Questions asked of me

I’ve been reading your columns and I think they are great! How did you get started?

The short answer is: Shortly after I graduated college I sent in a story called The Blow-Up Boyfriend to an alternative weekly called New York Press. You can read a remarkably similar version of this story in my novel Run Catch Kiss. It was about getting mugged in Brooklyn with my best friend, who I am sad to say, is now my EBF, my ex-best friend, but that’s another story. The paper decided to buy the story for $100, as I recall, and when the editor asked me to come into his office I put another one on the disk that I had also written. I had been working as a temp and going on auditions and writing autobiographical stories mainly about men, in my spare time. Once the editor, John Strausbaugh, saw the second one he invited me into his office with the editor-in-chief, Russ Smith, and they offered me a weekly column. They named it “Female Trouble.” It ran every week for the second half of 1996 and every other week until August 1999, when I left the paper to write for the New York Post. In 2001 I became a contributing editor at New York magazine.

Is there a possibility of a complete collection of Press/Post columns, or of putting them all here on the net? Has RCK been reaching non-Press followers well?

I have thought a lot about putting together a collection of my old columns – not the Post ones since I felt constrained there and also because they were very current events-specific, but definitely the “Female Trouble” columns in New York Press and possibly also the “Naked City” and “Mating” columns that ran in New York.

I feel like “Female Trouble” should be its own book but I also included a few “Female Trouble” columns in Run Catch Kiss, in altered form, so I don’t know how new or exciting it would be. What do you think? I’d really like to know so I could pass this information on to Simon & Schuster. Would you want to see a combined “Female Trouble”/”Naked City” book, or two, or none at all?

At what time of day and amid what circumstances (e.g. with music playing, while reclining naked, amid others’ inspiring works) do you write with utmost poise?

I rarely listen to music, mainly because it’s too hard to focus. I wear baggy unsexy clothes and have never written in lingerie. I write at a desk in my apartment. I sit with my laptop piled on a bunch of books so it’s the proper level, type on an ergonomic keyboard, and when flummoxed stare out the window at the trees.

Are you ever going to try to write you own script for a pilot or make an independent film?

I have written more than ten pilots for networks including HBO, Fox, and Lifetime. My first film was called Spin the Bottle and is out on video and DVD with TLA Releasing. It was shot by a great director named Jamie Yerkes as his NYU Film School thesis and I adore it. It’s about a bunch of childhood friends who reunite for a weekend in the country and play a game of Spin the Bottle that leads to terribly illicit things. A few years later, Jamie and I collaborated on a horror film called Pagans, which has not been released yet but premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

I had a TV series on Oxygen called “Avenue Amy“. It was co-created with a very attractive woman named Joan Raspo who is one of my closest friends. It was about a single girl in the East Village named Amy and her adventures and misadventures with her friends, boyfriends, and family. It was shot in a cutting-edge style which involved live actors shot against a green-screen and then rotoscoped in AfterEffects so as to look animated.

Has anyone tried to option the book rights of Run Catch Kiss for a feature film?

Yes, it was optioned by an independent production company but the option has expired so it is available.

Have you ever felt tempted to change your writing or your image in order to appear less Jewish and appeal to a wider audience? And maybe you don’t have to–but what if you did? What if you had been born fifty years ago and the only way you could achieve prominence as a writer would be to come across as non-Jewish. Is that a trade-off you’d be willing to make?

The answer is no. I probably would have done some writing under a pseudonym and continued to do my own writing on Jewish topics under my own name. Ben Hecht is a real role model for me. He wrote the film The Front Page but also wrote a brilliant (and timely) treatise against anti-Semitism called A Guide for the Bedevilled. Interestingly enough, my second novel, My Old Man, is even more Jewy than my first. For me the Jewish stuff comes into play less as a “statement” about Jews’ position in society (because in the world I grew up in, Jews were fully integrated and empowered), but as a counterpoint to some of the raunchier material. I don’t think I could have had the protagonist of Run Catch Kiss do all the things she did if she didn’t come from a sound Jewish family as a way of counterbalancing it.

I saw you on the documentary about “Sex & the City” [this was a British documentary that aired this winter on Channel Four] and rolled about with laughter over “The Drools – Time tested secrets for stalking Mr. Right.” Is this available as a book? I’d buy it! I am quite dumbfounded that beautiful and (apparently) intelligent women actually follow The Rules – time tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr. Right. It’s tragic! The Drools sounds much more entertaining. Where can I get a copy of The Drools for my nieces?

You can have a copy forever if you buy Run Catch Kiss.

Why are women so unstable?

I think only a really unstable guy would ask this question. If what you are getting at is the expression, “Men are fools, women are crazy,” I think that philosophy stems from what is the most common complaint of the opposite sex. When men feel put-upon by a woman they write her off as crazy, or too demanding; when women feel men are not giving them enough or giving them mixed signals, they write them off as fools. There is some truth to that but let me tell you, I’ve known a lot of crazy men.

Have you seen Waking Life, the animated (rotoscoped) film directed by Richard Linklater ? Don’t you think it looks a bit like “Avenue Amy”?

I do. I loved the film although I fell asleep during it. Though the great thing about that film is that you could fall asleep and it didn’t make much difference. We actually developed our technique before they did but they got more publicity so they are seen as the originators. Story of my life.

I’ve been trying for several months to figure out how to spell (phonetic attempt) fa-chochte, or, likely since it’s from Yiddish, verchochte, you know, which means essentially “fucked up” or “confused” or “nutty”… I grew up in Great Neck but went to Catholic schools, thus this terrible gap in my knowledge.

According to my well-worn copy of The Joys of Yiddish, the proper spelling is farchadat, which the estimable Leo Rosten says rhymes with “car got it.”

Why have we never seen a starkers image of you here or anywhere. Is it simply an oversight on my behalf or have you really never actually done it. It seems obvious that your body would be worth showing from all the attention that you claim it receives. We, your public (okay, me, myself with a thing for cute Jewish chicks) are patiently waiting for you to give us something more figurative to fulfill our barren fantasy lives. It also seems to be a kink that you just need to round out your otherwise pretty exhibitionist lifestyle.

The reason I’ve never posed naked anywhere is for me there’s always been a big difference between writing about my intimate life for strangers and showing strangers my body. It might sound illogical but while I have no problem with the first, I have a big problem with the second. I think it’s gross that all these young actresses are posing for lad mags in these tacky, uncreative sex shots that say nothing and are artistically repugnant. I understand why they do it, all actors have a whore mentality, but I just wish they’d be more creative with the art direction because they all look exactly the same. I was profiled in Penthouse when my book came out and we did a photo shoot to go with the interview where I dressed up like a 1930s newsgirl (my idea). The art director was on the shoot and he kept trying to get me to strip, which I thought was pretty funny. I did a few shots in my bra and undies but the undies were the really large granny kind and the bra was conish and Minimizer and once he saw them he shut up.

Why did you give pseudonyms to bars, but not other city haunts?

I gave pseudonyms to bars in my novel Run Catch Kiss because I wanted to poke fun at all the stupid bar names I was seeing in the East Village circa mid-nineties. Now the funny thing is, bars are opening with the names I made up in my book, which would mean life is imitating art imitating life.

A friend of mine who is Jewish told me she and her girlfriends as teen-agers avoided dating Jewish guys because they saw them as psychotic and out-of-control. I had never heard this remark before, and I could tell she was hesitant to tell me now. But she qualified her remarks by calling me a mensch; the Jewish guys she was talking about always seemed to be getting in trouble at home and at school and with the police. I knew Jewish guys like this growing up too. But the truth is, all of my friends and I as teen-agers avoided Jewish women for the same exact reason. And looking back, I cannot recall any wholly Jewish teen-age couples at my high school, whereas the blacks tended to date primarily blacks, the Hispanics tended to date Hispanics, etc. Was this a perception you and your friends held about Jewish guys as well? Just curious.

I WISH the Jewish guys at my high school had been badasses. There were a few, and I did date them, but mainly I dated really cool arty Jewish guys from Jewish youth group. One was a rabbi’s son. One lived near the Metropolitan Museum and had an Israeli father. The one that got away was Marc Ginsberg. I think that’s how he spells it. I think of him sometimes. He grew up in the Slope and was the hottest thing I ever laid eyes on. One time we were taking a trip to a conclave (we would ride a bus) and there were little shelves that folded out from the seats in front. He lowered his shelf, put his Walkman on it with two miniature speakers and listened to music the whole ride. This had to be in the late ’80s when portable speakers were a luxury item. I think about him whenever I look at the speakers attached to my computer.

Have you ever dated a rabbi or a rabbinical student?

As stated above, I have only come as close as a rabbi’s son.

Have you ever worn a strap-on and schtupped a guy up his tuchus?

I plead the fifth.