…or, How PLEASE KILL ME
Changed My Life
BY: LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN
Legs McNeil [Legs]
Gillian McCain [Gillian]
Danny Fields [Danny]
DANNY: Are you singing Beatles songs just to get me riled?
LEGS: Yes [continues humming].
DANNY: Should we start off by talking about the new Woodstock movie?
GILLIAN: I’m going to see it tomorrow.
DANNY: You know, how did Ang Lee do it? What did he do for research?
GILLIAN: I don’t know…
DANNY: Because we looked at the poster on 3rd street last night. We looked at everything on it and I thought, Mike…
DANNY: Yeah, it’s like a Mike Lang photo op. I mean, so he’s obviously involved…but still, Ang Lee?
GILLIAN: Yeah, I mean, it can’t be a total piece of shit.
LEGS: Sure it can. Why not?
GILLIAN: Can I get a chair here?
DANNY: Where would you like it?
GILLIAN: Well, I’d like to stay close to the tape recorder, if possible.
[Danny brings a chair over to the table]
LEGS: Just knock Danny over…Jesus Christ, Gillian!
GILLIAN: Should we pause it?
GILLIAN: Because you’ve got a little shit on your mouth. Just like you have shit on your shoes.
LEGS: I don’t have shit on my shoes.
GILLIAN: You always have shit on your shoes.
LEGS: I always have shit on my shoes?
GILLIAN: Yeah. You knew that.
[Legs glares at Gillian before directing his attention on Danny]
GILLIAN: [Points to the tape recorder] This is on?
LEGS: It’s on.
DANNY: Where are the mics?
GILLIAN: We don’t need mics. So Danny, where was the party last night?
DANNY: It was at the Gershwin Hotel, and it was the after-party for a VH-1 documentary about Warhol—all of these awful people packed into one room, and it was very hot, and very crowded, and the main Warhol-esque attraction was a weird looking guy with skintight leather pants and this thing on his back which turned out to be an English riding saddle and for a dollar a bimbo could get up there and ride him.
LEGS: Danny the Wonder-Pony?
DANNY: I’m not kidding. What?
LEGS: Was it Danny the Wonder-Pony?
GILLIAN: Who’s Danny the Wonder-Pony?
LEGS: It was, right?
DANNY: I don’t know his name. I didn’t say, “Hi, I’d like to meet you, I’m a big fan.”
LEGS: From the Hellfire Club, remember Danny the Wonder-Pony who would give the girls rides around on his back?
DANNY: And he had a saddle strapped on?
DANNY: Then that’s who it was.
LEGS: Danny the Pony Boy.
DANNY: Well, that’s very chic. I back off of any derogatory comments I may have made about this major attraction of the party. Okay, so Louis and I found a little place seated next to this incredibly hopped-up amphetamine woman who was like fifty and she’s jumping up and down and screaming—and you had no idea what she was talking about. Then this guy sat down and he’s wearing black shoes and black socks and shorts, and a little beard—a funny little thing—and he leans over and says, “You two are cute!”
DANNY: Then he says to Louis, “Is that your man?” This is at a supposed “Warhol” party! This is the kind of trash wannabes that are out there now—I mean, we’re talking the VIP room! Then the guy took out a cigarette and started to light it and this room was a hundred fifteen degrees in the lobby of a hotel, in a party that you couldn’t move…people had to come running over and tell him…I mean, what kind of person would do that?
LEGS: Human flotsam?
DANNY: You know, this guy could have taken out a gun and started shooting faggots. What was he doing there?
GILLIAN: What guy?
DANNY: The “You’re a cute couple, is that your man?” guy. Black shoes, black socks and shorts.
GILLIAN: That’s creepy.
DANNY: Scary. See there had been this woman who had come up to me after the screening who looked like a poor man’s Ingrid Superstar. She was wearing this long skin-tight, fishtail, leopard print thing, and from the beginning I had been a little…just surprised that they had been using my name on the list of temptresses to come to this Gershwin party, because they had never invited me, so I just expressed a little bit of…“What party, is there a party?”
So this woman said, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you didn’t get invited, you’re going to be there, right?”
I said, “Where?”
She said, “Our party, we’re having a party at the Gershwin.”
I said, “Ah, I don’t know anything about it.”
She said, “Well, sometimes our right hand doesn’t know what our left hand is doing.”
I said, “See this? It’s called a body. This is my right hand and this is my left hand, and this body is in between; it never forgets about those. You know, it kind of takes them with him.” But you know, she was as gracious a hostess as there ever was. The only hostess; there was no security. People were just zooming on in, more and more crowded. Your friend the Pony Boy was giving rides and…
LEGS: My friend Danny the Wonder-Pony? Love how that happened.
DANNY: …then a naked woman sat on the floor, there was this big crowd around her, and she was having her body painted. And that was the other “sensational” thing of the evening besides your friend the Pony Boy. So that was how good the party was; it was so atrocious.
It was as if you told me I was in Philadelphia for something grotesque and you said, “This is sort of the underground,” I would sort of believe it; but I thought that Philadelphia was doing much better these days.
So the party was hideous and that guy was scary, I’m sorry. That’s the kind of guy who takes out a gun in a post office and kills everyone.
I mean, I think you could walk in off the street. And it was awful; it was celebrating some faggot and a naked woman on the floor…
LEGS: Was she any good-looking?
DANNY: You think I looked? I would have had to stretch my neck and look over the crowd—which I had no intention of doing. I saw her from the shoulder down. Hah! You never heard of art school or art class?
LEGS: Yeah. So what was the party for, anyway?
DANNY: It was for one of those documentaries that they interview you for, and then you never hear from them again, until two years later it opens and you cringe at what you might have said so long ago. So this “movie” was premiering on VH1, and this was the party to celebrate it. You wanted to escape right away, but it would have made you look like a drama queen, so you suffer and bear it. But the movie wasn’t that bad—except they made me look very fat.
GILLIAN: Made who look really fat?
DANNY: Me. But it’s not a bad movie; though it’s very limited in scope. I don’t know what…
LEGS: You always sound smart…you say something that’s kind of normally-smart, but on TV, it sounds ten times smarter, believe it or not.
DANNY: Well, they had good footage; they showed the scene where Ondine slaps that girl Pepper in Chelsea Girls. Which Andy [Warhol] thought was the best thing in the movie. And, you know, that’s interesting, why didn’t he encourage more of that? Because there is Mary Woronov and Susan Bottomly pretending to kick Ingrid Superstar under the table…but it’s not really going to provoke any real violence…I mean, Ingrid is such a good sport—she’ll put up with anything.
So anyway, after Ondine hits Pepper, it cuts to me and I say, “He was right to hit her, it was good that he hit her, she deserved to be hit, she had to be hit for being so stupid.” And then it goes away from me, but I thought that was a good quote.
LEGS: That’s great.
DANNY: So I don’t mind being on the air with that.
LEGS: Do you mind if I have a touch of grapefruit juice?
DANNY: Have a big touch.
[Legs pours himself a drink and then takes a gulp]
LEGS: Okay, can we start?
DANNY: I thought we had started.
LEGS: Well, can we go to the questioning portion?
DANNY: The “what-portion?”
LEGS: The questioning?
DANNY: Oh, yeah, okay. Did I tell you that when Randi Reisfeld from 16 magazine asked the new Bay City Roller what his favorite color was that he thought it was a racist question? He refused to answer.
Let’s begin there…
LEGS: Okay, when I was interviewing you for Please Kill Me, I was coming over about once a week and it was usually when we had those nine snowstorms and I don’t think you thought this book was ever going to come out.
DANNY: I don’t think anything is ever going to come out.
LEGS: Okay, well, let me ask you this: did the book change your life?
DANNY: Yes, the book changed my life.
LEGS: It did, it really did?
DANNY: Oh, it really did. It was the best credential I had going into the moment that it appeared. The best, and the most substantial, and the most…you know, I had a little bit of cred after Edie, but that was really kind of inner upper class…but this book seemed to become a must-have, must-carry, must-read for a whole wannabe generation. The most interesting kids in some town in Indiana—like my friend Louis—you know, he had four nervous breakdowns by the time he was thirteen—and that book saved his life. It’s like people tell me that music saved their lives, you know, the MC5, the Stooges, the Ramones. I know what that means. Someone opened doors that they never dreamed existed, just like Auntie Mame, in the last major line in the movie: “I’ll open doors that you never dreamed existed!” Everything that’s art does that.
LEGS: You served as the anti-main character for Please Kill Me. You’re kind of the narrator, Danny.
DANNY: Well, that’s not my fault. Someone had to string it together, if you wanted to do an Our Town of the punk scene.
LEGS: Yeah, Our Town, like that narrator.
LEGS: Did you ever get laid out of Please Kill Me?
DANNY: It’s hard to tell because, well, the first major introduction I made because of it—I don’t know if these people would have known who I was but they were both New Yorkers at a high level of evolution and gay sophistication…they were John Cameron Mitchell and Justin Bond—Kiki—and I was a big fan of Hedwig.
So I said, “I’m a huge fan of the show,” blah, blah, blah and that my dearest, oldest friend Donald Lyons wrote this great review of Hedwig in the Wall Street Journal, which I don’t read, but he told me about it. Of course John Cameron Mitchell knew the review and blah, blah, blah—and then he knew about me from Please Kill Me.
DANNY: You know, John Cameron Mitchell and Justin Bond are both such brilliant creations. You usually need a society that’s advanced, civilized, borderline-decadent to churn out wild eccentrics like them—in cultures that are more primitive they’d probably be burned as witches, or maybe worshipped as gods. England is a good example of that, America is more primitive; the English always adore their kooky trannies, there was one who just died, an almost generic name, Sylvia Sweetheart, huge star of the British stage, she was ninety-something, and of course Dame Edna, who’s Australian, of all things, but definitely a beloved kooky tranny.
LEGS: Dame Sylvia Sweet?
DANNY: Yeah, something like that. Love it, love it, your British thing. They love their eccentrics and their tyrannical lesbians because they’re way more advanced as a civilization from ours.
[Aside to Gillian] And I’m sorry, I know you’re French-Canadian—why do they hate the Queen so much in Australia? She can’t get further away without going into orbit. And in Canada, where they could care less about anything—and the only thing they hate is America—they don’t hate the Queen, they don’t hate…
They just don’t hate.
LEGS: Yeah, I know. They don’t.
DANNY: They love, they don’t hate.
GILLIAN: Well, the Queen’s a figurehead.
DANNY: Australians think she’s telling them how THEY should live, and they resent that.
GILLIAN: Oh, really?
DANNY: They think it’s like Maria Montez in Cobra Woman deciding who lives and who dies. In Australia, I mean, talk about insecurity. At least Canadians are more secure. They’ve been there four hundred years. It was the trappers. Ever since the 1600s. The Australians, something spiteful about them. And other Europeans, who have these totally…bicycled royalty. People always saw Princess Bertha or Prince Beowulf riding down the street on bicycles in all the traffic. One got hit by that bus, and then there was this car that went crazy and killed all the people that had come out for Queen Beatrice’s birthday.
See once a year, the Queen of the Netherlands and her family come out—which is quite enough, because she’s on the stamps and she’s on the Euro—and everyone in Holland comes and waves and screams. So she and her family are riding and the crowd is waving. It’s like the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade. The streets are ten thick…and somehow some madman in a car comes down a side street and starts driving through the crowd and then he goes berserk and smashes into an obelisk that was flattened like a pancake. And all of these people in the crowd were killed.
LEGS: How many people?
DANNY: Like five or six; a lot.
LEGS: A lot.
DANNY: I mean, you could imagine—just the very fact of going out as a Royal in an open-air bus, meanwhile some terrorist in a car is waiting to crash into you and he mows down all these people in the crowd who came there to cheer for you! It was a big royal birthday and then suddenly there are screams and crashes off-camera and there are the royals watching—and some of them started to cry.
You see them; the camera is on all the princes and princesses. And they just look horror-stricken, they really do. You know, it’s really like this is their day, and these are their people and whether or not they throw the driver in jail—or make him leave the country—it’s still nice to be liked.
And so it was horrible and the Queen herself, who is like seventy or something, went on television with a broken heart and gave a special message.
LEGS: Oh, that’s nice.
DANNY: Yes, it is nice. Especially in those countries where it’s so weird for the niche populations…
LEGS: Niche populations?
DANNY: Niche, NICHE. Niche.
LEGS: Niche? Niche, oh, yeah.
DANNY: Yeah, I say it the French way.
DANNY: So I like the Queen—and she was kind of there—looking over me—when I was arrested in Canada at the airport for having some silly thing.