Steve Delahoyde interviews me

July 25, 2002

Today is the day to re-read your ventriloquist's manual.

Hi. If you liked the book Complications by Atul Gawande, and perhaps my review thereof, you might want to look at my review of As I Live and Breathe.

You're telling me that you still don't know enough about me? Today's guest diarist and interviewer, Steve Delahoyde, interviews me for no particular reason, other than just good old clean fun. Oh, and for the proverbial "411" on Mr. Delahoyde, please feel free to read his interview as often as you like.

Guest "Claire Zulkey" Interviewer: Steve Delahoyde

Billions have seen her visage, millions know her work, thousands of paparazzi stalk her in the streets, dozens write her letters her each and every day, but only a select few are so privileged to speak to her in person, and even fewer are able to refer to her as "friend" (the number is estimated around 2.5). Claire Zulkey is like the Shroud of Turin taken away from the Turin in the cover of night and wrapped around the term "mystery."

As an ambitious young journalist, I promised my editor, a cigar-chomping, Pulitzer-prizewinning, old-schooled hard-ass, that I could nail this story, or rather, to stray away from the innuendo that might have just caused, to get an interview. It was an arduous process, having to go through the nearly endless chain of command to reach her, speaking to everyone in her staff, from her publicist to her stand-by assistant manicurist. Eventually, nearly one year later (and an expense account reaching astronomical levels), I was able to lay these now-humbled eyes upon Ms. Zulkey, and this extra-humbled mini cassette recorder on a table to capture her sing-song, thirteen octave voice. Here now is a transcript of my questions and her glorious responses:

First, just where do you get off having someone, who you're not paying, write an introduction like that for you, for your own site, then also proceed to interview you, again, for your very own site?
It's my awful hubris, which will undoubtedly be my downfall and result in my death in the third act, despite an amazing display of deus ex machina. Also, I will do anything to have people write something for my site. Also, I love talking about myself. I'm my favorite topic.

If a film about Claire Zulkey came out, and it was directed by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay or the like, what would the really ambiguous tag line read and what would the poster look like?
The tagline would be: "You haven't seen "Claire Zulkey: the movie": if you've only seen it thrice!" Also, the poster would have the faces of Harrison Ford and Nicolas Cage staring intensely out at the viewer, side by side, with Joe Pesci in the middle, shrugging in a comical "What are you gonna do?" manner.

Are these actors in the movie?
Don't be ridiculous. However, Lawrence Fishbourne, Samuel L. Jackson and Verne Troyer will play those actors, however.

Okay, Claire #1: Suppose you pick me up for a date and take me to a park for a picnic. What sort of sandwich would you have brought for me and why?
Well I'd be tempted to make you my mother's fabulous tuna salad, but being the considerate girl I am, Steven, I am aware that you are very picky. So I'd probably make you a bread sandwich.

You're some hot shot copyrighter/writer/riter, right? Say I have a product that I've just invented in the laboratory in my garage for a new type of missile (try saying that in a British accent for extra fun!). I want you to write an informative ad describing the merits and value of said invention, keeping in mind that the sole use of this product is to keep ducks away from public swimming pools.
I'd write what I usually write: "Change your luck at Majestic Star Casino! With our hot slots, exciting promotions and fabulous payouts, you're bound to get lucky! Also, remember always to play with your Club Majestic® card: it's the only way to enjoy great benefits like cash back in the mail and invitations to exclusive parties. Card in. Cash out!"

Sometimes you ask me, "Stevie darling, how does one illegally write off costly prostitution invoices on their taxes?" In never having an answer for you, have you figured it out yet?
I have. It turns out that I was born on April 15, which is known in this country as "Tax Day." There is a very little-known loophole that says that anybody born on this day is allowed to do anything that they want, tax-wise. I'm writing off this interview as we speak, even though it's not even costing me any money.

Say your dog, Major, learns to speak and write in English, and subsequently writes a tell all novel about you. What are some things in the book that frankly, you wish he hadn't been there to see?
The sad thing is that if Major learned English, he'd be terribly dyslexic, so despite his efforts to tell everything about my shameful eating habits, curious sanitary conditions and the dark secrets I whisper in his ear, nobody would understand a word.

So you're saying that people who suffer from dyslexia cannot communicate with any ability? I've noticed the subtle anti-dyslexic tone to this website, from the essays you've written to the "I Sure Hate Dyslexic People" banner ads. Why are you so filled with hate? What if I told you I'm dyslexic? I'm not, but what if I told you that?
Well, you'd make me feel guilty, and then I'd hate you for making me feel guilty. And I'm not filled with hate, I'm filled with a delicious creme filling.

You attend classes at Second City. I'm sure everyone knows this but me, but what happened to the First City? Does this have something to do with that Chicago burning down thing? Shouldn't they make that more clear?
First City was the rival of Second City, and they regularly feuded with verbal barrages and feats of strength. But then, one year, a maiden from the Second City tempted an impressionable young man from the First City, and they were to get married. That young man was a sucker, because as he and the city prepared for the wedding, the entire Second City ambushed the First City and took it over. The only symbol remaining of the First City is Soldier Field. Oh wait, they tore that down.

You seem to know a good deal about pop culture.

Did you notice how that last one wasn't a question?
Yeah, I didn't want to say anything because I know you're trying very hard here and I didn't want to discourage you.

Do you think Carmen Sandiego would travel the world as much if she weren't a thief? Does she have a home or just lives out of hotels?
I'd ask her myself but I can't figure out where the hell in the world she is. What people don't know about Carmen is that she's not so much a thief but that she suffers from kleptomania, so she can't really help her thievery. She has a strange habit of booking the best rooms in the best hotels but then staying out all night, boozing it up. On a side note, I have always identified with Carmen Sandiego, because if you put a hat on me and turned me sideways, I'd bear a vague resemblance to her.

When you lived in D.C., did you manage to get a few good stories about seeing politicians in precarious locales/positions?
No, but during the summer of '99, Geraldo Rivera asked me if I had oral herpes. I will reveal the answer to that question in the next interview.

Where were you in the night of question?
The heat of the moment.

Was that the detective movie with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, or the spin-off television version with Carroll O'Connor?
No, it's the name of the autobiography of the guy who started those forest fires in Arizona.

This is hard, coming up with interview questions I mean. What is your process?
First, I spend a week following around my interview subject, unbeknownst to them, setting up 'booby traps' and seeing how they react to moments of stress. Then, I think of what I know about them and write those questions. Then, I Google them, for the curveball "Nobody is supposed to know about that" question. And I keep a supply of inane questions that anybody can answer on hand, such as, "How does it feel to be the Xth person interviewed for" Oh, and then I ask them if my tendency to throw around "x"'s and "n"'s helps give the impression that I am good at math.

Fill in the blanks: The _____ _____ ______ ______ ______ _____ ______
______ _______ _______ _______ _____ _____ _____ and then the orangutan befriended the nice kitty cat.

Every little thing the reflex does leaves you answered with a question mark, and, uh, and then the orangutan befriended the nice kitty cat.

Describe your typical day, but speak in third person and pretend your whole day looks like the opening montage of either "That Girl!", "Love, American Style", or "Maud".'
Crap, I don't know anything about those shows. Oh, I mean, Claire arises, not knowing anything about those shows, but just for good measure, she twirls around in a manner displaying her pep and spirit. She does this all day. Then she goes to bed.

You don't know about these shows? What kind of American are you? I mean, c'mon! Maud! With Bea Arthur! That Girl! With Marlo Thomas!
Oh yeah! Those! Wait, what?

I'm in love with a girl in my home room, but I don't think she even knows I exist! What do I do? What's more, do I actually exist? Hello?
Don't worry, boys your age are often confused by strange feelings they experience about the opposite sex. The best thing to do is call her repeatedly and hang out each time she answers. Then, be sure to be her partner in square-dancing class, but to throw her off track, refuse to hold her hands as you promenade.

What's you're favourite kind of thing too rite?
I like to write good. And tou add theu letteur "u" tou moust ouf my wourds.

I stole this from an interview on a website about worms, but you still have to answer it: What is your most difficult personal challenge in vermicomposting?
See, the most common misconception is that vermicomposting is something that you have to go about aggressively, and as much as you want to treat those worms like the little bitches they are, you have to treat them like ladies. Tiny, slimy, disgusting invertibrate ladies.

Do you feel guilty for having the combined talent of one hundred people, the intellect of a goddess, the Hellenistic beauty of a certain foxy lady of Troy, and the strength of twelve burly men? Like you're just too gifted, too wonderful, too charming...too perfect? Also, can I borrow some money?
It hurts, but it's a good kind of hurt, like a massage, or a delicate canker sore. And, sorry man, I just gave my last buck to a homeless dude.

Back to the beginning, do you think it's worse that it looks like you're being interviewed for your own website, or that I asked to interview you for your own website, but then I asked all of these nonsensical questions?
Who cares? "Living on a Prayer" is on the radio! Let's party!