Attention Must Be Paid: The Adventures of Royal Young

One way or another, the youthful memoirist Royal Young will enter your consciousness.

Royal Young. (Photo: Erik Erikson)
Royal Young. (Photo: Erik Erikson)

On a recent Friday night, the 26-year-old writer Royal Young held a reading of his unpublished memoir Fame Shark at the Lower East Side home of his parents. He had hoped to use the apartment rooftop, but it looked like rain so the event was held indoors. When The Observer arrived, Molly Jong-Fast, whom Mr. Young had enlisted as an opening act, was reading from her novel, The Social Climber’s Handbook, about an Upper East Side mother a little like herself. As we stumbled in, bumping our elbow on a totem pole standing sentry next to the front door, we were hushed by an attentive older woman who turned out to be Mr. Young’s mother.

There was next to no wine left.

There had been a moment of confusion outside, because the name on the apartment’s buzzer did not read “Young.” As it happens, Mr. Young legally changed his name from Hazak Brozgold this summer, though he’d been using the name for years. He wrote about the decision for the website Jewcy, noting that he’d felt branded both by the name Hazak’s Hebrew origins and by its English meaning, strong. “Royal was an even bigger name to fill” than Hazak, he wrote; he’d gotten the name from a 14-year-old girl whom he’d met on MySpace during a lost year after dropping out of college. Despite the age difference, the two had a relationship, but “we never did anything illegal or wrong,” he assured us.

“I was so frustrated with meeting these fuckers at art openings a million times and they’d still get my name wrong,” Mr. Young told The Observer later, elaborating on the name change. “I was like, ‘Fuck them, I’m going to have a name there’s no way in hell they can forget.’” He laughed when we observed that “Royal Young” sounded more claim than name.

Mr. Young is a jaunty if casual dresser—for his reading, he wore a Dior bowling shirt. He is tall and a little pudgy, with sandy hair and a chin dotted with permastubble.

“A big part of my book is seeing my dad as an artist, needing to make money,” Mr. Young told an assembled group as we marveled at the apartment’s customizations—bathroom walls decoupaged with gum wrappers, a bedroom wall dominated by a Mars Attacks!-themed painting, executed by Mr. Young’s brother, the director Fury Young. “I want him to be the next—fucking—Pablo Picasso.” How did he feel about his father’s decision to abandon art for a day job as a social worker? we wondered. “I respect it!” he laughed. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all the drugs I did without it.”

It had not always been so easy: In Fame Shark, Mr. Young wrote that he’d fought with his parents over the name change; the fight was all tied up, he wrote, with his burgeoning alcohol troubles. “By 19, I hid handles of Jim Beam behind my bed pillows,” he elaborated.

Mr. Young’s métier is the confessional memoir: he’s published a number of pieces on various websites and in print outlets, all excerpts from the larger work describing his journey from celebrity obsession to disillusionment. Which isn’t to say he has abandoned the quest for fame entirely. Though he doesn’t operate a blog, his Twitter account is filled with links to his own writing and references to a glamorous life: “Partying in Aziz Ansari’s backyard,” he wrote one evening in June.

Other published excerpts from Fame Shark include a meditation for The Forward on serving as a child extra on the Mel Gibson vehicle Ransom, a piece entitled “My Love Relationship With Celebrities and Fame” for Yahoo’s Shine portal and a New York Press dispatch on a Robert Miller Gallery Christmas party and the snobs and socials in attendance. Of the latter piece, Mr. Young said, “The editor was like, ‘You got us so much hate mail.’ And I was like, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and he was like, ‘No, it’s awesome.’” He said he hopes his writing evokes strong emotions. “My greatest fear is that people read it and they’re like, ‘It was O.K.’”

Attention Must Be Paid: The Adventures of Royal Young