Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Single Serving Conversations

"I'm all over the place."

I’m writing two posts in the same night, Monday, so this is a bit of an experiment. It could work, or I may fall flat on my face, skin my nose, spoil my beautiful visage, and that could make staring in the mirror for hours on end far less enjoyable than it is right now. (I love online narcissism. It is so choice. If you have access to a blog, I really do recommend it. They know not how you look. Make yourself up, spin things around, walk on water, whatever you want to do, you can. Today, I’m in love with me. If I could run into my own arms on the beach, I would.) It’s just been too fucking hectic to keep up with my regular posting schedule, which is to get home from work after, usually, a 12, perhaps even 14 to 16, hour day and write these somewhere between 12 and 2. Welcome to the luxurious world of pop culture magazines; leave your social life at the door, you can collect it when you leave.

Most of my friends have no idea what I do. None. They know that I write and edit for a magazine, but they don’t know the details. Nor do they don’t care, but this is largely mutual. I don’t know if this is normal within other groups, but we coexist in a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” world of professional courtesy. I don’t really care what they do for a living, it’s another culture entirely, an exotic country that I will never visit (good God, let's hope), so why read the brochure? They are consultants, and senior project managers, and endodontists, and advertising super producers, and consultants, and heads of newly formed TV channels, and writers, and movie editors, and Wall Street Masters of their domain, and they are all damn fucking good (nay, great) at what they do, and I know it, and I respect it, but I don’t need the details anymore than they do. We just don’t talk shop; we whinge about things, about the commonality of working in general, but the minutia is discarded.

I’m all over the place. I think my point was something about how busy I’ve been, but my super genius, high IQ, ADD addled brain jumped of on a digressive track. I’m back. Tonight was the earliest I’ve gotten home in months, in the front door at 8PM. I’m usually home after 9 at the earliest, more regularly the hour is 10 or 11. The hours just get away from me. Tonight, I have to watch a movie for this profile of an actress I’m writing. Getting a DVD of an upcoming movie is brilliant. It allows you take your time, get the details of her character right, pause the movie frequently (which is a luxury you don’t have when you sit in a screening room), contextualize things, think of questions, and move on.

Luckily, I will be talking to her over the phone, because the last time I interviewed a starlet in person I was so caught off guard by her beauty and affability that I just stared and nodded enthusiastically for 15 minutes. It took me that long to realize that I hadn’t asked a single fucking question. In my line of work, that can be something of a disaster. I recovered my senses, thankfully, and that will never happen again, but it was an unsettling to sit there and nod as she spoke about whatever like we were at a bar. Professionalism is huge, and I momentarily forgot that my job was not to be her friend but to ask her questions. Generally, to my mind, the best interview is conversational in tone, but it's still directed by me, I have pertinent information I have to get.

It’s an interesting dance you do, to interview. Musicians are easier in some regards, because their personality is so interwoven with what they do. If you want an idea for who they are, press play. There they are, within the lines and chords and strums and overlays. Even a pop princess whose persona and image seem as put on as a pair of shoes isn't going to stray off course from the personality you find on her albums. For serious artists, their answers enlighten what you’ve heard on their albums, they expand on themes or points they’ve put down in music. But actors and actresses are different.

Think about it. Their entire public existence is formed in speaking someone else’s lines, in moving by someone else’s dictum. Of course the Sean Penn’s and Al Pacino’s and De Niro’s and Mary-Louise Parkers (a moment of silence, please, for the grace, beauty and intellect of the MLP…. Okay, we can continue) the greats have distinctive personalities. (I’ve never interviewed one of these people, but I would love the sit down with a recorder and just let things run wild.) But young actors and actresses are truly blank slates. You spend as much of the interview getting to know them as you do getting to know their thoughts on their body of work, or anything for that matter, and many times you are struck with the impression that maybe, just maybe, they are not entirely sure of who they are. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Oh, the dance! The fun part of interviewing someone is the pretend friendships. You mutually benefit from the sit down. If you are open and nice and encouraging, they will give great copy, the quotes will unfurl, they will be more comfortable. If they come into the talk giving you the benefit of the doubt, relaxed and ready, like you are old friends with only their best interests at heart, you will generally write something positive about them. This pseudo friendship lasts the duration of the talk, you are both excited to see each other, excited to be there, but in 2 weeks, if you ever see them on the street (and this has happened to me, I’ve bumped into people I’ve interviewed at clubs or other places) they will not remember you unless you remind them. When you do tap them on the shoulder, place your face into the context of their life, if the interview was a good one, if the piece you wrote was reflective of who they feel they are (and this is important, because often the person you are writing about is, to themselves, a far different person than the one you captured, as is true in life as well), then they will smile, probably hug you, eagerly embrace your presence there, and probably forget who you are the minute you walk away. I’d gamble that, save for the few subjects I’ve actually formed friendships and ties with after the piece was done, none of the people I’ve sat down with remember me. I recall everything about our time together.

On a side note, I bought a GRE book over the weekend. Time to study. I’m thinking of applying for an MFA program next year. Actually, not thinking, I’m pretty sure I’m going to. The isolation, the opportunity to sit down for 12-24 months across the table from someone who knows infinitely more (let’s hope) than I do about this thing is a near impossible pull to fight against, and I’ve yielded to it. I want to sit with my words for a little bit, whether that starts in 2005 or 2006, we will have to see. But Gradual School (as someone I knew called it) is singing to me from a remote island over there, and I’m steering my ship for the rocky shoals in hopes I make it safely. Wish me luck.

There it is. Two posts in one night. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new world champion. Thank you. Thank you. No, please, sit down. There's no need for that. You’ve been a brilliant audience. Really. But I have to go. GOOD NIGHT, NEW YORK!