My friend pretends he's a music-biz hotshot

He says he's got a mansion and a 30-man goon squad. I don't think he even has an apartment

Published September 14, 2009 10:12AM (EDT)

Dear Reader,

As I write, it is Sept. 11, my birthday. (As you are reading this, it is probably the 13th or 14th.)

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working the copy desk at Salon and had not yet begun the job of writing the column. We calculated that it would be a slow news day so I planned to take the day off to celebrate my birthday. Everyone knows how that turned out. (The first Since You Asked column, in its weekly format, ran about five weeks after 9/11, on Oct. 17, 2001.)

Sept. 11 is not the best day to be wearing a shiny birthday hat and blowing out candles. But this week I hit on something: Use the cataclysm as a catalyst. So today, I would like to call on all writers -- poets, prose writers, memoirists, essayists, playwrights, monologists, etc. -- to send your work out for publication now in recognition of this date.

The act of sending out our work for publication is a perfect countermove to the violence of 9/11. It asserts our spirit, our belief in the efficacy of personal expression and inner change, our humility before the mystery of words and symbols, and our belonging in a universal culture.

I'll be sending my work out on this day and I suggest you do the same!

OK, now let's try for something light. I really like the picture the following letter paints. As well as tragedy and sadness, there is much comedy in the world, much foolishness. And hey, by the way, I've said it enough times but I'll say it again: I don't make these things up. This stuff comes in over the wire, OK?

Dear Cary,

I have a friend who is living a lie. He claims to be a record producer and a self-made millionaire.

He frequently posts his exploits on his Facebook page, saying that he's going to some big city to hit the club scene or that he just signed another nationally known recording artist (of course he never names the artist).

Recently his claims have gotten even more far-fetched. He says he is having a mansion built in a certain city and went in great detail about how his room had a balcony with a view of the pool area. He also has a huge entourage with a bodyguard contingent. (Of course he is "taking a break" from them whenever anyone is around.)

None of this is true. A recent Google search revealed that he has been evicted twice. Whenever pressed on details about going to one of the concerts he is sponsoring he says that he does not have the details in front of him and will have to get back to you on it.

On one occasion, late on a Saturday night, he proceeded to have a "business" conversation on his cellphone in the back seat of my car. The conversation was obviously fake and involved the most generic business terms. He was just throwing out phrases like, "I will fax the proposal."

Everyone that knows him thinks this is all crazy and wonders what is wrong with him. In reality I believe that he is struggling but wants everyone to believe that he is some kind of big-shot businessman. My question is should I confront him with an intervention or let him be.


Dear M,

It might be harmless play acting. Or it might mean he's a little nuts.

With people who are genuinely nuts, it's hard for us civilians to get them into the mental health system. Lots of times they have to really break down before they get some help. If you were an expert in the mental health system, or know someone who is, it wouldn't hurt to consult with them and ask what they think. But remember: We're free to act as crazy as we like, as long as we're not hurting other people.

The impulse to play act is important to children, and it can also be an essential part of the motivation for an actor or artist. When we feel powerless, we like to fantasize that we have some outsized role in life. Remember when you were a kid, did you ever pick up the phone and have imaginary conversations with important people? Did you ever act like you were a big executive, or the president, or a general? Something like that could be going on. I wouldn't advise an intervention unless you have some seasoned professionals on your side, and a thorough, well-reasoned, well-documented diagnosis, or some evidence of a radical break with reality. Like, does he know what day it is and who the president is? Well, OK. Carry on, maestro.

If he keeps it up for 20 years it could become pretty sad. But for now, why not enjoy it?

If you play your cards right, maybe he'll make you vice president of A&R.

Got weird friends? There's stuff in here about that.

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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