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Stage Oddity: David Bowie’s Secret Final Project



Novelist M I C H A E L C U N N I N G H A M collaborates with the pop genius


Backstory David Bowie’s last act


One Giant Leap Singer Janelle Monáe’s movie career takes off

GQ Intelligence



The Punch List



The Untold Story of the Bastille Day Attacker

Barack Obama’s Third Term

ISIS claims that the man who used a truck to kill 86 people in Nice was one of its soldiers. But was he? S C O T T S AYA R E investigates

With those maniacs in the White House, Barry’s retirement will have to wait BY JA S O N Z E N G E R L E


Why Do Men Pay for Sex? And Can They Be Stopped?


Shorter, Quicker, Better How to get more out of life when you’re off the clock


reports on an experiment to end prostitution


The Voice Ghostly soul singer James Blake is in danger of becoming a pop star


Escape to Mexico Stellar restaurants and secret beaches—it’s the greatest country in America!


THE COVERS Eric Ray Davidson


On Chance the Rapper Jacket, $525, by Moncler. T-shirt, $88, by Levi’s Vintage Clothing. Jeans, $195, by Rag & Bone Standard Issue. Chance 3 cap by New Era. Grooming by Barry White at barrywhite

42 Cover: Chance the Rapper Can he become the best hip-hop artist alive? BY M A R K A N T H O N Y G R E E N

On The Weeknd Jacket, $2,890, T-shirt, $750, and jeans, $690, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Necklace, bracelet, and rings by Chrome Hearts. Barber: Devon Brooklyn Charles. Grooming by Christine Nelli using Ole Henriksen. Contributing stylist (for The Weeknd): Michael Nash. Both covers: Set design by JC Molina at jones-mgmt. Produced by Bauie Productions.


Cover: The Weeknd We’re calling it. Abel Tesfaye is the King of Sex Pop B Y D E V I N F R I E D M A N 84

Directed by Almodóvar In honor of his new movie, Julieta, Pedro Almodóvar directs a spicy GQ fashion shoot in Madrid < Seven Grammy noms? Damn, Chance! Save some for the rest!

Where to buy it Where are the items from this page to page 93 available? Go to -directories to find out. All prices quoted are approximate and subject to change.




Jacket, $995, by Coach 1941. T-shirt, $88, by Levi’s Vintage Clothing. Pants, $690, by Gucci. Chance 3 cap by New Era.




> The latest news from the monthly, the daily, and the all-the-time-ly world of GQ.

1 Who are you? To my children, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the teller of bad jokes. To my wife, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the person who canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t put his shoes away. To some, I am the editorial director of GQ. 2 Who were you in 1997? Someone who read more novels. Also, maybe kind of a hater? 3 If you were a pop sensation, what would your name be? The Weekdy? The Clevelandr?

Devin Friedman

4 And your album is calledâ&#x20AC;Ś Are You Mad at Me? 5 Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one item in this issue that you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pull off? I look amazing in everything, especially whatever Pedro AlmodĂłvar is wearing.

> This month we sicced longtime GQ editor Devin Friedman on former Bella Hadid dater and current pop golden boy The Weeknd. We interrupted Friedman (as he posed before a mirror whispering â&#x20AC;&#x153;Starboyâ&#x20AC;? to himself) to ask him a few questions.

Ryan Reynoldsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Twin: Does He Exist? > No, Ryan Reynolds does not have a bitter, less handsome twin named Gordon. Yes, some people were actually confused/filled with hope by a video on in which Reynolds is trolled by his â&#x20AC;&#x153;twin.â&#x20AC;? Bless you, you sweet, gullible lambs of Twitter. Tamzin';HTaPU5V]



Living Legends Converge on L.A.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chateau Marmont

â&#x20AC;˘ Clockwise from top left: GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson and Ryan Reynolds; Bill Nye; Wiz Khalifa; Sarah Silverman; Jim Nelson and Warren Beatty; Usain Bolt; James Marsden, Rami Malek, Christian Slater, and Riz Ahmed

Men of the Year 2016 > On a Thursday night in December, our 2016 Men of the Year mingled with our favorite VIPs, from Usain Bolt to Warren Beatty to Bill Nye, who held court in his signature bow tie and explained the difference between molality and molarity to all who asked. Guests double-fisted caviar blini, and Wiz Khalifa told the L.A. Times it was one of his favorite partiesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;high praise. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like Westworld in here,â&#x20AC;? GQ staff writer Zach Baron observed to The Wrap. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The deeper you go, the wilder it gets.â&#x20AC;?



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HOTTEST MENâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s TITLE 2014 2015 2016



gq prefers that letters to the editor be sent to letters may be edited.





â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hear! Hear!â&#x20AC;? to Another Great Year > Citing our videos (GQâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s YouTube channel has surpassed 1 million subscribers), our growing social-media presence (100,000 new Instagram followers every month), and the launch of our new style-centric print spin-off, GQ Style, Adweek editors named GQ the Hottest Menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Magazine for the third consecutive year.

P H OTO G R A P H S : K R I S TA S C H L U E T E R ( 7 ) . I L L U S T R AT I O N : A L E X A N D R A C O M PA I N -T I S S I E R .

6 Describe your office style in a few words. Attacked by J.Crew truck.

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H A I R : N I G E L L A M I L L E R . G R O O M I N G : L I S A - R A Q U E L U S I N G C H A N E L . S N E A K E R S : P U M A . R I N G S : M R . F L AW L E S S . WATC H : R O L E X . J E W E L R Y : H I S O W N .

While you’re waiting for Joey to return on season three of Mr. Robot, grab his new album, AABA.

GQ Endorses

Dress Like a Badass (and a McCartney) • The best way to survive a gloomy time of year is not to huddle inside until you can wear shorts again— it’s to liven up what you’re wearing right now. Go bolder, louder. Do whatever it takes to make 2017 the bravest year your closet has ever seen. To start, you’ll want to get your hands on the vibrant, intensely graphic first menswear collection by Stella McCartney. The pieces have a 1990s bent, echoing English-lad sportswear and dancehall culture— and McCartney’s unimpeachable musical cred infuses the looks with a streetwise cool factor you simply can’t fake. Just ask wild-child rapperactor Joey Bada$$, shown here in the next-level clothes we’ll all be fighting over come spring.—J I M M O O R E

Stella McCartney jacket $1,990 | T-shirt $315 | pants $825 socks $99 | at Stella McCartney, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and N.Y.C.

Boldest Winter On Record 2017









The Suited Man

Boldest Winter On Record 2017

Punk Up Your Suit!

The Breast-Pocket Bomb Now that every guy with a Ludlow knows gotta try a little harder to make an impression. Lately we’re reaching for brash black patterns that look like a Bond villain’s wallpaper. Clockwise from top left: Dolce & Gabbana $155 Tom Ford $180 | NRS $30 | Tom Ford $180

The Louder-ThanThunder Raincoat Pop quiz: When it’s 38 degrees and sleeting, do you (a) pull a hoodie over your head and make a run for it, (b) wear the same kind of trench Grandpa commuted in, or (c) put on a yellow-and-black plaid raincoat that goes perfectly with absolutely nothing and everything at the same time? (For the answer, see this photo.)

Shoes That Lift Your Look The easiest way to add an edge to a charcoal suit is through a pair of thick-soled, blackas-death creepers, dress shoes that say “I listen to Titus Andronicus when I get off work.” Even if the brand name is a fancy designer, the attitude is very Doc Martens. The soles will help you stand out—and up.

MP Massimo Piombo $970 Where to buy it? Go to /fashion-directories

From top: Trash and Vaudeville $155 Ovadia & Sons $495









G R O O M I N G : L I S A - R A Q U E L U S I N G R + C O . S T I L L L I F E S : J O N AT H O N K A M B O U R I S ( 3 ) . P R O P S T Y L I S T : J I L L E D WA R D S AT H A L L E Y R E S O U R C E S . S U I T : J . L I N D E B E R G . S H I R T : B U R B E R R Y. T I E : B Y R O B E R T J A M E S . L O A F E R S : S E B A G O . G L A S S E S : O L I V E R P E O P L E S . W A T C H : G U C C I .

Phase two of your boldest winter ever? Co-worker jealousy. Here are three ways to subvert the dress code

The Style Guy

Boldest Winter On Record 2017

This month, style editor Mark Anthony Green tells you how to take a fashion risk without taking a fashion penalty I have to wear scrubs to work. Every. Single. Day. How can I stand out from the medical masses without looking like Dr. 90210?

I Googled “Dr. 90210,” and now I can’t escape the image of that dude flexing with a stethoscope. But one thing he has going for him is confidence. And the more confident you look when saying, “That boil is harmless and not a third arm growing out of your rib cage,” the more relaxed your patient will be. Still, a simple Rolex Datejust wouldn’t hurt.

I’m 35 now, but I still look and dress like the punk skater kid I used to be: tattoos, jeans or shorts, skate shirt, Vans. I’m starting to feel too old for Bad Religion tees, but when I throw on an oxford and Red Wings, it’s like I’m playing a part. Help! Tattoos are the saving grace here. Those crosses and dragons and outlines of the Monopoly man, or whatever you have tatted on your person, will forever solidify your rebel status. So even if you wanted to wear a suit and wingtips, you wouldn’t look traditional. If you don’t want a tailored look at all, just know that you’re too old to wear a $15 T-shirt on a date. Thanks to the influence of Saint Laurent, every designer on earth is making rock-inspired items now. Or go basic with a solid Fred Perry polo and let the tats do the talking.





Style Guy’s First Edict of Uniforms is: Thy uniform isn’t pickethed; thou is pickethed by thy uniform. (Cue the gong and smoke.) One day, after wearing the same thing a few hundred times, you’ll know. Because it’ll just feel right— and because I’ll appear in your dreams, levitating in front of a temple. Be well, my son.

The Mount Rushmore of Risktakers If you’re looking to break out of a rut and a d make k some bold moves, these are your new style heroes s

Hey, Ni Jared Wan ce coa t. . na t r ade?



Hey, Style Guy, ever try a look and fail?



I’ll set the stage: I had binged on Prince videos and was feeling purple and powerful and decided to dress like it. On the way to a swanky party, my friends and I stopped by Target. Walking down the loofah aisle, I started to notice the stares of children and moms—and that a motorcycle jacket with no shirt underneath was the wrong move. I threw a white tee into my friend’s cart and went to wait in the car.

The Style Guy is in! Send questions to or @GQStyleGuy.





P H OTO G R A P H S , F R O M L E F T: LU I S / X 1 7 ; PA R A S G R I F F I N /G E T T Y I M AG E S ; PA / X 1 7 ; P E R E Z / X 1 7

I’ve noticed that fashion legends tend to settle on a uniform. How do I choose one?


Boldest Winter On Record 2017

Give Your Face to Science

As skin-care treatments grow more and more extreme—and increasingly targeted to men—Garrett Munce gets poked, prodded, peeled, plucked, pricked, and pummeled in the name of smoother cheeks and leaner jowls

• my adventures on the fringes of grooming began when I was just shy of 30 and a facialist asked if I’d ever considered Botox. “For preventative purposes,” he said, trying not to crush my already fragile self-esteem. I shrugged it off at the time, but the more I thought about it, the easier the choice seemed. Either I could take perfect care of my skin by never smoking, squinting, frowning, eating junk food, or going outside, or I could get a little bitty shot in the forehead. Look, I realize most guys aren’t quite so willing to suffer for their skin. Some don’t even moisturize, which to me comes as naturally as breathing (or smoking, or frowning). But at least

400,000 men a year try Botox, and plenty of us don’t stop there. New York cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank says men now make up 35 percent of his massive client base. In the name of age-reversing Benjamin Button–style results, otherwisereasonable guys are lining up for hard-core treatments using equipment apparently salvaged from a hardware store. In the past year, I’ve pretty much tried them all. Some don’t work. But a lot of them do—and they’re no more invasive than other cosmetic procedures you probably accept without hesitation. Would you have an unsightly mole removed? Would you whiten or straighten your teeth? Of course you would. Face

stuff is really no different. And there’s a procedure out there for everybody. One of my personal favorites, microneedling ($695), uses a motorized mallet affixed with 16 tiny needles—a medieval mace of vanity. A specialist rubs the business end all over your face and then kneads a vitamin-enriched, collagenreplenishing goo deep into your skin via the tiny holes she’s poked in your epidermis. I left my first session feeling like a tenderized steak, with redness and mild irritation that lasted about 24 hours. But soon my face looked tight and bright, lit from within, as if my skin were stretched over a lightbulb. It got even freakier when I tried cryogenics ($55), which meant someone blasted my head for six minutes with a Shop-Vac full of freezing air. Uh, how refreshing? It did virtually nothing for my skin, though I will say that a separate total-body cryo treatment (in which I entered what was essentially an iron lung and endured three minutes at negative 220 degrees Fahrenheit) at least made me feel euphoric all day long. I got better (and warmer) results from a probiotic peel ($200), which involved a gentle cleansing and an application of vitamins and acids. Instead of sloughing off layers of skin like a python, it used bacteria to “purge” my skin from the inside, removing buildup and making my face look clearer and healthier. I also liked electric micro-current ($250). After exfoliating my face, my technician fired up an electrified wand and rubbed it all over the left side of my grill to contract my face muscles, then held up a mirror to show me the progress. While the right half of my face looked blotchy, sullen, and tired, the left half appeared tight, firm, and alert, with seemingly higher cheekbones, no under-eye bags, and not even a hint of a jowl. I was a walking, talking before-and-after. Still, even after all these treatments, the one I know I’ll continue is preventative Botox ($300), which (doctors agree!) really can fend off wrinkles before they appear. I’ve come to think of Botox as the weed of non-invasive aesthetics: It’s relatively low-risk, and if more people than you think have done it, that’s because it does the job so well. For plenty of people, it’s enough. I just happen to prefer the harder stuff. garrett munce is a gq fashion editor. He thanks Mashell Tabe, Dan Ahoubim, Melissa Doft, Kryolife, and Joanna Vargas for the many things they did to his face.











Wait. Is Honolulu getting cool? Can we go there and not go to a luau? Can we finally stay at a non-mega resort? And what’s all this about a new Hawaiian food scene? Give us that, please Touch down in Honolulu and mentally you’re already laid out on a white beach, dousing your workaday brain in a tsunami of booze straight out of a coconut. This is a good instinct, and you need to honor it. But Resort Honolulu is old news. A smaller-scale movement is finally turning up. Hotels are boutiquey-er, and the food tastes better, and the drinks way outclass the sugar bombs at Duke’s that, let’s face it, you’re definitely gonna have… Later. Your first stop: Chinatown. (How do you get there? Back away from Waikiki and head west.) It’s all dusty brick buildings that used to be brothels but are now world-class cocktail bars and locavore restaurants. Skip the


1 Recover poolside at The Modern Honolulu. 2 Bar Leather Apron’s smoked mai tai. 3 Hound & Quail, the anti–gift shop. 4 Poke with beets at Mud Hen Water. 5 Even downtown, the beach is steps away. 6 Just embrace the schizophrenic weather.


round of golf you had planned and head to that nondescript office building over there—no, the other one—and into Bar Leather Apron. If proprietor Justin Park is mixing drinks, ask him where he’d have dinner that night, as he smoke-infuses the tastiest of the too many mai tais you’ll have on your trip. He’ll tell you to head to Kaimuki, where three of the best restaurants in town share a street corner: Mud Hen Water, Town, and Kaimuki Superette. Sure, Waikiki is the epicenter of the resort merry-goround, but you’re still going to stay there.

Call up The Modern Honolulu and get yourself a corner ocean-view suite. If it’s full, shack up at The Surfjack Hotel, a new, affordable (and aggressively Instagrammable) anti-resort.

Souvenir shop? Sure, you could hit the beachside joints for a watercolor of a sea turtle. And you should! Maybe! But first, pick through the mysterious selection of vintage medical equipment, nautical gadgetry, and retro suitcases at Hound & Quail. It’s Hawaiiana you’ll actually want inside your home when you get back. For dinner, it’s Senia, the just-opened local-food-meetsfine-dining take from a couple of Per Se vets. And for drinks: La Mariana Sailing Club, the last original tiki bar in Honolulu. Will you be singing along to old Hawaiian songs? Yeah. Is it kind of cheesy? Yes, it is. But it has as many locals as tourists, and it will help ease you into the other Honolulu, which you should definitely get to…at some point. —BENJY HANSEN-BUNDY







1 ) C O U R T E S Y O F T H E M O D E R N H O N O L U L U . 2 ) S T E V E C Z E R N I A K . 3 ) R A E H U O . 4 ) O L I V I E R K O N I N G . 5 ) R O S A I R E N E B E T A N C O U R T 3 /A L A M Y. 6 ) M . M . S W E E T / G E T T Y I M A G E S .


Honolulu Is Having a Non-Touristy Moment (Tourists Welcome)

Boldest Winter On Record 2017




The Continuing Adventures of the Continuing Adventure: A Sequel Primer

...about her new FX show, Legion, the story of X-Men institutionalized in a psychiatric ward. (Premieres February 8.) What did you watch the last time you were home sick? Planet Earth II Please describe your recurring nightmare.

What would you give Jennifer Lopez for Valentine’s Day?

What is the worst crime you’ve ever committed?

JAN. 28

Where we left our heroes Forming a beautiful, fragile web of relationships among friends, adversaries, and lovers. What to expect from the sequel Same.

T2 Trainspotting

John Wick: Chapter 2

Fifty Shades Darker

MAR. 3

FEB. 10

FEB. 10

Where we left our heroes Attempting, with differing degrees of success, to stop using heroin. What to expect from the sequel Same, but with less heroin.

Where we left our hero Coming out of retirement to seek revenge on the thugs who killed his dog. What to expect from the sequel Same, but with less dog stuff.

Where we left our heroes Delaying gratification in “the Red Room,” biting lower lips. What to expect from the sequel Same, but, like, darker.

What is the most recent text message you sent to your mother?

Movies That Won’t Win Oscars This Month PLAZA : A SELF-PORTRAIT

Fun with Scourges!

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them FEB. 7 In addition to being academically enlightening, Jennifer Wright’s book on disease features insight like “I realize that ‘Do no harm’ is the first rule of medicine, but ‘Don’t apply human shit to an open wound’ seems like a good second one.”



Aubrey Plaza Is Nuts...

The Academy Awards suck attention from new releases, making the weeks before the ceremony a dumping ground for likely film flops. But once in a while (usually on long flights), an aborted Oscar contender is worth your time. Gold JAN. 27 Fat, snarl-toothed Matthew McConaughey is a scheming prospector. See only if: You think McConaughey’s Wolf of Wall Street character would continue to be funny for two hours.

Patient Zero FEB. 17 In this film, a virus turns the infected into “intelligent, adrenaline-fueled” people. Rather than marketing the disease as a study aid or party drug, a doctor played by Natalie Dormer seeks a cure. Sundance Film Festival JAN. 19–29 Oscar season 2018 officially begins before the 2017 Oscar broadcast (February 26) airs. And Speaking of...

Tulip Fever FEB. 24 Christoph Waltz commissions a portrait of Alicia Vikander during the 17th-century Dutch tulip boom. See only if: You wish Shakespeare in Love had more talk of flower prices. A United Kingdom FEB. 17 David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike fight apartheid with their love in 1940s Africa. See only if: You like good movies. This one seems to have been pushed aside because of the rise of Loving, featuring made-in-the-U.S.A. racism: a couple who fight anti-miscegenation laws with their love in 1950s Virginia.



For 75 years, Archie Comics has told wholesome stories about the wants of teens: Varsity letters. Burgers. Cat-themed girl groups. Riverdale (January 26 on the CW) swaps soda-counter fodder for a moody crime story about hot young people seeking the sorts of things hot young (fictional) people want: mostly sex and sometimes murder.

Veronica’s dad is a white-collar criminal. Archie can’t choose between Veronica and Betty because he’s sleeping with his teacher. Riverdale is Twin Peaks by way of Gossip Girl. But it’s still what Archie Comics has always been. It’s an ode to the desires of Riverdale high schoolers: sex and burgers. And sometimes murder.—J O S H U A R I V E R A




> Barack Obama’s

Third Term He was supposed to retire to a triumphant post-presidency. Then Trump happened. Now, as J A S O N Z E N G E R L E reports, Obama is gearing up for a political battle he never planned to wage—and has no intention of losing

Donald Trump’s election, morning dawned with a drizzle in Washington, D.C. And at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a few dozen White House sta≠ers crowded into the West Wing o∞ce of Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary. They were a bleary-eyed bunch— from both lack of sleep and an excess of trauma—struggling still to grasp the historic surprise of Trump’s win only hours earlier. Earnest tried his best to raise their spirits, reminding the aides that they all still had jobs to do, that they needed to “run through the tape.” He was in the middle of his pep talk when word came that the group was wanted down the hall. Barack Obama had summoned them to his o∞ce. T H E D AY A F T E R

The team trudged through the White House corridor, including in their ranks a number of junior members who’d never been to the Oval O∞ce before, much less met Obama. They filed in, lined the perimeter wall, and turned their eyes toward the president, who stood in front of the Resolute desk along with Vice President Joe Biden. Obama had been up late the night before, too, watching the election results. Around three o’clock 26




in the morning, he’d placed phone calls to both Hillary Clinton and Trump. But Obama evinced neither fatigue nor despair. Instead, he projected an energized sense of calm. “This is not the apocalypse,” Obama told the sta≠ers. He reminded them that despite the election results, the majority of Americans supported the work they’d done. And he pointed out that the country had previously weathered periods during which there had been leaders and presidents of whom people had been fearful. America had survived, he said, because it’s a strong country. History, he went on, “zigs and zags.” Obama walked around the o∞ce, shaking his sta≠ers’ hands and thanking them for their e≠orts. To those who were crying, he o≠ered hugs. It was a familiar role for Obama. During his time in the White House, he often seemed less commander in chief than consoler in chief. From Tucson to Newtown to Charleston, he had ministered to those living in the aftermath of mass shootings; to those who had lost their homes to hurricanes or wildfires or other natural disasters, he had o≠ered words of solace and a shoulder to cry on. As Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s old friend and mentor from Chicago, who spent all eight years with him in the White House as his senior adviser, recently put it to me: “There’s no one you want with you when you have something traumatic happen more than President Obama.” And he’s never played that role more than in the aftermath of the election. In phone calls and in one-on-one meetings, Obama has had to reassure not just his sta≠ but American and foreign leaders, too, that the end is not nigh. “I think he truly believes that,” Dan Pfei≠er, a former White House senior adviser, told me. “People that know him know that he’s an optimist at heart.” But all of Obama’s hopefulness, all of his faith in the strength of America, cannot hide one undeniable fact: For the first time in eight years, as Obama seeks to comfort Americans going through a traumatic event, he knows in the back of his mind that his life has also irrevocably changed. This time, it’s not a town in Oklahoma flattened by a tornado; it’s him.

Working from home: Obama was ready for a break, maybe to kick back at his fancy new house. But with Trump in office, advisers say Obama will have â&#x20AC;&#x153;the biggest and most influential megaphone in the world.â&#x20AC;? EDDIE GUY

B E F O R E D O N A L D T R U M P, Barack Obama

had big plans for his post-presidency. At just 55, he’d be among the youngest former presidents in American history— joining the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and Bill Clinton—and he was eager to fill his days. He would write a memoir of his White House years, a book that’s expected to fetch as much as $20 million and that Obama, according to one intimate, hopes will match Grant’s for literary eloquence. He’d work on his foundation, which would perhaps do even more good than the outfit that the Clintons run (while likely avoiding anything resembling controversy). “If the Clinton Foundation was about bringing a lot of prominent and wealthy people together and raising money from them to throw at poverty and disease around the world,” says Jon Favreau, the former Obama speechwriter who’s now advising his old boss’s foundation, “I think the Obama Foundation will be a lot more about grassroots, bottom-up change, more in line with community organizing.” 28




More than anything, Obama—and especially his wife, Michelle—was ready for a break. And while he didn’t plan to take quite as long of one as Roosevelt, who shortly after leaving the White House went on a yearlong African safari, he planned a lengthy vacation. “He is looking forward to January 21, when he and his wife can hang out and relax and they can just stay up and talk as late as they want,” says Jarrett, “and he doesn’t have to worry about what’s waiting for him in a big briefing book the next morning.” Obama, to be sure, will still do all these things, but now they will be done in the shadow of Trump; his angle of repose has suddenly become much sharper. “You can lock in progress for generations if you win three in a row,” says Pfei≠er of the niceties of handing the White House keys to a successor who served in your administration, as Hillary Clinton had in Obama’s. “Some of the battles that would have been settled with a Clinton win will now continue for the next 4 to 20 years.” Another Obama adviser


says: “There was one sort of framework for what his post-presidency would look like, which was contingent on Clinton winning. Then Trump happened and that threw it all in the trash bin. Now it’s Plan B.” In the weeks since the election, this Plan B has been taking shape, as Obama has consulted with a range of people, from current and former advisers to historians, about how he should conduct himself in his post-presidency, doing much of his thinking during long days on the golf course throughout his Hawaiian vacation in December. While it’s clear that Obama will have to remain more immersed in politics than he’d planned, it remains a mystery what that role will now look like. Certainly he’ll be asked to help rebuild the Democratic Party. Already, Obama has been drawn into the jockeying among candidates vying to lead the Democratic National Committee—a process he expected to sit out. “Nobody wants to know what the Clintons think— they’re totally checked out,” one Obama aide complained to me in December. “It’s falling on us just by default.” And in the months ahead, he’ll take a greater role in assisting an initiative— helmed by his former attorney general, Eric Holder—to help the Democrats win back state legislatures and governors’ mansions in preparation for redistricting after the 2020 census. He’s mused about being “a talent scout” and “a coach” for the party’s rising stars. But the bigger and more immediate conundrum posed by Trump’s inauguration concerns Trump himself—and the degree to which Obama will break with the tradition of deference and support that outgoing presidents typically o≠er their successors. Obama, who was grateful to George W. Bush for retreating from the public arena and not commenting positively or negatively on his actions, recognizes that with Trump as his successor, he will likely not have the luxury of standing on custom. “Barack Obama today is the most popular politician in America, on either side of the aisle,” explains one Obama White House sta≠er. “He has standing. He has vehicles to communicate. And the guy coming in after him doesn’t just threaten his legacy; he threatens the country’s values and institutions. It’d be a violation for Obama not to violate those norms.” Indeed, Obama may become that rare political figure with even more sway in the culture than the guy who’s replacing him. “Barack Obama will hold the biggest and most influential megaphone in the world, even when Donald Trump is president, because his popularity at home and abroad will be much greater than Trump’s,” Pfei≠er told me. “That’s a resource to be husbanded.”

O P E N I N G PAG E S , O B A M A H E A D : M A R K W I L S O N /G E T T Y I M AG E S . O B A M A B O DY: N I C H O L A S K A M M /G E T T Y I M AG E S . R E P O R T E R S : J E W E L S A M A D / G E T T Y I M A G E S . T H I S P A G E , O B A M A : T Y W R I G H T / G E T T Y I M A G E S . P H O T O I L L U S T R A T I O N S T H R O U G H O U T F O R E D I T O R I A L P U R P O S E S O N LY.




But how, exactly, does he confront Trump? Obama’s answer to that question, some close to him believe, will be one of the most important decisions of his political career. Nothing less than his legacy may ride on it.“The last time he faced this momentous a choice,” Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director, recently told me, “was when he was deciding whether or not to run for president.”


T H E D A Y A F T E R Obama sought to buck

up his shell-shocked sta≠ in the Oval O∞ce, Trump paid his own visit to the White House. The president-elect’s entourage was small—just his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his press secretary, Hope Hicks; and a few other sta≠ers—and his demeanor was uncharacteristically humble. Eight years earlier, Obama had been deeply touched by Bush’s e≠orts to help him during the presidential transition, and he’d vowed to do the same for his successor. Still, Obama hadn’t expected the cocksure real estate tycoon to be as eager for his advice as he had been. After that initial chat with Trump—the very first time the two men had met—Obama told some aides that he was surprised by Trump’s manner. And when the two continued their dialogue in subsequent weeks, over multiple phone calls, the idea took hold among some in the White House that perhaps the best way for Obama to stay politically engaged in his post-presidency was by exercising as much influence as he could on his successor. During his time in the White House, of course, Obama was famously averse to buttering up his political adversaries. “Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?” he once joked in response to complaints that he didn’t spend enough time schmoozing. But some close to him

now wonder if he might put aside that aversion to work on Trump. For Obama, cozying up to Trump would require letting go of some old grievances. Trump, after all, repeatedly trashed Obama during his 2016 run; before that, he waged a years-long racist campaign that questioned whether Obama had actually been born in the United States. But Obama isn’t one to hold a grudge. “Even in the darkest hour of the 2008 primary, when I’ve never hated anyone more in my life than I did the Clinton campaign sta≠, he never got to that place,” recalls former Obama aide Tommy Vietor. “He was better able to disassociate campaign rhetoric from reality.” And so, some in the Obama White House are crossing their fingers that the outgoing president will keep himself in the ear of his notoriously impressionable successor. “People have this hope, slim as it is, that maybe the president can bring Trump over,” a White House aide says. They envision the two men continuing to talk after January 20—over the phone, on the golf course, perhaps even at the White House itself. Obama, after all, will be living in Washington for the next two years—just up Connecticut Avenue, in a rental mansion in the Kalorama neighborhood—while he waits for his younger daughter, Sasha, to finish high school. As a member of that tiny fraternity of living presidents, Obama possesses a unique set of insights that Trump may find invaluable. And unlike more conventional politicians who assume the presidency, Trump won’t enter o∞ce with a host of settled opinions—or even a coherent ideology. “Obama feels he can be e≠ective saying, ‘I was inexperienced when I took the job, here’s what I learned, here’s what it’s like being

president,’ ” one Obama adviser says. “He hopes that by trying to teach Trump how to be president, some of it rubs o≠.” Some aides are even hopeful that certain key Obama accomplishments— including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate treaty, even Obamacare—might be safeguarded under a Trump administration if Obama successfully lobbies the new president. This, however, is a minority view among Obama’s friends and advisers. They sco≠ at happy talk of a “bromance” between the 44th and 45th presidents and suggest that rather than trying to reason with Trump, their best strategy may be to hope that the new president is inattentive. When I asked a senior White House o∞cial to name for me the top Obama policies the administration hopes Trump will preserve, the aide demurred. “I don’t want to answer that question,” the o∞cial explained. “Maybe there are some things that’ll just slip along unnoticed.” A M O R E L I K E L Y course of events, say

those in Obama’s orbit currently girding for four years of political war, is just that—an acrimonious battle. Which means the biggest question confronting Obama is just when—and how—to attack. Does Obama follow the well-worn post-presidential path of the occasional New York Times op-ed and 60 Minutes sit-down mixed in with some high-dollar speeches to investment bankers and college students? Or does he think outside the box? Although Trump will now control the @POTUS Twitter account, does Obama harness the power of @BarackObama (or better yet, @RealBarackObama) to provide a counterweight? A master campaigner when he was running himself or stumping for FEBRUARY





others, Obama could easily continue to give political speeches to stadium-size crowds. Either option would represent a virtually unprecedented post-presidential role—but then, Obama’s successor is without precedent himself. And as the historian Josh Zeitz notes, “Obama’s the only other person in American politics besides Trump who knows how to use social media and mass political gatherings to advance an agenda.” Or, in the months ahead, will Obama go even further afield, using his celebrity to challenge Trump’s agenda in more novel ways? In the days when it seemed likely that Clinton would be taking his place, Obama’s confidants wondered whether he’d buy a chunk of an NBA team or pop up to o≠er basketball commentary on an ESPN studio show. Now some speculate that Obama might go into the media business. In December, Jake Horowitz, a co-founder of the news website Mic, reported that Obama was considering starting his own digital-media company. The White House denied the report, but the media—its opportunities and its challenges—is a serious preoccupation for a soon-to-be ex-president with a newly urgent message to shape. “It’s very much on his mind,” says Favreau. “He’s a storyteller. Part of what got him into politics was weaving a story together in a way that other Democrats hadn’t done. I think that whatever he does next, figuring out how to weave together a story and a message will be a big part of it.” While recognizing the extraordinary circumstances of his early post-presidency, and the need to dispense with some of the usual customs, some in Obama’s orbit worry that he will squander his unique political capital if he’s too aggressive in his criticism of Trump. “Part of what enables former presidents to be so impactful is that they are senior statesmen and not seen through a partisan lens,” Jarrett says. “If you want to be a positive force for good, you can’t get into squabbles on every single issue that involves your successor. You do have to rise above.” There’s also concern that, even if Obama wanted to go toe-to-toe with Trump, he’d have a structural disadvantage. “People are used to seeing him as president, where he can go to the Rose Garden or the briefing room and have the attention of the world,” says one Obama adviser. “It’s very di≠erent as a former president. It’s a di≠erent pulpit.” The key for Obama will be picking his battles with Trump. “If he was out there all the time narrating Trump’s presidency,” says Pfei≠er, “he’d be squandering his greatest resource. Other Democrats are going to have to emerge to do that. It would not make sense for him or the party to become the voice of the opposition to Trump.” Instead, say those around him, Obama will look for the right moment to re-enter the 30




political fray, so as to achieve maximum impact. It could be when a key initiative like the A≠ordable Care Act is repealed or, say, after Trump tramples a particularly noteworthy international norm. “There’s a part of him that looks to not just what could be dismantled but what American values could be brought into question next year,” says one Obama adviser who has a hard time imagining him staying quiet when he perceives real harm being done. “If a bunch of ‘Dreamers’ are deported,” the adviser continues, referring to the children of undocumented immigrants who were raised in the U.S., “I don’t know that he’ll be able to sit on the sidelines in his heart.” And yet Obama knows that, no matter how popular he is or how great his stature, simply by dint of the 22nd Amendment, his voice can be only so powerful. “People are looking for someone who can make things right somehow,” David Axelrod, who served as the chief strategist for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, says. “But as high a regard as I have for him, others are going to have to step up who haven’t run the race.” In other words, as singularly helpful as Barack Obama can be in opposing Trump, he can’t be liberalism’s lone savior. Tommy Vietor invokes the basketball coach Rick Pitino, who had a disastrous run with the Celtics in the late 1990s and who once reminded disgruntled Boston fans that pining for a retired superstar is no way to rekindle the glory days. “Larry Bird’s not walking through that door,” Pitino famously told Bostonians. “I feel like we’re going to be channeling Rick Pitino,” Vietor jokes, “and saying, ‘Barack Obama isn’t walking through that door.’ ” I N T H E W E E K S after Trump’s win, as new

realities grew clearer for the denizens of Obama World, there nonetheless prevailed a grudging sense that this wasn’t how the script was meant to play out. This wasn’t how the Obama years were supposed to end. A month after the election, the White House hosted its annual holiday party for the press. As I mingled with other journalists and Obama sta≠ers in the East Wing, we discussed the incoming president’s latest tweets and cabinet appointments. The allout shock and despair that had pervaded the White House in the initial days after the election had faded—glum faces and tears replaced by Christmas trees and 15-foot-tall nutcrackers—but no one felt that festive. The final holiday party for any outgoing administration is always a bittersweet a≠air, but this one was especially so. The Obama sta≠ers had originally envisioned it


as a rousing send-o≠ for themselves as they prepared to make way for their handpicked successors. Now they acted as if they were getting ready to turn over the building to the bank that had foreclosed on them. One popular topic of conversation that night was whether Trump would even host such a party for the press next year—or, if he did, whether he’d move it to his new hotel just down Pennsylvania Avenue, so he could at least profit from it. But underneath the gloom was a surprising amount of resolve. Before Trump’s shocking win, many Obama sta≠ers figured their boss’s exit from the White House would also occasion their own retreat from politics. They’d slide into lucrative private-sector gigs—some in D.C., playing the usual influence game; others in Hollywood or Silicon Valley, if they yearned for something a little cooler and less obviously compromising. “We all had visions of our lives where we did our eight years with

A more likely course of events, say those in Obama’s orbit, is an acrimonious battle with Trump. Which means the biggest question confronting Obama is when—and how—to attack. Obama and that would be the greatest thing we ever do in politics and there’d be no equivalent, so you didn’t want to spend the rest of your life looking for it,” says Pfei≠er. In the White House that night, the sta≠ers who’d soon be out of their jobs talked about their next steps—perhaps hooking on with the 2018 campaign of a promising Democratic gubernatorial candidate out there in flyover country or maybe joining one of the new anti-Trump nonprofits or super-PACs that liberal billionaires were getting ready to stand up. I remembered my conversation with Axelrod, who had talked with me about oldtime Obama loyalists who were searching for ways to get back in the mix. “I hope a lot of people who thought they were done won’t be done,” he had told me. Pfei≠er sounded the same note when we chatted, predicting that the Obama sta≠ers were resolute about what lies ahead. “No one will view it as su∞cient to sit on the sidelines,” he had said. Amid the gingerbread cookies and eggnog, they were once again strapping on their political armor. Like their boss, they were steeling themselves for a battle that was somehow just getting started. jason zengerle is gq’s political correspondent.



> Shorter, Quicker, Better

Noywup h u r r start andoying enj __t ! this s We hear every day that we’re busier than ever, that our attention spans are too strained, and that there’s not enough time to fully process anything. (Just check out our new president’s tweets.) But shorter and quicker can mean better, too. So for February, the shortest of all months, a guide to squeezing the most out of our precious leisure time. We could go on and on, but you get the idea





V I N C E N T F O U R N I E R / G A L L E R Y S TO C K . WATC H : TO P I C I M A G E S / G E T T Y I M A G E S .

GQ’s Guide to Getting More Out of Life When You’re Off the Clock



The Shortest Way to Your Buzz • Savoring a cocktail is like garnishing it. It’s a great idea, when there’s time. When there’s not, the show must go on. And when the show must go on? Shots. Which raises an interesting predicament: What’s the best singlesip drink a guy can construct when there’s no time to shake or stir or batch? The requirements? You have

th a


do esn’ t s

Three (legal) shortcuts for people who travel too much

 Go In for Global Entry

• 1 oz. Cointreau • 1 fresh-cut lime wedge • Dash of salt • 1 oz. El Luchador Tequila (or comparable 110-proof tequila) Rinse the interior of a shot glass (or as many shot glasses as you have guests; just multiply the amounts) with the Cointreau and discard the liquid. Dip the lime wedge in salt and throw it in the bottom. Fill the glass with tequila and consume in one sip. Go on your merry way(s).


How to Not Wait in Line



u ck


to feel it. It must taste damn good. And it must be extremely simple. The answer: what we’re calling a Busy Man’s Margarita. Overproof tequila makes the perfect shot because it hits harder. The Cointreau gives it a familiar tang. The lime and salt even out the sharp edges of the booze a little just before it goes down.

Get In, Get Stuff, Get Out No one does speed shopping better than GQ fashion folk. Commandment One: Go at the right time ZOHAR LAZAR

P H OTO G R A P H : G E T T Y I M A G E S . TO P I L L U S T R AT I O N S : I L E A N A S O O N ( 4 ) .

If your Global Entry application is approved and you don’t bungle the interview, you’ll never again have to wait in an immigration line when re-entering the U.S. Also, you’ll get TSA Precheck for every domestic flight.

J AC K K N I V E S ( V I A TO W E L )

On a hardwood floor, get in push-up position with your feet on a towel. Slide your knees toward your chest, keeping your back flat. Slide your feet back out. Repeat. Try ten. It’s gonna suck.

How do you think Odell makes his cuts so sharp? Strong adductors and glutes, that’s how. Stand with one foot on a small towel and the other on the floor. The foot on the towel slides out laterally as the stationary leg squats to a right angle. Slide the leg back in place as you rise to a standing position.

Citymapper predicts arrival times for ferries in Stockholm, bullet trains in Tokyo, and every crazy bus in Mexico City. New Yorkers swear by its subway predictions. And it’ll ping you when you’re at your stop.

“The cab stand at Arrivals on a Sunday night is total chaos. Request an Uber and ask the driver to pick you up outside Departures instead, or pick up a cab there as someone gets out.”—Jeff, our last Uber driver (Thanks, man!)

L U N G E S (AG A I N , W I T H A TOW E L )

Never Wander the Platform Again

Skip the Cab Line

Who’s got time to get in shape and finish season three of Black Mirror? You do, if you follow the advice of Odell Beckham Jr.’s trainer, Jamal Liggin. Here are three exercises for getting buff while the show is buffering

Work Out with Netflix

 5 2 - CA R D P U S H - U P

• Go on a Monday night, 45 minutes before the store closes. You’ll have the place to yourself, and you and the shopkeeper will have the same goal: to get you in and out. • Avoid malls. Not because your neighborhood “lifestyle centre” is a wasteland of scam sales and Cinnabons. Which it is. But because in the time it takes to park and walk, you could’ve tried on 23 shirts.

• And when that shopkeeper asks, “Can I help you find anything?” your only answer is “Yes. Please?” • Only fools rummage. • Related: Know what you want and limit what you want to three things. • Bring someone who hates shopping more than you do. Only a dick would try on multiple pairs of skinny button-fly cords while his buddy just stands around.— NI C K M A R I NO FEBRUARY

Magician (and client) David Blaine, Liggin says, likes this dirty card trick: Split a deck of cards in half. Give half to your partner, who flips the first card. Do the corresponding number of push-ups. Then vice versa. Repeat until one of you gives in or starts believing in magic.




WTF Is Up with Long Podcasts? E DIT

A podcast can save a long commute, but an audiobook-length interview can make traffic feel even worse. (Again with an introductory monologue about your cats, Maron?!) These reliably clock in at under 45 minutes an episode




e H ir so

S, G U Y

Song Exploder


Reply All

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Why Oh Why

Almost weekly, Song Exploder lets popular musicians—like Weezer, Björk, Grimes, and the guy who wrote the BoJack Horseman theme—blow up their biggest jams into their component parts. (Typical length: 15 minutes)

Public-radio mainstay Jonathan Goldstein tries to fix people’s seriously deep-seated emotional problems. It’s heartbreaking. It’s awkward. And it’s all over with real quick. (30 minutes)

This American Life by way of Wired, Reply All finds human stories in the weirdest corners of the web—everything from Facebook to viral-video fakers, meme makers to murderers. It’s the gold standard for podcasts. (30–45 minutes)

Listen to British comedians (very funny!) perform a dramatic reading of an erotic novel (very bad!) for one mercifully short episode at a time. (35–40 minutes)

A clever mix of nonfiction and narrative storytelling, Why Oh Why finds the strange intersection of dating and the Internet. It’s a thousand times more interesting than listening to your friends’ drunken OkCupid horror stories. (20–30 minutes) —KEVIN NGUYEN

Spend More Time Cooking and Less Time Shopping... ...By letting these renowned chefs pick your groceries for you “Our vegetable concentrate at McCrady’s was inspired by Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base. I sneak it into almost every dish I make at home, from pasta to my Thanksgiving-turkey gravy. It delivers a huge umami boost.” —sean brock, executive chef, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina “Bisquick Original Pancake and Baking Mix. I hardly eat pancakes for breakfast, but they make a great replacement for blinis [basically tiny Russian pancakes]. When paired with sour cream and a tin of caviar, I suddenly have the makings of a baller date-night meal.” —kris yenbamroong, chef-owner, Night + Market, L. A. “I’ve tasted hundreds of tomato sauces, both jarred and homemade. Rao’s marinara sauce is consistently among the best, even beating the majority of homemade sauces. Its bright, fresh, tomatoey flavor is balanced with herbs and olive oil. I could—and do—eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.” —j. kenji lópez-alt, managing culinary director,

Aaaand Cut! The Shorter the Season, the Funnier the Show

The Grooming Shortcut Every Man Should Take Not every day allows for the full regimen— and you won’t look any worse for it > I’ve been one of the grooming editors at GQ for some time now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the subject, it’s this: Grooming doesn’t have to be that complicated. Should you bathe? Yeah. Should you shave? We’ll leave that up to you. Should you do the full routine every single day? Sometimes your morning just doesn’t work that way. So in a pinch, use a dry shampoo like the new Texture Powder from Alder New York instead. Sprinkle it around the roots and massage it in. It’ll bring your hair back from matted, slept-in status to its regular look. No one will notice the difference, which is the whole point.— B E N J Y H A N S E N - B U N DY

> Remember when TV got great? Around 15 years ago, when you started hearing about “prestige dramas” and “antiheroes”? It was the result of two discoveries reached simultaneously, like an orgasm shared by Tony Soprano and a goomah: (1) You can make better TV with fewer episodes per season. (2) The less time audiences spend with a character, the more tolerable that character’s bad behavior. Two new Amazon series further reduce episode number and add an element: humor. Fleabag, about a woman sleeping her way through London, and Catastrophe, about a couple who get pregnant after a one-night stand, are the funniest, most deplorable, and shortest (six episodes a season!) shows on TV.— A N N A P E E L E

T H I S PA G E , P H OTO G R A P H S , F R O M TO P : C O U R T E S Y O F A L D E R N E W YO R K ; C H A N N E L F O U R / C O U R T E S Y O F E V E R E T T C O L L E C T I O N . I L L U S T R AT I O N S : I L E A N A S O O N ( 3 ) .

* And if that’s not fast enough… Boost your podcasts and audiobooks to 1.5x speed. (There’s a button in the app.) You’ll get used to it in no time.


Speedboat Renata Adler (1976) • Extraordinary voice details ordinary life in ’70s N.Y.C.; a jewel box and an enduring influence.

Travesty John Hawkes (1976) • A man races his sports car through the South of France, hoping to crash. (N.B.: Short books are especially good at art, sex, speed, Europe, and L. A.)

A Book of Common Prayer Joan Didion (1977) • Two U.S. women abroad in Latin America after one’s daughter hijacks a plane. J.D.’s best fiction.

Territorial Rights Muriel Spark (1979) • A British spy book (intrigue, love triangles) against a Venice backdrop. Short Spark can’t-miss.

So Long, See You Tomorrow

22 Short Novels for Your Next Long Flight You can read some of our favorite fiction from the past 50 years in less time than it takes to fly from one coast to the other ZOHAR LAZAR

William Maxwell (1980) • A murder in the rural Midwest follows two boys for 50 years. Maxwell’s masterpiece.


Excruciatingly powerful; Coetzee won the Nobel four years after its publication.

Lightning Field Dana Spiotta (2001) • Hollywood-adjacent living and loving; an heir to Didion’s (short) Play It as It Lays.

Bonsai Alejandro Zambra (2006) • Sun-dappled life in Santiago for two student lovers, until one vanishes.

The Thief Fuminori Nakamura (2009) • A seasoned pickpocket on the streets of Tokyo, in existential turmoil.

How Should a Person Be? Sheila Heti (2010) • Auto-fictive blend of real life and fake, in modernday Toronto.

Train Dreams Denis Johnson (2011) • A man’s life, told from beginning to end in 116 pages; a fictional bio that overlays the modernization of the western U.S.

Mariette in Ecstasy Leaving the Atocha Station

Ron Hansen (1991) • A nun-in-training at a convent edges up to the blasphemous divide between erotic and religious rapture. Not a word out of place.

Ben Lerner (2011) • An American on Fulbright in Madrid, with good art and stumbly living; the study-abroad novel.

Night Train

Faces in the Crowd Valeria Luiselli (2011) • A bright, fresh account of Spanish-speaking writers living in literary exile in New York City.

A Single Man

Desperate Characters


Christopher Isherwood (1964) • A gay professor roams midcentury L.A.; sparked Tom Ford’s first film.

Paula Fox (1970) • Brooklyn-brownstone still life before TV started doing it; a Franzen favorite.

Toni Morrison (1973) • Queen Toni classic: Two friends, braided by secrets and betrayal, wind up enemies in an Ohio town.

Martin Amis (1997) • English super-stylist does U.S. detective novel; (Ms.) Mike Hoolihan should be lead detective in our next great limited TV series.

A Sport and a Pastime

End Zone

The Wanderers


James Salter (1967) • American boy picks up French girl; leads to lotsa sex in the countryside.

Don DeLillo (1972) • Football, nuclear war, West Texas; DeLillo-ian Friday Night Lights.

Richard Price (1974) • Price’s debut: before The Night Of and The Wire, teen gangs in ’60s Bronx.

J. M. Coetzee (1999) • A scorned Cape Town professor copes with the rape of his daughter.

Dept. of Speculation Jenny Offill (2014) • The story of a marriage hurtling toward its inevitable end. — DA NI E L R I L E Y







B R E A K M E O F F , show me what you got, ’cause I don’t want no one-minute man, Missy Elliott once sang. But Missy had it wrong. Just as a talented rapper can slay in a 30-second guest verse, good sex is about taking advantage of the time you have—especially when you don’t have any time at all. Bad sex, on the other hand, is acutely aware of time—how much time has passed, how much is left, and can you please hurry up, I’d like to beat rush hour? Bad sex is interminable sex, the kind where neither party knows how to get the other

one o≠, so you just keep plugging away, hoping for a miracle, cluelessly bopping your bodies together in a useless game of erotic Whac-A-Mole. Now, it’s true that mind-blowing orgasms generally take more than one minute. Hookups where everything clicks immediately, and on the first try, are rare. (But when it does happen, good God! Consider breakfast in bed? E≠ortless chemistry is hard to find; don’t mess this up.) Missteps are normal, especially when a partner is new. I begrudge no one those errors, nor

A Rubber to Meet the Road With > The new Hex, described by the Lelo company as “the condom reengineered” and by me as “a condom that makes you look like a honey factory,” utilizes a hexagon shape that promises reassuring strength but is thin enough to help prevent your quickie from turning into a…longie? Even if your current condom is satisfactory, the box makes it worthwhile: It looks like an Apple accessory, not a package that screams “THIS GUY CAN’T WAIT TO MATE!” to whoever might see it.— A N D R E W G O B L E $34.90 for a 36-pack, 38




the opportunity to openly communicate and learn from each other. But when I’m fucking, I’m not there to teach a sex seminar—I’m there to get o≠. The ironic truth is, good quickies take time. Not in the moment, of course, but in preparation for it: getting to know a partner’s body, getting to know your own body, accruing sexual experience, gaining enough confidence. So once you know what you’re doing, you can pull the trigger on that final moment whenever you want. You know that a lick right there makes her squirm with delight, that a finger just here makes him gasp. You can bring it all the way home in one fell swoop—or take your time with it, stretch it out. Because here’s the key: If you’re capable of a high-quality quickie together, then you’re capable of high-quality sex, at any time, any length. After all, anyone can memorize enough moves to last all night—but only a few can pull o≠ the one that makes you weak at the knees in three seconds flat. So if a guy breaks me o≠, shows me what he’s got and orgasms start rolling in under a minute? I’m not going to complain. I could use the extra time to get to know him. Or take up a hobby. Or, I don’t know, do him again? — M AUR E E N O ’C O NNO R

P H OTO G R A P H : K I M B E R L E Y R O S S / T R I G G E R I M A G E / G A L L E R Y S TO C K . I L L U S T R AT I O N : I L E A N A S O O N .

A Slow Clap for the Quickie

> The






came drifting out of England six years ago sounding more poltergeist than pop star. But now, after making three stellar solo albums and collaborating with everyone up through Beyoncé, a star is exactly what he’s becoming. Maybe it’s finally time to step out of the shadows PETRUSICH





H A I R : M I R A C H A I H Y D E U S I N G L E O N O R G R E Y L . G R O O M I N G : M I R A C H A I H Y D E U S I N G B O B B I B R O W N . S E T D E S I G N : S T E V E N VA L D E Z AT L I T T L E A P P L E P R O J E C T S . C O M . P R O D U C E R : A L LY F E L D M A N A T P R O O F F I L M S . S H I R T : G U C C I . P A N T S : B O S S . S H O E S : O ’ K E E F F E . S O C K S : F A L K E .


Ghostly soul singer




S H I R T : D R I E S VA N N O T E N . PA N T S : D O L C E & G A B B A N A . S H O E S : C O M M O N P R O J E C T S . S O C K S : PA N T H E R E L L A .

I F T H E 2 1 S T C E N T U R Y H A S a reigning neurosis, it’s isolation. We’ll do anything to bat away the creeping sense of dread triggered by technology—but of course, to soothe ourselves, we turn to more technology. It’s hard to imagine a better musical embodiment of that paradox—of our simultaneous hunger for and fear of high-stakes connection—than 28-yearold British singer, DJ, and producer James Blake. Since his full-length debut in 2011, Blake has recorded with a bucket list of visionaries (Frank Ocean, Brian Eno, RZA, Bon Iver, Chance the Rapper, Vince Staples, Rick Rubin, Beyoncé…), but his articulation of contemporary anxiety feels entirely his own. He uses his fractured falsetto, a laptop, and a mess of keyboards

to create spectral, yearning songs that don’t resolve in any traditional sense but instead revel in ambiguity and disconnection. They are stuttering and unmoored. This is what living feels like now, Blake’s work suggests. This is the new loneliness. And yet the man himself has never been happier. We meet in the corner booth of a Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood; it’s the kind of joint where the nacho cheese is made of cashews and the chorizo is fashioned from tempeh. Arriving early, I stare blankly at the menu and try to figure out what “coconut bacon” is. And then, at the appointed hour, he appears: gangly (six feet six), with messy auburn hair and an easy, lopsided smile. He is wearing round mirrored sunglasses and a navy blue shirt with mustard yellow piping, and carrying a blazer. He looks less like a DJ and more like a runway model on his way to the library. Blake picked this spot because he’s vegetarian, but he’s self-aware enough to mock the West Coast almond-milk vibes—“you cannot get regular milk here, Amanda”— and he scrunches up his face each time he catches himself saying the word “journey,” as if the moony, New Agey–ness of it all is just too much for an Englishman to bear. Raised in London, the only child of a musician father (his dad, James Litherland, played guitar in a jazzy prog-rock band called Colosseum), Blake followed his girlfriend, an actor and writer, here to the sun-kissed land of valet parking. He’s as bemused as anyone by the disconnect between L.A. bliss and the bleakness of his songs. But the thing is, Los Angeles works for him. “I love it here,” he tells me. “I feel a collaborative energy.” (That face again.) “I am the luckiest person that I know. I find it hard to calm my restlessness. This city helped me get there.” He’s also in the midst of a very L.A. process of re-invention. Five days ago, he tells me, he deleted almost everything o≠ his phone. “I found myself checking it far too much and feeling like it mattered,” he says. Lately he’s trying to not even use computers when recording, which is almost impossible to imagine if you’ve ever heard a James Blake song.

But somehow it makes sense, this stripping away. Because his music has always been bracingly minimalist: rhythm and blues scraped clean of all the blues (and a lot of the rhythm). And this minimalism in a time of maximalism is, at least in part, why Blake has become the collaborator of choice for so many pop acts aspiring to high art. He knows the new ways before most of us have figured out the old ones. When Beyoncé wanted melancholy atmospherics on “Pray You Catch Me,” the opening track on Lemonade, she called Blake. When the HBO series The Leftovers—the apocalyptic drama starring Justin Theroux—needed a goose-bumpy trailer for its first season, it licensed Blake’s single “Retrograde” (72 million Spotify streams and counting). Frank Ocean can’t be bothered to attend the Grammys and hasn’t played a concert in three years, but he lent his vocals to a skeletal piano-and-drums track called “Always” for Blake’s latest album—and when you hear their voices entangle, it feels like getting thwacked on the back of the head, hard: Everything goes white. Zane Lowe, the creative director at Apple Music’s global radio station, told me he’s rarely encountered “a musician who sounds as comfortable with adventure and open to ideas from the very start as James. Every time James runs the risk of fitting into a musical landscape, he takes a turn. It’s really everybody else that’s catching up to him. I don’t see a lot of anyone else in James, but I see a lot of James in everyone else.” While we eat our quesadillas, Blake recounts a story about driving through London, listening to BBC Radio 4, and hearing a man—a Spanish solo-guitar player, a “beautiful, complex, stunning” player—tell the deejay his chief inspiration was the sun. “I burst out laughing in the

car,” Blake says. “I’m sitting there, with all my anxieties and all my insecurities and all my technology surrounding me, and my search for the next creative unlocking, and all these problems—and this guy is telling me that this amazing music he’s been making for 25 years is coming from the sun. And I’m thinking, What the fuck am I doing?” Blake doesn’t quite know how his new state of mind might a≠ect his music. He’s working every day, distraction-free, and is committed to reconnecting with his instincts, both as a songwriter and as a human. “I don’t believe an artist needs to be depressed,” he tells me. “I think the reason we, as musicians and writers, arrive at creating is because, for most of our lives, we’ve been unable to say exactly how we feel about people. And it’s easier to get it out in music and writing. But to keep yourself in a certain place for creative means—it’s bullshit. If it were true that being happier leads to less creativity, I would rather be happier. Being happier is being happier.” amanda petrusich is the author of three books on music, including, most recently, ‘Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78-rpm Records.’








He’s more spirit-lifting than Jay Z, more congenial than Drake, and more “of the people” than Kanye. And with no label backing him, he’s leading hip-hop to a new place, a new era, a whole new sound. But can CHANCE THE RAPPER become the very best we’ve got?

43 PG

Mark Anthony Green Eric Ray Davidson

as recording studios tend to be at one in the morning. The weather in downtown Chicago is on brand: blistering cold. Inside are engineers and beat tweakers and Shake Shack runners and weed deliverers and weed rollers and childhood friends now playing the integral part of weed passers. And there’s Chance the Rapper, the 23-yearold man-child—new favorite of Barack Obama and Lin-Manuel Miranda, “nephew” to Beyoncé, locker-room go-to for LeBron, heir apparent to Kanye West. The scene in the studio is Hiphop 101: A small room with a rapper and people watching the rapper. Beats blasting from rectangles. SportsCenter looping on the television. The Lakers lost again. Standard business. HE ROOM IS PACKED,

To the music industry, Chance the Rapper is anything but standard business. He’s like nothing it’s seen since you-knowwho. But he’s di≠erent from Kanye, too. His raps are complex and savvy—more like Eminem’s, but born-again—and packed with winks and finger-gun shit talking. His voice, when he sings (and he sings often), straddles a line between Rugrats and B. B. King. There’s pain and hope, naïveté and wisdom. He’s an independent artist. No label. No distribution deal. Nada. He’s given away every album/mixtape/whateverwe’re-calling-songs-lumped-together for free nowadays. His rise wasn’t overnight— he just started young. First there was 10 Day, the mixtape he recorded while serving a ten-day suspension from Jones College Prep High School. And then Acid Rap, the album that turned the heads of every label exec in North America. Then maybe his most overlooked—and possibly best—project, Surf, with Donnie Trumpet, a friend who (surprise) plays the trumpet. It’s soulful and layered and a completely new concept. Last year, when Kanye tapped Chance for the opening track of The Life of Pablo, Chance stole the show. With the world suddenly watching, he dropped his third mixtape, Coloring Book, and now he hangs out in the White House. How to explain it? There’s something rare and powerful at play. Every verse, every video, every show seems like you’re watching him on a quest. A sword in one hand that’s almost too large for him to carry. A crown he has yet to grow into, blocking part of his vision. World tour, Billboard charts, Grammys… Chance conquers. And all with a smile on his face. Tonight it’s just his friends and me watching. He ashes a cigarette and steps to 44 February 2017 GQ

the mic with his chest inflated and hat low. “IT’S CHRI-MAAAAAAAAAA, IT’S CHRI-MA…” He’s making a Christmas album. (Or maybe not, because as his engineer points out, it’d have to be done in the next four days or so to make it out before Christmas.) Chance ignores that note from his engineer. Why? Because it’s Chri-maaaaaaaaaa, it’s Chri-ma. He dances and “bops” uncontrollably while he sings the hook to the room. As I watch him create melodies on the spot, it’s most apparent that Chance is a child of instinct. If it feels right, cue it up. And if it feels wrong—no matter who’s done it before—good riddance. Signing to a label and someone else owning your music? Felt wrong. Making music that’s uplifting and hopeful and “cleancut” feels right. Songs with choruses feel wrong—sometimes. And wearing a cap feels right—all of the time. It’s child-like creation in an industry of hyper-produced mega-songs. Even his name is kneejerkish: Chance the Rapper. It seems to be the first thing to come into someone’s head when he decides that he’s going to rhyme words for a living. So that’s where we begin, alone in a room above the crew and engineers and weed relay.

G Q : Your name, Chance the Rapper, is funny. A generational joke, in a way. But you’re nominated for seven Grammys. People are saying you’re going to be one of the greatest to ever do it.

[laughs] I can super appreciate all that pressure. I’ll take that.


Your name seems more temporary than your talent, though. It’s too silly, in a way. Do you ever think about changing it or just going by Chance?

Yeah. I think it’s everything that you’re saying, but going in the opposite direction. My dad used to always say, “You need to change your name to Chance the Artist. This song, this is di≠erent.” I remember one day I was with Justin— my best friend, who has always been really good at school, really smart, really good at speaking to people. I remember my dad would introduce us to folks and they would ask, “What’re you going to be when you grow up?” Justin’s fucking 7 years old talking about, “I’m going to be a biomedical engineer.” You know, he’s just that guy. And I remember they asked me, and I said a rapper. And my dad laughed it o≠, like, “No, he doesn’t…” You know? And I remember that shit used to bother the fuck out of me, because I thought Kanye West was the smartest man in the world. The best poet in the world. The freshest-dressed in the world. That’s what a rapper was to me, and I wanted everybody to feel that way about the word “rapper.” And “rapper,” to me, is pretty much synonymous with the word “black.” It’s a stigma where it’s like, “Damn, I heard Chance the Rapper. I didn’t think he was going to sound like that.” I hate that when you introduce yourself, and you’re a rapper, sometimes you gotta say, “I’m a musician.” Or, “I’m an artist.” “I’m a recording artist.” “I’m a vocalist.” You should be proud to say: I’m a rapper.

I’m a rapper! You should be able to say that shit and, like, make someone scared in a good way. Like, “Oh shit, you might know the president!” It should feel that way.

ABOUT THESE CLOTHES Two common threads run through all these photos. One is Chance’s signature ball cap, which sold out online in just a day. The other? Stripes. Look closely and you’ll notice he’s got rugby stripes, nautical stripes, even tuxedo stripes running down the leg of his khakis. Stripes are on everything now (not just your tees) because they’re the no-brainer way to add a little more color, a little more texture, and a little more pattern to your daily uniform. The best part: They’re always easy to pull off, regardless of whether they’re thick as a board or skinny as a straw.


rugby shirt $165 Hilfiger Edition + chinos $690 Gucci sneakers $100 Nike » jacket $240 Ksubi + t-shirt $225 T by Alexander Wang at jeans $198 Joe’s Chance 3 cap New Era

Âť cardigan $695 Burberry + t-shirt $18 American Apparel pants $50 Topman Chance 3 cap New Era

Why the cap?

I used to always rock a cap when I was in high school and get them taken away. It was an excessive amount. Like, so often that at the end of each school year, there would be a box of all the confiscated caps. After they gave back a few caps to other kids, they would just give me the box because the rest were all my hats. So I think, in one part, it’s a rebellion. There are a few things that I have because I’m a man-child. Like I don’t eat vegetables at all. Never. I hate eating vegetables. The only vegetables I eat are lettuce on a burger. And now the “3” hat is everywhere.

Yeah, so I was like, “You know what? Let’s switch it.” I wanted to switch from the White Sox hat. I wanted to put something else on the hat. And so I decided to do “3.” I just thought that that made the most sense because it was the third project. Also, I was having a lot of trouble figuring out what the title of the project was going to be and what typography to put the title in. The original title for the project was, uh, The Magnificent Coloring Book. But that’s just so many words and it looks so shitty, no matter how I put it on the hat. Yeah, like “Make America Great Again.”

Exactly. Exactly. That’s so many syllables, so many words. So I was, like, we won’t put a title on it. Just put the “3” on the hat. So it will be the third. Since then, I’ve rationalized it to myself that it stands for the third mixtape, the Holy Trinity, and the three-pronged family of myself, my daughter, and my girl. Do you want more kids?

Not right now. It’s a lot to try and be a good dad right now. With all the distractions and all the things that I’m limited in doing by living in Chicago and being a person of notoriety. I don’t wanna tack on anything. I want to get my relationship with Kinsley down pat and also just get older. I’m 23. I had her when I was 22. If I am gonna have more kids, it’ll be a blessing and I’ll accept it as a responsibility and a privilege, but I’m definitely not trying to have more kids right now. What’s the toughest thing about being Chance the Rapper in a relationship?

Just my time. My time and also my knack for, like, you know, just… Fuck the second thing that I was going to say—let’s just keep it at that.… [laughs] Wise! What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for a woman?

Oooh, that’s a good question. I’ve done some grandiose things.… Oh! I got it. I had a girlfriend in high school and I published a (text continued on page 94) GQ February 2017 47

» jacket $4,000 Louis Vuitton + hoodie $50 Chance the Rapper chinos $690 Gucci boots $270 Red Wing Heritage Chance 3 cap New Era »» t-shirt $510 Gucci + jeans $350 Simon Miller sneakers $140 Jordan Brand Chicago Cubs cap New Era where to buy it? go to /fashion-directories

I’m a rapper! You should be able to say that and, like, make someone scared in a good way. Like, ‘Oh shit, you might know the president!’ It should feel that way.

GQ February 2017 49

He dated a Hadid, pioneered a hairstyle, and put out the biggest album on the planet, and yet Abel Tesfaye—a.k.a. THE WEEKND —has remained a cipher. Now he opens up about sex, marriage, his newly normal haircut—and what, when you’re a star, you should and shouldn’t grab


Devin Friedman Eric Ray Davidson




about The Weeknd. So, for a long time, The Weeknd didn’t want anyone to even know who he was. When people first became aware of him, in 2011, after he released the three epic mixtapes that would become his first album, Trilogy, no one knew what he looked like or what his real name was (his real name is Abel Tesfaye, by the way). People didn’t even know if The Weeknd was a person or a group. He was just this voice—a sweet, eunuch-y voice trained in the sacred arts of Michael Jacksonism—that had been completely disembodied from the human who possessed it. Okay, so on the one hand, Abel didn’t want people to even look at him. And on the other hand, The Weeknd was singing about the dirtiest, most vulnerable things, begging us to not only know the most intimate details of his most intimate moments, but to sing along with them. It’s as if he were the Emily Dickinson of post–R. Kelly deviant-sex R&B singers. Just sitting there in his music studio dreaming up ways to make us look at him and dreaming up ways to disappear, all at the same time. ERE’S SOME THING WEIRD

“This is where I’ve been for the last six months,” Abel says. “We lived here. Took over the whole place. Now I see other people in the other rooms and I’m like: What are they doing in my studio?” The record has now been released. And Starboy, the album, is laying waste to pop culture. The metrics of the album’s success are so gaudy they get almost boring to list: Every song on Starboy is charting out on the Billboard Hot 100 when we meet; the title track has been one of the top three songs for more than a month; Starboy has been streamed more than half a billion times, breaking all kinds of Spotify records— for streams in a day, a week, a month, etc. The record is just hit after hit after hit. He cut the hair when the album was finished. It had, he said, become his identity. “I worked really hard on this album,” Abel says. “And I felt like I need to relieve a lot of stress. [Cutting o≠ my hair] feels good, ’cause I get to blend in. If I want to go to a club, I can just go and I’m not there. I can go to a restaurant and I’m not there. I look like everybody else, which is boring, but maybe I just want to look like everybody else for a bit.” Yes, he wanted to crush the world with his sound and image and break all the Spotify records, but he wants to run away, too.

← ↑ → ↓ On a Monday night in early December, Abel is sitting on an Aeron chair in the Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles. I’m going to say that he looks boyish, and you’re going to think, Yeah, gotcha: like Eddie Redmayne looks boyish or a young Hilary Swank. But he’s boyish. He could easily be a freshman in college. His face is pleasing and kind, but it’s almost… forgettable? Which isn’t what I expected. The only other time I’ve seen Abel Tesfaye in person was when I went to a concert at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, about a year ago. It was the tour in support of Beauty Behind the Madness, which was, spiritually, the album of 2015, and it announced the arrival of The Weeknd as a bona fide pop sensation. At the Philips, he was a fearsome presence, towering over us on this black sca≠olding, backlit in a military tunic and that signature battlehair, belting out beautiful drug arias to (mostly) women of all ages, stalking the parapets as if he were starring in a moody German production of Macbeth. But in this recording studio, sitting across from Abel in his plain black baseball jacket, plain black long-sleeve tee, plain black pants, plain black shoes, I detect no hint of that Sex Macbeth. Abel doesn’t need to take up more space than you do in the room. He doesn’t need to Great and Powerful Oz you like I bet a guy like Kanye West would. 52 February 2017 GQ

(I’ve never met Kanye West. Maybe he’s super humble.) Part of it is his hair. Gone is that freeform antler-y dred sculpture that a Rolling Stone writer once described beautifully as a “double mullet: party in the front, party in the back” but that always looked to me like a fecund, sylvan thing, like a tree that had been turned into a man by the gods, but not completely. And now, in place of the treeperson hair, is…just hair. Like, normal hair. You once said, I remind Abel, that you’d never cut your hair, because then you’d just look like everybody else. “I said that,” Abel admits, “but I couldn’t walk around without seeing the fuckin’ Weeknd hair. That’s what I called it. New artists, artists that have been around forever—I’m not going to say any names— but they were fuckin’ growing their hair.” Abel arranged to meet at Conway because it’s where he recorded the entirety of his fourth album, Starboy. When I arrived, it was nightfall in the nondescript neighborhood of Bullshitsville L.A. Recording studios are always kind of like forward operating bases, if you know what those are—nestled right there among civilians, with extensive perimeter fencing and lots of security cameras. Inside, Abel waited, sitting before an endless menu of dials and knobs, some earthy hardwoods on the walls, a subterranean spelunk-y vibe.


E WAS FROM NOWHERE, in a way. He was born in the exurbs of Toronto, but he had just the shallowest roots in Canada. His parents were Ethiopian nationals. He was a good child, a well-behaved child, fussed over by his grandmother and his mother, who raised him. His grandmother showed him o≠ to visitors—he could speak handsome, fluent Amharic, while the children of her friends were taciturn little Canadians, uninterested in performing to the expectations of a generation that’d


suit jacket $2,500 pants $790 Dior Homme + t-shirt $128 Wilhelmina x Hiro Clark

« leather jacket $1,595 Burberry + t-shirt $1,225 Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci jeans $218 J Brand boots $1,175 Giuseppe Zanotti Design

sneakers $65 Puma

» jacket $3,700 Louis Vuitton + t-shirt $100 T by Alexander Wang

necklace Chrome Hearts

necklace and ring Chrome Hearts

arrived in North America from another planet. He went to church every Sunday; he was terrified of hell and thought about it constantly, stayed up at night trying to calculate if he was going to end up there. He went to a working-class school and grew up among families that’d been extracted from all over the world and wedged into this banal Canadian place—the wars of Lebanon and Yugoslavia, the diasporas of West Africa and Eastern Europe. And in a way, that’s how he was born into the West: not really of Canada, but from there anyway. The story of his musical birth is also one of the digital age’s creative success stories. He was saved by the Internet. In the beginning, it was movies. Instead of doing his homework, he watched films online and downloaded scripts. Films that he’d had no exposure to out in the world where he lived, that no one he knew had any exposure to. Dark, psychologically disturbing films— Dead Ringers, Videodrome—which probably isn’t that strange to find out if you know the Weeknd oeuvre. He was obsessed with the film The Machinist. He likes the later, more conventional movies of the director David Cronenberg, but they’re not the same as the earlier films—the freaky ones. “Eastern Promises is great,” Abel says. “But the later films he started doing with Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence... That was like when Woody Allen started doing Match Point.” He wrote scripts for short films, began to be attracted to the idea of creating cinematically lush, strange fantasy worlds, which is what he now does with his music. And he started listening to music that wasn’t exactly what his friends were listening to. “I was 14 and I fell in love with Pink Floyd.” Then he says, “The Internet, man, is a beautiful thing.” He was nationless, pliant. He practiced his Michael Jackson voice. He lived in a furtive little world lit by a computer monitor in the one-bedroom apartment he shared with his mother. He would download instrumentals and use those to record himself singing. “In high school, I would have a microphone on my laptop, and I would just, like, sing over that stu≠,” he says. “I found somebody that had a house studio. He was this producer that was gonna be big. Obviously, he didn’t get big. It was me doing covers. Me finding my voice, pretty much.” His actual voice, though, he always knew there was something extraordinary about it. “It was pure,” he says. “It was natural. It was a singing voice. People that I played it for were like, ‘Holy shit,’ you know?” When he was 17—as The Weeknd’s followers will know as part of his origin story—he moved out of his mother’s home. His mother stood and watched him pack and cried; Abel was filled with self-loathing 54 February 2017 GQ

I’m the kind of guy that would have kids before getting married. The first thing would be kids. Marriage is scary to me, man.

» jacket $3,185 Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci + bracelet and rings Chrome Hearts

but wasn’t able to express that, or anything else. In the biopic version of his life story, he moved out because he knew he was going to be a star. He was taking a gamble on himself. But that’s not how it happened. “It was so scary, man,” he says. “If I had been living in L.A., and it was like, ‘Hollywood, here I come…’? But it’s di≠erent. I wasn’t even from Toronto. And

even making it from Toronto—this is before Drake and everything—it’s not really a believable, realistic thing. “I don’t think I did it to make it. I don’t think I was like, ‘I’m leaving. I’m going to go become a star.’ It was more like, ‘I need to get the fuck out of here and live another life.’ You know? Be somebody else. Not a star, just someone else.” (text continued on page 99)

ABOUT THESE CLOTHES As a self-styled prince of darkness, The Weeknd is not the kind of guy to greet spring with pastel pinks and Nantucket reds. But even men who wear all black need a little something extra to keep from looking like a hipster mortician. The solution is simple: Make sure at least one piece has a splash of color, like a band of red on your collar, a graphic print on your tee, sergeant stripes on your sleeves, or white soles on your sneaks. That single detail is all you need to stylize the goth look without losing your dark powers.

» jacket $1,060 pants $720 Prada + shoes $1,150 Louis Vuitton socks Pantherella necklace Chrome Hearts »» jacket $2,095 jeans $325 Emporio Armani where to buy it? go to /fashion-directories

56 February 2017 GQ

sound PG


Istvan Banyai

When Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM got a call from someone claiming to be David Bowie, he thought it was a friend pulling a prank. He didn’t know he was about to be launched into a yearlong collaboration on a musical involving space aliens, mariachi bands, and an imaginary trove of unreleased songs by Bob Dylan. Here, for the first time, is the story of their unfinished show—and what it’s like to work alongside a bona fide pop genius


BOU T TEN YEARS AGO, I was on a train leaving New York City when I got a call on my cell phone. “Hello,” the caller said. “Is this Michael Cunningham?” “It is.” “This is David Bowie. I hope I’m not calling at an inconvenient time.” “Whoever you are,” I said, “this is a really cruel joke.” It was surely the work of a friend, I thought—someone close enough to know that I’d listened to Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs approximately 10,000 times each when I was in college and that still, with college far, far behind me, I listened to Bowie at least once a week. That person might even know about my youthful attempts to look like David Bowie, which I maintained even though a pale, skinny kid walking the streets of Pasadena, California, in a bad (very bad) red dye job and a Ziggy Stardust T-shirt did not seem to read “rock star” to anyone but me. The prankster who was calling me, pretending to be Bowie, might have known that I’d been, essentially, waiting for that call for almost 35 years.

The caller said, “No, really, it’s David. How are you?” And suddenly, it seemed possible that this was David Bowie, if for no other reason than I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who could manage such a convincing imitation of that particular dulcet, nuanced—and profoundly familiar—voice. I believe I said something like, “Oh well, hello, David. What a nice surprise.” This was during a bit of a lull in Bowie’s career. After his album Reality came out in 2003, he didn’t release any new music for a decade. In 2004, he had a heart attack. For the rest of his life, he was beset by health problems, including the cancer that would eventually kill him. When he called me, though, he was looking to start a new project, a musical. I’d write the book, he said, and he’d write the music. He didn’t go into detail over the phone, but we made a date for lunch in New York the following week. I confess that, after David clicked o≠, I felt ever so slightly…altered. I was someone who’d gotten a call from David Bowie. That teenager with the inept dye job, the one prone to singing “Space Oddity” in the frozen-foods section of the supermarket, had not vanished, after all. He had only been hibernating over the past several decades. 60 February 2017 GQ


OR OUR FIRST MEETING, David chose a perfectly good but unextraordinary Japanese restaurant in the West Village. When I arrived, he was already seated with the lovely woman who’d been his assistant for decades. He introduced her and told me he admired my books. I told him I admired his music. I did not fall prostrate. I did not weep. I did not tell him that a number of his songs seemed to have worked their way into my DNA. Which was more to David’s credit than it was to mine. He was remarkably adept at managing the fact that he was David Bowie and you were not. After we’d exchanged a smattering of small talk, I asked him if he had anything specific in mind about the musical he’d like us to work on. He admitted that he was intrigued by the idea of an alien marooned on Earth. He’d never been entirely satisfied with the alien he’d played in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. He acknowledged that he’d like at least one of the major characters to be an alien. I was intrigued by aliens, too. I’d just written a novella about alien immigrants who came to our world in droves because their planet was not at all the spired futurescape we like to imagine but, rather, a realm harsher and more desolate than the most hellish places on Earth. The

aliens were only mildly surprised to learn, once they got to Earth, that they were despised and discriminated against and could only get jobs so lowly no earthling would take them. And there was, of course, my own adolescent sense of myself as a marooned alien, with just David B. for company. Aliens? Sure, I could do aliens. I asked David if he had any other ideas. He promptly underwent a brief paroxysm of what I can only call English embarrassment, which di≠ers from the American variety. American embarrassment generally involves shame and arises out of an identifiable act or an ill-considered remark, whereas the British are capable of being embarrassed about being embarrassed. And about every foolish act ever committed by anybody. I, for one, have always found it sexily endearing. David reluctantly told me that he imagined the musical taking place in the future. The plot would revolve around a stockpile of unknown, unrecorded Bob Dylan songs, which had been discovered after Dylan died. David himself would write the hitherto-unknown songs. It was not what I’d been expecting. Yes, David had recorded “Song for Bob Dylan,” for the album Hunky Dory, in 1971, but that was a song about Bob Dylan; it wasn’t a song supposedly written by Bob Dylan. Who could write a convincing fake Dylan song? Well, okay, that would be David Bowie, if anyone, but who (including David Bowie) would want to? And how would the actual Bob Dylan feel about that? I, however, said nothing about any of this. I expressed no surprise at all. No problem: an alien and some recently unearthed Dylan songs. Anything else? I asked. David fell into a second fit of embarrassment and hesitantly said he’d been thinking about popular artists who are not considered great artists, particularly the poet Emma Lazarus, who wrote “The New Colossus.” That’s the poem inscribed inside the base of the Statue of Liberty, the one that includes the lines “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” What, said David, are we to make of a poet taught in few universities, included in few anthologies, but whose work, nevertheless, is more familiar to more people than that of the most exalted and immortal writers? I agreed that it was an interesting notion, although one that had never occurred to me. As we left the restaurant, David’s assistant said, “I know I don’t have to tell you to keep this project a secret.” To which

I replied, “Do you really think a musical about an alien, a dead Bob Dylan, and the work of Emma Lazarus is an idea someone is likely to steal? ” I’m not averse to risk—a writer can’t be—but I do, ordinarily, tend toward that which seems, at the outset, at least potentially coherent. Speaking of coherence: A few days after our initial meeting, David called to tell me he’d forgotten something. He’d be pleased if mariachi music could be incorporated, mariachi music being under-appreciated outside Mexico. I told him I’d do my best.

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E SPENT THE NEXT few months working together. I managed, in rough form, the first third of the book of a musical that did, indeed, involve an alien, Emma Lazarus, and a mariachi band. I hadn’t yet figured out a way to work the undiscovered Dylan songs into the plot.

David proved to be enormously intelligent, to be kind and generous and a≠ectionate. It wasn’t long before I stopped obsessing about the fact that I was writing a musical with David Bowie. How starstruck, after all, can anybody feel after the object of one’s veneration says, early on, without a trace of irony, that he was excited to start a new project because: “Now I get to do one of my favorite things. Go to a stationery store and get Sharpies and Post-its!” Yes, the Space Oddity, the Thin White Duke, was excited about picking up a few things at Staples. When he first came to my apartment, he particularly admired (of all things) my collection of white rubber doll shoes, culled from flea markets over the years. I hadn’t set out to collect anything so arcane. I just kept finding, in bins full of discarded toys, these sweetly innocent miniature littlegirl shoes, none of them bigger than my thumbnail. They were no big deal to me. David, however, loved them. That, as it turned out, was how David’s vision worked. He homed in on details and

worked his way into the bigger picture by way of its specifics. He underwent, in my mind, a process I suppose I’ll call humanization. I increasingly understood that the actual David Bowie was a genius with a questionable haircut, a devotion to Post-it notes, and an instant enthusiasm for a dozen pairs of tiny white shoes lined up on one of my bookshelves. Still, as weeks turned into months, I couldn’t entirely shake my sense of him as a member of a species similar to, but slightly di≠erent from, mine. It remained di∞cult, sometimes, for me to concentrate on our work—for me to be a genuine collaborator— in the light of David’s sheer brilliance. My final evolution from worshipful fan to true partner was completed, unexpectedly, on a Saturday in May, when we, looking for someplace quiet, went to work in his studio, a suite of immaculately white rooms. Near the entry stood a number of archival boxes, neatly stacked, reaching from floor to ceiling. David nodded casually at the boxes and said, “They’re archiving my old costumes.” “They” would prove to be curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum, preparing for the 2013 exhibition David Bowie Is, which would draw enormous crowds in London and, subsequently, travel all over the world. I didn’t know that then. I imagined, vaguely, some underground vault where rock memorabilia was kept until history had rendered its verdict as to who mattered more and who less. And David would never have said, “My old costumes are being archived for a show at the Victoria and Albert.” He wouldn’t. He was modest. He was innocent of pretension. I still have no idea where the rock star came from, how this sweet slip of a man could summon him up. There was, however, a moment, that day in his studio, when I came upon the original painting that had served as the cover for his 1974 album, Diamond Dogs. It depicts a feral-looking Bowie, gazing straight out with an expression of louche intensity, naked to the waist, backed by two…big blue women? It’s hard to tell. I know how hard it is to tell, because I stared at that album cover, stoned, for at least a hundred hours, and possibly more.

“Hello, this is David Bowie. I hope I’m not calling at an inconvenient time.” “Whoever you are,” I said,“this is a really cruel joke.”


Golden Years

I was standing before the painting, which had been casually placed on the floor, propped against a wall, when David came and stood beside me. He said, “Oh yes. Well.” Here was that English embarrassment again. I’d more or less figured out by then that David was slightly disconcerted by his own success. Or—and this seemed more probable—perhaps he felt about the rock-star version of himself the way a man might feel about a reckless, magnetic brother. He loved his brother but also felt overshadowed, and slightly abashed, by his brother’s more extreme excesses and all the attention they garnered. I said to David, “We should say this, just once: I’m a homely German princess married for political purposes to an English king, and to our surprise, the marriage is working out.” He squeezed my elbow, and we never talked about it again.

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AVID STARTED coming up with brief passages of music, on a piano or synthesizer, when we were at his place. I’d never been in the presence of a talent like his, not at the first moments of composition, when he was just noodling around, trying things out. What he “tried out” was already, instantly, lush and complex and heartbreaking. I’m sorry I can’t reproduce it for you. It was never recorded. The songs were undeniably beautiful but had what I can only call a dark buzz of 62 February 2017 GQ

underlayer. They had urgency. They were gorgeous and also, somehow, ever so slightly menacing. Music was a language David spoke fluently. If he thought of himself as a genius, he never let on. If anything, he seemed surprised that most people can’t just sit down at a piano and produce ri≠s, without plan or practice, that were already possessed of soul and depth and (in our case, anyway) a rinsing whisper of melancholy. We kept moving forward. My doubts never vanished completely, but they diminished after I heard David’s early improvisations on the musical interludes. It began to seem that we were producing something—maybe not something good, but something with cogent ideas and momentum and real characters. As I wrote my way into the story, it seemed right that the alien, who has assumed human form, falls in love with a woman from Earth. They reach a point of intimacy at which he feels he must show her his true form, which is quite di≠erent from the mildly handsome guy in his 30s she thinks she’s been dating. Let’s just say that the sight of her new lover’s actual appearance is…challenging for the young woman. I read that passage to David over the phone. The next day he phoned me back and played me a few minutes of music he’d composed for the scene. It was, unmistakably, a fucked-up, slightly dissonant love ballad. And we both knew immediately what I’d suspected when I wrote the scene. The woman could bear the sight of her lover’s

true form. She would come to love what she’d once have called a monster, who appeared to her in the form of a man. She would, in fact, stay with him, though she’d say something along the lines of “Honey, if it’s okay with you, let’s stay mostly with the earthling version, okay?” That seemed organic and inevitable only when I heard the discordant love song David improvised for them.

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E WERE ALMOST halfway through our first draft when David’s heart trouble recurred. This time he needed surgery, immediately. Our musical was put on hold. We never revived it. The death of a project is often di∞cult to diagnose. David was so weak for so long. Maybe our ardor cooled over all that time—maybe we lost faith in the lunatic disparities we were trying to render intelligible. Maybe David didn’t want further contact with a reminder of what had become a dark and frightening time. Maybe he just didn’t want to tell me that he’d been losing interest even before the illnesses struck, that my sensibility wasn’t quite edgy enough for him. He was the kind of person who’d have had trouble saying something like that. After his surgery, we saw each other once or twice, e-mailed occasionally, then e-mailed less and less. He released a new album in 2013, The Next Day, and


In the final decade of his life, Bowie’s public appearances were rare. From left, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009; with Iman at Lincoln Center in 2010.

We were almost halfway through our first draft when David’s heart trouble recurred. This time he needed surgery, immediately.

began working on his final album, Blackstar. Neither of us ever mentioned the musical. A silent understanding had somehow been reached, and with it, a reluctance on both our parts to refer to that which was no longer in our future. I did put the white plastic doll shoes into an envelope and left them with his doorman while he was convalescing. He e-mailed me his appreciation. That may have been our last exchange. Our next-to-last exchange.

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EARS L ATER, I was passing New York Theatre Workshop, an O≠-Broadway theater in the East Village, and saw a poster for an upcoming production: Lazarus, with music by David Bowie, directed by the Belgian director Ivo van Hove. Oddly enough, I wasn’t upset. Seeing the poster, realizing that David had gone ahead with another writer, was a little like running into a lover from the deep past, on the arm of his new lover, and finding that you ceased to miss him so long ago that you felt nothing but happiness for him. You had, after all, once been happy together, and your parting, while not painless (what parting is?), had left no permanent scars. I e-mailed David that night, told him I was glad to see that our project had not only survived but evolved, said I’d like to come to the opening. He told me he’d like that, too. The Lazarus at New York Theatre Workshop resembled David’s and my musical only in that it centered on an alien.

Much of the score was songs from David’s previous albums, and the few new ones were nothing like the ri≠s he’d come up with for himself and me. It wasn’t quite clear, at least not from the production, where the title Lazarus had come from, or anyway, not clear to anyone but me. After the show ended, I waited for David in the theater. When he emerged from backstage, he was barely recognizable: almost fleshless, eyes huge in his head, breathing labored. It was as if he’d aged 30 years since I last saw him. We embraced briefly—I could tell that I had to treat him gently—and he said he was sorry but he had to sit down. We sat together in two theater seats. I told him I was glad our idea hadn’t just vanished. He nodded. I took his hand. He squeezed my hand in response. After a moment, a woman came to escort him out of the theater. He died a little over a month later. Knowing David, however briefly, taught me about how certain works of art—not to mention certain principles of physics, certain laws of nature, certain methods of healing—start out sounding implausible. I admit to occasional fantasies back then, on the days when David and I were really cracking it open, when we nailed that line of dialogue or found the perfect chord, about the potential success of our endeavor. I confess that I imagined sitting anonymously among a transported audience, watching the show and also watching the audience’s responses, which was a show in itself—theater as reaction to theater. Given those extravagant hopes, David’s and my crackpot project is probably better as a fantasy, unrealized. Some endeavors are not meant to be finished. Some of them reach their zenith before the final results are in. I’m not deeply saddened, then, by the demise of David’s and my Lazarus. It’s not so bad to be left with my old dreams about what it might have been. All those unlikely elements—from mariachi music to Emma Lazarus, not to mention the unlikely elements that were David and me—might have ignited the sparks of greatness when they collided, but it’s far more likely that our musical would have been… interesting…a bold experiment… You know.

I do wonder if David thought about it at all, during his final weeks. There’s something slightly…unsettling, to me, about David’s having been so keen, even for a short while, on something that not only vanished but never really fully appeared. And so, I’d like to try to finish the unfinishable. Please—if you’re willing—imagine a wildly ambitious work of musical theater in which all the elements have somehow fallen into place and meshed into a theatrical experience stranger and more beautiful, darker and funnier, more moving, more transcendent, than anyone, including its creators, had any reason to expect. Art is always a gamble; it’s just that some gamblers play for higher stakes than others. If you, if some of you, are willing to close your eyes and envision a musical that thrills you (even if you never go to musicals), would you do so now? If you’re able to add, in whatever form you choose, an alien or a rock star or Emma Lazarus writing give me your tired, your poor, or a strain of mariachi music, all the better. That’s not required, though. It’ll be enough, it’ll be more than enough, if you just sit quietly for a moment and conjure something that’s profound and humorous, sad and hopeful—something that might inspire a new generation of dreamy and peculiar boys and girls stuck in Pasadena, or any un-Bowie-like place. Because even shows that actually get completed, even shows that are genuinely significant, are blueprints for something ine≠able, supernal, impossible to achieve; something we can imagine but cannot fully articulate; something that pierces us and transforms us and renders our lives larger and just a little more clearly illuminated than they’d been before. Ready? Are you hearing it, seeing it? Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense. It should merely be what’s most beautiful to you, what’s most moving and true. It should be what you’re hoping for, every time a curtain rises. michael cunningham’s novels include ‘The Hours,’ ‘Specimen Days,’ and ‘By Nightfall.’ ‘A Wild Swan,’ a collection of stories, was published in paperback in October 2016.




H A I R : N I K K I N E L M S . M A K E U P : J O S T R E T T E L L A T T R A C E Y M A T T I N G LY. M A N I C U R E : K I M M I E K Y E E S A T C E L E S T I N E A G E N C Y. C A T S U I T : M Y S T I Q U E B O U T I Q U E N Y C .

music was already out of this world. But now, after taking one small step into Hollywood with a role in Oscar favorite Moonlight, she’s taken the next big jump forward with Hidden Figures, playing a bold Space Age pioneer

NOT MUCH ABOUT Janelle Monáe says “Homo sapiens.” The tailored intergalacticbutler uniform. The massive voice in the maybe-five-foot frame. Even her skin looks airbrushed. So it isn’t surprising that when asked how old she is, she replies, “I’m timeless.” Maybe she’s an android. “I look at androids as the future Other,” she says, her empathy for the marginalized extending to A.I. “I feel a responsibility to speak out for the Other.” In her new film, Hidden Figures, about a different kind of Other—badass black women working for NASA in the 1960s— Monáe actually plays a computer. (NASA called its mathematicians “computers.”) Her character doesn’t take shit. Neither does Monáe. “I want to redefine what it means to be young, black, wild, and free in America,” she says. It’s jarring to see someone so in control of her image submit herself to the demands of a studio and director. But Monáe doesn’t flinch at temporarily shelving monochromatic space diva for important movies like the awards-season hit Moonlight. Of course, she also has bigger ideas: “I want to see more black people. Not just in films like Moonlight. Big-budget films, too.” And since the life span of an android is probably, like, 500 years, Monáe will have plenty of time to give the Hollywood muckety-mucks a run for their money. —MARK ANTHONY GREEN


Pari Dukovic

Last July, France witnessed the creation of a new kind of mass murder when a man steered a giant cargo truck into a crowd and killed 86 people in the beach resort of Nice. The French government quickly announced that the killer was a jihadist inspired by the Islamic State. But as SCOT T SAYARE discovered, the truth is a lot stranger


‹‹ Opening pages, from left: Bodies line the Promenade des Anglais in Nice after the July 14, 2016, attack; Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in 2015.


a man phoned a rental agency on the outskirts of Nice, on France’s shimmering Mediterranean coast, to inquire, in what the receptionist would later recall as hesitant French, about a large cargo truck. He would be moving to Montpellier in a week, on July 11, the man said. No trucks were available for that date. Perhaps his move could wait, the man replied, and he signed o≠ without any apparent frustration. For a short time, then, calamity was deferred, though hardly anyone could have known this. Some in Nice knew the man as one of the many playboy predators the city seems to beget—black hair slicked back o≠ a shining brow, dress shoes tapering to varnished points, a dark shirt unbuttoned low to reveal the pectorals into which he had obsessively, unblushingly, invested himself. He was 31 but preferred older women, both for their erotic openness and, it seems clear, for their money. Those who knew him best knew him to be a cold and brutal man, detached, amused by little save rough sex and gore. He lived inconspicuously enough, however, working as a deliveryman, driving a 13-ton truck. In late June, though, he had taken several weeks o≠, and now seemed to

those he encountered to be restless and bored, or perhaps under the sway of some deepening madness, as several witnesses have testified. Had he been another man, he might have chosen to spend his vacation with his three young children, but they had never stirred in him any great tenderness, and to see them would have meant arranging things with his estranged wife. Rather, as usual, he pedaled his blue bicycle around the city, shot selfies, and phoned loose acquaintances, harassing them with calls and text messages. The man called his sister’s husband, whom he saw perhaps once a year. “I thought he wanted to hurt me, because I’m in serious conflict

with his sister,” the brother-in-law told police. He agreed to meet the man but brought a screwdriver for protection. “He talked to me about his life,” the brother-inlaw said, “about his work as a deliveryman, about women, about his big sex drive, about his need to seduce and sleep with women, about his father, whom he hates.” The screwdriver wasn’t necessary. For much of his vacation, the man passed the time browsing the Internet. “Terrible deadly accident,” “horrible deadly accident,” “shocking video not for the faint of heart,” he typed. For months, he had been watching beheadings; he kept an image folder filled with corpses and viscera. The particulars—the identities of the dead, the motives of the killers—were not of any evident interest; any butchery would do. And yet much of the violence he watched was political violence. Perhaps this was inevitable. Never before has so much recorded sadism been so widely available. For this, the world has the Islamic State to thank. A man transfixed by blood would hardly have to subscribe to the jihadist group’s ideology to enjoy its work; it is undoubtedly the best on o≠er. In the final two weeks of his life, however, and perhaps for the first time, the man appeared to develop an interest in Islam, the religion into which he had been born. He played recitations of the Koran in his car; he criticized a friend for listening to music; he began to grow a beard. Online,

THE PATH OF DESTRUCTION Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove two kilometers down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice before his truck was finally stopped.







A One of the 434 people injured in the attack.

he researched the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a killing carried out in the name of the Islamic State. Also in evidence on the man’s computer was his apparent fascination with the crowds drawn each summer to the Promenade des Anglais, on Nice’s tranquil coastline, where on July 14 the city’s Bastille Day fireworks can be watched unobstructed, reflected in the black mirror of the sea.

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O P E N I N G PA G E S : M AT R I X P I C T U R E S ( 2 ) . T H I S PA G E : A N TO I N E C H A U V E L .


N TUESDAY, JULY 5, the man called the rental agency once again. By chance, the receptionist said, there had been a cancellation; a white Renault Premium, with a total hauling capacity of 21 tons, had become available. The man seemed to be thrilled, and in the afternoon visited the agency with his driver’s license and a deposit check for 1,600 euros. He introduced himself as Mr. Lahouaiej; the license identified him as Mohamed Salmène Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in Nice. “He was very relaxed, very calm, and very attentive,” the receptionist said in a deposition, one of hundreds of documents included in the case file compiled by French counterterror investigators, which has not been released to the public. Lahouaiej Bouhlel returned six days later, on the morning of July 11, to pick up the truck. When he got back to Nice, he guided the white truck along the gentle curve of the Promenade des Anglais, a busy road and broad reddish walkway that runs along the Mediterranean, which glowed baby blue at that early hour of the day. He drove along the Promenade at least ten times more in the coming 72 hours. Since 1880, France has held a national celebration on July 14, the day on which, in 1789, several hundred Frenchmen stormed the Bastille Saint-Antoine, a royal fortress and prison in eastern Paris, in what was e≠ectively the first pitched battle

of the French Revolution. (Only Anglophones call the holiday Bastille Day; the French simply call it the 14th of July.) The festivities often include military parades, and Lahouaiej Bouhlel photographed himself that day on the Promenade in front of military jeeps and a tank. At lunchtime he visited his aunt and uncle, who fed him melon and a summer salad of cooked peppers and tomatoes. Their relations were cordial, but his relatives found Lahouaiej Bouhlel to be bizarre and inscrutable. Lately, to his uncle’s confusion, he had been speaking favorably about the jihadists in Syria. “I didn’t understand his convictions,” the uncle said in a deposition that was also included in the confidential case file, “because he absolutely wasn’t religious. He didn’t even do Ramadan.” His aunt attempted to give him a watermelon to take with him. “Tomorrow,” he said. He told her he would be going to watch the fireworks that night. At 9:34, Lahouaiej Bouhlel pedaled his bike to the white truck, which he had parked near his apartment. He put the bike inside and drove down toward the water, where the fireworks were to begin at ten. Tourists and locals alike, an estimated 30,000 in all, had crowded the beaches and the Promenade. The show ended at 10:20 or so; the streetlights lit up again, casting wan shadows on the sidewalk and the beach. It was a pleasant night, with a warm breeze and bouts of light rain, welcome after weeks of terrible heat. The crowds lingered. At 10:32, Lahouaiej Bouhlel pulled onto the Promenade’s wide southern thoroughfare. He rode along with the tra∞c for 1,000 feet or so until, across from the children’s hospital that would soon receive the crushed and mutilated, he drove up onto the broad sidewalk, filled now with revelers and families. He had extinguished his headlights. Soon came the crack of exploding seaside benches, and the dull thud of bodies spinning o≠ the front edges of the truck. Its driver grinned.

LI CHARRIHI SPENT the evening of July 14 on the Promenade with his parents, his wife and three young children, and his cousin Saïd. They watched the fireworks from the sidewalk above the Torrent de Magnan, an underground stream that flows down from the hills into the sea, and in which Ali, now 37, had sometimes played as a child. He and his mother, Fatima, had come together to Nice in 1984, from an isolated Berber village in the mountains of inland Morocco; his father, a factory worker and laborer, had moved to France 11 years earlier. Fatima, who arrived speaking only Berber and had never mastered much French, cleaned houses. She was a cherubic woman, with small, smiling eyes and round cheeks made to seem all the fuller by the hijab that ringed her face. She doted on her children, but also insisted on study and hard work, and could be severe. Her word was law, and that night she decided that the family would remain on the Promenade after the fireworks, to walk together. Ali had double-parked his car, and his father was parked in a bus lane; Fatima sent them both away to re-park, and they hurried o≠ with Ali’s two sons. That left four of them on the Promenade: Fatima, Saïd, and Ali’s wife, who was pushing her young daughter in a stroller. The girl asked to be picked up, and Saïd took her in his arms. Ali’s father drove past; Saïd pointed to the car, and the group watched it go by. There was a loud crack, and Saïd turned to see the bench a few yards beyond them explode into splinters. “Truck!” he shouted. With the young girl in his arms, he leapt from the sidewalk down to the rocky beach below. The right edge of the truck passed inches from Ali’s wife’s face, and tore the empty stroller from her hands. Where Fatima had been, there was nothing. The sidewalk was about ten yards wide, and revelers were fairly sparse on this stretch of the Promenade. Lahouaiej Bouhlel cut the wheel to aim at his victims, who, even when they were walking toward him, often failed to see him coming in the shadowy light. In his wake, the crowd began to scream and run, adults shoving children out of the way, children losing sight of their parents, panic driving the unharmed up and away from the Promenade and into the city. The first police o∞cer to see the white truck was a man named Christophe, an imposing military veteran with a cleanshaven head and a heavy gold ring. He called it in at 10:33, confusion and urgency in his voice: “We’ve got a truck that’s completely crazy, that’s driving on the street, that just ran people over!” He and GQ February 2017 69


RESIDENT FRANÇOIS Hollande was told of the attack at about 11 p.m., as he dined in the southern city of Avignon. He returned to Paris and the presidential palace, where, shortly before 4 a.m., he gave a televised address. “Horror has once again befallen France,” he said. At the time, 77 had already been declared dead. The identity of the driver of the white truck had not yet been “verified” but his motives were self-evident, Hollande said. “France has been struck on the day of its national celebration, July 14, a symbol of liberty, because human rights are denied by the fanatics, and because France is necessarily their target.” He mentioned the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed. “Now Nice is the one to be hit,” he said. “The whole of France is under threat from Islamist terrorism.” By the early evening of July 15, investigators had confirmed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s identity, but this did not immediately suggest that he was, as the president had wagered, a jihadist. He had been convicted on assault charges earlier in the year, announced François Molins, the country’s top prosecutor, and had received a suspended six-month prison sentence; on a busy street in January, while on the job, he had attacked a man with a piece of wood torn from a shipping pallet after the man had complained that his delivery truck was blocking tra∞c. “He is, on the other hand, utterly unknown to the intelligence services, and this both nationally and locally,” Molins said, “and had never been the subject of the slightest intelligence file or of the slightest report for radicalization.” Unlike those responsible for the Paris attacks, Lahouaiej Bouhlel seemed to have produced no jihadist propaganda or pledge of allegiance to a terrorist group. The next morning, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Amaq, one of the group’s propaganda agencies, said that the killer had answered the “calls for targeting the nationals of countries in

the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State.” At a press conference, however, Molins described Lahouaiej Bouhlel as “an individual at a great remove from religious considerations, who did not practice the Muslim religion, who ate pork, drank alcohol, consumed drugs, and had an unbridled sex life.” Still, he noted that the killer had begun to grow a beard and that he had shown “a recent interest in the radical jihadist movement.” Molins referenced the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility and noted that the attack in Nice looked very much like the sort of attack the group had encouraged. But he cautioned that “no element of the investigation at this time shows an allegiance by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel to the terrorist organization, nor ties to individuals presenting themselves as members of that organization.” In a report composed a few days later, a counterterror investigator remarked that this seemed to be an anomaly, the first time the Islamic State had claimed as “one of its soldiers” a killer who had not made a formal statement of allegiance. “Given the scope of the event,” the investigator wrote, the Islamic State “may have seen an opportunity to be seized, so as to gain publicity.”

← ↑ → ↓ HE CROWDS GREW denser still, and Lahouaiej Bouhlel slowed considerably as he reached the Hôtel Negresco, a pink-domed Belle Époque palace. The rentalagency receptionist, who lived nearby, watched the white truck pass in front of the hotel. “He was slaloming, to hit everything he saw,” she told investigators. It was 10:35. The police had been alerted that a truck was driving down the Promenade, but it was still unclear to those o∞cers who had not seen the killing for themselves that this was an intentional attack. Three o∞cers, standing beside the thick palms in the center of the road, watched as Lahouaiej Bouhlel approached,

T H E S E PAG E S , C LO C KW I S E F R O M TO P L E F T: T H E A S A H I S H I M B U N V I A G E T T Y I M AG E S ; DA N K I T WO O D/G E T T Y I M AG E S ; A N N E - C H R I S T I N E P O U J O U L AT/A F P / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; D AV I D R A M O S / G E T T Y I M A G E S

two colleagues gave chase in their car, following the truck on the sidewalk, but in avoiding the bodies Lahouaiej Bouhlel left behind, they could not keep pace. They watched helplessly through the windshield. Lahouaiej Bouhlel accelerated to perhaps 35 miles per hour. The crowds were denser in this section. At about one and a half kilometers, at 10:34, he struck Amie, a bubbly 12-year-old from Nice, out with another family for the festivities. At the children’s hospital, she told her parents that some kindly person had washed her face with towels from a beach club. She died within the hour. Amie’s father, cooking in the following months for himself, his wife, and his remaining daughter, found himself preparing four portions of every dish, though he used ingredients for only three. The white truck accelerated to perhaps 55 miles per hour. It flew past a police barricade in the roadway; behind the metal barriers, the streets were open to pedestrians, and Lahouaiej Bouhlel turned left over the curb and o≠ the sidewalk, into the crowd. Jean-Pierre Joussemet, a 78-year-old retiree, a small man with thin white hair and glasses, was pushing his 80-year-old wife in a wheelchair. They had retired to Nice, where Jean-Pierre was born, and lived in an apartment just o≠ the Promenade des Anglais. She was in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, and he cared for her, lifting her in and out of bed, taking her out most days to walk the Promenade. They had gone out early enough to be sure that she would be in the first row of spectators, with nothing to obstruct her view of the fireworks. Their daughter found her sometime later, frightened and confused, at the Gelateria Pinocchio; her wheelchair was in the street, and Jean-Pierre was nowhere to be found. In addition to the din of the partygoers, there were loud concerts on the sidewalk, and the white truck thus seemed to arrive smooth and silent. For two kilometers, it drove no stampede, no rush to escape; the truck was rolling forward far more quickly than the wave of panic it set o≠.

From left: Police investigate the area where the truck was finally stopped; French soldiers patrol the Promenade in early August; at a hospital in Nice, a woman learns that her grandson has been killed in the attack. Below: A bench on the Promenade became an impromptu memorial.

swerving sharply. One of the o∞cers later said he assumed the driver was drunk. He trained his gun on the truck as his colleagues yelled, “You, stop!” Lahouaiej Bouhlel looked down on them silently from behind the driver’s-side window and slowed as if to speak. The window shattered suddenly, as Lahouaiej Bouhlel fired three shots and pulled away. The o∞cers chased the white truck on foot. It did not go far, only an additional 150 yards or so. The truck was limping now, its hood and bumper gone, a front tire squealing as it went flat, the remains of several bodies twisted around the rear axle and caught in a wheel well. It came to a halt across from the Palais de la Méditerranée, a massive hotel and casino, its Art Deco facade uplit grandly in the night. For a time, nothing happened. The truck sat idling in the deserted street; the police giving chase half expected to see it explode. A man, a civilian, climbed up to the driver’s-side door and tried to throw punches through the window. Lahouaiej

Bouhlel pulled his gun on the man, who lost his balance and fell to the ground. Lahouaiej Bouhlel fired at him but missed. The police shot back, and pockmarks appeared across the windshield. The killer ducked and shifted to the passenger side of the cabin. An o∞cer approached the truck on this side, raised her pistol above her head, and fired eight rounds into the open window. The shooting stopped; the motor was still running; it was 10:36. Lahouaiej Bouhlel had been shot 16 times. Christophe, the municipal police o∞cer who had been the first to see the white truck, arrived just as the shooting stopped. Among the limbs and bodies in the wheel well was a woman whose head had come to rest against the ground. She stared up at the o∞cers beside the truck and moved her head silently. Three men disentangled her from the corpses and carried her into the Palais de la Méditerranée on a metal crowd barrier, turned on its side like a stretcher. She did not speak. The street was slippery with blood and brain tissue and scattered with telephones, wallets, keys— the small belongings ejected from the hands and pockets of the stricken as they flew through the air. White bedsheets were brought out from the Palais de la Méditerranée and draped over the bodies. They were French, Italian, Algerian, Kazakh, 20 nationalities in all, ages 2 to 92. An elderly man wandered into the perimeter the police had set up around the truck, and when the o∞cers saw him,

he spoke. “I’m not a threat,” he said. “I want to stay with my wife.” He lay down on the pavement beside a white shroud. A woman came to speak with the police. “But I don’t understand,” she said. “I was walking, I wanted to see the ocean, I went away to see it. Then I heard a sound, and now I can’t find my husband and my child.” The bodies, the blood, the white truck riddled with bullet holes, had not yet coalesced in her mind as a narrative, as a set of e≠ects and their cause. In her shock, it was as if she could not see them. Two kilometers back down the long curve of the Promenade, Ali Charrihi knelt at his mother’s side. Fatima’s eyes were closed, her lips pursed in a slight smile. She bled from a gash running from her palm down her wrist; blood pooled behind her head. A young nurse performed CPR. Ali’s father arrived and took his wife’s foot in his hand. “But Ali, she’s cold!” he said. The paramedics jolted her three times with a defibrillator before one of them pointed to Fatima’s ear and the blood trickling from it. “I’m sincerely sorry,” the man said. Ali’s father fainted. His wife, it is believed, was the first to die. In a local hospital, some days later, members of Jean-Pierre Joussemet’s family were taken to see a patient who could not be identified. The man had been brought naked to the hospital, his clothes likely cut o≠ by paramedics, and he was in a coma. Someone had shaved his head, and the left side of his body, from his forehead down, was a continuous bruise, grotesquely swollen. They were initially incapable of saying if the man was Jean-Pierre, but he was. He died in August, the 86th and final victim.

← ↑ → ↓


ATE ON THE NIGHT of July 14 and into the following day, Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s aunt received worried phone calls from various relatives in Tunisia, making sure she and her family were safe. No one asked after her nephew Mohamed. “He’s not liked very much in the family,” the aunt would tell investigators. Lahouaiej Bouhlel was raised in Msaken, Tunisia, one of ten siblings. He was a volatile and unruly boy, hitting other children, breaking doors at home. He obsessed over his appearance, and began lifting weights as an adolescent. “ ‘I am ugly,’ ” he told a psychiatrist at 19, in 2004, according to a (continued on page 95) GQ February 2017 71

Inside a novel experiment that aims to solve PROSTITUTION by helping the men who perpetuate it


slouch, and spread their feet wide—and you’ve never felt anything quite like the overwhelming awkwardness, the tangible defensiveness, that surrounds them. All eight have been busted for trying to buy sex. They’ve paid fines or spent time in jail or, in some cases, been forced to register as sex o≠enders. And now they’re here, in this beige classroom, for the final, and most unusual, part of the punishment meted out by King County, Washington. For the next couple of months, they’ll be required to think deeply about what led them to the parking lots and motels where they were arrested. They’ll be asked to plumb their emotions and to contemplate their place in the patriarchy. It’s a modest experiment with a rather immodest goal: to solve the sex trade by changing the lives of the men who perpetrate it. HE MEN CROSS THEIR ARMS,

I wanted to see what on earth this might look like in practice. An eightweek court-ordered course meant to teach so-called johns about empathy and healthy relationships, about gender socialization and victim-blaming and toxic masculinity? When I asked for a closer look, the men in a recent course were invited to vote on whether they’d be okay with a female reporter quietly observing it all from the back of the room. Remarkably, they said yes. And so, on a Thursday evening, I shook hands with the men, one by one, as they trickled in, took their seats, and slumped in silence. The usual small talk was clearly moot here. What would they say? Each man already knew at least the outline of how the others had ended up in that room, because it was the same way he had ended up there. For Akio,* who’s 40 but has a shyness that makes him seem much younger, it was a first-time lark. He made a point of calling it “hanging out” when he asked how much he and a friend would be charged for an hour with a woman at a Ramada Inn. Steve, 60, divorced, fresh from stalking allegations and more than one restraining order, had responded to a daddy-daughter deal on a fetish site. Jason, a 22-year-old Mormon just back from a two-year mission—during which spending time with the opposite sex was strictly o≠-limits—arranged for a $70 blow job from a girl (she made a point of telling him she was a minor, though he *O≠enders’ names have been changed throughout.

74 February 2017 GQ

swears he didn’t go looking for that). She told him to meet her in the parking lot between a bank and a McDonald’s. David, 51 and fairly new to the computer, was on Craigslist looking for deals on auto parts when he noticed there were other ads there, too, ads for young women. Back in his military days, he’d bought sex on the street pretty regularly—“I treat ’em just like a human,” he told me later. He clicked on one of the ads and got an answer back from someone who gave her name as Jen. “What if I’m under 18?” she asked him. David went to meet her at a 7-Eleven, but when he got there, there was no Jen. There never had been. There was only the police waiting for him. Man after man, the details di≠ered but the denouement was the same: They went to a parking lot or to a motel or to some other rendezvous expecting sex, and got something else. The blood drains, the stomach drops, and instead of the woman he arranged to meet, there’s a police detective standing in the doorway or stepping out of the car. Some of what followed was predictable:

the trips to court, the heavy fees, to say nothing of the shame that must be borne before wives, bosses, pastors. But ending up here in this classroom was far less expected. The idea for the course came from Peter Qualliotine, a co-founder of the Seattle-based Organization for Prostitution Survivors, who had worked for years with women caught up in the sex trade. But long ago, Peter became convinced that his best chance for combating the harms of the sex trade depended on working with the men—with those trying to pay for sex. In plenty of cities and counties around the country, men busted for buying sex get sent to a class known as “john school”— usually just a scared-straight afternoon with lectures about STDs and jail time and the harms of prostitution. It’s the sex-work version of tra∞c school; in some places, the whole thing consists of a 15-minute video. Peter had taught those classes and didn’t think much of their e≠ectiveness. He had something grander in mind. “My pitch for the men is: Patriarchy hurts you, too,” Peter told me when I first contacted him about the singular experiment he’s launched in King County. “You deserve a healthy relationship that makes you happy.” Laughing, he o≠ered another way to put it: “We’re trying to teach them how to love.” Then he stopped laughing and said, “For real.”

← ↑ → ↓


N THE FIRST DAY of class, Peter stood at the whiteboard and wrote the phrase “Act Like a Man.” He then asked the class to give him examples of what the phrase meant to them, writing down the answers they called out: strong, tough, good at sports, lots of sex, fighting, devoid of emotion, disciplined. Then he drew a box around the list and suggested that these notions created a rather impossible standard for guys, a standard that excludes important things like empathy and vulnerability and gets in the way of deep relationships. He asked them to think about what it would take,

Peter wanted to address what he saw as the real roots of prostitution: patriarchy, male privilege, and the barriers to healthy relationships.

O P E N I N G PA G E S , F R O M L E F T : I S TO C K ( 2 ) ; A L E B U R S E T/ G A L L E R Y S TO C K . T H I S PA G E : G R E M L I N / I S TO C K .

in their own lives, to fit within the box he’d drawn, what names they’d get called if they strayed outside it. The men o≠ered up “sissy” and “queer” and other words that questioned their sexuality. Steve, the man who’d responded to the daddy-daughter ad, told me later that he regarded the activity as just an icebreaker—kind of a fun get-to-know-you exercise. He was sure it didn’t have anything to do with the point of the class or the notion of sexual exploitation or why he might have done the things that landed him there. Instead, when I met him outside of class to chat (he’d suggested we get together at a Starbucks right next to the county line, which he said he wasn’t allowed to cross without permission), he tried to explain away, in an almost unstoppable monologue, the restraining order, the domestic violence arrest, the tracking device he put on his ex-girlfriend’s truck, the stalking allegations that got him e≠ectively banned from a hospital and an entire small city, and especially his conviction for trying to buy sex from a person he was told was a 15-year-old girl. It was clear from the start that Peter would have his work cut out for him. In class, throughout those first weeks, a number of the men showed with their body language that they thought the whole exercise was bullshit, a waste of their time. Several maintained that their arrests had been misunderstandings, and several, including Steve, made it clear that they thought it was nonsense that prostitution

was a crime at all. He was already turned o≠ by the class’s o∞cial title, Stopping Sexual Exploitation: A Program for Men, because of the word exploitation: “It kind of gives you an indication of what their position is.” In fact, Peter does nothing to hide his position or his ideas about how best to combat prostitution—notions that stem from years of working with men and women on both sides of the sex trade. In an age when new ideas are flourishing about the role of sex work in society, Peter stands apart from those who’d like to decriminalize it; he disagrees with activists who argue that regulating prostitution can make it safer. To Peter, decriminalizing sex work won’t strip it of its danger and its tendency toward exploitation. He’d like to see more johns prosecuted for buying sex, but also new attention paid to preventing it. Over years spent talking to johns, Peter says, he’s realized that most men feel, at best, conflicted about prostitution. The problem, he believes, is bigger than sex and boils down to “men not having the social and emotional learning to deal with our shit.” And so, in a bid to solve some of that, he envisioned a course that attacked what he considered to be the roots of the issue: patriarchy, male privilege, and the social barriers that stand in the way of healthy relationships. During the 1990s, Peter, who lived in Portland, Oregon, then, pitched a version of the class he imagined—but it was always turned down as too political. It wasn’t until

2012, after he had moved to Seattle, that his ideas began to find some traction. That’s when Peter met Valiant Richey, a King County prosecutor who had been waging his own battle against prostitution— targeting pimps and tra∞ckers but watching in frustration as the area’s sex trade grew. Analysis had concluded that his o∞ce was, as he put it recently, “overwhelmingly and disproportionately prosecuting the wrong people.” As was—and still is—the case in many jurisdictions throughout the country, the large majority of prostitutionrelated arrests were of women. In 2009, Richey’s unit charged more than 50 juveniles—including many girls who couldn’t even legally consent to sex—with criminal prostitution. Meanwhile, the unit prosecuted just two buyers that year. (Peter heard stories of arresting o∞cers handing the john his money back before sending him on his way and taking the sex worker to jail.) “It was not,” Richey says now, “a proud time for us.” Like Peter, Richey was interested in trying something di≠erent. The two teamed up on a new approach and began by persuading police to go after buyers—a strategy so unusual that it’s known as a “reverse sting.” Detectives in King County began posting online ads (they often included words like “fresh” and “young” in order to find men who looked for minors); they’d get hundreds of responses within an hour. Soon they’d flipped their proportions, charging more buyers than sellers by a ratio of three to one. And the men (continued on page 97)

76 February 2017 GQ

The GREATEST COUNTRY in America...

…For the Freaky Solitude • What you see here is not some new glamping situation in Marfa. It’s not Mars 100 years after Elon Musk plants his flag. It’s Mexico. Encuentro Guadalupe, to be exact—a design hotel that’s easily the strangest, most exhilarating base for exploring Baja’s burgeoning wine country. Each of the 20 “eco-lofts” (starting at $275) is a freestanding pod, reachable only by shuttle and/or hiking trail. There’s no TV, no ice machine. Just you, a view, and the realization that you’re doing Mexico the right way. For more on that, turn the page.

Ever y thing You’re Afraid Of

Foreign Policy Shift


• No country in the world (not even Kazakhstan) is more misunderstood than the land across the Rio Grande. (We don’t even blame Trump.) For whatever reason, gringos always seem to visit only the absolute worst places: allinclusive tourist hellscapes where you need a wristband to order a watery margarita and the quesadillas come with a side of ketchup. But Mexico has quietly become a worldclass travel destination,

without sacrificing its character and history—its soul. Why should we fly across an ocean when, right across our border, cities are booming with Europe-level restaurants and parks are packed with Australia-level adventure? It’s insane to think that while we’ve been backpacking through Thailand and foodie-pilgrimaging to Copenhagen, Mexico has been right there all along, getting better (more stable,

more progressive, more sophisticated) all the time. In the past few years, the country’s interior has become as compelling as its shoreline. The art scene now rivals anything in the hemisphere. Even though it’s close enough for a quick getaway and familiar enough to require zero acclimation, parts of its landscape feel like a di≠erent planet. Extravagance abounds if that’s your thing, but the country’s cheap thrills (e.g., carnitas) o≠er at least

as much primal pleasure. This is, after all, the culture that gave the world chocolate, guacamole, mezcal, and Salma Hayek. It knows how to have a good time. In these pages, you’ll find dozens of other reasons to go right now. So join us as we get re-acquainted with our southern neighbor. Because with every passing day in America, Mexico seems less like the cause of all our problems and more like the solution.

Ever y thing We Love

78 February 2017 GQ


Escape to Mexico For…

Totally Surreal Wilderness Chiapas will remind you of your best days outside in Colorado—minus the legal edibles. Much of the state is nature preserves. And most of the action is within driving distance of the charming town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the perfect place to wind down with the local ceremonial drink, pox, which is to Chiapas what bourbon is to Kentucky. DAY 1

Trip Out Underground Head to Sima de las Cotorras just before sunrise, when the thousands of green parakeets that live in this sinkhole—about 500 feet across and deep— rise in spiraling flocks in search of food. Rappel to the bottom and gawk at wall paintings believed to be up to 10,000 years old. Chiapas is littered with other dramatic caves, including El Chorreadero, which you enter like something out of Tomb Raider, descending into a vast network of caverns with underground springs.



Roll Up to the Pyramids To get a feel for the bonkers topography of Chiapas, where pines battle palms for real estate, sign up for Jaguar Adventours’ bike excursion to the Río Totolapa—it starts on a mountaintop and ends at a waterfall. Or, if you’re more into hiking, visit the Mayan site of Toniná, the tallest pyramid in Mexico, at almost 250 feet. All the structures (and their 360-degree views) can be explored without a guide; in the States you’d have to sign some kind of death waiver.


Ride a Waterfall Chiapas may have the most aquatic diversity in Mexico, with countless freshwater bodies and 180 miles of secluded ocean beach. So kayak your way through Lagunas de Montebello, a network of 59 lakes, each a unique and vivid color due to its mineral content. Or raft Agua Azul, a series of stepped waterfalls with up to 50-foot drops. Or (if you’re not insane) plunge into Cenote Chucumaltik, a crystalline lake (a sinkhole, really), and dive above petrified trees, a quartz deposit, and an altar to the Virgin Mary.

You’re Doing Mexico Wrong!

Skip Cancún, Go to Holbox Island A short, spray-in-your-face boat ride off the Yucatán coast, Holbox is on a cigar-shaped spit so narrow you can practically heave a coconut from shore to shore. With golf carts for taxis and sand for pavement, it is literally where the streets have no name. All you do is sunbathe and swim, taking daily lunch breaks to eat the life-changing ceviche at a mom-and-pop stand called La Chingada. At night you swim again, only this time the water is bioluminescent; turquoise sparks fly off your fingertips as you wave them through the water and realize that you don’t miss civilization even one little bit.

Theital Cap

You’re Doing Mexico Wrong!

2 1

Skip the Mega-Resorts, Get Yourself a Damn Villa


7 3


You can have pretty much the same experience in an Acapulco resort that you can in Jamaica. So find a place that harmonizes with its surroundings instead of overshadowing them. A halfhour car ride up the coast from Tulum, Hotel Esencia was built as a retreat for an Italian duchess. Its manicured grounds, including a semi-private beach, are wedged between the gnarly jungle and the sparkling sea. And all lodgings are either suites or villas. In short, Esencia is as far removed from an Acapulco high-rise as it gets.



Escape to Mexico For…

Mexico City’s Magnificent Transformation As the city becomes a mecca of art and food, new neighborhoods keep popping up as symbols of the revolution: first Condesa, then Roma, and now Colonia Juárez, a district of rehabbed mansions. Here, author Jorge Pedro Uribe (the Anthony Bourdain of Mexico City) maps the highlights. 1. Bar Milán and Parker & Lenox

“Parker & Lenox is a great speakeasy for jazz, swing, and other sounds of the ’30s and ’40s; Bar Milán is a classic that I hope can survive.”

3. Barbería Capital

Because every hood needs a hipster barbershop.

bakery is the best place to hike your sugar—and pleasure—levels.” 6. Café Gaby’s

4. Expendio Records

The spot for underground vinyl and rowdy parties.

2. Amaya

5. Panadería Rosetta

The hottest restaurant opening of 2016, bar none.

“Havre is kind of the ‘gentrifier’ street, and Rosetta

80 February 2017 GQ

“It might be the only old-school co≠ee shop like this in the neighborhood. I love the collection of old co≠ee mills and molinillos, which are hotchocolate beaters.”

Hey, Enrique Olvera, you’re the super-chef behind restaurants Pujol in Mexico City and Moxi in San Miguel de Allende. Where should we be eating next?

7. Marso Gallery

Housed in an ornate old mansion, it’s one of a handful of contemporaryart galleries to open in the area. 8. Corner of Berlín & Versalles

“It’s one of the prettiest and most historic parts of the neighborhood.”

One of the pioneer cooks in Baja is Jair Téllez, who opened Laja in 2001. It’s got great natural wines and homemade bread. I also like the avant-garde techniques at Néctar in Mérida. And there’s Restaurante Alcade in Guadalajara, which does Mexican flavor at its best.

Escape to Mexico For...

The Greatest Restaurant in the World (for a Limited Time Only) For seven weeks this spring, you won’t have to haul your ass to Copenhagen to eat at world-famous Noma. That’s because chef-genius René Redzepi and his former pastry chef Rosio Sanchez are opening an outdoor pop-up restaurant on the dreamy Mayan Riviera. What’s for dinner? “That’s the fun part,” Sanchez says. “We have no idea!” Basically, she and Redzepi will cook food indigenous to the area, figuring it out when they get there. The feeding frenzy starts April 12. It’ll be a tasting menu, $600 a head. And you’ll just have to trust them.


The Sweats You’re Doing Mexico Wrong!

Skip Cabo. Go to... the Other Cabo. Setting SJDC: Old homes

are being converted into spi≠y restaurants. CSL: Culture is generally limited to Bob Marley calf tattoos. Signature Sound SJDC: Traditional

concerts take place in the central Plaza Mijares, built on an original 18thcentury mission. CSL: Faux mariachi bands will crucify many of your favorite songs. Plans for Tonight SJDC: Head to

Flora’s Field Kitchen for

unbelievably fresh farm-to-table food. CSL: Sammy Hagar’s club.

Ways You Will Be Relieved of Your Money

Where to Buy Tequila

big here; try the Palmilla Golf Club’s three 9-hole courses. CSL: Flyboarding, a real thing, which involves a hoverboard connected to a Jet Ski connected to you.

SJDC: Curated shops

like Los Barriles de Don Malaquias o≠er nearly 300 brands and blends. CSL: Anywhere with a horizontal surface.

SJDC: Golf is

Where to Stay SJDC: Intimate,

boutiquey Hotel El Ganzo, with its rooftop infinity pool and private beach. CSL: The ME Cabo, which lists “DJ music” under Services on its website.

82 February 2017 GQ

The Beach SJDC: Playa

Palmilla and Playa Acapulquito both boast fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling. CSL: We cannot begin to prepare you for the sheer volume of Pitbull.

At the end of a hike up Tepozteco Mountain, you’ll find a 12th-century temple to Tepoztecatl, an Aztec god of drink—or, specifically, pulque, a pre-Hispanic tipple of fermented agave sap, still sold in town. (Try one. Actually, try a few.) It all makes for an apt intro to an intoxicating place whose presence in Aztec myth supports its status among big-city weekenders as a hippie hideaway. Spas are everywhere in Tepoztlán, and chief among these is the temazcal, an iglooshaped stone-and-adobe sweat lodge whose form is said to echo Mother Earth’s own womb, so that each temazcal experience is a rebirth.

You can get the authentic guided experience at Hotel Teocalli, where a temazcalero leads you through a series of presteam chants, stretches, and herb inhalations. Then, as you enter the temazcal— claustrophobes, turn back now—medicinal herbs are burned as well as infused in the water thrown on walls to create near intolerable heat levels. Leafy branches are waved to distribute and adjust the steam, then beaten on you to encourage detoxification. (You’ll love it!) Further exfoliation comes courtesy of stones and grasses. After about 20 minutes too long, you exit, lie dazed in a pool, sip tea, and ponder your next pulque.

T H I S PAG E , P H OTO G R A P H S , F R O M L E F T: J E N J U D G E ; C O U R T E S Y O F H O S TA L D E L A L U Z . O P P O S I T E PA G E : A DA M W I S E M A N .

The towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo both sit on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. You definitely don’t want to pick the wrong one.


All This Crazy

Jungle Stuff! • Until a freak frost in 1962 killed his beloved flowers, Surrealistart patron and certified eccentric Edward James had been living on a former co≠ee plantation in the Mexican village of Xilitla among 18,000 orchids. Deciding he’d make a more permanent paradise, James then spent the next two decades constructing 36 WTF-ish concrete structures in the middle of the rain forest. Called Las Pozas for its many spring-fed ponds, it’s an outsiderart masterwork: The Watts Towers, Grey Gardens, Gaudí’s Barcelona, and Disneyland rolled into one.


In an astonishing run of 20 films in 37 years, director PEDRO ALMODÓVAR has become more than a cinematic icon—he’s also the foremost chronicler of his adopted hometown, Madrid. So in honor of Julieta, his new picture set in the Spanish capital, we asked Almodóvar to direct this photo shoot in all his favorite locations, with all his favorite people, wearing all of this season’s best going-out clothes

84 PG

Anders Overgaard

THE OPENING SCENE “The locations that appear in this production are connected to my life and my work,” Almodóvar says. Take, for example, this image. With its reference to Hitchcock’s Rear Window and its setting in Madrid’s URSO Hotel, the director conceived it as an establishing shot. It sets in motion a very Almodóvarian love triangle driven by actress Adriana Ugarte, who spies her Julieta co-star Michelle Jenner in flagrante delicto with model Jon Kortajarena and wants a piece of the action (or maybe just a fresh robe). «« PREVIOUS PAGE

jacket $2,955 jeans $660 and belt Dsquared2 sweater $235 Sandro leather sneakers $80 Converse bag Gucci bracelet David Yurman ON HER

top and skirt Jeremy Scott heels Giuseppe Zanotti Design purse Marc Jacobs sunglasses Robert Marc » pajamas $345 Palm Angels slippers Gucci ON WOMEN

bra and panties (left) La Perla t-shirt and skirt (right) Dior location URSO Hotel & Spa, Madrid


All About Almodóvar

In the 1950s and ’60s, Spanish bohemians used to mingle at the Chicote bar with visiting film stars. “In the photos hanging on its walls are Rita Hayworth and Sophia Loren,” Almodóvar says, “and especially Ava Gardner, with or without Frank Sinatra. In Julieta, Inma Cuesta plays a very beautiful and very liberated sculptor named Ava, in honor of Ava Gardner.” At far left is actress and model Rossy de Palma, who plays way against type as a dowdy housekeeper. Pedro’s behind the bar.

IN HIS LONG CAREER, Pedro Almodóvar has been an enfant terrible, a national icon, a provocateur, a stylist, and a starmaker; at 67, he is still somehow all of the above. His newest movie, Julieta, about a woman’s life before and after a tragedy, is as lush as a Renaissance painting, as emotionally taut as a divorce. In its cold-eyed sobriety and sharp-edged realism, the film feels like something new from Almodóvar; in its studied languor, something familiar. Like his 1988 breakthrough, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Julieta features the bewitching Rossy de Palma, and like High Heels (1991), it stars two gorgeously shot women of different ages (Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez) contemplating desire and betrayal. Julieta is, in other words, like Almodóvar’s 19 other movies, except in the ways it’s di≠erent. This is the pleasure of Almodóvar’s world—its capacity to comfort and surprise, often in the same shot. Over nearly four decades, the director has skewed from deliriously silly (1982’s Labyrinth of Passion, about a nymphomaniac pop starlet’s affair with a gay prince) to darkly, creepily romantic (1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, in which Antonio Banderas kidnaps a porn star) to sublimely breathtaking (1999’s All About My Mother, which won Almodóvar an Academy Award). He also has yet to make an uninteresting film. Here’s to 20 more.— z a c h b a r o n


plaid shirt $195 pants $350 Coach 1941 tank top $40 (for three) Calvin Klein Underwear loafers $895 Ermenegildo Zegna Couture

golden jacket $2,695 green hoodie $830 Haider Ackermann sneakers $160 Vault by Vans black blazer Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci for additional credits, see page 99.


On Jon Kortajarena, jacket $14,900 t-shirt $460 Gucci On Daniel Grao, jacket $3,595 Dolce & Gabbana shirt $198 Michael Kors On Tamar Novas, jacket $1,795 Bally henley $168 John Varvatos watch Hamilton On Almodรณvar, jacket $3,980 Gucci


tank top (left) $850 pants $1,095 sneakers $1,090 Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci suit (center) $4,550 shirt $980 loafers $695 Gucci suit (right) $2,945 shirt $1,150 Bally boots $395 To Boot New York ON WOMEN

dress (left) Balmain suit (on Inma Cuesta) Mugler location Tablao Flamenco Villa-Rosa for additional credits, see page 99.

AND…FIN By this point in the night, our hero has taken up with our heroine at the flamenco club Villa-Rosa, where Almodóvar filmed part of High Heels. In our final scene, the new lovers leave the club to go home and… watch All About My Mother. What’d you think they were gonna do? « jacket $348 Diesel chinos $690 Gucci bracelet and ring David Yurman ON HER

jacket and skirt Philipp Plein location Tablao Flamenco Villa-Rosa

« tuxedo $1,795 shirt $225 David Hart bow tie $60 Brooks Brothers loafers $695 Gucci ON HER

dress Alexander Wang heels Gianvito Rossi men’s hair and grooming by mauro saccoccini for ana prado management. cuesta’s and ugarte’s hair and makeup by soledad rebollar; jenner’s and de palma’s by angela blanco, all for coolproducciones. special thanks to produced by kiku xicoira for bcn skies productions. where to buy it? go to /fashion-directories

CHA NCE THE RAPP ER the pressure of being right and presentable as a celebrity kind of sucks.

I find that interesting with you. Because you idolize Kanye. Nobody’s less— Likable.

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 4 7

poem on Facebook about her, and I remember everybody flaming my ass for it forever. I hope that shit is gone, actually. I gotta check.

Rule number one of the Internet: It’s never gone. Know that, young man. That’s what’s so crazy about Facebook. There’s so many crazy Facebook videos and posts that I made. I gotta delete that shit. Give me a highlight from the poem. Or a lowlight. Either one. [laughs] I think the lowlight of it was that her name was in the poem, you know? It’s like, even if it was meant to be secretive, and I don’t think it was, using someone’s name in a song or poem is super wack. And I published it, and I think the poem was about some inanimate object that she owned, but overall about her. I don’t know.… She’s probably sitting somewhere right now saying, “Yo, you know, Chance the Rapper used to write poetry about me.” Bro! She is definitely on top, because I used to write poems about her and they all worked out. She was cool, though. What’s the downside of being a celebrity? The limitations that come with notoriety? That’s the main thing. I don’t consider being a musician the same thing as being a celebrity. Celebrity is strictly the fact that if I go somewhere, to a…frozen-yogurt shop— Do you like frozen yogurt? I love frozen yogurt. Cool. Had to confirm. Journalism! I fuck with it tough! That’s one of my things. I’m glad that you could tell when I said “frozen-yogurt spot” that I was actually talking about something that happened to me in my life—this happens in a lot of places. If I go to a frozen-yogurt spot, and I get my yogurt, and I put on my toppings, and I go to the front, and the cashier freaks out, she’s like, “Oh my God, oh my God, you’re Chance the Rapper. You’re Chance the Rapper.” And then the other lady there, she says, “I don’t know who you are.” It’s the di≠erence in those two reactions. Like, this one girl might fan out, and this other girl might not care at all. But then in a few seconds, this girl’s going to start making it very apparent that she doesn’t know who I am, making jokes about it and asking me who I am, what do I do. And then, in the end, she’s going to ask for a picture, too. And remind me after she took the picture that she doesn’t know who I am. It’s like today was di≠erent in her life because she saw a celebrity. And that sucks. And 94




Right. And less presentable. Does that make it easier for you to do or say the wrong thing? I don’t think I ever wanted to be like Kanye in personality, though. I think I definitely want to, have always wanted to, have his boldness or assurance in myself. But I’ve definitely seen Kanye do things where I was like, “I’d never do that.” I’ve always been able to defend Kanye. When everybody’s like, “Kanye’s a nut, Kanye’s a nut,” I’m one of those guys saying, “No, he’s saying some real shit.” Like when he went onstage with Taylor, I was, like…well…Beyoncé kind of deserved that. [laughs] I’m rationalizing everything that he does, but I can’t say that in the same position I would do the same things. Being around Kanye, Kanye says crazier shit in private than he does in public, which is hard to believe because he says the craziest things in public. He does have a filter. He’s not a liar or somebody that is going to sugarcoat things when he does speak. But Kanye’s said some crazy shit to me where I respond, “No, I don’t feel you at all.” I always wanted to be more of a person that people enjoy. Somebody that will make you laugh. I’m talking about just my personality, not necessarily how my music sounds. Because I believe I’m a disrupter like Kanye in a lot of ways. Yeah. Seven Grammy noms with no label is pretty disruptive. You know what I’m saying?! I get that from Ye. But I get my personality and my character and my understanding of how I respond to people and how I work with people and how I present my opinions—I get that from my dad. What do you think happens when you die? Describe the process… Okay. I don’t believe that there will be a moment of me crossing over. I think. I guess there probably is some type of legal process that you have to go through, where you have to go say wassup to Peter, or whoever’s at the gate, and he says “Come on in” and everything. It’s like a nightclub. “How many girls do you have with you?” Exactly. Saint Peter’s like, “Yo, you did really good, we got a table for you in the back, Jesus is trying to see you.” All that process probably does go down. But what I think about is the opportunity to be God-like. I believe that we’re all created in God’s image and that we have free will and have a lot of opportunities allotted to us that could otherwise not be. Um, but I think my understanding of it is when you die, it’s the closest that you can be to God. And it is the, you know, the realization of self and self-worth and purpose and your opportunity to be everlasting. How important are the Grammys—to music, and to Chance the Rapper? I think the Grammys are super important to music. As a musician, I think it’s the same

thing as an actor receiving an Oscar. Do I think that the Grammys are always fully representative of a person’s talent? No. Just like Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t get an Oscar until this past year. And he’s been doing his fucking thing. But I think everybody wants validation, everybody wants to feel like they did right. And I think the nominations are my victory. You know?

I can’t imagine you in a rap beef. Do you think that’ll ever happen? You going diss for diss with some rapper? I don’t see it ever happening. You know, I take my fucking raps so seriously that I don’t write raps without having a purpose for them anymore. I can’t write raps without having a beat and having an understanding of what I’m going to do with that song. I have to know what I’m going to do with that track when I’m done. I can’t see myself ever having somebody say something about me on a song and me being like, “All right, now I’m about to say something about them on a song.” Have you ever purchased a chain? Like a rapper chain? Never. Nothing ever from an expensive jeweler. Nah. Hell nah. That’s not me. When was the last time you were broke? I go broke a lot. Oh. I go broke a lot because I have this understanding that whatever I put out there, if I really am doing what’s right, it’s going to be rewarding, you know? If I’m working on it—if I’m diligently working on it—something will come back. And that’s how every project has been since I was in high school, since I was Instrumentality [Chance’s musical alter ego in high school] and I was giving out CDs for free. Everything has come back tenfold. I remember sitting on the back of the bus on the first day of the Social Experiment tour, with my face in my hands. I emptied out my bank account, and before I did that tour that was the number one thing I said I’d never do. I’ll never empty out my savings. But I put all that money up, and within two weeks, when everyone was getting paid, I was like, Okay, cool we’re good again. Was that the only time you emptied your account? The same shit happened with Surf. And the same shit happened with Coloring Book. I was fucking around in this studio—like this studio is stupid expensive. What’s the most expensive thing you’ve purchased that wasn’t a car or a home? For a second, when I first moved back to Chicago from L.A., I had old habits to break. I would buy very, very expensive Ralph Lauren stu≠. I got into Polo really heavy. Like, Oh shit, now this is all I do. I have three-to-four-thousand-dollar merino wool sweaters or cashmere sweaters and shit. What I do a lot, that I had to cut out, was I used to take my friends places and spend a lot of money at fun places on some weird kid shit. I recently took, like, 35 of my friends and all of the Golden State Warriors to Sky Zone. Just because they were in town and I like Sky Zone.



What is Sky Zone? It’s one of those indoor trampoline places. What do your parents think of all of this? All of the attention? My dad’s had a million jobs. Whether it was, like, working for sanitation or working on somebody’s campaign, whatever he was doing, people would always want to talk to him. About something that they needed, or somebody that they were mad at and they wanted my dad to fix it. My mom hated it. She’d be like, “Be with your fucking family! We’re at the movies.” How does your mom feel about you now? I think my mom is very, very, very proud. But how does she feel about the celebrity aspect of your life? I think I’m the most apprehensive and private of all of us. I remember when I was first getting into my career, my mom was very, very hands-on and protective. She’s super smart. I’m a young parent in a relationship, so there’s always relationship advice or parenting advice that I get from my parents. I do miss the times when I was, you know, still living on 79th and could come home, but I don’t feel as sheltered by anybody anymore. My dad has always just been a people person. I still look to my dad for advice. My dad’s the man. And I can’t say that enough. He has always stuck up for people. And he’s also always been a good dude. That’s who I want to be. I’m okay if the story seems boring to people because I’m a good guy. I’m cool with that. I’d be cool with people remembering me as a good, boring dude. As long as people say good. You know? I want to be the good guy. And sometimes the good guy sounds like a lame thing. But the good guy, in what I’ve seen happen so far, the good usually wins. That’s why I’m not afraid of a Trump presidency or— How are you not afraid of a Trump presidency? Help us feel better. You gotta just understand, like, shit has been fucked-up, right? Like, “Make America Great Again,” that’s not a real thing because shit ain’t really switched up for them. It’s not really going that bad for you. If you feel like you’re the under-represented, under-appreciated side of Middle America that is white—quote me—you need to, uh, toughen up, nigga! Somebody gotta punch you in the chest, because shit is sweet for you. You know what I’m saying? I would say to everybody, you know, the world is coming together. Like there’s—every day people are becoming more and more, I’m not using this word in terms of emotion, but sensitive to real issues and— And aware. Yeah. And aware. That’s really what I mean. People are raising their kids to be more and more knowledgeable and understanding. I would say the main reason not to be afraid is that I’m making music for your kids now. I’m coming so clean-cut with the message of hope and understanding, and the Word, that it’s like: What could you be fearful of ? mark anthony green is gq’s style editor.

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 7 1

report in The New York Times. “I’ve got to build myself up.” The doctor prescribed an antidepressant, an anxiolytic, and Haldol, an antipsychotic often prescribed to treat schizophrenia and aggression. “There were the beginnings of a psychosis,” the psychiatrist told the Times. “He wasn’t someone who was living in the real world.” He was a good student, however, and would have liked to go abroad to university; his father, a livestock trader and property owner who was reputed to be prosperous but miserly, refused to send him. Marriage was his path out. Hajer Khalfallah had been born in Msaken but was raised in Nice and held French citizenship; she was his first cousin. They married in 2006, when she was 22 and he was 21. “Our marriage was happy at the start,” Khalfallah told police. They moved to a housing project built into a green hillside in the northern part of Nice. She called him Momo. Lahouaiej Bouhlel continued to lift weights, and he asked his wife to take pictures of his body, to track his “progress.” “It was always him first,” she said. “He paid a lot of attention to himself.” In 2010, he went to work for a beveragedistribution company as a delivery driver. After about six months, clients began to complain about his behavior. “He tended to strut around, to show o≠,” one of his managers said. The day after a company party, in late 2011, there were complaints that Lahouaiej Bouhlel had made inappropriate advances to several waitresses and waiters. He “denied everything and said he wasn’t homosexual,” the manager said. Lahouaiej Bouhlel was fired; he had to be escorted o≠ the premises by police. His marriage began to deteriorate. He complained about his wife’s cooking and cleaning, and found she spent too much time with her mother. Her interest in sex was not suitably strong, in his estimation. He began to hit her. On several occasions, she called her husband’s friend Roger and asked him to intervene. Roger, a gay man in his 70s with an attraction to Lahouaiej Bouhlel that he took no pains to disguise, would scold his friend, who would inevitably respond, “You’re right.” “I was like the dad,” Roger said later. “I always tried to get them to reconcile.” Once, when Khalfallah went out despite Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s opposition, he eviscerated one of his children’s stu≠ed animals with a knife, she recalled in a deposition. On another occasion, he defecated in their beds and smeared his feces on the walls. “He wanted to push me to divorce him so that he could go live a bachelor’s life, go out with girls, go clubbing,” she said. He humiliated her, she told investigators, urinating on her feet and pouring wine on her face

as she slept. (She was a practicing Muslim, who wore a hijab and forswore alcohol, though she was not particularly devout; when asked by police to recite the five pillars of Islam, she could recall only four.) “It’s true that he had no feelings for her—he told me that a lot,” Roger told police. “She knew he didn’t love her.” Roger and Lahouaiej Bouhlel had met at a gym in Nice. Roger found him to be “charming” and “exceptionally kind”: “He’s a boy who’s nice when he speaks, who’s poised, who’s distinguished.” Roger, too, called him Momo; he called Roger “dear friend.” They bonded over a shared distaste for Maghrébins, or North African Arabs. Lahouaiej Bouhlel told him he agreed that his fellow Arabs were “trouble.” “He loved France, he loved the French, and he hated the Arabs,” Roger told investigators. Eventually, Lahouaiej Bouhlel and his wife separated and began divorce proceedings. He moved to a small apartment in the east of the city. Roger bought him a bed frame and two couches, gave him a computer and his old Citroën, and o≠ered him 2,000 euros to help pay for his truckdriver’s license. Many of Roger’s friends, like many of those who knew Lahouaiej Bouhlel, assumed the two men were lovers. “I would have loved that,” Roger said. “He was so handsome. I made some overtures to him, but I very quickly understood that I wasn’t of interest to him. He wasn’t interested in men. He liked women too much.” In 2012, Lahouaiej Bouhlel began taking lessons in salsa and bachata, as often as four nights a week. He was said to have slept with several of his female classmates. “Mohamed was a womanizer, a sexual obsessive,” one former classmate told police. “It’s all he talked about—that was his principal characteristic.” Despite his aggressiveness, he remained within the bounds of tolerable male behavior, at least as defined locally. “I saw him as someone who was troubled, fragile, and unstable, but not at all dangerous,” one woman told police. “He tried to be a playboy. He was really trying to make people like him. I think he was in need of recognition. He had a lack of self-confidence.” In January 2015, jihadists murdered much of the sta≠ of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper based in Paris, for publishing various caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. Roger received a message from his friend Momo: Je suis Charlie, the slogan of support for the victims that quickly spread across France. Roger was pleased, but he also believed Lahouaiej Bouhlel hadn’t the faintest idea what Charlie Hebdo had done to so anger the jihadists. “That was all over his head,” he told investigators. He and Lahouaiej Bouhlel occasionally discussed the war in Syria and the Europeans who went there to fight, he said, but always at Roger’s initiative. “I would say to him, ‘Do you realize? There are people who are going to fight in Syria.’ ” Lahouaiej Bouhlel would reply, “Who cares? They’re just going to die there, in any case.” Lahouaiej Bouhlel had seemed sad before the attack, Roger said, perhaps depressed. He allowed for the possibility that his friend had indeed been indoctrinated, but this would have had to have occurred “only at the very end,” he said, and invisibly. Roger mentioned Andreas Lubitz, the pilot who in 2015 killed himself and 149 other people when he FEBRUARY





deliberately crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into the mountains north of Nice. “Momo did the same thing,” he suggested. “He wanted, in death, for people to talk about him.” • • • I N A D D I T I O N T O Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s life-

less body and a 7.65-mm pistol, the police found two plastic imitation M16 assault rifles, a plastic imitation Beretta handgun, and a plastic mock grenade in the cabin of the white truck. What he intended to do with these props is hardly clear, but they suggest the possibility of an attack that was meant to proceed di≠erently. Or perhaps they are simply further evidence of a mind driven not by logic but by some more primitive instinct. Also with Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s body was a phone, which displayed a text message he’d sent moments before steering his way onto the Promenade. “Salam Ramzy,” it began. “I wanted to tell you that the pistol that you gave me yesterday is great, so let’s have five more from where your buddy lives, 7 Rue Miollis on the fifth floor. It’s for Chokri and his friends.” Oddly—and much of what police would soon discover was highly unusual by the standards of terror investigations, if not outright bizarre—Lahouaiej Bouhlel had several hours earlier made a voice recording on his phone that contained almost identical language, as if he had planned his final message in advance. Yet the recording di≠ered from the text message in several respects. It placed the gun purchase not “yesterday” but on “the day before yesterday”: Police say this was the actual day on which Lahouaiej Bouhlel had gone to an apartment at 7 Rue Miollis and, with the assistance of Ramzi Arefa, his cocaine dealer, purchased a gun. The recording also noted ominously that “Chokri and his friends” were “ready for next month,” and that they were “now at Walid’s.” On July 15, on the advice of his lawyer, Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s friend Mohamed Oualid Ghraieb contacted the police, o≠ering his assistance and hoping to make clear his horror at what his friend had done. O∞cers visited him at his home, and the next morning Ghraieb arrived at the headquarters of the judicial police in Nice to give a deposition. In the intervening hours, police had learned that he was widely known as Walid. He was originally from Tunisia, he said, and for the past seven years had worked as a receptionist at a small hotel in central Nice. He and Lahouaiej Bouhlel had met more than a decade earlier, at a gym in Tunisia, and had seen each other again by chance in 2009, at a gym in Nice. The police asked various questions about Islam, and Ghraieb explained that he considered himself to be a Muslim but that he did not practice. He was asked about the religious practices of his friends in Nice. “I don’t have any friends here,” Ghraieb said. “My life is with my wife and my stepdaughter, my dogs. I avoid spending time with people who could bring me problems. I don’t spend time with Maghrébins, because I don’t like them.” The police told Ghraieb he was being placed under arrest. “I wanted to show my good faith by coming to see you to o≠er my help,” he protested. “I had the misfortune to make the acquaintance of this man. He’s not even a friend—we had almost no contact.” 96




Ghraieb called Lahouaiej Bouhlel “a coward, a thug, a murderer,” and a “bastard,” and added that he condemned his “abominable act.” Either Ghraieb’s memory failed him repeatedly over the following days, and at suspiciously convenient moments, or he chose to lie to his questioners. He insisted that he and Lahouaiej Bouhlel were not close. “Sometimes we wouldn’t call one another for six months or a year,” he said. When he was told that their telephones had been in contact 1,278 times over the preceding 12 months, he conceded that they would exchange “dumb messages” and calls, “but there was nothing special in these calls. I have nothing to hide.” Ghraieb also admitted that he’d ridden in the white truck after Lahouaiej Bouhlel had picked it up at the rental agency, but said he had gotten scared when his friend began driving erratically. “I told him I wanted to get out, and he finally stopped. But he made fun of me, and told me, ‘You’re afraid of dying!’ and laughed.” In the days preceding the attack, Lahouaiej Bouhlel had sent cryptic text messages to various friends and acquaintances, including Ghraieb. On July 5, Lahouaiej Bouhlel reserved a small moving truck from a rental agency called ADA; that morning, he sent Ghraieb a message that read, “Towards ADA.” (He canceled the ADA rental the same day, presumably after he learned that the other truck was available.) Ghraieb claimed to investigators that he hadn’t received the message. Two days later, Lahouaiej Bouhlel appears to have sent Ghraieb two more text messages, reading “” and “15.8.” The first was apparently a garbled reference to July 14; the second seemed to refer to August 15, the date of another major public party on the Promenade. The police also questioned Ghraieb about two text messages sent from his phone to Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s about a year and a half earlier, on January 10, 2015. Charlie Hebdo had been attacked three days before. Ghraieb wrote: “I’m not Charlie. Let them go get fucked in the ass, and may God do even worse to them.” The second message read: “Oh yes comrade, these people who insult our dear prophet are devils, and see how God sent soldiers of Allah to finish them o≠ like pieces of s!!” Ghraieb began by claiming that the translation of the messages—they had been written partially in Arabic—was wildly inaccurate. He then insisted that the messages had been “a joke,” or perhaps that someone else had written them, or that he had written them while drunk. He said he condemned all jihadist violence. Investigators concluded that the “Chokri” mentioned in Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s final message was likely Chokri Chafroud. Like Ghraieb, Chafroud had received a message from Lahouaiej Bouhlel mentioning “ADA.” There were numerous other strange messages. On the morning of July 13, Lahouaiej Bouhlel wrote, “I found you housing with a guy,” and later that day, “All set.” On July 14, two hours before the killings, he wrote, “I’m on the Prom, come, I’ll give you...It’s for...159.” After his arrest, Chafroud told police he hadn’t understood the messages and did not respond. Initially, he claimed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was simply an “acquaintance,” but when confronted with evidence suggesting

a more significant relationship—among other things, a picture of Chafroud was the background image on Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s phone—he admitted that he had lied. “I saw him more than what I told you,” he said. “But I didn’t know anything about his plans.” In April, Chafroud had sent Lahouaiej Bouhlel a Facebook message that seemed to prefigure the attack. “Load the truck,” it read. “Put 2,000 tonnes of iron in it, and go fuck, cut the brakes my friend, and I watch.” Chafroud immediately admitted to having written the message but could provide no credible explanation as to why. “I can’t deny having said this,” he said, “but I didn’t want him to kill anyone, and I didn’t think he’d do what he did.” He claimed to have written the message while watching Spider-Man, and that the movie had inspired him to write something violent. At a nationally televised press conference on July 21, Molins, the prosecutor, announced the indictment of Ghraieb, Chafroud, Ramzi Arefa, and two Albanians who had allegedly provided the gun used by Lahouaiej Bouhlel; terror charges were brought against all five. Molins spent much of the event detailing the contents of Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s telephone, and noted in particular a photograph he had taken at 5:09 p.m. on July 14, five and a half hours before the attack. The photograph showed a sheet of paper listing ten handwritten telephone numbers, three of them grouped with the name “Ramzi,” Molins announced, and five with the name “Chokri.” The paper sketched the structure of an apparent criminal conspiracy; several similar sheets of paper were found at Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s apartment, bearing further groups of names, numbers, and addresses. It seemed the miraculous good fortune of the police that all of this evidence had fallen into their hands. Lahouaiej Bouhlel had made little e≠ort to protect his alleged co-conspirators; on the contrary, he e≠ectively delivered them to the authorities. In a single voice recording on his phone, he had seemingly announced to investigators the names of his accomplices, the existence of their plans for the coming month, and, perhaps most improbably, a precise address for the tra∞ckers from whom he had purchased his gun. After several hours in police custody, the men began to wonder aloud if Lahouaiej Bouhlel had sought to frame them. “From the outset, I’ve been saying I’m a victim here,” Ghraieb said. “Maybe he tried to set a trap for me.” Arefa cried and banged his head against the police station wall. Chafroud told his questioners, “I think something was wrong with [Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s] head and he inserted me into all of this, and I don’t know why.” In the days before the attack, Lahouaiej Bouhlel had taken several photographs of another man, Hamdi Zagar, in front of the white truck. “I didn’t understand why he wanted to take pictures of me,” Zagar told investigators. “Afterwards, I understood that he wanted to frame me. He wanted me to end up in front of you after what he did.” Zagar was charged several days after the others. • • • T O S U G G E S T T H A T the attack in Nice may have been born of an impulse more ambiguous than fanatical belief is not to diminish


the threat that jihadism poses to France. Scores of French extremists have traveled to Syria and Iraq; scores more remain at home, with the exhortation to strike whenever and however they can. The government has declared a state of emergency, which allows police and intelligence services to perform warrantless searches and to unilaterally order the house arrest of anyone they deem threatening. And yet the attacks have continued. French security o∞cials say they are simply overwhelmed by the scale of the threat, the sheer number of men and women now assessed as potential killers. Only days after the Nice attack, in a small town in Normandy, two 19-year-olds burst into a church during morning Mass, slit the throat of the 85-year-old priest, and shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they left. Both were known to the authorities for having attempted to travel to Syria, and one of the two was in fact already under house arrest. The following day, the Islamic State released a video the young men had recorded before their attack, in which they pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the caliphate. The authorities might reasonably have expected to discover that Lahouaiej Bouhlel had recorded a similar video. Instead, the

most notable documents he left behind were those that methodically implicated various friends and acquaintances as his co-conspirators. “There is nothing, at this stage of the investigation, that shows a link to Syria,” a spokeswoman for François Molins said in an interview. As of November, she said, investigators had yet to develop a “definitive theory” of the crime. Yet from the beginning, French politicians have fashioned their assumptions about Lahouaiej Bouhlel into pronouncements of fact. “They’re at war with us, and we’re at war with the terrorists,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared on July 15. A few days later, the state of emergency was extended into 2017. Valls, who in December announced his intention to run in this spring’s presidential election, sought to inscribe the attack in a narrative of righteous struggle. “Why are they attacking France?” he asked. “Because it’s the country of human rights, of liberté, of égalité, of fraternité.” France is, he went on, “a country that matters in the world.” This last bit seemed to be the point. Perversely, the Islamic State’s hatred of France can appear, from a certain angle, an a∞rmation of the country’s grandeur.

Perhaps the government’s bombast consoled the populace; at the very least, it surely flattered the human desire for purpose, suggesting that the 86 dead were not the victims of a crime without discernible meaning but, rather, martyrs in a struggle for good. Yet there is danger in this rhetoric, too. To endorse the notion of civilizational clash is to accept the premise upon which the Islamic State is fighting, legitimating the absurd claim that the group poses an existential threat to France and the West. France’s bluster is, in this sense, a victory for the Islamic State. In the meantime, it is quite probable that the most constructive counterterror policy to come out of Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s attack had nothing at all to do with France’s international stature, or with jihadism, or even with the police and the intelligence services. In time for the July 14 festivities this summer, the city of Nice will have completed the installation of a guardrail along the length of the Promenade and bollards across the sidewalk, unobtrusive but sturdy enough to stop a truck.

under-age prostitutes and runaways, in and around King County in the ’80s and ’90s. The men looked a little shocked; clearly no one in this room was on par with Gary Ridgway. For years, Peter had worked with women and girls who told him shattering stories about being vulnerable young runaways, being manipulated and abused by pimps, being assaulted, raped, kidnapped. By invoking a serial killer, he told the men, he wanted them to think about the kinds of violence that women face, how much higher the risks are for women in sex work—and how lesser forms of harassment are linked to real violence. The men stared silently back at him. “Let’s back way, way, way up,” said Peter. From the murderer’s name, he followed the diagonal line to the bottom, where he wrote the words “catcall” and “rape joke.” David clearly couldn’t believe the comparison he was seeing develop between killing and catcalling—“That’s the most standard pickup line at the bar!” he said. Put yourself in the woman’s shoes, Peter responded. You might not mean to scare her, but that doesn’t mean you’re not. When David defended “complimenting” a stranger by wolf-whistling at her, it was another student, Anthony, a burly, tattooed guy from the Philippines, who chided him: “If she wanted to know what you thought, she’d ask you.” With a few jarring exceptions, most of the men in the class seemed to be more clueless than abusive or predatory. Many of them were likable, earnest men. There was Musa, from the Gambia, who told the room about fleeing a domineering father; José, from Mexico, whose eyes were wet when he talked about his fear that after his arrest his wife might no longer trust him. Jason, the young, nervous Mormon, seemed to feel more shame about sex than entitlement.

I asked Valiant Richey about this, and he agreed that while some men he prosecuted were genuinely dangerous (and those men are generally sent not to Peter’s class but to “deviancy treatment”), most really aren’t predators but instead “lonely, emotionally stunted, challenged about how to act in the world.” Still, he said, all the men had broken the law, and their actions had helped propagate a system that regularly exploits women and girls; even if they were “nice guys,” the result of their behavior, on a mass scale, was a lot of damage to a lot of vulnerable people. That was what interested him about attempting to change behavior with the class: “We could arrest until the end of time and never get a grip on this problem.” And, as far as he was concerned, most men—whether they are sex buyers or not—could probably benefit from the class. He felt he had, just from talking to Peter. “As a human—not just a prosecutor—I’m fascinated by how much this has overhauled my life,” he told me. “I really have had my eyes opened to the scope of gender inequality in our society.” Before long, the diagonal line on the whiteboard filled up with examples of sexual harassment and coercion. Anthony told a story of a date his sister had gone on, where a man had taken her to a restaurant: “He said, ‘If you’re not sleeping with me tonight, you’re paying for that.’ I shit you not! And she’s a vegetarian, so it didn’t even cost that much!” Then Peter began to discuss outright violence. The room went quiet. He asked the men what they did to prevent being raped; they stared back at him like he was nuts. If the classroom was full of women, he told them, correctly, it would be full of strategies. For me, the night’s most interesting cracks came after Peter read a disturbing, anguished poem called “While I Was Pleasuring You,” written by a woman he knew who’d worked as

scott sayare is a writer based in Paris. This is his first article for gq.


C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 7 5

they arrested were ordered by the courts to attend the very course that Peter had once imagined—a novel class he would design and implement. During the course that I sat in on, Peter was assisted by a co-facilitator, Juan—a young ponytailed physician who’d been caught in a sex-buying sting himself, then been so captured by the ideas in the class that he voluntarily took it three more times. The goal of the class, Juan told me, was “to turn the lights on to those questions that men hate to ask themselves.” These eight men were his first students, and he was anxious about whether he’d be able to lead them to some of the same kinds of discoveries he’d made about himself during all those classes—discoveries that came from exploring what he called “a place of discomfort inside me.” But many of the students, he was afraid, were just as happy to leave the lights out and the uncomfortable places alone. • • • D U R I N G T H E T H I R D C L A S S , Peter drew a

slanted line on the whiteboard and wrote “Gary Ridgway”—better known as the Green River Killer, who confessed to taking the lives of more than 70 women, many of them






a prostitute. (He used to invite former sex workers to speak to his classes, but stopped after one of them walked in to see a man who had raped her sitting in the room.) He read, “While I was pleasuring you / I learned not to sleep / Wide awake, overwhelmed by my thoughts / Sobbing uncontrollably, unable to fill the room / You tore open inside of me.” Peter let a long silence pass, then asked for responses. “We all know how she feels,” said Anthony, after a moment. A truckdriver, he’d spoken many times with resentment about being forced to adhere to the demands of others. “How many times have you wanted to tell your boss to kiss your ass?” “We kind of contributed to it,” said Musa. It was hard to ignore the fact that the poem was directly addressed to men like him. “Even if you might not want the guilt.” “Something drove that guy to be there,” said Jason, echoing Peter’s frequent reminder to the men not to focus on the decisions of sex workers but to interrogate their own motivations. It seemed clear, though, from his quiet voice and downcast eyes that his thoughts were very personal. “It’s sad that both people feel trapped.” “What about you, David, did you think it was powerful?” Peter asked. “Well, yeah,” answered David. “There’s feelings in it!” • • • T H E N E X T W E E K , Peter asked some of the

men to role-play a transaction. Anthony volunteered to play a sex worker (he was handed a few details to help him form his character, whom he called Destiny), and a protesting, red-faced Jason was chosen to be the john, after insisting, again, that due to the sting, he’d never actually met a sex worker in person and didn’t know how it was supposed to work. Finally, he o≠ered $40 and a meal at Taco Bell. “You’re terrible at this,” Anthony told him. Peter pushed them to empathize with their characters, to consider what they had in common, whether they were afraid or in control. He asked them to think about the mystery of the other person’s intentions and history, what that felt like. “I was thinking, I’m a nice guy.” Jason said. “But this shows it’s still scary for her.” Anthony handed back the piece of paper with details of his role as a sex worker. “I don’t need this in my pocket if I get pulled over,” he said. The weeks multiplied and the discussions grew more intense. There was a session called Power and Violence, about the di≠erence between domination and partnership. The men squirmed visibly as the talk turned to destructive relationships. José shared that his father had abused his mother but she hid it from her son, telling only José’s sister. Peter shared with the men a story about a past student who’d treated the class as a bunch of useless nonsense until he complained about it to his wife and she stopped him to say, “You should listen to those guys.” She’d been sexually assaulted more than once, she told him, but had never felt that he was a safe person to tell. The man was stunned, he told Peter the next week; afterward, his whole attitude toward the class, down to his body language, was di≠erent. 98




Slowly, I watched as the men built a strange camaraderie. They laughed more, shared more. Jason finally told the other men about his religious upbringing and his recent disillusionment. In week seven, he announced that he’d had a kind of breakthrough: He’d hated himself for trying to buy sex; he felt like a monster afterward for disappointing his parents and church elders, and could never explain why he’d done it. Now he found it meaningful that he had arranged the meet-up that got him arrested not long after he’d discovered that a woman he’d been seeing was married. “That’s, like, the second-worst thing you can do in my parents’ religion, after murder,” Jason said. “It festered, and one thing led to another.” “I always feel so damn sensitive after I leave this class on Thursdays,” Anthony said one night. “It’s like I have to go drink a beer and scratch myself. Y’all are gonna see me on Oprah.” Another night he told Peter, “When I hear you talk, I think, ‘His wife must love him so much!’ ” Peter laughed and told the guys that his wife had once threatened to follow him to the class and tell everybody what a damn hypocrite he could be. Outside of class, Peter talked with me about how he sometimes felt he had to walk a razor’s edge between holding the johns accountable and empathizing with them. In the early days, he’d felt more anger toward the men in his classes—“I used to feel like I was talking to my father,” an abuser. Lately, he’d been seeing them more compassionately, as victims of a sexist society. “Now,” he said, “it’s like I’m talking to myself.” • • • D U R I N G W E E K S E V E N , David—whose dis-

comfort with emotions had by then become a class joke—suddenly came alive with feeling. The discussion topic was vulnerability and shame, which Peter asked the men to discuss. David was the first to speak up, defining it as “a deep-down gut feeling. To me it’s like a sickness.” For weeks, he’d belligerently stood up for the rightness of his behavior, but now, reflecting on his arrest, he said, “I haven’t done many shameful things, but this takes the cake: to use your one phone call late at night to call your wife and tell her you won’t be coming home.” Peter said that his goal was to get the guys to move from shame, which can be crippling, to responsibility and vulnerability. “I take responsibility,” said David, for the first time. “I did do it.” He was at least glad, he said, that the arrest “made me and the wife communicate more.” He stared at the floor, nodding to himself, and said, almost silently: “We’ll get through it.” Akio, who’d spoken before about how much he struggled to connect with other people, said that he’d avoided telling almost anyone he knew about his arrest. “I’m good at hiding these things from everybody,” he said. “That’s kind of my life so far. Does that sound sad?” Later he told me he was making an e≠ort to deepen his relationships with his roommates and co-workers, practicing what he’d learned in the class about listening. Jason told me that the class on vulnerability was big for him, too. He finally stopped

thinking of himself as a monster, reached out to friends and family that he’d been avoiding since the arrest, and he even had a new girlfriend. On a date, under the stars, he told her about his arrest and the things he’d learned since—the first person he’d confided in without being mandated by King County. There have been no studies yet of any longterm e≠ect that the course has on its students or on sex buying—and even Peter is careful to avoid claiming that the program provides unequivocal results. He is adamant that his course should not replace other forms of conventional punishment. But he’s encouraged by what he sees. He’s hopeful that its graduates will discuss what they’ve learned with other men they know, and that slowly the ideas will spread. A few men have been re-arrested; some have stayed in close touch with Peter and the program. It’s a process, he acknowledges. A slow one. On the last night, Peter taught the promised class on love—not just sexual or romantic love but the three other types that the Greeks talked about: familial empathy, respect between equals, and agape, which Peter described as the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself. They talked about the danger of relying on toxic, substitute versions of these emotions, and Peter asked the men to reflect aloud on the needs that weren’t being met in their own lives and what they could do about it. “As you’ve started to realize, this class is about a lot more than prostitution,” he said, to laughter. Before the men left, they filled out anonymous evaluations, and I looked through them for the anger and resistance that was no longer obvious in the classroom. Instead, over and over, I saw gratitude. Even Steve told me he’d learned from the class—and though I hoped in some ways he had, it was certainly hard to see evidence. When he was asked by Peter to reflect on shame, he proudly told the story of the tracking device, yet again. “I get the sense that this particular section is really not landing with you,” Peter told him. Week after week, though, he was an eager participant in discussions—he gave the impression he didn’t have a lot of other people to talk to— Steve stuck to his attitudes of righteousness and victimhood. He kept making sexist jokes, even after the other men began to greet them with silence. But I never heard Peter give up on anyone as irredeemable. If anything, resistance seemed to make him try harder, to believe more fervently in the possibility of eventually breaking through. A few months later, I got an e-mail from Peter. He was headed to the second meeting of a whole new class of men, and the first meeting had not gone well. Several of the attendees were unusually challenging; one had casually declared that “some women like to get beaten.” Peter found himself dreading the upcoming classes. It was di∞cult to hear men talk like that. But it didn’t make him doubt his approach—or the power of his program. If anything, it inspired him to push harder. “I wish,” he wrote, “I could send the men like him to a longer-term program.” brooke jarvis is a writer based in Seattle. This is her first article for gq.


C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 5 4

When The Weeknd began to perform in front of people, after he emerged from the dark, he reportedly had to take dance lessons. He had to practice performing. If you ask me, growing the hair was part of the armor against being seen, something behind which to disappear; he could wear the tree hair as his identity, but it revealed nothing about him. “Listen,” a record executive familiar with his career said to me, “it all comes from him— the music, who he is. Those first records—he made them by himself. I don’t know what you think, but the music industry is dominated by radio play. Everyone talks about Spotify and the Internet and how everything’s been changed and anyone can be a star and everyone’s connected individually with their audience. It’s not true. It’s almost always radio play. He was playing to sold-out 2,000-, 3,000-seat arenas, and he had no songs at all on the radio. And that’s just very unusual. And I’m telling you, it all came from him. It was a sound and a music and a lifestyle that he dreamed up.” • • • S E X I S P R O B A B L Y The Weeknd’s greatest

subject—cocaine is a close second. But it’s not like regular sex (or drugs). He sings about perversion, darkness, and ecstatic releases that you should probably feel bad about. How it feels to know you’re only getting high/sleeping with a groupie to try to fill some unfillable psychic hole, so we’re bound to be disappointed but fuck it let’s do it anyway. How it feels to get a blow job while driving a luxury automobile (as in these lyrics from “Ordinary Life” on Starboy): Heaven in her mouth, got a hell of a tongue / I can feel her teeth when I drive on a bump / Fingers letting go of the wheel when I cum /…David Carradine, I’ma die when I cum. The Weeknd is almost certainly the only pop singer of his generation, or any generation, who sings beautiful love songs that pivot on the death by auto-erotic asphyxiation of a 72-year-old former television star in a closet in a Swissôtel in Bangkok.

A DDITIONAL CR ED I T S Page 88. On women, from left: 1. Black dress: BCBG MaxAzria. Bodysuit (beneath): Oysho. Gloves: Teria Yabar. Headdress: Tolentino Haute Hats. Earrings: Patricia Nicolás. Heels: Miu Miu. 2. Cut-out dress (on chair in background): Jeremy Scott. 3. Red top and skirt: T by Alexander Wang. Earrings: Alexander Wang. Bracelet: Eddie Borgo. Heels: Giuseppe Zanotti Design. 4. White dress: Khaite at Heels: Alexandre Birman. On man, right (on stool), pants, $345: Boss. Bar: Museo Chicote, Madrid. Pages 90–91. On women, from left, heels: Gianvito Rossi. Pumps: Christian Louboutin.

He also says that the content of his songs derives mostly from his personal experience. I ask him a little bit about that sexual history he’s recorded in our national pop-music archives. What is it like to kind of emerge from the darkness as a shy Toronto kid in 2011 and suddenly be accosted by probably a lot of fans who want to sleep with you? What are the e≠ects of that? Does the constant solicitation do anything weird to you? Does it alter the way you look at sex? Does it warp your humanity? He challenges the idea of being constantly propositioned for sex. “I don’t think that’s real,” he says. But it has to do something to you. Like, take Leonardo DiCaprio, a gentleman who has probably had more, and more varied, sexual invitations than any single human man in the past 20 years. How does that a≠ect someone? Can the act still be meaningful? In order to even be interested at this point, does he need like a dead body or someone with the hindquarters of a goat and the head of the Mona Lisa or something? Abel says, “I don’t think it’s like that. I know Leo and—when Leo parties, he parties. But when he works, nobody works like this guy.” Does the nature of, say, groupie interactions give you an oversize sense of self ? “Listen, I’m not walkin’ around like fuckin’ Idris Elba, know what I mean? It’s like…” and here he points at himself: “You’ll probably describe me in this fuckin’ thing. I’m not— look at me, this is who I am. I’m not gonna walk into the club and be like, ‘Oh shit, I’m the sexiest guy in here.’ The reason why they want to fuck with me is because of what I do [in the studio]. So I’d rather just focus on doing that.” But there does seem to be something about that dynamic that messes people up. I said: Look at Donald Trump. Maybe Donald Trump is sui generis, and whatever type of screwed-up that guy is, well, that’s special to him. But there’s another explanation that goes: After a while, famous men start to see the world that way: When you’re a star, they let you do it. “I don’t know anybody that would do that,” he says. “I know a lot of people in the industry, and I don’t know anybody. Like, a random girl that like you just spoke to? No. I mean… No. How do you even grab a pussy? Like, is it even grabbable?” He shakes his head. “America, man. They never fail you.” • • • A M O N T H B E F O R E W E M E E T , Abel and the model Bella Hadid broke up. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He says, though, that

while he thinks he wants to have kids, marriage he’s not so sure about. “I feel like I’m the kind of guy that would have kids before getting married,” he says. “The first thing would be kids. Marriage is scary to me, man.” But he also says that he’s in a di≠erent place, psycho-sexually, than he was when he was the person in all those song lyrics. “Right now,” Abel says, “I’m much more, like, self-regulating than I was four years ago, when I first started getting everything and enjoying life. I don’t focus on it as much as I used to. You know what I mean? Before it’s like, ‘Holy fuck—this is amazing.’ Right now, it’s like a good song turns me on way more. Like, that gets me horny, like, literally gets me horny.” It’s not just the hair. That Sex God who drives around in a $1 million McLaren with a live black leopard in the passenger seat (as The Weeknd does in the video for “Starboy”)? The man who sits in the Aeron chair at Conway Recording Studios just is not that person. In conversation, Abel doesn’t even swear that much. When I ask him what he thinks the craziest, dirtiest lyrics on his records are—lyrics which, mind you, he sings to hundreds of millions of men, women, and children from the stages and Spotifies of the world—he says: “I’m not going to say!” But is it all real, I ask, the stu≠ you sing about? “Yeah, a lot of it is experience,” he says. “House of Balloons [his first mixtape, on which he says She give me sex in a handbag / I get her wetter than a wet nap] is based o≠ of a one-bedroom apartment I shared with all my friends. And we did what we were doing and then put it into music. “And then the newer stu≠,” he says, “is like that character in this lavish lifestyle, you know?” Because, of course, he can’t sing about what it’s like to live in a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto anymore. Now the character he’s playing is an actual pop star. How did you feel about pop music, I ask, when you were making the Trilogy mixtapes? “I hated it,” he says. “And then the sound of Trilogy became pop music.” Later he says, “I’m mainstream. I’ll obviously have those purists who will be like, ‘Okay, this guy is too popular, this fuckin’ sounds nothing like Trilogy, so this fuckin’ sucks.’ ” I wonder if that kind of criticism might make him want to disappear. Do you care about that? I ask. “No,” he says. “I don’t care at all.” devin friedman is gq’s editorial director

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• When Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Cunningham answered his phone and heard the familiar voice—“Hello, this is David Bowie; I hope I’m not calling at an inconvenient time”—he was certain that the person purporting to be the legend of his youth, the man Cunningham most idolized in all the world as a teenager, was in on some sort of cruel prank. But it was really him: Mr. Stardust wanted to know if Cunningham might be interested in writing a musical together—a musical filled with some fake Bob Dylan songs and maybe some aliens? “I’m interested in aliens,” Bowie told Cunningham, “as I suppose I would be.” So they set to work. Cunningham soon found out that the man he revered as a rock god and public fabulist was serious and intensely private. Even sartorially, Bowie (who, when he wasn’t full-out Ziggy, was still known for the clothes he wore—just look at him here, in 1983) was relaxed in real life. “On the street, he was entirely unconcerned about fashion,” Cunningham says. “I don’t mean he was trying to pass unnoticed; rather, that slacks and a polo shirt were the apparel he preferred.” He was a different man, he had a secret side. And this secret musical. On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of his death, we offer you this artful tribute to Bowie (page 58) and the revelation of the strange project he was pursuing before the man who fell to Earth left it forever.







GQ USA - February 2017