When Time Out approached me for an interview, we began coordinating the details, and it suddenly occurred to me that you can gauge a celebrity's status by how much control he and/or she exerts over an interview. A hot celebrity can choose the interviewer. A hotter one can demand to see the questions beforehand. A sizzling hot one can get complete editing approval over the finished pieces. So I thought, why leave anything to chance? Why not cut through the baloney, eliminate the middleman, and simply interview myself? It'll save everyone a lot of time and hassle, whilst just coincidentally enabling me to pocket the writer's fwww.
I found Emo Philips in the bar area of London's Playhouse Theatre. For over an hour the lanky yankee had been onstage, dazzling the audience with breathtakingly original comedy, poetry and a riddle. Now, he was busy signing autographs and fielding requests for sex (my goodness, was there a Vogue models convention in town?). After taking the time to pen something hilarious, unique yet personal for every fan (or 'Emo-Philiac' as the master himself likes to call them), Emo glanced at the mirror and saw me. Thus reminded of our interview, he led me backstage to his dressing room, a beautiful, private retreat complete with a ceiling. After plopping down gracefully into a metal folding chair, Emo removed his Barry Manilow watch, placed it on the table next to him, and said firmly but gently, 'You've got just 22 hours. Begin.'
Emo: How old are you?
I could see right away his joust of wit would not be for the faint-hearted.
Emo: How tall are you?
Emo: Six feet two.
Emo: How much do you weigh?
Emo: 145 pounds, naked. That is, if that scale outside the drugstore is anything to go by.
This last answer caught me totally off-guard. Laughter - a sweet, helpless laughter - welled up inside me, uncertain at first, and then increasing logarithmically, like the passion within the breasts of a tender young virgin chained to a post in the Coliseum as the baboon trainer approaches her with his lascivious charges.
So, Emo, is this to be that sort of interview? A silly, nonsensical, no-holds barred affair, comic take all? Oh you monster! You delightfully, naughty monster! Well then, so be it! Make me your little whipping boy, and toss caution to the breeze!
Emo: Emo, you are very talented.
Emo: Well, that's not for me to say.
Emo: Darn you, Emo, modesty will get you nowhere! You must learn to blow your own horn in this world! Very well, if you refuse to praise yourself, then I will. I'll shout it out from the highest mountaintop: Emo is talented! Emo is...
Emo: Please stop...you're embarrassing me!
Emo: But you just have to learn how good you are!
Emo: I beg you...change the subject.
Emo: You are so wonderful. Very well, I shall soldier on. Now Emo, you are getting to be quite the frequent visitor to our shores, old chap.
Emo: Oh, yes. In fact, they're getting to know me so well at Heathrow Immigration that this time I was able to completely bypass the six months rabies quarantine.
I was gone. Guffaws flew from my mouth like spasmodic mating honks from some giant prehistoric bird. I doubled up as if some prankster had detoured the Indy 500 into my duodenum. And Emo...Emo the cruel, Emo the barbarian...simply sat there and smiled at me, timing the laughter on the second-hand of his watch. The villain might just as well have used a calendar. And every time I felt that I might, in the far, far distant future, just possibly perhaps maybe come within sight of a point where I might, just perhaps, start to diminish my laughing, my torturer would attack me anew with a facial movement...raising an eyebrow three millionths of an inch for example...that would again plunge me reeling into an inescapable vortex of excruciatingly painful merriment. Finally I was saved by that most basic of needs...the need for oxygen. I had to begin breathing again, and this I finally did, for not even Emo's humour could override my involuntary instinct to survive. Or could it?
Emo: I read somewhere that you are quite the animal lover.
Emo: Oh, yes. I have a love for animals that is almost...illegal.
Partly to salvage at least a remnant of my sanity, partly as a supreme test of willpower, but mainly to get the interview on a serious track, I attempted to hold my laughter in by clamping my lips tightly together. Big mistake. The laughter, finding no natural egress through my oral cavity, deflected upward like a tidal wave striking a granite cliff and created several million pounds of pressure inside my nasal chambers. A nose vein burst, spraying blood like a demonic lawn sprinkler onto Emo, myself and everything else in the dressing room. Emo, his formerly innocent blue eyes now glazed with frenzy, tore off his shirt and began lapping up the blood like a delicate English schoolboy taking part in some bizarre jungle manhood ritual. He danced around the room, beat upon his chest like a gorilla, and let out a series of atavistic, cottage-cheese-curdling screams that I must confess terrified me to my very marrow. Finally, after what seemed like a minute and ten seconds, Emo sat back down exhausted, and began to weep.
Those fortunate few, if there be any others, who have seen Emo weep...a weeping, by the way, that is infinitely more masculine than the most 'macho' activity of any other man...will testify that it changes his appearance. No, don't panic ladies - he still retains every bit of his classical good looks. It's just that, softened by sobs, his handsomeness becomes...accessible. Tears of tenderness fall on the cheeks of the cold, marble Apollo, and bring it miraculously to life! This, then, is the real Emo, the living contradiction that lesser interviewers have been searching for for over a decade: the sad clown, the wistful waif, the post-apocalyptic Pierrot. But please! Think not for a moment that I am no longer in awe of the magnificent Monsieur Philips! I am and always will be. It's just that I now thankfully realise he is - dare I even whisper it? - mortal.