Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why We Celebrities Dread the Press

Maya Angelou might have known why the caged bird sang, but I know, first hand, why people decline to allow The Press to interview them.

‘Twas 1996, and I was sick to death of dealing with other actors, who, as you’ve read here before, are generally around 75,000 times more difficult, more obstreperous and truculent, than musicians. I disbanded the San Francisco Hysterical Company and, inspired by the success of Josh Kornbluth’s Haiku Tunnel, decided to go it alone — to perform a one-man show, Wm. Floggin’ Buckley, about my experience as a senior editor at Larry Flynt Publications. I would play everyone from the great man’s drug-addled wife, who collapsed face-forward into her salad at our lone…conference, to the shameless brownnose editor of the least of Larry’s ghastly magazines, Bathroom Companion. I would take the stage to the accompaniment of “Without Science,” the song the former Creem magazine stalwart John Kordosh had written about me and recorded with his band, The Tigers of Instantaneous Death, and leave to the sound of a theatrerful of fans bellowing, “Bravo!" and, "Oh, John, you’ve still so got it!"

I invited local newspapers to write about the show. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a free, leftist, alternative weekly newspaper, dispatched a purported writer who called himself Johnny Angel to interview me. He showed up at my modest home in the dreary, perpetually foggy Sunset district sneering, all T-shirt-stretching pecs and biceps, all greasy dyed-black hair, unencumbered by a recording device or even notepad, but with enough hostility to fill the living room. 

He became even more palpably hostile when I failed to endorse with sufficient eagerness his view of San Francisco as Not a Rock and Roll Town, which view he’d himself embraced after his band, which his editor at the Bay Guardian later characterized as a poor man’s Ramones, broke up after failing to attract an audience.

As we chatted, he never stopped sneering. By and by, it occurred to me that we must be having a pre-interview get-acquainted chat. But I was mistaken. He went away and wrote his article without having written down a syllable of what I’d said, without having recorded a millisecond of audio, making up all my quotes, and in at least one case asserting that my then-just-published autobiography I, Caramba contained a passage that it did not! The man’s temerity was jaw-dropping. He made me out to be (even more) self-pitying (than I actually am), and cited my great enthusiasm for The Cocteau Twins and Innocence Mission as evidence. Real Men, I surmised, liked The Ramones, or at least kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. Never mind that there is no more exultant, rapturous a track in the history of Western music than the former’s “Heaven or Las Vegas”!

Once having effectively told his readers to stay home, he’d intended to come to the opening of Buckley, about which he'd asked, and then written, pretty much nothing. The gall of the man! I phoned him and said his attendance was a pleasure I was very much prepared to forego. I observed that he was a liar and a punk, but not the good kind, and contacted the Bay Guardian, the conscience of the Bay Area, the voice of local progressivism to ask how I, a longtime reader, could be expected to believe anything they wrote about local politicians when they so recklessly demeaned an ordinary joe such I, and was informed, sniffily, that they Stood By the Story. On what basis, I wondered, since your writer couldn’t be troubled to record my remarks or write them down? And how about the fact that my autobiography demonstrably lacked the assertion he’d claimed it contained?

No response. They were too busy holding local politicians’ feet to the fire. Or something.

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