In 2010, two events shook the worlds of kombucha drinkers: Whole Foods pulled the juice from its shelves, and Lindsay Lohan failed an alcohol test.
Behind the Big Eyes: How Walter Keane Cheated His Wife Out of Fame and Fortune
Editor’s note: Adam Parfrey runs perhaps our favorite small press, Feral House Books. If you’re interested in pills, black metal, and apocalyptic death cults, they’re pretty much your one-stop shop. So when Adam sent us a snippet of his new book, Citizen Keane, we jumped at the opportunity to run an excerpt. The subject is Walter and Margaret Keane, 60s pop artists who caused a weird sensation painting kids with big eyes. They’re also the subject of Big Eyes, Tim Burton’s new biopic, which will see wide release this Christmas.
1965 was a year of bug-eyed glory for the former real estate salesman turned pop artist Walter Stanley Keane, who bragged to reporters that he “romped through life with the evident enjoyment of a terrier rolling in a clover patch.” He wasn’t exaggerating. Keane art was seemingly everywhere—from the sales bins at Woolworths to the gilded mansions of Hollywood royalty. As his income surged comfortably into seven figures, Keane decided he would keep things simple. “All that really matters to me,” he explained to an admiring Lifemagazine reporter, “is painting, drinking (which, the way I look at it, includes eating), and loving.” It seemed like the party was just getting started.
Keane’s fortune was made from a style stunning in its simplicity. Weeping waifs. Tearful children. All bearing hypnotic, saucer-sized orbs. It was said that if you looked at them long enough, the distressed children seemed to stare at you, even if you moved about the room. “Let’s face it,” he boasted to Life magazine, “Nobody painted eyes like El Greco, and nobody can paint eyes like Walter Keane.” More discriminating art enthusiasts, critics, and academics didn’t quite agree, finding the paintings formulaic and sickening in their sentimentality. But the rest of America fell in love with Keane’s Big Eyes, and he became a household name.
Charles Bukowski Wouldn’t Have Gotten Drunk at a Bukowski-Themed Bar
Charles Bukowski was a drunk. Not just a drunk, but the drunk. Nearly two decades after his death, he remains the patron saint of drunks. That being the case, naming a bar after him makes sense. It’s been done, many times, before: New York City, Glasgow, Boston and Amsterdam all possess watering hole homages to the alpha male author. Santa Monica’s week-old Barkowski can now be added to that list.
The deification of Bukowski, and other tortured, inebriated artists of his ilk, is a task best undertaken by those who have not experienced actual suffering. There is no better place to find said demographic than Santa Monica, California, a bourgeoisie beachside burg more well-known for its outdoor shopping mall than its self-destructive poet population. According to Barkowski’s website, its namesake’s “writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.” Santa Monica is not Los Angeles. Los Angeles, or at least Bukowski’s Los Angeles, is where you go when you want to drink $3 draft beers surrounded by human detritus. Santa Monica, however, is where you go when you want to pay $9 for a poorly poured, half-filled glass of Chimay. Barkowski sells poorly poured, half-filled $9 glasses of Chimay.
Barkowski’s interior is essentially the same as that of its predecessor, the Air Conditioned Lounge; nothing has been done to alter its nondescriptly modern black and red color scheme and padded leather walls. Enormous glamour shots of Buk’ drinking and gazing into the distance, alongside framed printouts of trite quotes about women and incarceration, are the only things that differentiate the new bar from the old. In one photo, he’s shown cradling a Schlitz tall boy; in the interest of synergy, Schlitz tall boys are available at the bar. For $7. If Schlitzes were $7 in Bukowski’s day, he wouldn’t have been able to afford a drinking problem, and Barkowski would have a decidedly different theme (“Papa y Beer Hemingway’s,” perhaps?). When it came to preserving the authenticity of the Bukowski theme, $7 Schlitzes and the “A” health rating sign hanging above the bar were but two of a myriad inaccuracies.
What’s Going On in the New Rob Ford Video?
This has been a terrible week for the Rob Ford administration. On Tuesday afternoon, Ford admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine, which inspired a nearly unanimous string of mockery from every late-night TV host and Twitter account owner in the world. More importantly, that admission, after months of question-dodging and denial, sounded more like a proverbial fuck you to the City of Toronto and its many hard working councilors and employees who are not currently embroiled in a crack related crime scandal. Then, about an hour after the crack admission, VICE reported that Amin Massoudi, Rob Ford’s spokesman, allegedly hired a hacker to destroy the crack tape on a private server—an allegation that Amin denied hours after we published our investigation, despite not answering several of our very specific requests for comment days before.
The Toronto media has been blue-balling the public all week with hints that there are more bombshells to come, and that’s not surprising. The 474-page surveillance document released last week is so heavily redacted with swaths of thick black ink that clearly there are more, presumably ridiculous, revelations to come. As a journalist, it’s somewhat thrilling. As a Torontonian, it’s exhausting and sad.
Is ‘Vodka Sam’ a Role Model for American Women?
On August 31st, during a University of Iowa–Northern Illinois football game, 22-year-old Samantha Goudie was arrested at Kinnick Stadium for public intox. At the police station, it was recorded that she blew a .341 BAC, a level so high that it’s the equivalent of being in a medically induced coma. Experts (and concerned citizens) concurred that she was lucky just to be alive. Elsewhere, inspired in part by Goudie’s hilarious livetweeting of her arrest, her behavior was all but celebrated—after all, here was a chick who out drank all the frat boys at the big game.
A confession: I attended a major football college, and Goudie’s “epic” party behavior isn’t all that surprising, even if her BAC is. Another confession: When Goudie’s story surfaced, I was sort of proud of her. I mean, certainly proud enough to comment on a friend’s post that she was “a role model for American women everywhere.” In hindsight, I may have been drunk when I wrote that (just kidding—I don’t drink anymore.)
The sad thing is, it’s kind of obvious, especially to those of us who have survived football school, that Goudie is basically a bourgeoning alcoholic. Sure, her tweets were nothing short of Apatow-movie glory—“Girl waiting for court with me goes ‘I wish I knew the girl who blew a .341’ I said hi” [sic]—but then her Vine clips surfaced on a college-party–themed website called Barstool U and they reveal a beautiful, elaborately eyelashed young woman pounding shots, hanging out on her futon alone with her dog and cradling a handle of Hawkeye vodka, and, in one clip, looking kind of frozen in terror. At least for me, all of my creepy, latent hero-worship for “Vodka Sam” was sucked out in an instant, eclipsed by the dense shadow that inevitably falls late at night over a day of drinking that began at 2:30 kickoff. I remember it all too well.
A Ghost Story, by Amie Barrodale
I am sure if I had accepted a certain marriage proposal, my life might have continued in an ordinary way, but I refused that humiliation. Later when I would have accepted it, the suitor had passed away. It was of natural causes.
My father disowned me, and for a while I lived in a women’s dormitory. When my resources were exhausted, I spent several years doing the things that I needed to do. It was at this time that I began to see black ghosts.
My mother received a report of my circumstances from my aunt, and she begged my father to send me to the city, where he owned several apartment buildings. Seven years had passed, and his temper had subsided. He agreed on the condition that my mother join me in the city and supervise his properties.
When I was growing up, my mother had enjoyed an active social life, but that had changed since she began to have eczema. It covered her shoulders, arms, legs, stomach, and face. She bathed in a potassium-permanganate solution, but it only reduced the itching and dyed our bathtub indigo.
She had become a shut-in and then an intellectual. In the city, she watched silent movies at night. She saw poetry in her old ghost movies, and watched them over and over again. I don’t like ghost movies, even from the silent era. She watched them late at night, in her room, on her laptop computer and in the morning, she talked to me about the actors.
“Ichikawa Danjũrõ IX was opposed to appearing on-screen, but he was convinced that to do so was a gift to posterity. He is said to have channeled Tokinoriki very well. A few years ago I read Tokinoriki again. I was forced to read excerpts in school, but I could not get past the intricacies of court protocol, and the opacity of Taira’s diction. I don’t know what has happened, but the text has opened up for me and now it is like I am speaking to a friend.”
“That is fascinating,” I said. A gust of wind blew through the tree outside, and petals landed on the dining table. Ghosts are not all bad.
The ATL Twins Would Like to Introduce You to the Li’l Twins
The world has always been a terrifying place, but few have the bravery to stick there head into the vilest and most dead-end aspects of the human condition and document it. As far as we can tell, this is the thesis ofVrille, a twisted-ass video series directed by Matt Swinsky. We found out about Vrille by way of our favorite stripper-banging, double-penetrating duo, the ATL Twins. They helped Matt put the inaugural “episode” together, which features their childhood friends Adam and Andrew Gates—who also happen to be twins and go by the collective “Suave” and “Cutesy,” aka the Li’l Twins.
The ATL Twins and Matt first met the Li’l Twins at a young age via the skateboarding scene of Atlanta. But over the years the Gates boys went off in a peculiar and depressing direction, devolving into boozing hermits who spend their days watching obscure films on a near-broken TV, smoking cigs, and, on the rare occasion when they’re feeling social, hanging out with the dregs of society. You can tell after the first few moments of this clip, which is shot on gritty VHS tape within the Li’l Twins’ dilapidated home, that the two boys have seen some really fucked up shit in their day.
We won’t completely spoil the story contained within this video for you, but we will say that it involves an alleged murderous KKK member who has skinned a few folks (whether they were alive or dead at the time of the skinning has been lost to the sands of time). We also want to make it clear that the gnarly-ass tale told by the Gates Twins is believed to be gospel by both the ATL Twins and the director Matt. The ATL Twins and Matt also want everyone to know that this document is not meant to be exploitative in any way, and the Li’l Twins gave them full approval to shoot it—in other words, it’s “just real shit.”
VICE: How’d you guys meet the Li’l Twins?
The ATL Twins: When we first moved to ATL, we moved to this neighborhood and we met them they were skaters and they were twins. The whole crew was little kids, we were young too, but they were younger—like 16 or some shit—but we got with them and started skating and became really good friends with them. Eventually we became roommates with them and worked with them and shit. Actually, they used to be really amazing skateboarders.
In the interview Chris Nieratko did with you a couple of years ago that sort of introduced you to the world, you guys said something like “fuck other twins.” So I’m surprised you were so close with these two.
Yeah well, we never really ever met any other twins to be honest with you. Other than the Li’l Twins, we haven’t kicked it with any twins. We can relate to them in a lot of always; they were different, they would fight, they were close, but they would also get into fights. One of them knocked the other one’s tooth out. They werebad. They were also really close. We really clicked with them—skateboarding, movies, and shit. We always saw eye-to-eye on everything, they were really cool.
Why Non-Alcoholic Beer Is the Best Kind
I haven’t had any alcohol for a year. I’m not sure I can recommend sobriety for everybody, but it did okay things for me. I don’t blame my problems on other people as much. I can finish a higher percentage of the things I start. If I don’t like something, I generally don’t do it. I go to bed early. I read books.
My life is less “fun.” That’s okay. Fun is people yelling boring stuff at each other more often than not. Fun is pretending there’s no such thing as death, or even human-scale consequences. Fun is a lie. Fun is overrated. Fun is a gaggle of 14 year olds on a 3 AM trip to Walmart daring each other to wear the Super Mario pajamas and the Barbie tiara to the checkout line and “acting casual” about it with their loudest most gratingly desperate uncasual voices while your credit card is declined and Ivan the checkout clerk with the lazy eye is sighing through his nose. Fun is waking up the next morning covered in clown makeup and wondering who you are and how bad it is.
Why did I quit drinking? I had my reasons. The reasons involved doing horrible things to nice people, and being on the receiving end of unfunny wisecracks in the back of a police car, and having concerned family members show up to kick my skull in. Not to be melodramatic or anything. My biggest reason for not drinking was to kill off the drunk version of myself. I built him up too big and let him start making decisions for me because I’m a chickenshit, and he repaid me with an appropriate degree of contempt for my personhood. Okay, but I’m stubborn and contrarian enough to insist on the last word. So it’s the dry life for me, and that grinning whiskey-filled malicious bastard can hang.
I am learning things.
Like do you know what’s great? Non-alcoholic beer. It’s such a fantastic invention. You can drink it and drink it and drink it and you won’t feel a THING. It’s like drinking beer’s lawyer. Instead of getting all drunk you just need to pee a lot and then you start yawning and you realize that all alcohol usually does for you is allow you to sit in the same place jabbering about nothing for four hours with people you’re not even sure you like (one of them is you). As far as I’m concerned, it’s a recipe for a perfect night.
THE SECRET DRINKER’S HANDBOOK: FOLLOW THESE TEN RULES AND BECOME A WORLD-CLASS CLANDESTINE ALCOHOLIC - by Clancy Martin
My happiest days as a secret drinker were in Kansas City, when my youngest daughter was still a baby. She was allergic to breast milk, so I’d take a bottle of soy milk, bundle her in her sling, and we’d walk to the convenience store half a block from my apartment and buy a half-pint of Jack Daniels and a large Diet Dr. Pepper in a styrofoam cup. Then I’d pour out half of the Dr. Pepper in the alley behind the store and refill it with whiskey. Finding these geographic nooks and crannies in a city is much harder than you’d think, until you begin to search for them.
We’d walk together through the streets of my neighborhood. Our route usually took us past the abandoned boarding house where Hemingway had lived when he wrote for the Kansas City Star. My daughter drank her soy milk (she was a two-bottle kid, and so I always brought a second bottle of soy milk in my pocket), and I drank my drink. We’d look at each other under the trees on Rockhill and Hyde Park, grand old decayed Kansas City, past the stone mansions and the brick halfway houses and the Nelson-Atkins Museum and Walter De Maria’s illuminated pond. She’d fall asleep, and then I’d take her back home and put her in bed. That’s how she fell asleep every night, until she was a year and a half.
In winter, I’d bundle her under my jacket, with just her little face peeking out, and sometimes we’d go to a second-story Irish bar on Main Street, and other times to Dave’s Stagecoach Inn—a dive I loved on Westport Road. A secret drinker misses bars. Like the ritual of chopping your coke or heating your heroin, a drink at the bar is very different from any other kind of drink, even if the bartender is too busy to make conversation and no one else wants to chat. One very cold winter night, when the bar was full at Dave’s, a bartender I’d never liked told me: “I can’t serve you with your baby in here, man.”
“You’ve served me with her in here plenty of times before,” I said. “The baby’s not drinking.” At the few bars we frequented, most people liked to see me with my baby. Most drunks are friendly and kind, generous people who appreciate the difficulties of others and like babies.
“You shouldn’t have that baby out in this cold, I can’t serve you.”
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I yelled at him. “Did you just tell me how to take care of my baby? How many children do you have?”
I could see he didn’t have kids. I lost my temper. My baby was warmer snuggled up under my heavy winter coat than she would have been at home in bed. “The one thing I can’t bear is people telling me how to raise my children,” I said to a woman standing next to me. She nodded sympathetically.
Later, after I quit drinking, I wanted to go apologize to the guy. But if you’re a drunk, once you start apologizing, it never ends. I don’t care what they say at AA.
Secret drinkers are everywhere. You’re constantly surrounded.
Say you decide to have a drink on your lunch hour or in the quiet afternoon. You see a woman sitting alone in a booth with a glass of white wine and a plate of uninteresting vegetables in front of her. It’s not readily apparent to most people that she’s hiding anything. And that’s the ruse: She knows the general public doesn’t associate white wine with the alcoholic’s drink of choice.
You notice a guy in the liquor store looking nervous at the register, almost as if he were planning to rob the place. He takes his pint of rum but not his receipt—he’s of age, so what’s his problem? He is in fact glancing over his shoulder, but he’s not worried about the cops or you. He’s looking for the people he hopes he won’t see or, more specifically, people he hopes won’t see him. He’s looking for his wife’s friends. For members of his home group at AA. Coworkers. Old lovers, who know he’s supposed to be sober. Students or customers. All the people he lies to—those who think he no longer drinks.
When a secret drinker enters a restaurant, even before he sits down, he takes note of the bartender, the bathroom, and a table with its back to the bar. “That’s where we’d like to sit, please,” he tells the hostess. Ideally, there is a wall or a pole or some other obstruction between his table and the bar. If the bar and the bathroom are far apart, a good secret drinker will suggest a different restaurant. The best restaurants have both the bar and the bathroom completely separated from the dining room, which allows the secret drinker to easily keep pace with his date.
The first rule of secret drinking: Keep your date drinking, too. Only a sober person can spot a drunk.
The secret drinker will go to the bathroom more often than an ordinary person. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, without a hint of sarcasm, “You have a small bladder.” The smart secret drinker will drink plenty of water and will often order several beverages—coffee, Diet Coke, sparkling water—in order to reinforce the illusion that he is a recovering drunk.
Even when the secret drinker gets stuck in a restaurant where the bar and bathroom are inside the dining area, there are workarounds. About a year ago, I was having dim sum one morning with a date on the Upper West Side in a place where the bar was in plain view and opposite the bathroom. There were no other dim sum restaurants in the neighborhood, and once we were inside, my date wanted to sit beside me in a booth. I had spotted a little basement breakfast place around the corner on the walk over, a long shot but my best hope. As with most restaurants, the bathrooms in the dumpling place were close to the exit. I went to the bathroom, slipped out the back door, and darted into the breakfast place. They didn’t sell liquor but did have wine in little bottles. I asked for three bottles of Merlot—undrinkable stuff, slightly better than cough syrup, really—and paid with cash. I stood on the sidewalk and, with my date’s back to me, gulped them all down. I made two more visits back there before our meal was over. This was despite the fact that I had to come in the front door. I didn’t know how to explain it to my date—who by this time had reason to be suspicious. But luckily, she didn’t notice. If she had, any old lie would’ve probably worked. It was 11 in the morning and the truth was too absurd, even for me.
Rule number two: Always carry cash. Your bank statement is your enemy, and you can’t pay in a hurry with a credit card.
In Seattle, on a date with a different woman and an older friend of hers, I tried the same trick at a seaside restaurant, and they saw me come back in the front door every time. (I’d always wedge the back door open, but it’d rarely stay that way. Kitchen staff go in and out of these doors a lot, and they usually lock automatically. You can knock, and they might let you in the first time, but they won’t repeatedly.) My date’s older, savvier, more skeptical friend, a criminal-defense lawyer from Louisiana, took notice and said: “You go to the bathroom in the back and come back in the front.” She raised an eyebrow. “Are you going next door to drink?”
She liked me, but she had the low-down. I said, “I like to look at the ocean for a minute when I have the chance. I live in Kansas City. It’s a treat for me.”
I don’t think even my date bought that one, but if you control the discourse, you control the truth. Secret drinking is just like any other kind of cheating. You’re never really busted until the evidence is absolutely overwhelming or, fool that you are, you admit the truth.
Rule number three: Deny, deny, deny. If you haven’t learned this one in the course of ordinary life yet, learn it today. Of course you want to tell the truth. Of course she tells you she’ll forgive you if you’ll just admit the truth. And when she tells you that lie—the lie about forgiving you, the lie of absolution with confession—she means it. She doesn’t know it’s a lie. But after you admit the truth, everything changes.
Here’s another example of how to beat the bar-bathroom problem: It was a big night out at Masa in New York. I had eaten at the restaurantbefore, and I knew there was no bar. I couldn’t repeatedly leave the restaurant: It was in a mall, and there was no rear exit. So, it came down to my socks. You can fit as many as three airplane/minibar bottles of liquor into each sock. If you carry a purse, of course, it’s probably much easier. You can use your suit pockets, but that’s risky; there’s probably going to be cuddling in the taxi on the way to the restaurant. On arrival, go to the bathroom and hide the bottles. Usually there’s a shelf, a cabinet, a drop-panel ceiling—something. I’ve hidden regular-size wine bottles in restaurant bathrooms before, but at Masa there was nowhere to hide anything. Those Japanese and their minimalist aesthetic. There wasn’t even a removable top on the toilet tank (bottles will float very happily in there, though you risk someone taking a peek if they interfere with the apparatus or make a noise—I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this method.) So I put mine in the garbage can, tucking them beneath the trash. When I returned to the bathroom I’d always empty the trash into the toilet or my pockets, all but a tissue or two, so that an employee wouldn’t take it and find my bottles.
It was a beautiful evening: My date drank sake at the sushi bar, I drank vodka in the toilet, and she didn’t worry about me getting drunk. We took a bicycle cab from Lincoln Center all the way to our hotel on Gramercy Park, where there were still bottles in the minibar that I could drink and refill with water.
Another piece of advice: Don’t forget your cell phone. This won’t work as well with an intimate acquaintance, but with casual friends or at business lunches or dinners, a cell-phone call is an ideal excuse to leave the table. Step outside to another nearby place. Or, if your destination is a bit more remote, stash a bottle in your glove box or under the seat (it’s awkward if someone notices you opening your trunk in the middle of an imaginary cell-phone call).