Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wm. Floggin' Buckley - Part 3

[Part 3 of the script of the one-man show about my brief, very unpleasant tenure at Larry Flynt Publications, which I have performed in San Francisco, London, and Madison, Wisconsin.]

Hammond Palmer Publications' reception area, on the 39th floor of one of Century City's famous Twin Towers – most assuredly not the ones in New York al-Qaeda knocked down in 2001 -- was about as sexually charged as your Bank of America. Cuntry-with-no-o wasn't available for flipping through, but the New York Times was. There were no leering trailer trashettes waiting to expose their personal parts to the magazine's photographers, but only a young guy about my own age, in an Italian-looking suit, loafers with tassels, and dark pancake makeup presumably intended to conceal the havoc acne had wreaked on his cheeks. It wasn't working. He told me he was there to interview for the managing editorship of Bathroom Companion, apparently a new addition to the HPP lineup. His fingernails were absolute masterpieces.

When he got called in for his interview, the receptionist told me Bathroom Companion had been conceived as a receptacle for cartoons that were too racist, exposes that weren't quite well written enough, and photographs of models too conspicuously pockmarked for Cuntry. Having grown up sometimes so hungry as to try to eat the bark off trees, Hammond Palmer didn't believe in wasting anything.

In any event, Don Hogarth turned out to be around 48, with slate eyes so limpid that I was able to make them out even through the smoke of the Camel cigarettes he never stopped smoking. He'd apparently missed the week at editor school where they teach you to be a supercilious jerk, and gave the impression he was actually reading the writing samples I'd brought in. He seemed either to be impressed, or to have despaired of finding anybody better on short notice, and arranged for me to meet editor in chief Rupert Watson.

A secretary with dark circles under her eyes led me to Rupert's office. It was dismal. The curtains had been drawn and the overhead lights turned off. It smelled faintly of singed hair, and adrenaline. Instead of rising to greet me, Rupert, boyishly handsome, but with psychotic eyes, took a bite of his turkey sandwich and glowered at me as though at a certified letter from the IRS. Well, sit down. You want the job or not? How much did they tell you we pay? Well, I'll make it 40 if you can start this afternoon. Forty thousand 1980 dollars! I offered him my hand. He seemed to consider trying to bite off my thumb.

I got taken around. I'd pictured the typical HPP employee chewing perpetually on the soggy remains of cheap cigars, having damp underarms and murderous body odor and worse breath, not to have shaved in three days, forever exclaiming…Will you get a load of the gazongas on dis broad? How wrong I was. These were the same people you saw at your bank or, a few years later, at Whitney Houston concerts –- nice folks with clean fingernails and photos of beaming sweethearts or spouses in pink polo shirts displayed proudly on their tidy desks. The glaring exception being Harold Rosenberg, who wrote all of Cuntry's letters to the editor. He seemed a slightly older incarnation of the sort of boy with whom God loads the world's prisons and public high schools to keep their bullies and sadists content. With his very weak chin and long, pointed snout, he looked sort of like a hamster. His plaid hightop sneakers suggested that he'd not left the indiscretion of a single local dog unstepped in. His fingernails were gnawed to the quick, and beyond. He didn't speak so much as whine, and in doing so revealed bits of his breakfast in his orthodontic braces.

He'd been picking his nose when he came in, so I wasn't eager to shake his hand, but did so anyway, and found it exactly as limp and clammy as expected. When we left, the lady from Human Resources told me Harold had been with HPP longer than any other editor. Rupert himself was said to regard him as a genius, or at least idiot savant.
I also met the sole black person on the premises, Bathroom Companion executive editor Thomas Washington, who looked up from what he was doing only long enough to snort, "Well, it's certainly heartening to see more white people being offered opportunities here at HPP."

[Continues tomorrow! Don't miss a single installment!]

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