I Believe I Can Fry: Hosting Tips from R Kelly

r-kelly-kitchen-apron r-kelly-kitchen-apron r-kelly-kitchen-apron

“Cristal popping in the stretched Navigator. We got food everywhere as if the party was catered.”

So goes a lyric from R Kelly’s Ignition (Remix), which is as  relevant today as it has ever been. Especially if you’re planning to host an event, this holiday season.

When R sings “as if the party was catered”, he’s begging the question – why wouldn’t a renown “baller” hire actual caterers? And the answer is staring right at us – he’s done all his money on the champagne and the Navigator. And one suspects he’s secretly regretting it. After all, what does a stretched vehicle really add to a social occasion – surely it’s just parked somewhere? And why plump for Cristal when your basic Moet would do? Let’s be honest – most guests can’t really tell after the first couple, especially those underage girls he likes to pee on, allegedly. And Fat Joe’s mostly there for the snacks.

On account of this budgeting oversight, poor R now has to scramble. So this song is really a cry for help from a frantic man in an apron who’s watching the guests arrive and wishing he’d thought this through. No one knows better than R how competitive rappers can be when it comes to parties. In the 90s it was all they sang about. And people still talk about the time Dr Dre’s pastry bites came out cold.

So the pressure’s on. It’s time to get out of the closet and stuff those mushrooms himself. Bump and grind the pepper corns and bread his own nuggets.

“Bounce bounce bounce” – This is R on the balls of his toes, frantically ordering delivery and reading out his credit card number over the phone.

“All up in your grill, trying to get to a hotel” – R would love to mingle, but he’d be fool to leave the grill. Anyone who’s done chicken satay knows those things are so easy to overdo. Naturally, he’s wishing he’d gone to a hotel at this point.

“Hot and fresh out the kitchen” – That’s the goal, R, stay focused now.

“Can I get a toot toot” – R would like a line of cocaine please, to speed things along.

“Can I get a beep beep” – Some scholars believe the lyric refers to the aforementioned Navigator. R would  like to get some use out of it, seeing as he’s paid for the bloody thing. Another school of thought is that he’s referring to the oven timer, because surely it’s been 20 minutes by now – how long do mushroom caps take?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Old Man Raver at Day of the Dead

As per usual, I’m posting my Esquire column here with extra sauce (ie. pictures and blah). By all means go check it at Esquire itself and give it a likey if you likey…

Hands-in-the-air

I remember raving. The early days of house. Or at least that’s what we called it back then. Now it’s “EDM”, a poppy little acronym for texters. Or worse still “electronica” which sounds like a section of SkyMall, the one with the clock radios.

Whatever it’s called, LA’s mad for it. It took a while for the States to catch onto what started in London and Manchester and random fields in the Midlands. But the oil tanker has now turned. DJ’s are making Celine Dion money with Vegas residencies. The dance tent at Coachella is a beast. And this weekend, at the Hard Day of the Dead festival in downtown LA, I’m knocking around with 70,000 punters on a 32 acre lot, jumping about to the likes of Deadmaus, Skrillex and Jamie Jones.

“I was going to do a Halloween thing,” says the promoter Gary Richards, who founded the festival. “But that was too oversubscribed. So I thought fuck it, just do Day of the Dead. It’s two days later. People have already got their costumes.”

And their makeup, Gary. Here he is now with a couple of his dancers, the Sugar Skull girls I think they’re called.

DJ-Destructo-and-his-dancers

Gary’s a veteran of the dance scene. A proverbial “nice Jewish boy” from a music business family, he started running warehouse parties in the early 90s, trying to recreate the Hacienda here on the left coast. Rick Rubin sent him to explore the rave scene in England. He signed XL records to Interscope. There isn’t anyone he doesn’t know in dance music. But still, the going was tough.

“We were fifteen years too early,” he says. “It was all about grunge and Nirvana then. Nothing jumped off. My dad was on at me, like – give up techno, you need to find something with lyrics.”

But now look. This festival is $6 million of  proof that Gary’s instincts were true. Hard proof (see what I did there?) Because now he’s up on the stage as DJ Destructo, looking at an ocean of bobble heads, against a backdrop of downtown’s skyscrapers, poking up like cigarettes in a packet, the sunset bursting through the gaps. Gary’s dad’s back stage taking pictures with his friends. His wife and kids are there holding signs – “Go hard Dad!”

This is how it is now for the old school ravers. A family scene, a business. Room for a couple of cocktails maybe, but nothing crazy. The comfort of golf carts and backstage catering.

I head out to the festival proper, where the kids are all dressed up and bopping in the dirt. I want to feed off their energy, feel the euphoria of the early days. I remember raves in England as chemical frenzies, all sweat and gurning, shaking water bottles and hugging strangers. The music was new then, the drugs too.

But now, EDM’s radio friendly. Deadmaus is a nostalgia act. And the crowd’s remarkably well behaved, friendly in that American way, not the throng of marauding bro’s you might expect. I’ve often felt that the lid doesn’t come off in the States quite so quickly, though when it does it rather explodes. In England, as I remember, the lid was never properly on in the first place.

day-of-the-dead-girl-with-flowers  A-fetching-hat

We attempt a bit of a dance to Jamie Jones, but I’m just not the nipper I was. A bit chilly in this T-shirt, truth be told, even though the girls are walking around in nothing but gussets and bras. So at the merch stand, I ask the fogey question – “what’s the warmest thing you’ve got?”

And now, I’m in a Skrillex jacket, marveling at the dilated pupils around me and the vogue for glo-in-the-dark gloves – all the better to make silly swirly shapes with your hands.

But here I am thinking I’m the old one, when Giorgio Moroder comes on, a proper veteran. He’s in his 70s bless him, and going a bit deaf. But there he is anyway, on the decks, playing some power gay version of “Love to Love You Baby”. Every time he gets a bit confused, a guy next to him pops up and directs him to the right buttons to push.

And that’s all it takes. The beat builds to a climax until Grandpa Giorgio points his crinkled finger at the sky, and we all know what’s next. The drop works like a natural law – the hands go in the air, the crowd whoops and leaps… And I wonder if anything’s really changed in the last twenty years after all.

Then I bump into this guy.

EDM-guy

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Electric Guest and the Perils of Gentrification

Another 74 & Sunny column, not for the faint-hearted, this time. As always, go give it a like at Esquire if you’re feeling chummy – 74 & Sunny: Behind The Mask.

When people say “that’s so LA” they’re usually talking about some alignment of silliness, a vapid trifecta. Like say, a Porsche, a Playmate and a pussy-plumping clinic. Or a Kardashian, a psychic and a kale smoothie. In fact, you can pick any three from a buffet of options – it’s like building a burrito at Chipotle. There’s Pilates, “my therapist”, hot yoga, fonuts, the inexplicable line at Pinks…

But there are other “so LA” moments. Not quite as tasty as Chipotle. I promised I’d tell the truth about this place, how it’s not as frothy as you might think. Light and shade and all that. So brace yourself. I heard this story from Asa Taccone of Electric Guest, whose album Mondo, produced by Danger Mouse, was a highlight of last year. We were having lunch at Auntie Ems, a sandwich spot in Eagle Rock, which is just bubbling over with bands right now.

Electric-Guest-Asa-and-Matt-photo-credit-Brent-Mullins

“The first time I got a place of my own, it was this cool standalone house with a white picket fence in Echo Park,” says Asa. “Until then, we just lived together, me and Matt [his partner in the band]. But I figured we’d made our album, and gone on tour, so you know, it was time to be a ‘grown-up’ I guess.”

Echo Park’s out east, a famously bohemian neighborhood that went a bit ghetto – it’s where Training Day was shot – but is now making the transition back from hood to hipster, the classic arc of gentrification. Asa signed a year’s lease on the place, and 11 days in, invited all his friends over for a party. Like 50 people, a barbecue type deal.

Then this guy showed up at the door, a couple of hours in. “He was a black guy, covered in tattoos, with this scar across his face. And he had this little bag with him, and a six pack of beer. He said, ‘hey homie, I was wondering if I could like kick it you know? I seen all these people coming over…’”

Asa had seen him before, down the street. He hung with a posse, all of them drinking 40s at two in the afternoon. But hey, it’s Echo Park – all part of the hood charm.

“So I was like, ‘oh no, it’s just for my friends…’ And immediately he was super bugged. He’s like, ‘that’s a shame yo, because now you’re going to have to move.’ I was like – ‘oh it’s like that? Well come in!’ But he just walked away. Like really pissed. And I was thinking ‘shit, what do I do?’ Then I saw him do this fucking gesture that was so not for me, it was just him shaking his head like, ‘now I’m going to have to do something…’ Gave me the fucking creeps.”

So Asa ran after him, and persuaded him to come in. “I said, ‘I thought you meant you and all those dudes, but hey, if it’s just you, that’s cool…'”

The guy stayed until five the following morning, getting wasted and grabbing on the girls and spitting in the sink. As the night wore on, he poured out his story to various people at the party – how he sold heroin, how he was in a gang, how he’d just got out of prison, how he’d recently broken into his neighbor’s house. He cried a couple of times.

But the clincher was the camera.

“He had this bag with him the whole time, with this camera in it. I’m pretty sure he stole it. He might have stolen it from the neighbor’s house he said he broke into. But anyway, he found out one of my friends was into film, and he asked him how to use it. He said, ‘I just took some pictures, but I don’t really know how to work it, could you help?’ Then he went into the bathroom for like ten minutes, which he kept doing all night, and my friend flicked through the pictures…”

Asa grimaced and shook his head. “It was all these tatted up Mexican dudes, like fully naked and fucking each other. And they were wearing these hella scary masks.”

What, like wrestling masks?

“Why does everyone ask that? No, I’m talking death masks. Satan and shit. And I’ll never forget when he left, he like pulled me in close and said, ‘that was the best time of my life, man.’ I was just thinking ‘you know what, that’s exactly what I get for being yet another fucking hipster trying to penetrate this newly gentrified area.”

Asa called the landlord the next day. Within a week, he’d moved to Silverlake.

Still-from-Training-Day

Electric Guest’s new single Jerk is out now, as is their album Mondo (Downtown Records).

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The Sex Awards

So this LA column  I’m doing for Esquire – 74 & Sunny – I’m going to start posting versions here too. Because… well, a few reasons.

  • My stuff’s hard to find on the Esquire site, it’s always getting shunted by “Five Best British Tiepins” or something.
  • More pictures.
  • I can be a bit more unleashed here, given the lack of advertisers. The freedom of the poor!

So here’s a fuller version of the time I went to the Sex Awards. As always, if you’re feeling friendly, go check it out at Esquire and give it a like or a tweet – here’s the link: 74 & Sunny: A Civilian At The Sex Awards. Who knows, they even might let me keep doing this nonsense.

in-line-at-the-sex-awards

At the Sex Awards in Hollywood last week, one of the organizers assured me: “It’s not live. Showtime’s airing this in January, so you know, what goes on at the event tonight doesn’t really matter because we’re going to fix it in post.”

Wise move. Because as awards shows go, this was definitely the porn version – low budget, slightly shambolic, presenters-fumbling-lines. A bit school revue, truth be told. But that’s OK. It’s all part of porn’s slapdash charm. And it was the first ever Sex Awards, so it’s unfair to expect the Bentley perfection of the Oscars. A clattering, tit-jiggling jalopy works just fine. Bumpy ride, but more fun. And a miracle the wheels didn’t fall off altogether.

I went with Mike, another married guy whose ring wouldn’t come off even if he tried (swollen knuckles). This is the same Mike of Cheeba Chews fame, with whom I went ogling with before. (He took some of these pictures). So yet again, we were two middle aged men, gawping at a parade of nubile fantasies, a living museum of masturbation. But we weren’t alone. There’s no shortage of dirty old geezers in porn. Here’s a couple for starters. Guess which one got a lifetime achievement award.

Ron-Jeremy    oxygen-tank-photographer

It’s about time LA hosted a porn awards. This is where the industry lives after all, it’s like Detroit and cars. For years, it all happened in Vegas, home of the famous “Porn Oscars”, the industry-voted Adult Video News awards (AVN’s). The Sex Awards is the fan-voted version, the People’s Choice equivalent. So a million frenzied fappers used their spare hand to tick a box online, and sure enough, the girls took the 101 south from the valley, and showed up on the red carpet, a parade of knickerless beauties, all heels, curves and smouldering looks.

It was a tough crowd, though, for an outsider, or “civilian”. The girls were often huddled in cliques or rushing off to make-up. Many were under the protection of some grizzled guy – boyfriend, manager or minder, it was hard to tell (possibly all three at once). And there was a lot of catching up going on. Apparently the industry doesn’t get together that often, so when it does, there’s a lot to talk about. These people have fucking each other for years.

It was a tough crowd for the entertainment too. No one listened to the opening comedian, Sam Tripoli. No one sang along to the dodgy musical number, “I eat your ass”. And equally no one much cared when the presenters fluffed their lines, despite the giant autocue. Some even had to walk off, and walk on again – once again from the top. But to be fair, that cringey on-stage banter goes wrong at the Oscars, too, and that’s with the highest paid actors on the planet, not the cast of Anal Fanatic 5.

“You think it’s weird because you’re a civilian,” said Evan Stone, a veteran male star. “This is normal to me.” As he said this, he was wearing a giant yellow-blue wig and a sea captain’s jacket. Behind him were a couple of girls wearing unicorn masks, admiring each other’s bare butts.

skin-diamond Bonnie-Rotten Evan-Stone

Skin Diamond (L): “Dating a civilian can be tough. This one guy had a friend who said, ‘I watched one of her pornos and it was disgusting.’ But it wasn’t! I had a speculum inside my pussy and then I put a shoe inside of myself, and a lot of it was my idea!’”

Bonnie Rotten (C): “There was a crazy fetish party at the first AVN that I went to. This guy was tied up and getting kicked as hard as he could in his balls – girls were just lining up to nail this motherfucker. You know, with guys like that, they’re like, ‘kick me three times because the first two times you hold back.’”

Evan Stone (R): “Here’s something I never thought would happen – I came on another guy’s chest. We were doing an orgy where I had this girl bent over the couch and Tommy Gunn’s down there, with a girl on spoon. So I’m supposed to pull my cock out and come in the girl’s face, but as soon as I get in position, Tommy pops the girl really hard and she falls right off the couch, and I shoot him in the chest! It was like a Vietnam wound man, it was horrible – he had no body armor! I’m like, dude, I’m sorry. It was friendly fire!

a-girl-and-a-unicorn-walk-into-a-bar

The after party was a strange end to a strange night. I’d expected a riot of conspicuous sluttery, perhaps a midget or two, but no such luck. It was a rudimentary do, upstairs at the Avalon – just your basic DJ and paying bar. Not enough to keep the girls interested. So after a brief surge, they started trickling out, until Mike and I looked around and saw nothing but guys like us, all wondering where the totty had gone.

When we went to close up at the bar, though, there was some kind of kerfuffle underway.

“Oh my God, where’s my purse!” Jessica Drake was in a tizzy. Stunning in a red backless dress, she’d been the main host for the night, the Sex Awards’ Billy Crystal. But she’d left her purse on the bar unattended, just for a moment, and now it was gone. These are headlines you don’t get from the Oscars: “Billy Crystal’s Wallet Lifted at Vanity Fair Party”.

Never mind Jessica. They’ll fix it in post.

The Sex Awards, at the Avalon Theater, Oct 9th, airs on Showtime this January

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Look Ma, A Column

So I’ve just started a new fortnightly column for Esquire called 74 & Sunny. It’s about my life in LA – I’m trying to pull the veil back on this much-maligned city that it seems I may never leave. The first one’s about all the pretty girls here – like these ones below look.

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I’m quite excited, I have to say. I’ve always wanted a column. Ever since I started out in this business, it’s been clear that columnists are a class apart, a deluxe version of your standard hack. They’ve transcended the grunt work of actual interviews and reporting and become fonts of opinion and quips, scooping them off like cappuccino foam each week or month. They have followings that actually look forward to reading them, fans who’d recognize them in the street either because they’re independently famous or on account of those quirky little sketches at the top of the page. That’s how precious the column is in a glossy magazine. It’s the VIP lounge of the layout. The champagne room.

I’m not there yet, not by a long stretch if I’m honest. Print columnists are a whole different kettle of bananas. They’re the names that publishers brandish at sales meetings, the figureheads who typify the “brand values” which inevitably include words like “aspirational” and “urbane” at some point. Proper print columnists are like center forwards – they’re wooed by rivals and routinely showered  with gifts and perks – tickets to Coachella, press jollies to Belize, upgrades to first, plus-threes to silly dinner events and such.

But that’s print – it’s different on the internet. As everyone knows, “there’s no money online”, so forget about Coachella. And an online column looks a lot like a blog, which is about as glamorous as it sounds. Let’s face it, columnists are MVP’s while bloggers are two a penny. Three even. Besides, the web is all about “content” and “traffic”. It’s a brutal click clack rat race of merciless analytics, by whose logic I would properly make every column about tits, with the occasional interlude about ass.

Nevertheless, I’m a happy boy. “Esquire columnist” has a certain ring – so what if it’s only partly true? If I just repeat it often enough, maybe I’ll believe it one day and start walking a bit more upright, and flossing more regularly.

After all there’s nothing wrong with a little self-delusion now and again. This is a column about LA

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The Sharing Menu

escargot-my-cargo

[I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because frankly, I isn’t the bestest at the grammars, no sir.]

Not so long ago, we were in Paris on our hols, in a little restaurant in Bourse, trying to make head or tail of the menu. All those vocab tests as a kid, and for what? The muscle turned to fat, the data dribbled out. So when the waitress said, “should I speak in English?”, we exhaled.

She was Australian, long and thin, with a submissive manner and a fixed smile. We exchanged pleasantries – where are you from, oh lovely, whereabouts, how long have you lived here. And it was a comfort just to natter in English, even after a couple of days. We’d mostly just traipsed around until then, not lost exactly – well maybe a little – making snap judgments, the way you do, about this self-adoring museum city full of dog shit and tagging.

Then my wife asked: “do you like it here?”

Our waitress looked around and her smile turned to a grimace, ever so slightly.

“I mean yes it’s beautiful, but life’s hard here, it is,” she said. “It’s not how it looks – living here’s a different thing. It’s so expensive! I work twelve hour days and six day weeks. It’s just work work work, and I still can’t ever put anything away, for like a holiday, you know? It’s the restaurant business. So competitive.

“God no, it was my boyfriend’s idea! He’s the chef here. Yes, he’s French. We met in Sydney and I sort of followed him out here. You know, he wants to come and prove himself in Paris, and I get that. And he’s French, so he feels more at home here I suppose. But he was doing fine there, really – it’s a really foodie city, Sydney, really progressive dining scene, and the wine and everything. And life’s just kinder there. People are more accepting, maybe?

“I don’t like to say it but I’ve been out here nine months, and I just really want to go home. Our place in Sydney was three times the size for the same rent! He says it’ll turn around and the first year’s the hardest but honestly, I’m not sure. Paris is difficult. It’s just a really complicated system, you know with the taxes and the city and all that. I can’t even explain how it works, but it sucks if you’re caught up in it. They hit you on the way in and the way out, it’s a nightmare.

“Anyway, shall I tell you about today’s specials?”

It wasn’t a great meal. For our starter, we did homesickness, and for the main, we fretted about money – all we could talk about was the poor girl and her problems. We’d both tried living abroad before and it’s no picnic. After what we’d heard, it felt wrong to ask her for another bottle of sparkling, or even to enjoy ourselves too conspicuously. Besides, if there’s going to be any problem-sharing going on, aren’t waiters supposed to listen to our woes rather than vice versa? Or is that just barmen?

In any case, she seemed better for it. She never visited the topic again, and reverted to her more traditional role of recommending the crème brulee. It was as though she’d been purged , and it wasn’t so hard any more to maintain the smile until l’addition s’il vous plait at the end.

We left a respectable tip, of course, more or less equivalent to our sympathy, which was genuine. But the evening left an odd aftertaste. Paris waiters have a way of bursting the illusion of the place – they’re either snotty French men with their noses in the air or trapped foreigners pleading for release.

Wondering how it felt to be stuck there, we loped off quietly to get the last metro.

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The Finest Moment in the Breaking Bad Writers Room

Saul-Goodman-matches-2 Saul-Goodman-matches

If you’re all about Breaking Bad’s final season kicking off this weekend, this here’s a little something. I recently interviewed Vince Gilligan for Esquire, the showrunner and creator, at his offices in Burbank. (It’s where I got the Saul Goodman matches in the picture. Gilligan’s trying to get a Saul Goodman spinoff show going when Breaking Bad is over.)

Anyway, we talked about how the audience continued to root for Walter White even as the bodies kept stacking up. I asked him: When did he cross the line for you?

“My answer varies, depending on the day you ask me,” he said. “It could be the day he let Jessie’s girlfriend choke to death. Or when he killed Mike Ehrmantraut, who he really didn’t need to kill. Or when he ordered the deaths of those ten guys in jail. But the best answer is the moment that occurred much earlier. It was I think our finest moment in the writers room.

“In Season 1, Episode Five, we realized that we wanted this character to continue cooking meth, even though he’d already had to kill two people, and was at risk of losing his humanity. So we were at a crossroads. What is this show really about? Do we continue twisting ourselves into pretzels storywise to keep giving Walt reasons to continue making money? So – now he finds out his unborn daughter needs surgery, and he’s only got $200,000? Or are we going to go deeper?

“So we created a deus ex machina scenario in which former friends of Walter White, who are now very rich, offer to pay full freight for his cancer treatment. They offer him a job, no strings attached. They throw him a life preserver. Solve all his problems. But at the end of the hour, he goes to Jesse and says – let’s cook again. So, this doesn’t have to be a schematic show in which OK, this week Walt’s nest egg gets eaten by mice and he has to cook another batch. It became a story of the character flaws of this egotistical, damaged and prideful man. It’s a point of pride for him not to be pitied and helped.”

Even now, if you ask anyone what Walter White’s motivation for cooking meth is, they’ll tell you that he wants to pay for his cancer treatment, he wants to leave his family some money when he dies. But Gilligan showed us very early on – much earlier than you think – that these were just excuses. His true motive cuts much closer to the bone.

It’s a truth about character that we rationalize decisions we’ve already made emotionally.  Therapists talk about this stuff all the time – your pain drives you to act, the justifications come later. Walter White is the same way. An emasculated, crushed wretch of a man, long past his prime, his dreams in tatters, and forced to work two humiliating jobs – a man who cannot bear his own reflection. So when he’s diagnosed with cancer, it doesn’t just give him his justification to cook meth, it frees him to rise above his pitiful condition and become a man, the master of his destiny.

The scene that burns in the memory is of Walter White in the restaurant with his former girlfriend. They dated at college, as hotshot chemistry researchers, but she left him to marry another colleague, and they became rich and successful while White became a penniless high school teacher. It was a wound he never recovered from. So when the ex shows up in a Bentley and offers to pay for everything – not just to help an old friend, but to make up in some way for the original betrayal – White doesn’t think of his family, or the other reasons he’s created for himself. He’s too consumed by the betrayal. In a polite, upscale restaurant, he faces her, seething with rage, and tells her: “Fuck you.”

In that moment, we know it isn’t concern for his family that drives him, or even greed for money – it’s pride. He needs to exercise his power, vanquish his enemies and feel his strength for the first time – the things men need that may yet destroy them.

“He loses all credibility in my mind at that point,” said Gilligan. “But he becomes exponentially more interesting as a character.”

(The full interview appears here on my site, and also in the October issue of Esquire UK).

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Porn Set Cherry Pop

It really shouldn’t have taken this long. Not after spending as long in the LALA as I have. Because you come here with a list. Not a real one, but a mental one and mental in every sense because the shit you put on it is pure flotsam – scraps of magazine fantasy, telly nonsense and movie moments. Well, that’s what my list was, anyway. Stuff like:

  • Playboy mansion party.
  • Weed with Snoop.
  • Extra in movie.
  • Hang out on porn set.
  • Vintage convertible.

You get the picture. The list of a teenage tourist, a suggestible sack of testosterone and esteem issues who, bless him, just didn’t know any better at the time.

I do now. Having failed to tick any of those boxes when I had the youth to tick them properly, I’ve done that thing that middle agers do so well – I’ve told myself that the boxes are past their sell-by, that youth itself is foolishness, and what I’ve lost in vigor I’ve gained in “wisdom”, the tooth at the back that hurts. Wise people don’t want convertibles or bunnies, they’re above all that – that’s what I tell myself. And yet if you were to show up one day with Miss August in a 57 Plymouth saying, “hey Sanchez, Snoop’s making a porno at Hef’s house”, then budge up, I’m getting in. In fact those are my footsteps you hear charging down the stairs.

This is all to say that I ticked one of those boxes recently. I did a story for Esquire about the porn star James Deen, who’s all over the place right now talking about The Canyons, the new Lindsay Lohan film.

James-Deen-Stoya-cameraman

To be honest, I’m not a total virgin with this stuff.  I once helped make a sneeze fetish video, which was vaguely porny, a story I’ll probably tell at some point. And before that, I covered an orgy in New Orleans, which was a baptism of fire for the whole watching-people-fucking thing. It was one of those swinger conventions, and they had the whole hotel to themselves, a blandiose three star Marriot-version with tinkly muzak, only this time with schtupping in the lift, in the lobby, in the corridors. All you can eat breakfast buffet.

Anyhow, porn sets are different. Much more controlled and commercial, but no less bizarre, in their way. I get why porn people call the rest of us “civilians” like soldiers – they too have become inured to another normality, a world apart where animal natures are given vent, certain extremes become passé, and the goal posts have been moved. Here’s some of the stuff I discovered. Warning: sweeping and probably false generalizations ahead:

–         It’s a smoking crowd. Not smoking hot, but smoking cigarettes. Everyone’s at it. Of all the things that get sucked on out in Porn Valley, cigarettes are the most popular. Skinny little short things with a burning tip.

–         Not everyone gets to watch the sex stuff. Come show time, a runner throws everyone out except essential crew, and even then you need to stand out of the line of sight, because as an assistant producer, a nice chubby girl called Charlotte explained in so many words, the sight of my leering mug might “kill the mood”. Something I’ve long suspected. And even that access is hard won. It’s not like you just call the film company and say, “hey we’re Esquire can we shoot on set?” There’s all these hoops and forms and NDA’s and checking with head office. You’d think a bitty porn studio would love a bit of attention from a big brand but then you remember – publicists.

–         Porn people are mostly a nice bunch. Courteous, friendly, patient, they’re like ambassadors for their industry. I think they see civilians as an opportunity to dispel any lingering prejudices that porn is full of depravity  and abuse. I also like to think they’re just being hospitable to outsiders who might feel uncomfortable in this taboo world where people wander around fiddling with their bits and talking about the weather. Perhaps that’s naïve, I don’t know. But they took care to explain all the little quirks and foibles of their business. And, as you’d expect of people who fuck for a living, you can ask them pretty much anything.

–         Before make-up, it’s hard to guess who the talent is and who isn’t, especially on an “all natural” set. And, as is often the way, the makeup girls are as hot, if not hotter than the stars.

–         The only people on set who are a bit cagey are the crew. They often freelance for Hollywood too, and they’d lose those jobs if their porn associations came out. But it’s a fact – the same grips and techs who work on Nickelodeon and Disney are working on Butthole Avenger 14. I’m sure it’s well meaning, to protect kids and so forth. Because one thing they’re strict about at Disney is protecting kids from say, drugs, DUIs and shaving their heads.

– It’s still kind of a big deal to pop your porn set cherry. If I sound a bit blase, it’s because I was prepared somewhat by the orgies and what-have-you I mentioned before. The photographer Esquire assigned for the story, however – not so much. It was a thing to see.

Let me explain that last one.

Tara-Lynn-Foxx

Day one was out in the Valley, on the set of this tame, “couples porn” title that was heavy on the dialogue and light on the filth; more crust than topping; the mildest mustard. And even before we got there, the photographer – let’s call her Gemma – seemed nervous. She called the day asking that we arrive at the same time, “so we can go in together.” Then when we got there, more or less in convoy, she dismissed my outstretched hand and went for a hello hug, as though shaking hands was just too remote and formal for what we were about to experience together.

She was perfectly nice – a soft-spoken, willowy type from a pretty little neighborhood called Larchmont in the middle of LA. She made pretty fashion pictures with cheekbone girls, the starved elegant ones you see toying with their lentils at Cafe Gratitude, down the street. So she was just a bit thrown by Planet Porn. When I introduced her to James, he told her “you have the most amazing eyes!”, and there was this awkward silence. I think she took it as a full-on invitation to the Bang Bang Club, but I think James was just being nice. And the rest of the day, she didn’t shoot anything, opting to just follow me around as I talked to people.

“Is it OK if I just sit and listen? I’ll be really quiet.”

“Sure, but don’t you want to take pictures or…”

“No that’s fine. I’ll just follow you, as you do your story…”

Photographers never say that shit. It’s usually “this light sucks, let’s go somewhere else”, or “can you stand behind me while you interview” or “oh, can you grab that bag.”

Anyway, I started chatting to these actresses, with Gemma just sitting there nodding, watching the conversation go back and forth like a tennis match. I remember Andy San Dimas saying that she wasn’t into people spitting in her mouth, but in her face was OK – and then she had to go and do a scene or something. Gemma whispered to me: “You’re really good at this! You just ask them questions and don’t judge them!”

Then we learned that the only sex scene of the day was happening in a couple of hours, give or take. Finally! That’s what we came here to shoot after all, a bit of nookie. But then Gemma was outside, on her phone across the street, and when she returned, she was biting her lip. “My brother’s got this screening this evening and I’ve got to go to it. Sorry! I didn’t know the sex was going to be so late in the day…”

And that was the last I heard from her. The next day, her agent called to say “yeah, this isn’t really Gemma’s wheelhouse.”

In other words, the porn freaked her out. Which just goes to show that even though smut is more mundane and extreme than ever in history, it can still shake your cage.

It was a box worth ticking.

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Overheard in Silicon Valley

“Dude, you need to check out Squaggle. It’s a free platform. It’s kind of like Jizznet meets Yumsucky, except it’s in the force optimization space, which is superhot right now.

“Guess who it is. No, guess. It’s the Spazzwire guys out of Berkeley. I know. Couple of guys from MIT who got in early with WangoFlip and cashed out with Yahoo. Now the world’s their lobster.

“Seriously, the valley’s on fire right now bro. The thing to do, if you want to keep tabs, is get on Dogstab and then ping it to the Spackle forum, which is totally crowdsourced by the way, and boom – it tweets you your Squaggle count at any moment. Pretty powerful tool.”

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The Bigotry Bubble

the-bigotry-bubble

Hi there, thanks for coming.

As I’m sure you’ve read, there’s a lot of interesting work going on in racism right now, it’s really a vibrant sector – great time to invest. But don’t just go for the old Southern portfolio, that’s not where the growth is. Check out California. Golden State. They’re always innovating out there, from Silicon Valley to skateboarding. Bigotry’s no different. It’s like California cuisine – a fusion of ethnic hatreds where you can really make out the flavors, and feel them working together.

Before I start, I gotta say – my disclaimer, if you like – we’re talking about picking stocks here, so you need to go with what feels good. There’s no magic eight-ball. Do what Warren Buffett says: don’t worry about what’s trending, just listen to your gut. Racism is snakebrain stuff. You want a prejudice that you can get behind.

OK, so first slide.

This kid is sixteen years old – total whizkid, he’s like the Zuckerberg of hate. Got admitted to USC at 14, graduated  top of the class in Irrational Loathing, and then he dropped out to start his own thing. It’s always the college dropouts who change the world, right? He’s working on the brown theme, trying to unify the hatred of Latinos and Arabs and Indians – not woo woo Indians, the other kind. Yeah, I know.   It’s one of the biggest and fastest growing prejudice markets in the world right now so you need to move fast. Lately, every other story on the news just drives the stock higher. Hot pick, guys. You can thank me later. And yeah, the kid’s Asian. I guess it’s true – they are smarter!

Speaking of Asians, another really strong color pick is Yellow. A lot of hate funds go by color alone. They say it trumps nationality and religion, if you look at the analytics. But I’m not feeling it really – and this might just be me – my bet is that the best work in the Asian space takes a different slant, if you will. Like this:

[Slide two]

It looks like just a regular office, out there in the Mission district in San Francisco. But all those people you see there, they’re reinventing our hatred of the Chinese for the new millennium – they’ve taken an ancient mistrust that goes back to way before the Gold Rush, and brought it into the modern age, with the hackers and all the cheap toys with the lead paint. Asian hatred’s got a long heritage out west, so it’s great to see the younger generation stay true to that tradition, while still keeping it fresh. These new kids coming up, they’re real students. We got them seed funding last fall so you’ll be hearing about them pretty soon.

Or there’s this:

[Slide three]

This stock – it’s just a couple of guys downtown who are riding the whole Korean wave right now, with Kim Jong Whatever and the Gangnam style guy. What makes this exciting is how new this market is. And I know what you’re thinking, this might be a short-pick, a pump and dump, but there are two schools of thought – Psy’s got a new single out this summer and the Samsung Galaxy’s showing problems, so this thing could run and run. Another missile scare, maybe a dog meat scandal, and this could explode. Definitely worth watching. I’m not allowed to reveal what they’re working on right now in too many specifics, but it involves a Korean lady trying to park at a driving range.

[Slide four]

Look at this guy – you gotta love him. He’s 75 and he’s a race-hate entrepreneur. Yup. Just goes to show how active this space is. He’d been hating Asians and Mexicans for years, real traditionalist. Then he saw some documentary about the DNA code, how Native Americans were Asian originally, they came over the Baring Strait. And a light bulb went off. He thought, why not combine the two?

Of course, there’s a whole world of black stock, but I’m doing another presentation on that tomorrow. Obama’s second term is almost done, so the clock’s ticking, but most analysts think this might be the year it peaks.

To sum up, you can’t really go wrong with hate stock around now. It’s always been strong – the one thing that we all share as people is the irrational hatred of others, that deep down feeling that we loathe other people for no Godly reason. This is what binds us as human beings. It’s something that truly transcends race and creed and religion and gender.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Bono. If you’ve seen that HBO documentary, you’ll recognize this – it’s about how U2 wrote that song, “One”.

Thanks everyone.

[clip of Bono speaking to camera]

“We just weren’t feeling it in the studio, nothing was gelling you know?  And I’ll never forget the moment when we all looked at each other and thought: You know what we all share? Forget as a band, I’m talking about as souls, as people. It’s that we hate each other’s guts. The Edge is a prick. Who calls themselves the Edge for fucksake? Larry’s a plank. Except planks are marginally more interesting. And let’s not even start on Clayton. Life’s too short. The point is, we hate each other and always have. So let’s just jam on that. It might be the only hope we’ve got.

“So I started singing: ‘One hate, one life…’ And we knew immediately. It was a cheesy song, but it was true. And we could probably flog it to some mortgage company or something.  Because you know what – if it was true for us, just four guys from Ireland, maybe it could be true for the whole of mankind and beyond.”

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