Bob Colacello on Las Vegas, Carter and Caviar

The great Bob Colacello began his career writing film reviews at the Village Voice, then moved to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, where he was made editor-in-chief after six months. Holy Terror, his memoir of working for Warhol, remains the best book written about the artist. In 1979 they interviewed Priscilla Presley and her boyfriend Michael Edwards (a model and actor who went on to write a squalid book about their relationship I will admit to having read as a child). As always, Colacello’s remarks were the funniest, most interesting part of the transcript:  

COLACELLO: I think Las Vegas is the most evil place in America.
PRESLEY: I gambled once and lost almost $2,000 on baccarat, which, unfortunately, is one of my favorite games. I just love the feeling of playing but I hate losing. I feel so stupid.
COLACELLO: Everyone in Las Vegas looks so poor. All the gamblers’ wives stand behind them, thinking about another mortgage on the house.

COLACELLO: It’s amazing how everyone is getting interested in politics these days.
PRESLEY: I think it’s because there are so many young, new politicians.
COLACELLO: I think it’s because the country’s falling apart.

PRESLEY: Can you believe the difference between Carter’s image when he first took office and now?
COLACELLO: He’s gotten thinner—among other things. Do you think he has a chance?
PRESLEY: One thing about the American people is that we have a tendency to forget things so quickly. We always seem to be rooting for the underdogs.
COLACELLO: I don’t think always.

COLACELLO: People are so fond of asking, “When was the first time you had sex?” Maybe what they should be asking is, “When did you have your first caviar?”

Photo by Becca923 from San Francisco, USA – Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh, PA, CC BY-SA 2.0.


Vance Packard Dissects Liberace’s Fans

Vance Packard’s 1957 monster bestseller The Hidden Persuaders introduced Americans to the Freudian implications behind lipstick and cigarette advertisements. He described how promoters used Oedipus symbolism to sell the pianist Liberace, preying upon the supposed desire of older women to mother someone adorable– a role enjoyed today by the cherubic-faced SoundCloud rapper Lil Pump, who melts aging hearts as he shouts, ‘And your baby momma laying next to me!” with childlike glee. 

Selling love objects. This might seem a weird kind of merchandising but the promoters of Liberace, the TV pianist, have manipulated–with apparent premeditation–the trappings of Oedipus symbolism in selling him to women past the child-bearing age (where much of his following is concentrated). The TV columnist John Crosby alluded to this when he described the reception Liberace was receiving in England, where, according to Mr. Crosby, he was ‘visible in all his redundant dimples’ on British commercial TV. Mr. Crosby quoted the New Statesman and Nation as follows: ‘Every American mom is longing to stroke the greasy, roguish curls. The wide, trustful childlike smile persists, even when the voice is in full song.’ TV viewers who have had an opportunity to sit in Mr. Liberace’s TV presence may recall that in his TV presentations a picture of his real-life mom is frequently flashed on screen, beaming in her rocking chair or divan while her son performs.”

The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, McKay, 1957.

Donald Rumsfeld’s Alexander Haig Memo, October 9, 1974

Donald Rumsfeld’s White House memos are his gift to the world. Freely available on his website, he also publishes them to nurse four-decade-old office grievances in his books. If you accidentally happened to steal Donald Rumsefeld’s parking spot at the Piggly Wiggly believe me, he remembers–he took note of your licence plate number and he’s waiting, like a smiling mamba coiled up in the corner, for the perfect moment to reveal your transgression.

The memos are often one long stream-of-consciousness Ginsbergian howl, like this beauty from 1974. The new President Gerald Ford had just pardoned Richard Nixon, and Nixon’s Chief of Staff Alexander Haig objected to Ford’s ex-press secretary Jerry terHorst (who had resigned because of the pardon) telling The New York Times:
“Nixon’s preoccupation with Watergate had magnified Haig’s authority in the White House and the executive branch of government. For most of the final Nixon year, as Haig himself would agree, he was the acting President of the United States.”
Haig himself didn’t agree. “This is going to get dirty,” he ranted to his successor, “And I’ll blow the place wide open if I have to and it’ll be a goddamn bloody mess and no more of these second-rate people around the President are going to challenge my integrity and devotion to my country.”

October 9, 1974
11: 00 a. m. to 12:00 Noon

I said I didn’t want to get in the subject with him but I did feel that he should know that I received a phone call on 10/4/74 from Haig on the pardon and that Haig had said that it was going to get dirty and I will blow the place wide open if I have to and it’ll be a goddamn bloody mess and no more of these second rate people around the President are going to challenge my integrity and devotion to my country and I’ve got Nixon, Garment, Buzzhardt, Ziegler and others with me and I’ve got verbatim records and I’ll do it… I stopped Haig and said, Look, I’ve taken enough and that he was very friendly to me. I said I didn’t want to get in to the subject and that I thought the President ought to be aware of it. A. Because Haig obviously called me so I would tell the President about it, B. Because I felt the President ought to be aware of Haig’s comment that he has ‘verbatim records.’ The President started to discuss it with me and I said, look, Mr. President, I don’t need to get into it– I simply wanted you to be aware of that message.”

When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency, Donald Rumsfeld, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.

François Hollande: The Goal

François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande served as the President of France from 2012 to 2017. Mocked as ‘the Penguin’ in a song by his predecessor’s wife Carla Bruni, in 2014 his ex-girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler exacted the ultimate revenge when she published Thank You for this Moment, a blistering account of their relationship and his affair with the actress Julie Gayet. “He’s not Cary Grant,” Trierweiler told the Telegraph during her book tour. Sparring no excruciating details, Trierweiler recalled her ex-boyfriend’s burning ambition to become le Président de la République. Reading Trierweiler’s book generates the same sense of secondhand embarrassment for the participants as watching the 1980s film St. Elmo’s Fire. A boogeda boogeda boogeda ha ha ha! 

“It was not a subject we had previously discussed. I knew it was his goal and that was how we would sometimes broach it, with that euphemism, ‘the goal.’ We never spelled it out, we had never spoken the words ‘presidential election.’ He veiled his ambition in modesty. We had only broken the taboo once, as he drove us past the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré in my car. ‘Look, we’re driving past home’ he said as we passed the Élysée Palace. It certainly came as a surprise, and I roared with laughter. He had always known how to make me laugh. No subject was too serious to joke about, including himself– he was a genius at self-deprecation.

That November morning was altogether different: there as not a hint of sarcasm in his eyes. He was serious and he asked me for the first time what I thought: ‘After what happened in 2002 and 2007, you cannot afford to get it wrong. If Ségolène Royal’s defeat has taught us anything it is that you have only one question to ask yourself. Either you think that you are the best and you for for it, or you don’t and you let somebody else stand.’ He did not hesitate for one second before answering: ‘I am the best.'”

Mrs. Stoll Hosts Literary Group

“OCEAN GROVE– The Literary Group of Ocean Grove Women’s Club met at the home of Mrs. Gertrude Stoll, last Tuesday. Mrs. Ruth Hartmann, chairman, conducted.

Mrs. Stoll proceeded with a book by Marjorie Holmes. She chose several selections of prose-like prayers. After the readings, members expressed their impressions. One of the discussions, as Christians, was the difference between ‘Worry and Concern.’ Refreshments were served.

The next meeting will be at the home of Miss Teresa Wood, 106 Embury Avenue. Miss Wood will give the book review.

Others present were Martha Blackly, Elsie Wasserman, Mabel Jacobs, Teresa Wood, Lillian Bell, and Ruth Young.”

Ocean  Grove and Neptune Times, Township of Neptune New Jersey,  page 5, Thursday, May 4, 1978.

Ernest Dichter on Command and Persuasion

A  refugee from Vienna who settled in Croton-on-Hudson, Ernest Dichter was one of the first people to study consumer behavior in the marketplace. He invented the focus group and purportedly told Mattel to give Barbie breasts. The Naval War College asked him to study the problem of command versus persuasion. He outlined the results in his 1960 book The Strategy of Desire

“Recently persuasion was practiced with drivers in New Jersey by painting yellow stripes on sections of the roads aimed at slowing drivers at toll-booth approaches. The yellow stripes, which can been seen easily at night and in foggy weather, are arranged to give the effect of closing in on a driver. They are intended to help alert motorists who are going too fast as they near a toll stop. The stripes, painted progressively closer at toll approaches, give the impression that a vehicle is accelerating if the driver fails to slow down. Command is always faster as a method of persuasion, it is more efficient; and what makes it really dangerous is that it often is much more comfortable. Many young democracies have faltered because people prefer to be told what to do rather than to make up their own minds. Persuasion, on the other hand, is slower, more burdensome, but at the same time also more permanent and healthier. Lowering of prices, special sales, etc. in the merchandising field correspond to command. Building of the personality of a company, the creation of brand loyalty, are closer to real persuasion and are much slower but at the same time also much more permanent.”

Ernest Dichter, The Strategy of Desire, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960.

The Wisdom of Mick Mars

File:Mick Mars 2005.jpgMötley Crüe’s 2002 oral history The Dirt deserves its notoriety. Gentle readers are forced to reconsider the uses of Christmas trees, cat litter boxes, and hotel room telephones. Lead guitarist Mick Mars’ chapters were all highlights. 

“I was born B.A.D.–Bob Alan Deal.’

“Everyone likes to look for aliens, but I think we are the aliens. We’re the descendants of the troublemakers on other planets, just like Australia was a prison to England… This is where they dropped us off. We’re the insane fucking people from somewhere else, just a bunch of trash.”

“I question a lot of things and form my own opinions. They’re just as valid as a rocket scientist’s or anyone else’s. Who says you have to believe something because you read it in a book or saw pictures. Who is it that gets to say, ‘That’s the way it is’?”

“To quote Andy Warhol, ‘Everybody has fifteen minutes of fame.’ To quote myself, ‘I wish they didn’t.'”

“Have you ever had anyone call the police or security or security or your landlord on you for playing your music too loud? How can such a beautiful thing be pissed on so much? If you’re at home playing a good album, and some nosy-ass neighbor claims he can’t hear his TV, why does your music have to suffer so he can watch his TV? I say, ‘Too bad for the neighbor.'”

“People who have had near-death experiences always say they enter a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel there is a light. I like to think that when you die, you go through the tunnel, and when you get to the other end, you are reborn. The tunnel is the birth canal, and the light at the end of the tunnel is the hospital maternity ward, where your new life awaits. you.”

“When you get older, you worry about death and your own mortality a lot more than when you’re younger. However, with cloning (which I’m sure has already been done with humans in secret), we’re just one step away from scientific resurrection for the chosen ones (that is, the rich).”

“Grown men who cry in the middle of a fucking crisis will die, because you can bet your ass that the enemy won’t be crying. They’ll be killing your weak ass while you cry!”

“Every person in the world has good qualities and shortcomings. And I guess we started making the mistake of focusing on the shortcomings of each person instead of looking at what their best asset was and what they contributed to the band.”

“And speaking of dinosaurs, what yuppie asshole decided that they should be depicted in all these bright, brilliant colors? Was it Martha Stewart? Clearly, we have reconstructed dinosaurs from bones, so there is no evidence that they were the colors of kids’ toys.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that overconfidence is the same thing as arrogance.”

Excerpted from Motley Crue: The Dirt, Harper Collins, 2001.

Photo: Alec MacKellaig