Monday, August 16, 2010

Guuuurrrrllll ...

Portrait of Johnny
by the amazing Cass Bird,
appearing in the August 16, 2010, issue
of New York Magazine.


Dear Amy Larocca:

I just finished reading your NYMag piece on Johnny Weir. What a shame that apparently you didn't actually get to meet Mr. Weir during the course of writing about him. Or that NYMag has fallen on such hard times in this difficult economy that they've had to let all their fact-checkers go. Perhaps I can help you with both of these issues, having had the pleasure of Mr. Weir's company multiple times and also having the gutsy wherewithal to avail myself of intricate and complicated fact-checking devices such as Google, the NBC Olympics site, and those two time-honored journalism favorites: Context, and the follow-up question.

Let's start with these:

"... Johnny Weir Be Good, Weir’s Sundance Channel reality show ..." The name of his reality series is Be Good Johnny Weir. Yep, that's a tough one. You have to type in "Sundance Channel Johnny Weir" and boom. There it is: The first search result. I can see how you might have been stymied by that multi-step process, but I'm charmed that you valiantly fought through it and have now updated the online version of your article with the correct title.

"He’s drinking a tumbler of Champagne into which he’s dumped some other kind of pale-yellow liquor. 'My favorite,' he says, peering coyly through his thick eyelashes." Hmmm. You only know that it was pale yellow, so how do you know it was liquor? It might have been peach juice added to the Champagne to create his fav drink, the Bellini. Of course, it's much more fun to darkly intimate that since deciding to take a year off from competing, he's become a hard-core drinker who's busily mixing various kinds of alcohol together to go with his chain smoking of menthol cigarettes while shrieking "Cocaine!" intermittently like he has Narcotics Tourette's--without checking to see if your negative assumption is true by simply asking him, "Hey, what's that stuff?" Hello. It's an interview. You're allowed to ask questions. Unless, of course, you're afraid the answers might interfere with your bias.

"[Lysacek's] jumps were objectively far stronger than Weir’s." Objectively according to whom? Based on what? Johnny outscored Evan in the free skate on the double axel, the triple axel, the triple axel-double toeloop combination, and the triple lutz-triple toeloop combination. In addition, the NBC Olympics website used three of Johnny's jumps to illustrate what those jumps should look like when well-executed; they chose only one of Evan's. Follow-up questions: Don't you know that? Are you stupid?

"He taunts Lysacek (he recently called him a 'slore,' which is half-slut, half-whore)." Bravo! Excellent use of complete lack of context, the mainstay for the journalist who doesn't want to bother to research her subject properly but has already formed strong opinions anyway and certainly wouldn't want to let facts or background info get in her way. Here's the context: Johnny blurted that out when he was blindsided on the Wendy Williams Show with comments that Evan had made the day before, in which Evan contended that Johnny--a three-time U.S. national champion, two-time Olympian, and World medalist--simply lacked the talent to be invited to join Stars on Ice.

The correct spelling of "aids" as in the disease needing a cure to which Mr. Weir donates considerable time and effort through multiple charities is "AIDS." Also: It's "GLAAD," not "glaad." Bonus points for correcting these only hours and hours after the article first hit the Internet.

"Weir will be nearly 29 when the next Olympics [Sochi 2014] rolls around ... " No. Mr. Weir will be nearly 30 at the time of the Winter Olympics that year. Oh, I know. Math is hard. Just ask the USFSA. They still think that 1 brilliant short program + 1 soul-searingly magnificent free skate = 6th place.

"In quite a few episodes [of BGJW], Weir and Paris (who was his roommate at the time) cavort in their tiny underpants alongside Weir’s 'Balenciaga tree ...' " Um, no. I don't know of "quite a few" episodes that fit that description. Yes, they're in a bathtub once. Yes, Johnny rolls on top of Paris on a bed while they're shirtless. But even if there were "quite a few" tiny-underpants episodes: So what? What's your point? Do gorgeous underwear-clad men standing near Balenciaga bags upset you in some way? [As fan Lauren Ashbaugh would say, "Paging Dr. Freud ... "]

WTF is a "two-layered grin"? And why the sarcasm? Why is it wrong that a man who has been photographed nonstop for nearly a decade knows how "to angle his chin" or to "look up at the camera"? Would you prefer that he let his eyes go two separate ways, or simply appear kerfuffled that someone wants to take his picture? Oh, and BTW: Whose photos do you have in your apartment? I would bet that they might actually be of, say, you and your friends at various places in which you've been together.

But your factual missteps and odd phrasing choices aren't even the biggest problem with the article. It's your tone, dripping with derision and condescension and snark. About everyone and everything. Stephanie Handler is "baffled." Joey Camasta is wearing a shirt "against which his stomach strains." Tara Modlin's apartment has "pink chiffon stuck up on the windows, some decorations welded into place with a hot-glue gun." Tara's roommate is clueless, "looking for help with her hair, her eye makeup, her what-to-wear." Mr. Weir is "writing a book ... which ... he hopes [will] sell lots and lots and lots of copies."  (Because most people write books hoping that no one will buy them?) "Why [Mr. Weir] thinks he only came in sixth place ... " (as if no one else shares the view that he was terribly, heartbreakingly underscored).

And then, of course, there's your incessant harping on Mr. Weir's sexuality. What a tired subject. It's unfortunate that with the amount of access you apparently were granted, you couldn't find something new and fresh to bring to your readers. Instead, all you could do was repeat the same overused story lines:

Mr. Weir is "gayer than any public figure ever."

Mr. Lysacek "seems as straight as a skater can be."

"Weir [is] all the more certain of his membership in the fraternity, or sorority, or whatever orientation he may eventually choose, of American celebrity."

Although you do add your own quiet venom: Mr. Weir really has no talents that can translate into a sustainable career. Figure-skating fans are pitiable lovers of plush toys and collectible figurines. And Mr. Weir himself "looks like a plush toy"--thus apparently explaining his appeal to his fans. Because it couldn't possibly be based on the unique artistic genius, grace, and elegance he brings to the ice, or the intriguing complexity of his views on many subjects, or his wonderfully sly wit and willingness to say what he thinks. Or the kindness, patience, and care he shows to his fans.

But what I dislike most about the article--and there's plenty from which to choose--is the false contrast you draw between the drinking / smoking / cocaine-referencing / "gurl"-shouting / over-sexualized / crude / non-bankable / talentless Mr. Weir of the beginning of the article, and the Mr. Weir at the conclusion, whose "cheeks are pink and clear. His eyes are round. He looks like a plush toy, or something from a comic book specifically designed to register 'cute.' He is sweet and friendly and earnest. He doesn’t shout 'gurl' even once." Your between-the-lines point is that in your opinion, the real Mr. Weir is the first one, and the second one is manufactured--"specifically designed"--and thus you seek to undercut what he says at the conclusion, about working and training hard and hoping to keep his fans happy.

You're wrong on so many levels that I can't evan.

But there are two things really right with this article, none of which have anything to do with you:

(1) All the quotes from Mr. Weir are wonderful. So as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to create my own copy of your article in which I cut out everything except what he says. Then it will be brilliant.

(2) The photos are fabulous. Bless you, Cass Bird. Shirtcocking FTW.

And so, my dear Amy, may I say again that I'm so sorry you completely missed out on making the acquaintance of the Johnny Weir that millions around the world know and love. Should you ever be in a position to interview him again, please let me know. I'd be happy to handle it for you, guuuurrrrllll.

Sincerely,

Binky
 


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Coming soon: More in the series
of translated interviews from the Mook Book
courtesy of the fabulous Akiko Nakata!

copyright 2010 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved

25 comments:

germansoulmate said...

Do you know what my impression was like?
The writer did not even meet Johnny and threw all the things together from whatever source she could get. It´s a thrown together interview where the actual quotes of Johnny are somewhat disconnected to the rest of the article. I actuall refuse to call that an interview.
I really had trouble to understand it at all. And I always have thought my English is decent enough to read and understand anything written.

PumaJ said...

Ah, MM, BlessYou:-) You are actually sending a copy of this to the said Ms. Larocca, I hope. Send a copy to her editor, too.

noviarium said...

Guuuuurrrrllll!!!

This. So much.

The pics just saved this article from a lynch mob. All hail Cass Bird! That last pic was inspired. So gritty, so dirty, so so so pretty! Shirtcocking FTW indeed.

germansoulmate said...

Yes, do that Binky. Send a copy to both Ms. Larocca and her editor.

pinkmeltingpot said...

You know what, for me she had no idea who she was writing on, which is a shame when you're a journalist, but I suppose it's like that: the boss tells you who to write on and you go reluctantly because "eh, like I cared". But that's your JOB girl, if you don't want to, then quit and do something else. She does not know Johnny, okay but then as a true professional, you do researches on what you are going to talk about. She didn't, double shame for her. Because for me it's :
a) Lazyness.
b) Unprofessional.
c) The way to waste the opportunity of meeting and getting to know someone wonderfully amazing.
PS: No proposition to scratch.

I did not read the article, but I have my own opinion based on what I saw here. And those three sentences completely take me the will the read it ever:
Mr. Weir is "gayer than any public figure ever."
So what? Has he told you? I know people who have manierisms and everybody believe they are gay when they are not. And whatever he is or not, what difference does it make? Why should you bother with that? For me "gayer than any public figure ever" is not only an insult for Johnny but for every homosexual/bisexual. It's just disgusting to think that they are tagged and labeled by people who does not even have the decency to talk with them and discover who they trully are.

Mr. Lysacek "seems as straight as a skater can be."
If you talk about his muscles and the way he skates, like a freaking robot with no emotion at all, you couldn't be more close to it. People know I like Evan, which I don't even know WHY, but I do. BUT as for his skating, he does not have emotion/personnality/artistic side to show. It's cold and almost pointless if you don't watch the athlete side of figure skating. What does that even MEAN "as straight as a skater can be"? Why does the sexual orientation even be included in the sport? I don't care if my co-worker is gay or sleeping with kangaroos as much as he does his work like the boss wants it to be done. So this sentence, to me, is again an insult to every skater.

"Weir [is] all the more certain of his membership in the fraternity, or sorority, or whatever orientation he may eventually choose, of American celebrity."
An insult, again. Sorry but she talks about it like it's a sect! Fraternity? Sorority? Why not a "voodoo gay club"? Johnny is not a cow, he's a human being. You can feel like a member of a family, or a group, feel an APPARTENANCE. To me, she mocked him like "Ahah *Ironic tone* he believe he's a member of something, this little *lots of insulting words following, big evil grin on her face*

And they call THAT a journalist? Oh, I need a job btw... may I take her place? Or better, Binky you should take her place. Because everything you say is respectful and makes sense.
Ps: Her article ruined the beautiful pictures... too bad.

Mimi said...

I am so glad I don't have access to that magazine! I am so glad you were able to read and comment and CORRECT...I think I will now consider you my JGW screener...

Again...If you don't have something nice to say...freakin' ZIP IT! Why Why Why! And it sounds just like she was making stuff up. How can you not know the most basic of information about our WONDERFULLY TALENTED JGW...living under a rock is no excuse...

I am glad to say once again thank you Binky for "...out of ugly...". You REPRESENT Guuurrrrrllllll!!!

I'll say it again "Johnny Weir changed my life" and still does, with what is he is, does and represents!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warning...I will make sure I brace myself for the read. But I definitely am going to buy it for the photos!

TK

Ninja Girl said...

Kayso, the raw amount of fail in this interview is still hard for me to wrap my head around. Wonderful job, Binky, pointing out the more glaring and sly insults, jabs, and straight up derisive bull. Many of the opinions she had of Johnny were so uncertain and confused that she would begin by praising him, but it was almost as though she couldn’t quite bring herself to be kind and had to end by insulting him. Over and over. You’re a writer, form a solid opinion or get out of the kitchen.

I am glad that he referred to this interview in his tweet as being funny. Hopefully the world at large, and Johnny, are seeing this with different less bias eyes that I am. I read it and want to set things on fire, but not before carefully cutting out the beauuuutiful pictures, of course. Others may read it see something else entirely. Funny, witty, always entertaining Johnny at a major crossroads in his life being interviewed by a shriveled up jealous harpy. That’s not bias, is it?

Thank you, mama.

akiko said...

Binky, thanks very much for this. You are wonderful as always though it is sad these days you have to tackle with too many problems caused by moronic people one after another. I'm dreaming of reading an interview with Johnny by you someday!

Carla said...

Wow. Thank you for all this info about the article. I don't even know if I can get New York magazine in my area (saw it some years ago). Now I don't know if I wan to buy a copy. I can never get enough photos of Johnny, but I don't wish to support a publication that would try to rip our darling one to shreds.

Nico said...

Dear Amy Larocca:

Allow us to introduce you to Binky. Please read her letter. Read it a few times, in fact. There are several bullet-proof concepts detailed above that you might want to note.

And as much as you clearly don't know Johnny, you obviously don't know Binky, yet. She is the person that just schooled you. But you know what's interesting? She never took a single low blow or resorted to being condescendingly biased toward you. Instead, she offered a searing analyis of your journalistic shortcomings, something you never would have had to experience if you had merely made a fraction of the effort she made IN ONE NIGHT on the assignment you were given days to research, conduct and write.

And as for the amazing young person you were tasked to profile...his name is Johnny Weir. I suspect you'll be hearing that name for years to come, despite efforts like yours to make less of him than he deserves (in spades).

Have a dapper week,
Nico

Li Mann said...

Those that didn't read the article should follow the link posted on Johnny's FB page, just so you know what's passing for journalism these days. Obviously, Binky, we agree on this article, as we picked out some of the same nasty passages to comment on. Why would they send a writer with such a clear anti-Johnny bias to the interview? Makes no sense. Hundreds of NY writers would have jumped at the chance to write this article and had dozens of interesting questions to ask, without wasting more ink speculating about Johnny's sexuality. NY Mag wasted a great chance here.

Wendy S said...

OMG, was this piece ghost-written by Evan?

I feel like the author looked at Johnny and totally missed his soul. How is that even possible, when his essence is so shiny-bright?? Like Larocca went to the ballet, and turned it into: 'she stood on her toes, put her arm over her head, and spun to the right.'

Amy Larocca is not without talent, but this piece is so disjointed, lifeless, and devoid of factual information that I feel like it could have been written by 3 different 5th graders. Reading the article is like entering some sort of bizarro world where you think you're getting truth but everything has been distorted and twisted.

I try to be a 'shoe on the other foot' kind of person, and consider other viewpoints. But on days like today, it's quite a challenge! I couldn't even comment earlier. In essence, I thought Larocca's writing sucked. I thought Johnny was typically wonderful, in all of the ways that he always is. Cass Bird's photos were different and interesting (Babushkas and shirt-cocking in the same session? Dying!).

To quote someone who sat with Johnny at GLAAD Manhattan, he's the "real deal".

Yes, Johnny, *you* were funny. We'd have laughed our asses off had it been an episode of BGJW. Your fanbase continues to blow up -- as a result of *you* being *you*, and nothing less.

JEKitten said...

Brava Binky! May I add, ""Weir [is] all the more certain of his membership in the fraternity, or sorority, or whatever orientation he may eventually choose…"

His membership will be in the fraternity because, everyone say it with me, he is A MAN! He consistently identifies as a man. All the gurlllls and make-up and high-heeled Louboutins in the world don't change that essential fact. No matter what details of his sexuality he may choose to reveal, he identifies as a man. Why is that so hard to understand? Why are we still accepting arbitrary gender roles as set in stone? I don't get it!

That Cass Bird portrait is breathtaking. All her photos are wonderful, but the portrait is especially good. Makes me wish this was a photo spread and not an 'in-depth' 'interview'.

Anonymous said...

Not only do I agree that the article is poorly researched, but IMNSHO, it's also poorly edited. Really poorly. Such a mess. And such a wasted opportunity to give us a portrait of a day in the life of Johnny Weir.

This could have been a witty, fascinating, even compelling article without being all squee-e-e fangurl-- a (perhaps bemused) outsider's guide to the world of Johnny Weir.

If there was a theme that connected the jumble of details about Johnny's life and activities, I didn't see it.

And the smarmy speculation and comments about Johnny's sexuality? As stale as the word "flamboyant."

The writer got to spend time with the creative, funny, captivating, and endearing Johnny Weir and his friends in their natural habitat, and this is the best she can produce? If so, New York Magazine, you need to hire me. Or Binky. Or Binky and me.

And if you've laid off your editors, as well as your fact checkers, hire them back.
--Nancy K.

Ali said...

*STANDING OVATION*

Guuuurrrrllll - ILUSFMRN!

Please, please, please do send a copy of this to the PTB @ NYMag.

PumaJ said...

Brava to everyone commenting on MM's fabulous blog, today! I have enjoyed reading the comments as much as I've enjoyed reading MM's words, again:-)

Really, MM, perhaps you should write an article on Johnny and submit it for publication. I'm sure you can get help to make publication happen:-)

auntinaz said...

Once again Binky, you have outdone yourself! Thank you much for writing this! It is so mcuh more brilliant than my comments at the magazine website! It amazes me you can writing something so well thought out and insightful in such a short period of time when, as commented above, Amy Larocca had days to research and write her convoluted amateurish article on the intelligent, eloquent and talented Johnny Weir!

I couldn't help wondering while reading the article early this morning who Ms Larocca had interviewed, because she didn't seem to have been talking to anyone like the Johnny Weir I know! Thank goodness for the photographs!

Once again, thank you Binky!

Mel_Lockhart said...

I did find it odd that Johnny had to pick up a copy himself. Wouldn't he had gotten a free copy...the first copy??? I'm thinking Johnny only had knowledge of his interview parts. I don't think he had a clue what the writer was going to actually write. Prime example of why he wants to write a book and tell his story in his own words instead of telling it to a reporter and that reporter getting it all screwed up!

Anonymous said...

50 SNAPS to you Binky. they better ASK SOMEBODY, ok'rrr!

Qwessta said...

Thank you, Binky for all your words about Johnny.

Anonymous said...

You probably already know this, but the NY Magazine issue is Fashoin issue of August 23 (although available on the 16th). If anyone really wants a copy, it can be ordered for around $10 US.

Debora Walsh said...

Thanks for this stellar post Binky.
I find his steadfast disinterest in conforming, in a world that quite exalts the same old-same old, to be at once provocative and courageous. Whether it’s defying the expectations of fans and non-fans, or some members of the LGBT community, or dusty skating judges, he has continually chosen to live his life on his own terms.
Smart, articulate, opinionated and open, he is any interviewer’s dream, and yet every interview I read turns into a condescending, passive-aggressive, third grade essay about the Olympics, and high heels, and the BEYOND tired subject of male sexuality in figure skating…YAWN! Get me toothpicks for my eyes!

When given room to speak his mind, and when asked questions that are actually thought-provoking instead of mind-numbing, Johnny has proven to be a fascinatingly complex personality, offering thoughtful insight into who he is, and how he relates the times he lives in. In my opinion, there are very few public people in popular culture that can actually be considered truly interesting. He is an artist as well as a world class athlete, a son, a brother, and a friend, and a human being transitioning from a comfort zone to the uncharted. Why his interests and efforts to create a secure future for himself are pooh-poohed off-handedly by interviewers is a mystery to me. People I have talked to, who know nothing about figure skating, are interested in him and want to see where he goes.

Johnny Weir, love him or hate him, is a unique, young American voice that has relevance in today’s culture and deserves to be heard and presented in a thoughtful and respectful forum. I hope that his book will give him the opportunity that has so far, in my opinion, been denied to him.

Anonymous said...

"Hello. It's an interview. You're allowed to ask questions."

Mmm, YEAH!!

MM, loved your analysis and really do hope you send it in ASAP. Her lack of facts is just an embarrassment to the magazine. Seriously! They're all orange and #dapper and they don't even know it. So sad!

Love everyone else's comments, too!

And don't forget to show Johnny and Misfit the love and VOTE!!

Robin aka Princess Johnny-Love

aaaack said...

Here's hoping that the next Johnny interview article in a major publication will be much better. If not, thank goodness we have Binky to set the record straight.