthy, but, I mean, you have to think of all the physical work involved. Silk screening something like 400 Brillo boxes, painted on six sides, in three colors; it’s a huge amount of back-breaking work, and it was just him and Gerard Malanga. It’s not as if he sat around in an Aeron chair in front of a flat screen monitor the way current art CEOs like Jeff Koons do, saying, “I think a few more pixels of meridian green on the clown’s nose.”

Someone could write a book about you—one of the founding editors of Rolling Stone, the impressive roundup of celebs you wrote about including, but not limited to, Andy and Edie, Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithfull, James Dean, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious … and the list just goes on and on. You've known a lot of major, major icons who happened to die young. Is there any one thing they all had in common?

I came from England as a teenager, fascinated with American culture, particularly the culture of outcasts (who are usually the creative force in any culture): blacks, teenagers, rednecks, drug addicts, gays, crazy people. Many of the people I’ve written about are victims of a romantic myth of the doomed artist, which (however delusional) propelled them. Their energy and their creativity and their genius came out of this outrageous overweening teenage ambition to transcend, transform everything they found. They were outsiders, mutants who managed to morph reality. In the process they forgot about safety, common sense…. It’s like the person who invented the first car forgot to invent brakes and the car crashed. Actually, this happened at the bottom of the hill below the graveyard where James Dean is buried.

They were so young, they thought they were invulnerable and they seemed to magically appear at the right moment on the fault lines of American culture. They are metamorphs, people who change society by absorbing the contradictions in the culture. James Dean, Sid Vicious, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix: they all have a mythic element in that their lives also define the society at large.

You must tell me about Janis Joplin. And whatever happened to the movie about her—there were two I think, one with Lili Taylor and one with Renee Zellweger?

Well, the Nancy Savoca movie with Lili Taylor as Janis—she would’ve been great!—never got made and thank God. Two women—Nancy Savoca and Francine Prose—wrote a pedestrian, by-the-numbers script that relentlessly trashed Janis. Two women demeaning somebody who should have been—and is—a heroine to women. As for Rene Zellwegger, I read somewhere that she didn’t want to do it until they had a good script.

But all is well with the life of the One-Night-Stand Existentialista because as a matter of fact I’ve just written a Janis Joplin script! The movie I’m working on, The Gospel According to Janis, went through seven years of scripts. It will be filming early summer, with Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World) directing, Zoey Deschanel playing Janis, and Peter Newman (The Squid and the Whale) producing. Hopefully, this script will bring Janis to jumping-out-of-her-skin life, the Janis that I knew and I think everyone would have wanted to meet: funny, poignant, smart—and one of the great blues singers of all time.

You have had the opportunity to work with or write about immensely fascinating people. What or who stands out as being particularly memorable? Do you have plans to write a memoir? And if so—what would the title be? The title of ones memoir really sums up who the person is, doesn't it?

Come on now, my books are like children. Do I really have to choose? These people were all crazy-wisdom geniuses, rock ’n’ roll saints of ecstasy and excess. But I must say that Janis looms large, like that big face in the sky in some Woody Allen movie. As for the memoir, hell yeah, I’m gonna write one, shake the tree and see what falls out. I recently started it: English boy comes out of the middle ages—the school I went to was founded in 697 A.D.—and falls into the American daydream: the Factory, Rolling Stone, acid, Afghanistan, the mysteries of Central Asia, and panhandling on the Lower East Side.

I feel like I stepped on the cosmic fault line and have spent my life trying to find the square root of the blues and figure out what morphed the culture and let a poor wretch like me talk to snakes and trees and hear the mermaids singing each to each. The title? Don’t know yet, and if I did I probably wouldn’t tell you. My wife Coco was calling it American Idiot until Green Day stole it! Kind of interesting, since you said the title tells you about the person. She meant it in a more positive sense than the Green Day song, though; you know, English boy falls in love with America and just keeps falling. Falling, yes, I am falling…. Coco also likes to refer to the memoir as Forrest Gump on acid. I’ll leave you with that thought….

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Friday, February 02, 2007

A girl can dream...

It's been said that if you want something, you must visualize it, say it out loud, put forth positive vibes and make it happen. I found this neat place where you can turn your book cover, photograph etc. into a movie poster.

My dream is to have my books turned into movies ...check out the above poster and imagine it, if you will, hanging on the walls of your local cinema.

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