Issuu on Google+











It’s Gonna Be So Much Better Than Being President



GQNov PAGE 1∕2


GQ Intelligence



Letter from the Editor

The Punch List


Journey into the paranoid magical reality of Netflix’s Black Mirror


Manual 164



StairMaster to Heaven

Special correspondent Keith Olbermann’s final plea before you vote

The highest tier at Equinox requires a retinal scan and can cost $30K per year. What kind of gym is this, anyway? C A R R I E B A T T A N reports

> Brandon Ingram’s personality is as big as that sweater.


The 21 Documentaries from the 21st Century Every Man Should See

Sweater, $980, by Bottega Veneta. Thermal shirt (beneath), $50, by Gap + GQ Saturdays NYC. Pants, $1,040, by Tom Ford. Bracelet by Renvi.



From O.J. to Weiner, GQ’s favorite recent documentaries, plus recs from their directors 96

The Resurrection Zoo What if we could save endangered species from extinction? Z A C H B A R O N visits the modern-day ark where scientists are gathering specimens for the long haul




GQNov PAGE 2∕2

> Kawhi Leonard’s sweater isn’t official Spurs issue...yet.

Features 124

All the Petty Horseshit

Sweater, $1,195, by Versace

Billy Bob Thornton wants the goddamn respect he goddamn deserves B Y TA F F Y B R O D E S S E R - A K N E R


GQ’s 2016 Grooming Awards We tested every oil, goop, and shaving cream out there to find the most effective products of the year 138

Coming Soon! Trump TV Such a great channel. Gonna have so many shows. The most best shows BY D R E W M AG A RY


Into the Storm Last fall, two giant ships got trapped in a deadly hurricane. A Coast Guard helicopter pulled out the only survivors BY T R I S T R A M KO R T E N

> At qui con rernatis doluptam debis nem inveliq uiant,


Sxit, shxrt, xnd txe bx Dxlce & Gxbbana. Txe bxr bx Thx Txe Bxr.

106 Leap Year The NBA’s boldest young stars show you how to rock the sweaters of the season



Cover: Confidence Man Could Russell Westbrook be the best player in the NBA? BY DA N I E L R I L E Y


Money Bags These sleek, luxurious duffels are angling to replace your overnighter for good

Peggy Sirota On Russell Westbrook Three-piece suit, $6,440, shirt, $630, tie, $290, and pocket square, $180, by Tom Ford. Link bracelet by Diesel. Basketball by Sprayground. Grooming by Barry White at barrywhitemensgrooming .com. Set design by Juliet Jernigan at CLM. Produced by Tricia Sherman for Bauie Productions.


Business Class The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun shows off super-sharp, workplace-ready tweed suits

Where to buy it Where are the items from this page to page 155 available? Go to /go/fashiondirectories to find out. All prices quoted are approximate and subject to change.







I hate to say all of this, especially so close to Halloween, but what happens after Election Day may be more terrifying than what came before it. Because Donald Trump will go. But he will not go easy.


The good news: He will lose this election badly, by which I mean poorly. Exceedingly poorly. The bad news: After he does so, he will take his wounded pride and his seething, tiny-fingered resentment to war against this country. Not for this country. But against it. Because for all the haziness surrounding his agenda, his policies, the true colors of his hair and his heart, one thing has become crystal clear: Donald Trump is an enemy of the people. He will lose the popular vote, and he will lose the electoral vote, but he will act as if none of this matters, because it doesn’t—to him. However clear and convincing his loss to Hillary, he will cast the election as rigged, unfair, and ultimately illegitimate. He’s already saying as much, setting the groundwork. (Irony alert: By pre-complaining about this, he’s the one doing the “rigging,” laying landlines for a conversation the media will be too weak to resist.) 22




This “rigged” conspiracy will become his brand—a luxury upgrade from the two-bit fearmongering , resentment-stoking, and race-baiting he’s been running on for what seems like a small eternity. And it will serve as the founding principle for the next phase of Trump Demagoguery, Inc.— soon to be a 24-hour cablenews channel, or a 2020 presidential run, or just a vague threat to launch either, like missiles deployed from the deep arsenal of his ego. How do I know this? Trump’s entire story—his bio, the entertainment he provides, the alleged silence of his majority—is built on lies, self-inflation, and dark suggestion (“Something’s going on!”), and so we can expect him to react to defeat with the same respect for truth and honor. Then there’s this. Elections used to be settled ground. Once they were over, people plotted for the next one. Democracy! But we don’t live in that era anymore. We live in the Alternate-Reality Era: The most sinister political art Trump has mastered (and surely Roger Ailes taught him how, and has extra time now to whisper dark secrets into his orange ear hairs) is the notion of “winning” by doubt—that even if you or your party loses, you can essentially win by constantly churning suspicion, questioning the validity of the winner (or their birth certificate), so that authority is never settled and truth is always dubious. I’ll tell you what I’m worried about. Election hackery. And yes, now it’s my turn to get conspiratorial. In an era when we hear about a new cyber-attack every week—a movie studio, a branch of government, the DNC—think about how easy it would be to hack and de-legitimize an election, just a state or two, and throw the whole thing into doubt. This is how easy: It’s already happening. This summer, the FBI alerted states that foreign hackers had attacked the voter rolls of

two states, Illinois and Arizona. (This led to the least reassuring headline of the year: election officials confident voter rolls secure after hack attempt.) The hackers turned out to be Russian— surprise!—and we all know which candidate has a Slavic man crush on Vladimir Putin. Add to this the recent ballsy attempts at voter suppression. Since Obama got elected, every Republican worth his whiteness has started yapping about “election fraud” and the need for documentation and voter-ID laws, a kind of soft reboot of the odious Jim Crow laws. In Ohio, the Republican secretary of state tried to purge the rolls of tens of thousands of people, including anyone who hadn’t voted since 2008. He said he was trying to guard against “voter fraud,” and he was, of course, full of an enormous amount of shit. Even worse, in Kansas, Republicans pulled a fast one, suddenly decreeing that people registering to vote need to show a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization papers. But then a judge nixed the plan, single-handedly allowing democracy and fairness to live another day. It takes a village, sure, but sometimes it only takes one person. Whenever you hear people talking about the need for voter IDs, know this: They are trying to stop people from voting. This is the direct opposite of democracy. Perhaps it goes without saying that these campaigns are always attempts to stop minorities from voting. In fact, the first major study on the issue just came out, and it shows those laws can “depress Latino turnout by 9.3 points, black turnout by 8.6 points, and AsianAmerican turnout by 12.5 points.” Whatever your politics or party, you should care deeply about this, and demand an end to it, if only because the next time it happens, it might be your group. People have a right to vote, period. So let’s do this thing! Vote. Vote hard. Vote like you mean it, like it’s Donald Trump’s face you’re punching, not a ballot. And stay vigilant.



> Hack Trump

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Jim Moore Catherine Gundersen EXECUTIVE EDITORS

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> Get the GQ Look L I K E W H AT YO U S E E I N T H E PAG E S OF GQ? N O W YO U C A N G E T I T— A N D W E A R I T— R I G H T A W AY

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the editors of GQ will select a series of items from our pages available through our online retail partner, Mr >TO LEARN

more—and see what we have chosen for you this month—go to

Just a few of our picks from this issue...

Saint Laurent boots p. 120

Burberry suit p. 148

Golden Goose Deluxe Brand sneakers p. 35

Balenciaga jacket, hoodie, and T-shirt p. 115

P H OTO G R A P H S , C L O C K W I S E F R O M TO P : P E G G Y S I R OTA ( 2 ) ; J O N AT H O N K A M B O U R I S ; N AT H A N I E L G O L D B E R G ; P E G G Y S I R OTA

John Elliott sweatpants

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

1 If you were in an Equinox ad, what would you be holding? The door, for a model. 2 What do you call your

Equinox elliptical playlist? My treadmill playlist is called “Ellipticals Are Bogus,” and it’s all Drake. 3 What’s the first song? “4PM in Calabasas.” 4 What’s the least Equinox thing you’ve ever done? Chain-smoked.

Meet Carrie > Carrie Battan has already ventured deep into strange subcultures for GQ (she wrote about the lucrative world of nightclub appearances in the April issue). But this month, she went where we’re all too sheepish to go: the elite Equinox gym.

5 What’s one piece of advice

you give to other people that you never follow yourself? Don’t compare yourself with other people!

Special Correspondent

Keith Olbermann Is ‘The Closer’ > Who better to hold forth on the 2016 election than longtime politicaltelevision host Keith Olbermann? He pulled no punches with his first online dispatch for GQ, “176 Reasons Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be President,” prompting one viewer to write in, “After an eternity of shallow, narrow-minded media stagnation, I’m finally beginning to breathe again.” Visit for more of The Closer.

Donald John Trump is [his base’s] demonic messiah in Oompa Loompa’s clothing. We must stop him. It is not pleasant.

—Keith Olbermann, The Closer

6 What’s your favorite bygone fitness trend? “Taking the stairs” as daily exercise.


Get These People Computers! More from the 2016 Grooming Awards > Head to for even more tips, insane Korean facials, hair guides you can take to your barber, and product porn from the 2016 Grooming Awards (page 130). “This year we added advice from the famously well-groomed and some obsessive experts,” says GQ assistant editor, ointment applier, and good-hair-haver Benjy Hansen-Bundy. It’s time to man up and get a man peel.

The Style Guy Goes Live > Every week, we bring you style tips on Facebook, but now GQ Style Guy Mark Anthony Green is live, helping you through your clothes-wearing quandaries. Can you wear white after Labor Day? (“None of those archaic rules mean anything.”) Is raw denim still a thing? (“I don’t wear raw denim anymore; it’s extremely uncomfortable.”) Follow GQ on Facebook to get your most pressing questions answered.

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





> In our September issue, correspondent Jeanne Marie Laskas went inside the National Tracing Center, where millions of records of our nation’s guns are cataloged and searched—using microfilm. Readers were fascinated, concerned, and inspired to action. I’m reading your article and I am terrified. The Stone Age era they live in is just crazy. I contacted the White House about it. It is so wrong. What is going on down there?—Alexandre Masselski via e-mail I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the article written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Excellent reporting and exactly what I’m looking for in a feature piece.—Julia L. Golden via e-mail I really was out of words when I read it, didn’t know if I wanted to cry or laugh because of the unbelievable things that happen in this agency, about the stones that are thrown in their way. I really hope articles like yours get these people more attention from all over your country. —Mario Warz via e-mail

P H OTO G R A P H S , C L O C K W I S E F R O M TO P R I G H T : A L E X R E S I D E ; M AT T H E W M O N T E I T H ; A N D R E W G O B L E ; S T U A R T T Y S O N . 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 .


P R O P S T Y L I S T : C H R I S T I N E M O T T A U A T J U D Y C A S E Y, I N C .

Golden Goose Sneakers GQ Endorses

• The not-so-secret secret of all stylish men is a carefully crafted nonchalance: projecting that they don’t care when, of course, they really do. Which explains the appeal of Golden Goose, the Italian label making brand-new sneakers that look like a worn-in pair of jeans. GG designers take the same quality leather you’d find in bench-made dress shoes and apply it to classic skate and basketball styles. Then they distress it by hand to create the kind of scu≠s that’d take you years to make yourself, and finish the sneaks in color combos no one else has thought of. The result is a luxury item perfectly beaten up with “age.” Nobody needs to know it’s fresh out of the box.—J I M M O O R E Golden Goose Deluxe Brand | $470 (left) | $480 | 468 Broome St., N.Y.C., 212-431-3300 |









Your Next Move

Slip into the World’s Richest Coat With leather on the outside and lamb’s wool on the inside, the shearling bomber is a luxurious mash-up of toughness and comfort. And now, while you can still blow your whole paycheck on one, you no longer have to

Fly Boy Burberry’s extravagantly swanky aviator jacket has shearling trim at the cuffs, collar, and hem—basically everywhere your skin makes contact with the jacket, even when you are wearing a shirt. And it’s warm enough to keep you toasty when you’re not. Jacket $3,895 Burberry + Track pants Burberry Sunglasses Banana Republic | Scarf Standen | Necklaces David Yurman (top chain) and Degs & Sal

Twenty-six-yearold French model Yassine Rahal is the guy every designer wants to dress right now. Also, he is not Colin Kaepernick.




The Stealth Bomber Jacket $2,700 Acne Studios







Ballin’ on a Budget Jacket $900 Banana Republic

The New World of Old-World Tailoring

Destination Shopping

Taking on the big boys in Milan, a trio of daring menswear labels are pointing the way forward

Italian Peacocks Do It Best

• A sartorial radical, Piccolo plays with snap buttons, band collars, denim constructions, eyecrossing prints, and color combos so unusual that they absolutely shouldn’t work—which makes it that much more impressive that we absolutely can’t look away. From left: $395 | $350

A Suitand-Coat Renaissance Massimo Piombo “I want to create the new glamour for the new generation,” says Massimo Piombo, the mad designer whose beautifully constructed, fantastically louche fall collection has just arrived in boutiques like New York’s influential Dover Street Market. To locate this glamour, Piombo

MP Massimo Piombo | $1,300 Where to buy it? Go to





swans around the globe—boating off the Sicilian coast, exploring tiny villages from Peru to Indonesia— searching for inspiration. “From each country,” he says, “we keep the best.” Piombo’s romantic lifestyle makes its way into fabrics woven in small-scale mills, which ensure quality— and scarcity. The resulting clothes are unapologetically dandyish and define a new, brash form of luxury.

“The dream is not financial. The dream for me is to give people the opportunity to live in reality, but with a spicy touch, like garlic.” —MASSIMO PIOMBO

Rock-Star Cobblers Put Their Best Foot Forward Barbanera • Founded by two sets of brothers in their 20s, Barbanera creates at the intersection of rock ’n’ roll and bench-made shoes. It mixes leather and denim. Puts killer black suede on a half boot. It’s traditional construction—just kicked way, way up.—J O H N O RT V E D From top: $650 | $625 | $630


Salvatore Piccolo



Hermès $1,175 Want Les Essentiels $395 American Eagle $20 Outfitters Moncler $200 Prada $345 PS by $80 Paul Smith Where to buy it? Go to /fashiondirectories



The Goods

Hestra $144 Louis Vuitton

Boring Gloves Get the Finger Don’t be the guy who leaves the house in a tailored topcoat and a pair of tattered oven mitts. Look at these beautiful gloves—give them a hand 40








• The pinstripe is inherently bold, but it can handle other equally bold elements, like a printed shirt, a patterned tie, and a furtive glance (not pictured).

The pinstriped suit used to make for a rigid look. You know, the type psychotic American bankers love. Now it’s loose and easy and ready for any occasion

• Polo shirts work under any suit— even the pinstripe.

• Pushed-up sleeves are the new rolled-up pants.

Suit (throughout) by Isaia. Shirt, $525, by Giorgio Armani. Tie, $125, by Thomas Mason. Shoes, $398, by To Boot New York. Portfolio by Tod’s.

Polo shirt, $495, by David Hart. Loafers, $565 , by Church’s.



• While we have you: Maroon? Totally underrated as a coat color.

• On the weekend, pair your suit with a cashmere sweater and sneakers—and ignore anyone who says wearing a suit is “uncomfortable.” • That’s right, pinstripes even go with plaid. Shirt, $370, by Thom Browne New York. Coat (on shoulder), $798, by Todd Snyder. Boots, $1,195, by Christian Louboutin.

• Chelsea boots: the o∞cial shoes of cosmopolitanism.




Sweater, $1,995, and T-shirt, $295, by Brunello Cucinelli. Sneakers, $840, by Tom Ford. Tote by Michael Kors. Where to buy it? Go to /fashiondirectories








P R O D U C E R : G A B R I E L H I L L F O R G E - P R O J E C T S . C O N T R I B U T I N G S T Y L I S T : K E L LY M C C A B E A T A R T D E P A R T M E N T. S E T D E S I G N : J U L I E T J E R N I G A N A T C L M . G R O O M I N G : J O H N N Y H E R N A N D E Z F O R T O M F O R D . T O P L E F T, P O C K E T S Q U A R E : T H E H I L L - S I D E . T I E B A R : T H E T I E B A R . S O C K S ( A L S O R I G H T ) : PA U L S T U A R T. T O P R I G H T, P O C K E T S Q U A R E : P E T E R M I L L A R . WAT C H : I W C . B O T T O M R I G H T, P O C K E T S Q U A R E : B R U N E L L O C U C I N E L L I . WAT C H : M O VA D O .

The Suited Man > The Banker Suit No Longer Works Banker Hours

Can I wear Chelsea boots with shorts? Debating with my friend, who thinks it’s crazy to do that.

You, sir, are a lucky man. You have a true friend. And that friend is trying to stop you from making one of the biggest mistakes of your life. Don’t debate him; thank him. I work in an office where no one wears a tie. But when I unbutton one or two buttons on my dress shirt, I show a lot of chest hair. A lot. Is this appropriate?

It isn’t inappropriate; it’s just a bad look—feisty follicles sprouting out of your crisp gingham

I purchased a tuxedo about two years ago. It’s my favorite item of clothing, and I look damn good in it. (My wife certainly agrees.) Problem is: I’ve only worn it once. Is there any way I can wear it more without blatantly overdressing? I used to have this parka that was [cue Vince Vaughn voice] so money. Flannel on the outside. Down-filled. Rabbit-fur-lined hood. But at the time, I was living in Atlanta, which is never cold enough for rabbit-lined things, no matter how rakish they look. I knew I’d eventually move to New York and wear the coat on a somewhat daily basis—that my lifestyle would change. But at least once every winter, I’d force the issue and travel to some ungodly cold place. I didn’t book the flight solely to wear the coat, but I didn’t not book the flight to wear the coat. So, force the issue by donating to a charity to get a gala invite or go as James Bond for Halloween or maybe take the missus to a ballet. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, it’s actually okay for the clothes to wear us.

shirt, contaminating its preppy purity. Your solution, however, is easy. Put a guard on a beard trimmer (No. 4 or 5 usually works best) and take the chest hair down. Fin. I see guys on the street pulling off a T-shirt under a suit, but when I try it in the mirror, it just looks frumpy. Do I need to buy a certain kind of suit?

No—you need to buy a certain type of T-shirt. Those guys aren’t pairing $1,500 suits with Hanes T-shirts from Walmart. Swing by Barneys with your suit jacket in hand. They’ll have a heftier, more badass tee waiting for you.

May the Style Guy Suggest… The Tote-Briefcase Hybrid

What kind of bag works with a blazer and boots and sweats and a T-shirt? What can you unabashedly alley-oop into an overhead bin twice a week? This Want Les Essentiels totebriefcase-hybrid thing I found a few years ago was everything I needed. It’s made of the kind of leather that looks better after every subway ride, flight, and locker stuffing.

The Style Guy is in! Send questions to or @GQStyleGuy. $995 | | 646-398-7584










The Style Guy

This month, Mark Anthony Green asks not what your tuxedo can do for you but what you can do for your tuxedo. Plus: way too much chest hair

Home Entertainment >The Drinking-Snack Upgrade When friends are over for cocktails, we usually throw down bowls of olives or nuts or those sesame sticks that everyone eats but no one enjoys. But with these dead-simple recipes from four of our favorite chefs, you can offer food worthy of the drinks you’re slinging




Susur Lee, executive chef, Lee and Fring’s

Ryan Hardy, chefowner, Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones


• Get ½ pound of dried chorizo, ½ pound of lump crab meat, and an 8-ounce jar of tartar sauce. Slice the chorizo and sauté in a pan until warm. Place on top of good-quality potato chips, laid out on a platter. In a bowl, combine the crab meat and tartar sauce (or go nachos-style: add the warm chorizo, diced, to the bowl). Pour the mixture over the chips. Garnish with fresh dill. Done. pair with champagne 48



• In a pan, cook 6 strips of bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove them, then add 2 cups of whole Brazil nuts or hazelnuts; cook for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Spoon the nuts onto a paper towel to absorb grease. Grate the zest of 1 lime over the nuts and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of chile powder. Toss in a bowl and add sea salt to taste. pair with a crisp beer, like a Reissdorf Kölsch




Sara Kramer, chefowner, Madcapra LO S A N G E L E S

• Mix 1 cup of labneh (strained Lebanese yogurt that can be found at Whole Foods— or substitute sour

cream) with 5 ounces of canned tuna and a packet of Lipton onion-soup mix. Spread the dip onto Triscuits and garnish each with a pickled jalapeño. pair with dry cider

Alon Shaya, chef-owner, Shaya and Domenica NEW ORLEANS

• Grab a chunk, about 4 ounces, of good-quality goat cheese at the supermarket. Grate the zest of ½ an orange and sprinkle it into a pan PHOTOGRAPH


drizzled with ¼ cup of olive oil. Add a sprig of rosemary. Heat the mixture in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, then remove and pour over the chunk of cheese. Garnish with sea salt and serve with crusty bread. pair with a Tom Collins MARCUS


F O O D S T Y L I S T : M I C H E L L E G A T T O N A T S T O C K L A N D M A R T E L . P R O P S T Y L I S T : A N G H A R A D B A I L E Y.

Four(ish) ingredients • Four(ish) steps • Perfect snack

Hard cider’s changed a lot since the time you woke up in the fetal position in your prom tux and swore you’d never drink again

Drink >Hey, Let’s All Become Cider Snobs!

➸ Skip the latest trendy fruit flavor and try Locust’s Sweet Aged Apple. (Despite the name, it’s not that sweet: Craft cider is to massproduced cider as a Burgundy is to a wine cooler.) To balance it out, look for something super dry like Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank “Bone Dry.” CIDER FOR BEER DRINKERS ➸ Some rogue cidermakers just can’t quit beer. Their hopped ciders are the love children of IPAs and apple juice. Try Incline Cider Company’s The Explorer or Stem Ciders’ Remedy. The hops hit right after the apple, balancing sweet with tangy. THE REALLY HARD STUFF ➸ A classic Basque-style hard cider, Gurutzeta sidra is almost vinegary, a test for even the most whiskeyhardened palate. Chase it with a high-ABV cider like 2 Towns’ Bad Apple (coming in hot at 10.5 percent). Here’s to a slightly more lit Thanksgiving.

Two gateway ciders: Farnum Hill’s Semi-Dry Cider (left) and E.Z. Orchards’ Cidre Semi Dry

Cidermakers have been quietly producing glorious nectar for years—now they’re just cranking out a whole lot more of it, thanks to the ongoing interest in “session” drinking and how easy it is to make. We’re finally converts, not because it’s everywhere but because it’s good…and, increasingly, great. With help from Je≠ Smith, owner of Bushwhacker Cider in Portland, Oregon, here’s an intro to a whole new universe of booze.— L A U R E N L A R S O N

Rise of the Cider Bar

The O.G. cider bar, Portland’s Bushwhacker Cider, is emblematic of the cider surge. They sold 35 varieties in 2010. Six years later, they’ve got more than 300. At Wassail in New York City (at left), the menu includes such tasting notes as “saddle leather” and “soil.” We’d add “good” and “really damn good.” Bushwhacker Cider | 1212-D SE Powell Blvd. and 901 NE Oneonta St., Portland, OR Wassail | 162 Orchard St., N.Y.C.





F O O D S T Y L I S T : R E B E C C A J U R K E V I C H AT E D G E R E P S . P R O P S T Y L I S T : S A R A H S M A R T. R I G H T, F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F C O M PA N Y ( 5 ) . B O T T O M : C O U R T E S Y O F N O A H D E V E R E A U X / WA S S A I L .


The Hunt

Need a New Bed? Sleep on It A batch of online start-ups are making it absurdly easy to buy a mattress. So intrepid bedroom correspondent Jeff Vrabel crammed four into his house, testing the contenders in the name of a better night’s sleep

Mattress shopping is the worst shopping, unless you enjoy driving to the nearest low-rent strip mall and lying down fully clothed in the company of commission-starved salesmen. So when I needed a new mattress recently to replace my 12-yearold Sealy Posturepedic Plush Pillowtop (which I purchased from Dr. Seuss, apparently), I was delighted to find that the whole game has changed, thanks to online retailers. The digital brands typically sell just a single foam mattress and thus are idiotproof: You click BUY, wait a few days for delivery, open the impossibly small box, and watch in amazement as your new bed expands. All this, in the name of happier slumber,

can now be yours for less than $1,000. To explore my options, I started with industry leader Casper ($850 for a queen), which is known among people who make extremely Caucasian references as “the Warby Parker of mattresses.” Casper’s big idea is to top off two layers of memory foam (which is supportive but sleeps hot) with a layer of hypoallergenic latex. Frankly, it’s still warm. But I found it to be the firmest of the bunch, which made it my preference, especially after spending a decade on my sag-tastic Sealy. My wife, on the other hand, preferred the cushier Tuft & Needle mattress ($600), which she promptly claimed for the rest of her life. It felt a few degrees

cooler than Casper’s, possibly due to its proprietary Adaptive Foam, which purports to embrace you like regular foam without turning your bed into an oven. The others I tried had names like strippers. Saatva’s top-of-the-line Zenhaven ($1,899) turned out to be flippable, with one side firm and the other

plush, which is just wonderful if you are chronically indecisive. Leesa’s mattress ($890) came with a fabric cover and was made from three different foams, the mattress version of a MACH3 razor. But comfortable! It conformed beautifully to my side-sleeping tendencies. (The trick to healthy side sleeping is to keep

your spine aligned, and Leesa’s mattress had just enough give in the right places for me.) I could talk all day about spine alignment and tri-cushioning foam magic. But what I really learned is that, as with Tinder matches, the best way to find the mattress you want is to sample a bunch and return the ones you don’t like. Because that’s the

other great thing about our modern mattress world: The dot-com brands all offer trial periods (75 days for Saatva, 100 for the others) and return policies (returns often go straight to charity). It’s worth the time and energy to get this right. Once you do, you’ll never pretend-nap in a strip mall again.

We’re Sleeping in the Future > Apps and devices designed to upgrade your downtime RING THE ALARM

• The Philips Wake-up Light

is a gradual alarm that simulates a 30-minute sunrise. Withings’s Aura Connected Alarm Clock is similar

but boasts Spotify integration. 52






• The Philips Hue controls your house lighting via app, which makes you feel rich. Marpac’s Rohm sound machine replaces ambient tra∞c noise with the soothing pulse of rolling waves.

• Sense tracks data about your sleep environment and reports “noise disturbances”—like car alarms, barking dogs, and when you wake yourself up snoring. ILLUSTRATIONS





The SUV Just Went Topless Shaped like a sideways teardrop and just about as sad, the popular crossover SUV is the single most boringlooking vehicle category on the market. But Land Rover figured out how to make it fun. And weird. But mostly fun Land Rover is now making a convertible SUV. Let me repeat that: a convertible SUV. It’s called the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, and it’s a soft-top version of the regular Range Rover Evoque, so

now you can get rained on while you drive down the street. You probably already know this if you live on the West Coast, because you probably asked me about it a few weeks ago, when I was driving the Evoque

Convertible HSE Dynamic in California. Everybody asked me about it. Men. Women. Bicyclists. Hermits who go to the beach with metal detectors. Which is weird because the crossover—the regular type, the one with a

top—is supposed to be boring. That’s the whole point. It nails the sweet spot between handling and quickness and space and safety. But the Evoque Convertible is an actually weird crossover. No, it’s not weird when you’re sitting in it. It seems just like a normal Evoque: The control layout is the same, the ride quality is the same, the acceleration is basically the same, the handling is the same. Even the rear-seat room is roughly the same. No, it’s

for crossovers has skyrocketed, automakers have changed things up—by adding new technology, extra performance, and now soft tops. Whereas buying a crossover used to mean buying anonymity, you can now get one that combines the practicality you need with the cachet of a headturning coupe, or the technology of a luxury sedan, or the performance of a sports car. Just be prepared for lots of questions.

Range Rover Evoque Convertible

Price Engine 0 to 60 mph

$57,700 240-hp

four-cylinder 7.8 sec

weird when you’re looking at it. It’s a fashionable foldingroof twist on the one-on-everycorner crossover. And it isn’t the only one. As demand

— D O U G D EM U R O

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 $50,825

Tesla Model X $74,000 to $115,000

Cadillac XT5 $39,895

It’s the length of a Ford Focus, with an optional giant wing on the back, red accents inside, huge wheels, and a 375-horsepower engine.

It can go zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, but it has some drawbacks—the price, for one, and the fact that the trick doors mean no roof rack.

Heir to the now discontinued SRX, the new XT5 is loaded with tech, like a wide-angle display disguised as a rearview mirror.— D . M .









CO U R T E SY O F CO M PA N Y ( 4 )

Crossover Hits > Three more that do it right


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How to Do a First Date in the Age of Tinder

The Style Guy’s Guide to the First-Date Uniform You matched. Now, what about your outfit? —MARK ANTHONY GREEN

After Work

Saturday Night

Sunday Afternoon

If you’re a suit guy, leave the suit on—but take the tie off, keeping the top button buttoned. If you wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, wear that. Just make sure it’s the best version of your everyday outfit.

What’s the last purchase that you were really excited about? What’s the thing you always feel confident in? You can’t answer either question? Chelsea boots. Distressed jeans. Leather jacket. Done.

Show your date that you can relax in style. Wear easy, slim sweats (like the ones that John Elliott makes that don’t signify “sweats”) and a T-shirt. This is the only dating time when overdressing is worse than underdressing.

How to Pick the Perfect Spot Follow these rules—as valid now as they were in days of yore—to locate the ideal date destination. —LAUREN LARSON



I. The bar must offereth two of the following: ale (beer), wine (wine), or cocktails. Another thing: After thy date’s second drink, she shall require a few of thy fries.



II. Thou shalt not wait more than ten minutes for a seat. Every minute of idle small talk shall correspondeth to one fewer blow job down the line.

III. There shall be no TV in the bar. Thou shalt not watch the game over thy date’s shoulder. Thy date is not fooled by thy lying eyes.

IV. The bar shall be close to thy date’s place of work. Thy wench can get there easily, but she doth not have to tell thee where she lives.



V. There shall be no trivia. The drunken masses shall not shout “Lusitania!” and “Julia Louis-Dreyfus!” to the rafters while thou art describing thy backpacking trip in Greece.



B OT TO M I L L U S T R AT I O N S : B E N B O U R S ( 5 )

Yeah, hooking up and getting to the first date got way easier in the past few years, thanks (and sometimes no thanks) to apps. But one thing never got easier, and maybe even got harder: what to do once you get there. GQ presents a guide to the physical, face-to-face, real-time, non-emoji-assisted first date.


2 of 3

The Tinder Date

Hold the Phone (Actually, Keep It Out of Sight) Our guide to what to do with your device

@GQMagazine Do I hide my phone?

I Always Take My First Dates to the Same Spot

The Same Spot?! That’s Creepy

Yeah, even if she puts hers on the table. Okay. Can I make a call?

• The last thing you want on a first date is to worry about anything other than her. Too much noise? Too little noise? Lights so bright she’ll wonder if you’re going to get that mole checked out? Not if I can help it. If she has a place she loves to go, great. But if not, I suggest the bar at a casual Italian joint. It checks all the boxes—good drinks, good food (if it comes to that)—but it doesn’t itself inspire a lot of commentary (“I’ve never had lingonberry bitters

before!” “Really? I love them!”), which would allow you both to gloss over the fact that there’s no connection. The responsibility for connecting falls on us. As it should. So when it works, it feels more like a tenth date than a first.— A N D R E W G O B L E

Crucial Advice from a Real Dating Expert: Your Bartender Tips and tricks from the men and women who’ve seen more awkward encounters than anyone else. —AS TOLD TO JESSIE MOONEY

• If you return to the same place for all your first dates, someone— the bartender, a waiter—is onto you. They know this is your move. You’re the guy who has his first dates here. You don’t want to be that guy. That guy is unoriginal. That

“Schedule your date on a Monday or Tuesday evening. Bars and restaurants are emptier—you don’t need to worry about noise when you’re trying to get to know someone.”

Anne Vaughan, Whisler’s, Austin

guy is timid. That guy is, frankly, a little creepy. I get it: Retreating to a safe space alleviates anxiety. But you’re actually creating more stress for yourself. Because at some point, someone is going to say, “You’re back! Chicken piccata again?” I promise, this will (or should, at least) make you more tense than not knowing whether you’re enchanted with her or with the establishment’s imported-spirits list.— A N N A P E E L E

“Every date starts off with closed postures. Crossed arms and legs. About an hour in, take a chance and move the body language to a friendlier place. That’s when the conversation takes off.”

Mary Elise Hayden, The Continental Club, L. A.

Maybe. Emergencies and (and fake emergencies ONLY you have to go outside). If conversation lulls, can I pull up some funny videos? No. The buffering. The expected laughter. It’s awful. If we’re debating something, can I Google the answer? NO fact-checking. It’s a conversation killer. What if she’s ignoring me and just on her phone the whole time? Send her a text.

“Make the bartender your friend. Arrive a bit early, introduce yourself to the bartender, and buy a simple drink—and leave a good tip.” (Now you’ve got an ally for the rest of the night.)

Brian Bartels, Bar Sardine, N.Y.C.

“Ask her questions. Guys assume they’re getting interviewed and forget to ask questions back. I can tell you where the guy went to college, where his brother went to college, but not a thing about her.”

JT Almon, Cafe Mogador, N.Y.C.


Who Won Your Date?

3 of 3

If dating apps are a game, there must be a winner!

The Tinder Date

Give your date… points if -2 they added you on social media before you’ve even met IRL (-3 if it was on LinkedIn).



Give yourself... if you’re late -1 because you are standing outside texting your friends. when you +2 realize your date is, too.



Give your date… for every +1 question they ask you about you. if one -2 of those questions is about your credit score.


Give yourself... for every +2 question you ask them. if you begin -1 a sentence with “I’m a feminist, but…”


Give your date… if they -2 check their phone while you are talking. if they bring -3 up their ex. if they -20 bring up their spouse.




Give yourself... if you bravely +4 suggest a nightcap. if you use a -15 Family Guy voice.



1. Posters

Is Your Place Ready for a Guest?

That Ikea poster frame isn’t fooling anyone.

A man’s home can be a minefield. Here’s a list of things to avoid



2. More than one box of condoms in the nightstand Just what in the world do you think is going to happen here?



3. The high school library I also liked The Sun Also Rises, but there

6. Dark-color sheets What are you hiding?

9. Photo of your mother as a young woman

are other books.

7. Only one pillow

Presented without comment.

4. Protein powder

Really didn’t think this through.

It’s aggro baby food.

8. Photo of your ex 5. Only one Xbox controller For the man who does literally everything by himself.

Bury it in a box with the rest of your emotions.

10. Bobby pin (or any token of previous lady visitor) Women are trained to zero in on signs of our own kind. — L . L .

Give your date… if they’re -5 “active” on Tinder an hour after your date. Then again, +5 so are you. KEY

Whoever scores the most points is the winner and is officially allowed to never text back the loser. —HALLIE CANTOR

A Modest Proposal from… T. J. MILLER

True Masculinity Is Grooming Your Elbows Step Four: Your Body Needs Detailing When you get into a car and there’s trash, or it’s dirty, or one of the hubcaps is off, you’re like, “Come on, dude.” Every woman likes the confidence and self-respect that says, “I get oil changes. I look after my vehicle.” That’s what I recommend: Act like you don’t care, but take care of your body. Step Five: Go Topiary on Your Manhood Always manicure your genital area. You can’t let that go. You can’t get to your 40s and be like, “Whatever. I’m married, I’m just not gonna—” No! Don’t do that. Step Six: Be Sure to Disinfect Once, on tour, I “cut the lawn,” so to speak. And I didn’t have any Tend Skin, which I use anywhere you can get razor burn. And I thought, “Well, what am I going to do? I have to disinfect the area.” I went down to the hotel bar, ordered a vodka neat, brought it upstairs, and I put my freshly shaven business in potato vodka. And I gotta be honest with you: I got a little drunk.

Step One: Grow Out Your Hair So You Don’t Look Like Yourself I grew my hair out for a part and never cut it because I kept getting hired and told: Don’t cut your hair. I’ve stated that it’s possible the only reason I’m in show business is that I have such a strange, particular head of hair. That and I can grow a red beard. That’s perfect for a marijuana-smoking clown, which is the archetype that I bring to Hollywood. I encourage everybody: Try having long hair. See what the deal is. What if you look so much better? I dated my wife in college when I had shorter hair. I think the reason she’s still with me now is 66




because I have longer hair. And a beard. She told me that. She said, “I’m here for the hair, so keep it long.” Step Two: Do Not Put It in a Man Bun Don’t be the guy that thinks it’s some independent statement when, in reality, he just walks around and everyone is like: “Man, things are bad for me right now, but thank God I’m not that guy.” Step Three: Get Weird with Your Beard I’m a comedian, but I’m not a very good actor. So I’ll change my facial hair and people think I’m acting when, really, I’m not.

Step Eight: It Helps If You Don’t Stand Next to Ryan Reynolds My Deadpool co-star was in People magazine as Sexiest Man Alive. And then he’s in there as Sexiest Dad Alive. He’s in a class of his own. On the other hand, I look like a toddler that’s taken a growth serum. My face is oblong. But the best grooming is confidence. You should spend time every day being like, “Dude, I’m gonna walk around like a badass today.” It doesn’t have to be real confidence. Look at Erlich on Silicon Valley. Look at me. Just tell yourself you’re going to get it done today, and then get it done. For more unexpected stories in gq, go to / unexpected. Brought to you by the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.

A R T S T R E I B E R /A U G U S T

T. J. Miller says he owes his career—and his marriage!—to the hair on his head (and his face). So to celebrate this month’s Grooming Awards (see page 130), the shaggy star of Silicon Valley and the upcoming film Office Christmas Party gave us the secret to maintaining all, and we mean all, body parts

Step Seven: Tend to the Sexiest Part of the Human Body. Elbows. I don’t care about knees. You might have the weirdest knees on earth. Just accept it. It doesn’t matter. But elbows? Keep your elbows in immaculate, pristine condition. Use lotion on your elbows every day. Keep your elbows soft. Keep your elbows looking fine. When a woman touches your elbows, she should begin having a violent orgasm immediately.

B A C KG R O U N D S TA R S : E Y E E M / G E T T Y I M A G E S ( 3 ) . OT H E R P H OTO G R A P H S , C L O C K W I S E F R O M TO P L E F T : G E T T Y I M A G E S ( 3 ) ; A L E X W O N G / G E T T Y I M A G E S ( T R U M P H E A D ) ; M A R T T I S A L M E L A / G E T T Y I M A G E S ( T R U M P B O D Y ) ; D O R L I N G K I N D E R S L E Y/ G E T T Y I M A G E S ; G E T T Y I M A G E S ; Y E L E N A R O D R I G U E Z M E N A / E Y E E M / G E T T Y I M A G E S .



Intro to Black Mirror


Three episodes to reel you in.

T H E B R I T I S H P R I M E M I N I S T E R is forced to have sex with a

pig on live television in order to save a kidnapped princess. A man’s insecurities consume him when memory surveillance allows him to replay his marriage. Each episode of the UK s e r i e s B l a c k M i r r o r s e e m s t o s e t a n ew h i g h - wa t e r m a r k fo r excruciating fucked-up-edness, courtesy of satirist turned television writer Charlie Brooker—think Jon Stewart if he had created Mr. Robot after quitting The Daily Show. Every installment of Black Mirror features a di≠erent cast—Domhnall Gleeson and Jon Hamm popped up in previous seasons—and a di≠erent reality, usually culminating in an emotional apocalypse brought on by an exaggerated version of some real-life technology that exploits human weakness. (See: smartphones, video games.) Despite its general bleakness, the show became a cult hit before it was possible to watch it lawfully in the U.S. (Thanks, BitTorrent!) Credit foresight so eerily canny that the then prime minister of Britain became embroiled in a pig-centric sex scandal after his fictional counterpart had. (That’s David Cameron, who may or may not have, uh, allowed a dead pig to fellate him in college.) Black Mirror’s third season brings more big names and more American accents (Parks and Recreation’s Rashida Jones and Michael Schur wrote a fantastic social-media-focused story starring Bryce Dallas Howard) without losing the iPhone 7 Jet Black humor we’ll need to get us through the last few weeks of this election. Brooker called GQ from a London Uber on his way to edit the new season of Black Mirror, premiering October 21 on Netflix.— A N N A P E E L E

Based on how that kind of thing usually goes on ‘Black Mirror,’ is it safe to assume you think the cars will turn on us? Well, the car will have to choose between swerving so it doesn’t kill two people, but it will mean that it plows into and cripples a third person. There will be all sorts of ethical dilemmas being played out by an algorithm in the blink of an eye at a crossroads. I quite relish the future, which probably surprises people who have seen this show. The logical quandaries thrown up by wellmeaning systems are clearly something that I find darkly amusing.

GQ: Did you hear about the Uber driver in Michigan who went around killing people in between fares? Charlie Brooker: Didn’t he think that the app was telling him to commit crimes? Maybe that’s just a new feature they’re testing. I suppose when driverless cars come in, that won’t be an issue.

‘Black Mirror’ feels like Hitchcock made ‘The Twilight Zone.’ What’s your favorite episode of that series? There’s an episode [of The Twilight Zone] called “It’s a Good Life,” where Billy Mumy plays an all-powerful 6-year-old boy, which is absolutely terrifying. It could be about Kim Jong-un. [But Black Mirror is also


Speaking of logical quandaries: There’s a theory that we’re living in a computer simulation. Does that sort of thought experiment bother you? It fascinates me. I think the problem we have as apes is we’re asking far bigger questions than we could possibly process. Surely, your brain is not designed to cope with wrestling with that, so it’s probably healthiest to try to ignore it and think in emojis. What’s the emoji for “bewildered by the vastness of space”? That EdvardMunch-Scream-style yelling one is probably the closest we get.

→ Bryce Dallas Howard’s status: “Starring on an episode of Black Mirror season 3!! ”

influenced by] one-o≠ things that the BBC used to do, like Threads, which was about a nuclear war. One of the highlights of the new season is Rashida Jones and Michael Schur’s “Nosedive,” about how social media makes people into performers, which in turn makes them miserable. Of course it does, because they don’t know who they are anymore. In the age of social media, everyone’s a newspaper columnist, exaggerating what they think and feel. It wasn’t that long ago that everything on the Internet was “meh.” You don’t hear that anymore. It’s like everything’s either “Nailed it!” “This has won the Internet!” or it’s like “Shocking!” “Disgusting!” I miss “meh.” Well, you are Generation X, right? That’s the “meh” generation. I know. I guess I’m terrified because we’re ceding control to the millennials. Generation X was written up in the same way millennials are, just fucking shallow and damaging prospects for the future. Old people always say that about whoever happens to be young. Well, that’s because young people are annoying. They’re wiseasses because their job is to go, “What the fuck sort of fucking stain have you left on this place? Jesus Christ.” And then to slowly have their dreams crushed until they become the next generation that’s been dismissed by their o≠spring. That’s just the eternal, beautiful circle of life. That brings us to Brexit. Fucking Brexit. Well, Brexit is a harbinger for Trump, really. There was undeniably a huge group of people who felt they weren’t being listened to, and it was kind of a protest. “Remain” was an unexciting choice for people outside a certain bubble, which reminds me a lot of the U.S. election. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a President Trump. No! I wouldn’t be 1 percent surprised. I don’t want it to happen; I might have to build a bunker. But if I’m honest, it’s what I expect. Maybe we could remake “The National Anthem” if Trump wins. It would be a very short episode. They say, “You gotta fuck that pig,” and Trump goes, “I’m going to fuck that pig! I’m the best at fucking pigs! I’m going to make that pig come!” He grips it with his tiny hands. “National Anthem 2: This Time It’s the Whole Zoo.”

B A C K G R O U N D S TA R S : E Y E E M / G E T T Y I M A G E S ( 3 ) . P H O T O G R A P H , C O U R T E S Y O F D AV I D D E T T M A N N / N E T F L I X .

1. “the national anthem” See interview below. 2. “be right back” In which a widow hires a company to resurrect her husband via social media. 3. “the waldo moment” About the political ascendance of a foulmouthed cartoon. Hmmm…


Start at the top to learn about the things you won’t be able to escape this November. Read lower to discover the weird stuff you can’t afford to miss

New England Townspeople

This Month in Superheroism WHO?

Dr. Strange

(Lives ranked in descending order of quaintness)

W H O R E A L LY ?

Stephen Strange, a doctor with broken hands (played by Benedict Cumberbatch)




This drama stars the second-most whimsical A±eck (Casey, guys) as a Boston handyman.


The entire universe, plus alternate dimensions, plus “the astral plane”



John C. McGinley is the retired sheri≠ of a New England town steeped in history.




Heavy burlap-esque rags, paired with the accessories of a flamboyant Borgia pope

It boils down to a two-and-a-halfhour meditation on loss.

The history is that women were burned there, and now he fights demons.


The story of two fast-talking, pancakeguzzling, literaryallusion-cracking, fall-festival-loving Nutmeggers Like pancakes, whimsy doesn’t reheat well.


Brad Pitt’s Undercut

Mads Mikkelsen WHY’D THEY MAKE T H I S M OV I E ?

Quoth Cumberbatch: “I’m very excited about [the] spiritual dimension, obviously.”

• No one is more prepared for America to return to the chaos and turmoil of World War II than Brad Pitt: Allied marks his fourth tour of duty as a ’40s-era G.I. Joe since 2008. Love that ’do.

How to Talk to Aliens • Arrival stars Amy Adams as a brilliant linguist who talks to aliens. GQ asked real-life brilliant linguist Dr. Mark Liberman from the University of Pennsylvania how to do that, for days when Adams is unavailable. (Assuming we can tell they’re communicating: “Aliens might communicate via skin-color changes or use Morse code–like patterns of sound at a dozen different frequencies.” Or a billion other possibilities.)— A S T O L D T O C A I T Y W E AV E R

Peace, bae!


 Persuade them not to kill us, using all tools (speech, gestures, gifts, etc.) available. Note: This step may be insurmountable.  Persuade (or coerce) them to let us observe their withinspecies interactions.  Build machines for recording, analyzing, and synthesizing their signals.


Lithgow plays blustery Prime Minister Winston Churchill in The Crown, Netflix’s more historical, royal-family-set Downton Abbey What is the ocean’s noblest creature?

If you were Winston Churchill, how would you sign your name?


What color do you look best in?

What is the plot of your recurring nightmare?

Lightning bug or firefly?






 Use them to try to identify meaningful patterns and hope that we can understand and communicate with them to some extent. OR  Sit back and wait for the aliens to perform steps 2 through 4 for human language.

The GQ Survey: John Lithgow What did you eat for lunch yesterday?


The Unlikely Recommendation: Mel Gibson’s Directing Mel Gibson may be a racist, sexist, narcissistic, messianic, belligerent anti-Semite who, in point of fact, does not deserve to be blown first—but the stubborn truth is unavoidable: The guy knows how to make a movie. Exhibits A and B: Braveheart, duh, and the wildly underrated Apocalypto. Now, after a ten-year directorial…let’s call it pause, Exhibit C: Hacksaw Ridge, a World War II movie about a pacifist hero, and an atonement of sorts for Mel’s bloodthirsty back catalog. (Don’t worry, still tons of blood.)— D E V I N G O R D O N

“ B R A D P I T T ’ S U N D E R C U T, ” F R O M L E F T : T H E K O B A L C O L L E C T I O N ; W E I N S T E I N C O M PA N Y/ 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 ; C O L U M B I A P I C T U R E S / CO U R T E SY O F E V E R E T T CO L L E C T I O N ; CO U R T E SY O F DA N I E L S M I T H / PA R A M O U N T P I C T U R E S . OT H E R P H OTO G R A P H S , C LO C KW I S E F R O M TO P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F F I L M F R A M E / M A R V E L ; C O U R T E S Y O F J A N T H I J S / PA R A M O U N T P I C T U R E S ; V E N T U R E L L I / W I R E I M A G E ; C O U R T E S Y O F A L E X B A I L E Y/ N E T F L I X .


The Cultural Saturation Chart



> StairMaster to Heaven

there were gymnasiums. Open spaces in ancient Greece where men trained, often nude, to compete in public games. In these gymnasiums were halteres, a form of weights that would evolve into dumbbells. Fast-forward a dozen-plus centuries: These dumbbells IN THE BEGINNING,





What do we expect from a gym in 2016? Scented towels? Fancy grooming products? How about private cabanas? How about a retina scanner at the door? For the right (high) price, Equinox will give you all of that—but it wants a chunk of your soul, too. C A R R I E B A T T A N reports on how Equinox turned sweating into a spiritual quest




(It’s inside the Time Warner other workout experiences. The ’roided-out Center in Midtown Manhattan. bodybuilders, the bogus home workout of Bowflex commercials, the wholesome We shall reveal no more.) But Middle Americanism of places like Planet even if some non–E clubber— Fitness and Gold’s Gym: all enemies of the one of the proles who work for State of Good Taste cultivated at Equinox. you, maybe—were to find this door, he still couldn’t get inside, You won’t find a single primary color in any because the door is equipped of Equinox’s locations, just lots of cream and with a retina scanner, which black and gray. Ostentation is forbidden, particularly when it comes to one’s body. will process your biometric data Lean is the physical ideal here; company to ensure that you are, indeed, a executives actually use the term Equinox member of this sacred club. Yes, the kind of gadgetry you find in body—a toned, androgynous shape designed James Bond films—for a gym. to glide in and out of $300 Acne jeans and Between the $500 monthly sleep (“regenerate”) on the finest linens. membership and the $150-perThe company was founded in Manhattan hour training sessions—the in 1991 by the Errico siblings, real estate average E club member trains gurus who hypothesized that the company four times a week—you’ll be could expand almost indefinitely because New Yorkers would be unwilling to travel dropping around 30 grand per more than ten blocks for fitness. So far • At the E club, they’re coaches, not trainers. Hence the shirts. year. But what’s 30 grand? You that has proved to be true—25 years later, work hard, and you’ve earned it. Equinox is opening more clubs than ever. found homes in new types of gymnasiums— And you get to feel like a superhero before In 1999, Harvey Spevak became the comnow they’re called gyms, because this isn’t you’ve even walked in the door. ancient Greece anymore—like Gold’s Gym, And then, once you get inside… An endpany’s CEO, and one of his first moves was where pu≠y and steroidal men would train less river of refrigerated eucalyptus towels. to ask the city’s papers to remove Equinox (not quite nude) to compete in the public Private cabanas instead of plebeian locker from gym listings; he didn’t want New game of self-worship. Only weight lifters Yorkers forming the slightest hint of an rooms. Each state-of-the-art resistance band lifted weights then; women did aerobics. has been stowed in its proper place to make association between Equinox and competPeople couldn’t get enough of these gyms, sure that your workout is clutter-free. It’s itors like Crunch and New York Health & and they soon began to proliferate under Racquet Club. The day after 9/11, Equinox fancy here, but in a utilitarian kind of way— the watchful eye of corporate America, nothing that will emasculate you. This isn’t kept its doors open to help preserve a sense with a distinct flavor for each crowd. In a spa. It’s crisp, not soft. When you work out, of ritual for members whose lives had came Curves and Planet Fitness and New you go hard, and you get sweaty. York Sports Club and Crunch, where even The E club knows this and keeps the logo reassured you that the experience the room at a frigid 65 degrees. At one point, Gariepy even drifts into wasn’t for wimps. And then, in the waning And yet if you ask E club Equinox marketing-speak without members about the place’s years of the second millennium, there was Equinox, a gym that brought the men and numerous luxuries, they’ll prorealizing it. Spend enough time women of New York’s top tax brackets under fess an almost Buddhist indi≠there and you might inadvertently one roof and stripped the gym experience of erence. The retina scanner, the start slinging its slogans. the greasiness, the odor, the human stain of private cabanas, the pristine environs—they’re all nice, but the iron-pumping set. they’re not the thing. When I Soon, your choice of gym began to say been shaken up. One of those members something about you—your taste, your make the mistake of gushing about them in was the fashion-advertising titan David goals, your bodily ideal. And the more perfront of one E clubber—a 58-year-old semisonal it became, the more special it had retired executive of a private intelligence Lipman, who had been displaced from his to be: In 2016, folks will pay almost any firm—he corrects me solemnly, like he’s downtown apartment and found sancture-orienting a compass: “The journey of amount of money to achieve the level of priary in Equinox’s Tribeca location. Ever the vacy and luxury and individual attention Equinox,” he says, “the fitness journey, is a marketer, Lipman sought out Spevak to pitch him on spinning his human experithey feel suits their life, or their “lifestyle.” journey into self-discovery.” Nobody has understood this better than ence into branding gold. So he put together Equinox, which has brought the innocent a marketing plan that included the silly but E Q U I N O X I S K N O W N as a rich person’s gymnasium—the ancient Greeks are either gym, which is an accurate but incomincredibly e≠ective slogan that would shape plete description. It certainly isn’t cheap: rolling or fist-pumping in their graves—to Equinox’s identity: “It’s not fitness. It’s life.” Monthly membership fees start at around its evolutionary peak: the E club. Equinox is probably the only gym chain You probably haven’t heard of it, because $150 and climb higher as the locations—84 with a dedicated creative director (she comes from Victoria’s Secret) and a team it’s not explicitly advertised anywhere (or in three countries so far, plus an Equinoxbecause you don’t live in New York, the only themed hotel chain in the works—get fanof 18 “creatives.” It’s also probably the only place special enough for this very special cier. (The E club in Manhattan was designed gym chain that insists it is not a gym but a club. This is a company whose employEquinox). A clientele of around 50, 75 memto be one of a very perfect kind. Sorry, Miami.) It is a chain devilishly tailored ees, like its members, can o≠er Santorini bers. An unlisted address, because the kind to the needs of a growing class of people Airbnb recommendations and quote of people who join—successful, powerful, who are fueled by the belief that working body-fat-composition ratios in the same driven—value discretion above all. In fact, breath. If he weren’t the company’s CEO, in order to even get inside, you first have to out is part of a ruthlessly e∞cient lifestyle, Spevak himself would make the perfect find the slick, unmarked glass-paned door. without all the bro-culture posturing of 78





Equinox member. At 52, he is remarkably well-preserved, but not in a Botox-y way. He wears slim-fit trousers and quality button-fronts that accentuate his physique, which is lean but very purposefully not ripped. He does strength training and interval runs on the treadmill four or five times a week (often in the privacy of the E club, of course). When he travels to the various Equinoxes around the globe, his New York trainer will simply e-mail his routine to another trainer at his destination so he can continue his program seamlessly. Every Equinox vibrates at its own specific frequency, depending on the location and the time of day. New York provides a useful cultural topography: At SoHo in the middle of the afternoon, Equinox is teeming with o≠-duty models and the men who like to explain the weight machines to them. If you visit before opening bell, the Tribeca and Wall Street locations are filled with the sound of barbells slamming to the ground and a chemical musk that can take on a Patrick Bateman quality. Tourists like to gawk at the women who cram in lunch-hour Pilates in the glass-walled studio that abuts the High Line at the Tenth Avenue location. The Columbus Circle Equinox turns into a corporate adrenaline zoo at happy hour. Downtown on the West Side, Claire Danes and Will Arnett have reportedly been spotted at the Printing House location. And just as in New York, Equinox’s SoCal locations each have their own vibe, too. At the Beverly Hills location, a bronzed instructor will discuss the quality of the UV rays around the world before kicking o≠ her Saturday-morning dance class. (“We should all go to the Dead Sea,” she insists. “The sun there is the best.”) At the Huntington Beach spot an hour south, you can have your surfboard valeted. At the gargantuan West L.A. location, you can swim in the junior Olympic-size pool, then eat a meal at the white-tablecloth restaurant. The WeHo location on Sunset is a

hotbed for Hollywood types and wannabes. This is the gym Kanye West surely had in mind on The Life of Pablo when he alerted “every bad bitch up in Equinox / I wanna know right now if you a freak or not.” Adam Farino, the personal-training manager at WeHo, listens to this song every day en route to work to get psyched for the sweating glitterati: It’s where Lindsay Lohan opted to train immediately post-rehab. (“First day, I crushed her,” Farino brags. “That one didn’t work over so well.”) It is a universal truth that everyone works out to look better naked, which is why Equinox’s advertising pairs philosophical sloganeering with a tease of dripping hot bodies. If you live in a coastal city, you know the billboards: Terry Richardson photographs of forensic-looking scenes with model legs hanging from car windows; Lydia Hearst with two infants suckling her breasts at a restaurant; a male model lying prone in a sea of cash. Ads that have nothing to do with exercise beyond the incontestable fact that the people in the pictures have definitely put in their 10,000 hours at the gym. commit to something, they demand, and you will be rewarded with sex and desirability. But there’s a cruel irony at play: For a certain breed of Equinox obsessive—“ ’Nox rats,” in the parlance—the self-improvement treadmill can become so addictive that it supplants sex as a core desire. One friend of mine, a 25-year-old book editor and fullblown ’Nox rat, tells me she sometimes goes to Equinox even when she’s not working out, “just to see who’s around.” “It just brings me this sense of Zen,” she says. “Every time I walk in, I’m like, Oh, thank God.” Equinox has built an empire by fetishizing something modern alphas obsess about even more than sex: productivity. N O W I S P R O B A B L Y a good time for a

confession: I myself had a moment of fuckit-why-not about two years ago, joined


Equinox, and never looked back. I have worked with one of Equinox’s personal trainers, and I have chosen my trainer over my boyfriend on more than one occasion. I have sipped the organic cold-pressed KoolAid. Sometimes I feel a little anxious that I’m turning into a gym freak. That I’m getting less interesting and less fun every day. (Then I go work out to ease that anxiety.) This is not the sort of personal struggle that inspires sympathy in most of my peers, and so when I meet a guy named Charles Gariepy, I’m relieved at the chance to commiserate. Gariepy is the kind of person his friends point to when asked by a magazine writer if they “know anyone who’s really into Equinox.” One afternoon Gariepy and I take lunch (no food involved) at Printing House. The club, which has a rooftop pool and a spectacular view of the Hudson River, is restrictive with guest passes and bars visitors completely on the weekends. It’s the sort of place that would feel unbearably douchey if it weren’t just so...nice. Like many of the ’Nox rats around us, Gariepy has already been to Printing House this morning to achieve what he describes as a “mind-clarifying” start to his day. “I’m in such a good mood and I’m so productive that I’m like, ‘Great, this afternoon is just…sailing,’ ” Gariepy says with a toss of his hand. Gariepy is maybe not whom you’d imagine a typical Equinox member to be. He’s 29, lives in Brooklyn, and works for a modest documentary-film company. He is hyper-articulate and writes poetry in his spare time. In fact, he’s written poetry based on the florid Equinox Missed Connections he finds on Craigslist. (“Bulldog, Tank Top”: “I waited by the showers until 38 after the hour, disappointed [and covered in lotion] / When you finally walked by, gliding on tiles / Like there was no one in the world / To rush for.”) He’s the kind of person who once found the idea of working out to be kind of lame. That is, until last spring, when

Upon This Gym Membership I Will Build My Church Equinox is a gym, not a religion. But just for kicks, we mixed Equinox slogans with mantras from the Church of Scientology. And since Equinox is just a gym, surely you can tell whose is whose. Right?— C L AY S K I P P E R

Take some time for

This is an invitation to

Wake up and smell the eucalyptus, Williamsburg.

YO U !


Know yourself. Know life.

I AM something. WE ARE everything.

 You have the PURP OSE. We have the CHALLENGE.

 without limits, transformation AND THE PROMISE OF inf inite potential. THIS IS TRAINING










• Kanye West immortalized Equinoxes everywhere with an urgent question about the sexual creativity of its female clientele.

he started dating a guy—an Equinox devotee—who was “incredibly built” and he started to feel a little inadequate. Gariepy went for broke ($180 a month) and joined the most elite of all downtown Equinox locations. The pair split up shortly after, but Gariepy’s new habit stuck. Now his friends like to remark on how toned, how happy, he seems. At one point, while discussing his decision to join Printing House, Gariepy even drifts into Equinox marketing-speak—“Commit to something”—without realizing it. Spend enough time there and you might inadvertently start slinging its slogans. But Gariepy is smart, and after a period of unfettered gushing, he catches himself sounding a little too jazzed about his newfound lifestyle. A form of renegade self-awareness begins to creep in. “I will say, my favorite thing to do is smoke outside of Equinox,” he says. “It’s a huge fuckyou to this whole enterprise, frankly.” He confesses to me that in the past year and a half, his creative output has diminished, but it’s a price he’s willing to pay for the surplus of serotonin and confidence Printing House has brought him. L I K E I T S S U I T E of clubs, Equinox’s wildly popular personal-training program is tiered to accommodate a range of needs and means. The premium level used to be called Tier 4, but it was recently redubbed Tier X—integers are apparently too earthbound to stoke the longing of Equinox’s most devoted members. The X stands for “infinite possibility.” When Equinox o≠ered to let me try it, I experienced an unsettling tangle of excitement and dread: What if this pushes me over the edge and I become a genuine psycho?





The excitement trumped the dread, though, and so early one morning this summer, I arrive at the E club for a comprehensive assessment. A guy named Alex Zimmerman, who runs the program, puts me through a series of analyses that would probably get me into NASA. There is a posture test, and then a test in which I must lie still on the floor and “not think about anything” while wearing an oxygen mask to determine how my body metabolizes fat versus carbohydrates. (Poorly.) At one point I strip down to my underwear and stand on a spinning platform—this is a 3-D scanner that later spits out a 360-degree view of my body. (Petrifying.) Later Zimmerman runs me through a Q&A—a little bit psychotherapy, a little bit Scientology—during which he asks about my nightly bedtime rituals (erratic), how my anxiety manifests itself (insomnia), and what I do to ease it (drink, work out). Zimmerman then asks me what my main goal is, and I tell him about my perennial mission to shed ten pounds. He hears this answer day in and day out, but he still seems a bit disappointed in me. “I just want to play a little game real quick,” he says. “Why do you want to lose ten pounds?” To look better, I tell him. “Why do you want to look better?” he asks. To feel more confident and comfortable as I move about the world, I say. “Why do you want to feel more comfortable and confident?” he continues. Now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been spending too much time at the gym and not enough time engaging in critical thought, because I’m stumped. To be happy? “Okay, so you want to be happy, but why do you want to be happy?” I give up. This is harder than I anticipated.

“I have no agenda,” Zimmerman assures me, before supplying me with some possible ideas for the sorts of life changes a ten-pound weight loss could produce. Maybe it’ll make me a better partner, and then I can become a mother, he suggests. Or maybe it’ll make me more productive at work. “Let’s get way beyond ten pounds. Because that’s a superficial goal. That’s not really what your value system is. “I have this thing,” he explains. “I really hate people’s goals. I think they’re insulting.” This makes sense if you think about it— the ten-pound thing reduces his life’s work to that of a body custodian. It’s his job to believe that Equinox members are greater than the sum of their vanities, for his sake and for theirs. And yet it all still struck me as a little preposterous. All this talk about purifying and optimizing your life—at a gym! Spend enough time at Equinox, and it starts to feel less like a gym and more like church, less like exercise, more like worship—an exorbitantly expensive religion in which everyone prays to the gods of achievement. And yet, and yet: It is refreshing to have my vanity challenged, even as I’m indulging it. After all, this is why I signed up for Equinox in the first place: to make myself not just better-looking but also happier. More complete. And maybe I have—I’m not sure. Mostly I feel like Charles Gariepy, and my ’Nox-rat friend, and everyone else I see at Equinox: just fit and productive enough to know that we’ll never be fit and productive enough. carrie battan is a writer in New York City.




Have you noticed that the best movies these days are the realest? With O.J. and Weiner and killer crime stories streaming everywhere we look, true films are better, cooler, more ambitious, and more mindblowing than ever. Here, a list of our favorite recent docs—plus some recs from their directors

 Weiner Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg 2016 • Turns out Lemonade was only the second-most interesting meditation on infidelity this year. Weiner, which tracks the 84




sexting-induced implosion of Anthony Weiner’s comeback N.Y.C. mayoral race, turns gawking into art through the questions it poses: Why didn’t Weiner cut o≠ access from the filmmakers when the scandal broke? How long would the nadir of his need for attention last? (Well...) And what was Huma Abedin thinking as she watched her husband fall apart? Boy, ’bye.


> The Documentaries from the 21st Century Every Man Should See


Paradise Lost 1, 2 & 3 Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky 1996, 2000, 2011



• For 15 years, Berlinger and Sinofsky chronicled the case of the West Memphis Three—teen outcasts convicted of killing and mutilating three young boys in a satanic ritual. The first film raised doubts about the trial, which fixated on things like the dark clothes the Three wore. The second asked penetrating questions about much of the trial’s evidence and testimony. And the third saw the Three freed after maintaining their innocence for a decade and a half behind bars. The trilogy is a testament to the power of documentary—as a storytelling medium and an agent of social change.

Salaam Cinema MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF 1995

Makhmalbaf held a casting call for a film that would celebrate cinema, and 5,000 Iranians showed up. Interviews with those people yielded what Oppenheimer calls “a meditation on power, art, and performance like no other.”


In The Apple, the younger Makhmalbaf tells the story of two girls locked in their home by their parents. “Our encounter with the world,” Oppenheimer says, “must always be one of horror, innocence, and love.”

Even Dwarfs Started Small WERNER HERZOG 1970

“It may not seem like a documentary at all, but it’s pure truth,” Oppenheimer says of Herzog’s dark drama about a colony of rebellious dwarfs. “It taught me that cinema has the moral responsibility to function as a dream, one that we instantly recognize as true.”

When the Levees Broke Spike Lee 2006 • This is Spike Lee’s best film, period. Epic, exquisitely filmed, with a contained fury that never once feels unearned or trumped-up, and featuring haunting brass in a score by Terence Blanchard. When the Levees Broke is not just a work of art; it’s as essential a document about America’s history as Hamilton.

 The Fog of War Errol Morris 2003 • Robert S. McNamara, former secretary of defense and architect of the Vietnam War, has some serious skeletons in his closet. And he brings a whole bunch of them out for Morris to meet. Come for the lessons

of McNamara’s life and career (World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc.); have your dreams haunted by the unnerving Philip Glass score that runs through the film like an omen.

 The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer 2012 RECOMMENDED BY

Marc Webb, director, The Amazing Spider-Man • “By encouraging boastful Indonesian death squad leaders to re-create their own murderous activities, Oppenheimer discovers—at least in one of the killers— a shred of a conscience long since subdued by alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, and a ghoulish lack of selfreflection. It’s the most creative, engrossing, and terrifying deconstruction of a human I’ve ever seen.”

• Terence Blanchard, who plays throughout When the Levees Broke, walks down the street in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.








Restrepo Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington




• Chronicling an enervating 15-month deployment at a remote combat post in Afghanistan, Restrepo is ďŹ lmmaking at its most intimate. The soldiers in this documentary survive ďŹ reďŹ ghts and boredom, harrowing missions and tedious errands, as Junger and Hetherington ride shotgun, dodging the same restlessness and existential questions as their subjects. The result is a ďŹ lm about life and death—made all the more powerful by Hetherington’s killing in a conict zone a year later.

Citizenfour Laura Poitras 2014

Martin Scorsese: Doc Music Man  No Direction Home 2005 • It could be said (we’re saying it!) that no director has made better use of boomer jams than Scorsese—in the tsunami-force montages of his (make-believe) ďŹ lms and at the helm of a shelf of music docs. Start here with Marty’s second-favorite Bobby D.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World 2011 • And follow Dylan with this pathos-ďŹ lled paean to the Beatles’s third ďŹ ddle (or guitar). PLUS: A CLASSIC FROM MARTY

The Last Waltz 1978 RECOMMENDED BY

Akiva Goldsman, screenwriter, A Beautiful Mind • “The concert footage is given structure by these interstitial interviews with the Band that make the extraordinary event accessible. The ďŹ lm invites you to join in rather than simply presenting a voyeuristic lens.â€? 88

• The ďŹ rst person Edward Snowden successfully took his secrets to was Laura Poitras—and she documented every moment of it. Citizenfour is about Snowden’s choice, but it’s also a showcase for Poitras’s pull-nopunches ďŹ lmmaking.

 Twenty Feet from Stardom





Morgan Neville 2013 • This dive into the world of backup singers is so musical, so soulful, so sad and sublime, that it’s tough to cite a single moment. But Merry Clayton recording the “Raaape! Muurder!â€? hook of “Gimme Shelterâ€? with Mick Jagger should work on you like all addictive stu≠ does.

Land Without Bread LUIS BUĂ‘UEL 1933

“I guess BuĂąuel kinda created the form (along with Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds) with this parody of a travel documentary. Like most things BuĂąuel, it’s pretty unsettling and completely captivating—not a lot of laughs.â€?

“The Piranha Brothers� IAN MACNAUGHTON 1970

“One of the first and funniest mockumentaries from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.�

Zelig WOODY ALLEN 1983

“If there’s a film that inspired us the most, it’s this one. Woody Allen and Gordon Willis took the mockumentary to a new level.�

This Is Spinal Tap ROB REINER 1984

“Goes without saying.�

The Two Escobars Je≠ Zimbalist & Michael Zimbalist 2010

• The Colombian national team was a favorite heading into the 1994 World Cup—the expectations of a country and its powerful drug cartels on its shoulders. When a star defender, AndrÊs Escobar,

inadvertently deected a decisive goal into his own net, he paid for the mistake with his life. AndrĂŠs and Pablo— the titular “twoâ€?—are merely the intersecting tip of the deeply twined history of drugs and soccer (i.e., power) in ’80s and ’90s Colombia. This isn’t just a sports or crime doc; it explains an entire society in a time and place.




• Grizzly Man is Werner Herzog’s brilliant, tragicomic study of Timothy Treadwell, a disgruntled, maladaptive man, and his quest for meaning after leaving human society to live among the massive grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. Treadwell filmed his days in the wild, right up until he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, met their gruesome (and slightly predictable) demise. This is ultimately a story about mankind’s other basic need, rarely cited and sometimes treacherous: inclusion.

bigger questions about gun violence in this country. A film by Michael Moore is necessarily a film about Michael Moore, but in this case he’s the right guy for the job. Moore barges into Kmart headquarters with two Columbine survivors to demand they stop selling handgun ammunition. And then he demands a gun at a bank that o≠ers a firearm to anyone who opens an account. (He walks out with a rifle.) Along with the film’s troubling footage, Moore’s criticism of America’s attitude toward violence has stuck with us for over a decade.

Bowling for Columbine

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Michael Moore 2002

Liz Garbus 2014

• As relevant today as it was in 2002, Bowling for Columbine takes a wide lens to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Moore uses the story of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, to answer


Grizzly Man Werner Herzog 2005



Tyler Perry, director • “True genius plagued by mental illness is brilliantly shared in this doc of Ms. Nina Simone. Her voice, her life, and her work were all in conflict.”



Alex Gibney Island We could make a must-see list of Gibney docs alone, but here’s three of our favorites

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room 2005

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief 2015

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer 2010

• In 2005, when many Americans were still struggling to explain Enron’s scandalous collapse, Gibney interviewed former Enron insiders and the reporters who first saw the warning signs.

• Gibney is on the Scientology shit list for life after his exposé of the church’s alleged human-rights violations. Going Clear is a mind-blowing look at America’s richest modern-day “church.”

• Client 9’s subject matter is Weiner-esque in that we see Eliot Spitzer shamed and forced to resign after a sex scandal explodes. But Client 9 is also pure Gibney: a study of what it means to be a public figure in America.

Robert Durst in The Jinx, he brought to light the Friedmans. On the surface, this film is a crime story: Arnold Friedman, a teacher, is being investigated

for sexual abuse along with his son Jesse. The Friedmans were autodocumentarians; in intimate home videos they documented even their tensest, most private moments. For Jarecki they were a gold mine. He balances their camcorder videos with gutting interviews with David Friedman, now grown and trying to make sense of his father’s and brother’s guilty pleas. Capturing the Friedmans is this era’s rawest, most intimate portrait of a family interrupted.

 Capturing the Friedmans Andrew Jarecki 2003 • More than a decade before Jarecki exposed





Five Other Best of the Best of the Best from the 20th Century THE WAR ROOM

Chris Hegedus & D. A. Pennebaker 1993 • This look at Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign made stars of George Stephanopoulos and James Carville—and makes us wistful for election seasons past.

The Jinx Andrew Jarecki 2015 • Here was a ďŹ lm—a weekly serial, really— that shocked and entertained, as many great docs do. But then it did something not even the best are capable of: broke news in real time. Those cryptic, confessional ďŹ ve words out of the mouth of Robert Durst (“Killed them all, of course‌â€?) lit up front pages and cable-TV chyrons, and

re-opened interest in the deaths associated with Durst, raising the bar for true-crime documentaries.

 Darwin’s Nightmare Hubert Sauper 2004 RECOMMENDED BY

Andrew Jarecki, director, The Jinx • “Sauper’s amazing ďŹ lm is ostensibly about the after-e≠ects of the introduction of a voracious predator into the waters of



Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment ROBERT DREW 1963

“Crisis opened the door to present-tense nonfiction storytelling, thanks to the portable sync-sound movie camera that Drew and his collaborators had invented. Viewers could witness history unfolding in nearly real time, up close in sight and sound: President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy grappling with the dramatic racialintegration crisis at the University of Alabama and squaring off against Alabama governor George Wallace, who was intent on blocking two black students from enrolling. Drew’s film is remarkable in its intimate portrayal of history in the making, demonstrating a level of access to major political figures throughout their decision-making that would be impossible today. In our image-conscious, postmodernmedia environment, the bygone authenticity captured in this film is truly thrilling.�





Lake Victoria in Tanzania, until we realize that the predator is us. This is really a ďŹ lm about the human condition and our predilection for doing things that ensure our own extinction. I don’t want to say too much about it because it just has to be seen and felt.â€?


Errol Morris 1988 • A year after this film’s release, its subject, a man wrongfully convicted of murder, was freed from prison. HOOP DREAMS

Steve James 1994 • This story of two teens navigating race and


Leon Gast 1996 • This account of the epic fight between Ali and Foreman (and the circus surrounding the Rumble) took decades to debut. ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER

Kevin MacDonald 1999 • Long before Munich, MacDonald told the story of 11 Israeli Olympians killed at the 1972 Games.


O.J.: Made in America


Ezra Edelman 2016


• Made in America is ESPN’s unapologetic eight-hour powerhouse. And it’s just as good as everyone screams it is. This is the story of the trial, yes. But it’s also the story of race relations in L.A. and O.J. as you forgot him— U.S.C. O.J., Hertz and Naked Gun O.J. (or if you’re under 30: O.J. as you never knew him).

Paris Is Burning JENNIE LIVINGSTON 1990

“This film about the gay culture of New York City in the ’80s illuminates a lot of my own life experiences and the struggles of friends who are unfortunately long gone. It explored everything from sexuality to race to gender and what it meant to be different long before acceptance was part of our everyday. It was ahead of its time and set me free as an artist who saw the possibility of testing boundaries and creating controversy through art.�


class (and basketball) in a Chicago prep school has lessons for every era.

> The Resurrection








All around us, every day, things are disappearing— birds, butterflies, coral reefs, islands. Places we used to live. Things we used to eat. But what if there was a way to bring some of it back? Well, it turns out there is. A few miles north of San Diego, scientists are gathering up specimens of every living thing they can get their hands on in a last-ditch effort to save the planet from an unstoppable predator: us ✒ ZACH BARON

I. Nobody Say “Jurassic Park” A F E W W E E K S A G O , a humpback whale arrived in a FedEx box. Dr. Oliver Ryder removed the vial containing the whale from the package. He used its cells to grow more cells. Then he froze it. “And you know how hard it is to get a sample of a whale, legally?” It’s hard. There are rules


• A zoo in a box: 100 tubes—one with a northern white rhino inside—and several thousand more just like them stored in freezers outside San Diego.

about this sort of thing, shipping whales across national borders. Nevertheless, more boxes—full of deer, ibis, flamingos, desert tortoises, rhinos—arrive every day. They are unboxed, grown anew. Then they go into the Frozen Zoo to be saved. It’s unassuming, the Frozen Zoo—just north of San Diego, deep in California inland nothingness, where it is housed at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The institute is like any other academic building: low-slung, quiet, smells of cleaning supplies. The Frozen Zoo itself is even less glamorous. A room full of big frozen steel tanks fed by vacuum jacketed pipes pumping liquid nitrogen. Every time you open one of the freezers you get a witchy pu≠ of smoke. Inside the tanks are the animals. Ryder points at a tank, which he says contains nearly all of the Frozen Zoo’s individuals. Almost 10,000 of them. “They compress to a pretty small space,” he says. Each individual has its cells split up, placed into multiple tubes. “Half of the vials of an individual are in that freezer. Half of the vials are in a freezer in another place, so even if this building is destroyed we won’t lose the collection.” Ryder will not disclose the whereabouts of this other place. An undisclosed location. Ten thousand individuals. Representing about a thousand species and sub-species. In this regular-looking steel tank. “And it’s the size of a refrigerator?” Ryder asks rhetorically. “That’s the densest vertebrate biological diversity on the planet.” It’s an ark, in other words: Ryder’s building an ark. An ark in a freezer! The mission 98




of the Frozen Zoo, Ryder says, is to preserve “a legacy of life on Earth” at the precise moment that life, in all its glamorous and tedious and ungainly forms, is disappearing from our orb at an alarming rate. We’re losing big charismatic mega-fauna like elephants. Also vital little soldiers like bees. And, increasingly, actual people. We’re running out of water, out of food, out of bees. We’re running out of the life that makes other life. It’s going away. Maybe we’re going away. So Ryder is building an ark. Some of the animals whose genetic material is stored in the ark are still here on Earth, alive, walking around. Many are long dead. Some represent species that are endangered—the ancient Przewalski’s horse, which looks, with its long block head and placid eyes, like a living cave painting. One species in the Frozen Zoo, the po‘ouli, a portly Hawaiian bird, is extinct. The only place it lives on—“lives” is probably not the right word, or at least not yet—is here, in the Frozen Zoo. What is the ark for? That depends on how you look at it. From one angle, it’s a museum: a catalog of what we have, or— increasingly—what we had, here on Earth. With a microscope, it’s the Met. From another angle, it’s a research resource. This is its primary use. “We’ve sent thousands of samples to hundreds of investigators,” says Ryder, with his cheerful beard and his fleece vest and plaid shirt and baggy pants. “It’s not a time capsule. It is used.” But the Frozen Zoo also has a third purpose. For a while Ryder didn’t like to talk about this fact. Visitors would come to the zoo and


throw around words like “Jurassic Park.” They’d ask the obvious questions about bringing animals back to life, dead but for the cells and DNA that live on in the Frozen Zoo. Is that possible? Or will it be, someday? “People would ask us about that,” Ryder says. “I avoided that question because I considered it spurious and I didn’t want to deal with sensationalism. I wanted to acquaint people with the real problems of trying to save species today, not like fantasy solutions for the future.” A long pause. “But there’s been kind of a convergence, and the technology has developed.” So, yes, the third purpose of the Frozen Zoo is this: Resurrection. Reanimation. Whatever you want to call it. (Nobody at the Frozen Zoo, nobody anywhere with any kind of serious scientific background, calls it any of those things. If they have to say something, they say de-extinction.) The technology exists. To create clones, basically—to take the still-living cells of a dead animal from a dead species and reprogram those cells into sperm or eggs. To combine sperm and egg. To put that fertilized egg into a surrogate host, which will then give birth. To take what was dead and gone and give it life again. Scientists have done it with a mouse already—siphoned o≠ blood from a mouse’s tail, extracted white blood cells, turned them back into stem cells, built a whole new mouse. “It’s been the realm of science fiction, but here we have it, here it’s going to be used and we’re deciding now what we do next,” Ryder admits grudgingly. “Each current generation understands they can’t bring back what was lost, you know? Then they go through their own sense of loss. We can mitigate some of that.” Imagine: through history, things just vanishing around us. The common estimate is that 99 percent of what has ever lived on this Earth has since vanished. Over 5 billion species, gone forever. That process now accelerating to a frightening speed, on account of us. So much loss that it outpaces our capacity for grief, if that makes sense. But for how long? The world is shrinking, closing in on us. Life is fading away. Nobody’s ever systematically gathered the material you could use to re-create that life, Ryder says, swiveling in his o∞ce chair one warm March day. “This is the first time. Move forward a thousand years or ten thousand years: What’s that going to mean for the structure of life on our planet? I don’t think it will be an incidental footnote. I think it’s going to have huge utility.” The return of lost ecosystems. Abundance prevailing, against the odds, over scarcity. Mankind not dying en masse, even. The reality, our reality, is simple: Keep on going as we have and soon there will



be no more us. But what if we could reverse the tide? Get back what we’ve lost, before we lose ourselves?

II. A Brief History of Lost Things E X T I N C T I O N I S O L D but it’s also new.

(Don’t worry, we can do all this in a paragraph.) Throughout the 1700s, gentleman scientists were finding bits of fossilized skeleton in the ground that made no sense, had no corollary on the planet that they could find. Thomas Je≠erson, for one, was obsessed with the mastodon. He kept trying to get his hands on some bones. But he also assumed the creature was still alive, somewhere in the American interior. He hoped Lewis and Clark might find one. The idea that things like mastodons and mammoths could wink into and then out of existence went against God, as far as he and pretty much everyone else were concerned. Even Charles Darwin didn’t believe things just up and disappeared; he figured they evolved, improved, natural-selected themselves into their next form. It took a skeptical Parisian, Georges Cuvier, to posit the existence of espèces perdues: lost species. That was right around 1800. (Like I said: one paragraph.) So it’s only been 200 years, really, that anybody on this planet has had to walk around with the poison knowledge that a thing they love, or fear, or take for granted, or hunt for food may one day get swept away in the breeze, never to return. And for most of those 200 years, mankind has been on a pretty chill clock. Yes, species may go extinct, but in the droplet of geologic time that is a human lifetime? What

are the odds? For a while, not very high. But now? After cars and airplanes and air conditioners and the vast depredation of our rain forests? After Amazon and SUVs and your 6-year-old kid developing a taste for raw bluefin tuna? Pretty damn high. Things are gloomy out there. Right now Australia’s koalas, whose numbers are already declining, are su≠ering from a debilitating chlamydia epidemic that may do in the remnant. In the last 30 years we’ve lost about half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. The tiny armored truck that is the Chinese pangolin—whose keratin scales are rumored to help women lactate—is being driven to extinction by poaching. We’re losing our butterflies. Only an estimated 40 Amur leopards are left in Russia. Maybe 40 Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Four hundred Iberian lynxes. The bullet that took the life of Internet meme Harambe also took one of our remaining western lowland gorillas. The spoon-billed sandpiper, the saola, royal turtles, certain lemurs—they’re not going to make it. All around us, on our dinner plates and in our backyards and on our ecotourist vacations to Antarctica, it’s all vanishing. We’re not quite the first generation to grow up with this knowledge, but we might be the first to really see it in action. But…that’s just a list of animals! you say. Chlamydia, LOL! You may not care, as is your right. Most of us don’t. (Though let’s pause to just notice that: your inevitable reaction, not to care. The same way that when you’re drowning, after a certain point, you no longer think of air.) But consider for a second: A place you loved and can never go again. A particular taste, some smoky sense memory from a faraway coast.

• Only three northern whites are left—and the Frozen Zoo is the only way there’ll ever be any more.


The infinite possibilities the world has to o≠er becoming finite. Because of us. Take the northern white rhinoceros. A classic study in the many ways humans can make something disappear. Once, northern whites—dim-sighted, clumsy, peaceable, one of two subspecies of white rhinoceros, along with southern whites—roamed over much of East and Central Africa. But they were poached. The rhino’s horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, as a cure for fever, gout, snakebites, food poisoning, demonic possession. They grind it or shave it into a powder, drink it with boiling water. In Vietnam they use it to cure hangovers. More recently the horn has become a status symbol, an ostentatious way of possessing what the rest of us could not or would not dare to possess. By the end of the 1970s, some estimates had the northern white population in the wild as low as 15 animals, all clustered in Garamba National Park, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Antipoaching initiatives brought them back, briefly, before they unraveled due to corrupt government o∞cials, militia groups out of Darfur, and rebel organizations like Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. The rhinos were trapped there, in the Congo, as humans fought it out. Sometimes their horns helped fund the fighting. By the early 2000s there were only a handful left. The last northern white was sighted in Garamba in 2006. They’ve now vanished from the wild, and nearly from this planet. Only three remain. Three. The fourth, Nola, used to live here, right next door to the Frozen Zoo, in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. She died last November, at the advanced age of 41. Four or five decades is about as long as any white rhino lives. The trio are kept in a wildlife preserve in Kenya called Ol Pejeta: Najin, Fatu, and the last male northern white rhino on the face of this Earth, Sudan. The three have failed to reproduce. (They are also, it should be said, related: Najin is Sudan’s daughter, Fatu his granddaughter. Incest is their best defense against extinction. Make of that what you will.) Sudan is 43; his sperm count is perilously low. In 2015, doctors determined that neither of the two females was capable of breeding. Maybe the concrete floor of the zoo where they lived before coming to Ol Pejeta wrecked their hips. Dr. Barbara Durrant, San Diego Zoo Global’s director of reproductive physiology, who also works on the Frozen Zoo




with Ryder, is attempting an in vitro workaround—northern white sperm and northern white ovarian tissue harvested from the live northern whites, combined into a fertilized embryo, and then re-implanted back into one of the two females. They’re practicing on southern whites now. But there is still much that is mysterious about the reproductive cycles of rhinos. “No embryo transfer has ever been attempted in any rhino species,” says Durrant. And time is running out. They are ghosts. Even now they’re disappearing into what’s known as the extinction vortex: “the notion,” Ryder explains, “that we have that a population can be doomed but there’s still numbers of them around. The numbers get smaller and it becomes a feedback loop. Like water going down a drain: It’s deterministic. Or a mass entering a black hole. Once you hit the event horizon, you’re out of here.” The northern whites are out of here.

III. How to Bring Them Back

are known as induced pluripotent stem cells. “That means you have taken that cell and kind of turned back time to when it was a stem cell,” Durrant says. “So it can’t make everything in the body, but it can make all three of the germ layers that you would see in an early embryo. It can make any of those.” One of those germ layers is what eventually becomes sperm or eggs. “It’s very complicated, every step of the way, and there are many steps,” Durrant says gently, reading the look of total incomprehension on my face. But the gist is: Collect the cell, turn it back into a stem cell, tell that stem cell how and what to become anew. Namely: sperm and eggs. Finally, the easy part of this whole terribly di∞cult exercise in playing God: You take those sperm and eggs, combine them, then fertilize and implant the egg into a surrogate—something close to the original, such as a southern white. The southern white gives birth to a northern white. From cells, life. From life, more life. The rhinos wink out. They wink back on.

L E T ’ S S A Y in vitro fails. Let’s say north-

ern whites have hit the event horizon. This is where the Frozen Zoo really comes in. It begins with cells. You gotta collect them. So, first clean the site: Shave one tiny part of the animal, ideally while it’s alive and anesthetized. Next, as Ryder explains, “take sterile tweezers and a sterile scalpel and you take a little piece. It doesn’t have to be any bigger than a grain of rice. Then you take that material and you make a cell suspension out of it”—meaning, basically, that you put those cells in flasks, in a broth that’s designed to encourage them to multiply. You fill up a flask. And then you divide the suspension in half and put it into two flasks. “One becomes two, two becomes four,” Ryder says. Soon, “we’ve got enough to freeze eight vials.” The multiplied cells in the vials are called fibroblasts—the common, connective tissue that makes up all animals, including us. Now, reprogram those cells into what 102




IV. Life and Death in the Extinction Vortex

Her other passion is the Yangtze River giant softshell turtle. Rafetus swinhoei. Only two are known to remain, both at the Suzhou Zoo, both over 100 years old. Durrant is working on getting them to reproduce. “There was an additional male in Vietnam—he just died in the last few months. Unfortunately, no one was allowed to collect sperm from him, so nothing was saved. There was a lot of superstition. As long as that animal was alive, then everything was good in the country. When it died, politically and socially and spiritually things changed. No one there was allowed to actually cut into that animal. No one outside was allowed to do it, and they were not willing to do it themselves because there was a lot of superstition about that. One veterinarian had done something with one of those animals in the past, and within 24 hours he was in a motorcycle accident and lost his hand.” The turtle lived in a lake. “He was alone, he was revered. He was sacred. It was just out of the question that we would do anything with him. No one was allowed to touch him. Even in death we were not allowed to touch him.” Durrant knows not everyone shares her love for our animal brethren. “I think people talk about it abstractly, but they’re not connected to those animals. They don’t feel it the way we do.” But their decline, she says, is “a sign of what’s happening. It’s going to happen more and more and more.” Species dwindling from 1,000 to 500 to 100 to 10 to 5, circling the beveled edge of the extinction vortex like the northern whites already are. Take a slightly longer view and we might all be poised there. Right on the edge. I wanted to see what that in-between state looked like: here but already gone. And I wanted to understand the incredible—and incredibly expensive, and debatably worthwhile—human e≠ort to save the rhinos and their endangered peers. Ryder and Durrant’s work is controversial. “The Frozen Zoo is basically re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” the eminent Stanford scientist Paul Ehrlich told The Washington Post last year. Ehrlich’s argument—and he is far

T H E F R O Z E N Z O O is both a monument to and a counterforce against the extinction vortex. The zoo and its sta≠ are poised at the edge of existence, that shadowy plane where things are sort of alive “I don’t see Sudan enjoying life and sort of dead, where the anymore,” James says. “The fact arrow could point both ways. All the doctors at the zoo that he’s the only one, it’s not a have stories about what it’s lovely life. Knowing you’re the last like to labor in this sad zone. male standing—it’s really sad.” What it was like to be there when Nola died, for instance. The northern whites are of particular interest to the Frozen Zoo’s from alone—is that this is all a waste: all researchers. Durrant routinely works with that money and energy and time, to maybe species right on the brink. She is freckled, save a handful of animals. Why not redirect kind-faced, forthright. “There was a lot those resources to lobbying Congress, or of grief ” when Nola died, she says. preserving rapidly shrinking habitats?

L E N N Y I G N E L Z I /A P

• The Frozen Zoo could save humankind—or it could be just “re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”


F R O M L E F T : C E D R I C M A R T E A U /A F P / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; E L M E R M A R T I N E Z /A F P / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; V C G / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; J E F F P A C H O U D /A F P / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; T I M B O Y L E / G E T T Y I M A G E S



There’s a psychological undercurrent to the skepticism, too: If you tell lazy humans that we can just bring these animals back, will anybody work to save them in the first place? No. We’ll eat them at twice the rate, grind their bodies into jet fuel so that we might run up a few more frequent-flier miles, and count on science to save us when they’re gone. Science is like: Nah, fuck that. Plus, anyone who studies this stu≠ seriously knows the godlike feat of de-extinction is only the first step of many. Bring back the dodo and here’s what will almost certainly happen next: A human will club that animal right back into extinction. Then build an oil rig on top of its habitat. To truly rescue species from extinction, we need to save not just them but also the conditions that allowed them to live in the first place. We need to give them back the world we’re destroying. From this perspective, mankind—greedy, violent, wasteful—needs a reboot just as badly as the northern whites do. More so, even. This is the crux of the anti–Frozen Zoo argument: Shouldn’t we fix ourselves before we fix anything else? I bought a plane ticket, Los Angeles to Amsterdam to Kenya. I wanted to see the rhinos before they went. For what they represented, sure. But also just to see them. To look upon something that will vanish before I will. Tens of thousands of gallons of planet-wrecking, habitat-destroying jet fuel for no better reason than the one I just gave. Like I said: Mankind. Something broken there.

V. The Last Male Standing M O R N I N G C O M I N G O N amid the sleepy

terminals at Wilson Airport, the equatorial heat drifting in on the breeze. Last night, I came in through Nairobi’s other airport, Jomo Kenyatta International, a low-lit

smear in the dark. We’d driven through the city, every tra∞c light switched o≠. Now in daylight the sky is a marble-like blue-gray. The runway at Wilson is just a few linear rectangles of asphalt, dirt, and grass, swiftly growing faint below the tires of a wobbly twin-prop airplane. Ol Pejeta is north of here, in Nanyuki, up past Nairobi National Park, over the rusted roofs and mud paths of Kenya’s most infamous slum, Kibera, and then onward, past where the city gives way to estates with pools and tennis courts, and then to flower farms. Straight toward Mount Kenya, buried beneath an eruption of clouds. The land below green, yellow, and red like a child’s place mat. The northern whites in Ol Pejeta are not native to Kenya. They were brought ˚ r Králové Zoo in the here from the Dvu Czech Republic—four of them, in 2009— in an e≠ort to get them to reproduce in an environment that resembles the one, evolutionarily speaking, where they’re from. This did not happen. One of the four rhinos, Suni, died in 2014, two years after once valiantly managing to mate (alas, to no avail) with Najin, the elder female in the group. His death left Sudan, now 43, as the last male of his kind. Nabire, a female ˚r Králové, white rhino who remained at Dvu died in July 2015. A few months later, in San Diego, Nola followed Nabire into the afterlife. Earth’s remaining three northern whites are all at Ol Pejeta, waiting to be saved, or to vanish, or both. The equator bisects the town of Nanyuki. Ol Pejeta is just beyond it, down a rocky, muddy road, past bars and pubs, ice cream shops, cafés, salons, all in the same low shacks. Tim, the chill naturalist and guide who met me at the airport in a battered green jeep, and I bump along, dodging goats and cows, winding among the farms outside the town, the road lined with euphorbia

trees and rangy green plants, hedges of low trees bearing orange fruit. At the entrance to Ol Pejeta is a picture of an armed ranger and a sign, now depressingly out-of-date: “Could you be a rhino bodyguard? See what it takes to protect three of the world’s last remaining four northern white rhinos.…” Ol Pejeta is a safari park—wild but also not wild, unless you count Chinese tourists unloading double-barreled Nikons at every passing elephant from the relative safety of a neon green Range Rover. It is startling, frankly, the sheer abundance of animals here: orange antelopes and bu≠alo gang-tackling one another in patches of water, their horns like hats pushed Leonardo DiCaprio–low on their foreheads. Skinny elephants with manta-ray ears, their hides like topographic maps. Impalas decked out in violet eye shadow. Scru≠y, mangy-looking warthogs. Goth ibis. Everything is so green it vibrates. I sort of bliss out for a second, surrounded by that many di≠erent living things, then feel guilty, weak, unprofessional for doing so. I’d imagined the northern whites somewhere isolated, remote. Somewhere sacred. Not here, in this stocked pond of semi-artificial abundance, on display for tour groups trying to knock out a complete set of what people kept calling the Big Five—lion, elephant, bu≠alo, leopard, rhinoceros—before lunch. The rhinos lie beyond a steel fence at the east end of the park, next to quasimilitary barracks where their caretakers and security live. One of their keepers, James Mwenda, is waiting for us at the gate. James is young and smiley in the green fatigues of the preserve. He used to be a porter on Mount Kenya, where he discovered that he loved animals. He wanted to help protect them. Now he’s here. During the day he looks after the rhinos, and at night he goes out with a rifle on patrol. It’s unclear exactly when he sleeps. (continued on page 158)

Welcome to the Extinction Vortex Species* that are still alive but nearing extinction, like—as one expert puts it—“water down a drain.”— C L AY S K I P P E R

Amsterdam albatross With fewer than 100 mature birds alive and a disease ravaging the chicks, the future is bleak for this species.

Panamanian golden frog This national symbol of Panama is believed to now live exclusively in captivity, having gone extinct in the wild.

Yangtze River giant softshell turtle Only two are known to be alive, and attempts to breed more have been futile.

Greater bamboo lemur Previously thought to be extinct, these bamboolovers are still around but in grave danger: Just 500 remain.

Hainan gibbon Largely due to hunting, fewer than 20 of these primates are left, all residing within a small section of China. *SOURCE: IUCN






ANDRE Drummond Detroit Pistons

NBA geeks love to argue that the era of the dominant center is dead. Andre swats that idea into the third row. Hulk strong and six feet eleven, the Pistons’ baddest boy could bang with any of the great bigs in history.

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Kobe’s retired. D-Wade, Dirk, and Tim Duncan are going, going, gone. And the king of them all, LeBron James, can’t keep doing this every single year. (He can’t, right?) As the NBA gears up for a new season, the league is quietly in the midst of a generational shift—and this is the year that the kids COMPLETE THE UPRISING. (Leading the charge is Russell Westbrook, OKC’s unstoppable last superman standing, who is somehow still only 27.) So GQ gathered the league’s BIGGEST YOUNG STARS and put them all in BOLD PRINTED SWEATERS as colorful and can’t-miss as their games 106




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The NBA’s Next Generation of Superstars Is Here

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SHOWTIME REBORN Los Angeles Lakers

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AARON Gordon Orlando Magic

Jumping over a six-foot furry mascot in a globally televised dunk contest is impressive. So is posterizing some of the NBA’s most determined shot-blockers. But this season, Aaron is going to prove there’s more to his game than nasty, mouthcovering highlights.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

KAT is obsessed with the future. He works out constantly and is always absorbing advice from older big men in the league, like retired teammate Kevin Garnett. He says he tries to spend only $2K a month so that his “kids’ kids’ kids will be set.” Which makes him the only star in the league subsisting on two packets of ramen noodles a night.

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One thing about R U S S E L L W E S T B R O O K : Even after losing Kevin Durant and carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder on his shoulders, the guy doesn’t lack for swagger Daniel Riley

Peggy Sirota





“But it wasn’t like that at all for me. There was no process. It was just very simple,” Westbrook says. “I wasn’t trying to figure out if I was leaving or not. I was happy where—I am happy where—I’m at. It’s very simple.” It was this simple: three years, $85 million. By staying, he’d become the league’s second-highest-paid player (tied with KD, among others, and behind only LeBron), the centerpiece of a franchise that, for the better part of a decade, has been right there, but never fully across the line. Westbrook had always been the second threat. The speed and the power, the decoy before the dish. But what would it mean now that the team was his alone?

can be stingy with his words, but lucky for us his facial expressions give like the Gateses. There’s the face, meant for the opposing team’s bench when he dunks over their tallest player, that says something like, “I just scored two better points than you’ll ever score in your career.” There’s the face the Oklahoma City Thunder star makes when he’s high-fiving his teammates and one pulls his hand away too soon, a face that says, “I will bite your fucking pharynx out if you don’t march back over here and make contact with my hand.” There’s the face when a reporter asks a question he doesn’t like that says, “I know you have young children, which is why I’m not gonna humiliate you in a viral Vine.” And sometimes, as now, on this open-air patio in Beverly Hills, a long way from a packed NBA arena, there’s the face I’ve seen a bunch this afternoon: head canted, nostrils flared, eyebrows appealing to all possibility—a 3-D emoticon shrug that says: “Why not?” It’s a mantra that’s governed his disposition as long as he’s been in the spotlight, evident in the unflinching way he both plays the game and picks his clothes (fashion’s his other fixation). But his embrace of the phrase Why not? goes back to well before he was famous. “My friends and I started that motto early in high school,” Westbrook says. “That attitude, that mentality, from way back then: Want to go to Stanford? Why not? Want to play in the NBA? Why not? I was never the best player. Not ever in my life. Though even when I was younger, I felt that on any given day I could be. And that mentality’s what’s helped me get over the hump each and every day to where I was meant to go.” To UCLA. To Oklahoma City. To the NBA Finals, five All-Star teams, an All-NBA First Team. And now, to a lonely new altitude— the sole superstar on a team that forever had two, the odds-on favorite for league MVP. Here is someone who hasn’t been 116




the best player on his own team since high school, and all at once he’s poised to be not just the focal point of a franchise, but perhaps the best player in the entire league. There’re those giant shoulders shrugging and that face again. Why not?

KD35 of the disaster of last spring’s Western Conference Finals, the hypotheticals ticked like dominoes. If Westbrook’s Thunder had beaten the Warriors, do they handle the Cavs in the Finals? If they handle the Cavs in the Finals, does Kevin Durant feel itchy for an out? Does he leave the team he transformed for the hated Warriors, the super-team, the Steph+Klay+Draymond starting–All Star squad? More to the point: If the Thunder beat the Warriors, does Kevin Durant leave Russell Westbrook behind? After that series loss, it seemed like things in Oklahoma City couldn’t ever again exist as they had. This is grossly overstating it, but Westbrook and Durant were like the palest version of a married couple who’d lost a child and wound up divorced. In the days that followed Durant’s departure, Westbrook was said to be angry and hurt, but he stayed largely quiet. Even now, months later, he’s careful with his words. He knows how things can sound, knows the value of striking a conciliatory tone. “I mean, obviously in the NBA there’s a lot of di≠erent decisions that people make,” he says. “The whole thing in the NBA is that people sometimes have an opportunity to go where they want. And Kevin chose a place where he wanted to go.” So, have they talked much since? “Uhh, not much, no.” In the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook weighed his own future in Oklahoma City. His “process” was discussed each night on SportsCenter as though he’d been lining up suitors the way Durant had.

RW0 Westbrook was five feet nine, a hundred and sixty pounds, couldn’t touch the rim. He didn’t even try out for varsity and wouldn’t make it until his junior year. He wasn’t the best player at his school, and he wasn’t even the top player on his block—that was his best friend, Khelcey Barrs. “At the time, he was probably the best basketball player I’d ever seen,” Westbrook says. When coaches came to Leuzinger High School games, they were there to see Barrs. It was Barrs’s dream to play at UCLA, more than anywhere else. But in late May of their sophomore year, during the last of a long afternoon of pickup games, Barrs collapsed and died on account of an undiagnosed enlarged heart. “Obviously, it’s something that’s always going to be a part of my life,” Westbrook says. “What I do and where I do it. Always playing for him and his spirit.” Westbrook says that from that point forward, he was carrying on for two. He began helping Barrs’s grandmother, doing Khelcey’s chores, and on the court, he doubled his e≠orts. His senior year, everything changed again. He sprouted to his full-size six feet three. He led the league in scoring by a long shot. He dunked for the first time (“a very small dunk, a barely dunk, a way-upon-the-fingertips dunk”). Still, Westbrook wasn’t hearing from big schools: “I was just trying to figure out a way to get to college without my parents having to pay. It was very expensive, and we couldn’t a≠ord that. And basketball—I was just playing because it was something that I loved at the time. Honestly, I never even thought I had a chance of playing in college.” Finally, just before graduation, Westbrook signed with UCLA. A college that o≠ered him free housing and free food. That it happened to have been Barrs’s dream school made the reality all the richer. “Part of that was me and part of that was him.”

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Though Westbrook had spent his entire life in Los Angeles, he’d never really ventured to the UCLA part of town. “I just stayed where I lived in the neighborhood. The far side of the park I grew up at and that was it,” he says. “I’d never been to the west side before. It was a big deal for me to be over here. I’d never been on this side of town.” In this instance, Westbrook’s “over here” and “this side of town” are an umbrella for both UCLA’s Westwood and Beverly Hills, where we’re sitting on a patio on the top floor of Barneys, where he prefers to shop when he shops anymore, which he really doesn’t, because designers preemptively send him most of what he’d ever want, anyway. He’s comfortable “over here.” He’s smiling a lot, he’s laughing a lot, he’s making fun of my shirt. Last year, he married his college girlfriend, Nina, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He just bought a house on “this side of town,” too. Ten years ago, though, Russell was 17 years old, at the very outset of a transformative decade. And to mark the occasion, he picked a new number. “I could pick any one, and I picked 0. It was a new chapter in my life. A new start.” When he arrived at UCLA, Westbrook rode the bench on a squad that had just lost in the national-championship game. “It was just: I’m here, that’s fine. I thought I hadn’t done anything yet, so my mentality was to come in and try to get on the court.” It wasn’t until his sophomore season, when a teammate’s pivotal injury thrust him into the starting lineup, that Westbrook seized an opportunity he’d been preparing for all summer. “I worked out twice a day until the season started, lifting, running; I didn’t take a break.” He added ten pounds of muscle, several inches to his vertical. He played pickup games with Kobe and Kevin Garnett—games he treated with the characteristic intensity he’s practically patented. “That was a turning point for me,” he says of that sophomore season. “I had the opportunity to showcase my talent—since we were a very wellwatched team that year—to help me draw the attention of the NBA.” Westbrook became the playmaker we recognize today, the guy who draws just enough attention—from defenders, from reporters—to make space for his teammates to thrive. After that sophomore season, when the general manager of the then Seattle SuperSonics, Sam Presti, asked other prospects which players they feared most, they said Westbrook’s name again and again. The defensive intensity, the high drive. Presti went out on a limb and drafted Westbrook fourth. The Sonics’ new point guard appeared at just a single press conference in Seattle before the team relocated to Oklahoma 118




City. He thought about ditching the number 0. “But I said, ‘You know what? This is another new chapter, another fresh start, at the bottom again.’ ”

OKC I didn’t know where Oklahoma City was. I didn’t know it existed.” His mom helped him pick out a house. Helped him find a place with a good kitchen and a refrigerator and everything. Took all his calls, which were many. He was still a teenager, trying to figure out how to run a whole house, how to do all the shopping for himself. Mom had even bought all his clothes up to that point. “I called her all the time,” Westbrook says. “Probably annoyed her. If I went to the grocery store, I asked her all the questions, she’d lay it out for me.” Westbrook went out a lot on his own. He was looking for a new hobby, so he started hanging around a bowling alley, taking pointers from a pro there named Anne Marie. Wasn’t long before he was bowling regularly in the 180s, 190s. “All about consistency,” he says. I’m going to be the best. Every athlete talks about “getting a little bit better every day,” and Russell Westbrook is plenty steeped in that cliché. But he seems somehow, at 27, to be improving at a rate beyond other players his age. Heading into this season, he is faster and stronger and more skilled than he was at 26, when he was faster and stronger and more skilled than he was at 25. He is not just not overthe-hill; he may not have even peaked. Today, Westbrook is regarded by many to be the most athletic player in the NBA. He defends tirelessly—with speed, but especially with strength. Look at the way he knocked Curry around in the Western Conference Finals in May. He just bullied him, out-strengthed him. He wore Steph out not with hard fouls but with incessant presence, hands on the body, like a shadow that left bruises. The performance in that series was Maximalist Russ—he shut down the unanimous MVP. On o≠ense, Westbrook probes and penetrates with the classic speed of a point guard, but he rebounds with the elevation and body force of a power forward. He’s a running back that tackles like a linebacker.

That ability to blitz into the lane, plow through bigs, and relentlessly draw defenders (who otherwise leave him alone at the edge of the perimeter; his three-point shot is a weak spot) is a surpassing advantage. When his leading foot plants in the paint, the odds of him driving to the rim or dishing to the perimeter are equal—and therefore must be defended against equally. (The threat is balanced in much the same way the odds of him attacking with his right hand or his left hand are basically equal— he has been functionally ambidextrous all his life.) It’s a tremendous puzzle for defenses. But driving to draw defenders the way that he does, “that’s something I’ve learned, that’s not something that I always knew. Because if that was the case, I’d have been doing it for a while.” You might be wondering why, if this is so e≠ective, every point guard doesn’t drive into tra∞c on every play—into the two or three sequoias defending the rim. The simplest reason is that it hurts. Westbrook gets hit every time he does it. Whether the contact is clean or leads to a foul, he gets hammered. (As a result, his arms are so heavily scarred by short, sharp cuts they look as though they’ve been subject to cross-hatching.) And after getting slammed, what does he do on the next possession? He goes in again. Gets hit, gets cut, gets knocked to the floor. This is a person who treats practices like they’re games and games like they’re all Game 7s. A person who’s been named most valuable player of the All-Star Game—an exhibition in which stars are meant to downshift—not once, but twice. “I don’t know what to say,” he o≠ers. “I don’t know how to be cool. You know what I mean? That’s not in my nature. I only know how to play one way. I can’t, like, decide to turn the switch on and o≠. I’m not good enough to do that.” That intensity manifests itself in at least 17 of the facial expressions on the Russell Westbrook Feelings Chart. And those facial expressions seem to tell NBA fans everything they need to know about him. angry, mean, demon, villain They’re depictions that are recycled by the media again and again. Westbrook says he doesn’t hear those words. “I’ve been blessed with the ability to be able to just, like”—here he (text continued on page 162)

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G e n t l e m e n ’ s Q u a rte rly

BILLY BOB THORNTON —hillbilly thespian, recidivist divorcé, wandering troubadour, ace F-bomb dropper—is angry as hell. Here he is, a goddamn creative genius (have you seen season one of Fargo? And don’t pretend you’re not fired up for Bad Santa 2), but what he really wants to do is direct. He’s fucking great at it (ever heard of a little thing called Sling Blade? Or the top-secret director’s cut of All the Pretty Horses?) but none of those Hollywood assclowns will give him the keys anymore. So what’s Billy gonna do now? Go get himself the goddamn respect he goddamn deserves B Y TA F F Y B R O D E S S E R - A K N E R / / p h o t o g r a p h s b y r i c h a r d b u r b r i d g e





1. Alabama in August, man. How humid is it? It’s so humid that there’s a heavy petrichor scent in the air—like it just rained, even though it hasn’t— and the sidewalk concrete is dark is how humid it is. Everyone is miserable is how humid it is. The roadies and sound guys go from tour bus to venue to tour bus to venue, sweating from their bald heads into their creatively shaped beards and onto their black T-shirts and down into their camouflage shorts. One of the guitar players keeps going to the bus’s thermostat to check and see what it’s set at, making a noise of frustration like maybe somebody keeps turning the temperature up too high (somebody does). The only person not bothered by the heat is Billy Bob Thornton, who weighs less than the smallest box of the band’s equipment, has a body-fat percentage of minus 42 and a BMI of 1, and who is shivering like a Chihuahua in his jeans, which, so you know, are Old Navy brand, women’s, size 6, and the imprint on the inside of their waistband says D I VA in lady script. He tells me he’s built like Homer Simpson’s boss, Mr. Burns, “so I can’t have baggy pants”—something about his toothpick legs knocking around in all that fabric. Keeping these jeans up requires a white leather belt that says F O R E V E R on the back. There’s a story there. There are stories here everywhere. There are hillbillies at the bar next door, drunk since the morning, waiting for the band. There’s a groupie in a halter top who keeps showing up at the entrance of the bus, hours before showtime, just wanting to hang with the band. Alabama in August, man.

Billy’s in a mood. No one on the bus got more than three hours of sleep last night out of Huntsville. It wasn’t Huntsville that pissed him off; Billy loves Huntsville. Each tour, the Boxmasters play at the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center and all the proceeds go to the center’s special-needs program. Before last year’s show, Billy taught the students a creative-writing class, and he left the class and wrote a song—wrote a song right there on the spot!—about how magical and moving the experience was and performed it that very night. But after last night’s gig, it took forever to get through the sea of fans, and everyone knew the longer that took for Billy, the less sleep everyone would get since we had to drive into Muscle Shoals first thing in the morning, and people are tired. Billy wants to lay down three new songs today, one of which he’s written literally just a few minutes ago, so here we are, parked outside the studio, “early as possum fuck” someone says, and the roadies unpack instruments and the owners of the studio ready Billy’s array of gluten-free snacks and organic vegetables and Billy sits on the bus and eats his breakfast. Three hours of sleep and he wants to record three songs in full in one day? This feels like a mathematical impossibility to everyone but him. That’s part of why he’s annoyed—he can sense that everyone doesn’t really feel like they can get this done, which means maybe they won’t push themselves to get it done, you know? So he eats his breakfast and seethes a little. A word on his breakfast: It is absolutely horrifying. He’s allergic to just about everything— eggs, wheat, dairy. He can’t eat red meat: “I have type AB– blood, which is the rarest blood type. It’s less than 1 percent of the whole population of the world, and it means that you don’t have as many digestive enzymes,” and the part about AB– blood being the rarest is true if maybe the digestive enzymes thing is maybe absolutely not at all true. Most of the remaining foods he isn’t allergic to rub his legendary OCD in ways wrong enough to keep him at about 135 pounds and in those size 6 Divas. Just the other night, the band went out to dinner and they were presented with a roast chicken that was posed standing up—like, Ta-da!—and Billy was just out. “That’s a little guy,” he’d said. “I’m not eating a little guy.” But he’s got breakfast nailed. Breakfast every morning is these Bobo’s Oat Bars—“the closest thing I get to cake”—but that’s not the horrifying part. The horrifying part is that he has a vat of Earth Balance, which is a butter substitute, or maybe it’s actually a margarine substitute, and he takes a heaping spoonful and he coats each bite with the whole thing until maybe half the vat is gone by the time this one tiny bar is consumed. In the refrigerator on the bus there is a produce drawer marked BILLYS ONLY [sic], and in it are blueberries, which he eats by the plastic carton, a couple of avocados, and the Earth Balance.


Anyway, Huntsville had been fun. The Boxmasters have A lot of living with Billy involves helping played Huntsville at least half a dozen times, and the crowd came out and sang along to all the songs, danced in their to manage his anxiety. There’s a channel on TV blousy shirts and boot-cut jeans. But then there were two called DOGTV, and it’s for dogs; dog owners leave more hours when he took pictures not just with the people it on while they’re away. It contains really nutso who had paid the $100 for the VIP Meet and Greet before the show but also with the fans who lingered after, and he psychedelic images of rainbows, but also footage loves doing that, but too many people told him that they loved of dogs just sniffing each other’s undercarriages. his band, which maybe seems like an innocent compliment, Someone who is really tapped into the whole which maybe seems like the exact thing you’re supposed to say to someone who just performed a bunch of songs for you. canine psyche came up with it—dogs are But this only annoyed him because those people seemed to be mesmerized by it. So is Billy Bob Thornton. talking about his band and not about his songs. “You like my band?” he says now, a plastic fork full of Earth Balance in his hand. He can wave the fork around vigorously without worry because the double carbon bonds that form Earth Balance’s monounsaturated fats cling to the fork in a death grip. “What was I, quitting time. Not Teddy and J.D., of course. just fucking masturbating up there? I wrote every fucking word to those songs.” Not the main guys in the band. But the guys Then there’s the way people phrase things, like they say, “Oh, you have a band who play in the tour band—and he’s giving them a chance to be on the album! And the now” and “It’s nice you get to play music, too,” which may sound like someone is just trying to make conversation, but it’s actually really patronizing, treating this thing roadies—what do they care? “We’ll go in here he does, which he’s done since way before he ever acted and before he ever wrote or and people will drag ass and they’ll discuss directed, like it’s a hobby, like he wasn’t recording in Memphis back in the 1970s in shit and they’ll talk about this, that, and the the studio right in between the Cramps’ and the Bar-Kays’. He’s an artist, and he other, and they’ll wonder what we’re going to doesn’t appreciate the micro-aggressions that come with so many fan interactions, have for fucking lunch.” the ones who imply that this whole band thing is a vanity gig like it is for oh let’s not He stands up and goes to the thermostat, wondering how it got so cold again (it is not name names here, or that a man who acts should only be a man who acts. He’s not your robot! Billy Bob Thornton is not your single-faceted monkey! cold), and raises it to a temperature that is less And do not, please do not, get him started on the people who approach him after a number and more the tail end of a three-hour the show with a Sling Blade DVD to sign. You just watched him perform his heart wait on a New York City subway platform on an August day, a day when you accidentally out for you and you are going to present him with a Sling Blade DVD? “Sure, I’ll sign woke up thinking it was winter but also that your Sling Blade DVD,” he says now. “And you can go home and fuck missionary like a metronome and never have an original creative idea in your life.” you were going surfing and so only wore layers But what is he going to do? These are things that famous people who make themof wool and neoprene. selves available to their public generally find, that Suzy and Dale will perpetuate again “You’re either born with it or you’re not,” and again (in all of Billy’s examples, generic women and men are always named Suzy he says, meaning: the drive to create. “There and Dale) but they don’t realize how it makes the fight to create some decent art even aren’t any people aligned with me passionharder. He’s already been reduced from the writer and director we first met more than ately.” Not here on this bus. Not there off the bus. Not anywhere. And he leans in and 20 years ago, in the brilliant and heartbreaking Sling Blade, your DVD copy of which he shakes his head like you’ve seen him do a you can ask him to sign, really, just not right after he performed music. He has already decided that he will no longer write and direct movies, just star in them and maybe million times, and he over-enunciates the last re-write his parts in them, so destroyed was he by his last two stabs at auteurism. syllable on every word in his Arkansas smartBut we’ll get to that. Right now we just have to get through this day. He is ass accent, and you can roll your eyes, but you could just as easily feel a punch in your gut, quiet for a minute, bracing himself for disappointment. Everyone will do their best. He believes that. But they won’t really appreciate where they are, which is because what he is saying is absolutely true. the greatest town for recording outside of Memphis. They won’t care about that. “Nobody will ever see the importance the They’ll want to know where the steak house is. They’ll want to know when it’s way you see it.”


H I L L B I L LY : Immediately post-coitus (probably) with Jolie in 2000; toting a gun in ‘Fargo,’ a beer in ‘Bad Santa,’ and soda pop in ‘Sling Blade.’





The Southern Gothic that is the Boxmasters’ tour rolls along in a rented Le Mirage XL II, which is equipped with two lounge areas, four thermostats, and two large-screen TVs—one that is perpetually on sports, another that is perpetually on a nature channel, both perpetually muted. The back lounge, where people hang and where songs are written and where the occasional guest sleeps, has a U-shaped couch. There are 12 bunk beds that Billy says feel like the womb but to a discriminating viewer might also look like coffins. Each bunk has a little curtain, and Billy’s is the bottom back one; when he sleeps his foot falls out from behind it, and there is something somber and moving about it, the only thing cluttering the dark hallway in the night, this foot that’s fallen out-of-bounds. The mainstays on the bus include Billy, of course, but also: J. D. Andrew, the rhythm guitarist, who was a recording engineer for Billy’s solo work, and who showed no range of emotion whatsoever over the four days I traveled with them, except very briefly, once, when he mistakenly thought it was the first day of college football season, then returned to baseline when he realized he was a day off; Teddy Andreadis, on keyboard and harmonica, who was once the lead singer of Slash’s post–Guns N’ Roses band, Slash’s Blues Ball, which is a terrible name for a band; touring drummer Eric Rhodes, a.k.a. Meat Sweats, which Billy and Angie had a great relationship, really: You is what Billy has called him ever always remember the first person whose blood you drained and carried in a locket around your neck. since that time in Amarillo when You always remember the first person who gnawed he took Billy’s bet that he couldn’t on your face while some poor red-carpet reporter tried eat 72 ounces of meat in one meal to get you to say something semi-freaky. in order to get it for free, and about 128




C O AT : A . P. C . T- S H I R T : L E V I ’ S V I N TA G E C L O T H I N G . J E A N S : L E V I ’ S . B E LT : J O H N VA R VAT O S .


50 ounces in (!) he just started sweating meat out of his pores and had to pay for the meal. There is a guy named Kim, in charge of merch, who throws his socks away every day on the road instead of washing them, so offended is he by their smell. There is Joani, who does Billy’s makeup, and her husband, Bubba Bruce, who used to play drums on tour for the Boxmasters but hasn’t since he got hit by a buck while driving his motorcycle—that’s all he remembers. There is Kirk McKim, who plays lead guitar and who toured with the Pat Travers Band. There is Dave Fowler, who plays bass guitar and who has also taken on tour-management duties (he has been tour manager for Dolly Parton, too) plus Billy’s food specifics. Then there is Diva Zappa, youngest daughter of the late Frank, in charge of photography and wardrobe and also manning the teleprompter that Billy uses when he sings. She is knitting the beginning of what looks like a scarf, but she keeps checking in with the object to see “what it wants to be.” It feels appropriate to save this reveal for the end. She is also a yoga teacher and an energetic healer, but you already knew that. In Huntsville, J.D. walked into the greenroom and asked if she could do some healing on his neck because it’s been bothering him. And she said, “I just did while you were outside!” and J.D. rolled his neck around for a minute and said, “Well, I’ll be.” All these people will be on this bus for the full duration of this six-week-long tour, except for a couple of them who have “blemishes on their records” and will not be permitted to enter Canada. It is a miracle any of them are allowed to enter Canada, to tell the truth. During a 2009 tour, they visited our neighbor to the north and did a spot on CBC. Billy said he was very clear up front that CBC had to interview them as a band, that the host not talk about Billy’s movie career, since Billy was there on band business. But what happened? You guessed it. The band got there and, according to Billy, the guy barely introduced them. He talked only to Billy, only about his movie career, according to Billy. (In fact, according to the 14-minute cringe-athon video of the interview, which will make you wish you were dead, Jian Ghomeshi spoke only about the band, briefly mentioning that Billy had an Oscar.) Well, Billy wasn’t having it, and he shut down in the most awful way, right there on live radio. The host asked him when the band (continued on page 160)






S 201



Grooming * Awards Maurizio Di Iorio

* This Year Go sudsy with Anthony’s soap bar, then line up your ’burns with the Bevel Trimmer ($200), opposite.

We Get Scientific!

Every year we name the best products to get you cleaned up and smelling good— from the scrubbiest cleansers to the most restorative serums to the soothingest aftershave balms. We’re doing it again, but this time we’re taking an even closer look at how these products actually work. We’ve consulted an expert panel of dermatologists, cosmeticians, and the professionally well-groomed.… We’ve subjected the editors at GQ to near endless batteries of moisturizer testing.… We’ve even lost friends while trying out colognes.… All to find the most effective grooming products of the year

GQ November 2016 131



The Product, Not the Razor My quest for the perfect shave came from an unfortunate genetic trait: My facial hair is so patchy and blond that I actually look younger if I don’t shave every morning. And with skin so sensitive it turns red if you look at it wrong, that much blade on skin led to angry inflammation. I was forced to choose between looking like a peach-fuzzed teen or a Red Hot. So I tried every razor—from singleto quintuple-blade, LiquidGel Pad to UltraWet TorqueBall— hoping to find one that didn’t ravage my face. No dice. One day, my cheeks afire, it occurred to me that the blade might not be the culprit. I eyed my generic shaving foam, with its suspicious claim to protect “sensitive skin,” and started experimenting with new creams and gels—even a shaving oil. Any lingering heat I doused in a slew of new aftershaves. At last, I could tell I was approaching shaving enlightenment. I’d finally found a routine that kept my face happy: a hot cloth and a splash of tonic, followed by a concentrated shaving cream like Fulton & Roark's ($16), then an alcohol-free moisturizer. The blades started gliding instead of shredding. My epiphany? Shaving is less about the razor and more about the stu≠ you apply before and after it hits your skin. So bring on the product!


Avocado is hydrating (as well as delicious). That plus tea-tree and jojoba-seed oils helps this cream lock in moisture.

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Most Soothing Aftershave

BUT YOU STILL N EED A RAZOR Harry’s new Winston razor ($20) has a hefty handle, meaning less pressure for each stroke. Plus, there’s a precision trimmer for sideburns.




Best Bump Defender

Tender faces need Nivea for Men Sensitive Shaving Gel. $4 2016

Stop razor burn with Task Essential After-Shave. $48

MALIN+GOETZ Ingrown Hair Cream saves your neck. $34

Zestiest Beforeand-After Elixir

Perk up after shaving with Baxter of California Shave Tonic. $18

Troubleshoot Your ’Do Every guy has at least one obstacle standing between him and his ideal hairstyle: a cowlick, some dandruff—even just the fact of his hair’s existence, if he’s going for the Michael Jordan dome. The good news is, there’s always a way around it (and no, we’re not talking about laser hair removal, Mike). These are the best products for tipping the scales, whatever your predicament.

THREE WAYS TO TAME THAT GNARLY COWLICK From Breakout Brand of the Year, Byrd

The Tom Hardy Depending on the day, you style your hair differently. Gunning for a promotion? You gotta shine bright. Byrd Classic Pomade, $22

Bring Your Hair Back from the Dead If your flow gets effed-up after shampooing—all fluffy and dry, despite conditioning—you need to forgo the typical cocktail of chemicals and get something oil-based.

The One Product for the Anti-Product Crowd Still resisting putting anything in your hair? This cream is for you. It’s the quickest way to solve the only problem you truly can’t abide—bedhead. And hathead. And headphonebandhead.

Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo and Conditioner, $115

Bumble and bumble Grooming Creme, $31

Leo in The Beach Call it Instant Beach Hair. This spray’s infusion of salt and oils has all the goods but none of the sand. Byrd Texturizing Surfspray, $16


The Ryan Gosling For that just-woke-upbut-still-handsome look, add a little texture without a lot of gloss. Long Hair Getting Too Freaky? Keeping your flowing locks on Jesus level ain’t easy. Nourish that mane with this ultra-hydrating conditioner and leave it in for ten minutes before you wash it out. It’ll repair all the damage caused by constantly putting up that topknot.

Shut Down the Snow Machine Nobody wants his shoulders looking like poorly dusted ski slopes, least of all snowbound Swedes clad in black. That’s why some Swedish grooming wizards developed this moisturizing leave-in treatment to keep their scalps hydrated.

Kérastase Masquintense Fine, $63

SACHAJUAN Scalp Treatment, $45

HOW MUCH PRODUCT IS TOO MUCH PRODUCT? “Using too much product destroys your style. With finer hair, you’ve gotta be more careful. It’s really just your instincts. I like to see movement in the hair, versus something sleek and stiff.”—Johnny Hernandez, GQ hairstylist


Where to buy it? Go to

Byrd Matte Pomade, $22


Give Your Skin a Wake-up Call The world is composed of forces trying to destroy your skin: sun, dirt, wind, epic bachelor parties in New Orleans. Protect your largest organ with the most effective skin-care products in existence! It'll be like a cup of coffee for your face.


KEEP IT CLEAN 1 Anthony Exfoliating & Cleansing Bar The answer to the question “What if a bar of soap had tiny, exfoliating jojoba spheres embedded in it?” $17 2 Paula’s Choice Redness Relief Cleanser Sweet, clean relief for anyone fighting redness day after day. $18 3 Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Dry Spray Goes on cool and dry; this is the best antiperspirant around. $5.49


HIDE THE HANGOVER 4 Korres Black Pine Firming, Lifting & Antiwrinkle Serum Your face needs collagen—which is naturally occurring—to keep its composure. This serum helps boost production. $74 5 Kiehl’s Age Defender Eye Repair Instantly tightens skin around the eyes. Perfect for returning to work after a red-eye (or a rave). $30 6 Lab Series Matte Renewal Lotion Need to moisturize but don’t want that Charlie Sheen sheen? This one goes on shine-free. $63

6 3


FIGHT TH E SUN 7 Ursa Major Daily Defense Lotion The SPF 18 blocks the sun without adding grease or making you smell like a toddler at the beach. $54 8 V76 Lip Balm Keep your lips happy in the winter—or the sun-cracked summer—without the gloss. $9

4 2

8 D O V E S P R AY : M AT T M A R T I N

PREVENTIVE CARE , BRO “Protect your skin with sunscreen. Otherwise you’re wasting your time with cosmetics. You can’t heal a bruise if someone keeps punching you in the arm.” —Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank

Where to buy it? Go to



Remember: Don’t use glycolicacid and retinol products at the same time.


Check Your Face into Rehab


Every night, your skin does its best to recover from whatever havoc the day has wreaked. You should do everything you can to help. These are the best balms and salves for cleaning out the gunk and repairing the good stuff.





1 m-61 Power Cleanse This is a car wash for your face. Use with caution. $34 2 Recipe for Men Super Smooth Body Cream Full of natural oils, this goes on silky and matte instead of goopy. $24 3 Kiehl’s Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment Putting sulfur on your face sounds horrifying—but it’s actually the best for controlling breakouts. $28

SLOW TIM E DOWN 4 Baxter of California Night Cream AHA Add a dab before bed and let little elves work while you sleep. $26 5 Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Peel Rake off your old face and then fertilize a new one. $88 6 SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore Refresh the lipids responsible for keeping your skin healthy and taut. $125 1

PROTECT YOUR PAWS 7 Fig + Yarrow Alpine Pumice Troll feet? Instead of a stone, fight back with this gritty, piney treatment. Just hop in the shower and apply vigorously. $28 8 Good Shake Hand Cream by Dollar Shave Club The driest finish of any hand cream: You’re set to shake, or caress, seconds after applying. $6



“Glycolic acid is an exfoliating fruit acid. It stimulates the turnover of skin by exfoliating to regenerate healthy tissue.” —Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank





YOUR BORING ROUTINE NEEDS A TECH DISRUPTION Historically, grooming gadgets have lagged behind design-wise—call it a failure to sexify. This year, everything is changing.

Best Facial Scrubber

The FOREO LUNA 2 for Men gently scrubs the gunk off your face. Use it for a minute in the morning to apply a cleanser, and then enjoy your improved skin the other 1,439 minutes of the day. $199


A study found that resin used in incense has an antidepressant effect on mice. They’d be even less depressed if they smelled like Tom Ford.

Quickest Shaver

Never has a quick buzz shave in the car been so smooth. The secret? This Braun Series 9 doesn’t yank the hairs off your chin. $299


GQ’s Ingredient-First Guide to Cologne You can’t judge a cologne by its bottle, but you can learn a lot from looking at the ingredients. We outline the best aromatic sources—and pick our favorite fragrance for each. Oh, and bergamot? It’s a green orange that gives any scent a citrus tang.









Woodsy, spicy, and floral, oud— which comes from moldy resin—has been hot since it got callouts in Sanskrit. Our pick? Ralph Lauren Collection Oud, $240

This sweetgrass native to India is earthy and smoky yet somehow crisp: like drinking a mint julep and ripping a cigar. Our pick? Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, $290

Based on a fossilized resin good for trapping prehistoric mosquitoes, amber scents have a rich, earthy musk. Our pick? Rag & Bone Amber Eau de Parfum, $140

Sandalwood is earthy, dry, sharp. Add cypress oil and it’s fresh as a hike in the Northwest— minus the dampness. Our pick? Art of Shaving Sandalwood and Cypress, $100

5 A far cry from the dorm-room stuff, real incense has an ecclesiastical background. Now it’s smokier and more sin-inducing. Our pick? Tom Ford Vert D’Encens, $225





Leave it to Dyson to design a hair dryer that’s more ray gun than boutique salon. The Supersonic is userfriendly and powerful. $399


“Fragrances smell different on everyone, and very different on a blotter than on skin. Ask for samples to take home and live with before buying.”—Ben Gorham, founder, Byredo


Most Efficient Hair Dryer

HighestTech Toothbrush

The Oral-B Genius 8000 addresses the real problem of oral care: It’s an epic bore. The app knows which spots you skip, and if you brush for less than two minutes, it’ll chastise you. $250

Where to buy it? Go to


Witness dental revolution via subscription. Quip ships you new heads so you don’t have to brush with old plaque. $25


Try not to think of Election Day as the end of Donald Trump’s presidential fantasies. That’s so sad! Instead, think of it as the beginning of the Trump Network! It’s gonna be the BEST (worst) network. Millions (hundreds) will watch it. Every cable provider (one in Montana) will carry it. Prepare your eyeballs for LUXURY D R E W M A G A RY






8 P.M.–9 P.M.

MANY PEOPLE SAY A lot of people are saying that Hillary wants to give Hawaii away to ISIS. They’re also saying that feminists invented breast cancer. Isn’t that something? Wow. Mr. Trump didn’t say it, but nameless others have! Join him and son Donald Jr. as they explore many things that people (not them) are talking about.

9 P.M.–10 P.M.

IS MEGYN KELLY ON THE RAG? A panel of forensicists review recent episodes of The Kelly File to determine if the Fox News host is su≠ering from a “visit from Aunt Flo.” You can tell when she’s being EXTRA disrespectful. What does Megyn’s current menstrual status mean for the American people? Should you purchase flood insurance for your home? Do they really bleed out of there? Ew.




O P P O S I T E PAG E , M E L A N I A T R U M P H E A D : A L E X WO N G /G E T T Y I M AG E S . D O N A L D T R U M P H E A D : J O E R A E D L E /G E T T Y I M AG E S . I VA N A T R U M P H E A D : M I C H A E L S T E WA R T/ W I R E I M A G E / G E T T Y I M A G E S . T H I S PA G E , C H R I S T I E H E A D : DA N I E L A C K E R / B L O O M B E R G / G E T T Y I M A G E S . P H OTO I L L U S T R AT I O N F O R E D I TO R I A L P U R P O S E S .

10 P.M.–6 A.M.

HERE’S SOME SHIT TO BUY WITH IVANKA’S NAME ON IT Towels? Sure. Home furnishings? Yeah, why not. Listen, Ivanka Trump isn’t special in any way. But when you’re surrounded by a family of sociopathic pit vipers, you can pretend to be a paragon of taste and elegance, and gullible folks will buy into it. Don’t you think Ivanka could run for president one day?

7 P.M.–8 P.M.

MR. TRUMP’S CAMEO IN ‘HOME ALONE 2’ PLAYED ON A CONTINUOUS LOOP What ever happened to that Culkin boy? He could have been a big star! SAD!

8 P.M.–9 P.M.

COPS: PROTESTER EDITION Watch our boys in blue hog-tie BLM protesters and pepper-spray them with a dose of reality!

8 A.M.–11 A.M.

PEPE THE FROG & FRIENDS The flagship program of 2018’s Trump Junior network! Join Pepe and his sidekick, Duke the Kandy-Kolored Krawfish, as they teach your children important life lessons, like how slaves kinda liked being slaves! And how getting sick is for pussies! Special appearance by the old-shaped Barbie doll, the one with the cans.

9 P.M.–11 P.M.

MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON Terrific, terrific film. Robin Williams—huge talent. Such a loss. Followed immediately by a live overnight simulcast of the RT network.

11 A.M.–7 P.M.

TRUMP PRESENTS: GOLF Live (on tape) from the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland. Rated the No. 1 course in the world by Trump Golf magazine!

8 P.M.–9 P.M.

‘MODERN FAMILY’ RERUNS How about that Sofía Vergara? What a piece of ass she is. If everyone crossing the border looked like that, we wouldn’t have a problem. But they don’t, so we do.

7 P.M.–11 P.M.

REMEMBER WHEN I WON THE GOP NOMINATION? Join Mr. Trump for this AWARD-WINNING documentary series as he fondly recalls his greatest triumphs from his failure to win the presidency. God, remember Little Marco Rubio? Remember how flustered he looked at the debates? What a weenie. Featuring hours of interviews with respected experts like Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones.

9 P.M.–10 P.M.

CHRIS CHRISTIE EATS! Damn, look at that fatty take down an eggplant parm! You ever see a guy eat like that?

10 P.M.–11 P.M.


MELANIA: ISN’T SHE LOVELY? Let’s look at some still photos of Melania for an hour or two. Isn’t she AMAZING? This is some broad, I gotta tell you. A TEN. All natural, too. Never poops or menstruates. Something in those Slovenian genes just WORKS.


7 P.M.–9 P.M.

9 P.M.–10 P.M.


Join Andrew Dice Clay and other legends of comedy as they tickle your funny bone with jokes about gays and brown people for a fabulous cause! All proceeds will go to the Trump Foundation, then get laundered and spent on Mr. Trump’s greens fees. 10 P.M.–MIDNIGHT

USXFL: NEW YORK BUILDERS AT PHOENIX MILITIA Sick of the NFL’s bloat? We are, too! That’s why Mr. Trump—one of the founding fathers of the hugely successful (insolvent) USFL—promises a return to an old-school brand of football with his NEW league! No pads! No hot water in the locker rooms! No timely paychecks! No secured bolts in the stadium bleachers! FOOTBALL THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED.


POP-UP VIDEO PRESENTS: CLASSIC ‘CELEBRITY APPRENTICE’ All bubbles written by Mr. Trump. Did you know Joan Rivers wanted Mr. Trump’s hog? True story.

Hey, why should the Mexicans be the only ones who get cool variety shows like Sábado Gigante? Mr. Trump is gonna fix all that. In fact, he’s gonna cancel every show that airs in Spanish, including telenovelas. That’s done. Over. We’re doing all of that in English now. Anyway, join Mr. Trump for a night of fun! Here’s Sean Hannity in a gimp mask! And the famous “Wheel of Losers”! Everyone’s gonna watch it, including you. MANDATORY RECITATION OF LEGAL NOTICES, TRUMP NETWORK TERMS OF USE As read by James Woods.

• One terrible night last year, two giant ships sailed into a hurricane— into a new breed of superstorm that, thanks to climate change, had defied all expectations and would soon cause the deadliest American maritime disaster in decades.

•The only hope for those aboard? A young Coast Guard helicopter squad racing into the tempest, determined to save whomever they could find


Thom as Pri or


GQ 1 1 .1 6

and the engines were loud inside the cabin. Ben Cournia slipped in foam earplugs to drown out the noise. Tendrils of light were just starting to lace the morning clouds as the C-130 Hercules, gleaming white with the U.S. Coast Guard’s telltale orange bands near the cockpit and tail, climbed above Air Station Clearwater into the sky above Florida, heading south, then east. HE PLANE WAS COLD

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The heavy-browed Minnesotan glanced around the cabin, where guys were settling in for the three-hour flight to what had to be one of the loneliest outposts of the Coast Guard: a glorified sandbar otherwise known as Great Inagua Island, Bahamas. Their home for the last couple of weeks of September 2015. Cournia, 36 and married ten years, palmed his phone and looked at the last text from his wife: “Be safe,” she wrote. Ha, no problem, he thought. Two weeks of tropical boredom. As a member of a four-man helicopter flight team, he always envied the rest of the crew on these deployments. The pilots would get to fly their beloved Jayhawks on patrol over the Caribbean. The flight mechanics tinkered with whatever it was they tinkered with. But a rescue swimmer like Cournia? He’d be lucky if he got his feet wet. He’d settle for hitting the weights, getting some running in. At night he’d grill steaks and maybe bake cookies as consolation.

← The night the Minouche sank, rescue swimmer Ben Cournia had to fight 30-foot waves to get a dozen sailors into the chopper swirling above.


A few seats over, Dave McCarthy, a 36-yearold helicopter pilot, pressed “play” on a country-music mix—Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith—and leaned his head back. This would be his first deployment to Great Inagua. His co-pilot, 28-year-old Rick Post, also a lieutenant, sat nearby. He tended to like these postings. They were like two-week camping trips that—despite the wildly di≠erent terrain—reminded him of growing up outdoors in Nebraska. Likewise, the fourth member of the Jayhawk crew, Joshua Andrews. A flight mechanic days away from his 32nd birthday, with jug ears and a wide smile, Andrews knew there wasn’t much to do with his downtime except go snorkeling and get in some fishing. Which sounded pretty good to him. Below them, the Florida Straits opened wide. One big cerulean highway thick with the tra∞c of freighters, towering cruise ships, rusty fishing trawlers, smugglers of drugs and humans, all ferrying their goods back and forth. All expecting smooth, profitable journeys. It was late September, the tail end of that ominous June-to-November hurricane season during which those who live and work in the tropics and subtropics exist in a state of magical thinking, lulled into a sense of safety by previous years’ inactivity. But the waters of the world’s oceans are warming, and the dangers are growing. The prime conditions for stronger, stranger storms are becoming more common. On this particular day, as the giant C-130 began its descent, the clear waters of the Bahamas were around 86 degrees, about 2 degrees warmer than usual. It was a small variation that ten days later would have a big impact.

The plane banked hard over the landing strip, scaring o≠ the wild donkeys that stray onto the tarmac. On the ground, the heat enveloped the men like a warm bath as soon as they stepped o≠ the aircraft. As they marched toward the hooches—their four bunk dorms— they passed a newly constructed hangar and a plaque commemorating the old one, destroyed in 2008 by Hurricane Ike. It had taken five years to rebuild this little outpost. But the Coast Guard was determined. A tiny island of about 900 people, Great Inagua sits along the Windward Passage—the strait between Cuba and Haiti—a location that makes it the ideal spot from which to run anti-narcotic-smuggling patrols. That it also puts the Coasties on a well-paved route for hurricanes is a coincidence for which they prepared. The hangar’s doors, 28 feet high and over a foot thick, were fashioned from cast concrete; the building could withstand hurricane winds of 180 miles per hour. On an island where nothing much seemed to happen, the Coast Guard nevertheless built a fortress with the expectation that someday something would.


ONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015, dawned cloudless in South Florida. The night before, forecasters watching the skies from a concrete bunker just outside Miami had seen something interesting: a low-pressure system 400 miles southwest of Bermuda. To the experts at the National Hurricane Center,

↓ The Minouche (below, far left) had been abandoned by the time the Coast Guard arrived to save its frightened crew.

→ Clockwise from top left Dave McCarthy Jayhawk commander Ben Cournia rescue swimmer

it looked like the germ of something. Winds were blowing at about 35 miles per hour, but the forecasters didn’t seem concerned. “Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours,” one of them wrote at 11 p.m. Maybe it would turn into a storm, but probably not much more. Major hurricanes don’t usually originate in the mid-latitudes. They typically come from the trade winds that blow o≠ the western coast of Africa into the Caribbean, where there is warm water to fuel big tempests. Even if the gathering winds became a storm, projections showed it staying far from land—it looked to the forecasters like it’d curve harmlessly to the north. Still, Captain Rich Lorenzen, commanding o∞cer back at the Coast Guard’s Air Station Clearwater, likes to say that when it comes to weather, as soon as a pu≠ of air wafts o≠ Africa’s coast, he’s watching. The formation—named Tropical Depression 11— was in his briefing when he came into the o∞ce on Monday. That same morning, along the Miami River, the 12-member crew of a freighter named Minouche was getting ready to cast o≠. The Minouche, 212 feet long with two cargo booms sprouting mid-deck, was tied up at Caribbean Shipping, a modest docking operation in a neighborhood of metal-recycling shops and warehouses. The 35-year-old Bolivian-flagged vessel was captained by a Filipino named Renelo Gelera. The Minouche was operated by a tiny firm called Eva de Shipping (in some of the paperwork the name was elided to the unfortunate “Evade Shipping”). The Minouche was the company’s only vessel, and the corporate o∞ce was listed as the dock in Miami where the ship kept a slip—in other words, the company was the ship itself. Every month or so, the Minouche made a run from Miami to Haiti. The plan this particular Monday was to set o≠ for Port-de-Paix with a cargo of construction materials, food, bicycles, car parts, refrigerators, and groceries. By late morning, two tugs had arrived to tow the Minouche down the black sheen of the Miami River, out into Biscayne Bay. From there the course was southeast to Haiti. Looking out from the deck, the crew had no reason to think they wouldn’t arrive by Thursday, just as scheduled. The skies were clear. The sun was out. It was a calm end-of-summer day. But up north, more than 500 miles out in the Atlantic, the winds of Tropical Depression 11 were increasing. By nightfall they were blowing at 40 miles per hour, strong enough to earn the storm a name and an upgrade: Meteorologists were now watching Tropical Storm Joaquin. 1 4 4 - - G Q - - 1 1.1 6

Rick Post helicopter co-pilot Scott Phy operations officer, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater Rich Lorenzen commander, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater Joshua Andrews flight mechanic



→ A life preserver from the Minouche—repurposed as a trophy for the mission, emblazoned with the names of the Jayhawk crew members



• The ill-fated Minouche and El Faro couldn't have predicted the chaotic path of Hurricane Joaquin



HE MINOUCHE WAS a minnow compared with El Faro, an American commercial freighter that stretched 790 feet, longer than two and a half football fields. That thing was a floating city. It performed the same job as the Minouche, just more of it, ferrying goods between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico. On Tuesday morning, at its slip at the Jacksonville Port Authority, the 33-member crew was securing the last of its 391 containers and 294 trailers and cars. They’d be under way by Tuesday night in order to reach San Juan by Friday, October 2. Captain Michael Davidson and his sailors were no doubt aware of the tropical storm that was brewing, but they could have been comforted by what forecasters were saying: Joaquin was going to track well north of where they were headed. Plus, a leviathan like El Faro could crash through 45-mile-per-hour winds with ease, if it came to that. But even as El Faro was leaving port, Joaquin was gaining strength. By Wednesday morning, it was a Category 1 hurricane, and growing by the hour, it seemed. It became a Category 2 on Wednesday evening. Now the winds were blowing at 105 miles per hour. “Once it became a hurricane, it became a major hurricane fast,” Robbie Berg, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said. The prevailing pattern for storms like this is for them to head west, then curve north. But Joaquin had been defying all the patterns so far. It was somehow moving south toward the Bahamas—toward the paths of El Faro and the Minouche and dozens of other vessels at sea. By Wednesday night, people on the islands near the storm’s unruly path were warned to take shelter; ships at sea were advised to immediately return to port. The National Hurricane Center issued a blunt warning to anybody in the Bahamas: “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”


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↙ Rescue swimmers like Ben Cournia—the guys on the cable who venture into the water—constitute the Coast Guard's most elite unit.



Hundreds of miles away, a sailor who knew El Faro well watched the concern grow on TV. From his home in Maine, the ship’s former second mate, Charles Baird, texted his friend Captain Davidson to alert him to Joaquin’s growing menace. Davidson wrote back that he was aware of the situation—and confident he could duck south and sail under the storm. It’s impossible to know what exactly motivated Captain Davidson. Did his experience tell him the storm posed no threat? The forecasts still predicted Joaquin would track north-northwest. Did he feel pressure

to stick to his schedule? Time was fuel and salaries. (Tote Maritime, the company that owned and operated El Faro, has said the captain made his own itinerary and route.) Or was he just confident that 800foot-long ships didn’t sink? By early Thursday morning, October 1, some members of the crew were starting to worry about the route. It looked to them like they were sailing into a monster. Danielle Randolph, the 34-year-old second mate, e-mailed her mother, Laurie Bobillot, at 4:39 a.m. “Not sure if you have been following the weather at all but there is a hurrican [sic] out here and we are heading straight into it,” Randolph wrote. Outside, the winds raged at 120 miles per hour, whipping 30-foot seas. “Winds are super bad and seas are not great. Love to everyone.” Randolph, a petite five feet three—“five foot nothing,” her mother would tease her— was tough as iron. A graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, she dreamed of captaining her own ship one day. Now, her note left her mother unnerved. Never before had Randolph e-mailed during a storm. Her messages only came afterward, so that her mother wouldn’t worry. And never, ever, had she signed o≠ “Love to everyone.” Typically, she’d end with her initial or something more casual, like “Say hi to everyone.” With a mother’s instinct, Bobillot knew to be scared.

S EL FARO and her worried crew plowed toward Joaquin, the Minouche—about 200 miles away—was racing east in an attempt to outrun the storm. Both ships were now battling 20and 30-foot seas, and on the Minouche, cargo had started to rock loose. The shifting weight caused the ship to list to port, so the crew filled a ballast tank and weighted down the starboard side. (continued on page 156)




Bobbing alone, out here in the storm, they were only now grasping the magnitude of their situation.


In these days of every-man-for-himself-ism, the guy who takes over is the one who isn’t afraid to break the rules and stand out—like The Walking Dead’s S T E V E N Y E U N here, dressed in the season’s most sophisticated, crisply tailored, workplace-ready tweed suits

Nathaniel Goldberg


When everyone else is running around in plain gray suits, you can set yourself apart just by wearing the new breed of tweed.

» suit $1,695 Emporio Armani + shirt $425 tie $275 Giorgio Armani shoes $398 To Boot New York tie bar (throughout) and pocket square The Tie Bar her black dress Alexander Wang her suit and blouse (right) Michael Kors Collection for additional credits throughout, see page 163.





« suit $2,245 Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci + shirt $385 Burberry tie $235 Dolce & Gabbana pocket square Paul Stuart





ÂŤ suit $1,798 John Varvatos + shirt $125 Michael Kors tie $235 Dolce & Gabbana pocket square Peter Millar her shirt and skirt Alexander Wang heels Prada

If This Shoot Looks Like a Movie Set… What if Michael Bay decided to make a musical? That happened recently, or something like it, when Hong Kong director Johnnie To, whose films include Fulltime Killer and Drug War, made a romping, toe-tapping, song-and-dance musical, Office, about two go-getter assistants trying to climb the corporate ladder. Standing in their way is the 2008 financial crisis, as well as a domineering CEO played by Sylvia Chang. The office intrigue develops on a manically minimalist set where corporate gray scale is broken into geometric patterns with lines so clean they might as well be spreadsheets. To pay tribute to the office of Office, GQ took over the landmarked glass-and-marble Manufacturers Trust Company Building at 510 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, now home to the North Face flagship. Photographer Nathaniel Goldberg then juxtaposed corporate banality—all those gray suits and white desks— against stylized design elements that scream “soundstage.” The effect is a tension between the quotidian to which we’re chained and our human need to break free. Steven Yeun might be the action hero on these pages, but the message is clear: No matter where we work, or dream, we can be heroes.

« suit $1,390 Polo Ralph Lauren + shirt $125 and pocket square Polo Ralph Lauren tie $150 Alexander Olch – suits in back, from left Hart Schaffner Marx Nautica Burberry Dolce & Gabbana Calvin Klein Tallia Orange shirts on men (in back) Eton her white shirt and skirt Jil Sander her top (front) Chanel earrings Mikimoto





« suit $650 J.Crew Ludlow + shirt $245 Z Zegna tie $150 Alexander Olch shoes $398 To Boot New York pocket square Brooks Brothers watch Montblanc briefcase Louis Vuitton

» suit (made-to-measure) $1,200 Todd Snyder + shirt $45 Van Heusen tie $19 and pocket square The Tie Bar shoes $398 To Boot New York her top and skirt Chanel heels Roger Vivier earrings and necklace Mikimoto location throughout The North Face Flagship Store on 5th Ave. hair by thom priano at garren new york for r+co. grooming by jodie boland using lab series skincare for men. women’s makeup by jodie boland using chanel. manicure by ana-maria using chanel. set design by juliet jernigan at clm. choreography by wes veldink. produced by sara mouzayanni at red hook labs. where to buy it? go to /fashiondirectories

About These Clothes As you can see in these pages, today’s tweed suits are designed less for tending an Irish sheep farm and more for gliding through the halls of power. With a lighter look and feel (no more roasting!), once-fusty donegals and herringbones have transformed into businesswear, no thicker than flannel (but twice as textured). Their flecks and patterns can contrast an everyday solid shirt or add a salt-and-pepper effect to your plaids. Bonus: With something as classic as tweed, your suit becomes an investment piece. It’s the suit for this winter, sure, but it’s also the suit for every winter.





IN TO THE STORM And so the Coast Guard waited. There was no distress call, no reason for worry, just yet. El Faro was a behemoth of a ship, more than capable of handling some waves. Plus, it’s not uncommon for a vessel to lose communication in a storm. Often a Coast Guard helicopter can help solve the trouble by dropping some radios. They just have to locate the ship. • • • A S T H E C O A S T I E S on Great Inagua watched C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 1 4 6

As they worked, a monster wave struck, knocking the cargo booms loose, swinging the giant cranes to the left side of the ship, compounding the list. The adjustments, the countermeasures, nothing seemed to work— the storm kept up its assault. Quickly, the crew tried jettisoning cargo, tossing containers over in a desperate scramble to stabilize the ship. That’s when she lost engine power. With the ship unable to navigate, the waves took over, turning the boat until she was broadside to the waves. Drifting powerless, the Minouche was now nature’s punching bag. On board, they were running out of options. Night was descending, and there was nothing left to do but enact the terrible routines that every sailor dreads. A crew member sent a hurried e-mail to the ship’s agent in Miami and activated the emergency signal that provided would-be rescuers with the ship’s location. Meanwhile, the captain authorized a distress call on the Inmarsat satellite network. Then he ordered the crew to prepare to abandon ship. • • • Captain Davidson, perched on the bridge of El Faro, was looking for the same thing that eluded the Minouche: a break in the weather. Desperate to wiggle out of the storm, he found only rougher and rougher seas; the ship was taking a beating, and by 7 a.m. on Thursday, Davidson had lost his engines. He knew he needed help. Davidson grabbed the ship’s satellite phone and punched in the number for an o∞cial from Tote Maritime. When there was no answer, he left a message. “We have a navigational incident,” Davidson said in a reassuringly calm voice. “I’ll keep it short. A scuttle popped open on 2 Deck, and we were having some free communication of water go down the 3 Hold. Getting a pretty good list. I want to just touch... contact you verbally here. Everybody’s safe, but I want to talk to you.” Then Davidson called Tote’s 24-hour call center and spoke to an operator. “I have a marine emergency,” Davidson said. “We had a hull breach. A scuttle blew open during a storm. We have water down in 3 Hold with a heavy list. We’ve lost the main propulsion unit. The engineers cannot get it going.” Before long, a message had been relayed to the Coast Guard—the ship was in trouble, the Coasties were told, but “not at risk of sinking.” Tote Maritime, now in touch with the Coast Guard, mulled its options for its foundering ship and decided the best bet was to get Davidson to steer it into shallow waters; a course was plotted for some small islands near the Turks and Caicos. Then they called El Faro’s satellite phone to pass the orders to Davidson. No luck. EARLIER THAT MORNING,





Joaquin move in on Thursday afternoon, they knew that if any ships were still out at sea, chances were good they’d need help. They waited. Dense, roiling clouds the color of dread spit needles of rain, and the wind bent the scrubby palm trees nearly horizontal. At about 8 p.m., the base in Clearwater called with news of an emergency: The freighter Minouche, with a crew of 12, was going down. Two Good Samaritan ships were rushing to the scene, but the violent waves kept them from o≠ering any help. On the phone from Florida, Commander Scott Phy had a question: Could a copter squad from Great Inagua venture into the storm? As the rains lashed the hangar, McCarthy didn’t hesitate. Absolutely, he said. Mustering his crew, McCarthy detailed what was happening out at sea—and Andrews, the flight mechanic, let the words he was hearing sink in. “…Abandoning ship.” He took a deep breath. You’ve prepped for this a thousand times, he told himself. He jogged over to the Jayhawk for a quick assessment. Inside, he eyed the big water pump the chopper carried to bail out sinking vessels. Wouldn’t be needing that, he thought. This ship was already a goner. Taking it out would create room for people—if they could pull them out of the storm. In the hangar, Cournia changed into his bright orange neoprene wet suit and strapped on his rescue swimmer’s vest—eight pounds of gear that included lights, a radio, and a knife. By now, the wind was blowing so ferociously outside that the men had to climb into the Jayhawk inside the hangar and employ a little tractor called a mule to tow the chopper out to the tarmac. Outside, the night was black, and McCarthy and Post, the two pilots, strapped on their night-vision goggles. McCarthy may have been the senior aviator, but he asked Post to pilot the craft—hoping this was going to become a rescue mission, he wanted to be free to supervise. Post toggled the ignition switch, and the rotor blades cranked to life, lifting them into the rain, dark, and wind. Against the blowing force of the storm, he maneuvered the chopper o≠ the ground. Now, gaining speed, he pointed the aircraft south and watched as the scattering of lights along the island’s coast disappeared. Nothing but an inky void in all directions. The rotors thudded. The radios crackled. And the fearsome wind pushed the Jayhawk forward, up, and to the side. • • • O N T H E D E C K of the Minouche, the crew—12

mostly Haitian sailors in T-shirts and shorts, some in flip-flops, many barefoot—strapped on life vests as the ship’s list grew worse. Somebody dragged out the 250-pound life raft, which when dropped into the water inflated to form a black hexagon with an orange tent canopy. As soon as it looked safe, the men jumped in after it and crawled inside. Now came a new

and desperate challenge: waiting. As the waves crashed over them, the men huddled in their raft, clutching flashlights and hoping someone received their message. Tiny lights on their life preservers glowed in the dark. After about 30 minutes in the sky, the Jayhawk reached the Minouche’s coordinates. Post piloted over the area in a wide, banking curve. Below, twinkling in the rain, was the spectral outline of a doomed freighter. All its lights were on, and it was listing heavily to port, like a staggering, wounded beast. The helicopter zipped by in a sweeping circle, and when it came around a few minutes later, the decks were already underwater, glowing a dull amber. They made another orbit. This time the ship was gone; only light was visible beneath the waves. The speed of the submersion shocked the chopper’s crew. It was a massive ship, the human world’s interface with the ocean, and it was so quickly overwhelmed by the waves. Cournia stared at the ghostly glow, and whatever enthusiasm he’d had for getting in the water now drained from him. “Target located,” Cournia announced over his radio as they made another sweep. He was aiming the helicopter’s infra-red camera o≠ in the distance, where the raft bobbed in the waves. It was a mile or two from the ship. Post flew over the orange-tented raft and then tried to steady the Jayhawk into a hover. But the wind was pushing him hard, and the rain and dark were messing with his equilibrium. Instead of looking out the windshield to get his bearings, he had to rely on the hover bars on the instrument panel that showed the craft’s relationship to a fixed point. In the back, Andrews turned on the main search light, and as when flicking on a car’s brights in the fog, the rain reflected the light right back into Post’s eyes. They shut it o≠ and relied on lights mounted to the underbelly of the helicopter to illuminate the raft below. With their eyes on the rescue target, the crew quickly discussed their options. They decided to lower Cournia down on a cable into the water, where he would disconnect and swim to the raft. Then Andrews would use the hoist to lower the steel basket to the water and Cournia would load the survivors in one at a time, so Andrews could winch them up to the Jayhawk. What sounds simple, though, rarely is. Cournia strapped on his swim helmet and buckled his vest. He put on his mask and fins. Then Andrews opened the door. A blast of wind rushed in as Cournia looked down at the chaotic waves 30 feet below. His stomach dropped. Rescue swimmers like Cournia are the Coast Guard’s most elite operatives, and the path to becoming one is brutally di∞cult. Less than half of those who are tapped to try out make it through swimmer school, a gantlet of harrowing simulations and near drownings. And all that e≠ort prepares graduates physically and psychologically for this moment right here—a battle with the wind and the waves. The more I stand around, Cournia thought, the more nervous I’ll get. So let’s start moving. He gave a thumbs-up to Andrews. “Swimmer’s going out cabin door,” Andrews shouted into the radio. “Swimmer’s on the way down.” The flight mechanic needed to be the pilot’s eyes at this point. “Swimmer’s in the water. Swimmer’s away. Swimmer’s okay. Clear to move.” “Roger,” Post responded.


To Cournia, the water felt reassuringly warm, but the ferocity of the waves caught him o≠ guard. Still, he was now in his element; his apprehensions lifted as he steadied himself against the waves. He was amazed at how fast the raft was moving as he swam after it. Catching up and grabbing hold, Cournia unzipped the curtain of the tent and peered inside. Twelve faces stared back, immobile, the whites of the sailors’ eyes visible in the dull glow of their lights. “Okay, who speaks English?” Cournia barked into the raft. The captain raised his hand. Good, Cournia thought, I have my translator. Next, Cournia asked if anyone was injured. The answer was no. Then he explained that he was going to get them all into that helicopter whooshing above, one at a time. “Any questions?” The captain wanted to know the status of their ship. “It’s gone,” Cournia told them. As the information was translated into Creole, shock flitted across their faces like an electric current. It was as if, bobbing alone out there in the storm, they only now were grasping the magnitude of their situation. • • • B A C K I N C L E A R W A T E R , Coast Guard

commander Phy and others listened closely as Cournia went into the water, following the action from the Jayhawk’s radios with rapt attention. Unresolved in their minds, though, was another 800-foot-long mystery: Where was El Faro? Why hadn’t they heard from the big cargo ship in hours? What was going on out there? Unlike with the Minouche, there had been no emergency signal, no way to know where El Faro was, much less how she was doing. The only thing the Coast Guard could do was try to get eyes on the vessel, and they could only do that in daylight. With one rescue already under way, the base commander, Captain Lorenzen, pondered the toughest choice of his career. If he didn’t hear from El Faro by morning, he’d have to decide whether to send one of his giant C-130s into the eye of a Category 4 hurricane. He huddled with o∞cers, including the on-duty pilot, Lieutenant Commander Je≠ Hustace. Was it possible to hunt the ship in a hurricane? Could they risk it? Hustace was game. “We’ll give it a try,” he said. Then he was told to get some sleep. • • • C O U R N I A G R A B B E D T H E most frightened-

looking man in the raft and pulled him into the water. He signaled for the “basket,” a welded-stainless-steel cross between a seat and a stretcher. When it arrived, Cournia loaded the survivor in and motioned for the hoist. Then he turned to swim back to the raft—only it wasn’t there. Winds and current had pulled it 100 yards away. Meanwhile, up in the Jayhawk’s cabin, Andrews was unloading the first rescue. The man, barefoot, in cuto≠ blue jeans and a T-shirt, was cramped with fear. His eyes were as big as hubcaps, and he clung to the basket. Even now, safe inside the chopper, he wouldn’t let go. Andrews yelled and began prying o≠ his fingers and pushing him from the steel contraption. After all the commotion, Andrews looked down for his rescue swimmer. At first he couldn’t see him, but then he spotted Cournia, chasing after the raft.

It took Cournia five minutes of hard swimming to catch up to the inflatable. He pulled out another sailor and waved for the basket. After loading the survivor and sending the basket up, Cournia looked over and saw that the raft had again drifted. Watching from the Jayhawk, Andrews didn’t think that Cournia could last if he had to constantly chase the raft. He radioed down for Cournia to hook in, and he hoisted the swimmer up. Andrews and McCarthy consulted. They decided they’d try to “hover taxi” Cournia where he needed to go—dangling him from the cable just above the waves until he was close to the raft. This worked for the next couple of survivors. But the process was making Cournia impatient. He was thinking about the Jayhawk’s fuel and feeling the need to move faster. That’s when he pointed at one scared survivor, grabbed his collar, and pulled him from the raft. The man gave a high-pitched scream and jumped into the water on top of him. In a panicked clench, the man wrapped his legs around Cournia and pushed down on the rescuer’s shoulders. Cournia’s training kicked in like a feral instinct. Suck, tuck, and duck. He sucked in a full breath, then tucked his chin down to protect his throat. He wiggled one arm free and tapped the man gently to let him know everything was okay. But the sailor freaked even more, screaming louder and thrashing his arms in the water. So with his free hand, Cournia jammed his thumb into a pressure point under the sailor’s jawbone, just as he’d been trained. With his trapped arm, Cournia was able to ram his other thumb into a pressure point above the man’s left elbow. The sailor froze. Cournia quickly flipped him around, grabbed him in a cross-chest carry, and swam him to the basket. The following couple of survivors went smoothly—in the basket and up to the helicopter. But as Cournia loaded the next sailor into the basket and signaled for the hoist, a gust of wind dropped the Jayhawk and a wave came rearing up. As the copter dipped dangerously low, the soothingly robotic voice of a warning sensor cautioned: “Altitude. Altitude.” Meanwhile, the wave caught the basket—with the man inside—and carried it away from the copter. It was as if a hooked fish was pulling fishing line from a reel. Andrews desperately played the cable out from the hoist while giving furious directions to the pilot: “Back and left 20, back and left 30.��� Pilots don’t like hearing numbers getting bigger. It means something’s wrong—and getting worse. The basket, yanked from the helicopter, had pulled through the wave and come swinging back like a pendulum. After several harrowing minutes—both for the crew and for the man yo-yoing against wind and waves in the basket—the steel cage reached the Jayhawk. The sailor inside, bloodied but alive, rolled out onto the cabin floor. Andrews looked down at the heap of bodies now huddled on his floor. In the flash of strobe lights, he could see the chopper filling up—he needed that floor space. So Andrews instructed the sailors to move. No response. He motioned for them to find a place to sit. No response. Gradually, Andrews saw that the men were catatonic with shock. After a minute, as if waking from a nightmare, they slowly began to respond. In order to burn fuel as e∞ciently as he could, Post had positioned the hovering

helicopter so it faced the headwind. Still, with only eight survivors in the cabin, McCarthy, watching the fuel gauge, signaled that they had to return to base. Andrews hoisted Cournia up to the Jayhawk, and the winded swimmer yanked o≠ his mask. He was exhausted and exhilarated and desperate to get back into the fight. “There’s still people there!” Cournia shouted above the rotor’s roar. The implication was that he wanted to stay behind with them. But McCarthy was firm: They’d be back soon. “They’ll be okay, they’re on the raft.” With the wind behind them, the trip back to Great Inagua took about 15 minutes. The men were pumped for a quick turnaround. But as they hit the tarmac, a bird flew up into the rotor blades and pureed itself. The bird strike cost them 40 minutes, as they were required to pore over all the intake ports looking for feathers and bones. A quick but thorough inspection cleared the helicopter. Andrews, meanwhile, played out all of the hoist cable, checking for broken strands. It, too, looked clean. At the same time, McCarthy evaluated the most important equipment—his crew. No one slurred his speech, their eyes focused. Everyone looked ready for more. “We were in our battle rhythm,” McCarthy surmised. It was about 4 a.m. when they flew back to the Minouche. On the scene, Cournia dropped into the waves again and quickly recovered one sailor. But as Andrews guided the cable lifting the basket into the Jayhawk, he felt a snag on his glove. Sure enough, a few strands had broken. There was no way around it—they would have to return to base and swap helicopters.

As they raced between the clouds, visibility would drop to zero, and sudden gusts would plunge the plane 800 feet at a time. It was the toughest flying Hustace had ever done. In keeping with their failing luck, when they radioed their return, there was another problem: The storm had jammed shut the hangar’s 60,000-pound cast-concrete doors. As the helicopter sped to the base, the ground crew was furiously trying to pry the doors open with the tow tractors. The doors were wrenched open, just as the Jayhawk landed. By the time they returned to the Minouche’s crew in the new Jayhawk, the storm had grown worse. The jagged stabs of lightning illuminating the void had increased. This, combined with the static electricity generated by the helicopter itself, had the potential to charge the metal all around them. Andrews had put a static-discharge cable on the basket to siphon o≠ the charges, but the waves had ripped it o≠. Cournia, now in the water, was recovering the first of the last three survivors. As the cable lifted the basket out of the water, he reached up to steady it, and bam! An electric shock convulsed him to his chest, locking both arms. After the charge passed through him, he pried his hands o≠ the steel. There was nothing to do about it, he thought, except be careful. From then on, he had to make sure the basket was in the water and grounded before he touched it. NOVEMBER






With that last complication addressed, he was able to load the remaining two survivors into the basket. Then the cable came down for him. Cournia clipped in for his final hoist up. Post radioed their return, and the Jayhawk turned west to Great Inagua just as dawn began to stain the gray clouds orange. • • • T H E C R E W O F the Minouche had been

saved, but as day broke in Clearwater, one very big problem remained: the mystery of El Faro. At 6 a.m., the C-130 pilot, Je≠ Hustace, woke to the on-base radio announcement: “Put the ready C-130 on the line. First-light search for motor vessel El Faro in the vicinity of Crooked Island.” That was his plane. He was going out in the storm. The plan was to approach the hurricane from the north, then fly in between its bands toward the assumed last position of El Faro. Joaquin was still not adhering to any models. Hurricane winds stretched 50 miles out from the eye, and tropical-storm-force winds stretched for an additional 205 miles. But the storm had simply stopped moving above the Bahamas’ Crooked Island. It was just sitting there, spinning in place, feeding on that overheated water. Hustace and his crew lifted o≠ the tarmac at Clearwater and set course for the center of Joaquin. On their approach, the crew could see the stratified layers of clouds and precipitation. Hustace was amazed at how organized the storm was, with pronounced dark bands, then a gap through which they could see sunlight and blue sky, then another dark band. They picked their way inside the storm by flying between these bands until they got to the “search box,” the area where El Faro was most likely to be. But the storm was hampering the radar. So Hustace flew out of the chaos, descended to 2,000 feet, and then flew back in. As they raced between the clouds, visibility would drop to zero, and sudden gusts would plunge the plane 800 feet at a time, or an updraft would shoot the plane forward 50 miles per hour faster than they had been going. It was the toughest flying Hustace had ever done. The crew, using radar and the naked eye, scoured the surface of the water. They flew for nearly eight hours, their attention locked on the wild sea below. But they saw nothing but sea and storm. For the next week, the Coast Guard flew more than 250 hours over 183,000 square miles. After several days, a Jayhawk crew noticed some debris and flew down for a closer look. There, drifting in the waves, was an orange survival suit with a body inside. Just as they were about to retrieve it, the Jayhawk was called away to an electronic beacon that might have signaled survivors. A false alarm. When they returned, the body could not be found. • • • T O D A Y E L F A R O sits nearly three miles

beneath the surface. The loss of all 33 hands made the sinking the worst American maritime incident in decades. And though the wreck has been located—with her bridge seemingly violently ripped from the vessel—many mysteries remain about the final hours aboard El Faro and the nature of the storm that took her down. Some of those questions will be answered in the coming months by the voice-data recorder that investigators recovered from the seafloor 158




this summer. Others will be taken up by the National Transportation Safety Board, which plans to issue a report next year about whether errors in judgment contributed to the disaster. Other questions could be addressed by the courts: The families of 23 crew members have reached settlements with Tote Services, El Faro’s parent company, but others are still pursuing suits. What isn’t in doubt, say those who studied the ferocious and chaotic storm, is that Hurricane Joaquin is a harbinger of storms to come. When it hit last fall, Joaquin was the strongest hurricane of non-tropical origin ever recorded by satellite. A few weeks later, a monster Category 5 hurricane named Patricia swelled in the Pacific over what the NHC called “anomalously warm waters.” Its winds reached 215 miles per hour, making it the most intense storm on record in the Western Hemisphere. The speed with which it developed defied expectations. Those expectations are now changing as our storms turn big and erratic. On a warming planet, seawater evaporates quickly, transferring heat to the atmosphere, where that warmth feeds winds. More heat begets faster evaporation—which leads to stronger winds. So far the models, theories, and observations support the forecast that the future will have more superstorms. “The frequency of hurricanes may go down, but the incidents of the high-end storms should go up,” Dr. Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, explained. “A greater frequency of Category 4s and 5s.” For those trying to understand—or live with—the realities of our new weather patterns, the future holds a turbocharged uncertainty. This means merchant sailors will have to re-assess the dangers of their trade. Coast Guard crews on remote islands will be more necessary than ever. The guardsmen on Great Inagua that night last fall when the storm hit think often about what they learned. In the soggy aftermath of their rescue, after the hugs, some of the Jayhawk crew lingered in the hangar to hear Captain Gelera describe the waves that took over his ship. The failing engines. The slipping cargo. The feeling of dread. The survivors of the Minouche were eventually flown to Haiti, and with their ship gone, none have so far returned to Miami, at least according to their shipping agent and the men who work the docks where the Minouche once tied up. (None of the crew could be reached for this story. Their accounts come from o∞cial reports and conversations they had with the Coast Guard crew.) It would be understandable if they were trying to forget their night spent in a hurricane’s grip. As for the Jayhawk crew, what they hold on to is something di≠erent. To a man, they all recall the eerie light they saw from the chopper as they approached the dying ship. That dull glow dimming to dark as the Minouche slowly slipped under. “When I saw that ship lit up and the waves washing over it, I went from ‘This is gonna be awesome’ to, well...,” Cournia recalled, his voice trailing o≠ as he remembered how they raced into the storm, how they fought all night. And how, finally, for a dozen fortunate sailors, they managed to keep the darkness from overtaking the light. tristram korten is a writer living in Miami. This is his first story for gq.

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PAG E 1 0 5

The rhinos at Ol Pejeta have armed guards that watch over them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is a matter of real, bloody necessity. Everywhere at Wilson Airport signs are posted: no ivory on board. hands off our elephants. Poaching—elephant, rhino, anything with ivory or a keratin horn attached—is a scourge in Kenya, even as the animals are respected, revered. They have them on their currency. But they also have a massive organized-crime problem: When the poachers come now, they come armed with helicopters, night-vision goggles, and frighteningly advanced weaponry, largely funded by criminal syndicates. About 30 percent of Africa’s elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014 alone. So James and his co-workers shoot back. “If a poacher comes with an AK-47,” he says in his matter-of-fact way, “let’s hope the patroller has a G3 or a machine gun.” A G3, he explains, is the next rifle up, firepower-wise, from the AK-47. Wildlife rangers are not cops; they’re not looking to make arrests. Poachers get bailed out; then they jump bail. “If you look at how horrible they kill these animals to get the horn, you have no sympathy,” James says. So wildlife rangers do what they have to do to protect what they’re charged with protecting. “If I was given a chance to make a verdict, I would say these people are merciless. They don’t deserve any mercy.” That’s at night. During the day, around the rhinos, James has a lot of time to think. He has a bond in particular with Sudan. The work is invigorating but also depressing. “I don’t see Sudan enjoying life anymore,” he says. “The fact that he’s the only one, it’s not a lovely life. Knowing you’re the last male standing—it’s really sad.” Tim and I stand there at the gate, nodding. “Want to see him?” James asks. • • •

VI. About the Size of a Volkswagen T H E N O R T H E R N W H I T E S have 700 acres of their own here. They’re fenced in, not just for their own protection but also because they’re zoo animals—they would die in the relative wild of Ol Pejeta, with or without human assistance. Sudan, old and decrepit, is separated further: He lives by himself, on 15 acres, so he doesn’t get bullied by the other two, or have to walk too far at any given time. I’m stalling here. How to describe a ghost? Okay, fine: I will not tell you he was beautiful. The first impression was of a shadowcolored bulldozer, a motorcycle-sized blur looming underneath a tall, long-limbed whistling-thorn acacia tree. Comically attentive Bugs Bunny ears fringed by a light halo of fur. A bump on his neck not unlike the


phallic bulge on the cover of Sticky Fingers. Weirdly delicate 1940s starlet eyelashes. He lay with his chin on the ground, staring sadly forward, snot gently pooling out of his nostrils. The overall semblance was of those rocks you encounter in national parks, the ones that some ancient person has carved something into, and now that thing has faded. A message you can’t read. James was motioning Tim and me over to the animal. I was totally unprepared for this. You can actually touch him. He’s old, and mostly domesticated. He’s indi≠erent. Blind in one eye. You need to approach from the side on which he can see you, or else risk what’s left of his wrath. One at a time, we lay hands on him. Tim and I took turns, and we couldn’t stop. He was warm. Hu∞ng and rasping. His skin like bark or Braille. Like mud that’d cracked in the sun. Expanding and contracting. He struggled and then stood, as Tim and I backed away. Eyed his little corner of habitat: partial roof above, some straw in the corner, a rectangle of muddy water. Then he set out through some acacia trees, walking gingerly. You could hear his old back crack when he leaned down to pull up grass. The sky had turned o≠-white; we were out among the trees when it began to rain. Sudan turned back toward his home, making his way through the silvery drops. Tim and James and I sprinted back toward the jeep. A bunch of animals all running for shelter. • • •

VII. A Rhino Addresses the Delegates W H A T G E T S S A V E D ? What deserves to get saved? Even on an ark, the room isn’t infinite. “Like, who are we to decide?” Ryder asks one day, back at the Frozen Zoo. “What’s the right choice?” Technology in human hands is the story of unintended consequences. “Do you know this gene-editing technology?” he asks me. You can tweak genes, make them express what you want them to express. “I knew that the Chinese had made many pigs, because pigs are used in a lot of human medical research. If you had a small one, it would save a huge amount of money and make a lot more studies more feasible, basically. So the Chinese developed that. But they found out that there’s a market for them in medical research, but there’s also a market in them as pets. So they’re selling these mini pigs as pets. They say in the future you’ll be able to choose their appearance.” For instance: “I imagine in the future it will be possible to have one of these mini pigs that’s got a coat color pattern like a cheetah.” A mini pig dressed as a cheetah! Humans have always done this. Behaved this way. Made nature reflect our needs, our wants, our desires. “There’s our dilemma,” says Ryder. “You look at Przewalski’s horses, the wild horses, and they’re all basically phenotypically uniformed. You look at domestic horses and you’ve got all these variants—that’s because people selected them. People preferred them. People were interested in them. That’s what our species does, is experiment.” Now that we’re on the verge of de-extinction… what will we do with that power? “It’s about our values, because if we have the capability of being designers, what are the rules? My priority as a conservationist

may be one direction, but human society is going to have the potential to do these kinds of things. And will people prefer having a world where they have mini pigs that look like cheetahs to all of the hassles involved in saving these animals?” Ryder genuinely wonders. And our history is not super promising on this score. At Ol Pejeta, it costs around $10,000 a month to protect the northern whites. Not all the other animals on the preserve. Just the northern whites. Rangers like James going out in the dark every night, risking their lives to defend these animals. Poachers risking their lives, too, for the horns. And for what? A northern white is nearly identical to a southern white. “All the money we spent on protecting the northern white rhino, millions and millions of dollars, and at the end of the day, 20 years from now, you could put southern white rhinos in there and you would never notice the di≠erence,” John Lukas, the president of the International Rhino Foundation, told author Irus Braverman in 2013. Now, standing in the shadow of their own demise, the three remaining northern whites mill about Ol Pejeta as the preserve plays host to scientists who show up and disagree about who will do what—will it be scientists from the Czech Republic or Africa or Germany or California who attempt the cloning or in vitro fertilization that might save them? Where will that attempt even take place? The arguments go on. The rhinos go deeper into the veil. And the world they might someday re-occupy closes in on them: habitat gone, horns tra∞cked, fellow animals—Asian elephants and Indochinese leopards, eastern monarch butterflies and Panamanian golden frogs—following right behind them into the extinction vortex. The best-case scenario for the northern whites: survival as a living museum piece. The worst: survival as a museum piece that might someday live again. The gap between those outcomes is barely even a gap. And yet they’re still here, the rhinos. They’re alive. I resolved not to be sentimental. The last thing the world needs is another magazine journalist parachuting in, spending two days on a game preserve, and coming back waxing emotional about what is basically three tons of mobile Silly Putty. But

Most of us are ruthlessly indi≠erent. Some of us are ugly and blind in one eye. We live, all of us, decimated by loss. And all of us deserve to survive. without getting too anthropomorphic with it: They are blameless. To be a human in front of a northern white is to be a representative of the force that is now ushering them out of existence. You just want to disembowel yourself in their presence. Sudan, Najin, Fatu: They’re here and already gone. Shadows on a plain. I said I wouldn’t say it, but: They were beautiful. They are beautiful. And we can bring them back. If we want to, if it makes sense, with just another handful of scientific breakthroughs, they will live

again. Resurrection! It’s unreal but it’s about to be real. What a degenerate, terrible species we are. But also: Look at what we’re capable of ! The same brutal, merciless ingenuity that we bring to ruining the world is the exact same ingenuity applied by the scientists working at the Frozen Zoo and elsewhere, poised at the horizon of existence, willfully pulling our animal brethren back from the edge. And maybe pushing us back from the brink, too. Playing with cellular matter so that it might again become life. Building an ark to save what we can’t or won’t. Most of us are ruthlessly indi≠erent. Some of us are ugly and blind in one eye. We live, all of us, decimated by loss. And all of us deserve to survive. Well, most of us, anyway. Maybe. I get sentimental. A funny thing that happens around the folks at the Frozen Zoo—they make you feel optimistic just by the fact of their existence. So optimistic that sometimes you fail to listen. Talk to them about magic and they’ll talk to you about reality. One animal rescued does not add up to a species saved. An ark is useless until it has a place to make landfall. “Saving cells isn’t saving species,” Ryder tells me. “Saving DNA isn’t saving species. Nobody said it was.” The irony is not lost on them—that their great e≠ort to conserve these animals and their DNA is insignificant next to our greater, albeit unintentional, e≠ort to destroy them. Science is hard; people make it harder. “Unfortunately, people are always going to take precedence and people are going to protect themselves and their livelihoods,” Durrant says. Even in her own profession, “there are some people in the game who are doing this out of pure scientific curiosity and the intellectual challenge. There are some people who are doing it because they think if they can make one of these extinct animals they’ll be famous and rich. Some people who, once they made one, they’d be done and move on to something else. And then what? What happens to that animal?” The answer to that question can be found, for better or for worse, at Ol Pejeta. Twice during my visit there, James, the northern white rhino keeper, described the same scenario to me, something he’s begun to imagine: What would happen if Sudan, the mournful last male of his kind, were somehow able to talk. If he were given a podium—at the U.N., say. All the delegates from all the various corrupt populations of man gathered around. “What’s the best stadium?” James asked me. Madison Square Garden. “Okay, Madison Square Garden.” Sudan steps to the microphone. “And the audio is so good. I’ve always tried to write down what the speech would be. At times he would sob, cry, break down, knowing he’s going to die. How would you be behaving knowing you’re going die? Knowing you’re the last one? Maybe you’d drown yourself in wine, in woman— Sudan can’t speak, he’s an animal, but it’s so sad. His cousins, brothers, and sisters have been killed in this search for rhino horn.” James said he figures if Sudan were actually given that podium, and the means to speak, it’s pretty obvious what he would do: “He would curse the human generation.” zach baron is gq’s sta≠ writer. NOVEMBER





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formed, and Billy said he didn’t know what he was talking about. The host asked about touring with Willie Nelson, and Billy said he never met the guy. The next night, they did a show in Toronto and got booed because everyone there is erudite and listens to public radio, and then the Boxmasters canceled their remaining Canadian dates due to an, um, outbreak of flu on the bus. For the record, Billy is more than happy to talk about his movie career with someone who asks about it respectfully, in the right place at the right time. Why shouldn’t he be? Has anyone on-screen looked us so boldly in the eye and spoken truth to bullshit the way Billy does in every role he plays? When he talks in real life, he talks like he talks on-screen— eyes narrowed, quiet, side of his mouth, head micro-shaking, telling you something only you’d understand. This is so his thing that when he played Lorne Malvo in the first season of Fargo, maybe the most chilling and soulless hit man prestige cable has ever seen, he somehow came o≠ as the show’s protagonist. But that’s what he does: He subverts norms, he exceeds expectations. Now, in the weeks before the release of Bad Santa 2, it is remarkable to remember how in 2003 the original created an entire genre of funny anti-heroes who are dark beyond true redemption. “I mean, now they have fucking Bad Grandma and Bad Teacher and Bad Aunt and Uncle and everybody,” he says. Movies whose creators just insert the misanthropic character that is Billy’s birthright into a formula he and the filmmakers invented and then wait for the money to roll in. Bad Santa 2 is a lot like Bad Santa—it even includes the same dumb kid, all grown now, and the same nasty elf. But the world has changed; the world expects more. They had to make the sweet and sad parts sweeter and sadder, and the nasty parts nastier. There has been a tidal wave of dark comedy and ugly Internet since 2003, and now what it takes to surprise or subvert an audience is far more extreme than it was back then. “People have made sure of that, that you can’t shock anybody anymore,” Billy says. “It’s not just because of movies and TV. It’s because of what’s happening in the world. It’s like, well, surely no one’s ever, like, killed a bunch of rabbits with a hatchet and then ate them in front of a group of kindergartners, and you look it up and, sure enough, somebody did it.” But he thinks he has something original and surprising with Bad Santa 2—well, as original as it can be for the same movie with the same characters—and so he’s bracing himself for the inevitable criticism. After the first movie came out, some woman at some panel somewhere stood up and said that they’d 160




ruined the name of Santa Claus and Christmas and Jesus. Billy said, “Well, ma’am, just so you know, I’ve read the Bible. Santa Claus is not in it. Second of all, I’m not really playing Santa Claus. I’m a thief who dresses like Santa Claus. So, let’s not get it mixed up. This is not supposed to be a movie about Santa Claus.” He lets out a tired breath. “I’m pretty sure she just hated me for whatever reason.” Plenty of people out there hate him for whatever reason. They think he’s entitled— him! Billy! Who grew up in abject poverty! They think he’s privileged. Privileged! He hunted and ate squirrel for dinner! Hatred for Billy for whatever reason is all over the Internet, where people in chat rooms are seething over his very existence. He doesn’t go out looking for comment boards that call him an asshole; he just finds them. Here’s how it happens, according to Billy: “I wonder what Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was.” Click. “Oh, it was in February. Interesting. Let’s see if there’s any more.” Click. “Oh, there’s no more about it, but there’s an ad: ‘Learn about the one food that you can’t live without.’ Oh, wait, I better read this.” Click. “Fuck! ‘Beets.’ Oh, no, wait, that’s another ad.” Click. “ ‘Billy Bob Thornton’s an asshole.’ ” His wife, Connie, tries to soothe him when this happens. She reminds him that the people who comment are imbeciles, that he should be above reading them, that he’s plenty validated in his profession and in his world. And maybe this would work, maybe, if there weren’t already critics out there—God, the critics. Don’t bring up the critics. The critics are going to ruin Bad Santa 2 for him. They have to, he thinks. No matter its merits, critics are mandated to hate sequels. “ ‘Oh, my God, did you see Joe Dirt 2? It’s atrocious.’ Who gives a shit? Then don’t go see it. Don’t write about it, you know? You take away people’s right to like what they want to like by influencing people who are very easily influenced.” (For the record, Bad Santa 2 is somehow every bit as good as its predecessor at provoking surprise choke/snort laughter.) He sits back. We’re now in the back room of the bus, where he and Teddy and J.D. were going to assemble to finish one of the songs before recording time. Now that he doesn’t write movies anymore, his songs are how he channels his southern-lit inspirations into some kind of art form. He writes songs about people on death row, fatherless children, gruesome murders. He writes songs about what he’s seen. But now he can’t concentrate because he’s thinking about critics. Critics. Why do critics exist, anyway? He thinks critics should only talk about movies they like and politely decline to write anything about movies they don’t. “I would only write about the ones you do like because that’s helpful. I don’t understand a critic thinking they are responsible for warning the world about this atrocity.” This world of calling people out makes no sense to him. “Why do we live in a society that wants to get people?” On the TV a leopard eats an animal we can’t identify. He hates that everything is a competition. He hates reality TV. Why do there have to be cupcake wars? Can’t you just bake and feed people? But critics are only doing their job, he knows that. Don’t miss his point: that these are the little things that chip away at

someone’s will to do good work, to open your heart and to share what it’s seen. Nobody can just let you create anymore. Forget the critics—think of the executives. He does. In 2000, he adapted Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, with a score he loved and a running time of just under three hours. Harvey Weinstein wasn’t having it—he had to cut the movie down to a paltry 116 minutes, a movie that barely made sense at that length, according to Billy. This was after, he says, his financial backers tried to force him to cast white actors in the Mexican roles. This was after they destroyed his beautiful and spare electric-guitar score with something The New York Times called “a tasteful blend of mariachi, norteño, and western swing (among other things),” which “covers the movie like wall-to-wall carpeting. Once or twice, it would be good to contemplate the vastness of the desert landscape in silence.” The movie flopped. No one has ever seen Billy’s cut.

His phobias are storied: He is afraid of antique furniture. He’s afraid of Komodo dragons. (“Why wouldn’t you be afraid of a Komodo dragon? It’s a dragon. It’s a dinosaur.”) He tried again in 2012 with Jayne Mansfield’s Car, a multi-generational family drama, and that flopped, too. “Nobody saw it,” he says. “Nobody cared.” By then, the wave of indie appreciation that had gotten him financing on Sling Blade was long over. And since then, he’s just out. He can’t have his heart broken anymore. He can’t abide people telling him what to do or how to express himself. At least with acting, they can’t change the way you said something. At least with his own band, no one’s in charge but him. He’s not going to beg. He doesn’t want to be where he’s not wanted. “I never was the kind of guy who if somebody didn’t want me I’d press the issue, you know what I mean? Like, if a girl broke up with me when I was in high school, I wasn’t the guy who drove by her house and threw paint balloons at it or something. I was done.” The studio is almost ready. Billy goes in and sits with Teddy and J.D. and puts the finishing touches on a song called “Here She Comes,” which sounds like it’s about a woman who keeps recurring in Billy’s life, but what it’s actually about is a tornado. • • • 3. E V E R Y N I G H T O N the bus, after the per-

formance, after the fielding of the inane questions by clueless and well-meaning fans, the Boxmasters participate in their end of what is known as “the nightly ass-chewing.” They’ll be sitting, delighting in the details of the musical event they just emerged from, and one phone will go o≠, then another, then another. It’s the wives. They’ll each pick it up, and it will go from smooth “Hi, honey, I miss you” to something that sounds more like “I can—well if you’ll—let me talk—if you just let me talk, I’ll tell you, I’ll explain it to


you—I didn’t fucking say that. No, before I left I specifically told you it’s in the garage. I told you exactly where it was.” They all understand. They left their wives holding the bag. I suggest they maybe text a “good night” and avoid the confrontation, but Billy says it wouldn’t work. “It’ll just mean a bigger ass-chewing the next day.” But here’s a secret: Billy cracks jokes about the nightly ass-chewing, but in fact, he sneaks o≠ often to his co∞n-womb to FaceTime with Connie, and their 12-year-old daughter, Bella—his fourth child and the crazy-cute, crazy-smart apple of his eye—at just about every opportunity. Connie is the sixth wife Billy has taken in his short 61 years on this earth, and he doesn’t like confirming that. Yes, she’s his sixth wife. Yes, there were five before her. But he didn’t marry her when he fell in love with her because he felt he’d finally found the absolute one, and he didn’t want her to be a number. “I didn’t want her to be called number six. You know?” Now they have Bella, and in 2014, for her sake, they thought maybe they’d make their union o∞cial, as if his tattoo of Bella’s name and his tattoo of Connie’s name down his spine wasn’t o∞cial enough. Maybe it wasn’t. He has two tattoos of his fifth wife’s name, Angelina Jolie. One is still right there on his leg, with no heroic measures to cover it up. The other is on his arm, and covered with an angel. “See, it’s just resting there,” he says. “You can still see the name.” Billy and Angie had a great relationship, really: You always remember the first person whose blood you drained and carried in a locket around your neck. You always remember the first person who gnawed on your face while some poor red-carpet reporter tried to get you to say something semi-freaky and so you said, “We fucked in the car on the way here.” (Youngsters: YouTube it.) So there were no problems in that department. The problem was, he says, “I never felt good enough for her.” She was always going o≠ to meet with the U.N. people or the president or the adoption agencies, and he just wanted to stay home and watch baseball. Still, that was okay. What wasn’t okay was that they’d get invited to George Lucas’s house or something, “and I’m real uncomfortable around rich and important people.” He doesn’t really know which fork to use; he doesn’t know how to act fancy. But also, and here was the thing, he doesn’t really want to know which fork to use or how to act fancy. “I like how I am.” He didn’t want to have conversations about how the restaurant in the lodge at the resort has gone downhill so let’s all go to Idaho instead next year. He and Angie are still friends, though, he says. They talk every few months, she’s just so busy with the kids and work and the many houses in the many countries, but the minute they connect it’s like old times (minus phlebotomy and face gnawing). Connie is far more his speed. She’s a homebody, just like him, and Bella is homeschooled, so when Billy’s not working, he gets to be at the house with them. Sometimes they drive around and listen to pop music together—he likes to hear what Bella’s listening to, and he thinks the messages in all the Christina Perri– Taylor Swift stu≠ these days are good and empowering—but when his anxiety acts up, he prefers to be at home.

His phobias are a storied thing: He doesn’t like swimming. He is afraid of antique furniture. He’s afraid of Komodo dragons. (“Why wouldn’t you be afraid of a Komodo dragon? It’s a dragon. It’s a dinosaur.”) He’s afraid of silverware. He’s afraid of Benjamin Disraeli’s hair (I shit you not). He puts his hand over his phone before he shuts it o≠, because it’s Bella’s picture on the screen and he thinks he is summoning harm for her if he ever causes the screen to go black right there in front of his eyes. A lot of living with Billy involves helping to manage his anxiety. There’s a channel on cable called DOGTV, and it’s for dogs; dog owners leave it on while they’re away. I’ve seen it. It contains really nutso psychedelic images of rainbows, but also just some footage of dogs sni∞ng each other’s undercarriages. Someone who is really tapped into the whole canine psyche came up with it— dogs are mesmerized by it. So is Billy Bob Thornton. When Billy gets anxious, he sits with his Cavalier King Charles spaniel on his lap, and he tries to ride the current of DOGTV. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the action on the screen stops and his dog gets antsy, and then Billy gets antsy, and he wanders into the kitchen and asks the Alexa cylinder to play some of what he calls “massage” music, like you’d hear at a spa, and it calms him down, even though he doesn’t really like that kind of music. He and Bella used to watch My Little Pony together, and she grew out of that, but recently he longed to see it again and searched for it and found another My Little Pony, an updated tweeny kind of version, and they started watching it together. He’s been thinking about and relating to one particular multi-episode arc lately. In Ponyville, everyone has cutie marks, which are kind of like tribal tattoos on a horse’s hip—Applejack lives on an apple farm, so she has three apples on her hip. But Starlight Glimmer creates this new village where everyone instead has cutie marks that are equal signs, like: =. I’ll let Billy take it from here: “This was amazing because the Mane Six ponies, who are the stars of the show, they go out there because Celestia, who runs Equestria, she will tell Twilight Sparkle she needs to go somewhere, but she doesn’t tell her why.” Bear with him, it’s worth it, I promise. “So anyway, suddenly they get captured by them and told that they have to remove their cutie marks and get equal signs. But they said, you know what? No. So Fluttershy, who is my favorite because she kind of talks like Marilyn Monroe, says, ‘Oh, yes.’ ” (He says this like Marilyn Monroe.) “Fluttershy acts like she wants to become a member, you know? And so they give her the cutie-mark equal-sign stamp and everything. And then she notices something, like it rains, and it washes o≠ Starlight Glimmer’s equal sign, and she’s got her own cutie mark. So she’s like a Jim Jones cult, you know, right?” Su∞ce it to say that Billy considers these to be essential lessons for his daughter: Don’t be like the phonies. Don’t go looking to homogenize everyone like Starlight Glimmer. Wear your own cutie mark. It’s yours. And when he can do this for his daughter—focus on ways to bring the world into focus for her—that does his anxiety more good than all the spa music and DOGTV in the world.

He can trace the OCD back to his Arkansas childhood, when he’d watch the clock and feel the knot of fear snowballing as he anticipated his father’s homecoming. His father would yell and hit and terrorize the family—Dwight Yoakam’s character in Sling Blade was a depiction of Billy’s father, as was Mr. Woodcock, as was Hank in Monster’s Ball. And Billy would begin to count to 100 in the three or four minutes before his father was expected at the door, and if he could do that nine times before he heard the car in the driveway, everything would be okay. When he was 6, a man was killed by a hitand-run in front of his house, and he ran outside in his Roy Rogers pajamas to see the body and heard a neighbor say, “Oh, it’s just a damned n——.” He later worked for the highway department, cleaning up after car accidents; he’s still haunted by the grisly things he saw there. “I’ve been traumatized to the point where I’ll never come back from it.” His mother is a psychic—his greatgrandmother had the gift, and so did his younger brother Jimmy—and when you are prone to magical thinking like Billy is, every impulse you have feels like a premonition. When Billy was in his 20s, he woke up one night with his heart racing, and he looked over at Jimmy in the bed next to him and Jimmy appeared to be dead. A minute later he shook it o≠—his brother was fine. But years later, when Billy was 33 and Jimmy was 30, Jimmy died suddenly from ventricular fibrillation, from his heart racing. Billy realizes now that that night had been a vision. His mother agrees; she told Billy she’d known she was going to lose Jimmy young all her life. After that, Billy never again let anyone tell him his thoughts and fears were outlandish. And so he sits in his home in Los Angeles, enacting the only behaviors that will help fend o≠ the utter destruction of his world, feeling validated in his anxieties because he knows they’re the truth.

They called that sound modbilly, and they made a midcentury logo and called themselves the Boxmasters, which means they who are in charge of a woman’s genitals. By day’s end at the recording studio, they’d finished all three songs; the tracks just needed some finishing touches. After midnight, as we board the bus, we’re all still humming the lyrics and melody of one of the songs—I think I hear you crying sometimes, or maybe just sighing sometimes / It’s probably the wind, probably just the wiiiiiind— which you’d think was a sad love song, but it’s actually about a man on death row and the woman he killed, who still haunts him to this day. • • • 4. W E A R R I V E I N D O T H A N the next day

and park in a lot that is home to both a shack that sells boiled peanuts and “produce” as well as a roughneck bar called Cowboys. Kim, the merch guy, informs me that a man inside NOVEMBER






at the bar told a joke that was so disgusting, he can’t bring himself to repeat it because I am a lady and this joke might literally hurt me. There are men with mullet ponytails—“a coonskin cap,” Kirk calls those—drinking at the bar at 9:30 a.m., almost 12 hours before showtime. There’s no Wi-Fi. It’s terrifying. The Boxmasters, fronted by Billy Bob Thornton, began as an opening act for Billy Bob Thornton and his tour band, which was also fronted by Billy Bob Thornton. Take that in for a minute: The Boxmasters are a band conceived to open up for themselves. Solo Billy did mostly rock songs—lyrically edgy love songs, like the one where Billy whispers to a woman for two minutes to hurry on up because he’s wearing her pink underwear right now and

What people don’t ever seem to understand is that he’s Bad Santa in a way that Cameron Diaz has never been and never will be Bad Teacher. getting turned on as hell—but he started really liking the sound that his opening band made: It was a unique mixture of British invasion and hillbilly country. They called that sound modbilly, and they dressed up like the Beatles in skinny suits with skinny ties, and they made a pointy midcentury logo and they called themselves the Boxmasters, which means they who are in charge of a woman’s genitals. They made records and eventually he decided to dump himself and focus solely on the Boxmasters. In Kansas City, fans screamed “Sign my tits!” from the audience during the show. In Emporia, a drunk guy raised his hand and it was so weird that Billy just called on him, and the guy said, “What are you even doing here?” And Billy said, “I don’t fucking know.” He called the guy onstage and they sat at the edge of it and the guy showed him he could eat his own foot like a corn on the cob. They ended up singing “You Are My Sunshine.” In Knoxville, this girl in the front row put her head in her hands and looked so glum, and the band took that as a challenge and poured all their attention and charisma onto her, hoping she’d lighten up and stop killing their collective performing buzz, but she never stopped looking like the most miserable person in the world, and finally Billy stopped and said, “Hon, what can we do? What can we do to make you smile?” And she said, “Sorry. I broke my leg and I’m out of pain meds.” So the girl moved to the side and they continued. All of this is fine with Billy. The bus is the place for him—even when he’s annoyed, even when he wakes up and gives us the finger before he takes his morning piss in his plaid pajama pants. What people don’t ever seem to understand is that he’s Bad Santa in a way that Cameron Diaz has never been and never will be Bad Teacher. He plays Bad Santa as the abused child he was all grown up, angry and lashing out. What was Cameron Diaz bringing to Bad Teacher? And, considering that, considering the authenticity and the originality, how is it okay that Bad Teacher grossed a bazillion times more than Bad Santa? 162




But here’s another secret: Sometimes, when no one is looking, he’ll start to write a screenplay, and he’ll get really excited about it. But then he’ll remember that nobody cares and he’ll stop. Well, he’ll kind of stop. When I asked to see the Bad Santa 2 shooting script so that I could present you with a couple of the grossest and most amazing lines in it, I found out the script would do me no good—the best lines in the movie were ones he massaged during shooting. So he’ll do that, but he won’t put his name on anything. Suzy and Dale don’t want to make his movie. Suzy and Dale don’t want to see his movie. They don’t get it. No one does. “I’m just going to be in the Boxmasters,” he says. “I’m just going to be in a band and be an actor. That’s it. It takes too much out of you to write a movie and direct it and spend, you know, a year and a half of your life on it and then have people either shit on it or not see it. Maybe if I make it to 85 or something, I’ll sit around and write a novel.” So you’ll forgive him, but he’s just out. For the Starlight Glimmers of the world have won. They have created a society in which everyone is equal and everyone is the same and everyone watches superhero movies, the same ones with di≠erent actors. And because we were all exposed to one thing, we became one thing and we wanted one thing. We are all Starlight Glimmer now, fucking missionary like a metronome, back and forth, back and forth, feeling nothing new and wanting nothing scary. We have lost our right to have art. Billy isn’t ready to get o≠ the bus yet. He wants to have the pre-show Meet and Greet on board instead, maybe avoid the drunken Cowboys crowd—too drunk, too country even for Billy—till he can’t anymore. He sits with J.D. and Teddy at the front as Diva takes pictures of them with their excited fans: two overdressed young women, a local afternoon radio host, a man in a shirt that says god, guns & trump. Just as they’re about to leave the bus to go onstage, Diva stands and holds her knitting up against her, looking in one of the mirrors on the back wall of the bus. “I think it wants to be a dress,” Diva says. The day before, it wanted to be a bolero. “No,” says Billy. “It’s like a vest.” “A vest,” Diva says, considering. “A vest.” “Yes,” says Billy. “It wraps around and then just hangs down.” “A vest,” Diva says. It’s decided. Billy changes out of his tiny jeans into a pair of tiny pants that Diva has presented him with. Man, how the world can take the heart right out of you. So let’s end it here, just like a real, uncut Billy Bob Thornton movie, no happy ending, no comforting resolve, no real hope for a better future. Let’s end it honest. What would be the point in hope? He knows too much—he knows all the disappointments, all the petty horseshit. Soon the tour will be over, and he’ll have to return to a world that doesn’t make sense. He’ll have to steel himself for the stupid comments and aggressive questions that will accompany his next tour, which is when he does press for Bad Santa 2, which is a movie that seems like it’s about a crazy, mean drunk but is actually about a guy who can’t catch a fucking break. taffy brodesser-akner is a gq correspondent.

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mimes the words sort of floating in one ear and out the other, then boomeranging around and rolling o≠ his back—“in this ear, out this ear. I just don’t pay no mind to it. It’s just something I’m so used to.” But what does it feel like to know that’s how people perceive him, even if he doesn’t perceive himself that way? “I just don’t care. A lot of people don’t really know me. All they know is what they see on TV. So I don’t mind it. Because I play basketball di≠erent than how I am o≠ the court. When I’m on the court, everybody thinks I’m angry and I’m mad. I’m fine with that. But that’s why I think some people are confused until they see me o≠ the court. They’ll run into me and be like: ‘Oh, I thought you were gonna be mad.’ But why would I be mad?” Does the characterization wear on him? “For me, I feel like, if they’re talking about you, then you’re doing something right. When they stop talking about you, that’s when you should worry.” That’s when you go full-time fashion designer. “Exactly! That’s when you should worry,” he says. “But I don’t worry at all.” • • •

Fash-un Y O U C A N S E E an extension of Westbrook’s

Why not? mentality in his sartorial decisions. In his clothes, Westbrook evinces his singular self-possession—his special vision, his chameleonic openness, his complete lack of regard for what anyone else thinks. Sometimes he wears a T-shirt and jeans. Sometimes he shows up in eyeglasses without lenses. Sometimes he pulls on what looks to be a quilted potato sack. There are no limits to his choices in clothes, because he has money and exposure without constraints, and designers know there’s a good chance he’ll wear what they mail him (he doesn’t repeat looks, he needs options—it’s math). His resoluteness in his own vision, his tunneled self-assurance, is so pure that it edges up to a sort of deeply beneficial psychosis. Just a little bit broken from reality. Which is maybe what people mean when they say Westbrook plays crazy, dresses crazy. “And that’s why a stylist, for me, is just a waste of money,” Westbrook says. “It would take away from my creative side. And the most important thing about fashion is being creative and being able to have your own ideas.” As a professional basketball player in the 2010s, one of the things you have to do is decide whether you’re going to hire a stylist to make your fashion choices for you. If you want to keep up in a league that’s gotten serious about clothes—and you’re not Westbrook—it’s wise to seek professional help. “Sometimes you can tell who stylists are working with, because


a lot of guys will start dressing the same. But I don’t pay much mind either way.” At Barneys, I watch him recite his varying sizes for several di≠erent brands (without consulting an Excel spreadsheet or anything). He has recall for specific outfits—again, he aims to never wear the same combination of clothes more than once—in much the same way basketball players can recall a given play from years before. And he’s always on the lookout for statement pieces that he can parcel out through the season (instantly relegating those he’s worn to the giveaway pile). When he can, he makes a point to squeeze in front-row appearances at Fashion Weeks. New York. Milan. Paris. “I like making sure I’m there, because a lot of that stu≠ on the runways never makes it to the stores,” he says. “And I’m able to see, like, di≠erent colors, how they go together, di≠erent color palettes, di≠erent fabrics, how they go with each other, how they link, how they flow, how they look on people.” He creates his own collections for Barneys, though he’s interested in more than just clothes—he’s at his most animated when talking about design of any sort. He loves traveling, not because of the sites but because of the exposure to design. In hotels. In restaurants. From away games in Minneapolis to sponsorship obligations in Hong Kong. “I get ideas from everything. Just from everyday walking around. Looking at people. Just from everything. I see colors, women, men—traveling, I get ideas from all over the place, just because I think that’s the best way to do it,” he says. “Like the carpets in hotels. How it works with the walls. The artwork. I had a great idea when I was in China this summer, this thing going on on the street, and I was just like, Man, I’m going to design something exactly like that. I can’t tell you at the moment. But for my next collection, when I do it, it’s gonna be just like that. To me, it’s just exciting, ’cause I’m able to see di≠erent things and come back.… I can’t draw, but someone who can draw, I’m able to explain to someone exactly what I want to do.”

time spent worrying about a scoreboard to a game no one else knows is being played. Imagine if all those forces could be bagged up and cinched with a twisty tie and sealed inside your brain and body for only you to expend. The world might perceive you as a little closed o≠. A little secretive, a little untrusting, maybe even a little crazy. But, holy shit, would you be good at being you. At doing what you do. Conditions change, teammates turn over, trying circumstances present themselves. But because you’ve been Why not?–ing your way here your entire life, it’s no big thing. This Thunder season could go a lot of di≠erent ways. Westbrook could marshal a balanced o≠ense, spreading the ball around to a dozen di≠erent scoring threa— Just kidding! Russell Westbrook is going to touch the ball every possession and drive into three-on-ones and shoot more often than he should and possibly lead the league in scoring, and maybe in assists and even rebounds, and at the very least triple-doubles, because he is a triple-double threat like we haven’t seen since Magic, if not Oscar Robertson. Maybe he’ll even average a triple-double, like Oscar did. He will run up and down the court

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• • •

MVP D U R I N G L A S T Y E A R ’ S conference finals, it

seemed that Westbrook was playing as though he were finally sick of hearing all the Steph Steph Steph business of the last couple of years. I told Westbrook that he was the favorite for league MVP, above even James and Curry—but that I had suspected he’d maybe felt he was the league’s best player for a while. That the Steph Steph Steph chorus might even be part of what’s pushed him to that place. “The thing about me you have to know is, I don’t care what other people are doing. I. Don’t. Care. I’m so busy worried about how I can improve, I just don’t have time to worry about what any other person is doing.” I was asking about how he feels he stacks up against the best players, though I realized his answer could have applied to nearly any subject related to the opinions of others. Media. Fans. Coaches. Rivals. I keep thinking about that gesture—the in-one-ear-out-theother-roll-o≠-the-back hybrid of disregard. Imagine being so una≠ected by other people that you were able to direct every moment, every thought, into self-improvement. All that collateral energy lost to FOMO and envy and the validation of strangers. All that precious

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(3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS® (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS





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110,709 109,782 907,102 916,355 215,887 213,000 1,122,989 1,129,355 87.80% 88.02% 57,447 50,810 853,840 857,383 964,549




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for 45 minutes a game, because, on top of everything else, he is a conditioning outlier who seems legitimately allergic to exhaustion. (“Ya, I know,” he says with a laugh. “People tell me that all the time. The thing is that I just keep playing. I just do what I know how to do: rebound, run, steal, go, just keep going till…”) We will hear a lot about Russell Westbrook. But will the Thunder win? Probably not as often. A nuisance to title contenders rather than title contenders themselves, more like. It’s up to more forces than just Westbrook’s will. Which must kill him. Because here is a person whose baseless childhood conviction—I’m going to be the best—has somehow carried him to the top of the mountain. Who’s somehow known all his life that the only thing he’d ever be able to fully control is Russell Westbrook. Who knows no better way to better his team than to better himself. “It’s a new situation,” he says, “but my mind-set stays the same. The best thing I can do is stay true to myself. If I do what I know how to do, everything else will follow.” daniel riley is a gq senior editor.

A D D IT IO N A L C R E D IT S Pages 148–149. In back, clockwise from bottom left, 1. Suit and tie (also on page 151, center): Nautica. Shirt (on all): Eton. Shoes: Tom Ford. 2. Suit (also page 151, far right): Burberry. Tie: Calvin Klein. 3. Suit and tie (also page 151, far left): Calvin Klein. Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo Tramezza Made to Order. 4. Her heels: Manolo Blahnik. 5. Her jewelry: Mikimoto. 6. Suit: Hart Schaffner Marx. Tie: The Tie Bar. 7. Suit and tie: Dolce & Gabbana. 8. Suit and tie (also page 151, second from left): Tallia Orange. Shoes: Christian Louboutin.

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You know—the freedoms, the opportunities, the diversity, due process, the Constitution, the general, albeit slow and stumbling, progress forward to something better? Any of that stuff? Do you like anything besides rich people? Because if you’ve answered “yes” and you haven’t yet done something to stop this bad remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, either hop to it or be prepared to kiss the stuff you like good-bye. Donald Trump threatens all of it, from your right to walk down the street as whoever you are and with whomever you choose, to the world economy. He has the psychological profile of every dictator who ever lived. And he’s orange. When we took this photo, I joked that if Trump won, this would be used as evidence in my trial. My editor said, “You won’t get a trial.” Yep. Sums it up, pretty much.

G R O O M I N G : K A R L A H I R K A L E R AT N E X T A R T I S T S

Former political-television host KEITH OLBERMANN is shepherding America through the final days of this election as host of’s special video series The Closer. Here, he makes one final plea







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