Chuck Klosterman at the Hard Rock Cafe
The last Chuck Klosterman event I went to was about five years ago in Brooklyn. He had just released Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and the New York Press declared him “The Biggest Douchebag on the Planet,” or something like that.
And while Chuck’s response to the page one dishonor holds no legitimate weight now – since cats like Matt Taibbi, Alex Zaitchik, and Mark Ames (who wrote the hit) came out of that paper – at the time it nonetheless secured me as a fan of someone who a stubborn counterculture dip like me is supposed to loathe: “If anybody gave a shit about what they have to say,” he countered, “then they wouldn’t be writing for the New York Press.”
That vignette has nothing much to do with this observation of Chuck’s reading at the Hard Rock Café in Boston; I might still be a fan, but not so much that I bite his style and relate everything to something I’ve already witnessed that’s not-so-oddly similar.
The event had two parts: in the first, Klosterman read a chapter from his upcoming essay collection, and then answered questions about things like hair metal and pro sports. In the second section – which I didn’t stay for – his plan was to interview “ordinary” people from the audience.
In choosing subjects, the promoter passed around a drum in which audience members put abridged questionnaires with our names, ages, and interesting facts about our selves. Under the assumption that he would call up whoever tempted best, I wrote: “My date will blow you.” Gues I'll never find out if it worked.
As I stood peeing in the bathroom – and listening to Motley Crue’s “Same Old Situation” – I wondered if Klosterman haters were right: does vapid pop deserve serious contemplation? I then remembered that folks have been claiming that about my music for decades, and that I make a living over-analyzing vapid music.
As much he might not want to be considered cool – and as un-cool as he might actually be – it turns out that Chuck Klosterman has in fact graduated to the sweet side of the social continuum. When people are debating whether it’s your iPod that’s playing on the speakers, then you no longer have to sit with the dweebs. (Turns out it really was his iPod).
There’s no doubt that Klosterman is cool; he might claim that he’s never fucked a groupie, but dude still gets in lines like: “I can’t remember the last time I was at a Hard Rock Café…but I have seen the t-shirts.”
When the promoter dropped his 15-minute warning, some meathead behind me leaned in, saw my notepad, and told me to include how – until that moment – neither him nor his friends could pronounce Chuck’s last name. It was a solid point; I didn’t know how to pronounce it either, and I’m pretty sure I still don’t.
After a few beers, though, the same boob became an obnoxious know-it-all with sly remarks for his ass-kissing friends, who in turn offered the sort of empty chuckles that followers give popular kids in high school. In a crowd of morons, he might have been the dumbest; after obnoxiously disagreeing (under his breath) with everything audience members said, he responded to Chuck’s not-so-original conspiracy theory about how compact discs were ploys to sell units by saying, “Wow – that’s a good point.”
Following his introduction as “The Hunter Thompson of the hair-metal generation” – which I really hope he didn’t ask to be called – Chuck took the podium. Man does he sound like Casey Kasem.
As Klosterman noted: anyone who’s truly interested in time travel was likely at home watching Lost. Nevertheless, he dipped into a never-heard-before essay on that very topic (right after he talked trash about Jimmy Fallon).
I won’t dive much into Chuck’s time travel spiel (mostly because those who really care can hear him read it on the video that will be posted here shortly); but the highlight was his prodding us to imagine an opportunity to speak with the 15-year-old version of ourselves for 15 seconds.
The other thing I’ll say about his Back to the Future-heavy essay is that I suspect he initially conceived it as an excuse to seriously discuss Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but then decided that was too obvious and left it out.
I initially planned to write this dispatch with Klosterman’s approach, which is to splinter onto arcane pop culture tangents just for fun. And then I realized that I don’t always like when he does that – sort of like the way I never enjoyed when Beavis and Butthead detoured plot lines to harass videos.
In the end, I decided not to hate. After all, Klosterman just says the things that everybody wants to say, but that they don’t because they assume somebody already said it – like his fantasy about re-living his whole life with an adult brain, or my having the idea for Clockstoppers years before its lackluster release.
I didn’t bounce early because I don’t sweat Klosterman; on the contrary, I’m jealous of his success the way that most men are jealous of porn stars with 11” cocks: I appreciate his talent, but if I had to fuck with people who are as dumb as his devotees, I’d probably just bust polemics in the privacy of my apartment.