Industry Insiders: Michael Musto, Town Crier
Celebrating 25 years at The Village Voice this month, literary icon Michael Musto had more than enough material for his most recent book, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back. His latest work is a follow-up to his hilarious and scathing offerings Downtown-V285 and Manhattan on the Rocks. Between his columns at The Voice and Ocean Drive, writing for Out Magazine, and the Sundance Channel blog SUNfiltered, his books and his appearances around town (he always arrives on his bicycle), Musto has become something of a celebrity in his own right.
On his 25th Anniversary with The Voice: It feels weird. I have a little bit of survivor’s guilt. Considering the current economic landscape I’m also proud of myself and not afraid to pat myself on the back for remaining semi-relevant. Part of that is because I approach everyday fresh and I really am interested in going out and covering things. I appear to be jaded on the surface but deep down, I’m really just excited by everything. I get to party every night, so for me, every night is Christmas, every night is Halloween.
On nightlife in 2010: I started at Studio 54, so at the top. Everything else has been downhill. I try not to look back because nothing’s going to compare. But I like the Boom Boom Room. I thought it was spectacular and very Vegasy, airport lounge, over-the-top glitz and glamour, which is so contrary to the way things are going now. It’s perversely appealing. And I also always love Susan Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s parties. Bon Bon on Tuesdays at Juliet Supperclub and Vandam on Sundays at Greenhouse.
Biggest peeves about going out: I hate the way the club will be half empty but the door people will still act like they’re doing you a favor to even think about letting you in. I’m hardly fresh off the bus … I’ve been doing this for many decades, so don’t give me attitude or I will get you fired. I will tweet you out of existence.
On social networking: I’m not even on Facebook or Twitter. I’m old school. If anybody wants to reach me, they can call me at the Voice. I’ve been spending my whole life avoiding my old friends from high school. That’s the only fun to be had on Facebook, to say ‘friendship denied.’
On Bartsch, his longtime friend: She’s amazing, she’s like the energizer promoter. And they still really have a finger on the young and the new and the energy. In the old days she had a shop in SoHo before she was even a promoter. She was on the first cover of Details , so she was part of the scene. When she started throwing parties, they were so Barnum and Bailey, over the top. I don’t think I’ve ever missed one of her parties.
On feeling inspired to write his column, The Daily Musto: Sometimes it’s on the days that you have nothing to write about that you do your best work because it forces you to dig inside yourself and come up with some high concept. I come up with good stuff like advice to celebrities, telling them how to get a life, or I’ll just do questions and let the readers do the work for me. I’ll ask, “What’s your favorite Robert De Niro movie?” And it opens up this incredible discussion. Sometimes I get a hundred comments from people one upping each other and giving their point of view. It gives them a chance to be armchair commentators.
Peeves about online commenters: I used to be really thin-skinned about that, but then I realized most of these people are really cowardly because it’s anonymous. I put my name on everything I write, so I take responsibility for every word of it. It’s really easy for a fat pig at a computer to just type out some venom. I don’t even think they mean it 90% of the time. They’re just getting their ya-yas out, trying to bring somebody down. And the fact that a lot of them comment on my blog everyday and print horrible shit everyday means they don’t dislike me too much … they actually think I’m pretty powerful. They’re trying so hard to get me riled up, they think I’m pretty major even though every day they come to say how awful I am.
On his fan base at The Voice: It expanded when I got on TV in the 90s. I got on the E! channel, there was something called The Gossip Show, and that brought me a whole new audience. And then I was on every E! and VH1 show for years. Now I’m more on MSNBC and Headline News. I’m always amazed that my fans are kind of diverse. I always think it’s going to be some gay 35-year-old, but it’s not necessarily.
On his most memorable run-in with a fan: People have had me sign their body parts … anything goes. The scariest thing is this guy thought I was Al Franken and chased me down the street. Then he got furious, saying, “First I called into your radio show and didn’t get through and now you’re not going to give me an autograph!” He looked like he was going to kill me, so signed an autograph as Al Franken — to spare my life.
On having his own show one day: I would, but nobody else would consider it. I feel comfortable at the level I am at as a guest star, popping by and doing my little bit because that means you can go forever. If you do your own show, it lasts four or five years, and then you’re washed up. It’s also my personality — I don’t want to be a host of a country home where people come for the weekend. I’d rather be the one that comes for the weekend. I want to drop by and do my thing and not have much responsibility about it.
Top 5 favorite gay celebs: I love me some Ellen, Rachel Maddow, Rosie, Simon Doonan, Neil Patrick Harris.
Guiltiest pleasure: I have a bad movie club, and we get together every two weeks a watch the worst movies we can come up with. Gigli is not even bad enough. There’s a musical version of Lost Horizon that was so rotten, and it looks like it was filmed in the back yard of a Marriot hotel. The worst movie of all time is called The Room and is by this guy named Tommy Wiseau; he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in it, and when they released it, people started screaming with laughter in the audience, so they re-marketed it as a dark comedy as if it was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t. It’s just a tale of vengeance.
Photo by Tommy McCall