An Open Letter to Late, Late Night Host Craig Ferguson,
Over the course of an hour in a dismal UCLA lecture hall, we lost power and were plunged into darkness three times. In another surreal moment, a black phone on the wall rang repeatedly, like a rejected lover.
I'm sure if you'd picked up the receiver, you would have screamed, "Who the fuck put me here with these cunts?"
We were wondering the same thing about you.
You are a Scottish immigrant who's had a magnificent run in Hollywood— as a comic, a a sitcom actor in a hit show, and now the affable host of The Late Late Show. Half the crowd were your adoring fans, women who shiver at your good looks, and men who'd love to browbeat someone with just your style. Plus you have a new book and your Godlike publicist has made it very clear that you are in command of the English language.
We three knew who you were, but I don't think you got the memo on us.
You were sitting next to the contemporary equivalent of Brecht, Jean Genet, and Dorothy Parker— artists whose cultural influence and impact have made them a legend among their peers, but whose "envelope pushing"— make that shredding— has resulted in direct punishment by the State: blacklisting, death threats by vigilantes, and direct suppression.
Corporate media has followed suit with even more effectiveness. Pop culture banality, now in its greatest flourish since the 50s, is a direct result of this puritanical iron fist— and you were seated with the beleagured opposition.
The Supreme Court went after Karen Finley's NEA grant in the 90s. It wasn't just a way to shut up one of the most transformative female and performance artists of the century— it was the administration's wedge to make federal funding for the arts all but irrelevant. "Let's put on another production of The Music Man, everybody!" Or does that have a hidden homosexual context as well?
You know all those slightly risqué jokes you make on your show? Well, there's no public arts funding for that kind of smut in the United States. And your book couldn't be read on an FCC-controlled-station anywhere. Try Canada!
I know you said that this is the best country in the whole world, and that we should get on our knees and be thankful we're not in some infernal desert republic, but you don't seem to realize that this nation has one of the most reactionary attitudes towards the arts in the international community. Or haven't you noticed that with your TV guest list? Don't you notice how most of them have nothing to say?
But that's not the point, is it... If CBS didn't think you were easily manageable, you wouldn't have a pot to piss in.
Dennis Cooper was shy and you didn't notice him. Snarling at feminists is more entertaining. But you should know Cooper is one of the four or five best American writers alive, and acclaimed as the closest thing Genet or Burroughs has to a literary heir. Most of his books are only wellknown in the rest of the world, not in the US, where his work is underground transgression. You might pick up a craft tip or two from him.
Yet you haven't the time to bother. You've just written a debut novel, and you shouted you are "too rich" to care what anyone thinks of it.
That was the most interesting and sickening thing you said all night. It hit me that there is also such a thing as being too poor to give a shit, as well. It's only those in the middle who strive and strive. Which end do you think is going to enter the kingdom of legend?
I imagine you do care about something, that you privately care if people find your work memorable, and lasting. It would be meaningful to have a legacy. Your book certainly has more intelligence than the scriptwriting on late, late, night TV. I bet it meant a lot to you to show people that you are not an airhead.
But so far, your book has not changed the world, and you haven't heard from readers yet who've thanked you for saving their lives, or inspiring them to fight another day— or just plain ole' blowing their minds. But that shit doesn't happen overnight; I say, keep at it! Just keep that chatter about your entitlement to yourself, it never seems to work out.
Next time, don't spit at us that you are having more sex than anyone, thank you very much, or that your commercial success has insulated you from tiresome political concerns.
Belligerence is never becoming, and it ages you even quicker.
You mugged and mocked us while we were speaking, and when that got tired, you showed us the kind of sacrifice you'd made for your art: You let it be known that you "wrote your book on spec."
Wow. I'm getting goose bumps, Craig. Call the Nobel committee, call Amnesty International. This man has been through THE MILL.
If only you could have spit Lenny Bruce in the eye, or told Salman Rushdie he's a fucking pussy!
Look, I get it... you know nothing about radical sexual politics or why it's been the lightning rod of American art for the last 50 years. You weren't here for women's liberation or queer revolt. You think girls with something incisive to say are real dick-wilters. And fags? It's hard to comprehend.. you did say that sex boils down to "one man and one woman." The bookfest audience cracked up at that one.
Sensitivity, compassion, or sacrifice is not what you got hired for, eh? You're supposed to be The Man Show with a brogue. If Karen, Dennis, and I had come as Fembots, would that have been a better set?
That murderous farewell you gave me at the end made my heart sink like a stone. It was right up there with the Michigan judge who told me, pre-sentencing, I was going to pay for being a menace to society. Maybe he watches your show and laughs, too.
Why did you hate me so much if you "don't care"— if you're so rich and well-laid and impenetrable? Your fans stretched across the lawn, but you took the time to kill me with a look. I can tell you believe in bad spells. The next envelope I lick will likely give me a nasty paper cut right across the lip. Bad mommy, don't make Craig mad again!
Call me when the tide turns, old man, and I'll show you the other cheek. When you get fugly, canceled, and deported under some Homeland Security mix-up, I'm sure we can figure out something "on spec" that will save the day!
Won't we have fun remembering the days when you were arrogant, and the rich and artless didn't have to care one little motherfucking bit about anything?
I'm off to march with some other whores and immigrants now. They're hoping to inherit the earth.
The Ghost of Vixens Past,