DANNY: And then the third person whom I’ve known forever and is the sweetest and smartest person, just said simply, “You better tell Patti this story yourself,” and then changed the subject.
You know, one of the subtexts of the book is some people not loving Patti…
LEGS: But I think…
DANNY: You know, maybe that’s just my impression.
LEGS: Are you talking about that long section where Penny Arcade is talking about going to see Patti perform after she’s become famous?
LEGS: Do you think that’s a bit of sexism?
DANNY: What? Sexism, for Penny Arcade? She’s not a sexist, she’s a woman!
LEGS: No, no, no, the parts about Patti.
DANNY: That’s the part I’m talking about.
DANNY: In case you didn’t notice, Penny’s long monologue about Patti is a very major part of the book.
GILLIAN: But to us that could have been about anyone—it could have been about Debbie Harry; it was about someone suddenly becoming famous.
DANNY: What was?
LEGS: The Penny Arcade thing…where she talks about being…
DANNY: But it was literally about Patti Smith.
GILLIAN: Yeah, it’s all about Patti but it could have been about anyone…Iggy…John Lydon…
DANNY: But it’s all about Patti, hello. Well, it’s not like someone said, “This is the work of Satan!” It’s far from that, but in our world it doesn’t take much to cross the line between love/admiration/idolatry…and a teeny bit of wariness.
DANNY: Since she’s so central, it’s like the whole Penny monologue is almost a whole book within the book. So I think it’s unavoidable and it doesn’t surprise me, except it has the power to be—in no way wary of Patti the person, Patti the artist, Patti the anything except this story about “Piss Factory.” It’s iconic; the song title is iconic, “Piss Factory” gets mistranslated and causes an international incident, you know, like it did between Pedro and I.
And it’s like the strangest thing that ever happened to her vis-à-vis that book…
What do you want me to do? Can we change the subject please? Oh, this is another uncool thing about that party I went to last night—there were a lot of people walking around like this…[Danny does a Marlene Dietrich by sucking in his cheeks]…you know, sliding past.
GILLIAN: Oh, like taking pictures?
DANNY: Yeah, of me. You don’t do that in a VIP room. You have a real camera and your name is Leee Childers or Bob Gruen.
DANNY: But little like, funny Chinese men? This is a Please Kill Me effect, you know. I’m not a famous Warhol person but when you put the two together, you know, “Oh, he’s a Please Kill Me person but he also has a Warhol degree.”
LEGS: Don’t you think they want to put it up on their Facebook or MySpace page?
DANNY: Whatever. First of all, if you don’t do it, there is no way of not looking like a prima donna; you are just going to have to do what the photographer asks you to do and smile. Famous people don’t have fits in public. And the people they want to photograph know that they’re going to be photographed and they turn and give the photographer the shot, that’s all. Always be nice to photographers or someday there could be a picture of you on the internet with a piece of spaghetti hanging out of your mouth.
LEGS: Right. So tell us more about that island book that changed Iggy’s life.
DANNY: The Possibility of an Island is, in part, about an advanced generation of humans with super-evolved intelligence, where simple numbers, or sequences of numbers, communicate complex thoughts, because those numbers have become PART of language, they ARE a vocabulary. Perhaps they even indicate thoughts which we are NOT ABLE to communicate, or even to HAVE, given the limitations of verbal language.
You know, when you’ve taken LSD or K, new languages become available to you—they don’t coordinate with existing languages—they are beyond verbal, but they still have meaning. Like getting your hand burned on a stove certainly has meaning, but it’s a feel-meaning, not a word-meaning. So are love, sex, laughter…but what if the mind were so magnified that it could think things we are not capable of even imagining now?
Some minds are, or were. Isaac Newton, for example. And in the future, humans will have gone way beyond that—in this book, anyhow—and even simple humans will be able to look into the sky and see equations that you couldn’t comprehend now in a lifetime of advanced learning. What we call “metaphysics” will be an infantile achievement someday. Perhaps.
The Possibility of an Island involves an advanced generation of human intelligence that can translate into those numbers like a LSD trip description of something.
GILLIAN: Is this a Special K thing?
DANNY: No, that is from this book.
LEGS: Like the K Hole?
DANNY: Yes, but…
LEGS: They’re talking in numbers.
DANNY: They’re talking in numbers…
LEGS: Come on, stay with the conversation.
GILLIAN: From the K Hole?
LEGS: From the K Hole.
DANNY: K Hole? Stop that. You know, that’s got to be the most uneducated and unsophisticated phrase in all of drug culture—if you used that term, you missed the point of drugs. Really, totally. You went out the wrong way. One of the lessons of the drug is that you just think…consciousness with a K includes being able to think things that you can’t put into words. The drug is NOT a disco drug—it interferes with mind-muscle coordination…
DANNY: …you have to remember that it’s an anesthetic used on cats when they’re having their claws removed. It’s supposed to make the cat hold still. So it sort of disconnects the brain from the muscles so the cat doesn’t spaz out on you while you’re doing the de-clawing, and when they did human testing on this drug there were people that were hallucinating. So they decided that it had to be illegal because people were hallucinating—what a terrible thing…
LEGS: Danny, I need to excuse myself…
DANNY: I mean, your mind is really going. If your I.Q. started off at a hundred and forty—now it’s six hundred and forty. And it’s moving so fast that you’re actually finding words to say but your mouth is frozen—like Cher. It’s like the nerves are gone in your own face. So that’s maddening; you’re thinking these great things, but you can’t say them.
GILLIAN: And you can’t write them down either.
DANNY: You can’t do anything with them except have them.
GILLIAN: Yeah, but you can’t remember them either.
DANNY: That’s all right, you can’t ask for everything. And they always leave some recollection. It’s like acid; it leaves its marker on your nervous system. As they say, you’ll never be the same—that’s the whole thing about colors; if you saw them on K or LSD you can’t really remember them because they don’t really exist.
LEGS: Right, right. Can I ask you a serious question?
LEGS: Please Kill Me—do you think it’s a gossip rag? Or does it have any literary merit?
DANNY: It has documentary merit. Why does it have to have either/or? Why does the choice fall between those two prongs of the pitchfork of value?
LEGS: Because that’s…
GILLIAN: “The pitchfork of value!” Danny, I love it—that’s going in a poem.
DANNY: Rich, beautiful, whatever, you know, literary, journalistic, gossip—they’re all wonderful—where would we be without them?
DANNY: Look at gossip, what it did. The real revolutions are from gossip.
LEGS: They are?
DANNY: Yes, chatter.
GILLIAN: It starts wars.
LEGS: It does?
GILLIAN: Right after 9/11 Condoleezza Rice and a bunch of them kept referring to: “There’s been a lot of chatter…” Did you notice that?
LEGS: Yes, yeah.
DANNY: Yeah, well, okay, chatter is business, or gossip, or exchange of information, or transmitting code, like saying 32, 64, or 87 when those numbers have a meaning to the recipient. It’s various signals that something big is coming, and you have to be sensitive to that. One person’s chatter could be another person’s Hegelian view of the universe.
LEGS: Yes, but does it have any literary…?
DANNY: War and Peace is literary, Jane Austen is literary and Jane Austen is gossip, and of course she is the greatest woman writer in the history of the world and the world then was extremely limited. I mean, in terms of communicating, they could only write letters to each other because it took a day to get from one house to another and they had no phones. And it was all about gossip; it was about what people were saying about each other. Then you take the gossip and turn it into exquisite English and then it has literary value.
So when somebody in Please Kill Me is speaking truly IN that moment, and either ABOUT that moment or about a remembered moment, and what was said was recorded and transcribed into print, then THAT by definition has great documentary value. The memory may not be accurate—which most memories aren’t—but it IS what the memory was just then in the speaker’s life, and that is extremely valuable. I mean, they’re all fabulous people to begin with, and that certainly has merit.
I don’t know, does Chelsea Girls have cinematic merit? It’s a piece of shit, but it has incredible moments of cinematic whatever…and someone else could say it could have been great cinema if you’d left everything on the editing room floor except for Ondine smacking the woman and Brigid shooting up; and isn’t that how we started this whole thing? I mean, to see an Ondine smacking and a Brigid poking and someone is saying, “Mary, it’s my butt and I’ll put it where I want it.”
You know, you don’t have to sit through four hours and forty minutes of this incredibly boring stuff, but we’re certainly glad that it’s out there. Of course they didn’t know that it was cool not to edit but it’s…I think that it’s intuitively edited, but they don’t give awards for that and editing a vast quantity of material is almost like…[Danny pauses, eats an almond] I mean, what is the Bible? It’s gossip, no one wrote these things down. They gossiped and then they passed the gossip down to their grandchildren. It’s always coming through the mouth of some Yenta.
DANNY: Even if it was Matthew, Mark, Paul, John.
LEGS: Luke or John.
DANNY: Luke, whatever. The Yentas, they were mostly Jews.
LEGS: They were all Jews.
DANNY: No, they weren’t.
LEGS: Except for some of them, Paul wasn’t.
DANNY: You know, talking is a train of thought; I have no idea where I was going—the gospels. So why are you torn between those two silly categories—gossip and literature?
LEGS: I just thought it was…
DANNY: Did someone say it was either one or the other?
DANNY: You know, I could see a cool reviewer would say that it’s neither. That’s what they say about Chelsea Girls—that this is both a cinematic triumph and a piece of shit.
DANNY: I’m sure they probably said that about War and Peace and I’m sure they said that about An American Family when it came out, which is now an important part of the history of television—it was the first reality show. I mean, what was it? Was it gossip, was it literary…I don’t know. An American Family is a milestone in a medium that now dominates our world. It affects our lives enormously. Everything people do they compare to a reality show or some variation of reality. It changed the way the world looks at things.
GILLIAN: And now everyone is a performer.
DANNY: I mean, Warhol was a part of that, An American Family was a part of that, but it’s way too soon to say that anything in the last fifty years—maybe even a hundred years—and I’m sorry to say that includes Please Kill Me—can be conveniently put into either a gossip drawer or in a literature drawer. I think that’s insulting to you, to your work.
DANNY: Which do you think it is? I’m insulted and I didn’t even put it together. Why did you even bring this up? Why does it have to be one or the other?
LEGS: It doesn’t, I’m sorry.
LEGS: It’s just that that’s what the common criticism is.
GILLIAN: No, the common criticism is that it’s merely transcribed interviews. Cut up.
DANNY: And you need to explain or justify “common” anything?
DANNY: All I can say is that, yes, it’s common indeed. Like everything else.
LEGS: When you got the book did you just read all your quotes?
DANNY: That’s all I ever do. Any book, I look myself up in the index.
LEGS: Did you ever actually read the book all the way through?
DANNY: No, of course not.
GILLIAN: Oh, yes you did.
GILLIAN: You didn’t?
DANNY: No. I go look up my things and say, whew. I can’t read a book. You know, if I had it in the bathroom and I had a Toto Toilet…
GILLIAN: The end.
LEGS: Then you would have read it all the way through.
DANNY: I mean, Jane Austen you read all the way through. It’s just like one sentence.
DANNY: And that was gossip. You know, it was a gossip column and that’s why people read it. It was bold face and opinions and raves, so is that great literature or common gossip? I don’t know, it’s amusing. So why don’t you just stick with that? It’s just like Noel Coward used to say, a talent to amuse. What do I have, after all, but the power to amuse? And that’s Noel Coward and he was talking about himself, which is good subject matter.
DANNY: All that we have is a talent to amuse. Noel Coward. I think that’s wonderful.
GILLIAN: Danny, I put a special surprise on your fridge.
DANNY: Is it a magnet, a special magnet? Is it a Please Kill Me magnet?
Copyright © 2010 by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain / Pleasekillme.com