Monday, February 25, 2008

Steve-O Interview

Professional Jackass
Steve-O talks about taking his act on the road, thinning the herd, and how his finances are his own damn business
Hartford Advocate September 23, 2004

Somebody might have thought to staple their own genitals before Steve-O, but no one made a career out of it. As a cast member of MTV's seminal shock-reality show Jackass, Steve-O's innovative approach to self-mutilation -- like stapling his testicles to his leg or getting a tattoo while off-roading in a Humvee -- made America laugh, cry and cringe. His stunt nature show Wildboyz is in its second season.

A: What can we expect from your live show?

SO: Expect a horrifying display of alcoholism and self-mutilation. We get really drunk and hurt ourselves. We have a set list comprised of acts that censors won't let us do on TV. I'm not going to give away the whole show, but there's blood everywhere, there's vomit, a bunch of urine and broken glass. And also a bunch of testicular trauma. If people want to get kicked in the balls I can pretty much work that out.

A: Is there going to be another season of Wildboyz?

SO: Yeah.

A. How did you guys come up with the idea for the show?
SO: When we were doing Jackass we got tangled up in a lot of wildlife. I don't know. I guess we just wanted to travel the world. And we had Pontius (Chris Pontius, Steve-O's co-host on Wildboyz. He's also "party boy" fromvJackass). He has his homosexual influence and he's a nature freak.

A: Is Pontius gay?

SO: Is Pontius gay? No. but we both think it's funny to act gay.

A: Have you guys ever made out?

SO: We never made out. I mean, for the benefit of paparazzi one time we kissed each other. We only do stuff when there's a camera around. We're only gay on camera.

A: Do you watch real nature shows?
SO: I've never been a fan of nature shows. I mean, maybe a good Predators and Prey. I think everybody likes to watch one animal eat another animal. I did get my personal morals and values from watching nature programming. There ain't no monogamy in the wild, pal. Survival of the fittest. Go after the weakest of the herd. That's our motto. We slay the weakest individuals in the herd.

A: Aside from Pontius, are you still in touch with the other guys from Jackass?

SO: Oh, yeah. If we're all in the same city it's trouble. We all go out and party together. I saw [Johnny] Knoxville a couple of weeks ago at the Video Music Awards. We hung out and did a lot of drugs.

A: What kind of drugs do you like to do?
SO: I'm basically a big pothead. But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

A: Especially if the gift horse has a bunch of cocaine.
SO: (Laughs) Yeah.

A: What's the dumbest thing you've done this week?
SO: Maybe I used a rubber or two. The dumbest thing I did was mess around with latex. I don't know. I had a family reunion the other day in Canada. Going to that was pretty dumb. I might as well have dressed up as the devil and walked into a church. Let's just say that my extended family isn't terribly proud of me.

A: I heard that you were the only Jackass cast member not to take a percentage of the movie's profits.
SO: That's not true.

A: OK. So what's your money situation like in general?
SO: I'm one lawsuit or injury from being in debt for the rest of my life (laughs). Hey, how unprofessional do you have to be to ask your interview subject about how much money they have? That's actually totally rude. How much money do you make, pal?

A: Oh, I make --
SO: -- I don't want to know. I'm not that rude.

A: What's life like for Steve-O these days?

SO: I'm enjoying myself. Touring really kind of wears you down. Probably the hardest thing is dealing with people all day long. When you got thousands of people coming to see you every night, you just start to hate people. Being onstage isn't bad, but everyone wants to engage you in some conversation you're not interested in whatsoever.

A: Do you kind of want to be left alone?
SO: Kind of. But then I think about the day when no one gives a crap anymore and that's even more depressing.

A: How long do you think you can keep being Steve-O?
SO: I think forever. I don't know if people are going to remain interested in watching me hurt myself for the rest of my life. I'll always be a big ham for attention.

A: Some of the stuff you do must take a physical toll on your body.
SO: I pick my battles fairly carefully. I'm not really interested in becoming paralyzed. I've never permanently injured myself. When I snorted that wasabi, whatever nerves I had in my nose were all so long gone from the cocaine that I didn't care.

A: You were on an episode of the show Blind Date and you poured lemon juice in your eyes. Would you recommend that guys squeeze lemon juice in their eyes when they've run out of stuff to say on a date?
SO: Yeah, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't squeeze lemon juice in your eyes for a date, if you get laid -- Oh God, I'm so hung over right now it hurts. And if you thought I was wasted last night wait until you see me tonight. I am gonna get trashed.

A: Do you get drunk every night?
SO: Pretty much every night, yeah. Recently I had a night where I couldn't deal with it and I didn't get drunk. But that was so creepy. I felt like I was possessed. Everything about not drinking that one night was really weird.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

NYC Libertarian Convention

I don't usually preface the articles I put up here, but I want to qualify this one a little. It was the first cover story I wrote for a publication. I was kind of green as a journalist at the time, and I think it shows in some parts of the article. I still like it a lot, but there are things I could have done differently.

Drugs, Guns & Smokes for the Libertarians.
By Adam Bulger
New York Press, 2004

"Excuse me, do you mind if I ask what you’re talking about?"
The voice belongs to Neil Saunders, a British performance artist with shoulder-length blond hair who is sitting alone at a nearby table, eating a salad. He’s politely interrupting my interview with Jim Lesczynski, the newly elected chairman of the Manhattan Libertarian Party.

Jim gives him a business card-size explanation of Libertarian philosophy and answers some simple questions. Saunders nods and returns to his table. It was a strange encounter: a pudgy middle-class man with a precision-cut beard giving a scraggly bohemian lessons in freedom.

Unlike Neil, most people have at least a cursory knowledge of the tenets of Libertarianism, especially those attending today’s Manhattan Libertarian Party Convention. The concept is basic and seductive when explained in broad strokes: less government, more personal choice. It’s a simple mantra that attracts, repels and splits people on every frequency along the political spectrum. Free marketers want government out of their business dealings and paychecks, but might not approve of gay marriage; marijuana decriminalization activists like the Libertarian drug stance, but probably don’t support relaxing gun laws. And the "right-wing" Libertarian position on abortion? As one Libertarian told me, "We’re pro-choice on everything."

With such a philosophy, you might expect a Libertarian convention to look like Beyond Thunderdome’s Bartertown. Or, at the very least, like the interrupting Neil Saunders. But aside from one tragically comic mullet (sparse spikes on top, ponytail in the back), Manhattan’s Libertarians are white, middle-aged, professional males. There’s one Asian man in attendance and, among the handful of women, one is the spitting image of Onion columnist Jean Teasdale. I can’t take my eyes off her.

The convention was held on a bitterly cold January afternoon at the 10/50 Restaurant on the first floor of the Skyline, a Midtown hotel whose concrete box exterior would fit nicely alongside an interstate outside Tulsa. Inside, the 10/50 has the ambiance of a country club bar or a cruise ship. Before the convention, 10/50 had recently hosted a few retirement parties and a christening. For today, a podium has been set up across from the door, behind which hangs a banner featuring the Statue of Liberty. The walls are lined with poster-sized enlargements of Libertarian press clippings.

I arrived during elections for state committeeman—the person who will represent Manhattan at the statewide meetings. Thomas Robert Stevens, an adjunct lecturer at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, is campaigning for votes, expressing his passion for Libertarian politics and describing his ethics lectures, during which he instructs, "Individual freedom is something that is desirable instead of government-supported morality." He would later win the vote.

Earlier, Joseph Dobrian had been elected media relations director. Dobrian is wearing a navy blue three-piece suit and a starched white shirt. His pale complexion and slicked-back hair smacks of a young Dan Akroyd reinvented as a Midwestern funeral home director. A native of the Midwest who moved to Manhattan in 1983, Dobrian has been active in the Manhattan Libertarian Party since 2001, though he has been "a Libertarian at heart for some time."

I ask if New York is a good place for the Libertarian party.

"It’s as good a place as any," he replies. "In large cities, you’re gonna get a lot of people who depend on government services, and that’s why they live in big cities. Traditionally, Libertarians tend to do their best recruiting in small towns, rural areas, in states where there are fewer government services and more personal freedom."

His Midwestern roots show when asked if the Manhattan Libertarians support the legalization of marijuana.

"Darn right we do!"

And crystal meth?

"You bet! I think it should be just as easy to get a fix at Duane Reade as it is to buy a tube of toothpaste."

I thank him for his time, turn the tape recorder off and ask him if he knows where the bathroom is. Turns out, he’s on his way there himself; I should follow him. (Not too close, though, ha ha.)

At the urinal, Dobrian spots an advertisement for a website selling cigars. He finds it ironic that such an ad would be placed in a restaurant/lounge where it’s illegal to smoke.

"This whole smoking ban," he observes, "is Bloomberg’s way of keeping the niggers down."

I look over at him, wide-eyed, as I wash my hands at the sink. This is the organization’s media rep talking. To a journalist.

"I mean that metaphorically—it’s about keeping the riff raff down," he adds.

Oh, I think. Thanks for clearing that up.

Jim Lesczynski is recognizable from his many tv news appearances. For the past few years, he had been the party’s media relations director and the public face of the Manhattan Libertarian Party. During his stint he promoted several high-profile, yippie-like publicity stunts designed to publicize the Libertarian philosophy in New York. The one that received the most attention was the "Guns for Tots" charity drive.

"As you may know, the NYC council introduced a bill last year to make all toy guns illegal," Lesczynski tells me. "We wanted to make a mockery of this, so we sent out a press release saying we’re going to collect toy guns and give them to poor children in Harlem. The press went out of their mind, obviously."

The reporters and cameramen weren’t alone.

"It got so much advance press, we had a whole counter-protest," he boasts. "A lot of activists were coming from outside that neighborhood just like we were; it was a big street theater scene."

Other media stunts followed. Outraged over the cost of cigarettes in New York, Lesczynski staged a cigarette giveaway in Bryant Park. "We had, like, 400 people show up. There ended up being a scuffle among the people there for the free cigarettes."

A more recent event took a turn for the bizarre. In response to the proposed construction of a Jets stadium on the West Side, the Libertarians hired a witch to cast a bad luck spell over any team that played on the grounds. Even though the woman was not a real witch and the hex was pointless—and redundant, as the Jets already have bad luck to spare—Lesczynski relishes the coverage. "We got a write-up in some of the community weeklies and stuff."

At today’s convention, Lesczynski is elevated to chairman of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, and he’s bubbling with enthusiasm.

"My goal is to give Gifford Miller and Mike Bloomberg ulcers," he declares. "I want them to be like Dean Wormer when the Animal House float is coming down the street in the parade and he says, ‘I hate those guys.’"

He predicts success as a political nuisance, though less at the ballot box. Their most recent three Libertarian candidates for city council posted in the single digits.

"We’re gonna run candidates, but we run candidates because it’s a free microphone," he says. "And at this point, it’s about getting the word out to people: Freedom is good, government is bad, we have way too much government in this city. We have too much government in this country and New York City is off the Richter scale."

Later that afternoon, Lesczynski takes to the lectern to introduce the guest speakers, starting with Bernard Goetz. In his introduction, Lesczynski mentions Goetz’s subway shooting and subsequent trial, noting that the "only thing Bernie was ever convicted of was exercising his rights as an American." (Goetz was sentenced to nine months at Rikers for two misdemeanor possession-of-firearms charges.)

Bernard Goetz never stops moving. He has a rare metabolism, as if his body holds an organ that naturally generates methamphetamine. When speaking, his ideas come in frenetic blasts; he uses the same words over and over, making the same points, shifting the phrasing only slightly.

After apologizing in advance for rambling, he gets to the topic for the night: jury rights. But first, he wants to say a few words about "media manipulation." The media he had in mind was New York Press—which he called the "worst form of yellow journalism."

A week earlier, I had promoted the Libertarian Convention in these pages. Goetz reads the modest item to the audience, granting some gravity to the part where I jokingly—and, yes, erroneously—referred to him as "former subway killer turned insane vegetarian."

"I didn’t kill anybody," Goetz emphasizes, eyes darting around the crowd. "And I don’t think I’m insane."

(Mea culpa, Bernie. Indeed, you are no subway killer, but a subway shooter. I hereby offer a rewrite: "Former attempted subway killer with bad aim turned questionably insane vegetarian, Bernie Goetz...")

The bulk of Goetz’s presentation concerns jury rights, but the scattered presentation makes it hard to grasp, much less locate, his thesis. Jury members, he says, are encouraged to vote with the law whenever their conscience is in conflict with it. He sees this as a rank injustice.

An audience member suggests that people lie to get on a jury and then later vote their conscience. "That’s what I’m saying," he replies emphatically. He believes that serving on juries is the easiest way to impact society. "If I were on a jury for drug sales, I’d vote not guilty," he says—to loud, resounding applause.

This is not only a noble act, Goetz claims, but a safe one. It’s not likely that the state would go through the expense of prosecuting someone simply for withholding information.

An audience member brings up the case of Colorado woman Laura Kriho, who had deadlocked a jury presiding over a drug case; it was later discovered that she has a prior LSD conviction and a history as a hemp legalization activist. She was then taken to court. Goetz, unfamiliar with the case, views her as an anomaly that didn’t impact his argument.

If legal precedence couldn’t hinder Goetz’s argument, technical difficulties could. When the room’s air vents threatened to drown him out, he opted to talk over them, noting that the sound was "not as bad as a subway train." (Unfortunately, he did not go on to say, "On a subway train, I can barely hear myself think over the sound of my own gunfire," or "Thanks, I’ll be here all week.")

Goetz ended his talk with a short discussion about his proposed 2005 mayoral run, reminding everyone that he ran as an independent in 2001.

Next was David Kaczynski, Ted Kaczynski’s brother. The Unabomber’s brother. The younger Kaczynski was thrust into the national media spotlight in 1996 when he squealed on his brother to the FBI. A practicing Buddhist, he speaks in soft, lulling tones that match his earth-toned sweater. Tonight, he gives a well-rehearsed speech about Ted, his own interactions with law enforcement officials and his thoughts on the death penalty. As the executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, he’s no slouch on the subject.

Kaczynski’s not a Libertarian, but he knows how to slant his schtick for the crowd. He begins by asking, "If we don’t trust [the state] to deliver the mail, we trust them with the decision of who should live or die?" Nods of agreement all around. He then segues into his life story and thoughts on capital punishment.

The cash bar had been open for a while, and its effects were apparent in the unruliness that met Goetz’s speech. But something about Kaczynski’s demeanor lulled the crowd.

The restlessness re-emerges when Tim Bailey, a representative of the NYC Bill of Rights Defense Campaign, speaks about the Patriot Act. Like Goetz, Bailey’s presentation is jumbled and full of false starts; unlike Goetz, he lacks the charisma and tabloid cred. When a long stretch of stuttering and dead air is capped off by Bailey’s inability to remember the name of the judicial branch of the federal government, the audience turns on him, volleying a series of hostile and often nonsensical questions. Joseph Dobrian shouts a request for the crowd to settle down. Amidst the crowd’s indifference and microphone feedback, Bailey ambles to a painful finish.

The evening is capped off with a speech from keynote speaker, Saying Yes author and Reason magazine’s senior editor Jacob Sollum. His speech concerns what he termed "voodoo pharmacology," or "the idea that drugs control people and force them to do evil."

This, he says, is "one of the central premises of the war on drugs."

I couldn’t agree with him more, but I’d also spent more than five hours at the 10/50. I bailed on Sollum’s talk. I bailed on the free steak. There’s only so long one can sit in a restaurant packed with Libertarians preaching about freedom. digg NewsVine
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tom Morello Interview

Rebel Music
Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello on rock 'n' roll, politics and kicking ass
Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate October 27, 2005

Tom Morello has brought avant hip-hop punk metal guitar style to two of the mightiest bands of the last 20 years, Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. While Audioslave -- composed of the instrumentalists from Rage, and former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell -- are less political lyrically than Rage, they still rock truth to power.

Advocate: How did Audioslave get together?

TM: When Zack [de la Rocha, former lead vocalist] left Rage Against the Machine, Tim [Commorford, bass] and Brad [Wilk, drums] and I spent a lot of time at [legendary producer] Rick Rubin's house, scheming about what we were going to do. The name that Rick brought up, again and again, was Chris Cornell. Actually, the fellows in Rage had all been huge fans of Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger particularly. So we called Chris and asked if he was interested in meeting.

I told him I wanted the next band I'm in to be the best band I've ever been in. I didn't want to do a project, a one-time, super group collaboration or anything. We want this to be the real thing. If you're up for that, jam. He was up for that. We got together and in the first 19 rehearsals, we wrote 21 songs.

A: I read that Chris Cornell opposed Audioslave being as political as Rage.

TM: That's misstated. Chris was not interested in being the singer of Rage Against the Machine. Which we did not want him to be. Chris had a long history of writing lyrics before he became acquainted with us. We've always been a fan of his lyrical work as well as his great voice. My twin passions are political activism and rock 'n' roll music. They intersect in various ways. And with Audioslave, while the band may be lyrically less political, we do things like go to Cuba, go to Live 8, play for hurricane relief. A portion of every ticket from this tour goes to various charities and activist organizations. We may do less talking the talk, but we do a lot more walking the walk.

A: Are you guys still playing Rage and Soundgarden songs at your shows?

TM: Very much so. We're going deeper into the catalogs of both Rage and Soundgarden. It's really exciting for us to play them and the room just explodes. When we decided to look at the material from our past bands, we didn't just decide to do it -- it had to sound great. Chris really owns those songs that we've chosen to do. It's not the least bit strange. It's just awesome. Every night when we make up a set list, we're able to draw from 11 multi-platinum albums. Very few bands can do that.

Chris also does a really cool acoustic set that he does all by himself. It changes pretty dramatically every night. It's some Audioslave songs, some Soundgarden songs, even some Temple of the Dog songs.

A: Audioslave played in Cuba in May. How was that?

TM: It was unbelievable. It was an incredible honor to be the first American rock band to play in Cuba. The performance, to 60,000 to 70,000 fans on a beautiful Havana night, it wasn't something we'll soon forget. We had wanted to do it for some time. Even back in the Rage days we had talked about it, but we hadn't been able to get it together. As you probably know, there's an embargo against Cuba. U.S. citizens can't travel there, let alone bring a rock band with a PA system and all that. It took a lot of perseverance. Finally, the U.S. Treasury Department and Castro himself had to sign off on it. It was billed as a cultural exchange. Before the concert, we were treated to seeing some amazing experiences. We saw Cuban artists, amazing musicians just jamming on the street. We went to this free music school that used to be an elitist country club before the revolution where there were these jaw-dropping jazz musicians. It really humbled us and made us want to give our all when we played.

A: Could you describe Axis of Justice and tell me what you've been doing lately?

TM: Sure. Axis of Justice is a non-profit, political organization founded by me and Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down. It does a number of things, from education to agitation. We're trying to answer the question that fans have been asking us for years, which is 'How can I get involved?' If you go, no matter where you live in the country, you can find Axis of Justice-endorsed local grassroots organizations that are fighting the power today.

It's easy to look at problems that confront communities and the country as big monolithic things that you have no chance of overturning. But the way progressive change always happens is when average, ordinary people stand up for their rights where they live, where they work, where they go to school. That's our motto: think globally, act locally.

A: I'm guessing you were disappointed with the results of the 2004 election.

TM: I was disappointed with the result, but not surprised. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I didn't hold out a great deal of hope that either of the millionaire candidates could take the country in a direction that would necessarily be agreeable. I was supportive of third-party candidates, but worked for the defeat of Bush. As I'm sure a lot of Americans now wish they had.

A: Right now, people seem mad at Bush and Republicans in general, but there's a perception that the Left is too fractured to be effective.

TM: I think that's an accurate perception. Even during the election there was little support for the Democratic candidate, but a tremendous amount of anger towards Bush. There was little alternative presented aside from "this guy is not Bush." And that's not exactly the most rousing rallying cry.

But that's not the way things change. If you're going to sit around and wait for the president or the government to come along and make your life or your country better, you're going to be waiting a long time, no matter who's in office. Democratic administrations have taken us into immoral wars as well. The way that things change is people standing up for their rights no matter where they are, not waiting for the president or the Supreme Court or whoever to wave a magic wand.

A: Do you mind when people call Audioslave and [Guns n' Roses/Stone Temple Pilots amalgam] Velvet Revolver super groups?

TM: I love those dudes in Velvet Revolver. Those guys were very frustrated by the situation. They just wanted to play music and couldn't with the guy from their previous band. So they brought in another guy who would show up. I think they were able to help him, too.

A: Who would win in a fight, Audioslave or Velvet Revolver?

TM: [Audioslave bassist] Tim [Commerford] alone could not only take Velvet Revolver but the entire staff of your paper.

A: We'll see about that. Were you really on Star Trek?

TM: More than once. I'm a super fan of Star Trek, and it just so happens that the executive producer's son happens to be a super fan of my band. That helped to build a bridge. I was on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager and then I was in one of the Next Generation movies.

A: Any word on Zack de la Rocha?

TM: No, you know about as much as I do. The five-year anniversary of Zack's departure from Rage was yesterday. He left to do a solo career.

A: Which seemed to have never happened.

TM: Like I said, you know about as much about it as I do.
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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don Rickles Interview

The King Of Zing
A nearly lethal conversation with Don Rickles
Hartford Advocate, Dec. 28, 2007

Don Rickles has been Don Rickles for a long time. He was a satellite member of the Rat Pack and a personal friend of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Bob Newhart. His act is a stream of harsh, hilarious observational humor about members of the audience. The man has 60 years worth of awesome one-liners in his front pocket.

In our phone conversation, I felt like I was at a Don Rickles show and the only person in the audience. I lost control of the interview early and often.

The 81-year-old comedy veteran is on something of a career roll at the moment. His autobiography Rickles: The Book was released to success and acclaim in the spring of 2007. Mr. Warmth, a documentary about Rickles directed by John Landis, the director of comedy classics Animal House and Trading Places, was broadcast on HBO in December, also to glowing reviews.

As the documentary illustrates, Rickles is beloved, both as a cultural figure and as a man. Offstage, he's sentimental, kind and shockingly loyal to the people close to him (for example, his publicist, whom I dealt with, is the son of his former publicist). A coterie of disparate celebrities and friends ranging from comedians like Joan Rivers and Chris Rock to directors Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese praise Rickles personally and professionally in Mr Warmth.

Don Rickles: Sorry to keep you waiting. I had my phone on "do not disturb." That should tell you how important this call is to me.

Advocate: Well, I uhh —

R: — I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

A: That's what you do, right? At least I know I got the right guy. I saw the documentary Mr. Warmth over the weekend. How do you think that ended up?

R: I thought it was great. I never had such great reviews in my career. I've had good reviews, but these were, on the majority, outstanding. Really outstanding.

A: All these people in the movie were filmed basically heaping praise on you. That must have been pretty gratifying.

R: Well, sure It was better than saying I was a son of a bitch and that they don't like this guy. Who would want that? If I said "Adam, I'm not crazy about you," would you let that in the paper? They're all friends and people that wanted to do it. I was very pleased that they came out and said such nice things about me.

A: People think of you as a hard-hitting performer. You're the most famous insult comedian in the world. They call you Mr. Warmth, which is supposed to be ironic, but it kind of seems like you're really a warm guy, and you're well-liked.

R: Well thank you. You know, it's a persona you take on. You take on this image and you're this raving guy. I got stuck with the word insult. And I tell anybody who's speaking with me that I don't like the word. Insult means someone who is mean, and I've never been mean or mean spirited.
But as for being an insult comic, well, that's the title I was given. What I do is exaggeration. I make fun of people, at life, of myself and my surroundings. I don't really tell a joke, I react to situations. The whole thing is just looking at somebody and showing all our weaknesses and exaggerat[ing] them, and that's how it becomes funny.

A: How did the movie come about? Did John Landis contact you?

R: Well, my son, Larry, — he's a terrific kid and a great producer -- said "Dad, it's about time." I had never had my act filmed before in my entire career. John Landis is a good friend. I met him when I did Kelly's Heroes. Landis, who, as you know, went on to be a very successful director, was an assistant director on that picture. He got wind of the documentary project and said, "Gee, Don, I'd love to be part of this."

A: Did you find the filming to be intrusive or unpleasant?

R: No, not really. They hit all the high points of my life, which was what I wanted, you know.

A: Have you noticed your influence on other comedians?

R: There are a couple of women and men who people say are performing in my style. If they're successful, I say more power to them. But my style is my personality. It's always been that way. Being a wiseguy and having fun. It's always been [that] way for me, when I was in high school, and in the Navy. It's not something I rehearse.
Everything I do on stage, I made up in saloons and stuff. I started doing it in front of people, and that became my performance. I never had writers — except for television shows — I've never had guys sit me down and say this is what you've got to do. It's my personality that makes me one of a kind, and I believe that.

A: You say you're not really a joke teller.

R: No, I'm not. I gather from your interview that you've never seen me.

A: No, I haven't seen you perform live yet. I'm looking forward to seeing you when you play in January.
R: Well, when you do see me, you'll get the idea from when you see me that it's all off the top of my head. A lot of it is a beginning, middle and the end. But it's different every night. I have a lot of jokes in my back pocket I've said over the years.

A: In the documentary, someone says they used to round up people you could make fun of before your shows and put them in the front row.

R: That was years and years ago when I worked out of the lounge of the Sahara hotel, following the great Louis Prima. I used to do three shows a night in front of a lot of people who were out of it, you know. It was tough going. This guy, Johnny Joseph, who just passed away, he was the MaƮtre d' at the Sahara.
He used to say "Hey, I got a skinny guy, I got a fat lady that's not too pretty," and they'd put them right in the front. That no longer exists. That was in the old days when you didn't have anyone, and you needed some props.

A: The legend about you meeting Frank Sinatra is that he wandered into a bar while you were performing.

R: He wasn't wandering. He wasn't out in the desert with Moses. Well the story is his mother was friends with my mother — it's in my book. Did you read my book?

A: I skimmed through it.
R: Don't skim through it. For crying out loud. How old are you? You better go to your goddamn room, put the covers over your head and read the book.
Jeez, I'm embarrassed. You're interviewing me like a personal friend and you haven't even read the goddamned book.

A: Shit, man. Come on.

R: Yeah, shit man. You better start reading it when I hang up. When I meet you in person, I'm going to quiz you and if you fail, you're in deep trouble. The book will tell you a bunch of stuff, so that you won't have to go back to your notes while you're talkin' to me.

A: OK, OK. Well, let's get back to Frank Sinatra —

R: — Well, his mother and my mother arranged it so that he would come in and see my show. It was the first time I had ever laid eyes on the man. I said "Frank, make yourself at home and hit somebody." All the wise guys who were with him laughed, and Frank was on the floor laughing. We became great friends after that. We toured for the last two years of his life.

A: That's when you performed in front of the Reagans, right?

R: Oh, yeah. That was the highlight of my career. Here I am a Jewish kid from the neighborhood, doing my kind of humor. All of a sudden, Frank Sinatra said you're going to be on the show. Reagan's cabinet said that was fine, and I got up there and ripped into him big time.

A: And you also performed for the Queen of England around that time, right?

R: No, I performed in front of Princess Margaret. The Queen of England was bombed in the Palace and couldn't make it.

A: Really?

R: No, it's a joke, you dumbbell! Yeah, the Queen was drunk. Oh, boy Adam, I got to meet you in person. I've got to slap you around a little. You probably don't even know what time it is.

A: You're on the West Coast, right? All right, well, I'm anticipating that you're gonna yell at me for this next question, but why exactly do you call people hockey pucks?

R: Adam, I swear to God, I have no idea. It started out in the early days of my career when I was right out of the service. I worked what were called strip tease joints — a girl came out pretty much dressed compared to today's standards — and did a little dance number. We had all kinds of goofballs in these joints, and I said, "Hey pal, don't be a hockey puck." That's all I can remember. I got hockey pucks up to my you know what.

A: Do people send them to you?

R: No, they come over and play hockey at my house. You, you. You're really starting to get to me, Adam.

A: I'm sorry, Mr. Rickles.

R: I'm kidding, I'm kidding.
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