Upstairs at The Iguana.
240 West 54th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave.). New York, NY.
Doors open at 6:30pm. Event starts at 7pm.
Unwasted will be available for purchase (cash only) and signing.
In 1975, David and Albert Maysles made one of the most captivating and haunting documentary films the world has ever seen, Grey Gardens. Many of us have never stopped thinking about the film, which depicts Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie, as they tumble into a crazed codependence while their Hamptons mansion literally crumbles around them. There have been clothing lines, cabaret shows, and, most recently, a Tony-winning play based on Grey Gardens. And, tomorrow night, HBO premieres its own remake of the cult documentary, starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as the disturbed mother and daughter. Apparently, there will be plenty of value added: Instead of recreating the Maysles' documentary, HBO will probe the early lives of these women and even feature the Maysles brothers themselves as characters in the movie. I'll certainly be watching. But, might I suggest, that if you haven't already, you watch the original documentary. Here is an essay I wrote about GreyGardens for TNR (for a feature we called "Lost and Found") a few years back that will hopefully inspire interest in this astonishing character study. Grey Gardens is portraiture, film, and art at their finest.
I was and am a Thompson fan. Perhaps because his addictions and his prose were so entwined and so visceral. Perhaps because he was writing during a time I always wished I had come of age in. And so, for several long days, I obsessed over what avenues I might have taken in life to put me in a position to meet Hunter S. Thompson and have him read to me from an original Rolling Stone magazine while at Owl Farm. I even realized that — ha! — the night in question was almost a year before I quit drugs and alcohol. As if the fantasy could now be guilt-free. As if now, should time travel suddenly exist and should I be able to become my friend for a night, I’d be good to go.To read the whole essay, click here.
And I can imagine it so well! While Thompson tells me about the Vegas articles, he hands me some patented cocktail of substances; maybe I demur at first, but then he says, “Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals—and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.”
Throughout that summer, friends inevitably expressed admiration at my willpower to take on 15-plus miles at a time. And though I did not always disabuse people of this admiration, I knew a different truth: willpower is what happens when you have to muscle through; but I didn’t have to muscle through. I had an arsenal of support and ballasts in place to keep me on the right path. Those kooky coaches — who yelled out cheesy and embarrassing cheers, like “I see some heroes on the Mall today!” — were like hyper-euphoric angels, hell-bent on seeing us through the bizarrely human act of running exactly 26.2 miles. And, when the road was really tough, the day particularly hot, and the edible runner’s goo low, I would repeat, in a singsong whisper, I choose to run. I choose to run. I’d look around at my sweet Sweathogs. I choose to run. I’d stare down at my feet. I choose to run. One in front of the other. I choose to run. Sometimes, I’d look up to see I’d gone several miles in a kind of trance.To read the whole essay, click here.
Throughout that entire first year of sobriety, I longed for some shorthand for everything I wanted to say: the confusing pride I felt about my past destructive life, the odd embarrassment I felt over my current redeemed one. Maybe a skull-and-crossbones-like symbol just for us addicts, something with the right mix of menace and solidarity, something I could tattoo on my wrist like a gang member to establish my alcoholic street cred. That way, instead of reassuring new acquaintances that I was fun, I could just silently shake my head when offered a drink, flash my tat and look at my new friend with a kind of weathered mystery. What I had yet to learn was how little people cared about whether I drank or not — and how little I needed to concern myself with what people did think.Read the entire essay here.
In the meantime, I was alarmed by the dissonance between the rock star within screaming to be let out and the insecure woman pledging to be fun. I mean, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to have fun without drinking. I was still discovering all sorts of terrible new truths, like how parties without drinking were really just a lot of people standing in the same room and like how movies I once found funny were often riddled with stilted language and bad dirty jokes. And how, without my booze-fueled sense of rock-star self, I had no clue as to who I was — or whether or not I was any fun. I had lost my swagger.
A year and a half ago, the U.S. seemed to reach the apotheosis of a pop culture "celebutante"/"prosti-tot" mania; even Newsweek, in a slimy play for sales, featured a boozy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton on its cover. The sloshed reality wasn't an arch wit swilling a Manhattan and spewing one-liners: It looked like Paris Hilton, who headed off to jail after too many DWIs; like a rail-thin Nicole Richie, tottering under the weight of her Starbucks cup, and piling up arrests; and like Lindsay Lohan, who made two trips to "rehab" in as many months. It was around that time when I first heard the song "Stupid Girls," by the pop star Pink. The video lampooned the heavily accessorized waifs, the surgically enhanced bombshells, and the hyper-sexualized behavior of both. The lyrics asked, "What happened to the dream of a girl president? She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent. ... Oh where, oh where have the smart people gone?"