SOLO MIO: ONE STRANGE TAKE ON LOVE By Sloane Crosley
SHIA L ABEOUF CONFRONTS HIMSELF and HIS DEMONS
M A N AT HI S B E ST A P R I L ’1 8
Can We Talk About #MeToo? A Q & A with David Schwimmer
A Very Raw— and Real—Interview By Eric Sullivan
THE FILTHIEST BOOK Ever Written
The Twisted Saga of France’s Most Notorious Manuscript By Joel Warner
ESQUIRE Entertains Part 1
Yeah, you got a strong grilling and drinks game. But how’s your crudités, tough guy? By The Editors
How to ROCK the NEW SPRING SUIT Style
It Starts with Killer Shades (or, if You’re Shia, Two Apples)
this Way In SLICE IS RIGHT
You may not have lusted after a meat slicer before, but then you see a Berkel and things change. The Dutch company, founded in Rotterdam in 1898 by a butcher named Wilhelmus Adrianus Van Berkel, is perhaps most famous for its elaborate manual flywheel machines used to slice expensive hunks of prosciutto in restaurants. This electric model, the 250 ($989; theberkelworld.com), retains the standout style in a smaller, easierto-use package. You’ll still need to provide the cured meats, however. For more gear (and recipes) to entertain your guests with, turn to page 58. —Adrienne Westenfeld
CONTENTS D E PA R T M E N T S
The Big Bite Arcade-game consoles get a modern makeover; is game meat American gastronomy’s future?; unfollow your way to happiness. The return of tassled loafers; smarter scents to wear; a suit you can throw in the laundry.
By Dwight Garner Lessons from the author’s grandfather— a man who confronted each day as if it were a barn that needed raising.
Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb on owning your own risk, his allergy to borrowing, and true financial freedom. By Adam Grant Questlove wants you to start listening again. By Tom Chitty with Alex Gregory This is the future of your neighborhood. Q Commuter watch ($155) by Fossil; fossil.com. A pril 2 0 18_E s q u i re 11
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A B R I E F M O N T H LY E X PA N S I O N O N A TO P I C E X P LO R E D E L S E W H E R E I N T H E I S S U E ( S E E PAG E 5 8 )
F E AT U R E S
The neutrality of this information is disputed. And rightfully so. By Drew Dernavich
The carrot, celery’s eccentric cousin, is a vegetable known for producing the feeling that
Spring’s coming. So invite friends over and follow this guide on how to be a master host.
you’re definitely going to eat something tastier and a lot less healthy later on. Because of its color and texture, it is an essential ingredient in
The Sadist’s Revenge
It’s Time to . . . Rock Your Suit
The Chess Player Stripped Bare
salads, soups, and the Jolly Green Giant’s turds. The part of the carrot most commonly eaten is the orange-colored taproot, which, like Reddit users, is generally unattractive and grows up without exposure to sunlight. The orange hue is a product of beta-carotene, a pigment that is regularly cucked by
GUY FIERI’S TOP CARROT RECIPES BUTT-CHUGGING CARROT JUICE WHILE LISTENING TO TOOL
alpha-carotene. Carrots may also
Carrots are a popular element of crudités, which is French for “I’ll just grab something from the supermarket on the way.”
be purple or yellow, if they are trying Although the word carrot derives the vegetable actually originated in the Middle East, where a baby
ONE BABY CARROT MARINATED WITH AN ENTIRE SUCKLING PIG
carrot was discovered after being
FLAMING BACONWRAPPED CARROT STABBED INTO ANTHONY BOURDAIN’S EYE
of the benefits of eating carrots
abandoned on a church doorstep dressed in swaddling clothes. Some regularly are improved eyesight, the satisfaction of knowing that nobody else will want to share your snack
with you, and the ability to outwit Elmer Fudd every single
By Eric Sullivan Shia LaBeouf’s brave, brutal search for career redemption—and his soul.
By Joel Warner The most profane novel ever written is at the center of France’s biggest fraud case.
There’s no better way to raise your game than with a suit cut to move.
By Eve Babitz An account of the day Marcel Duchamp played chess with the author, an encounter that changed her life—and L. A.—forever.
to get back at their parents. from the Latin word for “doorstop,”
Let’s Take It Outside— Right Now!
Throw Some Suede
My Uncle, the ’70s Porn Star
There’s more than one kind of leather weather.
By Sloane Crosley Johnny Seeman was a legend in the preViagra, Boogie Nights–era porno business. The author goes in search of her lost uncle.
ON THE COVER SHIA LABEOUF PHOTOGRAPHED BY
MATTHEW BROOKES FOR ESQUIRE
because—you just came back from the dispensary, didn’t you?
Left: Suit by RRL; shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren. Right: Jacket and T-shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren; trousers by Fortela; boots by Visvim. Styling by Nick Sullivan. Casting by Emily Poenisch. Production by Kelsey Stevens for Kelsey Stevens Productions. Grooming by Kim Verbeck for the Wall Group. Prop styling by Robert Duran for Frank Reps. 12 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
Esquipedia contributors: Paul Noth and Jake Currie
time. In California, they are often described as being delicious
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angry that it took this long. How many people suffered in silence, too intimidated to report? How many were disbelieved and discredited when they found the courage to speak out? How many institutions remained silent for decades—paying off victims, protecting management, and ignoring the cries for reform? How many men and women, in the hundreds of thousands, were complicit? And how long would this have continued if not for the fact that some of the victims (a fraction of those victimized every day, all across the country) and perpetrators were famous? JF: What has been your impression of the way Hollywood has handled it all?
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
CAN WE TALK? As a magazine that lives and dies by the motto “Man at His Best,” Esquire is editorially compelled to steer straight into the cultural action of any topic that concerns the role of men in the world. How different this must have been when the subject was heroism or war, fatherhood or leadership, adventure or sports. Today the story that has engulfed us is sexual harassment and the many women who have been scarred by it. A terrible, inexcusable thing. Good or bad, or a human mixture of the two, if you’re like most men I know, you’re not talking, you’re listening. You’re also reading, and you’re thinking back on your own life, sifting the forgotten details for a buried wrong. Hearing the experiences of women is of critical importance in this moment. But at some point, it will also be important for those of us who have seen the wisdom of silence to have something to say about what it is we’ve learned, and how we—as in, men and women—might be able to keep things like this from happening anymore. With this in mind, I began to look for examples of men who have made the journey from listeners to activists on behalf of women, men who have become allies to emulate. One name that kept coming up was David Schwimmer, who became an anti-violence-against-women advocate in 2004, when he joined the board of directors of the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica. Last spring—months before the unmasking of Harvey Weinstein—Schwimmer produced That’s Harassment, a series of six short videos that capture the subtle ugliness of what male sexual misconduct in the workplace looks like. As I began to watch those PSAs and read about David’s informed point of view, I realized he’d be a great person with whom to have a conversation about how to have a conversation. Jay Fielden: What was your reaction, as someone who has long been fighting to expose sexual harassment as a pervasive injustice, when the whole thing burst onto the national stage last fall? David Schwimmer: My reaction was one of relief, exhilaration, heartbreak, and rage. This reckoning, this tidal wave of disclosures, is so long overdue that after my initial amazement, I realized how many generations of women had endured mistreatment, and I grew really 16 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
DS: It’s been admirable—women coming forward; standing in solidarity whether they are victims themselves or not (and the odds are most professional women have experienced some form of sexual harassment); reenergizing the #MeToo movement, which was created back in 2006 by Tarana Burke; and launching the TIME’S UP movement. I also humbly submit that our partnering with the National Women’s Law Center; the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network; the Ad Council; and the City of New York to release the That’s Harassment PSAs and short films is the exact kind of response that creative activists in the entertainment industry can offer. It was imperative to me that we offer real, practical solutions to companies and employers—the result of which is the digital toolkit they can find and download at NWLC .org/Thats-Harassment. Unfortunately, I also see many companies and individuals scrambling to cover their asses, lawyer up, craft carefully worded talking points, donate money to various organizations to offset bad behavior, and in general operate from a place of genuine confusion and terror. In any case, I don’t think any real change will occur until there are more women in positions of power everywhere—not just in Hollywood but across all business sectors and, most important, in government. JF: Men, meanwhile, still aren’t speaking, and some who have tried have been heavily criticized. How do we get a healthy conversation going? DS: The current atmosphere may be too contentious to achieve real progress. Yes, there will continue to be revelations about terrible individuals who are being exposed and purged from society—and that’s good. But real change, real reform, is difficult right now because most men are not going to come to the table when every word spoken is scrutinized and could result in them being pilloried. Men have to recognize that for a long time our opinions have dominated. We should expect criticism, but it should be responsible. What we need is to allow for context, and to recognize a spectrum of bad behavior. At the moment, because of the current climate, Al Franken is being lumped in with the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. This is a terrible— and horrifying—mistake. I am not excusing any individual’s inappropriate or criminal behavior here, just pointing out that there is a difference between these two men and their actions—and that difference is critical. We should not conflate all claims into one column of bad behavior. What concerns me is the frequent disregard of
“MEN HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT FOR A LONG TIME OUR OPINIONS HAVE DOMINATED,” SCHWIMMER SAYS. “WE SHOULD EXPECT CRITICISM, BUT IT SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE.”
ph otog ra ph: A l exe i H ay
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facts, context, evidence, and the rule of law. In this current climate, condemnation is swift and merciless. That’s another reason men are staying silent. JF: There are those who have compared aspects of the #MeToo movement to the blacklist. Of all the good that continues to come from exposing the criminal acts of bona fide monsters and rooting out the causes of sexism, I hear guys say that a bad date or a clumsy come-on isn’t something you should be destroyed for. What do you say to the men out there who might use this argument as an excuse to close their eyes and ears? DS: The phrase “witch hunt” has been used recently to describe the moment we’re in, mostly in private by both women and men, and there is a ring of truth to that. When I consider Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, what I think about most is what my reputation means to me. Like John Proctor, my name means everything to me. Now, with social media, leveling a claim against someone is exponentially worse. It’s easier, faster, more pervasive, and much more difficult to dispute. And if a person’s very livelihood relies on favorable publicity and perception, then a single story in this current climate—whether true or not—can totally destroy a career in the entertainment industry. I’m a celebrity. What’s to stop a woman I dated fifteen or twenty years ago from coming forward and claiming she “felt” I pressured her into sex? Or, worse, sexually assaulted her? The accusation alone could damage my reputation, my career, and completely undermine my work as a male advocate fighting for the rights of women and child victims of sexual assault for the last twenty years. And yet I feel somewhat powerless because of the current climate. This is why the phrase “witch hunt” has been invoked; innocent men feel defenseless. What we can do to make certain it doesn’t become a witch hunt is carefully and thoroughly investigate each claim. JF: You’ve spoken in the past about the hypersexualization of women, especially young ones, in the movie and advertising (and, yes, publishing) business. DS: I see hypocrisy in the entertainment industry when women with established careers who stand up for parity and equality don’t stand up against being objectified and sexualized in photo shoots for magazine covers and ads. I see hypocrisy among female executives, producers, and publicists overseeing campaigns for magazine shoots that feature these actresses and singers. I see hypocrisy when women—and men—in positions of power in publishing and advertising help perpetuate stereotypes yet call themselves feminists. And the fashion industry is one of the most destructive forces in the world for young girls and women. It panders to this country’s obsession with youth, beauty, sex, and perfection—and offers near-zero protection for the young men and women it employs. Did you know it is one of the only industries in the world that doesn’t have a union to protect models and fight for their rights? JF: If a guy has done something wrong, how should he make amends? DS: I assume we’re talking here about activity that was not criminal but inappropriate. Whether it’s been brought to your attention or you come to the conclu18 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
sion yourself, my advice would be to own up to it and apologize. Come clean, ask for forgiveness, assure the injured party it will never happen again, and then take practical steps to become more educated, enlightened, and aware.
A scene from The Boss, one of the six short films Schwimmer produced last spring—before the Weinstein story broke— to try to call attention to sexual harassment.
JF: To the reader out there who wants to know more and do more, what would you recommend? DS: Watch the short films we made on our official Facebook page, #ThatsHarassment. Then I’d check out the NWLC’s digital toolkit I mentioned. If they want to do even more, become an advocate at their workplace and donate to the NWLC or RAINN. One of the best things out there is Stanford University’s excellent The Essential Elements of Sexual Consent. I can imagine how some men find the new standards challenging to adhere to “in the heat of the moment.” Here’s the part that’s tricky, and that may have contributed to what happened with Aziz Ansari: “Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.” This requires the aggressor (usually the man) to read nonverbal cues throughout sexual activity, to determine when a woman is “into it” and when she’s not, even if she is not physically pushing him away or saying, “Stop.” This is why some men are protesting, “What am I supposed to be, a mind reader?” So I think we have a lot more work to do. JF: So much of what we’re talking about makes it clear this is a men’s issue, as Jackson Katz says, and all the more reason men need to be part of this conversation. DS: Look, men commit the vast majority of rapes, sexual assaults, and sexual harassment—so men have a special responsibility to hold both themselves and other men accountable for how they treat women and girls. Katz says, “Men have to think about what role they play and how they can use whatever platform of influence they have to make it unacceptable for men to act out in sexist and harmful ways. Not because they are nice guys, helping out the women, but because they have a responsibility as men in a sexist society. If they don’t speak out, and they don’t use whatever influence they have, then in a sense they are part of the problem.”
“I SEE HYPOCRISY WHEN WOMEN— AND MEN—IN POSITIONS OF POWER IN PUBLISHING AND ADVERTISING HELP PERPETUATE STEREOTYPES YET CALL THEMSELVES FEMINISTS.”
— Jay F I E L D E N
Calvin Klein 205W39NYC: Andy Warhol, Sandra Brant, 1971 ©/®/™ The Andy Warhol Foundation, Inc.
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SEKTION / VOXTORP kitchen
*Based on a 10'×10' kitchen
©Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2016
A dream kitchen should be a luxury that everyone can afford – a complete kitchen with a beautiful island, all the storage you’ll need, and unique solutions that ﬁt your budget. Because no matter what you do, who you are, or how much you make, you deserve to make the dream yours. SEKTION kitchen with VOXTORP light beige high-gloss drawer fronts, VOXTORP walnut effect doors, drawer fronts and MAXIMERA soft-closing drawers. SEKTION cabinet frames in white melamine foil. VOXTORP doors/drawers fronts in high-gloss foil ﬁnish and foil ﬁnish. MAXIMERA drawer in powder-coated steel and melamine foil. Shown with PERSONLIG quartz frosty carrina countertop with eased edges. IKEA-USA.com/kitchen Requires assembly. *The total price includes cabinets, fronts, drawers, door dampers, interior shelving, hinges, toe kicks, legs, and cover panels. Your choice of countertops, sinks, faucets, knobs and handles, appliances, and lighting sold separately. See IKEA store for limited warranty, country of origin and 10'×10' details. Valid in US stores only.
the Big Bite
A Cultural Guide to Just Enough of Everything
ART OF HAPPINESS
IS SOCIAL MEDIA CRUSHING YOU?
Maybe it’s time to UNFOLLOW Facebook and Twitter for a while By Steven Leckart
i l l u st ra t i o n: Pa b l o Delc a n
I drank the Kool-Aid, then chugged it—ad nauseam. I rocked Myspace after dabbling in Friendster. I posted pixelated selfies on Flickr, polished my résumé on LinkedIn, and joined Facebook when only college students were allowed. I had a blog, then a Tumblr. I once Yelped about my dentist. I joined Twitter in 2007, four years before the term tweet would be recognized by Merriam-Webster. When I first embraced social media, I had a hunch that these digital platforms would change the world for the better—“bring the world closer together,” as A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 2 1
Facebook’s mission statement boasts. The widespread sharing of information and political organizing powered the Arab Spring, fueled Obama’s 2008 campaign, and birthed the Numa Numa Guy. But there’s a considerable trade-off when the majority of us are consuming this stuff on a personal supercomputer that beeps and buzzes relentlessly, always refreshing and ready to auto-display more and more. I’ve experienced the vicious circle of mindlessly staring at my phone at all hours of the day, toggling between Twitter and Facebook, checking statuses, clicking links, and scrolling endless content. What once brought me joy was making me miserable. My compulsion was merciless—and Silicon Valley actually wants it that way. Last year, many former employees from tech behemoths like Facebook and Google confessed that these products are architected to “hijack” our brains. Companies intentionally manipulate weaknesses in human psychology, sucking us in with “likes” and heart emojis, luring us back with frequent updates and reminders because they want us to spend as much time on their sites as possible. And we’re complying in droves. A Bank of America study found that 71 percent of adults with a cell phone sleep with it by their bed. According to research firm Verto Analytics, the average teenager checks his or her phone 95 times a day, for a total of about nine hours—and that doesn’t even count talking. (Nine hours is nearly enough time to watch the last two seasons of Black Mirror.) And a recent Nielsen study revealed that Americans between the ages of 35 and 49 spend almost seven hours a week on social media. Unless we pull the dopamine drip and remember that great creativity happens when you have time to have a sustained thought, we’re all doomed. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” lamented Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, late last year. The money-hungry dude played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network has decided to call himself a “conscientious objector” of unscrupulous tech but is now worth $2.6 billion— all because at one point he and his buddies couldn’t have cared less about what they were doing to anyone’s brain. Monopolizing our
Three things you can always count on: 1) Death. 2) Taxes. 3) Clichés about death and taxes.
attention has made them all mountains of money. Kick the Remember last fall SMARTPHONE when Facebook admitHabit ted to posting more than Don’t want to 3,000 Russian-linked quit social media cold political ads? Not only turkey? Here’s did it spread fake news how to unplug gently. intended to mislead voters, but the $500 billion company got paid for it. GO GRAY Turn your phone’s screen I nuked my social black and white in settings accounts last year beand it becomes a lot less cause I want to refocus interesting. my time and attention. But committing social seppuku isn’t just about DOWNLOAD MOMENT It’s an iOS app (inthemoment improving my own life. .io) that monitors your screen It’s also about extendtime. You can even set limits. ing a figurative middle finger to every techie who is exploiting us for KILL THE NOTIFICATIONS profit. Although I’m Especially those for live done checking my feeds, videos, which induce FOMO. I haven’t checked out. I subscribe to a few daily PUT IT AWAY newspapers, which I Research shows that even read on my phone during the presence of a phone can the week and in print on make you less engaged. Sundays. I stream podcasts and peruse monthly magazines. I’ve subscribed to a handful of email newsletters from those magazines. And you know what? I’m no less informed than when I was all up on Twitter and Facebook. I’m just not habitually refreshing for the latest news—or looking to a wide network of “friends” to point me to the good stuff. I let it come to my in-box and mailbox, where I decide to open everything at my leisure.
Roll with it: Not-Another-Bill’s handsome backgammon set is one you can keep rolled up in your weekender bag without thinking twice about it. Constructed from canvas, the board is screen-printed with a midcentury motif suggestive of classic sunburst clocks, and it comes complete with resin counters and dice. Bust it out when needed and you’ll be the one who saved the delayed flight. $56; store.moma.org
22 April 2018
illustration: Ben Schwartz
the Big Bite
the Big Bite
BORN TO WILD
Is GAME MEAT the future of American gastronomy? By Jeff Gordinier
“Oh, there’s a big one,” Iliana Regan says. She’s standing at the edge of a pond holding a long stick that’s capped with a three-pronged spike, like Poseidon’s trident. Night has fallen, but Getty Sikora, a childhood friend of Regan’s, illuminates her way with a flashlight. With a quick flick, Regan plunges the shaft into the muddy fringes of the pond. When she lifts it up, there is a plump bullfrog pierced and wriggling at the end. She drops the frog into a bag with a bunch of its amphibian brethren and we set out to find more. continued 24 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
illu stration : Bet h Hoe c ke l
Â© 2018 Tyson Foods, Inc.
the Big Bite
2 6 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
Charles can be found hunting for and cooking wild partridge and moose. Over in Copenhagen, the tireless René Redzepi has launched the Vild Mad initiative, which is meant to educate Danish children (and their parents) about the edible flora that surrounds them. “So many southern chefs are sneaking wild game into nightly specials and as one-night stands,” Bancroft says. “Customers love knowing that they are getting something special that they can’t talk about.” The reason they can’t talk about it—and the reason, sadly, that a meatoriented American version of Vild Mad probably remains a long way off—is that serving genuine wild game in a U. S. restaurant is against the law. (When you order quail or venison, what you’re getting was raised in a controlled environment and inspected by the government.) As a result, a lot of good eats go to waste. “Louisiana has allowed certain meat processors to inspect and process trapped feral hogs and serve them in restaurants,” Bancroft says. A similar program has been established in Texas. Could change be on the way? For her part, Iliana Regan has built a reputation at Elizabeth thanks to her pioneering connection to the wild. She might pass along the sautéed legs of those gigged golf-course frogs to a few regulars at the restaurant; her friend Getty Sikora once gave her a raccoon. “I made a bolognese with it,” she tells me. “Most people were into eating it. Nothing happened. I just keep serving whatever I want.” Amen.
By Adrienne Westenfeld The Sparsholt Affair By Alan Hollinghurst Call Me by Your Name meets Evelyn Waugh in a gorgeous novel about the generationslong aftershocks of a youthful tryst. (Knopf, $29) American Histories: Stories By John Edgar Wideman A new book of short stories probing big matters— race, family, mortality—in singular style. (Scribner, $26) The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath By Leslie Jamison The Empathy Exams author is back with a provocative meditation on addiction. (Little, Brown, $30)
On Grand Strategy By John Lewis Gaddis A sweeping analysis of strategy over the centuries from “the dean of Cold War historians.” (Penguin Press, $26)
The Corporation By T. J. English The long-awaited followup to English’s epic Havana Nocturne reads like a deeply researched real-life Scarface. (William Morrow, $29)
Soon By Andrew Santella Santella reveals the hidden benefits of procrastination. Why change tomorrow when you don’t have to change at all? (Dey Street, $26) In the Enemy’s House By Howard Blum For fans of Ben Macintyre, the true story of a linguist and an FBI agent who teamed up to bring down a ring of Soviet spies. (Harper, $30)
illustration: Joe McKendry
It’s the weirdest hunting expedition I’ve ever been on, not least because it takes place on a suburban golf course about an hour south of Chicago, where Regan, one of the most creatively distinctive chefs of her generation at 38, presides over two restaurants, Elizabeth and Kitsune. Regan grew up NICE CATCH on a farm in Indiana, and she has The Komodo dragon in “The Freshman.” brought me out here for a nocturNot as tasty as, say, nal frog-gigging romp on the links antelope or rabbit. to illustrate an ethos that has been close to her heart for years: There’s good stuff to eat everywhere. No, really—everywhere. Even a few yards from your favorite putting green. “We need the tonic of wildness,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote, and that was a good century or so before the onset of Lunchables and chicken fingers. Over the years, we’ve devolved from explorers and homesteaders into a nation of squeamish schoolchildren, averse to eating anything that might carry a tinge of buckshot or blood. Chefs like Regan, though, are standing by to nudge us out of our shrink-wrapped comfort zones— and to blaze new trails of deliciousness along the way. Last summer, while attending the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, I dropped into a conference room to catch a presentation by two culinary stars of the South, Erik Niel of Easy Bistro in Chattanooga and David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Alabama. Their talk was a revelation for me, largely because Niel and Bancroft gave the audience a smorgasbord of intensely flavorful pâtés, terrines, and charcuteries made from an assortment of wild game birds (pheasant, duck, grouse) that they had shot themselves. Bancroft, who is known for growing figs and peaches and corn in the parking lot of his restaurant, and who once served David Chang a tartare of deer’s heart, ruined my On point: Esquire’s own future Thanksgivings by slicing Nora Ephron famously wrote, “I would send you a up a moist breast of wild turkey bouquet of newly sharpened that made a supermarket Butpencils if I knew your terball seem like an industrial name and address.” Follow sponge in comparison. Ephron’s lead with a Look around and it’s not hard personalized set from CW to see an intensifying fascination Pencil Enterprise, with wild food. Recently, I had the available in a rainbow of rich chance to dine at Saison, a restaucolors and hand-stamped rant in San Francisco that boasts names. $11.50 to $25; three Michelin stars. The meal, cwpencils.com which can easily cost about $1,000 for two people, crested with a T-bone of antelope. In these past couple years, chefs like Travis Milton and writers like Ronni Lundy have kickstarted a surge of interest in Appalachian cuisine, and you can’t talk about Appalachian cuisine without talking about squirrel. Up in the Newfoundland and Labrador region of Canada, chef Jeremy continued
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A Swedish designer gives 1980s-era ARCADE-GAME consoles a 21st-century makeover By George Pendle
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In some alternate universe, Don Draper shuts the blinds of his corner office, lifts an attaché case made of attractively grained walnut onto his lap, snaps open the clasps, and raises the lid. A warm glow illuminates his face. He unbuttons his jacket, grasps the joystick in front of him, and starts playing Street Fighter II. The work of Swedish designer Love Hultén tends to give you peculiar thoughts. “I like to rock the boat a little and present strange alternatives,” says the 33-yearold Gothenburg native. He does this by taking the injection-molded plastic arcade-game consoles of the 1980s and 1990s and lovingly alchemizing them into things of minimalist beauty. The blocky graphics and finger-numbing game play remain blissfully the same, but everything else around them has been upgraded. “These are devices I grew up with, so there’s definitely nostalgia involved,” says Hultén. Indeed, just hearing the click of one of his joysticks can send you down a Proustian wormhole of misspent quarters. “But it’s no fun putting something on repeat—a blend of past and present is much more interesting.” Hultén typically crafts his consoles in editions of 50. He has drawn customers from around the world, and it’s not hard to see why. “The gaming industry is pretty monotonous,” he says. Among the legions of featureless Xboxes and PlayStations, his creations look not only handsome but also unquestionably adult. Martin Amis, in his much-overlooked early-’80s guide to gaming, Invasion of the Space Invaders, declared amusement arcades to be sites of addiction akin to crack dens, populated by “zonked glueys,” “queasy greasers,” and “textbook child-molesters” all “tensed over that hot black screen.” Love Hultén is cooking up high-quality gack for the discerning gentleman. (lovehulten.com)
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HE ART OF DARKNE SS
THE TERROR BEAT
Above: Seierstad in 2016. Below: The titular sisters.
illustration: Ben Schwartz
A fascinating new book follows a pair of teen girls who LEAVE OSLO to JOIN ISIS By Robert S. Boynton On September 11, 2001, the Norwegian journalist åsne Seierstad was sipping an Aperol in a Venetian café and calling her colleague Carlotta Gall, The New York Times’s Balkan correspondent, when she heard Gall answer with a gasp: “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” Seierstad, now 47, returned to Oslo immediately. Armed with a wad of cash, a satel lite phone, and a visa to Tajikistan, she joined up with Northern Alliance forces as they fought their way to Kabul. A month later, while most Western journal ists in Pakistan were waiting for permission, Seier stad crossed the Hindu Kush with a group of nomads she had befriended. She arrived in Kabul on Novem ber 13, the day after it fell, passing scores of dead Tal iban fighters strewn across the road. Since then, Seierstad has written a series of bestselling books, each a fable spun from realworld conflict. For The Bookseller of Kabul (2004), she spent four months living with an Afghan family, painting a portrait of a clan whose female members are kept in check by an enlightened but domineering patriarch. (He later sued, unsuccessfully, for defamation.) In One of Us (2013), she traces the events leading up to the daylong 2011 rampage in which 77 Norwegians (most of them teenagers) were murdered by farright terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
You can give Uncle Sam your taxes, but just know he’s going to spend it on more tacky pants.
With Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad, just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Seier stad tells the true story of a family of Somali immi grants who have fled their country to build a life in peaceful, dem ocratic Norway. When model teenage daugh ters Ayan and Leila fail to answer their phones for two hours, their father discovers they are on their way to Syria to become “brides of the Islamic State.” Radicalized at a local mosque by their Koran teacher, the girls have grown disgusted by what they see as the immo rality and degradation of secular Scandinavian society. (They refer to Norway as “whoreway.”) What makes the book so shocking is that the sisters are far from the cliché of gullible naïfs one might imagine being recruited to stand by their jihadi husbands. Rather, they are strongwilled, fiercely intelligent young women who know exactly what they are getting into. “If you travel to Syria, you’re going there to die,” Ayan tells a Muslim girl she is attempting to recruit. The sisters raise funds for their trip by maxing out credit cards and selling SIM cards from the dozens of mobilephone accounts they’ve signed up for. “Isn’t it hot underneath all that?” Leila’s classmate asks about the burka she has begun to wear. “It’s hotter in hell,” Leila replies. In a final gesture, they replace their Facebook profile pic tures with images of black ISIS flags. Like the Polish literary journalist Ryszard Kapuściński, Seierstad imbues her work with a level of intimacy one rarely sees in writing about current events. She fell into journalism by accident while studying history in Moscow during the upheaval of the early ’90s. When she told her professor that she wanted to understand Russian politics, he said, “You should leave my class and get out into the streets. That’s where everything is happening.” She was soon reporting on the brutal war in Chechnya. For her next book, Seierstad has left Norway along with her two young children to embed herself in yet another con flict zone: the American South. April 20 18_E s q u i re 2 9
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Over a multidecade career, Barr has used her brazen alter ego to vocalize the anxieties of her viewers and tip their sacred cows. “Man, she can cut through the crap and get to the truth of what we all want to say,” says Barr’s TV husband, John Goodman, who is returning along with Sara Gilbert as their daughter Darlene, a newly unemployed single mother living with her parents, and the rest of the original cast. The series—once again filmed in front of a live audience—deftly captures the frustrations that are both a cause and a by-product of our extreme cultural and political polarization. “Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in,” Barr once wrote, and the comedian appears to be sticking to that mantra. Roseanne still reflects us: loud, brash, and pissed-off, but with a beating heart.
Essential knowledge about necessary viewing By Brady Langmann
ROSEANNE is back—and America’s political divide runs through her living room By Dan Hyman After a twenty-one-year hiatus, Roseanne, the groundbreaking sitcom about the blue-collar Conner family, returns to ABC on March 27. Early reports indicated that the show was a direct response to Donald Trump’s election, and with Roseanne Barr outspoken offscreen about her desire to Make America Great Again, some assumed it would be a piece of prime-time propaganda. What she’s done instead is remake the show as a kind of 21st-century All in the Family. As Richard Nixon did then, Trump looms large—Roseanne proudly admits to voting for him in the premiere—but the reboot is hardly one-note, and it’s every bit as smart and nuanced in addressing hot-button issues this time around as it was in its original run. In the first episode alone, the Conners tackle gender fluidity and female reproductive rights, with some of the best lines aimed at Barr herself. “I didn’t mean to imply you were some right-wing jackass,” Roseanne’s liberal sister, Jackie (played brilliantly by Academy Award nominee Laurie Metcalf ), tells her by way of apology. “I should have tried to understand why you voted the crazy way you did.” 3 0 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
Trust How do you like your Getty kidnapping served? If All the Money in the World wasn’t for you, try Danny Boyle’s take, which has more humor and less postproduction Spacey-scrubbing. Try to keep your moguls straight— Trust swaps Christopher Plummer for Donald Sutherland as J. Paul Getty. (3/25, FX)
New Girl Aside from earning its spot as Fox’s best sitcom since Arrested Development, New Girl (entering its final season) might just live on through True American, the onscreen drinking game that’s taken off in real life. Here’s hoping for another She & Him record from Zooey Deschanel to ease the withdrawal. (4/10, Fox)
Paterno We’ve seen him as a gruntspeaking psychiatrist in 88 Minutes. We’ve watched him play himself in an Adam Sandler movie. Finally, Al Pacino is taking on prestige roles again. First up is a turn as the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, whose legacy was tarnished following Jerry Sandusky’s sexual-abuse scandal. (4/7, HBO)
The Americans When The Americans debuted in January 2013, Barack Obama had just been inaugurated for his second term and the North Korean crisis was starting to heat up. Now life has caught up to art and we’re worrying about the Russians once more. Expect the last season of the Keri Russell drama to be its timeliest. (3/28, FX)
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the Big Bite
LONGING FOR LISBON
Portugal’s ancient capital is the EUROPEAN CITY you wish you’d visited sooner By Candice Rainey Perhaps, like me, you’ve never been to Portugal. Then you land in Lisbon, throw back absurdly good table wines for as little as three dollars, eat creamy pastéis de nata for breakfast, drink beers (also cheap) from kiosks in scenic plazas, buy three handmade rugs for around 35 dollars, and can’t help but wonder: Why aren’t more people coming here? Turns out they are. After being hit hard by the 2008 recession, Portugal’s economy is now booming thanks in part to its tourism industry. For first-timers, though, Lisbon feels weirdly revelatory, as it has everything you want in a Western European city: cobblestone streets so tight you’ll hold your breath when a car tries to crawl through, new museums with ambitious collections, breathtaking architecture, and baroque and Moorish buildings meant to be seen up close. That and the rustic yet delicious food seemingly everywhere is making this one of the most satiating European cities to eat in right now. Before you get on a plane, book a dinner reservation at Horta dos Brunos (27 Rua da Ilha do Pico), a bustling little restaurant where you probably won’t get a menu but plates of home-cooked dishes will just show up, as will a bot3 4 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
Who needs an accountant when you’ve got gumption, a pocket calculator, and a strong desire to get audited?
tle of wine. At some point, try amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams in white wine with butter, olive oil, lemon, and cilantro), and there’s no better place to do this than Peixaria da Esquina (56 Rua Correia Teles), overseen by chef Vitor Sobral in Campo de Ourique (a leafy neighborhood anchored by an upscale food hall). Worth the half-hour Uber ride over the bridge to Almada is Restaurante Ponto Final (72 Rua do Ginjal). Sit by the water; order olives, chickpea salad, grilled fresh fish, and cheese from Alentejo; and contemplate how you’re ever going to tear yourself away from this spot. When you’re not eating, visit essential sites like the National Pantheon (Campo de Santa Clara) and leave a good amount of time for the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (Avenida Brasília, Central Tejo), which sits on the waterfront of the Tagus River in the historic Belém district. Covered in white tiles meant to capture that brilliant Southern European light, the MAAT is one of the most stunning modern buildings in an already progressive design city. Afterward, head to A Vida Portuguesa. There are three of these made-in-Portugal boutiques, each carrying a different selection of everything from soaps to sardines to cool graphic stationery. Eventually, as the sun begins to set, you should get yourself to a rooftop bar like the one at the newly opened Verride Palácio Santa Catarina (1 Rua de Santa Catarina), a gorgeous hotel that was once the home of a count. It’s smack in the middle of Bairro Alto, known for its steep streets, which will give your hamstrings a workout. Throw back some white port and tonic, because, well, one can drink only so much wine.
illustration: Ben Schwartz
Sharp shooter: The Leica CL’s trim body belies its powerhouse features—4K video, crisp 24-megapixel resolution, simple sharing via the Leica mobile app, and an impressive 18mm pancake lens. The CL embodies Leica inventor Oskar Barnack’s concept of classic cool; this workhorse camera is every bit as retro chic as it is hyperfunctional. $3,795; us.leica-camera.com
# W A T C H B E Y O N D
the Big Bite
#METOOSOON? By Bob Mankoff
“Hey, Eddie, wanna hear a joke that’s offensive now, in bad taste two years from now, funny in eight, and no one gets in twenty?”
“But he was only groping for words.” “Zero tolerance is zero tolerance!”
“In the mood for a little sexual misconduct?”
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Because Style Is Always Personal
This summer, SWITCH OUT your standard dress shoe for one that just might STOP TRAFFIC
We understand the appeal of a good functional detail. That little thrill you get when discovering a hidden pocket? We get that, too. But there are some cases where itâ€™s okay to let function take a backseat to form. Cases like the tasseled loafer. Know that these are still eminently practical Loafers ($1,595) by Giorgio Armani; trousers ($250) by Joseph Abboud.
p hot o g ra p h: Dav i d U rb a nke
A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 3 9
SWEAT EQUITY • • • The more guys realize exercise is essential and not just a hobby, the better designers get at creating fitness gear that actually fits into our lives. GermanKorean designer Siki Im nails the look with Siki Im Cross, a collection of windbreakers, shorts, tights, and tees made to take you from morning sweat sessions to Sunday-afternoon drinks. Yes, these monochrome pieces are packed with performance tech. And yes, the easy-to-layer elements will come in handy if you’re overheated or caught in a downpour. But they pass a tougher test, too: Mix this stuff in with your normal weekend wear and nobody will look twice (unless it’s to clock your style). —J. R.
shoes. They will protect your feet as you move between points A and B. They’ve been doing just that since the late ’50s, when they became standard issue on prep-schoolers and undergrads across the country. And while nostalgia may be partly responsible for their resurgence, we’re pinning it on the go-to-hell charm of those tassels. Look at them, the freeloaders. Completely useless. They don’t attach to laces, or count your steps, or jingle when you walk. They don’t do anything, except add some much-needed chutzpah to a perfectly laid-back dress shoe. And that’s fine by us. Cool doesn’t need a reason. Cool just is. —Jon Roth
Loafers (from top): By Church’s ($760); by Esquivel ($875); by Fratelli Rossetti ($730).
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Anorak ($288), T-shirt ($144), shorts ($192), and leggings ($216) by Siki Im Cross; sneakers ($190) by Nike.
A N E W V I N TAG E
Urban Vintage Speedy watch ($265) and Urban Vintage Killy watch ($265) by Undone.
LIKE THE LOOK OF OLD-SCHOOL WATCHES BUT WANT TO ADD YOUR OWN STAMP? UNDONE LETS YOU PERSONALIZE THE DESIGN, RIGHT DOWN TO THE MONOGRAM ON THE BACK OF THE CASE.
ON MY WRIST
THE CASE FOR CUSTOMIZATION • • • Most watch start-ups in the $200-to-$500 price bracket reside (or hide) in the Euro-modernist school of aesthetics. It’s a trendy, minimalist approach that suggests the founders may know more about marketing than they do about watches. Undone breaks from that pack, taking cues from the slightly chunky chronographs that were hot stuff in the 1960s and still enthrall watch nerds today. Even better, you can personalize your timepiece, choosing your own dial, hands, strap, and case. Consider it a rare chance to create your own vintage(-looking) watch. —Nick Sullivan
the Code: Complications
DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL
How a FACTORY FLAW made the “tropical” dial one of the watch world’s most SOUGHTAFTER SCREWUPS Provenance still reigns supreme in watch collecting (why else do you think Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman Daytona” Rolex fetched a record $17.8 million last year?), but visible wear now commands a premium as well. Even more valued are timepieces that left the factory with a flaw. Enter the “tropical” dial Rolexes, some of the most prized models of all. For a few decades in the midcentury, Rolex applied a sun-protective chemical finish to its black dials. But instead of preventing fading, that coating accelerated discoloration. Over the years, the faces have turned a complex chocolate brown, an error compounded by the intense equatorial sun of certain regions. They’re covetable to a small but devoted group of collectors, and because the “flawed” dials were often replaced when brought in for service, the few that remain untouched are rarer than rare. (Such dials aren’t limited to Rolex; many Omegas suffered the same beautiful fate.) Today, “tropical” examples of iconic watches can return more than three times what their p hot o g ra p h s: Al l en Chiu
A Strong Finish
perfect counterparts bring. Think of these sun-addled dials as unique works of art. For certain collectors, that singular quality means everything. According to renowned vintage-watch dealer Robert Maron, in 35 years of selling he has “never seen two identical ‘tropical’ dials.” He adds, “I remember them all and wish I had each and every one of them back.” — M a t t
The pull of patina extends far past the watch world. The French shoemakers at Berluti are renowned for the way they burnish their leather uppers with dye, wax, and oil for depth of color and finish . . .
Vintage watches by Rolex; shoes ($1,510) by Berluti.
. . . while gearheads prize beat-up originals like this ’55 VW Beetle. Its owner, writer Matt Jacobson, compares its appeal to that of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: “the celebration of the beauty that comes from the natural decay of the world around us.” A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 41
MASTER OF NONCHALANCE Officine Générale designer PIERRE MAHÉO—the man who infuses jackets and suits with Parisian rakishness—teaches us everything we need to know about effortless style
It’s a quantum leap from the rocky Brittany coastline, jutting west into the teeth of the Atlantic gales, to the modelpacked banquettes of the Café de Flore on Paris’s Boulevard St.-Germain. Yet it’s those two extremes of France— one hardscrabble, the other chic—that combine to make Officine Générale one of the most exciting brands in the City of Light. “My father was an oysterman, fishing all year long,” explains founder Pierre Mahéo over coffee at the Flore. “There was workwear, denim, fisherman’s blues, work pants made on the islands of Hoëdic and Houat. My grandfather, on the other hand, was a tailor; he didn’t work on Monday, but he would do his gardening in a three-piece suit. And he never wore jeans. I had those two worlds. For me, it was impossible not to put them together.”
GÉNÉRALE E XC E L L E N C E
On her: Jacket ($1,350), tank top ($110), trousers ($310), and loafers ($530) by Officine Générale. On him: Jacket ($1,150), T-shirt ($117), trousers ($278), and loafers ($590) by Officine Générale.
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OFFICINE HITS THE SWEET SPOT BETWEEN DRESSED UP AND DRESSED DOWN—WHICH IS WHY IT FEELS BOTH TIMELESS AND MODERN. ph otog raph s: Davi d Ur ban ke
Everything pretty much goes with everything else: a leather jacket, for instance, thrown over a crisp button-down shirt and a pair of orphaned suit pants, or the jacket from that suit worn over a vintage shirt and bleached jeans. The label found its audience quickly. “People were saying Officine Générale is simple. Yeah, it’s simple; there are no loud things. But it’s very difficult to make a very good, simple product.” Mahéo’s business model for making deceptively simple clothes well (and at
At 12, Mahéo moved with his family just blocks from the Flore, the current location of two of Officine’s four Paris stores. This is where, in 2012, he launched his brand in tribute to the curious conflation of pop, movies, and literature that flourished in the early ’60s around the Left Bank cafés and the nearby Sorbonne— and never left. “I was sitting one day here at the Flore,” he says, “and I saw Serge Gainsbourg. He had on a pinstripe fresco-wool jacket, a military shirt under it, and I was like, ‘What’s going on?!’ And all those people, all those writers, that’s the way they are. There’s this kind of attitude: ‘We wear nice clothes, but we don’t really care.’ ” In practical terms, Officine Générale offers that same Parisian style distilled into a modern, unpretentious, and just-so wardrobe.
Above: Jacket ($735), shirt ($235), and jeans ($250) by Officine Générale.
Opposite, gathered round the table: Jean-Pierre Marielle, Françoise Fabian, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pierre Vernier, and Pierre Hatet. Hand in hand: Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. This page, smoking: Serge and Jane’s daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Styling a model: Pierre Mahéo.
surprisingly accessible prices) means that he’s willingly forgoing double-digit company growth. “The investment-fund guys told me I was stupid because I could be making ten times the profit,” he says. “I said I wanted to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think that the way I work is the way I want to work. I’m a marathoner, not a sprinter. I’m building something and I’m at peace with what I do.” —Nick Sullivan
Right: Jacket ($1,480), shirt ($225), trousers ($278), and loafers ($590) by Officine Générale. A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 4 3
the Code: New Frontiers in Tailoring
THE INCREDIBLE WASHABLE SUIT
Thanks to the FABRIC WIZARDS at Zegna, it’s easier than ever to CLEAN UP NICE
Suit ($1,615), shirt ($265), and tie ($145) by Z Zegna.
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Dry cleaning is exorbitant, inconvenient, and so bloody abrasive that it obliterates your clothes. So join us in heralding the arrival of Techmerino, the fancy new Z Zegna performance fabric that can
handle soap and water. The material is wool, but not the scratchy-sweater kind. This suit jacket feels light and loose, with a soft shoulder and an unlined body. Matching trousers cinch up with a drawstring, like sweatpants. Branded as Wash & Go, the suit functions as athletic gear you can wear while biking to and from work—and if you happen to be all sweaty when you get home, just strip it off and throw it in the laundry. —Nick Marino ph otog raph: A l l i e Hol l oway
the Code: Great Debates
HISTORY REPLEATS ITSELF. . . But fortunately, these are NOT your father’s pants
HOW TO WEAR IT
POP ART • • • Sprezzatura—the Italian art of a studied, unstudied presentation—is a lot like rhythm: You have it or you don’t, and you can’t really fake it. Take a look at the turn-up on the jacket collar above. It’s not popped like a frat-boy’s polo, but it’s messy enough to show you’re a guy in a hurry, maybe enough to invite the right person to come over and flip it back down for you. We’re not saying you should copy it, but take notes. —J. R.
Wearing pleated chinos used to be the quickest way to mark yourself as a dinosaur, a fossil from the stylesapped age of Casual Friday. After 15 years of flat-front pants, however, some extra breathing room in the top half of your trousers is a welcome change, especially when the leg keeps a clean taper. We’ve noticed this cut on the runway, and on stylish guys like Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, and young gun Brooklyn Beckham. Now that Dockers is getting in the game, you can expect to see it everywhere else, too. Might as well start with the mirror. —J. R. Sweatshirt ($98) by Todd Snyder + Champion; T-shirt ($58) by Bonobos; trousers ($88) and belt ($42) by Dockers; Navitimer 01 watch ($8,215) by Breitling.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH HATS, ANYWAY? Few things get us going here at Esquire as much as the Great Hat Debate. Are they even cool? And how do the men who wear them well pull it off ? Two outspoken Esquire staffers make their cases.
It’s not that people haven’t looked good in hats. David Bowie looks amazing in his fedora in The Man Who Fell to Earth, for example. But the chances of anyone else looking that good are insanely slim. That’s the problem with hats: People try to copy others they admire—celebrities, for instance—but they will never look like that. A hat is hard to pull off authentically unless it’s part of your uniform. Like a cowboy, maybe.
p hot o g ra p h : Dav i d U rb a nke; i l l ustrati on : R ich ard Hai n es
If you are a guy with any sense of style—and I suspect you are, if you’re reading this—and if you are committed to wearing a hat, then take your time. You have to make sure you are wearing the hat and the hat is not wearing you. And that means finding the right hat. Because the hat you think is right for you—the hat you envision yourself wearing—might not be the one. It’s like the guy I knew (me) who went to Paris and thought he should be wearing a beret. (Fool.) A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 4 5
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If you’re thinning UP TOP (or underperforming DOWN THERE), help may be closer than you think Men hate the doctor’s office. Compared with women, we’re nearly half as likely to visit. And when it comes to two very prickly, male-specific health issues—erectile dysfunction and hair loss—going in for help feels especially uncomfortable. So a new school of start-ups aims to catch a younger generation of guys where they’re most at ease: on their phones. At home. Alone. Call it he-medicine. Companies like Roman (getroman.com), which prescribes ED meds, and Hims (forhims. com), which offers ED and hair-loss products, are putting a new face on medical conditions usually fronted by chisel-jawed baby boomers in TV commercials. Both use tech to cut out the pain points that prevent guys from getting help (the months-in-advance scheduling, the time lost in waiting rooms, the hurried consultation). Users answer questions online, which are then reviewed by doctors, who may make a follow-up call. Good candidates can have prescriptions filled and delivered to their door. It’s a slick process, but it makes you wonder if something’s lost without seeing, you know, a real doctor. Not according to Hims founder Andrew 46 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
SKIN The dermatologists at YoDerm can prescribe treatments for acne and rosacea as well as balding. You just answer questions and snap a few (PG) pics. yoderm.com SEX Worried a partner left you with a little souvenir? MyLabBox sends a discreetly packaged, comprehensive STD test, and gets you results in about a week. mylabbox.com SANITY If you can’t afford face-to-face therapy (or just hate leather couches), Talkspace pairs users with therapists via text and phone call. talkspace.com
Dudum, who explains, “Unless they’re bleeding, most guys won’t call someone.” The relative anonymity of the Internet makes men more likely to share sensitive information, he says. And it brings access to guys without the time or the inclination to schedule a physical visit. Zachariah Reitano, cofounder of Roman, sees his service as a complement to in-person doctor visits. “We refer to ED internally as the man’s equivalent to a car’s check-engine light,” he says, explaining that erectile dysfunction can be an early symptom of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or de-
pression. So the site follows up with patients after their prescriptions are dispatched, schedules blood tests for users, and offers a $20 discount when guys send in results from a physical. Both companies launched at the tail end of 2017, likely capitalizing on new laws in telemedicine (it’s now allowed in most states) and prescription price drops after generic versions of Viagra and Pro-
pecia hit the market. That and their web-savvy marketing may finally bust some of the stigma that keeps men from getting help. Don’t ditch your doctor—nothing can replace a face-to-face checkup, and the meds described above can have their side effects. But sites like these offer an easy out for guys with a problem they’re less than eager to discuss. We’re calling it a growth market. — J . R . illu stration : Si mon Abran owi c z
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His grandfather was a man who CONFRONTED E ACH DAY as if it were a barn that needed raising—a man who MADE THE MOST of life and whose WISD OM LIVE S ON in what he taught the author By Dwight Garner IT NEVER HURTS TO BE IN SHAPE
“He looked good in a bow tie, but he was a rough cob, too. You could tell he could take care of himself.”
My grandfather, Dwight Archibald Garner, known to everyone as Archie, spent most of his early life working in the coal mines in and around Marion County, West Virginia. He quickly rose to become a foreman. Later he branched out and in his spare time became a successful Realtor. Archie had a big, bustling personality—he confronted each day as if it were a barn in need of raising. He was happier than most people. Maybe the fact that his own father 5 0 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
had died young, in a car crash, gave him a sense that life is fleeting. He made the most of the best things in life and the least of the worst. Evelyn Waugh once wrote, “Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic.” Archie was a dynamo. He wasn’t a sermonizer, but to be around him was to learn how to live. You picked up things. Some of the lessons he imparted were large and metaphysical, others minuscule and mundane.
But I’m surprised at how many have stuck with me, and how relevant to my life they remain. Here are a few. Get to it: My grandfather worked early shifts at the mines. Later in life, he simply got up before anyone else. By the time another human was down for coffee, he’d been to town for breakfast and gossip, shoveled the walk, and worked two hours in his office. If he wanted to sit on the porch
Spot On: Music By Seth Fleishman
for a while in the afternoons, he’d earned it. Keep a poem memorized: If you pestered him long enough, my grandfather would stand up at family gatherings and recite “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” a long ballad by the British-Canadian poet Robert Service. It’s about a bad hombre, a rowdy bar filled with ragtime piano, gunshots, and Dan’s “light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.” Myself, I’ve got only a few Philip Larkin poems in my head, as well as a bit of both Auden’s “Refugee Blues” and Tony Hoagland’s “When Dean Young Talks About Wine.” I hear Archie’s voice urging me to get better about this. Family first: When my father missed a tackle during a high school football game, a wiseguy down front made a loud crack about “that Garner kid.” Archie leapt down five rows of bleachers, got in the man’s face, and critiqued his punditry in a series of short, simple sentences. Kill what you eat; eat what you kill: Until he was in his eighties, Archie killed a deer each year with a rifle or a bow and arrow. He stocked his freezer with the meat and ate it all year long. Once, he was on the fishing pier in Naples, Florida, where my family moved when I was young. A guy hooked a tremendous fish, and Archie helped him reel it in. It was a sawfish, a seemingly prehistoric beast—something yanked up from a Jules Verne novel. Archie
HE LUGGED HOME A SLICE OF SAWFISH AS THICK AS A CAR TIRE, AND WE ATE IT FOR WEEKS. IT TASTED LIKE ELEPHANT MEAT POACHED IN SALIVA.
got a hacksaw and helped cut it up into steaks. He proudly lugged home a slice as wide and as thick as a car tire, and we ate it for weeks. It tasted terrible, like elephant meat poached in saliva. Take care of your digestion: Archie was a devotee of Horace Fletcher (1849– 1919), a health-food maniac known as “the great masticator.” Fletcher believed, as did Archie, that you should chew each bite of food thirty-two times. Archie liked to torture his grandchildren with this dictum. I no longer fletcherize my food; it makes
a lamb shank taste like bean paste. But Archie understood, long before Gwyneth Paltrow, that when your guts are happy, the rest of you stands a decent chance of being happy, too. Keep the game on: All summer in his roomy house in Mannington, West Virginia, a Pittsburgh Pirates game was on Archie’s transistor radio. He kept it turned down low, so it simmered in the background, like a pot of beans. My childhood was a good time to be a Pirates fan. Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell were my heroes, and their exploits filled my mind as accounts of them percolated through the afternoon air. It never hurts to be in shape: Archie was a self-educated man who looked good in a bow tie, but he was a rough cob, too. He’d grown up in a place and time when you couldn’t always count on the law to settle your disputes. Archie was good at wrestling; he pronounced it “wrastling.” He kept trim, and you could tell he could take care of himself. When he died, we found a pair of brass knuckles in his desk. I can’t imagine him using them, but maybe he felt good knowing they were there. Thriftiness counts: Archie came of age during the Great Depression, a time of want, and he couldn’t bear waste. He never threw away anything he might need again. Paper towels? What a way to squander money. When he needed to blow his nose, Archie went to the bathroom, ran the taps, and with an odd sort of formality emptied one nostril, then the other, into the sink. Use everything: He didn’t have a mystical bent, but Archie sometimes carried with him medicinal roots and leaves he’d foraged in the woods. These included ginseng root, chicory leaves, and wood sorrel. If someone had, say, a toothache, he’d pull
a chunk of root out of his pocket and say, “Here, chew on this for a while.” The other person, baffled, would give it a shot. This always made me smile. Look for your opening: When he was in his sixties, Archie, an American go-getter, began to attend county land auctions and buy mineral rights to remote properties for pennies on the dollar. None of these rights paid off massively for him, but they were smart investments and are still in the family. I have complicated, to say the least, feelings about the mining going on in West Virginia. But I will say this: It’s as if Archie tucked a lottery ticket into his descendants’ pockets. Know when to splurge: All his life Archie scrapped, scrimped, and saved. All his life he also dreamed of owning a Cadillac. When he was in his sixties, having put his children through college and finally feeling financially comfortable, he bought one—a big brown monster 1973 Cadillac Eldorado. It was the size of a parade float. He drove local beauty queens in parades in the other car he bought, a 1965 Mustang convertible. They perched on the backseat and waved. When I want to know what happiness looks like, I sometimes watch the video of Ronnie Hawkins sitting in with the Band in The Last Waltz, singing “Who Do You Love?” That man is happy. Or I think about Archie driving his Eldorado. How to get a perfect night’s sleep: In his kitchen late at night during the summer, just before bed, Archie liked to slice a ripe peach into a bowl, then pour a bit of milk on top. It was his form of a nightcap. This remains one of my favorite things, and now it’s one of my children’s, too. Like Archie himself, it’s straightforward, uncomplicated, and never lets you down. A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 5 1
IQ pay the price. A used-car salesman speaks well, they’re convincing, but ultimately, they are benefiting even if someone else is harmed by their advice. A bullshitter is not someone who’s wrong, it’s someone who’s insulated from their mistakes. There is less “skin in the game” today than there was fifty years ago, or even twenty The author of THE B L ACK SWAN and SKIN IN years ago. More people determine the THE GAME on owning your own risk, his allergy to borrowing, fates of others without having to pay the consequences. Skin in the game means you and TRUE FINANCIAL FREED OM own your own risk. It means people who make decisions in any walk of life should never be insulated from the consequences of those decisions, period. If you’re a helicopter repairman, you should be a helicopter rider. If you decide to invade Iraq, the people who vote for it should have children in the military. And if you’re making economic decisions, you should bear the cost if you’re wrong. Ninety-eight percent of Americans—plumbers, dentists, bus drivers—have skin in the game. We have to worry about the 2 percent—the intellectuals and politicians making the big decisions who don’t have skin in the game and are messing the whole thing up for everybody else. Thirty years ago, the French National Assembly was composed of shop owners, farmers, doctors, veterinarians, and small-town lawyers—people involved in daily activities. Today, it’s entirely composed of professional politicians—people who are just divorced from real life. America is a little better, but we’re heading that way. Money can’t buy happiness, but the absence of money can cause unhappiness. Money buys freedom: intellectual freedom, freedom to choose who you vote for, to choose what you want to do professionally. But having what I call “fuck you” money People ask me my forecast for the econ- Better to miss a zillion opportunities than blow requires a huge amount of discipline. The omy when they should be asking me up once. I learned this at my first job, from minute you go a penny over, then you lose what I have in my portfolio. Don’t make the veteran traders at a New York bank your freedom again. If money is the cause pronouncements on what could happen in that no longer exists. Most people don’t of your worry, then you have to restructure the future if you’re immune from the con- understand how to handle uncertainty. your life. sequences. In French, they use the same They shy away from small risks, and with- The best money I’ve ever spent has been word for wallet and portfolio. out realizing it, they embrace the big, big spent on books. The stupidest thing I’ve I have never, ever borrowed a penny. So I risk. Businessmen who are consistently ever spent money on? Books. Also, I canhave zero credit record. No loans, no mort- successful have the exact opposite not understand why anyone would spend gage, nothing. Ever. When I had no money, attitude: Make all the mistakes you want, any amount to enhance their social status. I rented. I have an allergy to borrowing and just make sure you’re going to be there If nobody’s paying my salary, I don’t have to a scorn for people who are in debt, and I tomorrow. define myself. I find it arrogant to call don’t hide it. I follow the Romans’ attitude Don’t invest any energy in bargaining except yourself a philosopher or an intellectual, that debtors are not free people. so I call myself a flaneur and I when the zeros become I carry euros, dollars, and British pounds. large. Lose the small games WHAT’S IN HIS WALLET? refuse all honors. As Cato once Euros, dollars, What I do with my money is personal. Peo- and save your efforts for the said, it’s better to be asked and British pounds. ple who say they give it to charity, that’s big ones. why there is no statue in your a no-no in my book. Nobody should ever There’s nothing wrong with name than why there is one. Leather billfold ($98) by talk about a charitable act in public. —As told to Adrienne Westenfeld being wrong, so long as you Polo Ralph Lauren.
Nassim Nicholas TA L E B
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ph otog raph: A l l i e Hol l oway
1. Patrick Schwarzenegger. 2. Mike Medavoy, legendary producer. 3. Ethan Peck. 4. Alexandre Desplat, award-winning composer. 5. Edgar Ramirez, of American Crime Story. 6. Jimmi Simpson. 7. Laura Dern. 8. Milo Ventimiglia. 9. Kelly Rohrbach, model and actress. 10. Ashley Judd. 11. Paul Feig, well-dressed director. 12. Eiza González. 13. Gregg Sulkin. 14. Jay Fielden. 15. Irena Medavoy, philanthropist. 16. Sistine Rose Stallone. 17. Lisa Rinna. 18. Jennifer Flavin. 19. Harry Hamlin. 20. Sophia Rose Stallone. 21. Mystery Guest.
TOASTS THE GOLDEN
JANUARY 5, 2018 1
5 7 8
PRESENTED BY MASERATI
Before they saw Oprah’s campaign-ready acceptance speech and Tommy Wiseau’s “Imma let you finish” moment, stars such as Laura Dern, Milo Ventimiglia, and Westworld
standout Jimmi Simpson (seen above admiring his recent Esquire feature) saluted the nominees at Esquire’s first-ever Golden Globes party, cohosted by Editor in Chief Jay Fielden and philanthropists Mike and Irena Medavoy at their legendary Beverly Hills
home. (It was for many years owned by James Cagney.) And if you happen to live near the Medavoys and heard a constant growling-purr, it was not Leonardo DiCaprio and his date, but Maserati shuttling a few lucky guests in the Ghibli, Levante, and Quattroporte.
O rig inal Thinkers
QUESTLOVE Wants You to START LISTENING A gain Like, unplug and RE ALLY LI STEN . The musician, writer, and entrepreneur talks about his new guide to LIVING CRE ATIVELY and how no pursuit is really NORMAL . By Adam Grant SOUND ADVICE
“Decide who you’re not before you decide who you are.”
Questlove is the drummer and front man for the Roots—the Grammy-winning band you’ve seen on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He’s a producer of the Hamilton cast album and has produced for artists ranging from Jay-Z to Elvis Costello to Erykah Badu. He’s also the author of a new book, Creative Quest (HarperCollins), a guide to living your most inventive life. Adam Grant: I was fascinated by a comment you made in your book about the Internet: that it’s made us more into hunter-gatherers than farmers. How do you prevent the Internet from killing your ability to farm? Questlove: When I was younger, I had a good ten to fifteen tastemakers I relied on, and most of them worked at record stores. Now I feel like I’m almost paralyzed if I don’t search all the streaming services. It’s just so endless. That’s the hunting of it all. But it can also render you numb. At this rate, I discover three hundred songs a week, you know? I’ve gathered these songs not to listen to them, not to sponge off them, just to have them on standby. There 5 4 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
are times when I’ll listen before I create music—to see if it speaks to me, if it brings goose bumps to me. But yeah, the Internet has ramped everything up. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. AG: What’s your take on getting rid of writer’s block, in any creative domain? QL: My new favorite game is trying to figure out the genesis of songs. I’m beyond certain that almost 95 percent of everything we’ve heard starts with the sentence “I want to do my version of blank.” I’m almost certain that when “Shake It Off” was just being born, in Taylor’s mind it was like, “I want to do my version of ‘Hey Ya!’ ”
That thought has at least crossed her mind. Then for me, what I’ll do is I’ll needledrop. I have a turntable and a whole system next to my drum set, and I’ll only play twelve seconds of something. And then I’m like, “Okay, what does it say to you?” That’s usually where I start from. When I think about building the ultimate DJ set and having the peaks and valleys in it, sometimes I’ll think of things like, Okay, so Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” is a perfect match with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” AG: Naturally. QL: Yeah, I mean, “Once in a Lifetime” and “Get Lucky,” literally tone-wise, key-wise,
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O rig inal Thinkers
they blend into each other seamlessly. That’s my favorite thing, where I make songs talk to each other. A failed DJ set is where you just have all highlights. Your audience will be numbed by the eighteenth song if you just play all the perfect songs. You kindasorta have to give them a chaser. You got to play a song that makes them question. Mostly I’m just trying to challenge myself to create from primitive ideas. In the past, I never did that. I just went to the studio and jammed out and “Oh, that works.” But lately I’ve been recording every idea in my iPhone to see if it has lasting power. AG: You’re a musician, but you have other creative outlets—food, comedy. What led you in those directions? QL: I think when people are like, “Oh, I’m in creative mode,” it means they also turn it off and do things in regular mode. I don’t necessarily do that. I got involved in all these other ventures to get away from music and see what else I wanted to do. Once I got into the food world and the comedy world, I was like, “Wow, this is literally all the same thing.” I just real-
“WHAT’S THE THIN LINE BETWEEN SEEING HOW MANY RIPPLES THE PEBBLE MAKES IN THE WATER VERSUS ONLY PLEASING YOURSELF?” ized that maybe it’s not music that attracts me; it’s the idea of being creative, and that could be in anything. In a year or so, I want to get into sketch art and painting. AG: You’re going for Renaissance man. QL: I do miss the orgasm of discovering music. That whole period while J Dilla was alive and watching him create stuff. . . That would make you cry and question your whole existence but also turn around and make you think different. Now that he’s no longer here, I still go back to his work and it’s still as fresh as it was when I first heard it twenty years ago. I guess I would say it’s just looking for stimulation, if you will. So maybe I can find it in art; maybe I can find it in other ways. AG: You say you’re not just a creator; you’re also the eventual audience. A lot of the creative people I know resist that idea. They say, “Look, you should create for yourself, not for other people.” Where do you stand on that? QL: That’s the noble thing. I don’t know.
That also backfires. What’s the thin line between seeing how many ripples the pebble makes in the water versus only pleasing yourself? AG: You said, “Decide who you’re not before you decide who you are.” What is it for you that’s so powerful about first saying, “I’m not something else” before deciding, “I am a musician. I am an artist”? QL: I notice that a lot of times people can’t see what their identity is. My manager, Rich, would ask a lot of glass-half-empty questions, especially to artists we were working with. One time, when Herbie Hancock first started to work on The Joni Letters, I was trying to explain to him that there’s a generation of new producers that are really addicted to his work on Thrust, and Sunlight, and Mr. Hands. Rich asked, “Well, what don’t you want this album to be? Let’s start there.” At the time, I just thought that was Rich’s yin-to-my-yang, bad-cop-to-mygood-cop shtick. But Herbie actually says, “I don’t want this to be another regular jazz album. I don’t want this to be a rehashing of my vintage ’70s stuff.” From that, Rich got “Okay, you want a Santana Supernatural moment.” I think Herbie was tickled that we kind of pulled his card that way. He was like, “Yeah, man.” We said, “Look, we don’t think we’re the people to take you to that place. But at least you put it out there. That’s what you should ask for. Make a list of the people you want to work with and start there.” AG: What did you change your mind about after writing Creative Quest? What did you believe before that you now think is wrong? QL: I absolutely believed in natural talent. I used to believe that certain people have natural gifts, which is actually a discredit to them. It’s borderline dismissive and an insult to insist that someone has natural talent. That’s to say that they don’t have a science to their madness. I believe that everybody has the ability to reach that Mensa level of creative intelligence—but might not have the will and the drive to do so. If people had control and somewhat of an assurance that their exit would be a smooth ending, you’d have more risk-takers in life. But even for me, when we get a final lineup for the Roots Picnic, I’m already losing sleep a week later. . . . I’m already thinking fiftytwo weeks ahead, like, “Damn, we’re not going to top this year’s lineup for the Roots Picnic. Fuck, we’re in trouble.” Adam Grant is the author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg. He shares free insights on work and psychology every month in his newsletter, Granted.
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Let’s Take It Outside — RIGHT NOW!
The winter has been brutal. Have you ever felt more hungry for spring? It’s coming. Don’t let it go unnoticed. Dustbin the laptop, 86 the phone, invite friends over. And follow this guide on how to be a master host. PHOTOGRAPHS by
I got a bone to pick with this guy.
April 20 18_E s q u i re 5 9
It’s time to aim higher. We’ve all parched burgers on the grill and dropped chopped fruit in a bowl. Think of 2018 as the year you nix the old routine and take a few risks. It’s time to invest—in a gargantuan smoker, a meat thermometer, some statement seating. It’s time to experiment with the challenge of nailing it instead of winging it. Cooking and cocktailing are all the more satisfying when you ratchet up the degree of difficulty, which is why we’re offering recipes here that swerve out of the realm of the usual suspects. Ribs that taste like pastrami, salmon seared without a pan, raw vegetables with dignity. We’ve gone to some of the most compelling food experts around and we’ve asked them to guide us with ideas and approaches—and sips and pours—that make spring sing. Because for a few months, at least, things can only get better. (And when fall arrives, we’ll have you covered with Esquire Entertains, Part 2.) —Jeff Gordinier
Three Words: PASTRAMI. BeeF. RIBS. ... The beef plate rib is the badass
of barbecue, bigger than a sparerib, meatier than a short rib, with a gravitas to which baby backs vainly aspire. Pastrami is the high holy of the deli meat counter—salty and fat, with spice and smoke in luscious equipoise. You’re going to bring them together in a single magisterial mash-up: the pastrami beef rib. It won’t be easy. First, you need to procure the ribs—cut from bones six, seven, and eight of a steer’s lower rib cage. We’re talking brontosaurus-scale bones here, weighing in at one and a half to two pounds—each. Special-order them from your butcher, whom you will impress by citing the precise NAMI (North American Meat Institute) ID number of 123A. Or order grass-fed beef plates from Freeraiseddirect .com. Next comes the brine, plus an ingredient that’s toxic when consumed in excess—a pink curing salt called Prague powder #1.
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(They dye it pink so you won’t make the deadly mistake of confusing it with table salt.) It contains sodium nitrite—yes, that sodium nitrite—once believed to cause cancer but, happily, since exonerated. You’ll need four days for the sodium nitrite to work its magic, endowing the ribs with a roseate hue and hamlike umami richness. Finally, you’ll smoke them for a good part of a day at a temperature hovering around 250 degrees. Does Texas blood run in your veins, or is there a “stick burner” (offset barrel smoker) in your backyard? If so, you have homecourt advantage. If not, use any smoker you can get your hands on: a water smoker, like a Weber Smoky Mountain; a kamadostyle cooker, like a Big Green Egg; an upright barrel smoker, like a Pit Barrel Cooker; or an electric smoker or pellet grill. You can even use a common kettle grill: Set it up for indirect grilling (drip pan in the center, coals mounded on opposite sides, with wood chips or chunks added to generate the woodsmoke). Gas grill? Sorry, guys, you can cook tasty pastrami ribs, but they’ll never have the soulful smoke flavor of true ’cue. Whichever smoker or grill you use, the secret is to work “low and slow,” that is, over a low heat for a long time—six hours or so, during which you can ponder the curious history of barbecue and pastrami. The former takes its name from Caribbean Indian barbacoa, a sapling grate the Taínos built over a campfire to smoke fish, game, and iguanas.
As for pastrami, it comes from a Middle Eastern spiced meat called basturma. Eastern European Jews adapted the seasonings for goose, smoking the meat to lengthen its shelf life. When Jewish butchers immigrated to New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the last century, they switched to beef and rechristened the meat “pastrami.” Six hours already? Behold your pastrami beef ribs. The crust is black, the meat pink, the ends of the bones bronzed. The sizzling ribs emit pungent smells of garlic, coriander, and woodsmoke. Sure, you could serve them deli style with rye bread slathered with mustard. (Barbecue sauce would be superfluous.) As for me, I like gnawing the meat straight off the bone. —Steven Raichlen
Pa st ra m i BEEF RIBS
(Serves 6 big eaters, or 8 to 10 people with normal appetites.)
For the brine: 1 ½ gallons cold water • 1 cup kosher salt • 1 ½ tbsp Prague powder # 1 (aka pink curing salt) • 10 juniper berries, lightly crushed with the side of a knife (or 3 tbsp gin) • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seed • 1 ½ tsp celery seed • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and halved • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
For the rub: 1 cup whole coriander seeds • 1 cup whole black peppercorns. You’ll also need hickory or other hardwood chunks or chips (the latter soaked in water for 30 minutes, then drained). 1. If the ribs come in racks, cut into individual bones. 2. Make the brine. In a large stockpot, bring half the water (3 quarts) to a boil with the kosher salt, pink salt, juniper berries, mustard seeds, and celery seeds, whisking until the salts are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 quarts cold water. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. 3. Add the beef ribs to the brine, placing a pot lid on top to keep them submerged. Alternatively, place the ribs and brine in jumbo zip-top plastic bags, 2 to 3 ribs to a bag. Brine the beef ribs in the refrigerator for 4 days (96 hours), turning once a day so they brine evenly. 4. The last day, make the rub. Roast the spices in a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Let cool, then coarsely grind in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, working in several batches. Place in a bowl and mix. 5. Drain the ribs and discard the brine in a large colander. Rinse with cold water and blot dry with paper towels. Place the ribs on a rimmed sheet pan in a single layer. Season each rib generously in a single layer on all sides. 6. If you have a smoker, heat to 250 degrees. If you’re working on a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect grilling; you may need to use fewer coals than usual to keep the temperature low. Place a bowl of water in the drip pan or smoke chamber. Add the wood to the fire—2 good-sized chunks or 1 ½ cups chips every hour. 7. Arrange the ribs in the smoker fat side up, with at least 1 inch between each rib. Smoke the ribs until darkly browned on the outside and very tender inside, 6 hours—a bit less for skinny ribs, a bit longer for monsters. Replenish the coal and wood as needed. When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by 1 to 2 inches and the internal temperature will be about 205 degrees.
Raise Raise the the Bar BARonthe with the Ultimate Ultimate Party Cocktail The margarita, of course
... If you come over to my place at any point after, say, 4:15, the first thing I’ll offer you is a cocktail. I’ll rattle off the classics: manhattan, negroni, margarita. Seventy-five percent of the time, people go for the margarita. Why? Because: It’s a margarita. In Spanish, I believe the word translates to “party-starter.” The drink is prepared with just enough theater—the squeezing of fresh lime, ice rattling in a shaker—to set a “you’re in fun hands” tone to the evening. The standard recipe will do. One of these variations will bring the house down. —Kevin Sintumuang 3 M A R G A R I TA Va r i a t i o n s Gimmick-free twists on the classic
Solutions to “That My Drink?” 1
1. Know your number and you’ll know your drink. $32 for set of 12; platdujour.com 2. Stock the bar with a variety of retro stirrers like these to help guests personalize their glasses. From $14; sideshowpress.com
Margarita Royale From Giuseppe González of Suffolk Arms, New York. Proof that bubbles can make everything better. 1 ½ oz tequila • ½ oz grapefruit juice • ½ oz lime juice • 1 oz Cointreau • dash of Peychaud’s bitters • sparkling wine // Shake first five ingredients with ice. Strain and serve up. Add sparkling wine and garnish with a lime wheel. S p i c y C a r r o t M a r g a r i t a From Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins of El Jardín, San Diego. A spicy and savory twist. 1 cup fresh purple carrot juice (from approximately 8 carrots, depending on size; can use regular carrots) • ¼ cup fresh lime juice • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice • 1 small jalapeño, whole • 1 cup tequila blanco • ½ cup Cointreau • ¼ cup simple syrup • ice cubes • lime wheel or carrot top as garnish // Juice carrots and jalapeño (including seeds) in a vegetable juicer or a blender with ½ cup water. (If using a blender, strain the puree to extract the juice.) Stir all ingredients together until blended. Serve over ice in Tajín- or salt-rimmed glasses. Serves 4. S o n a m b u l a From Ivy Mix of Leyenda, Brooklyn. Fresh and complex. 2 oz jalapeño-infused blanco tequila • 1 oz fresh lemon juice • ¾ oz chamomile syrup (2-to-1 ratio of sugar to strong tea) • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters • 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters // Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain and serve up with a lemonwheel garnish.
THE Least Boring WAY TO Cook SALMON (AND VEGETABLES)
Build a fire, toss it on the coals, feel like a caveman
... Weather can be a bummer in Seattle, but it led chef Renee Erickson to a revelation. She was cooking outdoors when those familiar Pacific Northwest clouds started to roll in. She worried that her team wouldn’t have enough time to cook the salmon before rain doused the fire. Then she had an idea: Let’s throw it right on the coals, she recalls. “It was one of those aha moments.” The method may look perilous, but it’s a breeze if you follow the cues. Most important, you need to wait for the fire to fizzle out— gray coals, not red. At that point, place a whole salmon fillet onto the embers, and cover it with a pot or a bowl so that it cooks evenly. The skin of the fish will blacken and morph into a kind of ad hoc plancha. “You don’t get that perfect crispy salmon skin,” Erickson says. “You kind of destroy it.” But when it’s ready, after 20 minutes max, the presalted flesh of the salmon—smoky and oily—will pull away from the ruined skin in beautiful chunks. Remove it with a fish spatula and quilt the salmon with whatever you wish—tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs. The only trick? Don’t walk away and let an inferno erupt. As Erickson warns, “You have to keep looking at it the whole time.” —J. G.
I’d walk over coals for that.
How to Bui l d a Coal Fire Fill a fire chimney with charcoal briquettes. Start them up and then lay them in your charcoal or open-fire grill. Layer the wood on top by stacking pieces one on top of the other, leaving space for oxygen to penetrate. Let the fire go until it has burned down to red-hot coals. For a coal-roasted vegetable recipe from chef Jamie Young, of Sunday in Brooklyn, go to Esquire.com. 6 2 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
Stylish and Essential Tools for the Cookout
1. A sturdy grill basket means foolproof veggies. $50; all-clad.com 2. This Laguiole grill set is the classiest way to carve. $538; food52.com 3. The Ultimate Ears Megablast is loud and Amazon Alexaâ€“enabled. $300; ultimateears.com 4. These melamine plates are inspired by marbled end papers. $68 for set of four; food52.com 5. Get an instant temperature reading with the Javelin PRO duo. $45; lavatools.co
THREE (UNEXPECTE D) BOTTLES
TO BRING TO THE PA RT Y Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse ($7)
ct e f r e the P
R E L O CO
4 5 6
Get yourself this steel cooler on wheels and fill it up with stuff that goes beyond Bud and bottled water. $180; permasteelshop.com
Originally an “appellation contrôlée” out of Berlin, the slightly sour Berliner Weisse wheat-beer style can do some neat magic tricks. It’s spritzy, tangy, lemony, and light on its feet, and that gives it real talent at a summer barbecue. It’s a beer that’s equally great with shrimp, ribs, salad, pretty much anything. Many are made in the States these days, but the best is still German—Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. Don’t like sour beers? This will change your mind. Never heard of sour beers? Well, you’re in for a treat, then, aren’t you? Belinda Chang, Chicago-based sommelier Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut ($43)
For an outdoor party in the spring, there is almost nothing to top a Pinot Meunier–based Champagne, and Laherte makes a great one. The winemakers love this grape because it is the hardiest of the Champagne trinity—chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier—but for centuries PM has been the black sheep of the family. Not as cool. Not as noble, because much of it is grown on the wrong side of the Champagne tracks. Thank goodness the hipsters found it and loved it, because now we have several cuvées available to drink this season. Victoria James, beverage director at New York’s Cote Guy Breton’s Côte de Brouilly ($27)
When drinking al fresco, rosé and Champagne are natural go-tos, but don’t forget about the wonders of chilled reds. Lighter-bodied wines like pinot noir, rossese, pelaverga, and gamay all fit the bill and are incredibly versatile. This bottle is my favorite this year: serious yet highly crushable. With a slight chill, it’s hard not to glug this old-vine cuvée alongside picnic fare.
1 . G r a d y ’ s L i l ’ E a s y C o l d b r e w : Smooth coffee with a bit of bite from chicory. gradyscoldbrew.com 2 . D o g f i s h H e a d S e a Q u e n c h a l e : A tart, briny, low-ABV brew that’ll make you long for the beach. dogfish.com 3 . Q g i n g e r a l e : Fine bubbles and not too sweet. qdrinks.com 4 . S t i l l w a t e r A r t i s a n a l M i c r o : A Citra-focused pale ale, aka an easy-drinking yet interesting beer. stillwater-artisanal.com 5 . W e s t b r o o k W h i t e T h a i : A witbier with a ginger kick. westbrookbrewing.com 6 . P a m p e l o n n e F r e n c h 7 5 : The essence of the classic cocktail in a can. enjoypampelonne.com 7. E i n s t ö k I c e l a n d i c w h i t e a l e : A smooth brew with a touch of coriander and orange. einstokbeer.com 8 . K o m b r e w c h a : Probiotics with a buzz. kombrewcha.com 9 . S p i n d r i f t s p a r k l i n g w a t e r : Many flavors, but nothing is more refreshing than the cucumber variety. spindriftfresh.com 6 4 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
WE DIDN’T INVENT TEQUILA Tequila has been around for centuries, but we took the time to get it right, crafting a small-batch spirit that’s worth sipping slowly. It requires Mexico’s finest 100% Weber Blue Agave, Agave hand hand-selected selected and distilled in custom copper stills for a smooth finish every time. We didn’t invent tequila,
The perfect way to enjoy Patrón is responsibly. Handcrafted and imported exclusively from Mexico by The Patrón Spirits Company, Las Vegas, NV. 40% abv.
WE JUST PERFECTED IT.
Outdoor Furniture That Starts Conversations 1
Kind of fancy for beer-pong, but Iâ€™m in.
1. The Helios lounger from Galanter & Jones plugs in and heats up for those cooler spring days. $7,900; thefutureperfect.com 2. A firepit like the Toluca Cube Fire Table may seem superfluous until you see how it extends entertaining into the evenings. $2,695; restorationhardware.com 3. The Janus et Cie ping-pong table is beyond solid. $14,276; janusetcie.com 4. Menuâ€™s Flip Around transforms from stool to table. $200; huset-shop.com 5. Every backyard needs a statement lounger like the Sunday Lounge side chair. From $785; revolutiondesignhouse .com 6. The studio WM String lounge chairs are light and simple enough to work either inside or outside. $600 for two; menu.as 6 6 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
YES, CRUDITÉS CAN BE AWESOME
Avocado Mousse 1 avocado (pitted and peeled) • 1 egg yolk • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon (picked and chopped) • 2 tbsp chives (sliced) • ½ cup heavy cream • 1 tsp kosher salt • 1 clove garlic • 1 tbsp lemon juice • ⅔ cup extravirgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling • crunchy salt (Maldon or fleur de sel) 1. Combine the first 8 ingredients in the bowl of your blender. 2. Roughly blend all ingredients until combined (a few seconds). 3a. Immediately pour in the olive oil—slowly, in stages, while blending on high speed until all of the oil is incorporated and the puree is silky and smooth. 3b. If you have a tamper tool, use while blending to scrape the sides. If not, turn the blender off halfway through the oil and scrape down with a rubber spatula before you finish adding the remaining oil. 4. Transfer to an airtight container and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. Then serve.
... We concede that it can be tempting to phone in crudités. We’re talking about raw vegetables, after all. Dump them on a plate and let people dip—easy! Then you encounter the crudités served at Little Jack’s Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina, and you realize that a few extra steps can transform a dutiful party staple into something genuinely crave-inducing. “The key to making it appealing is treating each vegetable properly and not taking shortcuts,” says John Amato, the chef at Little Jack’s. Blanch (and then ice-bathe) denser vegetables (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts) in advance to tenderize them and amp up their color. Get real carrots (not those sad baby stumps in a supermarket bag) and store them in cold water after you peel them. Keep the tomatoes at room temperature. Slice the cucumbers seconds before liftoff. Slather all of the vegetables with good olive oil and salt before you arrange them on a plate. Make this avocado mousse, left, in a blender instead of pouring chunky salad dressing out of a jar. And discipline yourself not to devour too much before it hits the table. —J. G.
FORG ET T HE BEAC H C LAM BAKE Grab a pan and some scallops instead
You don’t have to dig a hole in the sand. You may think you do, but you don’t. Forsake the clambake: That was a lesson I absorbed from a simple, excellent lunch that I enjoyed on a beach a few years back. The beach happened to be glazed with snow and ice, and we were all wearing gloves and parkas. Jeremy Charles, the acclaimed chef at Raymonds, a restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland, gathered some driftwood in the freezing air and lit it on fire. A few yards away, in the icy Canadian waters, two divers hauled up scallops. What Charles did that afternoon is something you can do as well, without a lick of hard labor. Put a frying pan over the flames. Flood it with butter. Drop fresh scallops into the melted butter. Flip them after a minute or so. Let the surface of each scallop turn caramelly. If you’ve brought along chopped parsley or chives, scatter that greenery on top. If you’ve brought along a lemon, squeeze it. Lunch is ready. People are happy. No one is eating sand. —J. G.
Tablecloth $165; shopthemansion.com.
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MIGHTY, SMALL Meet the Grill You Can Store in a Closet
... Rental-kitchen blues got you down? If you’ve been searing your steaks on the stovetop for lack of outdoor space, consider the konro grill. Once a province of yakitori kitchens, these tabletop Japanese grills are making their way stateside for home cooks. “It’s an amazing piece of equipment,” says Josef Centeno, chef at Los Angeles’s Orsa & Winston and P. Y. T. “It’s a superior way to cook everything from fennel and sunchokes to chicken livers and octopus to perfection.” If you fancy yourself a pit master slinging enough skewers to host a family reunion, check your expectations at the door; these squat tabletop grills aren’t meant to feed an army. What they lack in quantity, though, they make up for in portability and quality—you can carry one to your rooftop or to a picnic, and they cook at a high, even heat. You’ll find a variety of them at korin.com. (Pair them with heatproof chopsticks; $11, snowpeak.com.) Whatever you do, don’t buy charcoal that comes predoused in lighter fluid. If that’s your speed, “you might as well just buy a Weber,” according to David Schlosser, chef at L. A.’s Shibumi. What you need is binchotan, a hardwood charcoal traditionally used in Japanese cooking. “Binchotan is harder than regular charcoal and burns cleanly, giving off no odor,” Centeno says. “It burns hotter and cleaner. It makes the outside of the meat crispy without drying it out and allows the natural flavor of the food to not be covered by smoke.” Binchotan is green, too—Centeno recommends submerging pieces that haven’t fully burned in cold water to chill them, then drying them out for reuse. As you plan your cookout, Schlosser suggests thinner cuts of meat. But don’t confine your imagination to just meat—at P. Y. T., Centeno cooks turnips, root vegetables, and mushrooms in the embers of the binchotan. Go crazy—it’s easier to riff on a smaller scale. —Adrienne Westenfeld
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Should I throw another shrimp on the barbie?
The Big Inve stme nt: Why I Bo ug ht a $ 3,2 17 S m oker And why maybe you should, too
... Last spring, I examined the combina-
tion grill-and-smoker in the yard of my small Brooklyn co-op—at eight years old, it was flimsy, corroded, collapsing. I decided to replace it and settled on a modest improvement: 800 pounds of quarter-inch steel, welded into a massive, drumlike barrel and a four-shelf tower by Yoder Smokers of Hutchinson, Kansas. This “Loaded Durango” has three temperature gauges, multiple thermometer ports, a heat-management plate, and its own unique serial number. It cost $3,216.90, more than a quarter of which was shipping. It arrived by tractor-trailer. My co-op neighbors and I nicknamed it Choo-Choo. How had I become the guy who casually(ish) drops three grand on a nearly half-ton barbecue? Once, I’d been content to grill burgers and dogs over Webered briquettes. But soon I’d started hankering for a challenge, something that would not only produce a lot more delicious meat (so I could invite more friends over) but also command my attention and keep me out in my gritty little yard as long as possible.
I started with pork belly. Easy and incredible. From there it got a lot more complicated. I would obsess over the cut of meat, the precise composition of my rub, the type of wood I’d burn, and— always—the heat. Barbecuing is a daylong drama of temperature control, punctuated by sudden flare-ups and
just-as-sudden cooldowns, moments of panic and uncertainty, and Zen epiphanies that recall our earliest accomplishments as Homo sapiens: We have made fire, and we have made it obey our command. And at the denouement, we’ve got enough unbearably rich meat to feed our friends and family. Or, thanks to Choo-Choo, a small village. When we inaugurated her, we loaded on a whole 60-pound pig, two briskets (my Texan neighbor Jeff’s specialty), a duck, some bluefish, and— why not?—an eggplant. I invited literally everyone I knew until Facebook cut me off, and asked them to bring drinks and sides that would measure up to the meat (and give me a break from cooking). The result was epic: friends and strangers overflowing onto the sidewalk, a cooler crammed with wine and beer, and mouthwatering smoke scents permeating every brick and brownstone cranny of the neighborhood. Through it all, I was weirdly relaxed—I had this all under control, and I owed it, mostly, to Choo-Choo. She’d be a bargain at twice the price. —Matt Gross
vapor-distilled for purity, electrolytes for taste.
© 2018 glacéau. glacéau ®, smartwater ® and label are registered trademarks of glacéau.
Jacket by Visvim; shirt by Closed x Orcival; trousers by Fortela.
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ph ot o g ra p h s: T k
Photographs by Matthew BROOKES
Shia LaBeouf’s BRAVE, BRUTAL, IMPERFECT, and UNCOMPROMISING search for career redemption— and HIS SOUL
By Eric SULLIVAN
hia LaBeouf is nervous about this story—“I have so much fear about this thing,” he confesses to me when we first meet—and it drives him to do what he’s always done when faced with something he cannot fully control: Prepare. Obsessively. For the past two months, he’s conducted practice interviews over the phone with his therapist, anticipating all of the possible scenarios, workshopping his responses to my questions. It’s been a long time since Vanity Fair put him on the cover of its August 2007 issue, wearing a spacesuit over a suit-suit (it looks as awkward as it sounds), and heralded him at age twenty-one as “the Next Tom Hanks.” More than a decade on, LaBeouf’s arc is less a stratospheric ascent than a misguided rocket wobbling across the sky, strewing wreckage. Yes, LaBeouf is the guy who was handed a golden ticket and promptly lit it on fire. But too often we forget that everyone screws up on their path toward becoming an adult; and that few do so under the gaze of the public eye; and that by embracing the kind of capital-A Acting LaBeouf aims to do, we nourish the same spark from which his bad behavior stems. Tom Hardy, who worked with LaBeouf on 2012’s Lawless, points to the paradox central to their work. “A performer is asked to do two things,” he tells me. “To be disciplined and accountable, communicative and a pleasure to work with. And then, within a split second, they’re asked to be a psychopath. Authentically. It takes a very strong human being to sustain a genuine sense of well-being through that baptism of fire.” Then: “Drama is not known to attract stable types.” LaBeouf invites me to dinner at a familyfriendly joint in Sherman Oaks, the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood where he’s lived for nearly a decade. We are about ten miles southwest of Tujunga, where he lived from ages five to thirteen, when he became a full-time actor. He picked this spot because, as I learn, it’s a safe space, turf where he feels secure. He usually comes here with his wife, the actress and model Mia Goth, or his mother, Shayna, with whom he speaks daily. When I arrive, I see LaBeouf through the window. He is alone at a four-top, his eyes trained forward, unmoving. As I approach him, he stands to greet me. His outfit is Valley Dad: well-fitted if unassuming khakis and a sweatshirt. LaBeouf is here to discuss his new movie, 72 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
Borg vs. McEnroe (April 13), though, as he says, “I’m a terrible used-car salesman.” To wit: “I have no interest in tennis. Zero. I only hate it more since having done this film. It’s an elitist sport.” As his voice tap-dances up and down the lower register, he speaks honestly and without hesitation. He plays John McEnroe, the tennis savant whose reputation as a powder keg often overshadowed his prodigious talent, with entropic physicality—fiery eyes, a fast smile, loose limbs ball-socketed to his trunk—but also with restraint: a born fighter who’s striving for self-control. Unlike McEnroe’s outbursts, which became crowd-pleasing shtick, LaBeouf’s have left his offscreen reputation tattered. “McEnroe was a master at his rage,” he says. “I’m a buffoon. My public outbursts are failures. They’re not strategic. They’re a struggling motherfucker showing his ass in front of the world.” And since LaBeouf, more than anyone else, did the ripping, he knows it’s now on him to do the mending. “I’ve got to look at my failures in the face for a while,” he says. “I need to take ownership of my shit and clean up my side of the street a bit before I can go out there and work again, so I’m trying to stay creative and learn from my mistakes. I’ve been falling forward for a long time. Most of my life. The truth is, in my desperation, I lost the plot.” He pauses, then, as if to head off any potential awkwardness, says, “I know this is uncomfortable for you to bring up, bro. I get it. Just get to it.” With LaBeouf, thirty-one, there’s not just one “it”; there is a truckload that has turned him into a walking meme. In the last year alone, he was stalked by Internet trolls; sued for $5 million by an L. A. bartender for a shouting match in a bowling alley; and arrested in Savannah for public intoxication. Footage of his booze-fueled, racially charged breakdown was leaked to the shame-generating machine that is TMZ, and he was sent to court-ordered rehab for ten weeks, starting last fall. Given our hunger for celebrity schadenfreude, for which LaBeouf is manna, it’s easy to look past his electric talent and focus instead on his small mountain of
LaBeouf with Sverrir Gudnason in Borg vs. McEnroe.
baggage. But the genius is still there, still vibrant. I ask him if he thinks he’s performed the type of one-for-the-ages barn burner that even his fiercest critics would admit he, at his best, is capable of. He takes a sip of coffee—he’s now sober— looks out the window, and says, “Nah, not yet.” The real question is much tougher to answer: If LaBeouf’s instability informs his acting, will damping the one dim the other? He says he is eager to be understood, but he also questions my intentions in a way that is less defensive than, well, on the offensive. “I know you have a job to do,” he says, leaning across the table, locking eyes. I ask what that is. “To continue this narrative that I’m a piece of shit.” y the time that Vanity Fair cover came out, LaBeouf had already transcended lousy odds. The onetime star of Disney Channel’s Even Stevens had backflipped over the chasm into which most child actors tumble and landed at the feet of Steven Spielberg. The Hollywood kingpin had handpicked LaBeouf to be the face of the Transformers franchise, helmed by Michael Bay, and to play the son of—and potential successor to—Harrison Ford in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. By 2010, and for the second year in a row, Forbes deemed him Best Actor for the Buck. For every dollar he earned, the studio got an average of eighty-one dollars in return. He was bankable. Audiences liked him as much as the studio execs did: He was funny, quickwitted, not distractingly handsome, and had a yes-ma’am charm that played well with the right target audiences. And the kid could act. If you take stock of Hollywood’s pileup of blockbuster blunders, the first Transformers holds up, and LaBeouf is one of its biggest selling points. Hardy says, “Shia has the ability to land scene after scene that builds a reality from utter fantasy. We know the robots aren’t really there. They just aren’t. When I watch Shia, they are.” LaBeouf ’s rise was all the more remarkable when you consider his less-than-Rockwellian childhood. His father, Jeffrey, grew up in San Francisco, trained as a commedia dell’arte clown, and once opened for the Doobie Brothers. He also served three tours in Vietnam and, once home, struggled for years with heroin addiction. Shayna, whom LaBeouf calls “my everything,” was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and ran a head shop in the East Village before moving to California. To make money, she
“I’VE GOT TO
LOOK AT MY FAILURES IN THE FACE FOR A WHILE. THE TRUTH IS,
IN MY DESPERATION, I LOST THE PLOT.”
OUT OF THE FOG
Jacket by Hermès; T-shirt by Jungmaven; trousers by Fortela. p hot o g ra p h s: Tk
Mo n t h 20 1 7 _ E s q u i re 7 3
AS TOM HARDY SAYS, “SHIA HAS THE ABILITY TO
LAND SCENE AFTER SCENE THAT BUILDS
A REALITY FROM UTTER FANTASY.”
74 Mo nt h 2 0 1 7 _ E s qu ire
Jacket, shirt, and trousers by Brunello Cucinelli.
began selling barrettes, purses, and pins at a trade fair that moved up and down the coast. It was while she was in Los Angeles, peddling her wares at Echo Park, that she met Jeffrey, who was a born-again Christian teaching karate classes. They conceived their only child in a sleeping bag in the back of Jeffrey’s van. The boy’s name reflects his ethnicity—Jewish (from Shayna) and Cajun (from Jeffrey)—and loosely translates into “Thank God for the beef.” The family lived in an apartment across from Echo Park, and Jeffrey would head there each day, a tricked-out hotel cart in tow, to sell hot dogs and snow cones and to perform as a clown. LaBeouf’s first acting experience was with his mom and dad, all three in costume, hawking wieners. Too often, Shayna and Jeffrey could get into massive fights. “They loved each other the most when they were creating together,” he says. “When they stopped creating, shit fell apart.” His parents separated when LaBeouf was three. By the time LaBeouf was nine, things got worse. Their landlord, sick of all the sewing machines Shayna kept in their apartment, had kicked them out. They’d found a place in Tujunga, the biker-gang capital of the San Fernando Valley. Before Jeffrey left for a stint in rehab, he asked Dave, a biker who lived next door, to keep an eye on LaBeouf and his mother. It didn’t help. One day, LaBeouf overheard a man raping his mother. “I froze,” he tells me, pausing. “The man ran out, and my mom ran after him. Dave came running over. I remember he had a crossbow.” By then, the rapist had fled. During a counseling session at the sheriff’s office, LaBeouf listened as his mother recounted her attacker’s appearance. “It was the first time I ever heard the word pubic,” he says. “That’s how she described his facial hair. The next day at school, I told some kid that his hair looked like pubic hair, and I remember getting in trouble. They never found the guy. “When I got to rehab last year,” LaBeouf continues, “they said I had PTSD.” He says he now understands that the violence toward his mother that he witnessed, that he could not prevent, is the reason for his defensiveness, his own hair trigger for violence. “The first time I got arrested with a real charge, it stemmed from the same shit. Some guy bumped into my mother’s car with his car in a parking lot, and my head went right to ‘You need to avenge your mother!’ So I went after the dude with a knife.” (He didn’t use it.) It’s also why LaBeouf bought a gun as soon as he was able to; to this day, he sleeps with it. “I’ve always thought somebody was coming in. My whole life.”
Around the time of his mother’s attack, LaBeouf, then ten, went on a surf trip with Jeffrey to Malibu, where he met a kid about his age wearing the type of expensive outfit he could not afford. “I said, ‘What do you do?’ ” LaBeouf recalls. “He said he was an actor. That’s where it really started.” The kid told him he would never get past the first step: landing a modeling agent. “I was a weirdlooking fucker,” LaBeouf says. Undeterred, he got crafty. “I looked up talent agents in the yellow pages. I put on this front like I was my own manager,” complete with a British lilt. One agent wasn’t fooled, but she was charmed, and LaBeouf was signed. He quickly began booking spots on ER, The X-Files, Freaks and Geeks, and Suddenly Susan. 76 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
His big break came in 2000: LaBeouf, then thirteen, landed the lead on Even Stevens. The show was a blast—“like going to Chuck E. Cheese,” he says. He was praised for his performance, which earned him a Daytime Emmy. To be closer to the set, he moved out of his mother’s place and for the next three years lived in a fortydollar-a-night motel with Jeffrey, who’d completed rehab and become his son’s on-set guardian. LaBeouf says, “I was going to the Alano Club”—a twelve-step program—“with my dad. That was my daycare center. Then I’d go to work. That was my whole life.” LaBeouf tells me that as part of his treatment last year, he underwent prolonged-exposure therapy, which is a fancy name for the counterintuitive process
of poking at a wound until it stops bleeding. “You keep talking about it. You keep bringing it up, acting it out, thinking about its smell. Every which way you can get to it. And a lot of my shit has to do with my relationship with my dad,” he says. “That dude is my gasoline.” Whenever a scene required LaBeouf to conjure intense emotion, Jeffrey would stand next to the camera, just off set, so that LaBeouf could see him, focus on him. “I could work myself up into a frenzy,” he says. “He’s the whole reason I became an actor.” LaBeouf poked at that paternal wound with a pen. Despite claiming not to be a good writer, he turned his thoughts into a screenplay, a full one, which he finished while still in rehab. The Black List, a site that tracks the most promis-
Far left: Jacket by Visvim; shirt by Closed x Orcival; trousers by Fortela. Center and right: Jacket and T-shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren; trousers by Fortela; boots by Visvim.
LAST DAYS OF
THE ANCIEN RÉGIME, IMPRISONED IN A
FETID CELL ATOP
BASTILLE, A DEPRAVED ARISTOCRAT
ing unproduced scripts in Hollywood, describes its plot as follows: “A child actor and his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father attempt to mend their contentious relationship over the course of a decade.” LaBeouf listed a coauthor, Otis Lort, which he now admits is a pseudonym. He claims it’s of Cajun origin, but some cursory linguistic analysis suggests it is a combination of German and Danish that translates into “Wealthy Turd.” The film’s working title is the nickname Jeffrey has called his son for as long as LaBeouf can remember: Honey Boy. he next day, LaBeouf tells me to meet him at Descanso Gardens, a tranquil refuge from the hustle of L. A. halfway between Echo Park and Tujunga. I arrive earlier than I did for dinner, but he still beats me to the mark. He’s seated on a bench at the entrance, tickets for both of us in one hand and a
cup of coffee in the other, waiting for our scene to begin. After dispensing with pleasantries, he once again questions my intentions. “I went to sleep last night thinking that this is going to be some boo-hoo piece: ‘Oh, here he is not trying to own his shit. He’s trying to put it on his father. . . . ’ My dad handed me a lot, and his legacy was an emotional one. And it wasn’t scarring. He handed me texture. My dad blessed me that way.” He’s wearing a shirt that brings him talismanic comfort, a blue oxford buttondown from the set of a movie he made at the tail end of his adolescence, and it reminds him of the family created on set. He bought his hat, emblazoned with the Bavarian coat of arms, on a trip to Germany, and to make it his own, scribbled on it with marker.
Over the past couple of years, LaBeouf’s style, a mix of military, athleisure, and (mostly) normcore—what he calls “blue collar”—has become a fixation among men’s-wear enthusiasts. Kanye West, for one, is a fan: In a “No More Parties in L. A.” outtake, he raps, “I wish I dressed as fresh as Shia LaBeouf.” When Kanye went to LaBeouf’s house to discuss possible art collaborations, he asked if he could have some of his clothes for a pop-up shop. “Around the same time, I took my mother to his concert,” LaBeouf tells me. “She is, of course, obsessed with Kanye West. When I brought her backstage, he was a fucking sweetheart to her. And it just felt fair. So I’m like, ‘Go for it, my guy. Take everything you want.’ And he did. He took all my fucking clothes. Me and him haven’t really been in contact
since he blew up onstage and, you know, shit on me.” (In November 2016, during a fifteen-minute midconcert meltdown in Sacramento, Kanye said, “Shia LaBeouf: Kid Cudi feels a way. Call him.” LaBeouf directed Cudi in a music video and a short film in 2011. What West meant is open to interpretation.) I ask if he’s tried to reach out. “Of course, bro. I fucking love Kanye West. He’s going through a lot. And I don’t know where he’s at or what he’s doing.” Last May, style bloggers worked themselves into a tizzy when Kanye was photographed wearing the exact same cap that LaBeouf had worn in public countless times before. “The dude has a lot of my shit,” he says. Yeezy even took his Indiana Jones hat. LaBeouf prefers to wear clothing with personal history. It makes him feel safe. Like with places. As we stroll the property, he says, “This area is the money of
FAILURE HAS ALWAYS BEEN WHAT LABEOUF
TO IMPROVE HIMSELF.
the Valley. My family used to come here to dream. We’d be like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to one day own a tree?’ It has a calming promise.” He’ll take as much as he can get: With me, he’s entering what he considers a “very unsafe situation”: a dissection of his career’s descent. By 2011, after the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon—LaBeouf’s third and final entry in the franchise, for which he reportedly made $15 million—his films had grossed north of $4 billion. But he hadn’t found artistic satisfaction in his work since the first one. At the time, he says, he struggled to see the merit in what he was doing. When I ask him to elaborate, he says he doesn’t want to once again bite the hand that fed him so well: “Michael and Steven did a lot for me. I’m not going to pooh-pooh those dudes anymore.” Then he does just that: “My hang-up with those films was that they felt irrelevant. They felt dated as fuck. . . . You come up on these stories about Easy Rider and Raging Bull and De Niro and Scorsese and Hopper, and you find value in what they do. Meanwhile, you’re chasing energon crystals. It’s very hard to keep doing what you’re doing when you feel like it’s the antithesis of your 78 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
purpose on this planet.” He was twenty-five years old, and says he already felt he was “living in a gilded cage. No one gives a fuck about your problems. Everybody’s like, ‘Hey, man, you’re riding the wave!’ ” For a time, he figured college offered an escape hatch, so he applied to Yale, bolstered by a letter of recommendation from Spielberg. He says he got in but decided not to go. He saved a copy of Spielberg’s letter. He keeps it in his safe. Feeling trapped, LaBeouf reverted to the tried-and-true. “My way of running is to drink. I’m a good old-fashioned drunk— whiskey and beer—and have been since I touched alcohol.” In November 2007, he was arrested for trespassing at a Walgreens in Chicago. The next July, while driving late at night, he was struck by another car that ran a red light. His F-150 flipped, and he almost lost a finger. When the police arrived, he refused a Breathalyzer and was given a misdemeanor DUI. He still has the door from the truck; it leans against a wall in his house and he sees it every day. I ask him what it represents. “Failure,” he says. “Fallibility.” Failure has always been what he uses to improve himself. While filming a scene with Josh Brolin in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) in which they have a tête-à-tête in the woods, he found himself outacted and overcompensating. “Insecure actors do too much,” LaBeouf says. “In that scene, I’m letting ambition get in the way of truth.” He calls this “one of my most traumatic experiences.” LaBeouf pledged to choose roles that were, as he says, “chasing sincerity,” like those taken by his heroes—Gary Oldman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix. He turned down offers to appear in The Social Network, 127 Hours, and The Bourne Legacy, and instead opted for characters who were, like him, young men in existential crisis. He dove headfirst into the deep end of character prep, blurring the line between acting and reality. While filming Lawless, he drank moonshine by the gallon, carved a message from his character into the door of Mia Wasikowska’s hotel room, and knocked out Tom Hardy. On the set of 2013’s Charlie Countryman, he dropped acid and choked the director when he tried to break for lunch. That year, during rehearsals for the Broadway production of Orphans, meant to be his first foray into stage acting, he became so enraged that Alec Baldwin had not prepped as much as he had that LaBeouf openly antagonized him and was fired. Unable to give up on the character, LaBeouf started following his ex-costar home from the theater. Baldwin later told New York magazine, “LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly,
a jailhouse mentality.” He wrote Baldwin an apology and then posted it on Twitter. It didn’t take long for online sleuths to discover that nearly every word had been plagiarized from an essay called “What Is a Man?” written by Tom Chiarella and published in the pages of this magazine. (There are several examples of LaBeouf’s plagiarism but only one that involves Esquire.) But his dedication sometimes paid off, and for all parties involved. In 2014’s Fury, LaBeouf plays a devout gunner in a tank crew during the final days of World War II. To prepare, he embedded with the National Guard and became a chaplain’s assistant. To mimic the result of a smack to the face from the recoil of a gun, a common injury for gunners at the time, he had a dentist in the Valley shave down his lower incisor below the gum line. He sliced two parallel inchlong scars on his right cheek and, to keep them fresh, reopened them as needed for the duration of the seventy-day shoot, says director David Ayer. “He shows up and he has this scratch on his face, saying he needed to do this. And I’m like, ‘You know, we have makeup people that can do that stuff.’ But it was his ritual, part of putting on his acting armor. And when you have someone who’s really going for it, it breathes through the cast. Everyone else steps up.” LaBeouf was no longer blurring that line between acting and reality; he was ignoring it altogether. In February 2014, before Fury was released, he walked the red carpet at the Berlin International Film Festival wearing a paper bag on his head that read, “I am not famous anymore.” It appeared as though acting—or perhaps its abandonment, but definitely not reality—had won out. t’s hard to avoid the impression that LaBeouf, once a sure thing in Hollywood, has now successfully marginalized himself. Studios are wary of hiring an actor who’s a live wire on set and a risk during press junkets, where he might renounce the projects he was meant to promote. “I’m run out,” he tells me. “No one’s giving me a shot right now. Spike Lee is making a movie. I was talking to him about it. He goes to the money and pushes to try to get me in the movie, the money says no, and that’s the end of me hanging out with Spike Lee for this film.” Yet as LaBeouf has veered toward smaller, more auteur-driven movies, his work has only gotten better. His performance as the rat-tailed spirit animal of a team of nomadic door-to-door magazine salespeople in 2016’s American Honey garnered some of the best reviews of his career. As a Marine with PTSD in Dito (conti nued on page 110)
Jacket by RRL; shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren.
“WHAT WENT ON IN GEORGIA WAS
WHITE PRIVILEGE AND DESPERATION AND DISASTER. IT CAME MORTIFYING.
FROM A PLACE OF
SELF-CENTERED DELUSION.” p hot o g ra p h s : T k
Mo n th 20 17 _E s q u i re 79
The original manuscript of The 120 Days of Sodom. Joining pages end to end, the Marquis de Sade wrote 157,000 words in three weeks and hid the scroll in the wall of his cell in the Bastille. He died believing it had been destroyed in the prison siege that ignited the French Revolution.
LAST DAYS OF THE ANCIEN RÉGIME, IMPRISONED IN A FETID CELL ATOP THE BASTILLE, A DEPRAVED ARISTOCRAT COMPOSED THE MOST BLASPHEMOUS NOVEL EVER WRITTEN. DURING THE
DEATH, THE MARQUIS DE SADE HAS GONE FROM
BEARING TRANSFORMATION CAPPED IN 2014, WHEN THE SCROLL HIS 120 DAYS OF SODOM SOLD FOR $10 MILLION. NOW THAT MANUSCRIPT IS AT THE CENTER OF
F R A N C E ’ S B I G G E ST F R AU D
merging from the morning fog shrouding the art galleries and boutiques of Paris’s 7th Arrondissement, the police arrived at the Hôtel de La Salle at 9:00 on November 18, 2014. Once home to the author of France’s code of civil law and, after that, sundry dukes and duchesses, the seventeenth-century mansion was now the headquarters of Aristophil, an upstart investment company founded by Gérard Lhéritier, the son and grandson of a plumber. In just over two decades, the thensixty-six-year-old Lhéritier—the “king of manuscripts,” as he’d been dubbed by the local media—had amassed the largest private collection of historical letters and manuscripts in the country, effectively cornering the market. Among his 130,000-odd holdings were André Breton’s original Surrealist Manifesto, love notes from Napoleon to Josephine, the last testament of Louis XVI, and fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The bulk was housed in Aristophil’s Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, around the corner on Boulevard St.-Germain. But Lhéritier’s marquee acquisition rested inside a custom-made glass display on the mansion’s ground floor: a yellowed, fraying parchment, four and a half inches wide and nearly forty feet long, densely covered THE on both sides with 157,000 ornately handwritten words so minute they HAS BEEN are virtually illegible without a magnifying glass. Composed in a prison cell by Donatien-Alphonse-François, better known as the Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom has been variously described as “one of the most important novels ever written” and “the gospel of evil.” Lost for more than a century and smuggled across Europe, it became one of the most valuable manuscripts in the world when Lhéritier purchased it for seven million euros ($10 million) in March 2014—a year that happened to mark the bicentennial of Sade’s death, as well as the final stage of his two-century-long reevaluation. An exhibition in Aristophil’s offices was timed to coincide with a nationwide series of events that would culminate in December. Lhéritier, a somewhat stout and diminutive man with thinning gray hair in a well-tailored suit and tie, was with a few employees discussing a recent reception he had attended at the residence of then president François Hollande when his assistant rushed in to inform him that the police were downstairs. Dozens of other agents were simultaneously raiding Aristophil’s museum, the offices of several Aristophil associates, and Lhéritier’s villa in Nice. While the officers seized company documents, financial records, and computer hard drives as potential evidence, the French courts froze his business and personal bank accounts. Lhéritier stood accused of duping nearly eighteen thousand clients out of $1 billion. The claim, if true, would make him the architect of the largest Ponzi scheme in French history.
So Sade began The 120 Days of Sodom on October 22, 1785, while imprisoned in the Liberty Tower of the Bastille. Scattered around him were assorted personal effects, a privilege afforded to inmates of his stature: stacks of books on everything from the existence of God to the history of vampires, packages of Palais-Royal biscuits, bottles of lavender cologne, and one wooden dildo crafted, for personal use, to the Marquis’s precise specifications. Born to a noble family in 1740, Sade had spent his life mired in scandal—he narrowly dodged a bullet fired by the father of one of his servants, slashed a beggar and poured hot wax into her wounds, and offered to pay a prostitute to defecate on a crucifix, to give a small but representative sample. In 1777, Sade’s powerful motherin-law, Madame de Montreuil, understandably sick of his antics, secured an arrest warrant for the Marquis signed by her friend Louis XVI. Sade was locked away on no charges. By the time he began The 120 Days of Sodom, he had been jailed for eight years. Working by candlelight in the Bastille had rendered him nearly blind. Nonetheless, he wrote, “it is impossible for me to turn my back on my muse; it sweeps me along, forces me to write despite myself and, no matter what people may do to try to stop me, there is no way they will ever succeed.” The 120 Days of Sodom tells the story of four aristocrats who abduct sixteen boys and girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen and subject them to four months of what would later be called, after the author, sadistic rape and torture. The novel begins with pedophiliac AS priests and golden showers, and things only degenerate from there— to incest, bestiality, coprophilia, necrophilia, starvation, disembowAND elment, amputation, castration, cannibalism, and infanticide. By day 120, the château is awash in bodily fluids and strewn with corpses. Sade wrote every evening for thirty-seven days, joining pages end to end to form a single scroll, and hid the obscene and blasphemous manuscript in the wall of his cell. On July 3, 1789, Sade was forcibly transferred to a mental asylum outside Paris after using the funnel from his pissing tube as a megaphone to denounce his captors. Eleven days later, an insurgent mob stormed the Bastille; the French Revolution had begun. Sade was released a year later, amid the upheaval. Calling himself “Citoyen Louis Sade,” he dabbled in politics before being arrested again in 1801 at the age of sixty-one. Sade spent his final years back in the asylum. He went to his grave believing The 120 Days of Sodom had been destroyed in the sacking of the Bastille. “Every day,” he wrote of the missing work, “I shed tears of blood.”
120 DAYS OF SODOM VARIOUSLY DESCRIBED “ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT “THE NOVELS EVER WRITTEN” GOSPEL OF EVIL.”
The extensive wars that Louis XIV had to wage throughout the course of his reign, while exhausting the state’s finances and the people’s resources, nevertheless uncovered the secret to enriching an enormous number of those leeches always lying in wait. . . . It was toward the end of this reign . . . that four among them conceived the unique feat of debauchery we are about to describe. . . . The time has come, friendly reader, for you to prepare your heart and mind for the most impure tale ever written since the world began. . . . 8 2 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E sq u i re
TWO YEARS BEFORE LHÉRITIER’S INDICTMENT, as a troop of Napoleonic guards played an imperial march and women made up to look like eighteenth-century courtesans sipped Champagne with government ministers, Aristophil’s founder stood behind a podium at the Hôtel de La Salle and welcomed his guests to the brand-new “pantheon of letters and manuscripts.” Recent reports that the outfit was in trouble were nothing but unfounded “attacks,” he said. “A successful company provokes jealousies, desires, questions, and creates opponents. . . . It is a permanent struggle.” Lhéritier had labored for years to reach such heights. As a working-class boy from Meuse, in northeastern France, he dreamed of living by the sea in Nice. After an unexceptional military career, he settled into a modest family life and a job at an insurance company in Strasbourg. He launched a company on the side, investing in diamonds, but it went bankrupt in 1984. He
Gérard Lhéritier with Sade’s manuscript in 2003. 2. Aristophil’s 120 Days of Sodom exhibition opening. 3. A nineteenthcentury engraving of the Marquis and his muses. 4. A scene from Salò, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film adaptation of Sodom. 5. A plaster mold of Sade’s skull. 6. Aristophil’s now-shuttered Museum of Letters and Manuscripts.
married and had two children, then divorced in 1987. On a trip to Paris, Lhéritier visited a stamp shop in hopes of finding a gift for his son. Inside, he spotted a small envelope bearing the words “Par ballon monté” that, he learned, had been sealed during the 1870 Prussian siege of Paris and flown over the invading armies via balloon—one of the first letters ever sent by air. It cost 150 francs (less than twenty dollars). He felt like a “gold digger who discovers a vein,” Lhéritier later wrote. He started Valeur Philatéliques, trading in rare Monegasque stamps. French authorities charged Lhéritier with fraud for allegedly inflating their value; in March 1996, he spent two weeks in prison, though he was later acquitted. According to Intimate Corruption, the 2006 book Lhéritier wrote about “the Monaco stamp affair,” he was the victim of a government conspiracy. Lhéritier was already on to his next venture. In 1990, he founded a third company called Aristophil, fusing the words for art, history, and philology. The operation remained relatively small until 2002, when he acquired a series of letters written by Albert Einstein discussing the theory of relativity. Lhéritier paid the auction house Christie’s $560,000 for the lot, a fraction of what he figured a serious collector would be willing to spend. But finding such a buyer would take time. Instead, Lhéritier devised an alternative business model: He divided the ownership of the letters into shares—a common practice in real estate but largely unknown in the rarefied world of antiquarian books and manuscripts. That once out-of-reach market would now be open to schoolteachers, clergymen, shopkeepers, and anyone else who wanted to make a tax-exempt investment in the country’s literary heritage. For as little as a few hundred dollars, they could become part owners of this history-changing correspondence—or if they preferred, letters by the hand of Cocteau or Matisse. The shareholders would have the option to sell their stake back to the company after five years. In the interim, Aristophil would insure and safeguard the letters while promoting them through exhibitions in its newly opened Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, thus boosting their value. Independent brokers
promised returns of 40 percent. Soon the mere involvement of Aristophil at an auction would send bids skyward. It was the start of a bull market in letters, drawing out manuscripts that had been moldering in château libraries for generations. France’s antiquarian book and manuscript shops are concentrated in the Paris neighborhood of St.-Germain-des-Prés. Down cobblestone alleyways, behind doors marked Livres Anciens and Autographes, historical letters and signed first editions were long bought and sold by those who shared a love of the written word, and deals were sealed with a handshake. Now these treasured works were being packaged and traded, owned by people who rarely saw their acquisitions or ran their fingertips across the paper. They had become investment vehicles like any other, and the old guard was up in arms. From his stylishly appointed shop a few blocks from Aristophil’s headquarters, Frédéric Castaing watched Lhéritier’s rise with disgust. The grandson of a celebrated antique dealer, and the son of the proprietor of Maison Charavay, the oldest and perhaps most respected manuscript shop in the world, Castaing was the biggest name in the letters market. Until Lhéritier came along. “Their sales arrangements were an absolute vulgarity,” Castaing, his hair swept up in a striking pompadour, said of Aristophil when I visited his shop in November 2016. “Baudelaire plus 12 percent, Victor Hugo plus 12 percent.” He had a special hatred for Jean-Claude Vrain, a book dealer whom Lhéritier had tapped to help price his offerings. Some say the discord began with a dispute over politics. Others say Vrain’s flamboyant ways simply represented everything Castaing despised. In 2005, before ever meeting Lhéritier, Castaing published a crime novel, Rouge Cendres (Red Ashes), about a shady attempt to corner the Parisian letters market, with one of the main villains, Augustin, modeled on Vrain. “In the [auctions], he never sat down like you and me, in a silence of good taste,” he wrote of Augustin. “No, he’d stay on his feet at the back of the room, he’d speak harshly at everyone and he’d bid like one orders a café crème.” Castaing, who frequently spoke out against Lhéritier, was hired A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 8 3
to handle a major sale by the esteemed Hôtel Drouot in 2012. The auction was an abject failure: Forty-nine of the sixty-five lots went unsold. Lhéritier, it turned out, had told his associates not to bid. Castaing later found copies of the auction catalog on his shop’s doorstep every morning for a week—the belles lettres equivalent of a horse’s head in his sheets. The year before, the French government had declared that a series of letters written by former president Charles de Gaulle that had been purchased by Aristophil and divvied up among investors in fact belonged to the state. When staff under Aurélie Filippetti, the newly appointed minister of culture, reviewed the letters turned over by Aristophil, they discovered that Lhéritier had given them photocopies. Once confronted, he relinquished the originals, but Filippetti would not forget the affront. Around the same time, Belgian authorities launched a fraud and money-laundering investigation into Aristophil in Brussels, where the company had opened a second Museum of Letters and Manuscripts. And in December 2012, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, France’s SEC, issued a warning about investing in unregulated markets like letters and manuscripts. A year later, reports emerged that for the first time ever, Aristophil declined to buy back some of its investors’ manuscripts at the expected rate of return. (Lhéritier’s lawyer says there was never a guarantee to repurchase.) Yet if Lhéritier was worried, he didn’t show it. The opening gala at his new headquarters was like a thumb in the eye of his enemies. He had won $210 million in Europe’s EuroMillions lottery the previous November—the biggest jackpot in the country’s history—and invested some $40 million of his winnings in Aristophil. And he was preparing to make his most audacious acquisition yet. SADE WAS WRONG: The 120 Days of Sodom wasn’t lost in the siege of the Bastille. It was discovered by a young man named Arnoux de Saint-Maximin, who spirited the rolled-up parchment out of the crumbling prison and sold it to the Marquis de VilleneuveTrans. Villeneuve-Trans’s descendants hid the manuscript in their Provençal estate for more than a century, ultimately selling it to a German collector in 1900. In 1904, the Berlin sexologist Iwan Bloch published a few hundred copies of Sade’s previously unknown novel, ostensibly for scientific purposes. The scroll returned to France in 1929, when it was purchased by Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, patrons of the European avant-garde movement who traced their ancestry to Sade. The Noailles allowed a Sade authority to borrow the manuscript and produce a more accurate version of the text, which he published via limited subscription to avoid censorship. The family then kept the scroll in a library cabinet, breaking it out for readings when entertaining luminaries like Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. “I remember when intellectuals would come to visit, it was always a special moment to show them the manuscript,” says Carlo Perrone, the Noailles’ grandson. “We would take it out of the box three or four times a year. It was not something we showed everybody.” In 1982, Perrone, then in his twenties, received a panicked call from his mother: The manuscript was gone. She’d lent it to a close friend, the publisher Jean Grouet, who’d smuggled it into Switzerland and sold it for roughly $60,000. The buyer was a department-store magnate, Gérard Nordmann, owner of one of the largest private collections of erotica in the world. Perrone traveled to Switzerland to retrieve the manuscript, offering to buy it back. But Nordmann refused, telling Perrone, “I will keep it for the rest of my life.” After a lengthy legal battle, France’s highest tribunal ruled that the manuscript had been stolen and ordered that it be returned 8 4 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
to the Noailles. But Switzerland, which hadn’t yet ratified the UNESCO convention requiring the repatriation of stolen cultural goods, disagreed. In 1998, the Swiss federal court ruled that Nordmann had purchased it in good faith. The manuscript’s author, meanwhile, was enjoying a cultural resurgence. By the time the French ban on his books was lifted in the 1970s, Sade was seen in some circles as a man ahead of his time: muse of the surrealists, forerunner of Freud, even prophesier of the Holocaust. With his works now published by the distinguished Bibliothèque de la Pléiade and Penguin Classics, the “Divine Marquis” had entered France’s literary pantheon. For generations, the Sade family refused the title “Marquis” because of its notorious associations. Today, Hugues de Sade, a direct descendant, sells wine, spirits, and beer under the brand Maison de Sade. “He must be looking up right now from his grave, smiling,” Hugues told me, sitting in his flat on the outskirts of Paris, where a bronze of his famous ancestor’s skull enjoys pride of place on his coffee table. He is holding out hope for a Sade-themed line of Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Nordmann remained true to his word: He kept The 120 Days of Sodom for the rest of his life. After his death in 1992 and his widow’s in 2010, Nordmann’s heirs put his collection of erotica up for sale. Sensing an opportunity, Bruno Racine, the director of the National Library of France, with the backing of France’s Commission of National Treasures, lined up roughly $5 million in private donations to buy the historic scroll in 2013. The sellers agreed to share the proceeds with Perrone and his family. Two days before the deal was to be finalized, the Nordmanns backed out. Maybe, as Perrone would later tell the French press, the courtroom battles were still too fresh for the family to make a deal involving the manuscript’s former owners. Or maybe the Nordmanns had an inkling they could hold out for a better offer. Not quite a year later, in March 2014, Lhéritier announced that he’d purchased The 120 Days of Sodom for $10 million. The bulk of the proceeds went to the Nordmanns and to Perrone and his family. The rest covered taxes, fees, and, presumably, a hefty commission for Vrain, the mastermind behind the deal. Lhéritier, accompanied by a television news crew, chartered a private jet to claim his prize. He offered to donate the manuscript to the National Library after exhibiting it for five to seven years, in exchange for a significant reduction in his company’s tax obligation. The National Library was on board with the agreement, but Filippetti’s Ministry of Culture, still smarting from the de Gaulle episode, declined. “Suspicion against the sustainability and integrity of Aristophil led the state not to proceed with this proposal,” Racine, whose term as National Library director ended in 2016, told me in an email. The Musée d’Orsay asked to borrow the scroll for its blockbuster exhibition “Sade. Attacking the Sun,” opening that October. Lhéritier refused, believing that if he lent the manuscript to the museum, which operated under the authority of the minister of culture, he might never get it back, thereby losing it to the French government without the benefits of his original offer. Instead, a month before the museum’s show, he mounted his own exhibition. Perrone did not attend. “My relationship with Lhéritier was not that friendly,” he says. Two months later, the police showed up at Lhéritier’s door. “FILIPPETTI AND SOME malicious prosecutors thought that the manuscript would be submitted free of charge after Aristophil’s destruction,” Lhéritier told me through a translator. “They placed a bomb in the heart of Aristophil and its museums, and it exploded.” Lhéritier is sitting at his dining table in his fortresslike stone
The novelist Gonzague Saint Bris (third from left) hosts the Marquis’s descendants Elzéar (with a bronze of Sade’s skull), Hugues, and Thibault de Sade for the bicentennial of the Marquis’s death in 2014. villa in the hills above Nice, wearing a cobalt-blue suit with a plaid open-collared shirt and matching pocket square. In the bright white light coming off the Mediterranean on this warm December 2016 day, he looks older, more tired, than he appears in even relatively recent photos. This is the first time Lhéritier has spoken at length publicly about the rise and fall of Aristophil since he’s come to be regarded as France’s Bernie Madoff. Agents in the country’s consumer-affairs and fraud-prevention division, leery of Aristophil’s unusual business model, spent years investigating the company. Interviewing Castaing and other sources in the manuscript market, they concluded that Lhéritier built Aristophil as an elaborate shell game. According to lawyers representing the company’s former clients, Lhéritier and his colleagues considerably overvalued Aristophil’s holdings while using new investments to pay off old ones and make new purchases so that the operation would appear sound. Financial investigators referred the case to the French public prosecutor’s office, which ordered the raids in November 2014. Four months later, an investigating judge indicted Lhéritier, according to multiple news accounts, on charges of fraud, money laundering, deceptive marketing practices, and breach of trust. (Lhéritier’s lawyer would not comment on the specific charges.) He now faces up to ten years in prison. Authorities also reportedly indicted three Aristophil associates: Vrain, an accountant, and one of the company’s directors. (Vrain would not comment on any charges.) Employees continued to operate the museum and the 120 Days of Sodom exhibit for several months without pay, even though the collections were under government seal. The courts tied up Lhéritier’s lottery winnings, his properties (although he’s still allowed to live in his $5 million villa), his three racehorses, and his two hot-air balloons. The only reason Lhéritier has any money at all is thanks to his son, Fabrice, to whom he’d bestowed a portion of his EuroMillions windfall.
PERHAPS, LHÉRITIER MUSES, THE SCROLL REALLY IS CURSED: “MAYBE IF I HADN’T TOUCHED THE MANUSCRIPT, ARISTOPHIL WOULD STILL BE HERE.” Out on a $2.5 million bail, Lhéritier now spends his days preparing for his criminal trial, a date for which has not yet been set. In his timber-ceilinged villa, which features indoor and outdoor pools and a dramatic view of the sea, the divorcé shows me photos of his children and grandchildren among the elegant antiques and paintings in gilded frames. In the bathroom, an electronic toilet boasts a heated seat and a self-opening lid—the ultimate throne for the son and grandson of a plumber. It’s a charmed existence, but a far cry from the bustle of Aristophil headquarters and the buzz of Paris auction houses. “The guy’s objective goal in life is not money; it is respectability,” says his lawyer, Francis Triboulet. “But now everyone has abandoned him.” Yet Lhéritier remains confident. “It might take two or three years, but they aren’t going to get me,” he says. When I ask how many years in prison he thinks he’ll receive, he makes a circle with his fingers: zero. According to Triboulet, Lhéritier cannot be convicted of fraud because Aristophil never guaranteed it would buy back investors’ manuscript shares. Its contracts simply stated that investors could offer to sell back their shares to the company after five years. As for the 40 percent returns shareholders expected from their investments? The overzealous promises of independent brokers, not company policy. Anne Lamort, the former president of France’s booksellers syndicate, has long suspected Lhéritier was up to something, but concedes that the government’s case against him isn’t particularly strong. “I think it is very difficult to prove fraud or the exaggerated manuscript estimates,” she says. “There is no objective measure and no witnesses.” If Aristophil was a hoax, Triboulet says, why would Lhéritier have invested millions of his lottery winnings into the company? “It’s the first time in my life that the main victim of a system which is alleged to be a fraud is considered the main fraudster of the business.” But rumors swirl about that lottery jackpot. Some believe Lhéritier bought the winning ticket from somebody else to legitimize his spending—an old Whitey (continued on page 111) A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 8 5
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‘H I S
position was extraordinary,” my wonderful friend Walter Hopps informed me. Walter was the One, when it came to all this—long ago, when hardly anyone knew—who knew. “One way to look at it—these things are never set in granite—is that Picasso and Matisse fulfilled the dream of the nineteenth century, and the two artists who hold the really extreme positions unique to our time are Duchamp and Mondrian. Art for the mind and not for the eye. The irony is, Duchamp did so many beautiful things. But not just stuff you decorate walls with. His great contribution to art was elsewhere.” Meaning that in the nineteenth century a urinal could only say—if it could say anything—“I’m a urinal.” But after Marcel, a urinal could also say, “I look like a urinal, but Marcel says I’m art.” “In other words,” Walter may or may not have ended, “Duchamp playing chess with a nude in a photograph may be art.” Of course, if you’re the nude, being “art” seems beside the point. At least with the Naked Maja, you could be airbrushed and posterity would think of you as perfect, whereas on that day, sitting naked in the museum, having to play chess with someone who hardly spoke English and was so polite he pretended that the reason he’d come was to play chess—well. And afterward, when the photograph began showing up on things like posters for the Museum of Modern Art, and Nude Descending a Staircase became almost interchangeable with Nude Playing Chess, and Duchamp being so immortal, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be identified. Maybe it would be better to be “and friend.” On the other hand, if they’d asked anyone 98 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
else—or if I’d chickened out and some other woman was immortalized—then, hmmph.... Recently, when a woman called and said she was doing a book on Duchamp on the West Coast and could she please use that picture, I said, “You’re not going to use it on the cover, are you?” But when I found out the cover photo was to be of Marcel alone, I felt insulted. Mixed emotions hound me after nearly thirty years of mixed emotions. I want to be on the cover, immortal, but I don’t want anyone knowing it’s me. Except my friends and people who like it. Otherwise, I’ll just be “and friend.” Anyone who thinks the nude should have been thinner, or in any way different—to them, I’ll be a floating image of “elsewhere.” Immortality or no.
the 1913 Armory Show in New York, there was a scandal over Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. If you look at the picture today, you might ask yourself—Pourquoi? It’s not as though it’s a photograph or anything naked you could see. It was so dif1
fracted and cubistic, who could tell? Maybe it was a scandal because people had to take it on faith that there was anything there at all besides olive-green, beige, and black corners that may or may not have been a staircase. That painting, however, made Duchamp famous and laid the way clear for twentiethcentury art to be not what it seemed. The interesting thing about that painting is that it was bought (for $350 or so) not by some hip New Yorker but rather by a print dealer in San Francisco, who put it in his office as a publicity stunt. In Hollywood, there was a genuine collector couple, Walter and Louise Arensberg, who amassed Duchamp works as though Los Angeles were a totally cultivated city where you’d expect people to know what was happening artwise in the twentieth century—like Gertrude Stein and her brother, who knew what was what practically before anything was anything. Only the Steins were in Paris, where art was in the air, whereas the Arensbergs were in Los Angeles, where if you could draw, you’d be good if you were Walt Disney. Los Angeles was a hick town with a vengeance, artwise. If you judged it by the L. A. County Museum, or by its nowheresville galleries, or by its public philanthropies like the Huntington Library, where they kept all the Gainsboroughs and Joshua Reynoldses, the place was hopeless. It was so impossible that the L.A. County Museum didn’t admit any art from Los Angeles. In the Fifties, my mother once picketed the place with her friend Vera Stravinsky, just to call the museum’s attention to the fact that nobody from L. A. was inside. The museum relented and held a contest for local artists, promising to hang the work of the winners, and my mother won for a line drawing of old houses on Bunker Hill. New York was ablaze with glamorous guys like Pollock, Rothko, De Kooning, and Motherwell, but in L.A., even if all you wanted to see was French Impressionists, you had to know Edward G. Robinson.
colorization: Dana Keller
In 1963, decades before Los Angeles was teeming with as many artists as struggling actors, its gallery scene was a sunbaked backwater. And Eve Babitz, still a few years from becoming one of the most trenchant observers of ’60s and ’70s West Coast culture, was a twenty-year-old live wire who committed what might go down as the most highbrow act of revenge on record. Snubbed by a married lover and her ego bruised, Babitz got even by sitting for a portrait in the museum run by her ex-paramour. She was in the nude, separated by only a card table and a chess set from (a clothed) Marcel Duchamp, then seventy-six, the founder of dadaism and among the twentieth century’s most influential surrealists. The image became an enduring symbol of the nascent, freewheeling California art world. Shortly after she bared all, Babitz began writing, both fiction and non-. Her prose was equal parts prickly wit and cellophane-thin gossip: Joan Didion minus the vituperation. And then, after battling addiction and suffering severe burns in a freak accident, Babitz faded from public view. Now nearing the age of the artist who sat across from her all those years ago, she hasn’t published in decades. But a new generation of writers is rediscovering, and drawing inspiration from, her work. We proudly present Babitz’s account of how it all began, adapted from the original published in Esquire in September 1991.
Kings and Queens (1) Julian Wasser (center, at a party with Brooke Shields) was the photographer who captured the famous shot. (2) Here again is Babitz, just before removing her smock for the photo shoot. (3) Before running the Pasadena Art Museum, gallerist Walter Hopps operated out of this L.A. storefront, seen here in 1962. (4) Andy Warhol (nice haircut!), Virginia Dwan, and Brooke Hayward take in the show in Pasadena. (5) Thatâ€™s Duchamp on the left, Man Ray on the right, and Henri Cartier-Bresson behind the camera. (6) Ever the showman, Duchamp played chess as a piece of performance art at his own retrospective.
W A LT E R Hopps was growing up a whiz kid from Eagle Rock, in a program in high school for the truly brilliant, and once a month they went on strange field trips, one of which, in 1948, changed his life forever. Before that (he was only fifteen) he was supposed to become a doctor—he came from a family of doctors, his mother and father were both doctors, his grandfather and grandmother were “horse-and-buggy” doctors in Eagle Rock, his great-grandmother was a doctor! But then one day he was taken to the home of Walter and Louise Arensberg. “And so you saw the Duchamps there?” I asked. “And did you get it? I mean, about Duchamp?” “In a word?” He laughed. “Yes.” “So it changed your life?” “The whole core of my thinking was shifted very particularly within a year,” he said. In other words, he started hanging out with low-life types, going to jazz joints with fake ID, and mingling with Wallace Berman, who wasn’t yet an artist but more just a hipster. In 1957 or so, when Walter opened the Ferus Gallery with the artist Ed Kienholz, he finally dropped out of school. He had already opened three galleries by then, and he was only twenty-four. He still looked like a doctor, and he had such a bedside manner he made people feel better just by entering a room. And though he talked all the time, he gave the impression of utter silence. Everyone else in the art world, or what little art world there was in those days, may have seemed far-out and beatniky, but Walter, in his neat, dark American suits with his white shirts, ties, pale skin, and blue eyes behind black eyeglass frames, seemed too businesslike for words. It was as though someone from the other side, the public side of L.A., had materialized on La Cienega, on our side, the side of weirdness, messiness, and art. One of the first shows they had there, a Wallace Berman exhibit, got busted for obscenity, which got things off properly and sealed our faith in Walter. If someone so classic-American was willing to let a crack of light into fluorescent Los Angeles, a crack of darkness. . . Plus, he had such a convincingly deadpan delivery that rich older ladies might actually buy this stuff. In 1962, when I was nineteen, I was going to L. A. Community College (because you could park, unlike at UCLA). One day a girl came up to me, told me her name was Myrna Reisman, asked if Stravinsky was my godfather, and when I said yes, she said, “Great, I’ll pick you up around eight.” She arrived in her boyfriend’s Porsche and took me to Barney’s Beanery, where Everyone was that night. Sitting at a couple of 100 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
tables in the back of the bar were Irving Blum (who by then was the front man at the Ferus Gallery, having a presence and voice like Cary Grant and the greatest eyelashes on any coast) and Ed Kienholz, who was grizzly and manly and who was having a show at the gallery. Also there that night were Wallace Berman, the strange prince of darkness with long, long black hair, and Billy Al Bengston, the first surfer artist I met there, and Larry Bell, who I knew already because he was the bouncer at the Unicorn. I wouldn’t meet Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Peter Alexander, or Laddie Dill until later, but I did meet Robert Irwin, who was so totally a surfer that in those days that’s all he and Kenneth Price, who was also there, ever did. Sitting with the surfers was Walter Hopps, looking much too normal to be in Barney’s, just this wreck of a West Hollywood chili joint. “I met you,” Walter said, “at a poetry reading at your house.” “You did?” I asked. Somehow it was decided that we were all going to Kienholz’s house in Laurel Canyon. It was crowded and rustic and I was beginning to feel left out when Walter sat beside me and offered to show me Ed’s show, “among other things,” if I came to the gallery the next day. “What other things?” I asked, although I trusted him because he was so polite. A couple days later I went to the gallery and Walter was there, alone except for the cow’s skull on the mannequin’s body with an arm holding a cigarette holder, alone except for a papier-mâché model of a woman over a sewing machine you pumped with your foot to make her pump up and down. The installation, titled Roxy’s, was a scale-model World War II–era Nevada whorehouse with a jukebox that played Glenn Miller, and the skull lady was the madam. “I’ll show you other things,” Walter said, and took me upstairs to a garage apartment where I saw a Siamese cat with eyes the same color and weirdness as his. He showed me a bunch of John Altoon works he’d just res-
cued from one of John’s self-destructive attacks (he used to go after his paintings with an axe or something, I don’t know), and I saw these great, hypnotic Kenneth Price ceramics. I was only nineteen and I said, “What’s this all about anyway?” “Is it okay if I write on this?” he asked, noticing the paperback I was carrying, a history of literary criticism. I handed it over and after a minute he wrote: “Eve, baby, this is another place—so walk, (right along) easy.” I still have this because I have everything he gave me except a signed Lichtenstein (I always lose the art).
1963 Walter forsook the Ferus Gallery, and even though it was only to become director of the Pasadena Art Museum, someone should have noticed how fast he was moving. He was only twenty-eight and suddenly he was all the way in New York sweet-talking Duchamp into a southern California retrospective. The thing about Walter was that he was able to persuade not only artists to go along with his ideas but people with money to back him up. He looked so Waspy they figured he was one of them. And he was, it was just that they were changing—suddenly they had eyes to see. Suddenly they weren’t just after a nice Matisse. Suddenly they were becoming complicated. Suddenly everything was a lot more fun. Pasadena, whose sole claim to fame was the Rose Parade, was now anxiously awaiting the Big Private Party at the Green Hotel before the Public Opening of the Duchamp show. Elsewhere was going public!
E V E RYO N E
I knew was going. Even my sister, who was only seventeen (I was twenty), was going, with this bold photographer, Julian Wasser, a Time photographer who drove around with a police radio in his car. (continued on page 112)
There’s plenty more vintage Esquire where this came from. We’ve raided our archives and digitized every story from every issue in our trailblazing (if we say so ourselves) eighty-five-year catalog. Read it all at classic.esquire.com.
If He Says It’s Art, It’s Art (1) Babitz in Hollywood circa 1980. (2) Another of Duchamp’s readymades—Bicycle Wheel, 1964. (3) Duchamp reclines at home with another chess set, this one designed by Max Ernst. (4) Hopps, who curated the Duchamp retrospective, had no idea Babitz would be getting naked with his star artist. (5) Nude Descending a Staircase.
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This page: Jacket ($8,200) by Berluti. Opposite: Bag ($890) by Tomas Maier; boots ($698) by John Varvatos. 103
Even after all these years, BLUE SUEDE SHOES still put the beat in your feet. Whether you’re into Migos or Monk, they’ll fit in at any club. Bag ($1,870) by JW Anderson; gray belt ($525) by Giorgio Armani; brown belt ($545) by Brunello Cucinelli; ball by Berluti; brown jacket ($2,475) by Tod’s; pink jacket ($1,555) by Presidents; sneakers ($495) by Dunhill.
For store information see page 115. Prop styling by JoJo Li for Hello Artists.
GO TO TOWN IN BROWN In the old days, brown suede was for cattlemen. Today, it’s more sophisticated and meant for city streets.
Loafers ($695) by Tod’s; cap-toes ($895) by Ralph Lauren.
April 20 18_E s q u i re 105
M Y U N CL E, T HE The author.
’7 0 S PO RN S TA R HIS NAME IS JOHNNY SEEMAN. He’s seventy-four now and lives alone. But from 1973 to 1987, this nice Jewish boy from Westchester was a legend in the pre-Viagra, Boogie Nights–era porno business. For all his success, though, he never found what he was looking for. SLOANE CROSLEY goes in search of her lost uncle.
A young Johnny Seeman back in his swinging heyday.
The most important thing you need to know about my uncle, the porn star, is that he’s not my actual uncle. He’s my mother’s cousin, which makes him my first cousin once removed. Johnny is now a seventy-four-year-old man partial to books-on-tape and cantaloupe, but between 1973 and 1987, he starred in 117 adult films. He was Man in Car, Man with Book, Man on Bus, Man in Hot Tub, Orgy Guy in Red Chair, Party Guy, Guy Wearing Glasses, Delivery Boy, and, perplexingly, Guy in Credits. He was the porn equivalent of Barbie, who can count astronaut, zookeeper, and aerobics instructor among her professional accomplishments. Except that Barbie, like Jesus before her and Prince after her, has no last name. Whereas Johnny’s last name, his actual last name, is Seeman. This is a fact too absurd to warrant further analysis. I didn’t snoop around about Johnny until college, but this was not for lack of interest. My college years happened to coincide with the late nineties, when the Internet was fast becoming a tool for personal research. Before that, my generation mostly used it for chain letters and lightbulb jokes. How many Harvard students does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to hold the lightbulb and 2 the other to rotate the world around him. But suddenly I had a vehicle for my curiosity. So I looked up Johnny to see what I could find. I was neither brave nor willing enough to search for video footage for fear of noticing any genetic resemblance to my mother’s brothers. Even the Greeks don’t have a name for that specific a complex. Instead, I read. My favorite article to this day was one in which Johnny is referred to—revered, really—as the most famous stunt cock ever. That was the headline—johnny seeman: the most famous stunt cock ever. This superlative seared into my brain. How many selfidentifying stunt cocks have walked the earth to make ever meaningful? Forty? Ever seemed a touch hyperbolic for an unquantifiable group of people. I also wondered if Johnny’s unique endowments meant I, too, had the good-genitalia gene. If I have a son, will he be pretty much set in that department? That might be a nice bonus attribute, though hopefully not 4 one he will have to rely on for money. In case you’re not familiar, a stunt cock is the guy who steps in to produce the money shot if an actor can’t maintain an erection. I imagine this was handy in the era before little blue pills and digital film, but it seems like a real morale dampener for everyone else. This is the guy who opens the pickle jar after you’ve loosened it, the one who carries the birthday cake you baked out of the kitchen. More than anything, it struck me as an odd hook for an interview. It’s the kind of detail that a man might drop about himself, but would be less likely to point out about another man. Unless, of course, it was the sole reason for an article that might not exist otherwise. And there, if you will, was the rub. I got the sense that, despite his 117 films, Johnny had been all but forgotten. In pornography, being tag-teamed by three women and a vacuum-cleaner nozzle does not a legend make. Johnny 5 needed to be reintroduced. Like I said, the man’s not my uncle. Though I’ve known Johnny my whole life, I can count our interactions on one hand. Our family is not the reunion type. We’re either united already or distant for some very good reason. Growing up, I saw Johnny at funerals and shivahs, possibly a wedding— definitely one Thanksgiving when my father got a real kick out of offering him breast meat. My otherwise straitlaced parents could barely contain their excitement at having a porn star in their midst. A porn star is chum in the water for people who think getting waitlisted from college is a haunting secret. Also, Johnny’s oth10 8 A p r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
1. Joan Devlon on set with Seeman in the mid-seventies. 2. Seeman in a climactic scene from the 1976 film Baby Rosemary. 3. Pornos in the 1970s were gentler and more romantic than today’s—hence the strawberries. 4. Seeman, Georgina Spelvin (behind the bar), and Devlon on the set of 1977’s Desires Within Young Girls. 5. Skin flicks back then had at least a veneer of artfulness. 6. Pornography kings Jim and Artie Mitchell. 7. Seeman was a contemporary (and doppelgänger) of porn legend John Holmes, seen here in 1975. 8. Porn actress Marilyn Chambers crossed over to the mainstream with David Cronenberg’s 1977 body-horror movie Rabid.
er brothers are a Parisian doctor and a businessman. Unfortunately, my parents’ reverse mythologizing of Johnny made it impossible to get an accurate sense of the guy. Snippets about Johnny were presented as essentials or in lieu of essentials. I knew that he dropped out of UNC-Chapel Hill, which meant he was smart enough to get in, and that he’d spent the last thirty years living alone in an apartment somewhere in Los Angeles, which meant he was sad. I knew he was once so lost to a world of sex-crazed degenerates that he sent his mother, my great-aunt, a magazine with an advertisement for one of his films. The photo featured Johnny, bespectacled and naked, pushing a woman on a swing, also naked. I’ve always imagined him giving a thumbs-up but I can’t confirm this because I’ve never actually seen the magazine. But most shockingly of all, I knew that Johnny got into porn to find a girlfriend. To me, this idea was always the most difficult to grasp. It seemed the most implausible. What kind of cockamamy plan was this from a man who got accepted to UNC from out of state? It’s common enough for people to spend their whole lives building careers or amassing wealth in order to get laid. So one could argue that Johnny had cleverly skipped the middleman. His career was to get laid. Which is all well and good—unless that was never the point. Unless Johnny only ever wanted to cuddle and spoon and take turns spitting toothpaste into a bathroom sink. What if all those lawn orgies and park-bench encounters were constructed solely for Johnny to find love? For years, I thought about this every time I sat on a park bench. Until one day, when I couldn’t stand thinking about it anymore.
“What do you need his email address for?” My parents are skeptical about me contacting Johnny. They don’t want me pestering a seventy-four-year-old man with stunt-cock inquiries. In truth, I don’t know exactly what I want from Johnny. Certainly, an academic curiosity about pornography is not a revelation. What am I going to do, blow the lid off fake orgasms? Nor is it a sociological curiosity. David Foster Wallace wrote at length about the Adult Video News Awards, thus pissing a circle around the subject for all eternity. My only credential is that I am a blood relative. But even this is a lame justification. At least some portion of Johnny’s draw comes from my own coastal turmoil. I have often felt I was mistakenly born a mid-Atlantic baby. The more I heard of Johnny’s “running off to California,” the more I felt a kinship with this person over my family. But I can’t tell my parents that. So I play the mortality card instead. “He won’t be around forever,” I say. “Neither will we,” my father says. “And we’re interesting!” “Not that interesting,” my mother corrects him, and forks over the email. Johnny writes back right away. It’s nice to hear from me, but he’s hesitant to chat. He needs to mull it over. I tell him to take his time, mull away, no problem. In truth, I am surprised. Not because I expect him to expose himself emotionally as he has physically, but because he has been a public participant in his former life. Only a few years ago, he was inducted into the Legends of Erotica Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. No one in my family was told about it, but it turned out a former colleague introduced him as “the most important person in all of Northern California during porn’s golden age; the guy who literally taught me how to fuck on camera—and this was before Viagra!” (The invocation of Viagra seems to be the pornindustry equivalent of telling a younger person that you used to walk uphill to and from school, both ways.) At the end of the ceremony, the host wheeled out a block of wet cement for Johnny to stick his septuagenarian penis into. He demurred and signed his name instead. A full month later, Johnny’s name reappears in my in-box along with the subject line “apologies.” Of course, (continued on page 113) Excerpted from Look Alive Out There, by Sloane Crosley, scheduled for publication on April 3, 2018. Copyright © 2018 by Sloane Crosley. Excerpted by permission of MCD, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
SCENE STEALER (c ontinu ed from page 78)
Montiel’s Man Down, his most recent theatrical release, LaBeouf is phenomenal; the problem is everything else. Reports of its poor performance at the one theater where it opened in the UK—fewer than a dozen tickets were sold—were spun as a sign of LaBeouf’s dimming star power. As he’s dropped off the moviegoing public’s radar, he’s appeared on another. For more than a year, he’s been under sustained attack by trolls from the /pol/ thread on 4chan, the anything-goes message board that attracts disaffected men who love to skewer political correctness. On the day of Trump’s inauguration, LaBeouf and two artists—Luke Turner, a Brit, and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, a Finn, with whom he’s collaborated on a series of performance-art projects—launched a piece at the Museum of the Moving Image, in Queens, called #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS. The idea was both simplistic and endearing: Participants were encouraged to walk up to a camera on the museum’s outer wall, live-streamed 24/7 and for the duration of Trump’s time in office, and say, “He will not divide us.” But you could also say whatever you wanted. And 4chan trolls showed up each day, salivating. A few donned SS garb and heiled Hitler. For LaBeouf, glorifying Nazis was a step too far. After a series of clashes, one of which led to LaBeouf’s arrest (no charges were pressed), the museum closed down the exhibit. #HWNDU was then installed, trolled, and subsequently removed from a theater in Albuquerque, a field in Tennessee, and an art center in Liverpool. Since October, it has been housed at an arts center in Nantes, France’s sixth-largest city. “I get that it’s fun to beat up on the millionaire celebrity,” LaBeouf says. He even allows that “there’s a level of what 4chan did that’s brilliant.” But since he was the target, he thinks, most people overlooked the fact that real extremists may have committed real crimes. He’s not wrong: The vandalism on the property in Tennessee didn’t get much attention until LaBeouf and his collaborators published the results of their own investigation. As far as the trolls were con110 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
cerned, they’d found a surefire way to crap on the pet project of a famous actor and provoke his response. They had reason to think that would work. Borg vs. McEnroe director Janus Metz points out the trait in LaBeouf—“Shia tries to break down the barrier between acting and reality”—that has been a boon for his craft but a burden when dealing with being a regular dude. Since last July’s arrest in Georgia, however, LaBeouf says his priorities have shifted paradigmatically. “For a long time, I thought that life was secondary to art,” he says. “And then you realize you can’t have this art thing without the life thing. I’m just trying to deal with my life right now, ’cause I don’t have fuck-all to offer the world until I do.” WE’VE WALKED DESCANSO’S manicured grounds, through sun-sprinkled oak groves and rows of lilac shrubs. We sit down on a weathered wood bench beneath a crab-apple tree. LaBeouf is ready to talk about what happened in Savannah. It started at 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday. A drunk LaBeouf asked to bum a smoke from two pedestrians, one of whom was a police officer. He was denied. He ignored the officer’s warnings to calm down, and was handcuffed and brought to the station. TMZ obtained Savannah police footage. Lots of it: Shia being cuffed, in the back of the police car, getting processed, each clip ickier and more damning than the last. In one, he brags about his “millionaire lawyers.” In another, he belittles a black officer for being “stuck in a police force that doesn’t give a fuck ’bout you. So you want to arrest, what, white people who give a fuck?” He suggests that a white officer’s wife watches porn involving “licking a black dick,” continuing with “Don’t you feel like, ‘Fuck, man, I ain’t got all the goods?’ ” One can lose track of the number of times he calls various officers “bitch” and “whore.” When I ask LaBeouf about that night, his answer comes in fits and starts. “What went on in Georgia was mortifying. White privilege and desperation and disaster. . . It came from a place of self-centered delusion. . . It was me trying to absolve myself of guilt for getting arrested.” And finally, “I fucked up.” He was in Savannah to film The Peanut Butter Falcon, a buddy adventure about a developmentally disabled man who escapes from his nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler. The role is played by the man for whom the script was written: Zachary Gottsagen, a thirtytwo-year-old actor with Down syndrome from Boynton Beach, Florida. After viewing a clip of Gottsagen acting out some of the scenes, LaBeouf committed to the role of a crab fisherman who helps the wrestlerto-be on his journey. “It just hit me over the head,” he says. “I was like, ‘Holy moly,
this is the new adventure.’ I knew it was yes before I even read the script.” On set, he and Gottsagen bonded instantly. “We picked Shia up in a ’74 Ford Ranger,” says Matthew Schwartz, who codirected the film with Tyler Nilson. “He got in the back with Zack and we drove an hour down the coast. Shia was asking Zack questions: ‘Who do you love? Where do you come from? What makes you happy?’” Nilson adds, “Zack wanted to know if Shia could film some more episodes of Even Stevens.” But Gottsagen tells me that when he found out about LaBeouf’s arrest, “I was angry. Mad. Frustrated. I didn’t want to work with Shia anymore.” The morning he got out of jail, LaBeouf attended a small party for the cast and crew, and no one brought up what had happened. “Everybody was pussyfooting around it,” he says. As soon as Gottsagen arrived, he beelined for LaBeouf and sat on the floor, and there LaBeouf joined him. They talked for twenty minutes. Gottsagen told him, “You’re already famous. This is my chance. And you’re ruining it.” “To hear him say that he was disappointed in me probably changed the course of my life,” LaBeouf says. “ ’Cause I was still fighting. I was still on my ‘Look how fast they released the videos! They don’t release these!’ Just on my defense-mechanism-fear garbage. And you can’t do that to him. He keeps it one thousand with you, and that shit doesn’t even make sense to him. Zack can’t not shoot straight, and bless him for it, ’cause in that moment, I needed a straight shooter who I couldn’t argue with.” He says their conversation continued on set: “We were getting ready to do a scene and Zack said, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And I thought, No fuckin’ way are you about to explain God to me, Zack.” LaBeouf tries to keep it together. His voice jumps an octave. “Zack said, ‘Even if He’s not real, what does it hurt?’ ” He turns his face away. He takes a breath and continues. “I don’t believe in God. . . . But did I see God? Did I hear God? Through Zack, yeah. He met me with love, and at the time, love was truth, and he didn’t pull punches. And I’m grateful, not even on some cheeseball shit trying to sell a movie. In real life. That motherfucker is magical.” LaBeouf’s posture is all right angles, as if the memory alone has straightened him. “Zack allowed me to be open to help when it came.” When LaBeouf first checked into rehab, he was asked about the pop—the moment your head gets pulled out of your ass and clarity washes over you. “For me,” he says, “it was Zack.” LaBeouf is not broken but on the other side of brokenness, and he’s looked back at the wreckage for long enough. It’s time to go home. He rises, puts his hands in his pockets, and walks out from under the shade of the crab-apple tree.
THE SADIST’S REVENGE
investment save for a contract produced by a company that no longer exists. Lhéritier doesn’t spend much time pondering Aristophil’s investors. While he expresses sympathy for their troubles, he maintains that he is not to blame. “I would tell the clients to address themselves to the authors of this destruction, not to me,” he says. “There is only one thing to say to the clients, and I have said this since the beginning: They have to be patient and confident. Their collections still exist. They haven’t lost anything.”
Bulger trick. (Lhéritier vehemently denies that there was anything improper about his lottery win.) “I brought to the general public, to the working class and others, all of the artists of the School of Paris and the great celebrities of the humanities,” he says. Powerful interests in the Ministries of Culture, Finance, and Justice were out to destroy him, he claims, because he threatened the cultural status quo and dared to flaunt his success. “In order to live happily in France, you have to live hidden,” he says. For his part, Hugues de Sade largely agrees. “He is someone who was able to find his niche and exploit it in a very intelligent way,” Hugues says of Lhéritier. “But in France, we always criticize people who succeed. We like to gain money, but we don’t like to talk about it.” There’s something appealing about Lhéritier’s tale, the way this outsider upended the exclusive world of letters through pluck, innovation, and good fortune. But then I remember all the people who believed in this man. With interest, Aristophil owes approximately $1.5 billion to its nearly eighteen thousand investors. That includes Geoffroy de La Taille, an actor and father of five who along with his wife invested $230,000 in the company, figuring the earnings would help his family through the lean times between roles. And Robert Cipollina, a motorcycle racer turned small-business owner in Avignon who planned to use the returns on his $45,000 investment to buy a new car. He changed his mind in 2014, deciding the profits would go to his children as he lay dying from leukemia. “I would prefer to have my dad back, but I also don’t want them to have his money,” Aude Nehring, Cipollina’s daughter, told me angrily when I visited her and her family in Germany. “What is going on here? Do we have a chance to get the money back?” Selling off Lhéritier’s assets wouldn’t come close to making his investors whole. Seeking alternatives, some of the alleged victims have formed associations and filed lawsuits against ancillary businesses linked to Aristophil, like its banks and notary. For now, they have little to show for their
AFTER BEING HIDDEN away for almost three years, The 120 Days of Sodom emerged from its vault late last year. In a second-floor gallery in the modernist Parisian citadel that houses the Drouot auction house, the scroll was rolled up and placed on a pedestal, surrounded by other treasures confiscated from Aristophil. Aguttes, the Parisian auction company that won the contract to store and sell the company’s holdings, announced last November that the liquidation of the collection would start on December 20 with a blockbuster sale. Then, on December 18, the French government declared The 120 Days of Sodom a national treasure. When the auction begins on a cold and dreary afternoon two days later in one of Drouot’s largest halls, the auctioneer steps up to the podium and explains to the packed crowd that the designation means the manuscript will be removed from view while the state works to negotiate a fair-market price. Minus its star attraction, the auction proceeds desultorily. Onlookers spill out into the hallway; video screens display offers in dollars, pounds, yuan, and other currencies; news cameras zoom in on bidders whispering, mouths covered, into their cell phones, gesturing subtly to the auctioneer when the price is right. But there is little drama. Even Vrain, conspicuous as ever in a widebrimmed hat, remains seated for most of the sale, avoiding the sort of ostentatious displays that so incensed Castaing. (The latter isn’t in attendance, preferring the intimacy of one-on-one sales and refusing to take financial advantage of the debacle.) Vrain, who hasn’t spoken to Lhéritier since the raids, dismisses criticisms he’s faced because of his connection to Aristophil. “I have run my business the way I have wanted to,” he told me when I visited his bookshop the year before. “Some people like me; some people don’t. I don’t give a shit.” The few times Vrain does bid, he walks away with several of the biggest sales of the auction: an original Balzac manuscript for $1.5 million, a calligraphic edition of an Alexandre Dumas drama for $100,000. But many of the lots don’t meet
(continued from p age 85)
even the low end of the valuations the auction company had assigned, let alone the inflated prices Aristophil’s clients paid for them. Nearly a third go unsold. As the auction wraps up, several longtime Parisian book and art dealers gather downstairs at L’Adjuge, the auction house’s café, to reflect on what just transpired. “It was a black sale!” declares Serge Plantureux, who specializes in photographs. “The atmosphere was like a funeral.” Anne Lamort agrees that the sale didn’t go well as she sips her coffee. And this was only the first and most notable of the Aristophil auctions; Aguttes has promised roughly three hundred more over at least the next six years to liquidate all 130,000 items Aristophil had amassed. “There will be a paralysis effect for the next ten years,” Lamort predicts. Everything—Lhéritier’s claims that his empire was built on real value, the investments of his clients, the stability of the shaken manuscript market—hinges on these auctions. Judging from the first sale, everyone involved has reason to worry. But the onetime king of manuscripts continues to deny any responsibility. “I am furious after this auction,” he wrote in an email. “The choice of Aguttes as auction manager is a humbug.” He believes the auctioneer wasn’t experienced enough in manuscripts, and that it was foolhardy to mount such a high-profile sale less than a week before Christmas. “My old customers will lose a lot of money.” Lhéritier insists that his letters are worth the prices he promised because the age of handwritten documents is coming to an end. “People have boxes and boxes of letters” in their basements, he says. “These are completely hidden treasures.” One treasure that probably won’t ever reach Lhéritier’s predicted value is The 120 Days of Sodom . While it now seems likely to end up in the National Library, without a public auction or bidding war, it’s doubtful the manuscript will fetch the $10 million Lhéritier paid in 2014, much less the $15 million for which he sold it to 420 Aristophil investors. In the end, The 120 Days of Sodom may belong to all of France—and to no one. Perhaps, Lhéritier muses, the scroll really is cursed: “Maybe if I hadn’t touched the manuscript, Aristophil would still be here.” He says this with a laugh as he sits in the rooftop restaurant of a posh Nice hotel, drinking an espresso in the brilliant sunshine and looking out over the sea. He admits that he’s never thought too hard about the deeper significance of Sade’s scandalous opus, never intensely contemplated the dark, insidious corruption it describes. He never finished reading it. A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 111
THE CHESS PLAYER STRIPPED BARE (c ontinu ed from page 100)
When he came to pick up my sister, Julian noticed that I was to be left behind and he invited me, but I felt so banished in spirit and it didn’t seem to me the sort of thing you could crash. I knew that a couple of days later there’d be the public opening of the show and my parents had been invited, so I could go with them. My father didn’t care about Duchamp but he did have this interest in chess, and since Marcel had announced that he was “retired” from art to only play chess, my father thought he might go and see just what a master this guy was. The public opening was very crowded and lots of fun. I got myself some red wine and wandered over to a raised platform where Marcel and Walter were playing chess, and my father came by and watched with a cynical expression. (He told me later, “That Marcel is not very good, I could have beaten him on the fourth move. And your friend Walter can’t play at all.”) Maybe it was the spectacle of Walter playing chess with Duchamp “for art” that gave Julian the idea. After all, by 1963 it had been about forty years since Marcel had retired to play chess (or so he wanted the world to think). For forty years someone could have come up with the idea of photographing the master of Nude Descending a Staircase playing chess with a naked woman. But nobody in Paris or New York thought it up. “Hey, Eve,” Julian said, grinning. “Why don’t I take pictures of you nude, playing chess with Marcel Duchamp?” Heretofore, the only nudes in L. A. were calendar girls—starlets trying to make the rent. Of course, me being the nude sort of made me feel like I was pretending I was way bolder than I really was. But then, anything seemed possible—for art, that night. Especially after all that red wine. Still, this was Pasadena, the home of gracious ladies painting watercolors on afternoon outings, so I said, “You better ask people, Julian, and make sure it’s okay.” I have known plenty of great photographers in my life, and if there’s one thing they can do, it’s trample over objections. Julian dis112 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
appeared, and when he came back he said, “It’s all set.” “Does Walter know?” I asked. “They’ll tell him,” he said. “Anyway, he’ll think it’s a great idea. It is a great idea.” All my ideas about Pasadena—about L. A. itself—were undergoing a molecular transformation. We were going from Little League to a home run in the World Series. Even my father thought it was a great idea, driving home in the car, although my mother did say, “If you change your mind, darling, it won’t matter.” The only trouble was, I had been taking birth control pills for the first and only time in my life, and not only had I puffed up like a blimp but my breasts had swollen to look like two pink footballs. Plus they hurt. On the other hand, it would be a great contrast—this large, too-L. A. surfer girl with an extremely tiny old man in a French suit. Playing chess. (After I saw the contact sheets, I never took the Pill again.) We arrived at the museum at 8:00, and Gretchen Glicksman, one of Walter’s assistants, was waiting for us. I had never been in a museum before it opened—it was so quiet and cold. Gretchen told me I could change into a smock upstairs in a studio, so I ran up while Julian set up his lights. He was completely in photo mode, determined to get pictures the way photographers are once they know nothing can stop them. The year before, I had lived in France, supposedly to learn French at the Alliance Française, but all I did was hang out at La Coupole picking up Americans. My sister, who did learn French, had to drag me to museums since going inside a building to see art never would have occurred to me. In Rome, where I lived alone for six months after Paris, I never once set foot inside the Sistine Chapel, but at least in Italy I learned some Italian, and as for art, you could watch it while you ate tartufo outside, and large nudes were everywhere, abundantly, galore. Except for Rome, I thought Europe was nowhere compared with L. A.—everywhere I went, everyone I met was in awe of California and dying to go to Hollywood. Not a single one wanted to go to New York. It was hard to believe that only about fifty years earlier, in 1907, in The American Scene, Henry James had written: “I had the foretaste of what I was presently to feel in California— when the general aspect of that wondrous realm kept suggesting to me a sort of prepared but unconscious and inexperienced Italy, the primitive plate, in perfect condition, but with the impression of History all yet to be made.” Well, here I was—in the gallery with no shoes on, prepared to make history, my feet growing colder in more ways than one. At 9:00, Marcel arrived alone, wearing a little straw hat he had picked up the day before
in Las Vegas, where he and Walter had gone on some adventure. And these completely detached eyes, which seemed charmed to be alive but otherwise had no comment on the passing scene, met mine. A feeling of gentleness pervaded him, he was like a very old Walter Hopps—a Walter Hopps with a history instead of just a future. Just when I was beginning to relax into his eyes, Julian violated our privacy by saying, “Okay, I’m set up. Play chess.” I took the smock off, letting it fall beside me, but Julian kicked it far across the slippery floor, out of the way in a corner. I sat down quickly at the chess set and wondered if we could just pose or did we actually have to play, but Marcel—whose obsession with chess made him give up not only art but girls—was waiting for me to make the first move. “Et alors,” he said. “You go.” I, of course, had youth and beauty (and birth control pills) over him, but he had brains on his side—or at least chess brains—and though I tried my best, moving a knight so at least he knew I had some idea what a knight was, he moved his pawn and the next thing I knew, I was checkmated. “Fool’s mate” they call it when you’re so stupid that the game hasn’t even begun and you’ve lost. I became interested in playing and tried to stop thinking about holding in my stomach, but every time I thought I was so brilliant, like taking his queen on the fourth move, I’d lose. Of all the things that have ever gone on between men and women, this was the strangest, in my experience. But it got stranger. For one thing, there were Teamsters in the next room, moving paintings, and they couldn’t help but be amazed. And suddenly I felt other—even more amazed—eyes on me. When I looked up, there was Walter, shocked. He just stood there like a rabbit caught in the headlights, unable to move or speak. He saw me look up and he turned right around and went away. No hello, no nothing. For a long time afterward, I thought he might have been pretending to be surprised, but he told me later, “I had no idea. I came into the museum as usual, a few minutes before it opened, blind and cold. I could feel weird vibes in the air, it was so quiet. But then I go into the gallery, and there you both were.” “I thought it was fake surprise,” I insisted. “No, it was real,” he said, “but I thought it was inevitable.” Finally, just when I had this idea I might actually be winning, Julian said, “Okay, Eve, get dressed.” Which seemed more than okay with Marcel. I flew over to my smock, put it on, ran upstairs and got my clothes on, and came back down to play one more game with Marcel clothed—for posterity, Julian said. Walter was back in the room, composed, and all he said was, “My, this was a surprise.”
MY UNCLE, THE ’70s PORN STAR (continued from p age 109)
“apologies.” Of course, I should never have contacted him. I should have done as my parents suggested and let the man live his life. But Johnny is only apologizing for the delay. He was in Ojai and off email. Ojai, I think. He has a place in the mountains! A place he can escape to or at least visit. He is not sad, he is happy. One rumor debunked already. Ojai. That’s where they have the turtle sanctuary. I imagine Johnny stepping out of a sun-dappled ranch house. The air is perfumed with flowers as he heads out on his morning turtle feed. I imagine him sitting on one of the great big ones, being carried in slow motion across a green meadow. Then I imagine him doing all of this naked and giving a thumbs-up. And so I stop imagining and get on a plane. REALITY IS QUICK to replace fantasy. This is true in every arena except for sex, where pornography has more or less ruined sex for all men under thirty. But it remains true that once you visit a place, it’s almost impossible to replicate the images you had of that place before you went. As I stand across the street from Johnny’s apartment complex in West Los Angeles, I make a mental note of what I think it might look like inside. From my febrile imagination, I conjure a time capsule of the seventies—faux-wood paneling, disco records, memorabilia, and awards. Maybe a sunken living room. Maybe a sex swing. Maybe a wicker sex swing. Johnny comes out into the hallway to greet me as I step off the elevator. He is shorter than I am, soft-spoken, with a shy grin. Some people are more comforting to look at than others and Johnny is one of them. He has a face like the man in the moon. He opens the door to an aseptic one-bedroom with white carpeting that stops at the kitchen. The counters are overrun with rows of vitamin bottles. In the living room sits a white sofa, white sitting chairs, and a white table with a glass bowl of fruit on it. Angled on a small piano are framed photographs of his nieces and nephews, a family that is not quite mine. This is the apartment of a dental hygienist. There is, however, a curious amount of exercise equipment. “I like to stay fit,” Johnny says. He removes a hand gripper from one of the chairs and offers me blueberries. I sit
and sigh. Then he sits and sighs. We then proceed to talk about his brother’s cockatoo for what feels like ten minutes. This is my doing. I’m the one who broached the subject of the cockatoo. When I was nineteen, I spent an afternoon with the Parisdwelling doctor while backpacking across Europe. We sat on his balcony, drinking tea, while the cockatoo sprawled out on his lap, getting the underside of its wing scratched. Johnny informs me of the cockatoo’s recent demise. I thought they lived forever, like African grey parrots. Apparently they have an average avian life span. “Do you think he’ll get another one?” I ask. “Oh, I don’t think so,” says Johnny. “I think the cockatoo was burdensome, shrieking every time the phone rang.” Have I flown to Los Angeles to make a retired porn star say “cockatoo” over and over? People go to Los Angeles for less. “I don’t know why I’m here,” I confess. “That’s okay,” Johnny says, gracious and smiling. I had said those words to myself many times en route, but saying them out loud, I realize just how untrue they are. Deep down, I know exactly why I have come and it is not because I have a California fetish. It’s because, like Johnny, I have been looking for love in all the wrong places. While I have not been frequenting strip clubs in hopes of snagging a soul mate, I have become increasingly attracted to unrealistic or unobtainable men. I have broken things off with them or vice versa but each relationship feels quicker than the one before it. This is a problem everyone I know seems to have encountered in their twenties but has spontaneously outgrown in their thirties. One day you look around and the most romantically remedial people imaginable are signing leases with whole human beings, getting wistful about their former proclivities for drunks and sociopaths. I attempt to participate in these conversations, nodding along. How stupid we all once were! But I am only thinking of the phone in my pocket, where some flirtatious text might await me. I am in my mid-thirties and I seem to be working in reverse, going from long relationships that aren’t wonderful to short relationships that aren’t horrible. So I have come to see Johnny the same way sadistic parents make their children smoke an entire pack of cigarettes if they catch them smoking one. I want to stare into the face of a single man, forty years my senior, who’s been looking for love in the most unlikely place imaginable. I am in search of well-earned wisdom, of someone to smack me out of my habits. Like a vaccination, I am hoping that by immersing myself in an extreme version of my problem, I can be cured of my problem. But seeing as how our longest conversation ever has been about a dead bird, I hold off on sharing this revelation. Instead, we start at the beginning.
JOHNNY WAS BORN in 1943 in New York City and raised in New Rochelle, where he was a good student but not a great one. His younger brothers quickly surpassed him in athletic and academic prowess. Not that Johnny would have known. His mother instructed his brothers to lie about their trophies and their grades—even to physically hunch on occasion—to protect Johnny’s feelings. Which is an efficient way to mess up multiple children at once. Johnny learned that he was living in his own personal Truman Show during college, while home playing basketball with his youngest brother. For the first time, he didn’t let Johnny win. Johnny was unable to compute the loss, so the brother explained everything. As one might imagine, Johnny was more than a little unmoored. Activities at which he’d always excelled were called into question. He wondered if he had any talent at all. Then, in 1965, he was drafted. This upset him because he was seeing a therapist whom he liked and he hadn’t “completed the therapy.” Therapy, understandably, was paramount to Johnny. Less understandable is the fact that most of the family saw the same therapist when he was growing up. He remembers riding a Schwinn to go see a psychiatrist. When I ask him if he was given a specific reason, he says therapy was like “brushing your teeth,” just some Salingery exercise in which the whole family partook. “So how long did you stay in therapy?” “I stopped a couple of months ago. My therapist was older than I am, which is hard to find at my age.” “Oh,” I say, “I’m sorry.” “He’s not dead,” Johnny corrects me. “He just thought I was cured.” “Of what?” “Of my problems,” he says, smiling coyly. AFTER HE GOT out of the military, Johnny
packed up his car and moved to Fort Lauderdale to “figure out what life is all about.” When I tell him that Fort Lauderdale is not a place generally associated with enlightenment, he tells me that’s why he moved to Minneapolis. After Minneapolis came Denver, after Denver came San Francisco—and San Francisco is where his life cracked open. “I arrived in 1970 and everyone was openly smoking pot and I thought, Wow, this is pretty wild. At first, I was living in a residents’ club. It was cheap and you got to meet a whole new group of people before everyone went in different directions. It was really delightful.” Only a small percentage of the population speaks of shared toilets with such fondness. Then again, an even smaller percentage of nice Jewish boys from Westchester go into the adultfilm industry. But Johnny has a way of imbuing everything with positive thinking. On his castmates’ orgasms: “I would wager a high percentage of them faked it, but hey, what can you A pril 20 18_E s q u i re 113
do?” On his niche notoriety: “I was just so happy knowing the women were happy with me.” On John Holmes: “Private guy. Upbeat!” Johnny’s first job in San Francisco was selling cable subscriptions door-to-door. And guess what? He friggin’ loved it. “The cable company was required by law to have a channel that was available to the public.” “A public-access channel?” “Yes, one of those. And they needed a host. So I wound up interviewing people, and they supplied me with a cameraman. I interviewed exotic dancers and artists. They filmed me getting a massage. One day I interviewed this guy who published a magazine for the Sexual Freedom League and I was intrigued. They had some wild parties—nude parties, sex parties—and I attended those.” “Attended,” I interject, adding air quotes. Johnny looks at me as if I’m trying to sexualize a trip to the mailbox. “Anyway, I started distributing the league’s magazine in vending machines. I had never even seen an adult film at that point. So I went to a theater downtown and I was awed by what these people were doing up on the screen.” Awed is what most people feel when they see the northern lights or Meryl Streep. And yet I wholly believe Johnny when he says it, just like I believe him when he says he then said to himself, “My God, that woman seems to be having a great time! How do I get in on that?” Turns out, the answer was at hand. The paper Johnny distributed was covering the trial of the Mitchell brothers, who, already famous for producing live sex shows, were in hot water for making a film during which a priest sticks his penis through a confession box and gets a blowjob. Years later, one brother would shoot the other in the face, an incident that, among other tragic consequences, fated them to be played by Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez in a made-for-TV movie—but first they had to contend with a determined young man by the name of Johnny Seeman. Johnny knocked on their office door one day and explained that he wanted to have sex on camera. He left out the part where he also wanted to take his costar to a candlelit dinner and ask her about her hopes and dreams. “They took one look at me and laughed in my face. I wasn’t hip. I wasn’t a flower child. I didn’t have long hair. I was probably wearing what I’m wearing now.” He gestures down at high-waisted khaki pants, a belt, and a short-sleeved button-down shirt. It’s true. This is an unfuckable outfit if ever there was one. But Johnny persisted, coming back week after week until the Mitchell brothers relented. Mystifyingly, Johnny did not have to try out in any capacity. In Boogie Nights, Rollergirl fellates Dirk Diggler in the back of a club before recommending him to the director. While I do not assume real porn casting is all blowjobs and roller skates, dropping one’s pants seems 114 Ap r i l 2 0 1 8_E squ i re
like it would be industry standard. But apparently all you had to do in this pre-AIDS, postsexual-revolution flesh carnival was hop into the back of a VW bus and drive to a house in Walnut Creek. When Johnny arrived, two men and a woman were already waiting, lounging naked on a circular sofa. Upon seeing this scene, he and his priapic penis became anxious about the straw they were about to draw. “I told them I was heterosexual and they told me not to worry. They said, ‘You’re all just going to be relating to her at the same time.’ ” “Relating,” I interject again, once more with the air quotes. No response. “I was so nervous,” Johnny says, “I had to pee every fifteen minutes while they were setting up. Then I couldn’t get an erection on camera. They had to shoot the whole thing around me.” In the end, they gave him seventy-five dollars and, to Johnny’s surprise, a second chance. This time with just him and one woman. And that was all he needed. So strong was Johnny’s desire for a steady relationship, even his dick was in on the plan. And while a relationship never did manifest, a career did. Before long, Johnny was a regular in movies. Then he began managing productions. Then he became a script supervisor. (This was when there were lines, before the dialogue had moved from “Nice shoes, wanna fuck?” to “Shoes.”) Then he became a producer, coordinating with location scouts and catering people. (Prior to this moment, I had not imagined there would be catering on the sets of adult films. Though it makes sense— sex requires more energy than a monologue unless you’re doing both wrong.) When Johnny started directing his own films, his parents flew out to San Francisco for his first premiere. “What did your mother think of it?” I had always imagined my great-aunt’s expression upon opening the dirty magazine, and it didn’t jibe with her flying out to California to support her son. She was one of those mannered ladies with flawless taste in clothing, husbands, and houses. After she died, her wine collection went to auction. And while the idea of some scandalized East Coast lady in a San Francisco porn theater is appealing in the abstract, I couldn’t picture this particular East Coast lady there. “She had a one-word review,” Johnny says. “She found it ‘repetitious.’ ” This is as fair an assessment of pornography as I’ve ever heard. “But she was proud?” “She was relieved. She liked me being on the other side of the camera.” ALL UNCLE JOHNNY wanted was to take his
work home with him. Which, in a way, he did. Just not in the way he’d hoped. He got to know the industry so well, he made “a booklet of tips” for guys getting into porn for the first time. When I ask him if it was called “Just the Tips,” he stares at me blankly. It dawns on me that
Johnny’s life has been so chockablock with sex jokes, he doesn’t have the capacity to let another one in. Instead, he tells me about how he took these guys under his wing and taught them how to fuck on camera. He speaks with such fondness for his costars that I am momentarily transported, forgetting that knowing how to fuck on camera is not a life skill. “We ate dinner on each other’s porches,” he says. “Everyone thought we were having orgies, but never. We just . . . we just really liked each other.” I tell him what I know to be true: He was adored by these people. I’ve read the interviews. I’ve been reading them for years. “Yeah,” he whispers, “that was my world. We were outlaws together.” He means that literally. San Francisco was the hot spot for porn. In Los Angeles, police would drive around, following the actors, raiding sets. Tailing porn stars was a trickier business in a semi-walkable city. They could film where and when they wanted. For the most part. Once Johnny was part of a crew that borrowed a Rolls-Royce and drove up to Mill Valley to shoot a sex scene on a hill overlooking the city. Johnny was in the film, in the midst of “doing crazy sexual things” to Annette Haven, one of the industry’s more famous faces. “We were on the trunk, on the roof, on the motor, inside the car, on the—” “I got it.” “The next thing you know, a police officer comes charging out of the woods and yells, ‘Nobody move!’ We were taken down to the station for public indecency, but when we got there, Annette just spent hours signing autographs for the cops.” Johnny laughs. I laugh. Finally, I see my opening. “So did you ever date Annette? After that?” “She had a boyfriend,” he says. “And it wasn’t like that.” “Right,” I say. “But did you ever want to date one of your costars?” “You mean like was I in love with one of them?” I raise my fist to my mouth and clear my throat. “I was under the impression that you got into porn to find a girlfriend.” “Ah,” he says. “It’s true. I was always scheming about how to make one of these women my girlfriend. I know it’s not the standard reason people do this. A lot of people I knew were aspiring actors or models. Mainstream Hollywood was getting more risqué and porn was getting longer scripts and so they thought eventually it would meet in the middle. They thought they were going to be needed. But they weren’t needed. And then it was just—over. But I was looking for a relationship.” “Did you ever find one?” “I haven’t dated a woman for more than three months my entire life,” he says, popping a blueberry into his mouth. “The last time I had sex was the night Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off.” “And you haven’t dated anyone for longer than that since then?”
“Nope.” The irony of this is not lost on Johnny. He runs a singles group at his local temple. He spends half his days helping other people find love. “I hate to say this, but I think it’s the ultimate form of going after something you can’t have. If people become available to me in a real way, I think, How could they be interested? How could I have been interested in them? When I was working, I’d feel a connection with someone but then she’d start having sex with someone else who was taller and better-looking and I thought, I can’t compare to that guy.” This is a familiar scenario for anyone living in the world, but Johnny subjected himself to the experience in real time. When he says “start having sex with someone else,” he means on the same piece of furniture. Johnny made his last film in 1987. He was really attracted to the woman he was paired with and thought she might, at long last, make a good girlfriend. Then it turned out she already had a boyfriend and said boyfriend was a Hells Angel. “I thought, well, that’s not going anyplace.” “And that was the last straw? After a decade of this?” “It would have been nice for it to come earlier,” Johnny agrees, “but I guess I’m a slow learner.” He looks at me for the first time without blinking or smiling, just dead-on like he knows exactly why I’m here. “You don’t just stop being who you are when you reach a
certain age. You know that, right? You don’t magically outgrow yourself. The life you’re living now is your actual life, the habits you have now are your actual habits. I hope I’ve evolved— but I’m not so sure. But I can tell you that if you’re setting things up so they never work out by picking the wrong partners and you know you’re doing it . . .” Johnny trails off. He looks at the photos on the piano. “Yes?” I ask. “Just stop it,” he says. JOHNNY HAS NEVER watched himself onscreen. He doesn’t own a single copy of his films and the idea of going to some retro-themed website holds no appeal. He thinks the Internet is plenty masturbatory without having to watch himself have sex on it. He is happy enough knowing that his movies are out there, that there’s proof he was the best ever at something, which is more than most people get. Plus, Johnny’s particular brand of fame means he can deploy his history at will, pluck it out of obscurity, or keep it buried. “It will always be mine,” he explains. “It may be a red flag but it’s my red flag. Like I said, this is my actual life. This is the one I chose.” It’s getting dark out. Johnny walks me into the hall, where a halogen light flickers above our heads. He presses the elevator button for me. Nothing is revolutionary about Johnny’s advice. It feels as if I’ve always known it. Which is the
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flawed nature of all advice—you can have all the wisdom in the world laid out for you but it takes a lifetime to apply it. But just because Johnny’s plan didn’t work doesn’t mean it was ill-advised. His costars weren’t undatable by virtue of their profession. He just kept relating to them in a way that made them impossible to date. This is perhaps a less exotic lesson than I hoped for from a former porn star, but at least it’s one I can take home with me. I can feel an internal shift right then and there. It’s a subtle one—I am not (presto!) immune to the texting pyrotechnics of the opposite sex. You don’t magically outgrow yourself. But in the words of Johnny Seeman, this is my actual life and these are my actual habits. Or, in the words of Joan Didion, the most notoriously gone-to-California woman of our time: “. . . I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.” “Hey,” Johnny says, moving in front of the elevator doors as they open, “you want to hear a dirty joke?” “Sure,” I say, stunned that he knows any. “How many porn stars does it take to change a lightbulb?” “How many?” “One,” he says, and grins. “So long as he screws it in himself.”
na Diamos/Los Angeles Times; p. 101: Duchamp: Mark Kauffman/ Life/The Life Images Collection; Bicycle Wheel: ©CNAC/MNAM/ Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY; Nude Descending a Staircase: BPK Bildagentur/Staatliches Museum, Schwerin, Germany/ Art Resource, NY; Hopps: John Gossage. My Uncle, the ’70s Porn Star, p. 106: Crosley: Skye Parrott/Trunk Archive; Polaroid frame: Getty Images; pp. 106–107: Tapes: Allie Holloway/Studio D; p. 107: Polaroid frame: Getty Images; p. 108: Mitchell brothers: Associated Press; Blonde Fire: Everett Collection, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo; p. 109: Holmes: Mark Sullivan; Chambers: Moviestore Collection Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo. (ISSN 0194-9535) is published monthly (except combined issues in December/January and June/July/August and when future combined issues are published that count as two issues as indicated on the issue’s cover), 9 times a year, by Hearst Communications, Inc., 300 West 57th St., NY, NY 10019 USA. Steven R. Swartz, President and Chief Executive Officer; William R. Hearst III, Chairman; Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Executive Vice-Chairman; Catherine A. Bostron, Secretary. Hearst Magazines Division: David Carey, President; John A. Rohan, Jr., Senior Vice-President, Finance. © 2018 by Hearst Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Esquire, Man at His Best, Dubious Achievement Awards, The Sound and the Fury, and are registered trademarks of Hearst Communications, Inc. Periodicals postage paid at N. Y., N. Y., and additional entry post offices. Canada Post International Publications mail product (Canadian distribution) sales agreement no. 40012499. Editorial and Advertising Offices: 300 West 57th St., NY, NY 10019-3797. Send returns (Canada) to Bleuchip International, P.O. Box 25542, London, Ontario N6C 6B2. Subscription prices: United States and possessions, $7.97 a year; Canada and all other countries, $19.97 a year. Subscription services: Esquire will, upon receipt of a complete subscription order, undertake fulfillment of that order so as to provide the first copy for delivery by the Postal Service or alternate carrier within four to six weeks. From time to time, we make our subscriber list available to companies that sell goods and services by mail that we believe would interest our readers. If you would rather not receive such mailings via postal mail, please send your current mailing label or an exact copy to Mail Preference Service, P. O. Box 6000, Harlan, IA 51593. You can also visit preferences.hearstmags.com to manage your preferences and opt out of receiving marketing offers by e-mail. For customer service, changes of address, and subscription orders, log on to service.mag.com or write to Customer Service Department, Esquire, P. O. Box 6000, Harlan, IA 51593 Esquire is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or art. None will be returned unless accompanied by return postage and envelope. Canada BN NBR 10231 0943 RT. Postmaster: Please send address changes to Esquire, P. O. Box 6000, Harlan, IA 51593. Printed in the USA.
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