For those of you who don’t read “Vanity Fair,” Christopher Hitchens is a columnist/regular contributer to same. He appeared at the noon luncheon of the BEA (BookExpo America) and mainly recited questionable limericks. I have to give this to him: he knew them from memory. One was a questionable item decrying the clergy for episodes of pedophilia, which I won’t repeat here for fear of offense.
True story, however: as I exited the Women’s Rest Room just opposite the downstairs hall in which the program was to take place, I saw some people entering a stairwell. One of those people, a rather tall gentleman, was holding what appeared to be a REAL drink (and it wasn’t even noon yet) so this caught my eye, and I decided, “Well, that person definitely is in to the sauce already today, and I’ll just follow that group in to find our seats.” I was halfway up the stairwell stairs when we hit the landing and I realized that the rather tall gentleman holding the drink (it was in a wine glass, anyway, and it certainly did not look like iced tea) I belatedly recognized as Christopher Hitchens, the keynote speaker. I remember thinking that it was too bad I didn’t have my camera with me, but my next thought was to exit as gracelessly as I had entered (i.e., stumbling into the wrong stairwell and almost ending up onstage, it would seem).
This sort of thing seems to happen to me a lot. I ended up in an elevator with Mickey Rooney and his 9th? 10th? wife in Washington, D.C. once at a poetry thing where he was to speak. (Actually, he spoke just a little, sat down, and his wife sang. She sings well.) His wife was quite angry with little Mickey (who came up to about boob-level) that he had “gotten on the wrong elevator.” Apparently, there was a “special” elevator for the star speaker, but Mickey—who was then nearing 80 if not already in his eighth decade—had picked the wrong elevator and therein lies my “brush with greatness.”
With Christopher Hitchens, I didn’t really stay in the stairwell long enough to be identified as an interloper and, therefore, was merely an audience member wondering why he just kept repeating limericks, some of them fairly outrageous, and then shared memories of deflowering various male members of Parliament or some such. I grew up in Iowa. I now live in Illinois. I am obviously out of the NYC loop and most of the audience that day, when Patton Oswalt (a comedian) hosted, seemed to be out of the NYC loop, also. I think there were several deep breaths taken by the audience (and deep drinks taken by Mr. Hitchens) before he abruptly exited, stage left (the very same stairwell he came in) to “catch a plane to London.” Ah, the lifestyle of the rich and famous!
In keeping with that lifestyle, I’d like to share with you, with appropriate attribution, Christopher Hitchen’s remarks, as quoted in something entitled “Diary” on page 82 of the July, 2010 “Vanity Fair.” It is just a small part of a longer piece, but, in light of my remarks above, I think you’ll get the general idea, and I won’t even tell you about the time I ended up in the elevator with Jesse Jackson’s entourage inside the Pepsi Center in Denver during the DNC, BEFORE he was accused of trying to purchase Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-empty Senate seat (which he vociferously denied).
Here is the excerpt from Christopher Hitchens’ diary, the very same C.H. with shom I had a “brush with greatness” in the stairwell of the Jacob Javits Center on May 27th,…although I’m sure he never knew I was there:
“There was a time when I could outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, a generous slug or 10 of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative being my tipple of preference. It was between the Tel Aviv massacre and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I now restrict myself to no more than a couple of bottles of halfway decent wine for elevenses, and then a couple more as an accompaniment to luncheon, with Mr. Gordon’s gin firmly ensconced in the driving seat for the remainder of the day. As an enthuisastic participant in the delights of Mr. Dionysus, I offer no apology for passing down these simple pieces of advice for the young.
Never drink before breakfast, unless the day of the week has a “u” in it. Martinis go surprisingly well with Corn Flakes, while a medium dry sherry remains the perfect accompaniment to Mr. Kellogg’s admirable Rice Krispies.
It’s much worse to see a woman drunk than a man. I don’t know why this is ture, but it is, it just is, I don’t care what you say, it just is and you can take that from me and anyway that’s not what I said. (*Author’s note: it is what you said, and it’s sexist as hell!)
And finally, if, like me, you are, like me, a professional scrivener, like me, never ever ever drunk while written an article column piece ever. It is, perforce, something I never don’t.” (As told to Craig Brown and previously printed in “Private Eye”)