The Wannabe

“I’m not very good at talking to people that I don’t know, which sounds weird. I’m not really into that whole artificial-conversation thing,” said Damien Fahey, 24. It was Wednesday, Nov. 17, and Mr. Fahey’s 6-foot-2 frame was folded into a booth at John’s Pizzeria in Hell’s Kitchen, not far from his 18-by-12-foot studio apartment. He was also just a stoner’s throw away from MTV Studios, where he caters to screaming young girls as the host of Total Request Live.

“Once I’m onstage, though, I can totally turn it on,” Mr. Fahey added quickly.

Mr. Fahey guesthosted The Late Late Show for Craig Kilborn during the week of Thanksgiving. Forty-two-year-old Mr. Kilborn has left the show, which he has helmed for five years, in order to pursue writing, producing and television projects. However, it can’t be ignored that Mr. Kilborn (who told The Observer last December that he’s “been coasting”) never really found a place in the hearts of viewers and, over time, seemed to let himself burn out, dry up and blow away into irrelevancy. Besides Mr. Fahey, there are three other contenders to replace Mr. Kilborn, including comedian D.L. Hughley, The Drew Carey Show’s Craig Ferguson and VH1 talking head Michael Ian Black. Each of them will have a week to audition as guest host before Mr. Kilborn’s successor is announced next month-kind of an Apprentice for talk-show hosts. To make it to the final four, Mr. Fahey and the others beat out over 20 competitors who also auditioned their hosting abilities with a one-show stint, including SNL’s Ana Gasteyer, Tom Arnold, Aisha Tyler, Drew Carey, Amy Sedaris and Adam Carolla.

Mr. Fahey is certainly the dark-horse candidate. With under three years’ experience hosting the popular video-countdown program, he would have to convince audiences not only to fight the sleepiness that comes from bingeing on tryptophan-infused turkey, but to see past his baby face and teenybopper associations.

The Transom asked Mr. Fahey why he thinks he’s made it this far. “It’s my abs,” he deadpanned, but then shrugged. “The people I’m competing with are old. I bring in a youthful feeling to the show.”

Whether he will also bring the coveted 18-to-34 demographic remains to be seen. Will the MTV generation-a group so apathetic that it couldn’t even get out of bed long enough to “Rock the Vote” this year-stay up and tune in to see one of their own? Will everyone else listen to a boy-man who looks like he isn’t old enough to have had the chicken pox?

From the age of 14, Mr. Fahey worked nights D.J.-ing by himself at the WMAS radio station in Springfield, Mass., next to a club where he says the motto was “Tuesday nights, women drink free; Wednesday nights, men get stabbed.” One night, he walked outside and bumped into two clubgoers having sex up against the wall of the radio station. Mr. Fahey’s dad was always there to pick him up at 6 in the morning.

Jobs outside of radio were failures. When he was 17, he got a job roofing on top of the Lego building in Infield, Conn. While he was there, one of the guys fell off the roof into a vat of hot tar and suffered third-degree burns. Mr. Fahey quit after the second day. “That was the extent of my manual labor,” he said “Now I wear makeup and talk to Hilary Duff.”

During his brief stay at Northeastern University, he D.J.’d at KISS 108, but dropped out when he nailed an audition at MTV and became the host of TRL two weeks later.

After filling in for Mr. Kilborn, he received a call from the head of Worldwide Pants, David Letterman’s production company, which also produces The Late Late Show. Mr. Fahey was stretched out on his couch eating three-week-old cheese out of his mini-fridge when they told him he’d made it to the final round. “I’m not wearing pants,” he blurted out at the time. “Let me find my pants and I’ll get back to you.”

The night after our meeting at the pizzeria, Mr. Fahey gathered with friends Bryan Terry and Joel Solomon over Blue Moon beers at Mr. Bigg’s on 10th Avenue at 43rd Street. The three of them met when Mr. Fahey came to MTV, where Messrs. Terry and Solomon were employed as writers. That night’s pitch session would help determine what the show wants to be when it grows up. Because the producers wanted a lot of pretaped elements for the show, Mr. Fahey and Co. needed to brainstorm ideas for bits and skits.

Early on, there were intimations of Jimmy Kimmel’s unrehearsed jackassery:

“Are you allowed to shoot turkeys?” someone asked.

“No, you can’t kill animals on TV,” Mr. Fahey answered.

“Oh.” Pause. “What about paint-balling them?”

Later, when live coverage of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s funeral was shown on TV, there came ideas that would’ve appeared on The Chris Rock Show when it was on the air. Mr. Fahey remarked that if he were hosting this week, they could have done a bit about the fallen rapper’s will. “You know, like his collection of gold teeth goes to 13 of his 57 children, his weed stash goes to Woody Harrelson and, finally, his gonorrhea goes to Paris Hilton-oh, too late!”

Then there were shades of Conan O’Brien’s self-deprecation. Mr. Terry wanted to do a sketch titled “Damien Phones His Celebrity Friends.” It would poke fun at both his friend’s quasi-celebrity status and L.A.’s insincere “Call me if you’re ever in L.A.” atmosphere: “You call Tom Cruise and it turns out he gave you the number of the Scientology center. You call Ashlee Simpson and it’s silence on the line and you say, ‘Trust me, she’s talking-you just can’t hear her!'”

Then there was the just plain wrong: “How about People magazine’s Least Sexiest People Alive?” Damien pitched. “You know, with Rush Limbaugh, Seal, the girl that got bit by a shark-” Everyone groaned. “Hey, they’re jokes, people!”

Mr. Fahey was worried about pacing, jokes running out. Although the producers wanted more pretaped elements, Mr. Fahey’s strong point is off-the-cuff banter, something he wasn’t able to demonstrate the last time he guest-hosted.

“Waiting to find out if I got the job is like having three of the four winning lottery numbers. I can’t have conversations with people because it’s all I think about. I dream about it every night. In the dream, I don’t get the gig. In fact, I do such a bad job that Kilborn comes back out of retirement to host the show and all his monologue jokes are making fun of me.”

-Noelle Hancock

Curves Ahead

Despite a sold-out Tishman Auditorium and a stand-by line of fans that snaked through the lobby just to catch a glimpse of him, architect Frank Gehry insists that fame was never his primary motivation. But tell that to the professorial types hastily name-dropping Parsons alumni or the eager M.F.A. students clutching New School ID’s in hopes of getting inside. The rest of the Gehry groupies spilled out onto 12th Street, bitterly smoking cigarettes.

“We never thought we were going to get famous,” Mr. Gehry told his audience on Nov. 29, regarding the feeling among young architecture students over four decades ago.

At age 75, Mr. Gehry is certainly a legend in the field of architecture; yet for the countless awards and accolades he’s received over the years, there’s been plenty of criticism. Even so, the packed auditorium testified to the rock-star-like devotion that still greets him regularly at public events.

New School University president Bob Kerrey introduced Parsons dean and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who led the 90-minute discussion with Mr. Gehry. “Creations influence us as human beings,” said Mr. Kerrey before kicking off “At the Parsons Table,” a series of public dialogues with the “leading voices in the fields of art, architecture, and design.”

For an architect who now claims that he “never wanted to do rich guy’s houses,” Mr. Gehry’s done his fair share. In addition to intricate (and costly) individual homes, Mr. Gehry has designed many notable buildings, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the new performing-arts complex to be built on the site of the World Trade Center.

The gray-haired, bespectacled sage sat comfortably on stage as Mr. Goldberger questioned him on everything from designing his own home to the elaborate structures that made him famous.

“I’m doing my own house,” said Mr. Gehry, who admitted that he has to pay his own firm for the work.

“Can you afford Frank Gehry?” asked Mr. Goldberger.

The crowd laughed wildly. A few moments later, Mr. Gehry announced that the new home would have “no curves” and “no metal.”


“Because my wife said, ‘No metal’ … and I can’t afford curves.”

Aside from the jokes, Mr. Goldberger steered the conversation back to the incredible architectural feats, such as Guggenheim Bilbao, which brought Mr. Gehry even more recognition, and a deluge of requests from countless cities in search of an architectural landmark.

“I turned down 98 percent … ,” said Gehry, feeling that he could not replicate the effect of the Guggenheim Bilbao on demand.

One project he remained fairly tight-lipped about is his first major New York City commission, the cultural center at Ground Zero. Having written the recent book, Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York City, Mr. Goldberger seemed the ideal choice to engage Mr. Gehry on his design which will include four theaters, including new homes for the Joyce and Signature. However, the discussion was scant on specifics.

“I don’t know if we’ll make it,” said Mr. Gehry regarding the deadline for the first design-February of next year. “We’re just starting out … there are lots of meetings.”

“Sounds like academia,” replied Mr. Goldberger as if on cue.

However, Mr. Gehry was more willing to discuss his design for the new Brooklyn arena that is to house the Nets-another controversial development plan. Mr. Gehry wants to “create an intimacy” for sporting events that he admits to rarely finding in other venues. For both projects in New York City, described as an “intense kind of urbanity, there are challenges in both construction and dealing with controversial uses of land.

Regarding criticism he has faced over the years, Mr. Gehry says he is not deterred by the labels tossed his way, or pejorative remarks by critics and colleagues.

“The architects dismiss me because I’m an artist. The artists dismiss me because I’m an architect …. Whatever you do is what you do.”

This honest, yet somewhat defiant, attitude struck a chord with many young architects and design students who lingered about the auditorium even after the architect had left the building.

“We always want to become famous,” said architect Mauro Bianucci about the current situation. “The media make us run after that.”

“I was very curious to see him talk,” said Ernesto Klar, a Parsons M.F.A. student in design. “It was refreshing to see him as a humble person-unpretentious.”

The last question of the evening was lobbed anonymously from the floor, asking for Mr. Gehry’s personal take on the newly renovated MoMA, designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi.

“I haven’t been inside,” said Mr. Gehry. At first it seemed like he was avoiding the question, before making a pained confession.

“I couldn’t get in,” he claimed. “The line was too long.”

Some rock star.

-Michael Calderone

Mixed Message

When the Olympics bill comes due, could the city be in for a true headache?

For several months now, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff has insisted that there is a limit to the amount that city or state taxpayers will be liable for if New York wins the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, and if those games then go over budget.

That assertion seems be beyond debate, since the State Legislature passed a resolution in 2001, which limits the city and state’s Olympics liability at $250 million. But on Nov. 17, the Daily News reported some comments by Mr. Doctoroff that seem to contradict this position: “Doctoroff told The News that a draft copy of the ‘host city agreement,’ a document the city must sign if awarded the Games in July, makes city taxpayers liable for any shortfall. The city is negotiating with the International Olympic Committee to change that provision, Doctoroff said.”

So, according to the News, Mr. Doctoroff is now saying that the city is liable for all cost overruns, not just $250 million.

Critics of the city’s Olympics bid have long asserted that the I.O.C. requires host cities to assume full, not partial, financial responsibility for the Games. Indeed, the organization’s own charter explicitly says as much.

“[T]he financial responsibility for the organization [note to editors: this is a British spelling of the word] and staging of such Games … shall be entirely assumed jointly and severally by the host city and the OCOG,” reads a section from the charter. (The OCOG is a private entity that the city will create to manage the games. It has no revenue stream outside those of Olympics revenues, so if the Games do go over budget, it will almost certainly be the city, and not the OCOG, that will foot the bill.)

Brian Hatch, a former deputy mayor of Salt Lake City during that city’s 2002 Olympics bid, said that as long as the 2001 liability-limiting resolution stays on the books, the I.O.C. will not award the games to New York. Mr. Hatch postulates that Mr. Doctoroff is aware of this, and will likely seek to have that resolution altered at some point in the next few months.

Mr. Doctoroff’s spokesperson referred the issue to NYC2012, the city’s Olympic bid committee, which was founded and headed by Mr. Doctoroff until he joined the Bloomberg administration in 2002. NYC2012’s spokesperson, Jay Carson, declined to respond directly to the Daily News’ story. Instead, he offered what has become the organization’s standard response to questions pertaining to the potential costs of 2012 Games.

“The New York Olympic bid has built an extra conservative safety net into its budget to cover cost overruns,” said Mr. Carson, who referred to the $250 million state-level guarantee, in addition to another $250 million in contingency funds already built into the budget. “This will more than ensure that there is sufficient cost protection for New York City and New York State.”

A Daily News spokesperson declined to comment beyond saying, “The News stands behind its story.” A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee, after having several conversations with The Observer, did not respond to questions before deadline.

-Blair Golson

Waiting to Exhale

On the night of Monday, Nov. 29, Sigourney Weaver missed a screening of her new film, Imaginary Heroes, because she was busy attending the Los Angeles premiere with co-stars Jeff Daniels, Emile Hirsch and Michelle Williams. However, actor/director Jim Simpson dropped by the Sony Studios to watch his wife play a woman who takes up pot smoking in the wake of a family tragedy. We asked if he’d ever seen his other half, um, partoke offscreen. “She can’t smoke pot,” he laughed. “We’ve been married 20 years and there was one point where I saw her do it and she began to imagine that her shoe was a person. And even that was practically a contact high! It’s really good acting is what it is.”

-N.H. The Wannabe