Exploiting the Archives: Bertolucci & Jay Edition


The older we get the more death permeates our lives. I’ve been writing and living long enough that I have talked to my share of dead people, although, I should point out that none of them were dead when I spoke to them. No, they were all alive and full of life and joie de vivre, except for Will.I.Am and Gene Simmons, who were both huge assholes. But like all assholes, they’ve been punished for their flagrant jackassery by being very unsuccessful and having very little money. 

I’ve been writing about pop culture for twenty one years, and talked to my shares of characters in my day, some for The A.V Club’s character actor-oriented feature Random Roles. It was almost always a delight and an honor, as I got to talk to some amazing people, and hear some amazing stories, including some from the late Ricky Jay, who just died at the age of 72 after an astonishing career as both an accomplished character actor and one of the greatest magicians and card throwers of his generation.

I remember getting off the phone after interviews with people like Jay feeling this natural high, this elation that I had legitimately just had a really fascinating conversation with one of the most interesting and remarkable people on the planet. Jay wasn't just an unusually funny and smart and quick-witted and dexterous: he was like a real-life X-Men, Gambit if he hung out with David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson instead of the disciples of Professor Xavier’s Institute.


I felt that same sense of elation getting off what turned out to be a very expensive long distance phone call to Bernardo Bertolucci, who I interviewed for The A.V Club as well in connection to the re-release of his first motion picture I believe. He was vivacious and full of life, a big talker full of stories and personal charisma.

I did not have a long distance plan when I did the interview, so it ended up costing about two hundred and fifty dollars. But can you really put a price on an experience like that? Yes, you can, and it might be lower than that but I am nevertheless grateful that I had the experience of talking to both of these men when I could. They made the world a more interesting place. The universe is a little duller and a little grayer in their absence. 


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