Maureen Dowd Talks to Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, Who Wants to Reveal It All

From a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd headlined “Jann Wenner Wants to Reveal It All”:

Rock may be dead, but Jann Wenner is still rolling.

The founder of Rolling Stone magazine always had a baby face, but he was never timid. His own mother told him he was the most difficult child she’d ever encountered. He edited stories with a red pen. He gave out roach clips with subscriptions. He turned a darkroom into an in-house drug-dealing operation called the Capri Lounge, as a perk for staffers.

“More than anyone I know, he’s always just done what he wanted,” said his friend Lorne Michaels, the creator of “Saturday Night Live.”

When it suited him, Mr. Wenner was a tyrant.

“I wasn’t raving around tearing up people’s copy,” he said, looking relaxed in a blue linen shirt and black pants at his Montauk home in August. “But I just would not take less than your really best effort. I was tough, but I was also super-indulgent. I believed in writers.”

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote Mr. Wenner a letter about how working for Rolling Stone was “like being invited into a bonfire and finding out the fire is actually your friend.” He added, “Some people were fried to cinders, as I recall, and some people used the heat to transmogrify themselves into heroes.”

That wild energy is how, in 1967 when he was a 21-year-old enfant terrible, he created a magazine that chronicled a generation, serving up a flambé of music, drugs, alcohol, sex and politics. It was, to use a Wenner phrase, “a king hell spectacle.”

Boomers may be a punchline now, but back then, they were groovy. Ralph Gleason, a founding editor of Rolling Stone, wrote that the magazine was predicated on the idea that great musicians were “the true shamans,” and that music was the glue that kept young people in the 1960s and 1970s from falling apart “in the face of incredible adult blindness, and ignorance and evilness.”

“I’m sorry to see it go,” Mr. Wenner said about rock ’n’ roll. “It’s not coming back. It’ll end up like jazz.”

Now 76, he has written a memoir (“Like a Rolling Stone,” out on Sept. 13) brimming with juicy anecdotes about friendships and feuds with the gods of the golden age of rock. He also dishes on the inimitable writers he nurtured at the magazine, like Mr. Thompson, the avatar of gonzo journalism, and Tom Wolfe, a bespoke wonder in white among the shaggy hippies. Mr. Wenner also provides an intimate — she may think too intimate — look at Annie Leibovitz, the photographer who started her career at Rolling Stone and who took the moody cover shot of Mr. Wenner for the new autobiography.

Mr. Wenner almost died in 2017, after he broke his femur in a fall when he was showing his son Noah how to improve his tennis serve and had a heart attack that required open-heart surgery. He had to give up his daredevil habits of skiing, motorcycle riding and chain-smoking Marlboros. He said he had stopped doing coke long before, labeling it the “nefarious drug.”

But even sitting quietly with his cane at his side, eating a bowl of cherries, he still has something of the whirlwind about him. Looking a bit chagrined, he confessed that he enjoyed a bit of LSD a month ago at the beach, listening to Bruce Springsteen, U2, Dire Straits and Bob Dylan. “Unbelievable,” he said.

“Pot is too difficult on my throat to smoke, and edibles last too long,” he said. “Coke is fun for parties but then it’s useless.”

He had just gotten back from taking his family on a safari with the family of Bette Midler, one of his favorite traveling companions, who says she finds him “peculiarly optimistic, even in the darkest of his days.”

We had lunch by the ocean on the deck of Mr. Wenner’s spectacular modern home, featuring a basketball court, swimming pool, tomato garden, a sculpture of a huge metal head lying on its side and Ralph Lauren and Bill O’Reilly as neighbors. We ate gazpacho with caviar and roasted Montauk black sea bass, prepared by his chef, and drank rosé. The music on tap was nuevo flamenco.

Mr. Wenner lives here in Montauk — and sometimes in Manhattan and Sun Valley, Idaho — with his husband, Matt Nye, a handsome designer who has worked at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, and their three teenagers. His ex-wife, Jane, with whom he has three grown sons — their names are engraved on a silver ID bracelet he’s wearing — has a house nearby.

One of the original staffers at Rolling Stone, the beautiful and stylish Jane was instrumental in helping Mr. Wenner get his magazine off the ground (her parents gave him money to get started). She was his muse and charmed the people he needed, acting as “an ethereal housemother.” Gus Wenner, Jann and Jane’s youngest son, is now the C.E.O. of the Jann-less Rolling Stone.

Mr. Wenner decided to write his own memoir after he first worked closely with, and then grew disenchanted with, Joe Hagan, who wrote a biography of the editor in 2017 called “Sticky Fingers.”

The New York Times called it “a supple, confident, dispassionately reported and deeply well-written biography.” Mr. Wenner disagrees.

“I made a terrible choice of a writer, who turned out to be a gossip reporter more than a really careful in-depth writer,” Mr. Wenner said. “I gave him this great opportunity to look at my archives, but he was too interested in the sensational gossip stuff.”

Mr. Hagan responded to this in an email: “I still have an affection for Jann and I’m flattered that I could inspire him to write his own book, even if he fails to credit me. While his ‘gossip’ comments are hilarious coming from the former publisher of Us Weekly, I also find it sad how blind he is to the journalistic ambition of my book, which was an homage to the style and spirit of Rolling Stone at its best — Jann’s true legacy.”

Mr. Wenner grew up in the rural suburbs of San Rafael, Calif., the son of former military officers who started a baby formula company. He liked to sing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

By sixth grade, he was already the editor and publisher of The Weekly Trumpet. As a freshman at Berkeley, he was ripping wire copy for Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, where Barry Goldwater became the nominee.

Running Rolling Stone required special skills. Mr. Wenner had to mold the copy into something readable after drug-fueled interviews, like the one he did with Jimi Hendrix. And he had to edit the work of Mr. Thompson, who loved his cocaine and whose office supplies included Wild Turkey and beer on tap, and an air horn.

Mr. Thompson’s first dispatch from D.C., when he covered George McGovern’s 1972 campaign, began like this: “I feel the fear coming on, and the only cure for that is to chew up a fat black wad of blood-opium about the size of a young meatball.”

Cameron Crowe, the moviemaker, was 15 when he began writing for the magazine. He said Mr. Wenner’s secret was that “he kept it personal,” building “a family out of geeky music lovers, hopeful upstarts, gunslinger professionals.”

Mr. Wenner recounts one day early in the magazine when Mick Jagger stopped by for blow and a long visit. On another, Ms. Leibovitz dropped three large rocks of coke on his desk as “a gift from Keith for you.”

“Cocaine had a stranglehold on the music business,” Mr. Wenner writes in the memoir. “Drugs were the coin of the realm, enabling bad behavior, bad relationships, and lapses of judgment all around.”

Dinner parties might have silver trays of neatly arranged lines of coke passed around every half-hour. When John Belushi fell off a stage doing his samurai skit and ended up in the hospital, with his leg in a cast suspended by wires, he mischievously pulled out a vial of coke hidden in the cast to show his friend Jann.

Conflict-of-interest rules at the magazine were blurry. Mr. Wenner became fast friends with Mick Jagger. Mr. Jagger, who, according to Rolling Stone’s count, has been on the cover 21 times, topped only by Paul McCartney with 24, agreed to finance a British version of the magazine, which shortly tanked.

When Mr. Jagger put out a solo album with Wyclef Jean called “Goddess in the Doorway” in 2001, Mr. Wenner watched them at a recording session producing what he considered a “bewitching” sound — “especially after a little pot” — and then reviewed it for the magazine. When the record review editor put four stars on the review, Mr. Wenner added an additional star.

“There was some snickering about being on Mick’s leash,” he writes, “but so what, and what if I were?” (Keith Richards called the album a spicier version of “Dog Doo in the Doorway.”)

The friendship had its rocky moments. Mr. Wenner assigned a full-court press on the Stones’s deadly concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1969 after the Hells Angels, brought in to handle security, killed an 18-year-old Black man in front of the stage. He knew that Mr. Jagger would be angry when some of the blame fell on him and the Stones’s tour manager, who brought in the Hells Angels.

After the publication of the 17-page article, which called it “rock ’n’ roll’s all-time worst day,” Mr. Jagger declined an interview request and sent Mr. Wenner a frosty telegram, saying, “rightly or wrongly we no longer trust you to quote us fully or in context.”

They made up and grew closer over the years.

Mr. Wenner tells an amusingly indiscreet story about being in Barbados with Mr. Jagger and Ms. Leibovitz. One night everyone was sipping cognac and Bianca Jagger was looking for her husband. He soon showed up, Mr. Wenner writes, “with sand on the knees of his white trousers. Annie followed a few minutes later. Bianca walked out without a word and there was a general sigh of relief. Then she returned with a large pot of water and poured it over Mick’s head. It was hilarious. Justice!”

Two pages later, he writes that Ms. Leibovitz tried to absorb Jane Wenner’s style and hung out with her constantly. “Annie was also in love with Jane, though I didn’t know that at the time, nor would I have even thought about it.”

After spilling much ink on the magic of Mick, it is a surprise when, near the end of his book, Mr. Wenner reveals that he stopped going to Stones concerts because they were “an oldies” revue.

“Since I have to use a cane to get around, going to see them at a coliseum, it’s just like, why?” he told me. “It’s an interesting show, but I’ve seen it 20 times.” (If they played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, he said, he’d go.)

In one Rolling Stone cover story, Mr. Jagger said he did not want to be singing “Satisfaction” when he was 42. He’s singing it at 79.

“Now they’re older and Keith has certainly slowed down,” Mr. Wenner said. “Mick is still a miracle, but he’s so old looking.”

“I don’t mind,” Mr. Wenner added, “but they look like people out of ‘Lord of the Rings’ or something.”

Mr. Wenner said Bob Dylan, Bono, and U2 and his pal Bruce Springsteen are still worth seeing because they’re still trying to be original.

Once in Sun Valley, before Mr. Wenner’s severe health issues began, Mr. Springsteen asked his friend how he kept skiing every day.

“Because I keep champagne, pot cookies and Percocet,” Mr. Wenner replied. “Have you ever had Percocet, Bruce? Try it. It’s not too late to throw your life away.”

For his birthday, Mr. Springsteen wrote a ditty for his friend, singing, “I’ve never seen so much innocence and cynicism walk side by side. Champagne, pot cookies and a Percocet keep him rolling stoned.”

Mr. Wenner also had a complicated, close relationship with the Beatles. John Lennon put Rolling Stone on the map. In 1968, they did a cover using the naked picture of John and Yoko holding hands that Mr. Lennon’s record company had banned for their first record together, “Two Virgins.”

“Nude Beatle Perils S.F.” was the headline in The San Francisco Chronicle; the issue was banned in Boston. “All the fuss,” Mr. Wenner writes, “came down to an ancient principle of public relations: ‘Print a famous foreskin and the world will beat a path to your door.’”

In 1970, for Mr. Lennon’s first solo album, Mr. Wenner hung out with the couple — “John and Yoko referred to themselves in the third person as Liz and Dick” — and interviewed an angry Mr. Lennon, who unleashed on “the dark side” of the Beatles. Mr. Lennon was angry at the way he perceived that his bandmates were treating Yoko, Mr. Wenner said.

The ex-Beatle said he wouldn’t bother to play George Harrison’s solo album at home; he called Paul’s solo album “rubbish,” and “light and easy”; he said Bob Dylan was B.S., adding snidely “Zimmerman is his name”; and he accused Mr. Jagger and the Stones of mimicking the Beatles’s music, asserting, “‘Satanic Majesties’ is ‘Pepper.’

Against Mr. Lennon’s wishes, Mr. Wenner published “Lennon Remembers” — which Mr. Lennon had begun calling “Lennon Regrets” — as a book. Mr. Lennon was angry. The two never saw each other again, and 10 years later John was shot. Mr. Wenner went to the Dakota and when he commiserated with Ms. Ono, she placed Mr. Lennon’s glasses, with dried blood on them, in his hands.

He became closer to Mr. McCartney after Mr. Lennon died. (Funnily enough, he writes that he gave Linda Eastman, “a comely blonde from Scarsdale,” her assignment to go to London and photograph the Beatles, which was less driven by aesthetics than that she wanted to meet Mr. McCartney, whom she would later marry. “She sent me postcards from London, detailing her pursuit of him,” Mr. Wenner writes.)

In 1977, Mr. Wenner moved the magazine to New York from San Francisco. He befriended the Kennedys. He put Donna Summer on the cover and used stylists to make the Jefferson Starship look glamorous. He started wearing three-piece suits and got rid of his magazine’s “hippie potpourri” design.

“I began to hear that we had ‘sold out,’ which had been a sour-grapes gripe I was immune to,” he writes, adding: “I suppose my own lifestyle and friendships in New York legitimized a lot of that.”

Mr. Wenner ran an ad campaign in 1985 called “Perception vs. Reality” to shed the magazine’s hippie image. There were contrasting pictures of pot brownies with Häagen-Dazs; coins with an American Express card; George McGovern with Ronald Reagan.

Hunter Thompson lambasted the shift to the mainstream, with a rant against BMWs, pesto and gossip, saying: “Bon Jovi, you know, what color he paints his fingernails is more important than the fact that Ronald Reagan is president. I think Jann, in the darkness of his private nights, should be ashamed, and is ashamed, because Rolling Stone is not more of a weapon than a tool.”

As Mr. Wenner got more buttoned-up, his mother became more bohemian. She moved to Hawaii and became a hippie, raising pet goats and taking acid with her astrologer/guru. And she became a lesbian.

“My mother’s gay? I just thought, she’s my mother, for Christ’s sake,” Mr. Wenner said. “What’s going on?” The last straw, he said, was when she got involved in what he termed “a sex-and-scam cult.”

“Somewhere along the line I realized that I didn’t like being around her,” he writes, adding, “No love was lost. Even our little dog growled and snapped when she showed up.”

He didn’t have much patience for her very public sexual exploration. “I wasn’t disapproving or negative; I just didn’t want to hear any more intimate information,” he said. “What son wants to hear about his mom’s” intimate life? Mr. Nye weighed in on this, smiling: “His mom was an utter original.”

Mr. Wenner knew he liked men as well as women at an early age. He rubbed up against a fellow student in boarding school. He used “homosexual ideation” to get out of the draft. He had a fling with a young man from England. But he was happy with Jane.

In 1994, though, he became infatuated with Mr. Nye.“I didn’t want to be open about being gay, and never discussed it with my closest friends or colleagues,” he writes. “I was having the best of both worlds and had been for years.”

He didn’t want to hurt Jane or his three young children but he was mooning over Matt, so he poured it all out to her. She told him to leave and he moved into a hotel on Madison Avenue.(Ms. Wenner did not respond to a request for comment.)

“Jane stabilized at first,” he writes. “She had friends and money, but she couldn’t let go of me. She phoned every day, either acting as if nothing had happened or, if she was stoned, doubling down on her humiliation, rejection, and my ‘sudden decision’ that I was gay. She would unleash anger and abuse as I listened, silenced with guilt.”

It took some time, and sensitivity on Mr. Nye’s part. Mr. Wenner writes that when he and Matt revealed they were having their own child, Jane “took it hard” and he felt “guilt and misery.” A 15-year-old Gus, protective of his mother, cried and said he “hated” Matt. But Mr. Wenner said they eventually blended into a modern family.

He hates the phrase “coming out of the closet” because it seemed like a “shameful cliché, that dark and stuffy closet. Debutantes came out.”

“I was concerned about it, but I wasn’t that concerned,” he said. “I never lost a friend because of it.”

Besides Rolling Stone, Mr. Wenner co-founded Outside, which he sold in 1979, two years after it started, and founded Men’s Journal, which he sold in 2017. He acquired Us Weekly, which in the early 2000s got so successful that it was making more than Rolling Stone.

As the owner and C.E.O. of Us Weekly, he was privy to all the celebrity secrets.

“A photographer we worked with received a tip that Angelina Jolie was at a resort on the coast of Africa on a secret trip with then-married Brad Pitt,” he writes. “The tipster further specified a time and place where they walked every day and suggested we could ‘secretly’ do a photo ambush. We got the photo, we got the proof, we had the worldwide scoop, the debut of Brangelina. The tipster was Angelina.”

Mr. Wenner can boast of much remarkable journalism aside from music in Rolling Stone: stories about Patty Hearst, Karen Silkwood, Charles Manson, AIDS, climate change. He did interviews with presidents and presidential candidates, enduring two of Bill Clinton’s “purple fits” of rage.

With lingering distress, he talks about the nadir for his magazine, the 2014 publication of “A Rape on Campus” about an alleged brutal gang assault on a victim with the pseudonym of “Jackie” in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. But “Jackie” had made it up.

“Our budget cuts had left us understaffed,” he writes. “Still, pseudonyms, lack of corroborating sources, and our sympathy for the victim, which made us reluctant to challenge her, were all warning signs.”

When Rolling Stone was born, music was a cultural and political force in this country. Now music is often disconnected from social change.

“The concerns have become very trivialized,” Mr. Wenner said. “It’s a lot of Taylor Swift and her disagreements with her celebrity boyfriends.” When he started the magazine, he writes, the readership was 90 percent male, and the star writers were male. “It was a macho era,” he told me. (Later, he said, readership evened out.)

“The music today is driven by teenage girls,” he said. “Today’s music, hip-hop, pop music, I don’t listen to as much, and I don’t think it is as culturally relevant as it used to be, nor is it musically as good. But I think some of it, particularly hip-hop, is very strong and tough.”

He thinks that technology has changed the nature of music. “If you listen to Bob Dylan and other stuff, it almost sounds antique,” he said. “Everything now has got this modern sound. They’ve got synthesizers, they’ve got auto-tuning.” And, he posited, “I think one of the reasons classic rock will never come back is, young people are being tuned to this new level” that makes old music seem “tame, just like I used to think of Frank Sinatra.”

As far back as 2008 and 2009, he said, he saw the writing on the wall about the internet superseding magazines.

People thought they wanted to get into the magazine game, he said, “but once they get in and discover it’s going to lose $10 million a year for the next three years, they’re like, ‘I don’t know about this.’ No big company wanted to buy Rolling Stone. They all knew what was happening.”

David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, bought Mr. Wenner’s Us Weekly for over $100 million in 2017. At one lunch, Mr. Wenner recalled, Mr. Pecker said that at the Enquirer, “he had been buying and then spiking stories from women who had been sleeping with Trump.”

Journalism was moving toward bullet points, away from 10,000-word articles. Celebrities preferred to be interviewed by other friendly celebrities, and they were asking for editorial control, right down to writing their own captions.

“It’s like everybody’s Tom Cruise all of a sudden,” Mr. Wenner keened. “He says nothing.”

Mr. Wenner had been grooming Gus to take over, but handing over the keys was difficult. Gus was “my usurping doppelgänger,” he writes.

“It took me a while to get used to not being in charge and that was tough,” he admitted. “Clearly, Gus had his ideas about what he wanted to do with Rolling Stone, and it was time for it to change.”

His chief financial officer, Tim Walsh, told him he would have to sell Rolling Stone.

The magazine that started with a zeal to take on the Man ended up going to two scions. The new owner is Jay Penske, whose father was Roger Penske, the former racecar driver turned billionaire businessman, and he elevated Gus Wenner to C.E.O.

“No more baby boomer, old-white-guy covers,” Mr. Wenner dryly noted about his final cover, a Bono interview.

The new team quickly began firing some of Rolling Stone’s veteran writers and photographers.

“I wanted to remain with Rolling Stone, to have some relationship with my baby,” Mr. Wenner writes. “Could I be the uncle? The grandpa? The brother-in-law? Nope, I would be the ex-wife. Gus wanted to take over. He listened to me with respect but impatience.”

As we ate peach sorbet with peaches, Mr. Wenner laughed ruefully. “I said, ‘Don’t cut me out’ and he was cutting me out. I went to him and said ‘Geez, I’m here.’ You discover they don’t really need the benefit of your advice that much. Yes, it could have been helpful on a couple of specific occasions but I guess it’s more important they got out on their own.”

He writes: “Of course, I was now in my seventies, standing in the way of progress, stubbornly locked in my office listening, it was assumed, to Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I was not invited to meetings. What should have been an exciting redesign and translation of Rolling Stone from a newsmagazine to a feature magazine ended up garbled and lackluster.”

Mr. Wenner kept coming to the office, like Citizen Kane on a walker. Sometimes, he and Gus would disagree; sometimes they would go smoke “a grit” on a bench outside.

He told me he became what he hates most: a cliché, “the grumpy old man left behind by the forces of time and history.”

Finally, Mr. Wenner writes, Gus delivered the message: “I was out.”

But, Mr. Wenner assured me, Gus handled him with T.L.C.: “Gus sold and saved the magazine. He has done a brilliant job with it.” Mr. Wenner added that “Gus transitioned it to a new generation and a new music. I could never have done it.” In April, Axiosreported that Gus Wenner said the magazine had had its most profitable year “in two decades.”

For his part, Gus called his father his “best friend and greatest mentor,” adding: “If we didn’t disagree here and there along the way, I would probably not be cut out for the job.”

Does the father read the son’s Rolling Stone?

“I don’t read Rolling Stone that much,” Mr. Wenner replied. “I don’t read that many magazines. It’s about people I’m not personally interested in. I don’t really care for K-pop. I don’t really know who Cardi B is.”

Recent Rolling Stone covers have included the YouTube star MrBeast and JLo in a jumpsuit with a plunging neckline.

“A big difference,” he said. “John Lennon being naked on the cover was a statement. How would the most popular man in the world be willing to go out and be naked?” He added, “It’s so destroying.”

They were “willing to place their fame, to put it in danger” to make the statement: “‘Here’s the honest truth about people, about sex, about nudity.’ Now JLo goes out and it’s like, ‘I’m doing this to sell like hot cakes. I’m not doing this for a reason.’”

I couldn’t end without asking the desert island discs question. What would he bring?

He offered this list: “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone. “Speedway at Nazareth” by Mark Knopfler. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen. “Moondance” by Van Morrison. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” by Otis Redding. “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan. “Crying” by Roy Orbison. “Think” by Aretha Franklin. “Beautiful Day,” by U2. “Under My Thumb,” by the Stones. “Imagine,” by John Lennon.

“Seems like a pretty cool cat,” he said about himself.

Maureen Dowd: Bob Dylan shakes hands like a dead fish.

Jann Wenner: Yes, weird. In the early days, it was a way to establish dominance. “What are you to me? What? Huh?”

Paul Simon is a buzz kill.

(Giggling) Yes.

You slept with Mick Jagger.

Swishful thinking, as Bette Midler would say. I never slept with a rock star.

Bruce Springsteen uses the word “pope” as a verb.

Yes. We were driving in a car to the airport and he says, now watch me, I’m going to pope it. Then he rolls down the window, and as the crowd goes by, he waves like the pope.

You traded your tickets to the Beatles’s last show for 30 hits of LSD.

You couldn’t hear the Beatles for all the screaming. I got the better bargain.

LSD use was a litmus test for new Rolling Stone hires.

Not true. But in the early days, I wanted to know if they had. Like what frame of mind this person would be in, what was their philosophical bent?

Michael Jackson should not be the subject of a musical on Broadway that is popular with children.

I don’t see any value in canceling him or pretending that he wasn’t a child molester or any value in not listening, and I think we lose something not listening to his music.

You were ensorcelled by Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

She smiled at you and it was like the sun came out. You just bask in that attention of hers and the eyes and the delight. She could focus on you. She was really smart.

You were in a two-man book club with David Bowie.

He turned me on to Junot Díaz. He was really the definition of erudite. And he also was committed to avant-garde. He was not interested in traditional writing.

Keith Richards accused you of nicking the name of his band.

True.

Bob Dylan was jealous that you gave the Rolling Stones credit for the name of the magazine. And Mick said that without him and Keith, your magazine would’ve been called Herman Hermits’ Weekly.

True.

You tried to get Tom Wolfe to change Sherman McCoy’s job in “Bonfire of the Vanities” from a bond trader to a writer because you said no one was interested in Wall Street.

That is true. I was really wrong.

Tom Wolfe was the first person to tell you about rap and he wrote his own rap lyrics. He liked to go to Harlem and the Bronx to watch the crews battle it out.

Yes.

You sniffed coke while being interviewed by a Columbia Journalism Review reporter.

I was under his influence.

You cut the testicles off Ken Kesey’s cows.

Yes, that is true.

You added an extra N to your name in high school to seem cooler.

Yes, to seem cooler.

You love drill music.

What is drill music?

Jack Nicholson brought a portable ashtray to the Clinton Inaugural.

It was so cool. You’re not supposed to smoke there but he had a little brass circular container with a lid on. He pulled it out of his pocket and smoked, and nobody bothered him at all because he had just come off of doing “A Few Good Men,” so all the Marines and security at the inauguration wouldn’t touch him. They loved Jack.

You’ve appeared in several movies. But not yet in the role that Michael Douglas said would be the most natural fit for you: a coldblooded hit man.

The story of my life. I could have done Whitey Bulger.

For your cameo in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” your credit read “Legend in Cab.”

Yes.

In an interview for a Rolling Stone cover story, Madonna told Carrie Fisher she did not like to perform oral sex.

(Laughing) I thought, that’s pretty selfish.

The Stones song “Memory Motel” was written about Annie Leibovitz.

Yes. She was covering the Stones at that time and she and Mick were sleeping together.

Kurt Cobain was his generation’s John Lennon.

That’s what my younger staffers said at the time. I didn’t want to challenge them at that moment but thought the idea was hyperbolic and emotional. There was something to be said about their reaction to his death being similar with ours to Lennon, but to compare the actual artists for their work is far-fetched.

You agree with Jimmy Buffett that nothing is worth saying or listening to after 1 a.m.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and author of three New York Times best sellers, became an Op-Ed columnist in 1995.

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