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33 "Specks--specks all over the third panel, see?--no, that one--the second one up from the floor and I wanted to point this out to someone yesterday but a photo shoot intervened and Yaki Nakamari or whatever the hell the designer's name is--a master craftsman not--mistook me for someone else so I couldn't register the complaint, but, gentlemen--and ladies--there they are: specks, annoying, tiny specks, and they don't look accidental but like they were somehow done by a machine--so I don't want a lot of description, just the story, streamlined, no frills, the lowdown: who, what, where, when and don't leave out why, though I'm getting the distinct impression by the looks on your sorry faces that why won't get answered--now, come on, goddamnit, what's the story?"
Nobody around here has to wait long for someone to say something.
"Baby, George Nakashima designed this bar area," JD quietly corrects me. "Not, um, Yaki Nakamashi, I mean Yuki Nakamorti, I mean--oh shit, Peyton, get me out of this."
"Yoki Nakamuri was approved for this floor," Peyton says.
"Oh yeah?" I ask. "Approved by who?"
"Approved by, well, moi," Peyton says.
A pause. Glares targeted at Peyton and JD.
"Who the fuck is Moi?" I ask. "I have no fucking idea who this Moi is, baby."
"Victor, please," Peyton says. "I'm sure Damien went over this with you."
"Damien did, JD. Damien did, Peyton. But just tell me who Moi is, baby," I exclaim. "Because I'm, like, shvitzing."
"Moi is Peyton, Victor," JD says quietly.
"I'm Moi," Peyton says, nodding. "Moi is, um, French."
"Are you sure these specks aren't supposed to be here?" JD tentatively touches the panel. "I mean, maybe it's supposed to be, oh, I don't know, in or something?"
"Wait." I raise a hand. "You're saying these specks are in?"
"Victor--we've got a long list of things to check, baby." JD holds up the long list of things to check. "The specks will be taken care of. Someone will escort the specks out of here. There's a magician waiting downstairs."
"By tomorrow night?" I roar. "By to-mor-row night, JD?"
"It can be handled by tomorrow, no?" JD looks at Peyton, who nods.
"Around here, `tomorrow night' means anywhere from five days to a month. Jesus, does anybody notice I'm seething?"
"None of us have been exactly sedentary, Victor."
"I think the situation is simple enough: those"--I point--"are specks. Do you need someone to decipher that sentence for you, JD, or are you, y'know, okay with it?"
The "reporter" from Details stands with us. Assignment: follow me around for a week. Headline: THE MAKING OF A CLUB. Girl: push-up bra, scads of eyeliner, a Soviet sailor's cap, plastic flower jewelry, rolled-up copy of W tucked under a pale, worked-out arm. Uma Thurman if Uma Thurman was five feet two and asleep. Behind her, some guy wearing a Velcro vest over a rugby shirt and a leather windjammer follows us, camcording the scene.
"Hey baby." I inhale on a Marlboro someone's handed me. "What do you think about the specks?"
Girl reporter lowers her sunglasses. "I'm really not sure." She thinks about what position she should take.
"East Coast girls are hip," I shrug. "I really dig those styles they wear."
"I don't think I'm really part of the story," she says.
"You think any of these bozos are?" I snort. "Spare me."
From the top floor, Beau leans over the railing and calls down, "Victor--Chloe's on line ten."
Girl reporter immediately lifts the W, revealing a notepad, on which she doodles something, predictably animated for a moment.
I call up, staring intently at the specks: "Tell her I'm busy. I'm in a meeting. It's an emergency. Tell her I'm in a meeting and it's an emergency. I'll call her back after I put the fire out."
"Victor," Beau calls down. "This is the sixth time she's called today. This is the third time she's called in the last hour."
"Tell her I'll see her at Doppelganger's at ten." I kneel down, along with Peyton and JD, and run my hand along the panel, pointing out where the specks begin and end and then start up again. "Specks, man, look at these fuckers. They glow. They're glowing, JD," I whisper. "Jesus, they're everywhere." Suddenly I notice an entire new patch and yelp, gaping, "And I think they're spreading. I don't think that patch was here before? I swallow, then croak in a rush, "My mouth is incredibly dry because of this--could someone get me an Arizona diet iced tea in a bottle, not a can?"
"Didn't Damien discuss the design with you, Victor?" JD asks. "Didn't you know the existence of these specks?"
"I don't know anything, JD. Nothing, nada. Remember that. I ... know ... nothing. Never assume I know anything. Nada. Nothing. I know nothing, not a thing. Never--"
"I get it, I get it," JD says wearily, standing up.
"I really can't see anything, baby," Peyton says, still on the floor.
JD sighs. "Even Peyton can't see them, Victor."
"Ask the vampire to take off his fucking sunglasses," I snarl. "Spare me, man."
"I will not tolerate being called a vampire, Victor." Peyton pouts.
"What? You tolerate being sodomized but not being called Dracula in jest? Am I on the same planet? Let's move on." I wave my arm, gesturing at something invisible.
As the entire group follows me downstairs toward the third floor, the chef--Bongo from Venezuela via Vunderbahr, Moonclub, Paddy-O and MasaMasa--lights a cigarette and lowers his sunglasses while trying to keep up with me. "Victor, we must talk." He coughs, waves smoke away. "Please, my feet are killing me."
The group stops. "Uno momento, Bongo," I say, noticing the worried glances he's throwing Kenny Kenny, who's connected in some weird way to Glorious Foods and has yet to be informed he has nothing to do with catering tomorrow night's dinner. Peyton, JD, Bongo, Kenny Kenny, camcorder guy and Details girl wait for me to do something, and since I'm at a loss I peer over the third-floor railing. "Come on, guys. Shit, I mean I've got three more floors and five more bars to check. Please, give me some space. This is all very hard. Those specks almost made me literally sick."
"Victor, no one would deny the existence of the specks," Peyton says carefully. "But you have to place the specks within a, um, certain, well, context."
On one of the monitors lining the walls on the third floor, MTV, a commercial, Helena Christensen, "Rock the Vote."
"Beau!" I yell up. "Beau?
Beau leans over the top railing. "Chloe says she'll be at Metro CC at eleven-thirty."
"Wait, Beau--Ingrid Chavez? Has Ingrid Chavez RSVP'd?" I yell up.
"I'm checking--wait, for the dinner?"
"Yes, and I'm gritting my teeth, Beau. Check the Cs for dinner."
"Oh my god I have got to speak to you, Victor," Bongo says in an accent so thick I'm unsure of its origin, grabbing my arm. "You must let me have my time with you."
"Bongo, why don't you just get get the the hell out of here," Kenny Kenny says, his face twisted. "Here, Victor, try a crouton."
I snatch one out of his hands. "Mmm, rosemary. Delish, dude."
"It is sage, Victor. Sage."
"You you sh-sh-should go to hell," Bongo sputters. "And take that sickening crouton with you."
"Will both of you mos take a Xanax and shut the fuck up? Go bake some pastries or something. Beau--goddamnit! Speak to me!"
"Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, Sheryl Crow, David Charvet, Courteney Cox, Harry Connick, Jr., Francisco Clemente, Nick Constantine, Zoe Cassavetes, Nicolas Cage, Thomas Calabro, Cristi Conway, Bob Collacello, Whitfield Crane, John Cusack, Dean Cain, Jim Courier, Roger Clemens, Russell Crowe, Tia Carrere and Helena Bonham Carter--but I'm not sure if she should be under B or C."
"Ingrid Chavez! Ingrid Chavez!" I shout up. "Has Ingrid Chavez fucking RSVP'd or not?"
"Victor, celebs and their overly attentive PR reps are complaining that your answering machine isn't working," Beau calls down. "They say it's playing thirty seconds of `Love Shack' and then only five seconds to leave a message."
"It's a simple question. Yes or No is the answer. What else could these people possibly have to say to me? It's not a difficult question: Are you coming to the dinner and the club opening or are you not? Is that hard to grasp? And you look just like Uma Thurman, baby."
"Victor, Cindy is not `these people,' Veronica Webb is not `these people,' Elaine Irwin is not `these people'--"
"Beau! How are the As shaping up? Kenny Kenny, don't pinch Bongo like that."
"All nine of them?" Beau calls down. "Carol Alt, Pedro Almodovar, Dana Ashbrook, Kevyn Aucoin, Patricia, Rosanna, David and Alexis Arquette and Andre Agassi, but no Giorgio Armani or Pamela Anderson."
"Shit." I light another cigarette, then look over at the Details girl. "Um, I mean that in a good way."
"So it's like ... a good shit?" she asks.
"Uh-huh. Hey Beau!" I call up. "Make sure all the monitors are either on that virtual-reality videotape or for god's sake MTV or something. I passed a screen that had VH1 on it, and some fat hick in a ten-gallon hat was weeping--"
"Will you meet Chloe at Flowers--sorry, Metro CC?" Beau yells down. "Because I'm not gonna lie anymore."
"Oh, you'll lie," I scream up. "That's all you ever do." Then, after glancing casually at the Details girl: "Ask Chloe if she's bringing Beatrice and Julie."
Silence from upstairs makes me cringe, then Beau asks, thoroughly annoyed, "Do you mean Beatrice Arthur and Julie Hagerty?"
"No," I shout, gritting my teeth. "Julie Delpy and Beatrice Dalle. Spare me. Just do it, Beau."
"Beatrice Dalle's shooting that Ridley Scott--"
"The speck thing has really gotten to me. You know why?" I ask the Details girl.
"Because there were ... a lot?"
"Nope. Because I'm a perfectionist, baby. And you can write that down. In fact I'll wait a minute while you do so." Suddenly I rush back to the panel beneath the bar, everyone rushing back with me up the stairs, and I'm wailing, "Specks! Holy Christ! Help me, somebody, please? I mean everyone's acting like there's a question as to whether these specks are an illusion or a reality. I think they're pretty goddamn real."
"Reality is an illusion, baby," JD says soothingly. "Reality is an illusion, Victor."
No one says anything until I'm handed an ashtray, in which I stub out the cigarette I just lit.
"That's, uh, pretty heavy," I say, looking at the girl reporter. "That's pretty heavy, huh?"
She shrugs, rotates her shoulders, doodles again.
"My reaction exactly," I mutter.
"Oh, before I forget," JD says. "Jann Wenner can't make it, but he wants to send a"--JD glances at his notepad--"check anyway."
"A check? A check for what?"
"Just a"--JD glances at his pad again--"a, um, check?"
"Oh god. Beau! Beau! "I call up.
"I think people are wondering why we don't have a whatchamacallit,"
Peyton says. Then, after much finger snapping, "Oh yeah, a cause!"
"A cause?" I moan. "Oh god, I can only imagine what kind of cause you'd want. Scholarship fund for Keanu. Find Marky Mark a gay brain. Send Linda Evangelista to the rain forest so we can pounce on Kyle MacLachlan. No thank you."
"Victor, shouldn't we have a cause?" JD says. "What about global warming or the Amazon? Something. Anything."
"Passe. Passe. Passe." I stop. "Wait--Beau! Is Suzanne DePasse coming?"
"What about AIDS?"
"Oh groovy, far out," I gasp before slapping him lightly on the face. "Get serious. For who? David Barton? He's the only one with tits anymore."
"You know what I'm trying to say, Victor," JD says. "Something like Don't Bungle the Jungle or--"
"Hey, don't bungle my jungle, you little mo." I consider this. "A cause, hmm? Because we can"--I mindlessly light another cigarette--"make more money?"
"And let people have some fun," JD reminds me, scratching at a tattoo of a little muscle man on his bicep.
"Yeah, and let people have some fun." I take a drag. "I'm considering this, you know, even though the opening is in, oh, less than twenty-four hours."
"You know what, Victor?" Peyton asks slyly. I'm getting the, ah, perverse temptation, baby, to, ah--now don't get scared, promise?"
"Only if you don't tell me who you've slept with in the last week."
Wide-eyed, Peyton claps his hands together and gushes, "Keep the specks." Then, after seeing my face contort, more timidly offers, "Save ... the specks?"
"Save the specks?" JD gasps.
"Yes, save the specks," Peyton says. "Damien wants techno, and those little fellas can definitely be construed as techno."
"We all want techno, but we want techno without specks," JD moans.
The camcorder guy zooms in on the specks, and it's very quiet until he says, yawning, "Far out."
"People people people." I lift my hands up. "Is it possible to open this club without humiliating ourselves in the process?" I start to walk away. "Because I'm beginning to think it's not possible. Comprende?"
"Victor, oh my god, please," Bongo says as I walk away.
"Victor, wait up." Kenny Kenny follows, holding out a bag of croutons.
"It's just that this is all so ... so ... '89?" I blurt out.
"A fine year, Victor," Peyton says, trying to keep up with me. "A triumphant year!"
I stop, pause, then turn slowly to face him. Peyton stands there looking hopefully up at me, quivering.
"Uh, Peyton, you're really whacked out, aren't you?" I ask quietly.
Shamefully, Peyton nods as if coaxed. He looks away.
"You've had a pretty tough life, right?" I ask gently.
"Victor, please." JD steps in. "Peyton was joking about the specks. We're not saving the specks. I'm with you. They're just not worth it. They die."
While lighting a gargantuan joint, camcorder guy shoots out the huge expanse of French windows, the lens staring at a view of a leafless Union Square Park, at a truck with a massive Snapple logo driving by, limousines parked at a curb. We are moving down another set of stairs, heading toward the bottom.
"Will someone please just give me one spontaneous act of goodness? Remove the specks. Bongo, go back to the kitchen. Kenny Kenny, you get a consolation prize. Peyton, make sure Kenny Kenny gets a couple of colanders and a nice flat spatula." I wave them off, glaring. We leave Kenny Kenny behind, on the verge of tears, rubbing a shaky hand over the tattoo of Casper the Friendly Ghost on his bicep. "Ciao."
"Come on, Victor. The average life span of a club is what--four weeks? By the time we close, no one's gonna notice them."
"If that's your attitude, JD, there's the door."
"Oh Victor, let's be realistic--or at least fake it. This isn't 1987 anymore."
"I'm not in a realistic mood, JD, so spare me."
Passing a pool table, I grab the 8 ball and slam-roll it into the corner pocket. The group is moving farther down into the club. We're now at the first floor and it's getting darker and Peyton introduces me to a huge black guy with wraparound sunglasses standing by the front entrance eating takeout sushi.
"Victor, this is Abdullah, but we shall call him Rocko, and he's handling all the security and he was in that TLC video directed by Matthew Ralston. That toro looks good."
"My middle name is Grand Master B."
"His middle name is Grand Master B," JD says.
"We shook hands last week in South Beach," Abdullah tells me.
"That's nice, Abdullah, but I wasn't in South Beach last week even though I'm semi-famous there." I glance over at the Details girl. "You can write that down."
"Yeah man, you were in the lobby of the Flying Dolphin, getting your photo taken," Rocko tells me. "You were surrounded by clams."
But I'm not looking at Rocko. Instead my eyes have focused on the three metal detectors that line the foyer, a giant white chandelier hanging above them, dimly twinkling.
"You did, um, know about these, right?" JD asks. A meek pause. "Damien ... wants them."
"Damien wants what?"
"Um." Peyton gestures with his arms as if the metal detectors were prizes. "These."
"Well, why don't we just throw in a baggage check-in, a couple of stewardesses and a DC-10? I mean, what in the hell are these?"
"This is security, man," Abdullah says.
"Security? Why don't you just spend the night frisking the celebrities as well?" I ask. "What? You think this is a party for felons?"
"Mickey Rourke and Johnny Depp both RSVP'd yes for dinner," Peyton whispers in my ear.
"If you'd like us to frisk the guests--" Rocko starts.
"What? I'm gonna have Donna Karan frisked? I'm gonna have Marky Mark frisked? I'm gonna have fucking Diane Von Furstenberg frisked?" I shout. "I don't think so."
"No, baby," Peyton says. "You're going to have the metal detectors so Diane Von Furstenberg and Marky Mark aren't frisked."
"Chuck Pfeiffer has a metal plate in his goddamned head! Princess Cuddles has a steel rod in her leg?" I shout.
JD tells the girl reporter, "Skiing accident in Gstaad, and don't ask me how to spell that."
"What's gonna happen when Princess Cuddles walks in through one of these things and alarms go off and buzzers and lights and -- Jesus, she'll have a fucking heart attack. Does anybody really want to see Princess Cuddles have a coronary?"
"On the guest list we'll mark down that Chuck Pfeiffer has a metal plate in his head and that Princess Cuddles has a steel cod in her leg," Peyton says, mindlessly writing it down on a notepad.
"Listen, Abdullah. I just want to make sure that no one is gonna get in who we don't want in. I don't want anyone passing out invites to other clubs. I don't want some little waif mo handing Barry Diller an invite to Spermbar during dinner--got it? I don't want anyone passing out invites to other clubs."
"What other clubs?" Peyton and JD wail. "There aren't any other clubs!"
"Oh spare me," I wail back, moving across the first floor. "Jesus--you think Christian Laetner is gonna fit under one of those things?" It gets darker as we move into the back of the first floor, toward the staircase that leads to one of the dance floors located in the basement.
From the top floor, Beau calls down, "Alison Poole on line fourteen. She wants to speak to you now, Victor."
Everyone looks away as the Details girl writes something down on her little notepad. Camcorder guy whispers something and she nods, still writing. Somewhere old C + C Music Factory is playing.
"Tell her I'm out. Tell her I'm on line seven."
"She says it's very important," Beau drones on in monotone.
I pause to look at the rest of the group, everyone looking anywhere but at me. Peyton whispers something to JD, who nods curtly. "Hey, watch that!" I snap. I follow Camcorder's lens to a row of sconces he's filming and wait for Beau, who finally leans over the top-floor railing and says, "A miracle: she relented. She'll see you at six."
"Okay, folks." I suddenly turn around to face the group. "I'm calling a sidebar. Bongo, you are excused. Do not discuss your testimony with anyone. Go. JD, come over here. I need to whisper something to you. The rest of you may stand by that bar and look for specks. Camcorder man--turn that away from us. We're taking five."
I pull JD over to me and immediately he starts babbling.
"Victor, if this is about Mica not being around and us being unable to get ahold of her, please for the love of god don't bring it up now, because we can find another DJ--"
"Shut up. It's not about Mica." I pause. "But wait, where is Mica?"
"Oh god, I don't know. She DJ'd at Jackie 60 on Tuesday, then did Edward Furlong's birthday party, and now poof."
"What does that mean? What does poof mean?"
"She's disappeared. No one can find her."
"Well, shit, JD. What are we--no, no--you are gonna fix this," I tell him. "I have something else I want to talk about."
"If Kenny Kenny's going to sue us?"
"The seating chart for dinner?"
"The awfully cute magician downstairs?"
"Jesus, no." I lower my voice. "This is a more, um, personal problem. I need your advice."
"Oh, don't drag me into anything sick, Victor," JD pleads. "I just can't take being dragged into anything too sick."
"Listen ..." I glance over at the Details girl et al., slouching against the bar. "Have you heard anything about a ... photograph?"
"A photograph of who?" he exclaims.
"Shhh, shut up. Jesus." I look around. "Okay, even though you think Erasure is a good band, I think I can still trust you."
"They are, Victor, and--"
"Someone's got a, let's just say, incriminating photo of me and a certain young"-- I cough--"young lady, and I need you to find out if it's, um, going to be printed sometime in the near future and maybe even tomorrow in one of the city's least respectable but still most widely read dailies or if by some miracle it will not and that's about it."
"I suppose you could be more vague, Victor, but I'm used to it," JD says. "Just give me twenty seconds to decode this and I'll get back to you."
"I don't have twenty seconds."
"The young lady I'm supposing--no, I'm hoping--is Chloe Byrnes, your girlfriend?"
"On second thought, take thirty seconds."
"Is this a That's Me in the Corner/That's Me in the Spotlight moment?"
"Okay, okay, let me clarify: a compromising photo of a certain happening guy with a girl who ... and it's not like that bad or anything. Let's just say this girl attacked him at a premiere last week in Central Park and someone unbeknownst to them got a, um, photo of this and it would look ... strange since I am the subject of this photograph ... I have a feeling that if I make the inquiry it will be--ahem--misunderstood .... Need I go on?"
Suddenly Beau screams down: "Chloe will see you at nine-thirty at Doppelganger's!"
"What happened to Flowers? I mean eleven-thirty at Metro CC?" I yell back up. "What happened to ten o'clock at Cafe Tabac?"
A longish pause. "She now says nine-thirty at Bowery Bar. That's the end of it, Victor." Then silence.
"What horrible thing do you want me to do?" JD pauses. "Victor, would this photo--if published--screw up this guy's relationship with a certain young model named Chloe Byrnes and a certain volatile club owner of ... oh, let's just say, hypothetically, this club, whose name is Damien Nutchs Ross?"
"But that isn't the problem." I pull JD closer and, surprised, he winks and bats his eyes and I have to tell him, "Don't get any ideas." I sigh, breathe in. "The problem is that a photo exists. A certain cretinous gossip columnist is going to run this photo, and if we think Princess Cuddles having a heart attack is bad ... that's nothing." I keep looking over my shoulder, finally telling everyone, "We have to go downstairs to check the magician. Excuse us."
"But what about Matthew Broderick?" Peyton asks. "What about the salads?"
"He can have two!" I shout as I whisk JD down the long steep ramp of stairs heading into the basement, the light getting dimmer, both of us moving carefully.
JD keeps babbling. "You know I'm here for you, Victor. You know I put the stud back in star-studded. You know I've helped pack this party to the rafters with desirable celebs. You know I'll do anything, but I can't help you on this because of--"
"JD. Tomorrow in no particular order I've got a photo shoot, a runway show, an MTV interview with `House of Style,' lunch with my father, band practice. I even have to pick up my fucking tux. I'm booked. Plus this dump is opening. I--have--no--time."
"Victor, as usual I'll see what I can do." JD maneuvers down the stairs hesitantly. "Now about the magician--"
"Fuck it. Why don't we just hire some clowns on stilts and bus in an elephant or two?"
"He does card tricks. He just did Brad Pitt's birthday at Jones in L.A."
"He did?" I ask, suspicious. "Who was there?"
"Ed Limato. Mike Ovitz. Julia Ormond. Madonna. Models. A lot of lawyers and `fun' people."
It gets even colder as we near the bottom of the staircase.
"I mean," JD continues, "I think comparatively it's pretty in."
"But in is out," I explain, squinting to see where we're heading. It's so cold our breath steams, and when I touch the banister it feels like ice.
"What are you saying, Victor?"
"Out is in. Got it?"
"In is ... not in anymore?" JD asks. "Is that it?"
I glance at him as we descend the next flight of stairs. "No, in is out. Out is in. Simple, non?"
JD blinks twice, shivering, both of us moving farther down into the darkness.
"See, out is in, JD."
"Victor, I'm really nervous as it is," he says. "Don't start with me today."
"You don't even have to think about it. Out is in. In is out."
"Wait, okay. In is out? Do I have that down so far?"
At the bottom, it is so cold that I've noticed candles don't even stay lit, they keep going out as we pass, and the TV monitors show only static. At the foot of the stairs by the bar, a magician who looks like a young German version of Antonio Banderas with a buzz cut idly shuffles a deck of cards, slump-shouldered, smoking a small joint, drinking a Diet Coke, wearing ripped jeans and a pocket T, the back-to-basics look, exaggeratedly sloppy, the rows of empty champagne glasses behind him reflecting what little light exists down here.
"Right. Out is in."
"But then what exactly is in?" JD asks, his breath steaming.
"Out is, JD."
"So ... in is not in?"
"That's the whole p-p-point." It's so cold my biceps are covered with goose bumps.
"But then what's out? It's always in? What about specifics?"
"If you need this defined for you, maybe you're in the wrong world," I murmur.
The magician gives us the peace sign in a vague way.
"You did Brad Pitt's party?" I ask.
The magician makes a deck of cards, the stool he's sitting on, one of my slippers and a large bottle of Absolut Currant disappear, then says "Abracadabra."
"You did Brad Pitt's party?" I sigh.
JD nudges me and points up. I notice the massive red swastika painted onto the domed ceiling above us.
"I suppose we should probably get rid of that."
32 Zigzagging toward Chemical Bank by the new Gap it's a Wednesday but outside feels Mondayish and the city looks vaguely unreal, there's a sky like from October 1973 or something hanging over it and right now at 5:30 this is Manhattan as Loud Place: jackhammers, horns, sirens, breaking glass, recycling trucks, whistles, booming bass from the new Ice Cube, unwanted sound trailing behind me as I wheel my Vespa into the bank, joining the line at the automated teller, most of it made up of Orientals glaring at me as they move aside, a couple of them leaning forward, whispering to each other.
"What's the story with the moped?" some jerk asks.
"Hey, what's the story with those pants? Listen, the bike doesn't have a card, it's not taking out any cash, so chill out. Jesus."
Only one out often cash machines seems to have any cash in it, so while waiting I have to look up at my reflection in the panel of steel mirrors lining the columns above the automated tellers: high cheekbones, ivory skin, jet-black hair, semi-Asian eyes, a perfect nose, huge lips, defined jawline, ripped knees in jeans, T-shirt under a long-collar shirt, red vest, velvet jacket, and I'm slouching, Rollerblades slung over my shoulder, suddenly remembering I forgot where I'm supposed to meet Chloe tonight, and that's when the beeper goes off. It's Beau. I snap open the Panasonic EBH 70 and call him back at the club.
"I hope Bongo's not having a fit."
"It's the RSVPs, Victor. Damien's having a fit. He just called, furious--"
"Did you tell him where I was?"
"How could I do that when I don't even know where you are?" Pause. "Where are you? Damien was in a helicopter. Actually stepping out of a helicopter."
"I don't even know where I am, Beau. How's that for an answer?" The line moves up slowly. "Is he in the city?"
"No. I said he was in a helicopter. I said that he--was--in--a--heli-cop-ter."
"But where was the heli-cop-ter?"
"Damien thinks things are getting totally fucked up. We have about forty for dinner who have not RSVP'd, so our seating list might be interpreted as meaningless."
"Beau, that depends on how you define meaningless."
A long pause. "Don't tell me it means a bunch of different things, Victor. For example, here's how the O situation is shaping up: Tatum O'Neal, Chris O'Donnell, Sinead O'Connor and Conan O'Brien all yes but nothing from Todd Oldham, who I hear is being stalked and really freaking out, or Carrie Otis or Oribe--"
"Relax," I whisper. "That's because they're all doing the shows. I'll talk to Todd tomorrow--I'll see him at the show-but I mean what is going on, Beau? Conan O'Brien is coming but Todd Oldham and Carrie Otis might not? That just isn't an acceptable scenario, baby, but I'm in an automated teller right now with my Vespa and I can't really speak--hey, what are you looking at?--but I don't want Chris O'Donnell anywhere at my table for dinner. Chloe thinks he's too fucking cute and I just don't need that kind of awful shit tomorrow night."
"Uh-huh. Right, no Chris O'Donnell, okay, got that. Now, Victor, first thing tomorrow we've got to go over the big ones, the Ms and the Ss--"
"We can pull it together. Don't weep, Beau. You sound sad. It is now my turn to get some cash. I must go and--"
"Wait! Rande Gerber's in town--"
"Put him under G but not for the dinner unless he's coming with Cindy Crawford then he is invited to the dinner and you then know which consonant, baby."
"Victor, you try dealing with Cindy's publicist. You try getting an honest answer out of Antonio Sabato, Jr.'s publicist--"
I click off, finally push in my card, punch in the code (COOLGUY) and wait, thinking about the seating arrangements at tables 1 and 3, and then green words on a black screen tell me that there is no cash left in this account (a balance of minus $143) and so therefore it won't give me any money and I blew my last cash on a glass-door refrigerator because Elle Decor did a piece on my place that never ran so I slam my fist against the machine, moan "Spare me" and since it's totally useless to try this again I rustle through my pockets for a Xanax until someone pushes me away and I roll the moped back outside, bummed.
Cruising up Madison, stopping at a light in front of Barneys, and Bill Cunningham snaps my picture, yelling out, "Is that a Vespa?" and I give him thumbs-up and he's standing next to Holly, a curvy blonde who looks like Patsy Kensit, and when we smoked heroin together last week she told me she might be a lesbian, which in some circles is pretty good news, and she waves me over wearing velvet hot pants, red-and-white-striped platform boots, a silver peace symbol and she's ultrathin, on the cover of Mademoiselle this month, and after a day of doing shows at Bryant Park she's looking kind of frantic but in a cool way.
"Hey Victor!" She keeps motioning even when I've pulled the Vespa up to the curb.
"It's Anjanette, Victor."
"Hey Anjanette, what's up pussycat? You're looking very Uma-ish. Love the outfit."
"It's retro-gone-wacko. I did six shows today. I'm exhausted, she says, signing an autograph. "I saw you at the Calvin Klein show giving Chloe moral support. Which was so cool of you."
"Baby, I wasn't at the Calvin Klein show but you're still looking very Uma-ish."
"Victor, I'm positive you were at the Calvin Klein show. I saw you in the second row next to Stephen Dorff and David Salle and Roy Liebenthal. I saw you pose for a photo on 42nd Street, then get into a black scary car."
Pause, while I consider this scenario, then: "The second fucking row? No way, baby. You haven't started your ignition yet. Will I see yon tomorrow night, baby?"
"I'm coming with Jason Priestley."
"Why aren't you coming with me? Am I the only one who thinks Jason Priestley looks like a little caterpillar?"
"Victor, that's not nice," she pouts. "What would Chloe think?"
"She thinks Jason Priestley looks like a little caterpillar too," I murmur, lost in thought. "The fucking second row?"
"That's not what I meant," Anjanette says. "What would Chloe think of--"
"Spare me, baby, but you're supergreat." I start the Vespa up again. "Take your passion and make it happen."
"I've heard you've been naughty anyway, so I'm not surprised," she says, tiredly wagging her finger at me, which Scooter, the bodyguard who looks like Marcellus from Pulp Fiction, interprets as "move closer."
"What do you mean by that, pussycat?" I ask. "What have you heard?"
Scooter whispers something, pointing at his watch, while Anjanette lights a cigarette. "There's always a car waiting. There's always a Steven Meisel photo shoot. Jesus, how do we do it, Victor? How do we survive this mess?" A gleaming black sedan rolls forward and Scooter opens the door.
"See you, baby." I hand her a French tulip I just happen to be holding and start pulling away from the curb.
"Oh Victor," she calls out, handing Scooter the French tulip. "I got the job! I got the contract."
"Great, baby. I gotta run. What job, you crazy chick?"
"Matsuda? Gap?" I grin, limousines honking behind me. "Baby, listen, see you tomorrow night."
"Baby, I already did. You're mind-tripping me."
"Guess?, Victor," she's shouting as I pull away.
"Baby, you're great," I shout back. "Call me. Leave a message. But only at the club. Peace."
"Guess?, Victor!" she calls out.
"Baby, you're a face to watch," I say, already putting a Walkman on, already on 61st. "A star of tomorrow," I call out, waving. "Let's have drinks at Monkey Bar after the shows are over on Sunday!" I'm speaking to myself now and moving toward Alison's place. Passing a newsstand by the new Gap, I notice I'm still on the cover of the current issue of YouthQuake, looking pretty cool--the headline 27 AND HIP in bold purple letters above my smiling, expressionless face, and I've just got to buy another copy, but since I don't have any cash there's no way.
31 From 72nd and Madison I called Alison's doorman, who has verified that outside her place on 80th and Park Damien's goons are not waiting in a black Jeep, so when I get there I can pull up to the entrance and roll my Vespa into the lobby, where Juan--who's a pretty decent-looking guy, about twenty-four--is hanging out in uniform. As I give him the peace sign, wheeling the moped into the elevator, Juan comes out from behind the front desk.
"Hey Victor, did you talk to Joel Wilkenfeld yet?" Juan's asking, following me. "I mean, last week you said you would and--"
"Hey baby, it's cool, Juan, it's cool," I say, inserting the key, unlocking the elevator, pressing the button for the top floor.
Juan presses another button, to keep the door open. "But man, you said he'd see me and also set up a meeting with--"
"I'm setting it up, buddy, it's cool," I stress, pressing again for the top floor. "You're the next Markus Schenkenberg. You're the white Tyson." I reach over and push his hand away.
"Hey man, I'm Hispanic--" He keeps pressing the Door Open button.
"You're the next Hispanic Markus Schenkenberg. You're the, um, Hispanic Tyson." I reach over and push his hand away again. "You're a star, man. Any day of the week."
"I just don't want this to be like an afterthought--"
"Hey man, spare me." I grin. "`Afterthought' isn't in this guy's vocabulary," I say, pointing at myself.
"Okay, man," Juan says, letting go of the Door Open button and offering a shaky thumbs-up. "I, like, trust you."
The elevator zips up to the top floor, where it opens into Alison's penthouse. I peer down the front hallway, don't see or hear the dogs, then quietly wheel the Vespa inside and lean it against a wall in the foyer next to a Vivienne Tam sofa bed.
I tiptoe silently toward the kitchen but stop when I hear the hoarse breathing of the two chows, who have been intently watching me from the other end of the hallway, quietly growling, audible only now. I turn around and offer them a weak smile.
I can barely say "Oh shit" before they both break out into major scampering and rush at their target: me.
The two chows--one chocolate, one cinnamon--leap up, baring their teeth, nipping at my knees, pawing at my calves, barking furiously.
"Alison! Alison!" I call out, trying desperately to bat them away.
Hearing her name, they both stop barking. Then they glance down the hallway to see if she's coming. After a pause, when they hear no sign of her--we're frozen in position, red chow standing on back legs, its paws in my groin, black chow down on its front paws with Gucci boot in mouth--they immediately go to work on me again, growling and basically freaking out like they always do.
"Alison!" I scream. "Jesus Christ!"
Gauging the distance from where I'm at to the kitchen door, I decide to make a run for it, and when I bolt, the chows scamper after me, yelping, biting at my ankles.
I finally make it into the kitchen and slam the door, hear both of them skidding across the marble floor into the door with two large thumps, hear them fall over, then scamper up and attack the door. Shaken, I open a Snapple, down half of it, then light a cigarette, check for bites. I hear Alison clapping her hands, and then she walks into the kitchen, naked beneath an open Aerosmith tour robe, a cell phone cradled in her neck, an unlit joint in her mouth. "Mr. Chow, Mrs. Chow, down, down, goddamnit, down."
She hurls the dogs into the pantry, pulls a handful of colored biscuits from the robe and throws them at the dogs before slamming the pantry door shut, the sounds of the dogs fighting over the biscuits cut mercifully short.
"Okay, uh-huh, right, Malcolm McLaren ... Yeah, no, Frederic Fekkai. Yeah. Everybody's hung over, babe." She scrunches up her face. "Andrew Shue and Leonardo DiCaprio? ... What? ... Oh baby, no-o-o way." Alison winks at me. "You're not at a window table at Mortimer's right now. Wake up! Oh boy ... Ciao, ciao." She clicks off the cellular and carefully places the joint on the counter and says, "That was a three-way with Dr. Dre, Yasmine Bleeth and Jared Leto."
"Alison, those two little shits tried to kill me," I point out as she jumps up and wraps her legs around my waist.
"Mr. and Mrs. Chow aren't little shits, baby." She clamps her mouth onto mine as I stumble with her toward the bedroom. Once there she falls to her knees, rips open my jeans and proceeds to expertly give me head, deep-throating in an unfortunately practiced way, grabbing my ass so hard I have to pry one of her hands loose. I take a last drag off the cigarette that I'm still holding, look around for a place to stub it out, find a half-empty Snapple bottle, drop in what's left of the Marlboro, hear it hiss.
"Slow down, Alison, you're moving too fast," I'm mumbling.
She pulls my dick out of her mouth and, looking up at me, says in a low, "sexy" voice, "Urgency is my specialty, baby."
She suddenly gets up, drops the robe and lies back on the bed, spreading her legs, pushing me down onto a floor littered with random issues of WWDs, my right knee crumpling a back-page photo of Alison and Damien and Chloe and me at Naomi Campbell's birthday party, sitting in a cramped booth at Doppelganger's, and then I'm nibbling at a small tattoo on the inside of a muscular thigh and the moment my tongue touches her she starts coming--once, twice, three times. Knowing where this will not end up, I jerk off a little until I'm almost coming and then I think, Oh screw it, I don't really have time for this, so I just fake it, moaning loudly, my head between her legs, movement from my right arm giving the impression from where she lies that I'm actually doing something. The music in the background is mid-period Duran Duran. Our rendezvous spots have included the atrium at Remi, room 101 at the Paramount, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.
I climb onto the bed and lie there, pretending to pant. "Baby, where did you learn to give head like that? Sotheby's? Oh man." I reach over for a cigarette.
"So wait. That's it?" She lights a joint, sucks in on it so deeply that half of it turns to ash. "What about you?"
"I'm happy." I yawn. "Just as long as you don't bring out that, um, leather harness and Sparky the giant butt plug."
I get off the bed and pull my jeans and Calvins up and move over to the window, where I lift a venetian blind. Down on Park, between 79th and 80th, is a black Jeep with two of Damien's goons sitting in it, reading the new issue of what looks like Interview with Drew Barrymore on the cover, and one looks like a black Woody Harrelson and the other like a white Damon Wayans.
Alison knows what I'm seeing and from the bed says, "Don't worry, I have to meet Grant Hill for a drink at Mad.61. They'll follow and then you can escape."
I flop onto the bed, flip on Nintendo, reach for the controls and start to play Super Mario Bros.
"Damien says that Julia Roberts is coming and so is Sandra Bullock," Alison says vacantly. "Laura Leighton and Halle Berry and Dalton James." She takes another hit off the joint and hands it to me. "I saw Elle Macpherson at the Anna Sui show and she says she'll be there for the dinner." She's flipping through a copy of Detour with Robert Downey, Jr., on the cover, legs spread, major crotch shot. "Oh, and so is Scott Wolf."
"Shhh, I'm playing," I tell her. "Yoshi's eaten four gold coins and he's trying to find the fifth. I need to concentrate."
"Oh my god, who gives a shit," Alison sighs. "We're dealing with a fat midget who rides a dinosaur and saves his girlfriend from a pissed-off gorilla? Victor, get serious."
"It's not his girlfriend. It's Princess Toadstool. And it's not a gorilla," I stress. "It's Lemmy Koopa of the evil Koopa clan. And baby, as usual, you're missing the point."
"Please enlighten me."
"The whole point of Super Mario Bros. is that it mirrors life."
"I'm following." She checks her nails. "God knows why."
"Kill or be killed."
"Time is running out."
"And in the end, baby, you ... are ... alone."
"Right." She stands up. "Well, Victor, that really captures the spirit of our relationship, honey." She disappears into a closet bigger than the bedroom. "If you had to be interviewed by Worth magazine on the topic of Damien's Nintendo stock, you'd want to kill Yoshi too."
"I guess this is all just beyond the realm of your experience," I murmur. "Huh?"
"What are you doing tonight for dinner?" she calls out from the closet.
"Why? Where's Damien?"
"In Atlantic City. So the two of us can go out since I'm sure Chloe is tres exhausted from all dat wittle modeling she had to do today."
"I can't," I call back. "I've got to get to bed early. I'm skipping dinner. I've got to go over--oh shit--seating arrangements."
"Oh, but baby, I want to go to Nobu tonight," she whines from the closet. "I want a baby shrimp tempura roll."
"You are a baby shrimp tempura roll," I whine back.
The phone rings, the machine picks up, just new Portishead, then a beep.
"Hi, Alison, it's Chloe calling back." I roll my eyes. "Amber and Shalom and I have to do something for Fashion TV at the Royalton and then I'm having dinner with Victor at Bowery Bar at nine-thirty. I'm so so tired ... did shows all day. Okay, I guess you're not there. Talk to you soon--oh yeah, you have a pass backstage for Todd's show tomorrow. Bye-bye." The machine clicks off.
Silence from the closet, then, low and laced with fury, "Seating arrangements? You--have--to--go--to--bed--early?"
"You can't keep me in your penthouse," I say. "I'm going back to my plow."
"You're having dinner with her?" she screams.
"Honey, I had no idea."
Alison walks out of the closet holding a Todd Oldham wraparound dress in front of her and waits for my reaction, showing it off: not-so-basic black-slash-beige, strapless, Navajo-inspired and neon quilted.
"That's a Todd Oldham, baby," I finally say.
"I'm wearing it tomorrow night." Pause. "It's an original," she whispers seductively, eyes glittering. "I'm gonna make your little girlfriend look like shit!"
Alison reaches over and slaps the controls out of my hand and turns on a Green Day video and dances over to the Vivienne Tam--designed mirror, studying herself holding the dress in it, and then completes a halfhearted swirl, looking very happy but also very stressed.
I check my nails. It's so cold in this apartment that frost accumulates on the windows. "Is it just me or am I getting chilly in here?"
Alison holds the dress up one more time, squeals maniacally and rushes back into the closet. "What did you say, baby?"
"Did you know vitamins strengthen your nails?"
"Who told you that, baby?" she calls out.
"Chloe did," I mutter, biting at a hangnail.
"That poor baby. Oh my god, she's so stupid."
"She just got back from the MTV awards. She had a nervous breakdown before it, y'know, so be reasonable."
"Ma-jor," Alison calls out. "Her smack days are behind her, I take it."
"Just be patient. She's very unstable," I say. "And yes, her smack days are behind her."
"No help from you, I'm sure."
"Hey, she got a huge amount of help from me," I say, sitting up, paying more attention now. "If it wasn't for me she might be dead, Alison."
"If it wasn't for you, pea brain, she might not have shot up the junk in the first fucking place."
"She didn't `shoot' anything," I stress. "It was a purely nasal habit." Pause, check my fingernails again. "She's just very unstable right now."
"What? She gets a blackhead and wants to kill herself?"
"Hey, who wouldn't?" I sit up a little more.
"No Vacancy. No Vacancy. No Vac--"
"Axl Rose and Prince both wrote songs about her, may I remind you."
"Yeah, `Welcome to the Jungle' and `Let's Go Crazy.'" Alison walks out of the closet wrapped in a black towel and waves me off. "I know, I know, Chloe was born to model."
"Do you think your jealousy's giving me a hard-on?"
"No, only my boyfriend does that."
"Hey, no way do I want to get it on with Damien."
"Jesus. As usual, you're so literal-minded."
"Oh god, your boyfriend's a total crook. A blowhard."
"My boyfriend is the only reason, my little himbo, that you are in business."
"That's bullshit," I shout. "I'm on the cover of YouthQuake magazine this month."
"Exactly." Alison suddenly relents and moves over to the bed and sits down next to me, gently taking my hand. "Victor, you auditioned for all three `Real World's, and MTV rejected you all three times." She pauses sincerely. "What does that tell you?"
"Yeah, but I'm one fucking phone call away from Lorne Michaels."
Alison studies my face, my hand still in hers, and smiling, she says, "Poor Victor, you should see just how handsome and dissatisfied you look right now."
"A hip combo," I mutter sullenly.
"It's nice that you think so," she says vacantly.
"Looking like some deformed schmuck and suicidal's better?" I tell her. "Christ, Alison, get your fucking priorities straightened out."
"My priorities straightened out?" she asks, stunned, letting go of my hand and placing her own to her chest. "My priorities straightened out?" She laughs like a teenager.
"Don't you understand?" I get up from the bed, lighting a cigarette, pacing. "Shit."
"Victor, tell me what you're so worried about."
"You really want to know?"
"Not really but yes." She walks over to the armoire and pulls out a coconut, which I totally take in stride.
"My fucking DJ's disappeared. That's what." I inhale so hard on the Marlboro I have to put it out. "No one knows where the hell my DJ is."
"Mica's gone?" Alison asks. "Are you sure she's not in rehab?"
"I'm not sure of anything," I mutter.
"That's for sure, baby," she says faux-soothingly, falling onto the bed, looking for something, then her voice changes and she yells, "And you lie! Why didn't you tell me you were in South Beach last weekend?"
"I wasn't in South Beach last weekend, and I wasn't at the fucking Calvin Klein show either." Finally the time has come: "Alison, we've got to talk about something--"
"Don't say it." She drops the coconut into her lap and holds up both hands, then notices the joint on her nightstand and grabs it. "I know, I know," she intones dramatically. "There is a compromising photo of you with a girl"--she bats her eyes cartoonishly--"supposedly moi, yada yada yada, that's going to fuck up your relationship with that dunce you date, but it will also"--and now, mock-sadly, lighting the joint--"fuck up the relationship with the dunce I date too. So"--she claps her hands--"rumor is it's running in either the Post, the Trib or the News tomorrow. I'm working on it. I have people all over it. This is my A-number-one priority. So don't worry"--she inhales, exhales--"that beautiful excuse for a head of yours about it." She spots what she was looking for, lost in the comforter, and grabs it: a screwdriver.
"Why, Alison? Why did you have to attack me at a movie premiere?" I wail.
"It takes two, you naughty boy."
"Not when you've knocked me unconscious and are sitting on my face."
"If I was sitting on your face no one will ever know it was you." She shrugs, gets up, grabs the coconut. "And then we'll all be saved--la la la la."
"That's not when the picture was taken, baby." I follow her into the bathroom, where she punches four holes in the coconut with the screwdriver and then leans over the Vivienne Tam-designed sink and pours the milk from the shell over her head.
"I know, I agree." She tosses the husk into a wastebasket and massages the milk into her scalp. "Damien finds out and you'll be working in a White Castle."
"And you'll be paying for your own abortions, so spare me." I raise my arms helplessly. "Why do I always have to remind you that we shouldn't be seeing each other? If this photo gets printed it'll be time for us to wake up."
"If this picture gets printed we'll just say it was a weak moment." She whips her head back and wraps her hair in a towel. "Doesn't that sound good.
"Jesus, baby, you've got people out there watching your apartment."
"I know." She beams into the mirror. "Isn't it cute?"
"Why do I always need to remind you that I'm basically still with, y'know, Chloe and you're still with Damien?"
She turns away from the mirror and leans against the sink. "If you dump me, baby, you'll be in a lot more trouble." She heads toward the closet.
"Why is that?" I ask, following her. "What do you mean, Alison?"
"Oh, let's just say rumor has it that you're looking at a new space." She pauses, holds up a pair of shoes. "And we both know that if Damien knew that you were even contemplating your own pathetic club-slash-eatery while you're currently being paid to run Damien's own pathetic club-slash-eatery, therefore insulting Damien's warped sense of loyalty, the term `you're fucked' comes vaguely to mind." She drops the shoes, leaves the closet.
"I'm not," I insist, following her. "I swear I'm not. Oh my god, who told you that?"
"Are you denying it?"
"N-no. I mean, I am denying it. I mean ..." I stand there.
"Oh never mind." Alison drops the robe and puts on some panties. "Three o'clock tomorrow?"
"I'm swamped tomorrow, baby, so spare me," I stammer. "Now, who told you I'm looking at a new space?"
"Okay--three o'clock on Monday."
"Why three o'clock? Why Monday?"
"Damien's having his unit cleaned." She tosses on a blouse.
"Damien has--extensions?" I ask. "He's the grossest guy, baby. He is so evil."
She strides over to the armoire, sifts through a giant box of earrings. "Oh baby, I saw Tina Brown at 44 today at lunch and she's coming tomorrow sans Harry and so is Nick Scotti, who--I know, I know--is a has-been but just looks great."
I move slowly back toward the frost-covered window, peer past the venetian blinds at the Jeep on Park.
"I talked to Winona too. She is coming. Wait." Alison pushes two earrings into one ear, three into another, and is now pulling them out. "Is Johnny coming?"
"What?" I murmur. "Who?"
"Johnny Depp," she shouts, throwing a shoe at me.
"I guess," I say vaguely. "Yeah."
"Goody," I hear her say. "Rumor has it that Davey's very friendly with heroin--ooh, don't let Chloe get too close to Davey--and I also hear that Winona might go back to Johnny if Kate Moss disappears into thin air or a smallish tornado hurls her back to Auschwitz, which we're all hoping for." She notices the half-smoked cigarette floating in the Snapple bottle, then turns around, holding the bottle out to me accusingly, mentioning something about how Mrs. Chow loves kiwi-flavored Snapple. I'm slouching in a giant Vivienne Tam armchair.
"God, Victor," Alison says, hushed. "In this light"--she stops, genuinely moved--"you look gorgeous."
Gaining the strength to squint at her, I say, finally, "The better you look, the more you see."
Bret Easton Ellis: I am in the middle of a book tour, so I am stressed, but otherwise happy to be here.
Bret Easton Ellis: I don't see myself exactly as a sociologist. I have always been uncomfortable as a novelist who predicts trends or thinks he can predict the future. When I am working on a book like GLAMORAMA, the things that interest me more are purely literary rather than the culture at large. But GLAMORAMA's narrator, Victor Ward, is a compendium of a lot of traits of the men of my generation that I have found annoying and bothersome. So I suppose there is some cultural reporting in the creation of that character. I believe that people behave not how a decade directs them, necessarily, but have had certain problems that are just basically human. What century they are living in notwithstanding. I was, as a writer, disgusted by the '80s, and I am disgusted by a lot of things in society in the '90s. I am basically a satirist. I hope I will be disgusted after the millennium.
Bret Easton Ellis: When I was writing GLAMORAMA, what I felt most oppressed by was this tyranny of physical perfection that our society keeps selling to us. We, against our better instincts, buy into it. The connection I was making between the fashion world and terrorism is that they both operate on making people feel insecure. That is oppressive. I don't know if I necessarily think consumer goods are oppressive. Probably because we are so inundated with them, we don't notice how inundated we actually are.
Bret Easton Ellis: I would like to tell you that no celebrities were harmed in the writing of GLAMORAMA. The thousands of them throughout the book -- they function just as names. Their meaning is reflected in the characters' reactions to those names, and what, say, Winona Ryder means to a character -- just her name rather than anything she has accomplished. And when I started writing the book, it became apparent to me that Victor, because of the world he lived in and his "job," was going to be very interested in celebrities, and they were going to be, in fact, his currency, so I felt justified in a literary way to use them.
Bret Easton Ellis: With AMERICAN PSYCHO, I felt it was necessary to stay as true to the narrator's voice as possible, as I do with all my books. Here the narrator was a serial killer. Because of my aesthetic, he was going to describe the killings, torture, and violence in the same numbing detail that he describes every other aspect of his life. It would have seemed dishonest to me and not a full representation of that character if I had omitted those scenes. I do not feel by nature that I am necessarily, in my everyday life and personal life, interested in violence. I often wince and turn away in movies with graphic violence; but in the fictional world I create, I seem to be drawn toward characters who commit violence, and to stay true to them, I feel I have to describe that violence as unflinchingly as I can.
Bret Easton Ellis: I can answer this -- but what I will say is that I don't want to give away too many of the surprises in GLAMORAMA. If I answer some of these questions, the shock will be diluted. Sorry, bro!
Bret Easton Ellis: Actually, there is a secret history to this book, if you are a careful reader. You can tell that the book was written in sequential order from early 1990 to '97 by noticing which celebrities are mentioned in the first section, the middle, and the latter part. For example, in the opening, a lot of the actors in the TV series "Twin Peaks" are mentioned. In the last chapters, people like Fiona Apple and Ben Affleck are mentioned. I did not update anything. It didn't seem important to me. As I said earlier, the celebrities themselves weren't the message. Simply the lists of names were. And actually, I don't think anyone is left out of this book!
Bret Easton Ellis: The maturing process of Victor Ward -- and again, I want to be careful and not ruin any surprises for a reader -- probably means more to me then it might to someone enjoying this book simply as a work of fiction. I know that I matured considerably during the writing of GLAMORAMA; I left my 20s and entered my 30s during the writing of it. The process of getting older is reflective in the tone, in that it is a narrative, and that characters alter and change whereas in my earlier fiction they did not, because I didn't view the world that way; and I think that Victor is the only one of my narrators to experience a change of mindset. But then, what does it mean that perhaps ultimately it doesn't save him? I don't have an answer for that yet.
Bret Easton Ellis: The opening quotations reflect to me the two very different halves to this book: One is from Krishna, the other from Hitler. Though both epigraphs sum up nicely what the book is about, they also dovetail neatly the fact that the first part is almost a frothy screwball-like comedy of manners, and the second half is a much darker, sinister and evil part. As for the political bent in my work, I don't really see it. Victor's father is involved in politics, and part of the conspiracy at the heart of GLAMORAMA is connected to Washington, D.C., but that doesn't necessarily mean that the book is at all touching on anything political. My new novel, that is in its planning stages now, does take place in Washington, D.C., and tangentially revolve around the political world. But again, it is not because I am interested in the day-to-day lives of politicians or how politics affect the country, but just because as a social backdrop to a novel about many other things, I think it will be very suggestive. But I feel that I am rather apolitical myself, and though I loathe to admit it, I don't vote.
Bret Easton Ellis: I only play with Jay's characters, but I will not let him play with mine. I think I first used one of Jay's characters from STORY OF MY LIFE, in AMERICAN PSYCHO. If memory serves me right, I think why that occurred was because Jay had pissed me off somehow that week, and I decided the best way to get back at him was to have Alison Pool have an encounter with Patrick Batemen. I know that sounds passive-aggressive, but sometimes that is the only way to deal with Jay. I also liked the character of Alison Pool and decided to use her in GLAMORAMA. See, she did survive! I think Jay was nice to me, so I let her survive her encounter with Patrick. I think Jay is flattered and amused -- and also wishes I hadn't done it!
Bret Easton Ellis: Well, I have to say, I really don't think about that too much. It isn't part of the process of writing a novel, how people will respond to it; a reaction or a response to anything I have written doesn't register with me, because it is not part of the process of writing the book. On the other hand, of course, I like it when people are interested in my fiction, and it is nice when people tell me that the books meant something to them. Really the only good part of a book tour is meeting those readers. But I don't really feel either way about how my work divides critics. I do know, however, that my readers tend to be much, much smarter than my critics.
Bret Easton Ellis: I don't think that as a writer I am particularly interested in the "'80s" or "'90s." People assumed I was a chronicler of the '80s simply because I published four books that took place in that decade. I felt like I was writing about more things that were more universal than just how a decade affected the youth of this country. I don't look at GLAMORAMA as a book that is particularly about the '90s, even though it takes place in that decade. My concerns are more literary and not necessarily purely journalistic.
Bret Easton Ellis: Okay, what is in my car right now? Here we go: P. J. Harvey, Lauryn Hill, Hole, Beastie Boys, Lucinda Williams, Public Enemy, Elliot Smith, the Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach album "Painted from Memory", and that is just off the top of my head. Oh, and also, I have to admit this: Marilyn Manson.
Bret Easton Ellis: No. I think that the outcry to AMERICAN PSYCHO occurred simply because that violence had a sexual nature. That seems to be far more upsetting to a reader than violence that isn't overtly sexual in nature. And I actually think I have become less desensitized to violence as I got older. For better or worse, and because I was tapping into a psychopath's mind, there is a certain kind of glee in the violence, and that was reported in a flat and pornographic tone. I think that is absent from GLAMORAMA, and because of the nature of the narrator, there is real pain and horror at the violence, which again reflects my feelings as I have gotten older. But then, I am just as horrified by reports in the paper or in the news of a mass murder or a rapist as I am of a bombing of an airplane or embassies or government offices.
Bret Easton Ellis: In GLAMORAMA, the terrorists do not have an overt political affiliation. They just seem to represent chaos and destruction. Add to this the fact that the narrator doesn't seem to understand what is going on, and it remains unclear at the end of the book what their motives are. That probably reflects my personal reaction toward terrorism. I suppose because I have been raised as a bourgeois white boy from a "comfortable" middle-class existence, I of course don't see how the violence that terrorists inflict on people solves anything. This comes from basically a fairly sheltered individual, and that may be why I have that attitude toward terrorism. Basically, I have never felt culturally or societally oppressed.
Bret Easton Ellis: Only if Robin Williams makes another movie like "Patch Adams."
Bret Easton Ellis: Well, it depends on the cheekbones. It depends on how sexy that person is to begin with. And it depends on the crime they have committed. Of course I do not condone O. J. Simpson, but because high-profile criminals are photographed so much and the media is fascinated by them, they do become fetishized, and there is an element of glamour to that. By casting Divine in that role, I think Waters was actually proving that it is not true and ridiculous to think so. I think Waters was satirizing this culture's fascination with turning murderers into celebrities.
Bret Easton Ellis: Don DeLillo is at the top of my list. Also Joan Didion, Robert Stone, Martin Amis, and Lorrie Moore's new BIRDS OF AMERICA. Three books that I admire a lot: Ulysses by James Joyce, Didion's PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES.
Bret Easton Ellis: It has been reported that I am working on a memoir about my adolescence in L.A. and my college years at Bennington in Vermont, and even though a lot of people have snickered at this idea, it is, in fact, true. Whether I will publish this memoir that I am working on is another story. I feel that because of the subject matter of my next novel, which will be more autobiographical than anything I have written so far, I need to write the memoir to psychically clear my head. Whether it will work out or not, I am not sure yet.
Bret Easton Ellis: My fictional world and my personal life are two distinct entities, and just because within my fictional world hopelessness interests me, it is not necessarily true of my real life. There are many elements in my fiction that don't correspond to the life I live on a daily basis. I live like any other healthy, normal person, despair about the state of mankind and our society and our culture; and I suppose that helplessness is reflected in my fiction. But on the other hand, I am not a suicidal person, and I can pretty much get through a day without crawling into a fetal position and putting a pillow over my head. At least now I can, I guess. Ask me that five years ago and you might have gotten a different answer.
Bret Easton Ellis: No, I don't find it shocking. There is a wide array of readers out there with a wider array of opinions. There are a lot of people who hate my work and a lot who love it. And even the people who hate it understand what I am doing, but just don't like the way I have written a novel. Then there are people who probably love my work and don't understand my intentions. Reading is a completely democratic experience, completely subjective, and the feeling that you get from a novel is very, very personal. I do think, however, that there has been a willfulness on the part of some readers and critics to ignore the text of the books and to concentrate on criticizing me simply because of subject matter or my perceived public persona. That is, I think, probably unfair, but in the end, as I said earlier, it doesn't influence my writing one way or another. If your opinion is smart and measured, no matter whether it is pro or con, I pretty much have to respect it.
Bret Easton Ellis: Well, by being themselves, by writing what they feel passionate about. It is very simple: If you really believe in your material and it is deeply felt and there is honesty and truth in it, no matter how wild or dark the subject matter will be, I think you will find an audience and people who like your work. I don't think any writer is under the shadow of another and then it will be harder to get published because of that. I really think, if you stay true to your own feelings and the way you want to express them, you will always find responsive readers. I don't mean to sound so sappy and inspirational, but that is basically the bottom line.
Bret Easton Ellis: Thank you for tuning in tonight, and I will be at a bookstore near you within the upcoming months. Don't be afraid to stop by. Thank you.