Famous literary meals
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
Several months ago, my son Harley had a friend coming over to spend the night, and I was getting queasy anticipating the Pokimon video they were inevitably going to want to watch. So I cut them off at the pass by renting a fave from my childhood: “Goonies.”
“What’s that? Is it Japanimation?” Harley asked me when I brought the tape home.
“No, it’s ‘Goonies.’”
“It’s an adventure movie. A bunch of kids, without their parents, go on a wild adventure and end up saving the town from the greedy old bad guy. You’re gonna love it.”
“We want to watch Pok … “
“Shut your pie hole, sit down and watch ‘Goonies’ and enjoy it. Or you’re going straight to bed!”
“But it’s only 7:15 …”
“What did I say about your pie hole?”
Needless to say, momma knows best. The kids were totally enthralled with the story, identified with the characters, laughed their asses off at the funny parts. They loved “Goonies,” as I had when I was their age. But watching it again as an adult was a whole ‘nother experience for me. The relationship between Chunk and Sloth made me weep. The line that my sister Liz and I had adopted as our mantra in our preteen years still resonated: “I’m gonna take care of ya … Because I love ya.”
Simple enough, but coming from Chunk’s face, anything but ordinary. Right, good, cryptic, revealing, tender, true. I said to myself, Now that’s acting. Where is this guy? Does he live in New York? Does he drink? If so, maybe I’ll run into him at a bar or something.
After rewatching my favorite Chunk scenes (ice cream on the spoon, tied to the chair screaming and jumping, telling the Fratellis about the time he fake-puked in the movie theater, to name a few) obsessively for the next four days, I was ready to proclaim: I am a born-again Chunk fan!
Liz and I were in the midst of thinking about procrastinating about the possibility of maybe throwing a New Year’s Eve-Armageddon party. We were drinking beer and talking about who we would want at the party, our wish list. Chunk came up. Yes. That would be major. Chunk at our party on what may or may not be the last moment of Earth’s existence: the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000.
That sealed the deal. We were having a fucking party. Mission: Get Chunk there. But first, Where is he? What’s his name, first of all? And is he still with us? He may have gone the way of River Phoenix or, worse still, Corey Feldman or Haim. I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing I did was log onto a bunch of “Goonies” sites. I e-mailed the sites’ webmasters inquiring as to the whereabouts of Chunk. Several of the kind dweebs got back to me promptly with limited information:
“Jeff B. Cohen, the actor who played Chunk in ‘Goonies,’ may be working in computers in Silicon Valley.”
” … may be getting back in the movie business.”
” … word has it he was the president of his class at UC-Berkeley a couple years back.”
I crafted a respectful letter to the director of alumni affairs at the University of California at Berkeley, beseeching her or him to forward to Jeff B. Cohen — if he was indeed an alumnus — my bleeding heart on a two-ply paper plate (metaphorically speaking: didn’t want a drippy envelope), along with a genuine invitation to join us as our special guest of honor at our Y2K bash in Chinatown NYC on Dec. 31.
Then I sat back and waited.
During the waiting, Liz and I made invitations, rented out New Jeannie’s OK bar on Mulberry Street, the proprietor of which promised all-you-can-eat steamy buns; we booked the Alphabet City Idols to play on the karaoke stage; bought cases of champagne and many pairs of those plastic glasses where your eyeballs pop through the first two zeros of the figure 2000.
Dec. 28: Still no word from Jeff B. Cohen.
Liz said, “He’s dissing us, Norah.”
He probably never got the invite. Maybe he never really went to UC-Berkeley. Or the alumni whore decided I was a psycho and never forwarded it to him. Or maybe, maybe, he’s making the mistake of fancying himself too cool to respond to the likes of a troll such as I. Hubris. That could be it. All these thoughts milling about in my very spacious brainal area, while I checked my voice mail every four minutes.
Dec. 29: Voice mail; I enter my password. “You have one new message. To listen to your message, press …”
“Hi, Norah and Elizabeth, this is Jeff Cohen.”
No fucking way! Holy Christ on a crutch! Jesus tits! Remember when you were a kid, did anyone ever tell you that if you were to burp, fart, cough and sneeze at the same time, you’d die? Well that’s what I felt like. Like that.
I screamed: “Chunk called me!! Chunk called me!!”
I called Liz at work.
“Chunk just fucking left a message on the fucking voice mail!”
High-pitched screams and squeals, yadda yadda, Liz made a big silly scene down at her office. When I hung up with her, I listened to the message again. Jeff Cohen. He can’t make it to our party. He sounds nice. He’s kind of laughing at us for throwing a party in his honor. But he’s acting like he’s sort of regretfully declining or something. It’s some classy stuff. He gets it. And he leaves his number “In case you want to ask ‘Goonies’ questions or anything like that.” Hmmm. Wasn’t that considerate? He didn’t need to go and do that. Don’t mind if I do.
After I composed myself a little, I called Jeff on his cell phone. I won’t go into the whole conversation, because we talked awhile. But hear me now and understand me later and always know: This is a nice guy. This guy is the real thing. He’s real nice to me, you know? I asked him what he’s been up to, told him about all the stuff I’ve been working on and the subsequent failures that have resulted from my efforts, etc. Let it be known we had a 20-minute conversation. Me and Jeff Cohen.
“Sloth? You’re gonna live with me now.”
The Y2K party comes and goes without so much as a light flickering or an alien sticking forks up our butts. ‘Twas quite a motley crew we assembled down at New Jeannie’s that night, a crowd made up primarily of the disgruntled shut-ins and drug addicts who are fans of “TrollConcept,” the local cable show that I host with my writing partner, Meg Martin. Cohen graciously sent a recorded “millennium message,” which we played just before midnight in the style of an acceptance speech from an absentee Oscar winner.
I was dressed as Hooker Spice for the occasion, and Meg fell facedown drunk in the street outside New Jeannie’s, while her sister Anne discreetly puked in the bathroom. My sister, meanwhile, plunged her tongue down the throat of Joseph Dangerhausen from the AC Idols, taking advantage of him in his drunken state, and then she proceeded to go down to the basement and play her violin for the imaginary dolphins down there.
And so it was that we all found ourselves sitting around in the year 2000. Same shit, different millennium.
But one thing was different: I had Chunk’s phone number.
I aimed to use it. Not frivolously, not so as to make a nuisance of my dumb ass and risk getting arrested or made a mockery of on “E!” When I appear on “E!” it’s gonna be in my very own True Hollywood Story and it’s not gonna be some weak two-minute segment where they show my head being pushed down into the police car for stalking Chunk, and then the whole rest of the story is a feature of Cohen himself. That’s not how I want it to go down, if you catch my meaning.
So I used the digits sparingly. I called him a couple of days into the new year to tell him thanks for playing along, and how fun the party was and how many drunken idiots enjoyed his millennium message. Then when I finished editing the party footage for my cable show, I sent him a copy of the tape so he could see for himself. I congratulated myself on working those follow-up techniques. I was so proud of myself that I bought several beers and a new pair of fluffy slippers from the bin outside the 99″ store on Delancey Street.
Meg and I have been working our asses off for three years now trying to become big, huge, wealthy, jeep-driving Hollywood “it-girls.” In January we finally got some poor wreck to agree to be our manager. So in February we flew out to L.A. to take meetings with this guy’s contacts, thereby defaming his name in “the industry” forever after, amen.
Since Cohen lives in the Southern California area, I called him up once again. This time I got voice mail. Just as well. So I put on my most upbeat, human-like voice and left him a quick ‘n’ to-the-point message, which went something like, “I’m coming to California and I’d be thrilled to meet up with you, if you’re into it.”
OK, this makes sense. I’m a zany, salty, wingnut dame on the other side of the country and it’s all fun and games until I decide to descend upon his county like a huge, scary, toothy-beaked dodo bird risen from the grave. That’s pretty damn frightening for Jeff. I can appreciate it. So I leave him be. I’m content to have had a few nice conversations with the guy.
“Gee, mister, you’re even hungrier than I am!”
Yeah, right. My ex-husband, Ed, believes I can get away with one more call before I become threatening. What the hell. From my hotel room in L.A. I dial Cohen’s number. Damn, I really don’t want to go to jail and have to miss my big crumb-bun Hollywood meetings. That would look bad for me and Meg. Like our partnership isn’t rock solid or we’re not serious bidnizzwomen in boxy jackets, calculating the square root of rouge, ready to endorse all the enormous checks that come our way.
BA-RIIIIIIIIING … BA-RIIIIIIIIIIIIIING …
“Hey, Jeff, it’s Norah Pierson calling.”
Once again, at the 11th hour, Cohen comes through like a glistening dewdrop in the heap of demon dung that is most of the other people I have encountered in my life’s travels. Jeff Cohen rocks. We’re having lunch on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning it is pissing rain. I’m smoking a cigarette on the patio of my room at the Magic Hotel, trying to predict just how fucking ugly and psychotic I’m going to look — bedraggled and soggy and unpretty and unsane — by the time my appointment with Jeff rolls around. Weather really affects me. I do well in sunshine.
But as they say out there in Hollywood, there are no small parts, only small assholes. So, come Wednesday, Meg and I go off to our second day of exhausting L.A. meet ‘n’ greets. (Sideline: That is the most enraging term in the universe. I hereby decree a moratorium on the use of the term “meet ‘n’ greet” to describe hideous encounters in which a wannabe artist, actor, writer or whatever has to sit in a room with someone who has lots more money and valuable prizes than they do, and act as if they’re not an envious fuck and that it’s just two really cool people having a pleasant and amusing conversation about how interesting and interested they both are.)
But I digress. The day wears on. It is monsooning and mudsliding. My feet are wet and they stink. Me and Meg are driving along chain-smoking and popping Altoids like there ain’t no maqanas. Meeting, meeting, meeting. We are a veritable pack of wack. Buy us. Buy and sell us. Market us.
Finally, our last meeting of the day before my rendezvous with Cohen. We’re at the MTV offices in Santa Monica. To give you an idea of how the meeting goes, I’ll grant you “fly on the wall” privileges for one snippet of the conversation:
“Actually, we don’t feel so well after that shrimp.”
“Awwwww … Do you girls have diarrhea?”
After messing up the MTV ladies room something awful, I drop Meg’s funky butt off at the airport and race like the dickens to get to Cohen. I finally make it to his office, but I put a big dent in my rental car when I scrape a concrete pillar in the underground parking dungeon. I guess I’m nervous. I take the elevator to the third floor and the receptionist says, “Hello.”
“Hi, I’m Norah Pierson here to see Jeff Cohen?”
I say it like a question, as if to ask, “Am I a fucking retard, or what?”
The receptionist makes a face, which indicates yes, I am a fucking retard, and yes, Cohen has in fact been telling all his colleagues about his very own stalker from New York, who’s come to town to pay him a little courtesy call.
“Have a seat.”
I do. Cohen keeps me waiting for 15 minutes. The saucy thing.
When he comes off the elevator, I don’t recognize him at first. He’s lost the whole chubby-cheek action. I expect him to have grown up into a big guy, like a mountain, but he hasn’t. He’s a very manageable, fit, 5-foot-8 or so.
This is him? He knows what I look like because he’s seen the tape of the cable show I sent him. As he’s walking toward me I make out the Chunk eyes, Chunk smile, Chunk forehead. Ladies, we have a winner.
As Cohen approaches, I try not to cry or have a dumb expression on my face. I stand up and shake his hand, then follow him back to his office. Some random hallway people look at me. They may or may not be snickering. Or maybe I’m paranoid. Who knows? Who the fuck cares? I’m hanging with Chunk! I can die a happy troll.
Cohen and I chat in his office for a few minutes and then on his suggestion we go to the Regent Hotel, a fancy-schmancy spot where Warren Beatty has allegedly fucked a lot of people, and there’s a lounge where you can get shithoused in style. Cohen is so goddamn adorable, let me clarify: He is wearing some kind of brown and tan sweater in the Gap family, khakis, I think, or maybe jeans, something casual. His hair is wavy, but not curly like when he was a kid, and he’s very clean-cut. No unnecessary oils or greases. No foul or cologny odor. He has sparkly eyes and a fun, contagious smile. He is so excellent. Do you know what I mean? Very excellent to be around.
I’m not nervous to be sitting here with him. As soon as the initial impact of seeing Chunk grown up before my very eyes wears off, I feel like I’m right where I should be. Cohen and I get along real well. I think he’s more nervous than I am, because what I did is pretty weird. I try to make him feel comfortable and safe in the knowledge that I’m not out for blood or babies or anything demented or dirty. We have good conversation.
We don’t talk so much about “Goonies,” though I do get a quick Feldman update and some news about the Chinese invention kid, who Cohen happened to remain good friends with. Mostly we talk about normal stuff: my asinine range of hairstyles during adolescence and the ensuing mental scars I bear, his experiences and family, likes and dislikes, and we compare hobbies and knickknack collections — that kind of thing.
When I refer to Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” he doesn’t skip a beat. We both agree that Carol Burnett did a very good job in the role. That was a bonding moment for me and Jeff.
A couple hours, a couple drinks and a crapload of olives and cheezysnacks later, it’s time to say goodbye. I know if I drink any more I will be pulling a Mister Magoo on the freeway and I was already flipped off by Mark Wahlberg earlier in the week for driving too slow in front of him. (You don’t need to rub it in my face, Marky Mark: I can’t drive so swell.) So I’m not game to try my hand at the drunken-driving thing.
Cohen and I part at the elevator bank. We share a friendly, platonic “nice ta meetcha” embrace, and I remind him of his promise to let me take him out to dive bars the next time he’s in New York. That might happen. If it does, I’ll be psyched. I could be friends with this guy, this Jeff Cohen. He’s no-nonsense nice. His mom’s a kindergarten teacher. He’s good people. And what a sport!
Can you imagine me as predator, you as prey? Not a one of you tools reading this right now would have had the balls and/or the decency to call me back if you had been in Jeff’s shoes! Don’t think I don’t know that. But Jeff Cohen is a class act. And I hope he comes to New York so we can hang out again. But even if that doesn’t happen, I’ve got my evening with Jeff at the Regent Hotel to cherish and propel me toward whatever lies ahead.
I didn’t take any pictures, because I didn’t want to be tacky. So you’ll have to take my word for it.
It was glorious.
Norah Pierson, a New York writer and director, is the founder of TrollConcept, Inc., which publishes handbound books and produces a monthly variety show on Manhattan cable.More Norah Pierson.
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
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"The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka