I’ve interviewed all kinds of people: French artists, astronomers, I.C.M. agents, video-store guys, flier distributors, barmaids, tennis instructors, just about every celebrity I’ve ever wanted to meet except Lou Reed, the mentally ill, Pat Boone, rabbis-but, except for Pia Zadora, I’ve always had trouble with famous actresses. Glenn Close snapped at me. Sharon Stone leveled a death-ray gaze my way. Charlotte Rampling ate me alive. Parker Posey ignored me. I gave Meryl Streep my number and she never called. Courtney Love yelled at me in front of five people. Helen Mirren made me feel like a squished mosquito. Amy Irving? She told me to go fuck myself. In Portuguese .
So I wasn’t too optimistic about sitting down with Rachel Miner, the 21-year-old ex-wife of Macaulay Culkin, now starring in the play Blue Surge at the Public Theater. I’d seen Blue Surge , in which Ms. Miner plays a prostitute, and I’d watched the movie Bully , in which she plays a teen who’s naked a lot and masterminds a brutal murder.
It was a little after 5 p.m., and Ms. Miner was standing outside Time Café, talking to her musician boyfriend on a cell phone and laughing. I was watching her from a booth inside. A man blocked my view and urinated on the side of the restaurant. Then Ms. Miner came in and joined me. She was wearing a Japanese print T-shirt, jeans and Payless shoes. She ordered a water.
I asked what she’d been talking to her boyfriend about.
“I don’t remember exactly what it was,” she said. “Some joke. I laugh a lot.”
Right off the bat: an evasion, an unusable quote. Publicists do such a number on their clients. Rule No. 1 is always: reveal nothing. Drives me nuts.
Ms. Miner said she’d had a “crazy New York day,” what with the vegan protein bar she’d consumed for breakfast, the rain, the cars splashing her, the browsing at Barnes & Noble.
What did Ms. Miner do to escape reality?
“I love to bake. There’s something very ritualistic about it, kind of magic.”
Oh, brother. Then she told me about helping some homeless man the other day.
I told her I needed a story.
“I have so many!” she said. (Translation: But none for you !)
Maybe I was the problem. When I was Ms. Miner’s age, I was a total fuck-up-playing Frisbee, drinking, getting fired from dishwashing jobs. She, on the other hand, was a mature adult. She was in a Woody Allen movie at age 10. Starred in The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway. Married at 17, divorced at 19. Photographers hid in the bushes all the time, harassed her. People wrote mean things. She laughed it off. At 19, I was afraid to do a semester abroad in France.
“Teach me something,” I said. “I don’t know anything. I watch TV all day long. Do you watch TV?”
“No, I don’t,” she said. “I find it really depressing. I’d rather be living than watching other people live. I have all these rules for avoiding depression. One is going outside in the morning. I don’t keep breakfast in the house, so that I have to go out first thing when I first wake up. And then I come back and shower. I think one of the things is, if you start spending the days indoors and you don’t go out and interact with people, that’s like a danger zone. And then another is not watching TV. Unless you turn it on for a specific show and then turn it off, I think you can just lose yourself and then you feel inactive, like you’re not accomplishing anything. Instead of living and whatnot. It’s like Prozac-a numbing kind of regulation.”
I told her I’d get rid of the TV.
What did she do to get silly?
“I’m always silly! I’m very silly. You have to ask my boyfriend. I tend to talk in a baby voice and I’ll sing and dance around. I kind of have multiple personalities, and my boyfriend has begun to name them. I’ve got many different voices-I have a Southern girl, an Irish girl. I have a gibberish language that you’d have to decipher. I guess I try to never take myself too seriously.”
I learned more. She grew up on the Upper West Side. The Challenger explosion was a huge event for her because she wanted to be an astronaut. She was 6 and the head of the astronaut club. She has been compared to a dolphin.
“I guess because I’m playful and I have that kind of abandon and everything,” she said. “And there’s also something a little mysterious about them and whatnot.”
She has a clean record. She’s rescued a bunch of animals. Men make crude comments to her on the street and have masturbated close to her in Central Park. “I think as a woman you get hounded a lot . I know I do,” she said.
She cries when she sees a beautiful sky or the moon and the stars. At the end of Blue Surge , she sobs-very convincingly-and it breaks your heart. She’s reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Elegant Universe (about string theory) and Lord of the Rings . She has a tattoo of a fairy on her lower back.
Has she ever lost her mind?
“A lot of people will call me nuts or crazy, but I’ve always been pretty stable,” she said. “By some people’s standards, I might be crazy. But I realize that I’m not going to harm anyone, and the only place that I live is within my own universe, really-so it’s O.K.”
So maybe Rachel Miner isn’t the best interview. But she’s a very fine actress and a good human, and what more can we ask of her?
Well, could she say something about Macaulay Culkin?
She did. It was a good quote.
Shipping Out at The Delmonico
In the deserted executive offices of the Hotel Delmonico, a lone secretary manned the phones.
“No, he’s been dead for years,” she told a caller, “and the hotel is no longer a hotel.”
On April 17, the Hotel Delmonico, a venerable edifice on Park Avenue and 59th Street for 70 years, closed its doors for the last time. But there was little time to get sentimental. The liquidators had arrived.
In preparation for the building’s transfer to its new owner, developer Donald Trump, the Hotel Delmonico-still home to 15 permanent residents-sold its remaining contents to a team of liquidators from Dayton for approximately $1 million. The goods-160 suites of distinctly unglamorous queen-size beds, scuffed night stands and a small mountain of wall-unit hairdryers, phones and TV sets-were quickly cataloged and priced. Then the whole lot was put on sale.
The Delmonico had been a starry hotel in its heyday-Ed Sullivan lived there, and Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to marijuana there-so naturally we wanted to see the items for sale in the hotel’s celebrity suites. Inside the gray-walled Bob Dylan Suite, there was a white six-drawer dresser for $65 and a square mirror-top coffee table for $250. We were informed, however, that Mr. Dylan had never stayed in this particular suite. (Items for sale in the Beatles Suite-where, likewise, no Beatle actually slept-included a marble-top wet bar, slightly scuffed, for $245, a black Formica king-size bed for $225, but, alas, no dried weed.)
Luci and Desi Arnaz also lived briefly at the Delmonico, but did not inhabit the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Suite, where there was an original three-disc recording of Babalu and Other Favorites (RCA) for $250, a drop-leaf end table for $125, and a used copy of Rubicon One by Dennis Jones, price negotiable. In the Ed Sullivan Suite-again, not home to the star himself-one could buy, for $95, three framed prints of the television personality, or a roll of wall-to-wall seafoam green carpeting for $80.