George Gurley: I Met Lou Reed (10 Years Ago)

Lou Reed. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

Lou Reed. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

Another brilliant never-before-published piece from the archives of George Gurley. Our hero meets Lou Reed and works up the nerve to say hello.

***

I wrote this in 2004. Filed it from Paris, there to cover the Gumball rally for Vanity Fair. Staying at the Hotel Georges V. Didn’t really have my heart in this one. May be why it never ran. I had a great time that night mainly because I interviewed Lou Reed for the first time, albeit for only 30 seconds,. I’d been terrified about this possibility ever since listening to a tape of him berating a disc jockey. I knew he hated journalists and if he snarled at me it would have fucked me up. No, it’s not an honor when Lou Reed snarls at you or hangs up on you. You’re cursed after that.

Anyway he was NICE to me. Might have helped that I said I was listening to his music on the best day of my life. Maybe a slight exaggeration. More like one of the 10 or 15 best days of my life. Driving all night from New York to St. Louis, alone, 18 years old, and listening to the banana album and Loaded. And knowing that it might not get any better than this.

***

The nightclub Crobar was filling up with gay people and a few straights on April 28 for an event protesting the amendment banning gay marriage, organized by John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig fame and producer Josh Wood. Before three hours of comedy and rock and roll, everyone in the VIP area was talking about love, tolerance, rights—but Bush bashing seemed to be the lingua franca.

“George Bush should simply just evaporate, into thin air, period, ” said Sandra Bernhard. “I think he already has.”

“He’s disgusting,” said Lou Reed. “In this day and age to have attitudes like that is shameful.” After Mr. Reed posed with Lady Bunny, the legendary drag performer led me to a bathroom and locked the door. This was not my first time. I did a long interview with Hedda Lettuce in ’97.

“I don’t really want to wish them harm,” Lady Bunny said of the Bush administration. “But I want them out. To tell the truth, gay marriage is not the worst of their boobies. These people are dying as a result–well I’m dying to get married. Have to find a husband first! And we are alone in a toilet in a New York City nightclub!”

I told Lady Bunny that I was shy.

“My teeth come out!” Lady Bunny continued. She was wearing a wedding dress and a bouquet–to hide her gut, she cracked. “Gosh I am so not the marrying kind, I’m a card carrying slut. That’s how good-hearted I am, I’m here for the other peoples’ rights, yeah! It really is a question of rights. It’s about equality, which is taking a few steps backwards…honey, this administration is against gay rights, women’s rights to have an abortion. I mean look at Laura Bush, she’s like the most namby-pamby First Lady we’ve ever had. Granted Hillary was a real, you know, case, too, so the pendulum swung in the opposite direction with Laura–she has absolutely no personality. Like a First Lady from the 50’s!”

We walked out and she made sure everyone waiting in line saw her wiping off her mouth. I spotted Hal Wilner, the music director from Saturday Night Live.

“I feel like we’re in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” he said. “This one person I know who voted for this guy [Bush]…he’s got to be insane. It’s not a matter of disagreeing, it’s insanity.”

(I didn’t have the heart to tell him who I voted for in 2000. And ’92).

Comedian Margaret Cho seemed to be saving her best material for onstage

She told me she simply wanted every straight in the Bush administration to fall in love with a member of the same sex. “So they can understand what that is, what that persecution is, what that discrimination feels like, what that heartache feels like.” (Later on, she easily stole the show with her comedy and a duet with John Cameron Mitchell, dressed up like Hedwig. Ms. Cho looked so good. I told her she was the hottest woman in New York that night).

Lady Bunny took the stage at some point.

“I want to know if we have any Bush fans out there,” she cooed/hollered.

Noooooooooo.

“Oh, no let me clarify. I meant Kate Bush. For future reference, every time I mention any member of the Bush family, I need you to boo. From the namby pamby most boring First Lady since Eisenhower, Laura Bush.”

Boooooooooooo.

“To the messed up daughters Jenna and Barbara.”

Boooooooooooo.

“To that real messed up Noelle who was arrested…”

Boooooooooooo.

“And finally last and certainly least, George W. Bush.”

Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Performance artist Penny Arcade (who had earlier whispered to me that “unfortunately” the President might soon be assassinated) got onstage and riffed on Dick Cheney.

“You know Cheney, you’ve heard of him, our Vice President,” said Penny Arcade. “You’ve never seen him but you’ve heard of him. Actually I think Cheney’s dead. I think Bush killed him. I think what happened was, Cheney bitch slapped George around the Oval Office one time too many, saying ‘listen you little shit. Don’t forget who’s running the country, I’m doing your father a favor!’ And I think George took a beer bottle, smashed it, and slit Cheney’s throat.”

There was some applause, not that much, a whoo or two. People began to chatter as the “bisexual fag hag” talked about “inclusion,” “the human condition” and the President doing coke.

“Yep, I think Cheney is stuffed in a credenza in the Lincoln Bedroom,” she went on.

Next up, Moby. First he engaged in what he called a little “hubris and arrogance” by covering Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” which he called the “finest” song to “get fucked up to and have sex with a stranger [to].”

After it was over, Moby had a few things to say about the “commander in thief, Mr. George W. Bush.”

Boos, hisses at the mention of his name.

“He’s a fucking son of a bitch,” Moby said. “An inbred WASP from Connecticut–just like me. But when George Bush goes to Crawford, Texas, and he puts on his chaps and he’s throwing around a little lightweight bale of hay and he’s trying to be a cowboy–what a fucking piece of lying shit he is.

“I grew up in Darien, Connnecticut,” Moby fumed. “I lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, for a long time. I used to live next door to where George Bush grew up. Have any of you ever been to Greenwich Connecticut? Are there cowboys in Greenwich, Connecticut? Perhaps you’re familiar with the fine educational institutions of Andover Preparatory Institute, Yale University and Harvard University–all three of which George Bush attended. At Andover, George Bush was the captain of the cheerleading squad!”

Whooo, yeah!

“And then in the summers, he would summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. There are no cowboys in these places. He’s such a fucking liar. Granted he does look a little bit rugged and kind of Tom of Finland-esque when he’s wearing his chaps down in Crawford. But it galls me that Middle America thinks he’s one of them. Cause he’s not. He’s an inbred WASP from Greenwich, Connecticut. He’s got the weak little Bush chin and he can barely string two sentences together and suck my fucking dick!”

Applause, hollering, whoos.

Moby said he was raised by hippies. Then he played that Buffalo Springfield song from Forrest Gump and a hundred other movies. Next up, Sleater-Kinney. Before they played a scorching cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” one band member muttered something about Bush. I turned to the tall man standing next to me sporting a beatific smile. It was the actor Tim Robbins. “Did she just say ‘this is for that motherfucker Bush?'” I asked.

Mr. Robbins said nothing, kept smiling. I asked him again a few minutes later. He did this weird thing where he stared at me smiling and said nothing. It was kind of a fuck you move. Like, you don’t exist little fucking cub reporter boy. I don’t know. Maybe he’d been burned. Well, it wasn’t very nice!