Talking Heroin, Fame, & ‘The Heroin Chronicles’ With Author Jerry Stahl

It’s ridiculous out there. It’s so cold that I saw a cab driver explaining something to a potential fare and his middle finger froze. It’s so cold that my lawyer put his hands in his own pocket. OK, OK, I’ll stop. It’s hard to get people to go anywhere when it’s like this. January and February can be rough on clubs and bars and such – especially in a world where homes have so many ways to entertain: thousands of TV channels, the World Wide Web, and other etceteras I cannot mention in a family column. 

Tonight I will brave the weather but stay in Brooklyn. Jerry Stahl, the author of Bad Sex On Speed, will be reading from his new book: The Heroin Chronicles. According to Zoe Hanson, my fierce friend who contributed to this book, Jerry is… the man. The event will be early, at 7pm at Word in Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St. Brooklyn Brewery is providing it’s product. The tome is available on Akashic Books. If you can’t make it tonight, they’ll do it again tomorrow night at St Mark’s Bookshop, also at 7pm. The crowd that gathers to hear these tales will be super hot and smart and cool…all those things noticeably absent at most joints in town. Dress warm, juice up on some yerba mate, and join me. 

I asked Jerry Stahl a few questions.

Was heroin ever chic? Is it always chic? Does it give the users a certain badge – a certain credibility – or is it just a very bad thing?
Heroin involves a lot of puking on your shoes. And, I think we can all agree, nothing says ‘chic’ like shoe-puking. I never bought into the heroin chic thing myself. I mean, a real dope fiend has to try not to look like a dope fiend, or risk being busted. So anybody who actually wants to look that way is either a poser, in a fashion spread, or Keith Richards. Keith is the exception that proves the rule – plus, he always had the dough for lawyers who could get him off, or a judge who figured setting a charity concert was better than sending him to jail.

On the other hand, an old-time needle jockey once told me how he went to see Charlie Parker in New York, and hours after he was supposed to go on, when the crowd was ready to split, an announcer stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Parker is just pulling down his sleeve….”  Which – I can’t lie – sounds pretty goddamn glam. But the truth is, "Bird" was probably backstage wiping puke off his shoes.

Are the stories chronicled success stories or screams or what?
I would describe them as successful screams. Or, in the immortal words of Jonathan Swift, “crawling is performed in the same position as climbing.” I have no idea how this applies to your question, but it’s a great quote, and – if you kind of squint – it does sort of apply

Is a junkie always a junkie, even after the using is chronicled in the rooms/at meetings?
Well, junkies are like veterans. They all share that wartime experience, but not all of them are still living in the jungle 20 years after the war’s over. 

Personal Faves: How I Spent My Rent Check On A Rolling Stones Concert

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Hillary Hughes writes about dropping a load of money on the greatest living rock ‘n’ rollers, The Rolling Stones.

“You paid HOW MUCH FOR ROLLING STONES TICKETS?!”

I had made the mistake of casually mentioning to my mother that I spent a month’s rent (literally) on a pair of tickets to watch The Rolling Stones perform at the Barclays Center, and she was completely shocked and appalled. “You’re irresponsible! I’m not gonna tell you how to spend your money, but Jesus, Hilary … they’re just so old. I wouldn’t have paid half that to see them twenty years ago let alone now.”

Mom wasn’t alone in thinking that. When The Rolling Stones announced the handful of select cities they’d visit on 50 and Counting…, the band’sfiftieth anniversary tour, their age (“But Keith Richards is probably gonna die soon!”) and the $100-$900 price range for seats were topics more avidly discussed than the fact that this rock band had made it through to the better half of a century together. My friends thought I was borderline institutional for entertaining the idea of wasting two hours and hundreds of dollars on The Rolling Stones, and so a volley of YouTube clips hit my inbox, a damning reel of highlights recorded from recent awards shows and other anniversary tours that displayed an exhausted-looking Richards and a flailing, shouting Mick Jagger in a most unfavorable light. Even my dad—the man responsible for my Rolling Stones fandom and the one whose glove compartment I lifted a tape of Tattoo You from at the age of ten—was taken aback by the fact that I was so determined to find tickets to the Brooklyn show of 50 and Counting… just to watch a band of senior rock musicians “who’ve seen better days” play through a predictable set list.

No one seemed to get why I was so hell-bent on seeing The Rolling Stones, so when the time to hit the “Confirm Reservation” button came, I had forgotten why I had decided to hand over my rent check to TicketMaster in exchange for the chance to see the greatest rock band in history play songs that mean more to me than even I understand—and I subsequently freaked the fuck out. I forgot about how, while driving back and forth between Brooklyn and Boston this fall, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed anchored my sanity on I-84, especially because “Call Me Maybe” and “Some Nights,” two of the most lyrically inept songs ever written, were also Clear Channel’s favorite singles to play and therefore unavoidable unless I dodged Connecticut’s airwaves throughout the course of the four-hour drive. I forgot that the first real conversation I had with my dad about music was about The Rolling Stones, one about his favorite song of theirs, “Bitch,” and how it was overshadowed by “Brown Sugar” on 1971’s Sticky Fingers. I forgot about how I’d told an ex-boyfriend that I wanted to walk down the aisle to “Happy” should we ever get married, and I forgot about how many times I opted to belt the chorus to “Gimme Shelter” into a hairbrush in front of a mirror as a teenager.

I more or less forgot about the fact that The Rolling Stones have provided the off-peak soundtrack to my life, despite the fact that I was born fourteen years after the release of Exile on Main St. I sought solace in the straightforward tenacity of their choruses instead of settling for the shitty, manufactured pop songs that my friends sang along with when they came on at the dive bar, and the musical inclinations of Jagger, Richards & Co. have set the standard for my taste as a listener, fan, and critic from the get-go.

I had forgotten all of this, and yet with one play of “Doom and Gloom,” the first single from their newly released greatest hits collection, I came to. I clicked “Confirm” and that was that. I was going to see The Rolling Stones, and I was going because I needed to see them—to hear the steady build of “Gimme Shelter,” to groan when “Miss You” made an appearance, to jump up and down like a maniac during “Get Off Of My Cloud”—and this was the first time I’ve ever felt so compelled to declare my love for a band so openly before, despite the fact that I knew that I was potentially setting myself up for the kind of epic disappointment that can only occur when your expectations of meeting your idol fall short.

Thankfully, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie eviscerated every skeptic thought in the house when they took the stage at the Barclays Center for the big event on December 8. Though 50 and Counting… could’ve been the safe and tired victory lap of a final tour, the scene that unfolded was that of a jovial reunion, one where Ronnie Wood galloped across the stage without hitting a wrong note while Richards took to his solos with the effortless dexterity of a person who has cradled the neck of a guitar in his hands more frequently than he hasn’t over the course of the past fifty years. Jagger’s bellow reached the highest and lowest recesses of his range, and though his gait and the topography of his face tell the truth about his age, the flamboyant frontman ran at the crowd with an identical fervor to that of himself thirty years prior. (Or so I’m told, anyway). Richards and Wood sauntered back to the drum kit and turned and faced the arena before them in unison, and as Jagger shimmied, clapped and convulsed while the room erupted as the hits flew into the ether, I stood there slack-jawed thinking about how impossible it was for them to be so good when time, logic and the basic truths of the human form seemed to be working against them.

The show may not have been perfect—my prediction of a Beyoncé cameo during “Gimme Shelter” disintegrated when Mary J. Blige showed up, and “Midnight Rambler,” well, rambled—but to say that I got what I paid for would be an immense understatement. 2012, for me, was the year when Autotune became a superficial stylistic choice as opposed to a performance crutch, where The Black Keys farmed out the track list of El Camino to any studio that wanted to opt it for a movie trailer and a song like “Call Me Maybe” earned more accolades for its saccharine hooks than any other single on the charts. It was also the year of The Rolling Stones, in that the rock icons showed the world, and me, that a good song is an immortal thing that can only grow stronger with age—and that a fiftieth anniversary tour isn’t to be met with the same expectations of a retirement party. 

Follow Hillary Hughes on Twitter

The Rolling Stones Premiere ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ At The Ziegfeld

In a recent glossy magazine feature on the lives of the post-millennial East London hipsterati, the writer, somewhat embarrassingly, blathers on fawningly about her subjects indulging in such, um, establishment-defying activities as "trading pork belly recipes" and "obsessing over fair trade coffee."It’s precisely such a banal, eviscerated 21st Century version of youth rebellion that makes it all the more seditiously provocative when, in the new Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Mick Jagger matter-of-factly conveys that the band was only half the reason so many fired-up young lads were flocking to their early shows; the other half, he insists, was for the singular fuck-the-old-crusties thrill of "participating in a riot." Indeed, the film electrifyingly recalls how rock ’n’ roll once seethed with all the violence and anger that young people felt towards "he generation that is running our lives." The teenagers were, literally and figuratively, storming the barricades. 

Crossfire Hurricane, which has already had a run across the pond and will premier stateside on HBO this Thursday, was introduced by the Stones themselves at the Ziegfeld Theater Tuesday night; and Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and (perhaps a bit less) Charlie Watts still seemed, fifty years on, to be every bit the rock & roll hellions who had initially inspired all that adolescent fury. Uniquely formatted with current interviews (in which interim guitarist Mick Taylor also participates) laid over a lightning-paced pastiche of ’60s and ’70s era clips, it leaves out the gossip (no Jerry Halls, no Anita Pallenbergs), letting the blindingly revolutionary music—and culture-altering behavior—speak for itself. It also unabashedly canonizes the band’s shameless, glorious depravity. An unidentified commentator sums it up: "Parents become homicidal at the sight of them." To which the late Brian Jones counters with a satisfied sneer, "We’ve been called everything from beautiful to revolting."

And revolting they were, specifically against the grey, post-war misery of a still culturally clenched Britain run by stunted old farts. It was "goodbye to all that" times a thousand, the virtual ground zero of us-against-them.

The live clips are, of course, incendiary. From the ragged, anarchic early shows, with audiences full of thrashing boys and screaming, fainting girls (who were, apparently, according to Jones, literally wetting their pretty little panties), to the wildly histrionic ’70s arena clips, the Stones (despite a few inexcusable fashion faux pas) are depicted as nothing less than the coolest, baddest, greatest motherfucking rock ’n’ roll band ever. Truly, watching them tear through "Sympathy For The Devil," "Street Fighting Man," and "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" with such snarling but deadly earnest exuberance is alone worth the price of admission. 

Specific epochal episodes—Brian Jones’s funeral, the fatal pandemonium at Altamont, the band’s drug-drenched tax exile in the South of France (which, by the way, resulted in Exile On Main Street), and Richards’s genuinely career-threatening heroin bust in Toronto—are all treated with an intelligence and poignancy by director Brett Morgen, traits usually lacking in rock documentaries. Yet never are such matters allowed to get in the way of the hedonism, debauchery, and, well, balls-out fun. 

Indeed, post-bust, an impressively unshaken Richards proudly refers to himself as rock’s Jesse James. "I never had a problem with drugs," he sniffs. "I only had a problem with the cops."

The film’s only concession to normal human reality comes by way of Jagger’s not-all-too-concerned observation that, "You can’t stay young forever." Still, Richards—being Keith Richards—leaves us with an unconditional warning, nay manifesto: "Don’t fuck with the Stones."

It’s a gas, gas, gas. 

Photo Credit: ©Rolling Stones Archive

Afternoon Links: George Clooney Arrested, Neve Campbell Pregnant

● George Clooney and his equally dashing father were both handcuffed and arrested this afternoon outside of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, where they were protesting the brutal and genocidal conditions in south Sudan. [MSNBC]

● ’90s sweetheart Neve Campbell is pregnant with her first child. [People]

First Missy, and now Timbaland has begun staging his own comeback with the bass heavy "Break Ya Back," featuring Dev. 1996, we hear you! [RapRadar]

● Plastic-y British boy band, One Direction, are set to make history next week when they could become the first UK act ever to score a Billboard Number One — something not even the Beatles managed — with their debut album Up All Night. [NME]

● A wise momma-to-be, Snooki figures that pregnancy-induced morning sickness is not so unlike a hangover. Meanwhile, her baby-daddy Jionni promises that, ""We are not going to screw this up.” [NYDN]

● Keith Richards has apologized to Mick Jagger for all the unflattering anecdotes relayed in his memoir, Life. "As far as the book goes, it was my story," he says. "It was very raw, as I meant it to be, but I know that some parts of it and some of the publicity really offended Mick and I regret that." The two can now go on to celebrate The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary in peace. [Reuters]

Ellie Goulding Picks Her Top 5 Style Luminaries

Even though she’s just 24, British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding has been making music for a decade. Two years after releasing her debut EP, 2009’s An Introduction to Ellie Goulding, for which she was awarded the critics’ choice trophy at the 2010 BRIT Awards, Goulding has completed her first studio album, the folksy-pop offering Lights, scheduled for release this month. Lights was nominated for two Brit Awards this year—for breakthrough act and best female solo artist—garnering effusive praise from The New Yorker along the way, who touted Goulding as “the future of music.”

But before looking ahead, we asked Goulding to tip her hat to the style stars who’ve inspired her look: “Keith Richards is the original eccentric rock star. He looks fabulously unkempt in every single photo, and that man really owns his look. Björk is an icon to me. She seems completely fearless. I am fascinated by her voice, her poetry, and her imagination. I love Chloë Sevigny’s effortlessly cool style—she never gets it wrong in my opinion. She always looks super-sexy and feminine with a boyish charm. Kanye West makes an effort. He is always successfully trying out new looks. There are so many men who try too hard, and Kanye clearly doesn’t have to. I know it’s a cliché, but I am so into the way Lady Gaga pushes boundaries. It’s not a look that works for me, but she rocks it.”

Fashion Feed: Pierre Hardy’s a Footwear Genius, Gisele Bündchen’s an Animated Superhero?

● Pierre Hardy on his highly-anticipated new shop in the West Village and jaw-dropping skyline shoe (pictured). [Style] ● Louis Vuitton hosts a private dinner for Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life. [WWD] ● Rag & Bone play with lengths, layering, and fluorescent hair in their Pre-Fall 2011 collection. [Fashionologie]

● Gisele Bündchen: Supermodel-turned-supermom-turned-animated superhero? [Racked] ● Tom Ford thinks most people look better naked (especially fat chicks). [The Cut]

Links: Demi Lovato Is the New Charlie Sheen, Kanye West Apologizes to President Bush

● Disney star Demi Lovato allegedly went on quite a cocaine and booze bender, all the while screaming, “I’m famous, I don’t care what any of you think of me the whole world loves me.” Oh, and it was all caught on camera. [Radar] ● A Missouri woman is insisting that Lil Wayne is the father of her grandson. Already a father of four, Wayne has until December 9 to be tested. [TMZ] ● Pink is probably pregnant, and to hear the magazines tell it, she thinks it will strengthen her shaky marriage. That always works, right? [Us Weekly]

● In an interview with Matt Lauer, Kanye West apologized for calling George W. Bush a racist, then Lauer showed the clip to the former president. And then Bush called West by the name of “Konway,” so they’re about even now. [HuffPo] ● The 416-year-old Keith Richards attacked a journalist during an interview, which is probably just viral marketing for his new autobiography entitled Life. [Spinner] ● John Mayer says no, in fact, he did not sleep with Giada de Laurentiis, but thanks for thinking so. [PopEater]

Johnny Depp Directing Again: Cause for Concern?

Word has it that Johnny Depp will be helming a documentary about virtually indestructible Rolling Stones guitar player Keith Richards. In and of itself, this isn’t terribly surprising, as Depp and Richards’ mutual affinity is well known. After the first Pirates of the Caribbean installment, Depp admitted that the lion’s share of the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow came from the legendary axe-man, and by the third installment Richards was appearing in the franchise as Depp’s piratical pappy. What is surprising about the announcement is that Depp has the audacity to consider directing again. He’s only tried his hand at it once before, with 1997’s The Brave, and the results were, very, very mixed.

I had the dubious privilege of seeing The Brave in a Paris theatre at the time of its release. I was curious because it had just been roundly booed at its Cannes premiere. Somehow I took this to be a potentially good sign, recalling that French audiences had also booed Renoir’s Rules of the Game upon its release, but this proved some pretty specious reasoning. The Brave is magnificently poor. Depp stars as Raphael, a hard luck Native American who supports himself basically by rag-picking at a nearby dump. Determined to provide his wife and children with a future he’ll never achieve, he agrees to star in a snuff film — produced by none other than Marlon Brando (in one of his last screen roles) as a philosophical low-life. Basically, Depp mopes for two hours, then submits to being offed at the end.

In a career that’s had very few missteps, this one was extraordinary. The film is dreary, overwrought, and flatly unbelievable. It’s never been theatrically released in the states, nor is it available on DVD here. You can order it from the UK or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, watch it on Youtube, though I’d advise a policy of total avoidance. It’s clear that Depp himself isn’t much of a fan either since he recently told European media, “Now that I’m wiser, and that enough time has passed, I can experience directing again.” Here’s hoping he experiences it very differently.