Longer listens: Bright lights, big city with Jay McInerney, David Lee Roth and Johnny Damon


Salon Staff
February 22, 2006 1:30AM (UTC)

More than 20 years after "Bright Lights, Big City," made him an overnight sensation, Jay McInerney has finally finished his "protracted adolescence" and written his first "adult novel," as he tells Robin Young in this interview (9:29, Real Audio) from WBUR's "Here and Now." "The Good Life" still takes its characters from the world of New York's scene makers and literati, but the young, coke-addled strivers of "Bright Lights" have been replaced by a quartet of established midlifers trying to reconfigure themselves after the shock of Sept. 11. "Everybody asked themselves what they were doing with their life, what they wanted to do with their life, and who they wanted to wake up next to if another plane hit," McInerney says to Young of the days after the towers fell. But for all the self-examination that went on, he says, the city's elite couldn't entirely keep away from their old habits: "Even in their moment of glory, New Yorkers didn't act entirely out of character. There was a way in which getting down to Ground Zero was a little like getting into the latest restaurant or club." (McInerney himself worked at a soup kitchen near Ground Zero in the fall of 2001, and the adulterous lovers at the center of "The Good Life" meet while doing the same.)

And speaking of the alumni of all-night benders back in the '80s, David Lee Roth, who recently took Howard Stern's place on New York's 92.3 Free FM, could be heard (12:19, MP3) last month counseling newly arrived Yankee centerfielder Johnny Damon on the pleasures and dangers of the Big Apple: "New York can swing both ways, you know; New York has so many great distractions," says Roth, who sounds as if a couple of decades of "distractions" have taken the better part of his mind. "Probably two-thirds of us in New York aren't from New York. All the best and most colorful people from around the world, much like yourself, come from everywhere else. You've got native New Yorkers, I'm convinced that's about 25 percent, and the rest of everybody around here, at least in Manhattan, in New York City, is from somewhere else. And you know the amount of distractions that can happen here." (Just about everything that comes out of Roth's mouth is similarly foolish and confused, including this question about Damon's mixed-race background from the first part of the interview: "What's the Thai connection, 'cause I've got a Tiger Woods vibe coming from there. You've got some Asian background there. How does that play into how a player you are today? Does that have an impact on you, your mother's influence on you from an Asian background? Have an impact on you growing up?")

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Damon, for his part, seems plenty distracted by what the fans back in Boston must be thinking of him now. "The thing is that the Boston fans know I tried to go back," he says, sounding more wishful than confident, during the first part (9:38, MP3) of the interview, "but at the end of the day, I became a New York Yankee because they really came after me hard and it's going to take some getting used to." And later Damon admits that his children cried when he broke the news: "My kids had a hard time dealing with it. And I kind of told them, and they cried and, you know, I cried with them."

-- Ira Boudway


Salon Staff

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