Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ

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Laurie Berkner

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Back when my kids were little, Laurie Berkner haunted my soul.

I say that with much love and admiration. Berkner has had an absolutely amazing career as a singer/songwriter for kid-oriented music. She’s sold millions of albums; has released 10 CDs; has been all over Nickelodeon; has appeared on The Today Show and a gazillion other programs.

Put bluntly: She is the greatest Kindie rock singer of our generation. Maybe of all time.

And yet …

We went through a phase where it seemed like Victor Vito was played oh, 200 times per day. In the morning. At night. In my dreams, gnawing at my innards. These two guys, Victor and Vito, just wanted to eat and eat. They had a burrito. And rice. And beans. And collared greens. And … um … yeah. MUST DESTROY! MUST DESTROY! HAT IN MY MUSTARD! DOG EATING CUBA GOODING! CANNED CHICKEN! CANNED CHICKEN! MUST DESTR—

Deep breaths. Deep, soothing breaths.

Here’s the thing: Victor Vito is a great friggin’ song. It’s catchy and bouncy and absorbing, and children dig it. Which is the brilliance of Laurie Berkner: She understands her clientele perfectly. Hence, her success and longevity. Hence, her illustrious status as the 178th Quaz.

One can visit Laurie’s website here, follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here. Her music can be found right here.

Laurie Berkner, straight off the streets of, um, Princeton, New Jersey—welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Laurie, my kids are 11 and 8, and they spent several of their big growing-up years listening to your music. So I say to you, with much love, if I hear “Victor Vito” one more time, I might stab my eyeballs out. I’m wondering—do you get that? Like, do you understand adults running far far far away from kids music? And do you ever feel that way, too?

LAURIE BERKNER: Ha!  I totally get it.  As the one person who has probably sung “Victor Vito” even more times than you have listened to it, I definitely get it.  Though I must admit that for me, singing a song hundreds of times is better than listening to it hundreds of times, because I get to make it a little different every time I sing it.  I also get it as a parent (one song I really remember listening to that way was Justin Roberts’ “Pop Fly”),  and I got it as a music teacher.  I had to listen to a lot of kids’ music over and over to learn it, and then teach it.   That’s one of the reasons I started writing my own songs.

J.P.: I’m fascinated by your career, because you tapped into something big and ran with it. What intrigues me is the process. How, at age 45, do you still know what a child wants to hear? How can you be an adult while thinking like a kid?  

L.B.: Because I am still a kid. (Who told you I was 45?) Or maybe it’s because I skipped kindergarten, and I’m spending my adult life making up for it … or, or, I don’t know!  Stop asking me or I’ll tell my mom!

J.P.: I know you grew up in Princeton, attended Rutgers, sang a lot as a kid, worked as a music teacher. But, womb to now, what’s your path? Like, how did you become this superstar kids singer? How did it happen?

L.B.: Womb to now? Like was I singing in my mom’s womb? Probably. One of my earliest memories is of marching around my room singing “Do Re Mi.” I remember the first time I sang in chorus in school, in third grade, with the sounds of all the kids singing together all around me. It was one of the most amazing things I’d ever felt. When I was an awkward 10-year old at camp, it felt like all of that changed when I sang. (I even had a counselor who used to end our swim lessons early, and then ask me to sing to her from the pool.)  When I went to parties in my 20s and brought my guitar, I had a way of sharing something deeper than just small talk.  When I finally started to tap into how to use the connection I feel with music, to connect with young kids, it became really clear to me that I had found something I could do well that made both myself, and other people, feel really good.

To answer your question from a more practical angle, I got a job as a pre-school music teacher one year after I graduated from college. In between playing gigs at coffeehouses, starting my own band and performing till all hours of the morning with an all-female cover band, I started realizing that I needed certain kinds of songs in order to really do a good job in my new role. I spent hours and hours poring over songs at the library and listening to enormous amounts of kids’  music, but it was very hard to find songs that were crafted to follow the rhythm of a child under 6-years old. They need to move, and they need to express themselves, and they also need to have a safe space in which to do it, and then be able to come back to themselves and bring the energy back down. If a song leads them though all of that in a way that invites them in through their imagination, then it can really work in the classroom. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted a lot of those songs, I would need to write them myself, and I started by asking the kids what they wanted to sing about. That’s exactly how We Are The Dinosaurs was born.

J.P.: So I’ve gotta think there have been (and still are) times when you’re singing your heart out and, oh, the obnoxious kid in the front row keeps screaming, “Fart Breath! Fart Breath!” How do you maintain composure singing for individuals lacking fully formed human craniums? And please gimme your worst story related to this. Pretty please …

L.B.: The kids I sing to at concerts aren’t usually quite up to “fart breath” yet. More often I get older kids who sit in the front row and just stare at me. Which can be unnerving. Even though I know they chose to come to the show and are probably just shy, as a performer I feel a constant desire for everyone in the audience to have a great time.  For the whole show.  Not too much to ask, right?

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J.P.: I used to be a music writer in Nashville, and there were a large number of contemporary Christian singers who were there, first and foremost, because they fell flat as mainstream performers. Did this at all happen to you? Do you see it as a common reason for the existence of so many children-oriented singers?

L.B.: Hmm. Well I think you’d have to ask the people who used to come see me play adult gigs if I fell flat as a mainstream performer!  But I really chose kids’ music because that was what was working for me, and that made it much more fun than the adult gigs. I had my own rock band that played my original music (Red Onion), and we had a small but incredibly loyal fan base.  Unfortunately, when I lost my drummer, the band kind of fell apart and honestly, it was really hard to make ends meet by playing in a rock band in clubs on the Lower East Side. So to keep playing music and actually make some money, I joined an all-female cover band called Lois Lane. We were actually pretty successful, but the work was exhausting, and I got pretty tired of hearing drunk guys yelling “Freebird!” at me at 1 am.

Around the same time I had started playing more and more parties for kids, and they wanted me to actually sing songs I had written.  It was an amazing feeling to watch parents and kids singing the words to my songs and see them having so much fun when I performed them. One day when I had come home from a Lois Lane gig at 6 in the morning and then went right to a party at Battery Park at 10 am, I noticed that even in my exhausted state, I had so much more fun playing “Victor Vito” for those families than I did singing “Play That Funky Music White Boy” for the 100th time, and I decided to quit the band and really devote my energies to kids’ music.  Eventually I made the same choice between working as a music teacher and becoming a full-time performer. After 10 years I felt burned out teaching music and decided to build my record label. For me they were both choices of following what worked and how I wanted to spend my time.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? 

L.B.: Playing to 15,000 people in Central Park on Earth Day.

J.P.: Lowest?

L.B.: When I thought my career was finally going to take off because I got into People Magazine for the first time with a big headline—and then they misspelled my name.

From People Magazine.

From People Magazine.

J.P.: Your husband, Brian Mueller, was also your guitarist until he left the band in 2006 to keep your personal and professional lives separate. How hard is it to have a spouse also as a band member? What were the complications that came with this?

L.B.: It was great and it was hard. I love playing music with Brian. He’s so responsive, talented and ready to put his whole self into whatever he’s playing. But being in my band was not reflective of our real relationship. I was the band leader and business owner when we were working, and when we were at home, we were a married couple, working as a team. Playing together made many things simpler like finances, scheduling and communication. But it also meant that when I was having conflict with my bassist, I was also having conflict with my husband. And we found ourselves talking about very little other than gigging and the Two Tomatoes business. Finally, once our daughter Lucy was born, the little time there was for anything else became filled with talking about her. That really was what made it clear that we needed a change. Also, Brian is a great musician (better than I am in a lot of ways), but he wasn’t doing what he loved.  Kids’ music was my thing, and he really wanted to be doing his thing. His thing turned out to be psychology—he’s almost finished with his PhD now—and he is so much happier.

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J.P.: Serious question I ask all singers. I get singing a song the first time, the 10th time, the 100th time. But how do you still get up for a live show in Bethesda on a gray Monday, singing a song for the 543,322nd time? Are you ever like, “Nah, not today. Let’s stay in bed …” 

L.B.: Sure. I feel that way a lot when I first wake up, no matter what I have planned!  (Who doesn’t like to go back to bed?! Especially if, like me, you tend to be sleep deprived.) I actually think that the “nah” factor for me comes more from always being a little nervous before each show. It never stops being challenging to make myself vulnerable in front of an audience because I’m asking them to share this music with me that I created. That’s much scarier than just having to sing the songs again, which oddly, so far has not gotten boring for me. For me, the unavoidable nature of performing live is that it’s different every time. Each time I sing a song, I’ve changed, the way I feel has changed, the way I present the music changes and the audience changes, and I love that. But I only truly remember how much fun it is once I actually start singing.

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J.P.: You recently went to Kickstarter to raise money for a lullaby album. A. Um … a lullaby album? B. Is it weird or uncomfortable, asking for money? And how did you do it and—apparently—do it well?

L.B.: I did do that, and as it turned out, we did do it well! I feel quite grateful for all the help I had running the campaign and in turn all the support the campaign generated.  I’m not sure what the first part of your question is exactly … does it seem weird to put out a lullaby album? Is it maybe weird to think of me putting a lullaby album? I can’t actually remember a time when parents were not asking me to make one. If calming music hits your kids in the right way, it’s like a magic wand at bedtime. That was something that I didn’t fully understand until I became a parent myself. I also used to think that a lullaby album was really for the parents, and that was less appealing to me than creating something for kids (in fact I felt like I would be betraying the kids somewhat by making it), but then I realized that I could make an album of lullabies where sometimes I take the role of the adult and sometimes—like most of my music—I’m singing from the child’s point of view. I also kind of liked this new way of talking directly to the kids, especially during such an intimate time as falling asleep. I just wanted to make sure I did it in a way that would feel warm and comforting to them, and not condescending.

J.P.: Straight question—what’s the difference between a great children’s song and a mediocre one?

L.B.: I think that there are a lot of songs that will get kids to respond to them. But a great one is one that the parents want to sing, too. It’s also a song that comes to mind throughout the day in such a way that it feels more like part of a movie soundtrack to life and less like just another catchy song. It’s also a song that has multiple layers of meanings but is still really easy to learn and sing—without feeling like you’ve already heard it a hundred times before.

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• I have an amazing idea—NWA Kiddie. An NWA album with kid rappers. Thoughts?: Yes, but you find them—because now we’re entering into territory that is more you than me.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I’m not sure if I’ve ever really felt that, but Brian and Lucy know that whenever we land in a plane, I have to be holding their hands. In case anything actually happened, I want that to be the last thing I do.

• Favorite Facts of Life girl, and why?: Tootie—best name. Wait, no, Natalie. Best attitude.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Gladys Knight, Fidel Castro, Carney Lansford, RoboCop, Dixie Chicks, cucumber water, Clubber Lang, Megadeth, eggplant parm, Minneapolis, shaving cream: What is Clubber Lang? Never saw RoboCop. Who is Carney Lansford? I like coconut water a lot more than cucumber water. I don’t use shaving cream.  I’ve never listened to Megadeth, and I rarely eat eggplant parm. I like Gladys Knight, the Dixie Chicks, and Minneapolis is a cool city.  It has a twin. I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Have you lost all respect for me yet?

• Who would win in a 12-round boxing match between you and Dan Zanes? What’s the outcome?: I think we’d probably just decide to ditch the boxing gloves and go have a hot beverage where we discuss hair products.

• I would like to throw a large rock at my neighbor’s dog. Is that OK with you?: Sure, you can want to do it. I’m all for that. But if you actually threw the rock, we couldn’t be friends anymore.

• Five all-time favorite songs: Hardest. Question. Ever. Here are some that would be up there: Ulili E: Dennis Kamakahi version; Big Yellow Taxi:  Joni Mitchell; Love and Affection: Joan Armatrading; All of Me: Joe Williams and Louis Armstrong versions; Hey-Ya: by OutKast

• Most embarrassing moment of your life?: Trying to get the boy I liked when I was 10-years old to ask me to go bowling with him—while his friend listened on the other end of the phone.

• Why haven’t you been more outspoken about the designated hitter in baseball?: The what?

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. Would love your take: I’ve never heard it before, but I love that it’s a way of saying “I forgive you” and “I love you” and “I want you in my life no matter what.”  It’s a very moving song, especially at the end.

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Ted Spiker


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Back when I arrived as a freshman at the University of Delaware in 1990, I was told of the legend of Ted Spiker.

Ted had been editor of the student newspaper, The Review, and he was—by all accounts—awesome. Phenomenal writer. Insanely smart. Terrific people skills. Shaped like a pear. Understood the medium. Cared fo—



I never actually heard that Ted was shaped like a pear. Yet he did—throughout his life. People would mock his shape, bemoan his shape, ridicule his shape. He was a great guy with an awkward physique, and—internally—it sorta haunted him. Or, put different, Ted was one of millions of Americans who looked in the mirror and cringed.

Now, in a very public way, he’s talking about it.

Ted’s fantastic new book, Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success, is both humorous and serious; a self-deprecating look at one man’s fight to maintain a healthy lifestyle (as well as a riveting study of the biology and psychology of weight loss). Ted is a well-known fitness-oriented writer whose work includes myriad books, as well as his regular blog for Runner’s World. He is a journalism professor at the University of Florida (for my money, the best journalism professor in the country. I truly mean that), as well as a brilliant tap dancer who studied at the Gregory Hines Institute.

OK, I made that last part up.

One can visit Ted’s website here and follow him on Twitter here.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ted Spiker, proud Gator Blue Hen, to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ted, I’m gonna start untraditional. I’ve met many overweight people—severely overweight—who have said something along the lines of, “I was always trying to lose weight, and I finally said to myself, ‘I am who I am, and I’m going to love myself.’” Meaning, I’m obese—and that’s OK. I hate to admit this, but I often think to myself, “You tried, you failed, it didn’t work—so you’re saying what you need to say to protect yourself. But it’s unlikely you feel great weighing 400 pounds.’ Am I being a dick? Too cynical? Is it OK to be obese, if one is OK being obese?

TED SPIKER: I think you nailed exactly what a lot of overweight or obese people do: Protect themselves. We do it with baggy clothes, we do it by staying out of the public and out of photos, we do it by making jokes about ourselves [I’m raising my right hand right now; my left hand has a yogurt-covered pretzel in it]. It’s hard enough to be overweight—and then you have to admit you feel like crap, too? That’s a lot to handle, so we say that we’re OK. But I think you’re right on the big point. Chances are that there aren’t many truly obese people who do love their bodies.

But here’s where the tricky part is: We should be more accepting of flaws, of not being perfect, of realizing that there are ranges of weights and shapes and sizes. And I think that the sweet spot on the grid is being able to make sure your numbers beyond the scale (blood pressure, blood sugar) are good and then accepting the fact that you aren’t going to look like Kate Upton or David Beckham or whoever it is you think has the ideal body. Perfection isn’t the goal. Good health, high energy, and feeling good about your body (flaws and all) is the goal.

For those outliers who are truly happy and really heavy, you asked if it was ok to be obese. I don’t necessarily think we should underestimate how hard it can be for someone to turn a lifestyle around, so it’s hard for me to tsk-tsk anyone and say, shame on you, it’s not OK to be obese. But the reality is that yes, obesity is a burden not just for the individual, but for families, significant others, and the health-care system.

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J.P.: So I’m deep into your book, and fascinated. I’m a big fan of people who mock themselves—and you’re pretty ruthless about your body, body image, etc. How did you develop the comfort level to expose yourself on such a public level? Was it a process? Easy?

T.S.: So you’re probably referring to the parts when a classmate said I had child-bearing hips. And some other spots when people take their shots at my body shape. I guess I’ve always been pretty ha-ha-ha about it—I try to take my work seriously, but not myself. And I also think guys are able to pull off the fat-funny guy routine. Look at Chris Farley or Kevin James or Zach Galifianakis. Fat is like a comedian’s prop—it’s an antagonist and works well into a storyline. And I guess at some point, I just realized that you can beat yourself up about it (which I’ve done) or you can have fun, not take yourself so seriously (if you don’t have serious health issues, which I didn’t or don’t). I still cringe at pictures and I’m not great with my body shape, though I’m a million times better. I just learned that body image is so less important … It’s not as important as what I try to do as a father, in my career, in my personal goals, in everything. It’s one piece, but not the whole piece. And even though body image can influence every other aspect of your life, I think it’s about figuring out how to put it in perspective with everything else. Like really, how does the shape of my hips have anything to do with how I try to teach my kids about sportsmanship?  And if I have a sausage and mushroom pizza every once in a while, does that mean I’m less of a teacher or writer? Would I like to wake up and be the ideal weight with the ideal body-fat percentage and be able to buy a pair of pants that fits right? Uh, yeah. But when you starting sinking your energy into other goals—for me, it was trying to learn to surf and trying to complete an Ironman—you worry less about your khakis and think more about the big picture and all the stuff goes into that.

J.P.: You’ve written books with other people, but never with your name big, bold and solo. I’m wondering what sort of adjustment, as a writer, this took—if any. Did you find the process intimidating? Daunting? Or no biggie?

T.S.: In my other books (I’ve co-authored about a dozen), I was definitely the offensive lineman (and not just because of body type). My job was to block, provide support, and make room for the MVPs. And I loved being part of that process—it was truly a cool process to do a book as a team where everybody is contributing different skill sets. So yeah, when it shifted to the sole-authored book, I did feel more pressure, but also more ownership obviously—that I could tell the story that I wanted: A book that looked at the biology and psychology of weight loss and diets with an equal mix of science and soul. So it’s not a plan or a prescription, and I tried to venture into a sort of hybrid genre—a bit of narrative, a bit of humor, a bit of science, and a bit of how-to. I hope I’m not too heavy-handed, but give readers enough tales and information to help them go in the direction they want to do. And it was really nice to work with a great editor (Caroline Sutton of Hudson Street Press) and a great agent (David Black) who helped me hone and shape and solidify the best way to tell this story.

But there is also more of a sense of pressure. I know you’ve written about the gut-wrenching that comes when you find a mistake. I think I’m going to be okay if people don’t like it or my humor doesn’t fit their style, but I’m going to beat myself up with any stupid mistakes.

But truth is … after a dozen books as that offensive lineman, it’s pretty cool to carry the ball. When I first saw the design of the cover, I loved it—and not because of my name, but because the designers at Hudson Street Press nailed it. Great, fun image—just the right amount of humor, I think.

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J.P.: Why are we, as a country, so fucking fat?

T.S.: Any number of reasons: We don’t walk from point-to-point anymore to go the store or wherever, we sit all day in our jobs, cheese, Scandal and Modern Family and Orange is the New Black and whatever else you like encourages you to stay on the couch when you’re not working, Dairy Queen is effing good, mashed potatoes, being busy makes us tired and tired make us not want to do anything but eat bowls of Doritos, and on and on. Take all that into consideration and making good choices feels like you’re swimming upstream. I can try all I want, but I’m not getting anywhere. It’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s just that there are so many factors that steer us away from good decision. While I spend two chapters specifically on exercise and nutrition, I really spend most of the book exploring the psychological factors that determine what we do with exercise and nutrition. You know, things like motivation, inspiration, social networks, handling frustration and plateaus, and factors like that.

J.P.: There’s a moment in your book when I literally cringed. You teach journalism at the University of Florida, and a student—in an anonymous evaluation section—wrote, “Wear slacks that aren’t as baggy.” It just struck me as … cruel. Mean. Dickish. I’m wondering how you reacted, mentally. What went through your mind? And did you—as I would have—try to figure out who penned the words?

T.S.: Well, it was a class of more than 200 people, so there was really no way to try to figure out who said it. It stung, but I don’t think it was mean. I think the person was actually trying to help—like, “Dude, I like your class, but tighten up a bit.” Some would argue that appearance should be off-limits, but I was OK with it, because the student was right. My pants selection is an issue—can’t stand tight pants because of my ample gluteus, but if I find pants that will fit up and over that ampleness, they’re too baggy because they droop from my waist. “Why don’t you just get some pants tailored?” one might ask … I’ve started doing that, but for years I never would—because I always thought that if I took the time to tailor pants, that would mean I was satisfied with my size and I should stop pursuing goals. I know, kinda fucked up, but it’s really what I thought—when you yo-yo and never quite reach your goal, you don’t get clothes tailored because it feels like a permanent act, even though logic would dictate otherwise.

J.P.: You’ve worked with Dr. Oz a lot. He wrote the foreword to your book. I’m gonna be 100 percent honest—I’m always skeptical of people like him. Professional experts who then transcend the fame of their chosen profession. Dr. Phil. Dr. Drew. Etc. Tell me why I’m wrong to feel this way. Or right.

T.S.: Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Mehmet for 10 years. He’s my friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. He has the skills of a surgeon and the mind of a scientist, businessman, artist, and so much more. He’s hard-charging, but he’s also as genuine and passionate about helping people improve their health. He makes people feel good about themselves and he inspires people to do better.

I’m admittedly biased, so take my answer for what it’s worth. When he went through those hearings where politicians were questioning claims about diet claims on his show, it pissed me off, because, I felt like a lot of it was taken out of context. He doesn’t hawk products – anything you see on the internet using his name is some company using his image without his permission because he may have mentioned an ingredient on his show that could have some benefit. Where they wanted to grill him was in how he marketed those ingredients, and all I was thinking was, Wait, politicians are questioning about the marketing of a product? Isn’t that what politicians do during campaign season and in office? Nearly every single media organization and individual markets itself—tweets are marketing, “stay tuned for the puppy who saved a squirrel” is marketing, headlines are marketing. They’re all designed to draw you into the content (and subsequently get your eyeballs there to help finance the costs associated with the product). So is he wrong for marketing his show? No. He said at that hearing that some of his words were perhaps a little strong—and that’s a fine line that all media types straddle. How much is too much of a stretch in the “sell” of content? I don’t think anyone endorses any wrong or dangerous information that would be used to promo a show or anything, but if his show and his message helps people get healthy, ask questions, and come up with solutions they might have not otherwise known about, I can’t see how that’s a bad thing.

J.P.: I ask you, simply, “What’s the best way for me to lose weight?” I’m, oh, 10 pounds over, I probably eat too much, I go to the gym and do the StairMaster four days per week. How can I lose weight most effectively?

T.S.: If you have four days at the gym, I’d do weights two or three days and then high-intensity cardio for one or two days. That would be most efficient—muscle just chews up fat, and you’re not going to get all that bulky doing it (with some exceptions, but more factors have to be involved). But that doesn’t really even matter as much as the food: It all centers around what you eat more than you work out (though they go hand in hand and you get motivated to do each one the better you do the other). So the first step would have to be evaluating your food intake, figuring out where your hiccups are and how you can adjust your eating to have more real foods and nutrients, less processed gunk. Easier said than done, right? The X factor, I think, is taking your efforts from private to public—even if it’s just with one friend or with creating a small Facebook group to hold each other accountable, or doing group workouts once a week—where you just feed off each other’s energy, rather than feeding off the coconut cream pie.

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J.P.: What’s your life path? I mean, I know you attended Delaware, teach at Florida. But why writing? When did you realize, ‘This is for me!’ And when did your career head toward books, and wellness-themed books?

T.S.: I remember a high school English teacher complimented my writing to another student, or so he told me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but music was a big part of high school—I did all the bands (marching, jazz, concert, orchestra pit) as a drummer/percussionist. But once I started writing and got inspired by my teachers at Delaware—Dennis Jackson, Chuck Stone, Bill Fleischman—I knew I wanted to keep going. I had a great experience at the school paper and learned a ton. There are a lot of similarities between music (especially percussion) and writing, so I do think one informed the other. Then when I got to grad school (Columbia), I got eaten up by the faculty there, and it was good for me. In my first magazine job, I fell in love with the creative aspect of it and telling stories of people, but when I jumped from a small magazine (Delaware Today) to Men’s Health, that’s where I started to focus on health and fitness. I knew that I wanted to teach and write, so I was fortunate enough to get this job at the University of Florida and still write magazine articles, the Big Guy Blog for Runner’s World, and books. And it really is the best of both worlds. I can reach small audiences in the classroom in (I hope) an impactful way to help students develop skills and critical thinking, as well as larger audiences in a different kind of way through my reporting and writing.

J.P.: Here’s my problem: I exercise, then I’m REALLY hungry. I don’t exercise, I’m less hungry. I feel like I actually gain more weight on days I exercise than on days I do shit. Is that logical? And can the argument be made I just shouldn’t exercise?

T.S.: Your problem is that you do that Stairmaster too much. Long cardio always makes me hungry as hell, too, especially swimming. I think adding more weights changes that a bit, but it’s easy to rationalize: “Hey, I worked out, I get sixteen doughnuts!” But the fact is, even if you’re exercising long and hard, you’re not burning nearly as much damage as you can do very quickly with a plate of junk. So I think a good strategy is to have some kind of protein (like some almond milk and protein powder) after a workout, which not only helps repair muscle that gets broken down, but also helps take the edge off so you don’t inhale an entire meat loaf. Coffee really works for me—just having a steady something to sip on helps keeping me from feeling like I need to go crazy.

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J.P.: Much is spoken about the downfall of journalism. When you and I came up, the goal … dream was to work in newspapers, have a byline, etc. You teach at Florida. Do you still advise folks to enter the profession? And what, for most, is the goal?

T.S.: Absolutely. It’s just that the profession has changed. There’s still a much-needed place for news. But it’s only one piece of the storytelling puzzle. There’s longform, there are tweets, there are service stories, there are videos, there are and will continue to be lots of places and genres of stories. It’s just that the model keeps shifting about how it’s published, disseminated, and talked about—and it can sometimes be hard to find the good stuff in the not-so-good stuff. But there will always be a place for people who can be creative, have voice, find original information, and construct a narrative. Sometime it will come in the form of these intricate and 3-D stories that you immerse yourself in, and sometimes they’ll be less than that. But the spectrum of possibilities, to me, is what makes it fun, not to mention an absolute necessity because of our thirst for information, entertainment, and connecting and engaging with other people.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Urban Meyer, Tubby Raymond, Tim Tebow, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Spencer Dunkley, oranges, Grotto’s Pizza, the Scrounge, South Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Gators, Blue Hens: Gators, Blue Hens, Tubby Raymond, South Beach, Tim Tebow, the Scrounge, Spencer Dunkley, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Grotto’s Pizza, Rehoboth Beach, oranges, Urban Meyer.

• Five reasons one should make Gainesville his next vacation destination?: Satchel’s pizza, Burritos Bros. guac, Ivey’s coffee blend, being in town for an on-the-line sports event in any of UF’s sports, college town with some unique outdoor landscape (majestic oaks, sun-bathing gators, springs nearby).

• Should Destiny’s Child get back together?: There’s no e´ in team.

• Your wife was once struck by lightning. What happened?: I know nothing of this. But I do know that I spelled lightning as lightening in the college paper. And I have never made that mistake again. [Jeff's note: It turns out she wasn't struck. My mistake. But fun to ask]

• Four pro sports teams that need to change their logos?: 76ers, Browns, Brewers, Edmonton Oilers

• Lowest moment during your marathon run?: Being passed by a juggling runner.

• Would you rather chop off your thumbs or have Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” as your 24/7 life soundtrack for the next two years?: I need my thumbs for my space bar.

• How did you propose to your wife?: Picnic on our second anniversary of us seeing each other. Asked her father right before we left while she was getting her coat or something.

• Your biggest mistake as a college newspaper editor?: Publishing a racially insensitive editorial cartoon. And trying to dunk a tennis ball on a metal Planet of the Apes trash can. Still have the scars.

• One question you would ask Dixie Carter were she here right now?: What qualities make a southern gentleman?

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Andrew Stratman

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Three months ago, I was sitting in a tiny coffee shop in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. There were probably, oh, five or six people in the joint. I had my laptop, my cup of coffee, my notepad. Happy guy, happy place.

I was told the live music would begin in 40 minutes.

“Crap,” I thought. “Last thing I need right now …”

Then Andrew Stratman began to sing. And I was mesmerized.

I mean that—mesmerized. Yeah, the guy has a terrific voice, and a kind demeanor. But it was more than that. Stratman wore his pain. Actually, lemme rephrase that: Wore his fucking pain. You could feel it in the music, in the words, in the way he stood there, shoulders slumped, beard seven or eight days old, the scent of cigarette clinging to his T-shirt. I’d never met Andrew before that night, but his presence and demeanor and music screamed, “I’ve seen some shit …”

And, indeed, he has.

I blogged about Andrew that night, and we’ve become Facebook pals since. I don’t say this about many up-and-coming performers, but I really believe this dude has stardom in his future. Maybe it’s talent plus desire plus drive, but … yeah. He’s got it.

Anyhow, you can follow Andrew on Facebook here, on Twitter here. He’s a terrific person worth pulling for and, certainly, worth seeing.

Andrew Stratman, your truck has more than 250,000 miles on the odometer. But you’ve made it to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Andrew, these questions tend to be unorthodox and sometimes annoying. So I’m gonna start with unorthodox and annoying. When I heard you sing I thought, “Man, this guy had it!” Then, during break, I saw you smoke a cigarette and I also thought, “Man, why would he do that?” Which leads to the question, Andrew—why the hell do soooo many singers smoke? I mean, your vocal chords are absolutely everything to you. It’d be like me pouring soda on my laptop, no?

ANDREW STRATMAN: I started smoking when I was young. At the time I suppose I thought it was to be “cool” or to fit in with everyone I was running around with. Like most adults who started smoking at an early age I regret ever picking the habit up. But, sadly, I really enjoy smoking. I recently realized it is yet another thing that I love and enjoy that I am going to have to give up soon. One of my favorite things to do on stage is to take a few drags off my cigarette and then stick it in the headstock of my guitar between the strings and let it smoke while I play. Then I pick it up and finish it off after the song is done. But like I said, I know I have to give it up soon.

J.P.: There are a lot of crap singers who make it big thanks to looks, thanks to style, thanks to equipment making their voices sound good. And you’re a guy with a remarkable voice and style, sometimes playing before 3 … 4 … 5 people. Does that at all irk you? Frustrate you? Why or why not? 

A.S.: Obviously it’s frustrating to see people get things handed to them—not only in the music business but just in regular day-to-day life. I have worked since I was a young boy, and worked hard for everything I have. I believe that makes you appreciate everything more if you have earned it. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve had my fair share of moments that involve just being in the right place at the right time … there are lucky opportunities that have definitely made my life and journey easier. But having worked so hard and for so long to make it in the music business makes me appreciate everything—lucky, accidental, whatever—more than most.

 J.P.: How do you write a song? Literally, what’s your process?

A.S.: I use my songwriting as therapy. So, for me, songwriting has always been an outlet for my emotion. Honestly, I will have an idea or a verse or a hook come to me and then, while I’m scrambling for my guitar and a pen and paper, I am just letting that idea or verse flow. Then I’ll pick up my guitar and try to put my words to music. Sometimes I will write a verse and let it sit for weeks before coming back to it. Sometimes I can write a whole song in 10 minutes—almost as if it’s just pouring out of me. Those are the ones that mean the most and that I am more proud of. It’s in-the-moment emotion that comes out of my mind and my heart and comes alive in a song that I can sing to one person or 1,000 people. As a songwriter and performer, you really hope that someone out there may be able to relate to the music and that, perhaps, it can help someone through his own struggles. Some of my songs are very personal and not everyone can relate. But for those who can relate, I hope they can relate very deeply and find peace in it. It’s a very cool feeling to see someone relate to your song.

 J.P.: You’re from Missouri, I know that. And you first got a guitar as a Christmas gift when you were 13. But how did this happen? When did you know—really know—singing is my thing, and this is what I’m gonna try to do with my career?

A.S.: I got my first real guitar when I was 13. I remember an old home video of me when I was 5 or 6 in a red cowboy hat with a toy guitar and microphone singing a song I’d written about my grandpa’s turkey farm. Hopefully someone has destroyed that video before TMZ gets a hold of it. I played guitar and sang all through high school but never thought of it as something that was possible to do forever—and surely not for a living. But when I was 20 I was in a contest, Missouri Idol, and I sang a song I had written for my little brother, who had watched me grow up drinking and partying with my friends. As he got older he started following my path, and it scared me so bad. I remembered back to all of my close calls both with death and the law and I was so scared for him. The worst thing was, how could I tell him not to do as I did when he actually saw me do it all? So I wrote him a song. The chorus is: I don’t wanna see your name in writing/I don’t want to see your name in stone/I don’t want to see our mama crying/And I don’t ever want to be big brother all alone.

When I sang that song on stage that night I knew my friends and family were there supporting me, but I didn’t think about my best friend Tommy, who had lost his younger brother to an automobile accident at age 15. Drinking was involved. I was on stage singing, and I watched as tears rolled down my friend’s face in the audience. I realized in that moment what it meant to connect with someone—musically—on a level that personal. I knew at that moment that this is what I was born to do. Since that day that same scenario—touching someone, reaching someone, impacting someone—has happened hundreds of times and each time it is reassuring and humbling.

When I decided to give it my all I had just come out of a three-year relationship that ended horribly. Dealing with the pain of that, I couldn’t focus on anything but music. I didn’t feel like myself anywhere but on the stage. I decided to take all the love and heart that I was giving to my relationship and put it into my music. Once I started letting people see my hurt and see my pain, well, things just took off. There were little signs reassuring me that I had made the right decision … people messaging me to say that my songs had changed a life or that my version of a song had touched them in some way. Soon people began to offer things through sponsorships—speakers, gear, clothes, tires for my truck … anything to help get me on the road. To this day I have my doubts, but then I look back at all that’s happened in my career and I know I’m where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.

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J.P.: I saw you perform at a coffee house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. I believe there were 10 of us there. How do you get motivated to play tiny crowds? Is it hard? Do you ever think, “I should just go home?” And what’s the smaller crowd/venue you’ve ever played?

A.S.: I enjoy performing for people. Some of my best crowds have been three or four people who really listen. I would rather play a show for a few people who listen than to 1,000 people with only three or four paying attention. But I do enjoy entertaining a crowd, getting people into my music and getting them going. Obviously they are two very different types of shows with very different content and material but I enjoy both very much. At the end of the day I’m playing my music for me and as long as I am happy with what I’m doing I can live with that. There have been a few occasions where no one is listening and I am literally playing to myself. In those moments, I’d rather go outside and finish the show for myself than to keep interrupting the crowd’s ball game or NASCAR race. But usually there is at least one person paying close attention, and as long as there is that one person enjoying what I am doing, well, I feel like I’ve done my job.

J.P.: I know a couple of guys from Blind Melon, and back in the 1990s they were together, like, six weeks before getting a record deal. It seems painfully hard to get one nowadays. Is that even still the goal? And what are the obstacles you’ve encountered? 

A.S.: I’ve heard of several cases like that, and that is awesome. A record deal isn’t impossible to accomplish. But a productive, successful, profitable record deal … that’s a tough one. Obviously, your chances of success improve when you have more people working behind you, promoting you and supporting you and booking you and and believing in you. I’m touring by myself, playing almost every gig I can get my hands just so I have enough money to keep me traveling down the highway, slowly putting money back for a recording. I want a record that I can sell and be proud of. Money is an is issue in everyone’s day-to-day life. I don’t need much, as I have been sleeping on friends’ and family’s couches and floors for the last year of my life. But equipment needs updating, instruments need maintenance, vehicles need maintenance. I drive a 1998 Dodge 1500 pickup 5spd 4wd, and behind it I pull a 12-foot enclosed trailer with all my equipment. My truck has 250,000 miles on it. There is no telling when that old truck is going to leave me stranded 500 miles away from a gig. But I just keep driving it because I have no choice. We are always looking for investors and sponsors to help financially, because they believe I have what it takes to “make it” (by “make it,” I don’t mean “rich and famous.” I mean making myself a profitable business investment).

With Bubba Sparxxx in Nashville earlier this year.

With Bubba Sparxxx in Nashville earlier this year.

 J.P.: Serious question—how can you afford to do this? How do you make ends meet?

A.S.: Sometimes I can’t afford to do it … or just barely can. I literally live off of tips and gig pay. That is for gas, food, room and lodging, and maintenance on all of my equipment. My truck included. Sometimes it gets pretty hairy. Last week, for example, I had half a tank of gas in my truck. I hadn’t eaten all day and I left the coast and drove to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for a gig that had been on my calendar for seven weeks. I got there and the owner of the club told me I wasn’t playing. He had no reasoning. He just kept saying, “It’s not going to happen. We didn’t have a contract. I don’t owe you shit.” To which I replied, “I don’t understand, but you have a great day sir. Go fuck yourself!” When I got back inside my truck my low fuel light was on, my wallet was empty, and I had 100 miles to drive to get to where I was staying that night. I drove to a gas station and played my guitar for about 1 ½ hours and sold a few T-shirts. That got me enough money so I could put gas in the truck and make it to the next night’s show. And that ended up being a huge success. You just never know, but I cannot give up. I have come too far to give up.

 J.P.: You’re 27—young dude. You’ve worked as a carpenter. How long do you give yourself chasing the dream? Like, do you have an idea in your head? Could there be a point when you say,”Fuck it, this isn’t worth it?”

A.S.: I’ve always told myself that if I’m not supporting myself comfortably by age 35 that I will find a career. I’m hopeful that, if that’s the case, I will at least have made enough connections via music that I can find work for a decent salary, doing something I don’t hate. But, to be completely honest, I can never give up. It’s in my heart to play music. I will never be completely happy if I’m not playing music to people. But I’m very confident that a greater power is at work for me and that I will be successful.

I’m already doing things bigger than I had ever dreamed. Sometimes I do get discouraged and down but then I look back at the last year of my life. If you had told me then that I would be here now, well, I would have said you were crazy. The names and people that I communicate with—via e-mail, text, Messenger or phone—on a daily basis is very impressive even to me. Like yourself, Mr. Jeff Pearlman. I would have never believed that I would be interviewed by you or someone of your caliber. I am very blessed and grateful for where I am and what I have accomplished and the fans and folks who I have behind me who believe in me. With a support system like I have, failure is not an option.

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J.P.: When you see “Make it Big Right Now!” shows like American Idol and The Voice, are you a fan or turned off? Like, are you OK with the instant success while you’re busting ass? Is it legit? OK? Or bullshit? 

A.S.: I have mixed emotions on the reality TV shows. I have actually tried out for The Voice several times, and have gotten nowhere. It is very hard to show people what you’re made of with one verse and one chorus of a song acapella. They have heard thousands of people in these auditoriums—it’s like cattle. And they put them in a room with 10 other people to sing one verse and one chorus. I understand that it is a TV show and it does have to be entertaining and so a few jokesters get by to keep it entertaining. I believe that the actual judges and the judging process are genuine and legitimate. And, honestly, those shows are just a fast track of what real life consists of. To beat out thousands of contestants to make it to the top 10 or 20 that make the show … you’ve got to be good. But, at the same time, if you have a bad morning in audition, you don’t make the show. And maybe you’re amazing—you just had a bad morning.

 J.P.: I’ve heard a lot of rappers talk about pain driving their music—the pain of the ghetto, the pain of seeing friends killed, the pain of selling rock on a corner. Do you understand that, too? Does pain drive country music? Your music? Or is it something different?

A.S.: I absolutely can relate to pain driving me. I’d say 90 percent of my drive and determination is thriving off the pain I feel from the things I’ve done, the people who have hurt me, the people I’ve hurt.  Pain is real and people can relate to pain much easier than they can relate to happiness. You’ve heard my show and I’m sure you could feel the pain from my songs and the hurt in my eyes when I sang them. It’s real.

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• What smells worse—your socks at the end of a long gig or moldy ice cream?: I’m going to have to go with ice cream on this one. I play barefoot pretty much whenever I can. Allows the foot to ventilate.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Nelson Cruz, caramelized onions, Guns n Roses, The Godfather, Big Daddy Kane, J.C. Chasez, Kindles, the color green, San Diego, BP, ostriches: Guns n Roses, green, caramelized onions, San Diego, The Godfather, Kindles, Big Daddy Kane, Nelson Cruz, J.C. Chasez, BP, ostriches (ostriches freak me out—bad)

• How certain are you that there’s life after death?: I believe in some form of life after death.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I have never thought that would happen.

• Someone offers you $200,000 to record, “Stratman does the Songs of Tupac: Country Style.” You in?: “Hey, Andrew, do you want to record Tupac’s greatest hits in your style? And we’ll hand you $200,000?” Answer: Fuck yeah!!!

• Would you rather father Celine Dion’s love child or fight Mike Tyson for 2 minutes?: That’s a pretty loaded question. Would Celine and I be in love, too? And just for the fun of it I’d take a hit from Mike Tyson. But only if I can pee in his pool.

• Derek Jeter has retired. What should we give him as a present?: I’ve always been fond of fruit baskets for retirement presents.

I absolutely love this song. Your thoughts?: Great song. Love the video, too. It makes you think.

• Your five all-time favorite singers/bands …: Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Randy Rogers, Jamey Johnson.

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Kate Price

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As a young girl, Kate Price was a victim of sex trafficking.

She wasn’t living in Nigeria or Zimbabwe or some dark corner of the Soviet Union. No, Kate was raised here, in the safe, secure, modernized, enlightened United States of America.

And she was drugged, then peddled for sex.

It’s horrifying. Beyond disturbing. But, in Kate Price (and her extraordinarily brave voice), we have a woman willing to stand up and fight back against an evil that’s far more common than most people surely think. These days, Kate is a wife (she’s married to Christopher Price, the excellent sports scribe) , a mother and—most impressive—a research scientist and leading voice in the ongoing battle against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Her blog is amazing, as is her Twitter feed. And, if you’re feeling charitable, I highly suggest supporting her dream and visiting her gofundme page.

This is the 175th Quaz. Most (but not all) of the first 174 were about entertainment in one form or another.

This is a story of bravery and resilience.

Kate Price, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kate, I’m gonna start this by being honest. Before this interview, I pretty much thought of child sex trafficking as something that happens … elsewhere. Small African nations. Russian outposts. Then I read your riveting, heartbreaking story, and learned otherwise. Am I simply dumb and naïve, or is there a mass misconception of the issue?

KATE PRICE: You’re not dumb at all. Most people do not realize commercial sexual exploitation of children runs rampant throughout America. Unfortunately, the majority of exploited kids are rendered “invisible.” I was considered worthless in my community. We were very poor and I remember feeling that discrimination very early on. I loved going to church, but I didn’t have nice “church clothes” so I wasn’t accepted. I went to school with black eyes and teachers didn’t say a thing. That’s just what “White Trash” families did to each other. I felt disposable.

We imagine ourselves as a country that prioritizes children’s safety. Yet, in reality, we don’t. The top two risk factors for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are a history of child sexual abuse and poverty. Many people don’t know this but the United States is first among industrialized nations for child death from abuse and neglect. We are second among industrialized nations for kids living in poverty. We have created the “perfect storm” for sexually exploited children in America.

J.P.: On your website, you write, “In my early childhood and throughout my adolescence, an immediate family member sold me for sex in order to support his drug addiction. He sold me to men at truck stops, at parties, and within my own home.” I don’t even know what to ask, so I’ll go open-ended and ask you to expand and explain your childhood. How was this allowed to happen?

K.P.: Our household was ensnared in intergenerational cycles of violence, poverty, mental illness, and addiction. My exploiter was the son of the “town drunks” where he grew up and he was sexually abused as a child. My mother’s mother died suddenly when my mom was 16. Her father had sexually abused her and his second wife resented and, literally, hated my mother.  My mother had wanted to go to college far away but was told by her father she could learn everything at the factory where she worked that she could learn in college.

Bottom line is my mother and I were trapped. My first memory is of being sexually abused by my exploiter in the back of a relative’s bar. I was pre-verbal, but I just remember feeling “shattered” afterward. The rest of the world was acting like nothing had happened but my world had changed forever. I also  remember years of being taken out to our garage in the middle of the night where I was placed in the mechanic’s well under a car in our garage. I was covered with an oily blanket and men paid to have sex with me. My exploiter drugged me so I didn’t fight back. The exploitation continued in the garage as well as at truck stops and warehouse parties. I was told only “special” little girls got to have sex and go to “adult” parties. So I just thought this was normal, even though I knew in my gut that something was off.

This was allowed to happen because it happened in a private home under the care of the adults in the house. Abuse was—and still is—considered a private “family matter.” Janay Rice used that very term in a public statement to describe the assault by her then-fiance Ray Rice after the surveillance tape footage surfaced of him knocking her out cold in an Atlantic City casino.

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J.P.: I think people struggle to understand children going through trauma. They look at them blankly, unsure what’s running through the head. So, Kate, when one is being sexually abused … sexually trafficked, what is she thinking? Do you know it’s wrong? Are you aware it’s not supposed to be? Is it about shutting up and surviving?

K.P.: I had no idea anything was wrong until about sixth grade. And even then I didn’t know it was horrific, I just knew things were different. I started spending more time at friends’ houses and I had my first major crush, so I started to understand what I was going through was not normal. Just like many abused children, the perpetrator made me feel like the abuse and exploitation was our “special” time together and that this was “love.” So when I confronted this person I figured he would just stop because he loved me. Instead he left and moved in with his mistress. Yes, the exploitation and sexual abuse stopped, but I was really confused. I had no words to explain what had happened to me.

I think we put a lot of pressure on kids to contextualize and verbalize this very complex issue of abuse when, truthfully, kids’ reality consists of pretty basic understandings of things like school, fun with friends, and Saturday morning cartoons. I am not saying children are stupid—far from it. Kids are incredibly smart and perceptive. But kids who are abused and exploited have probably never had much (if any) adult support and protection around them. How can we expect them to differentiate between being safe and being violated when they’ve never really known what it’s like to feel completely secure?

J.P.: I imagine it’s hard being interviewed, because oftentimes (and, to a certain degree, in this case) people want to understand the problem via details, stories, images. And, I’m guessing, the last thing you want to share are details, stories, images from the worst period of your existence. How do you balance this? Do people ever go too far in their questioning?

K.P.: People’s intentions are usually genuine, so if anyone ever does go “too far” in questioning, I can definitely take it with a grain of salt. I have actually waited about 15 years to start speaking out so publicly because our cultural understanding of sexual exploitation is still pretty basic. We are in “crisis mode” as we are still trying to fully grasp how this atrocity can even be happening.

I truly appreciate people’s intentions; however, I really need to protect myself. I am very particular about who I speak to on the record. My husband is actually a sportswriter, so he is tremendous in helping me navigate the media. I also just recently started working with a Boston-based journalist who is working on a more in-depth piece about my story. We’ve really become a team over the last two years and I have come to trust her completely. A lot of people have approached me over the years to tell my story and I waited until the right person came along.

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J.P.: You mention “an immediate family member” who did this to you. You say he/she was a drug addict. You’ve lived this, studied this. What kind of monster sells a child for sex? How does one reach that point? Is it a nature vs. nurture situation, where one is bred by similar experiences to become so horrid? Are some people simply born evil assholes? And have you forgiven? Do you even need or aspire to?

K.P.: I have zero intentions of ever forgiving this person. I think we sometimes search for forgiveness so we can move on with our lives. But I have created a life for myself away from my most of my family in spite of my history. What happened to me and what is still happening to hundreds of thousands of children in this country and around the world is unforgivable.

Monstrous people sell children for sex so they can feel dominant and in control, particularly if they feel insecure and out of control in other parts of their lives. My exploiter often talked about his shame of growing up poor and being abused, as if it were an excuse for the harm he’d caused. Additionally, according to trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the brain’s reward system can be damaged from child abuse so that pain equals pleasure, causing abuse victims to become victimizers. This was the case with my exploiter. He derived great pleasure from hurting me.

J.P.: You write on your gofundme page that, “I am finally free.” How did you become free? How did you escape the cycle of abuse? Fuck, how are you alive and sane right now?

K.P.: I become free when I no longer got sucked back into those cycles. I literally had to move 300 miles away from my hometown to separate myself. But even then I wasn’t free right away. I would go back to visit or would talk to friends and would find myself right back in the center of the drama. I finally just decided I had had enough and cut all ties—not out of malice, but for my sanity. Leaving exploitation and domestic violence situations usually takes seven attempts until a person leaves for good and I was no different. Even though the situation was harmful, there was still genuine love for the people harming me and it was tough to break away. I never knew anything other than violence, poverty, and addicts, so it took awhile to get used to a healthy and vibrant community.

I am alive and sane right now because I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like and I just worked like a dog until I got there. During the time I was being exploited I went to a friend’s house and her mother was a professor at the local state college. Their house was filled with books, papers, and NPR. In that moment I knew I wanted to be an academic. I read constantly and I also really loved music early on. Ironically, my very first favorite song was “Stuck in the Middle With You,” by Stealers Wheel. I played the 45 over and over on my Sears Winnie-the-Pooh record player.

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J.P.: You’re a research scientist, and you’re trying to raise $66,000 for three years of graduate school in order to receive a Ph.D. Degree in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Boston, “where I can continue my current research on the prevention of commercial sexual exploitation of children.” What, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish?

K.P.: I want to contribute to shifting the conversation that CSEC is not a “choice,” but rather a continuation of violence. My research looks at the 10-to-13 years before a child is exploited to see what are the dynamics and commonalities we are missing. Yes, we know a history of child sexual abuse and poverty are the top two risk factors; however, there is more to the story as to why some children fall through the cracks and others do not. I strongly believe if a child is being commercially sexually exploited then we have not done our jobs as a society keeping that child safe.

I also hope to influence our understanding that CSEC is a byproduct of our current dominance and control-based culture. We need to consider CSEC as a system where “supply and demand” is intertwined. The current popular approach is to tackle individual actions such as curbing demand and preventing children from being exploited. Yes, these directives are important; however, if we do not consider that most traffickers, solicitors, and victims all of histories of child sexual abuse, then we are missing the larger picture and the source of this atrocity.

Lastly, I want to be a part of the growing movement challenging the us to ask, “Why is this person being violent?” instead of rehashing, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” The anti-trafficking movement has learned an amazing amount from the domestic movement and I intend to continue to build on that knowledge. Leaving was not easy for me and I hope I can use my story to shed light on the difficulty of the leaving process.

J.P.: Comedians joke about the Holocaust. They joke about 9.11 and the Space Shuttle explosion and a million other awful things. Can they joke about sex trafficking? Does that cross an uncrossable line, where nothing funny exists? Can they joke about the missing Nigerian girls, for example?

K.P.: My favorite quote of all time is  “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true and that is unacceptable” from Carrie Fisher. No, you cannot just crack some joke about 300 kidnapped girls in Africa, but you certainly need humor in your life, especially if you are dedicated to looking at the darker side of humanity for any length of time. A professor gave me the book “Return to Laughter” by anthropologist Elenore Smith Bowen, which is about how a West African tribe survives the trials of hunger, child death and disease through laughter. He was the first person who ever said to me, “You are a survivor.” I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time, but I am grateful he was able to see the journey I was on to undo the cycles and to heal.

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J.P.: Sex has a weird place in society. Hoochie pants and low-cut everything; sexting; raunchy videos, pornography as easy as a click. How have your life experiences impacted your perceptions of sex and culture?

K.P.: Great question. The Internet has “pornified” our culture to a point where expressions of sexuality have been reduced to imitating porn. The saddest part is we are teaching girls to mimic sexual abuse survivors. Sixty-to-90 percent of women in the sex industry (porn, stripping, prostitution) have been sexually abused as children. This normalizing of sex as violence reduces a natural and wonderful mutual experience to an act of dominance and control.

My experience is also making me a better mother. I am raising my son to know he is responsible for his choices and his body. He is very handsome, charismatic and a talented athlete who is already getting a lot of attention from girls. This notion that boys and men cannot be held accountable when it comes to their actions around the opposite sex is insulting. My son is a sweet, considerate boy and I am terrified by the notion that the way he is expected to belong and to bond with his friends is to put down women. Thankfully, my son’s friend’s parents are also incredibly strong and are instilling the same values in their sons.

J.P.: Somewhere, right now, there’s an 11-year-old girl being sold for sex. Her dad is a crack addict, her mom is dead, she lives with no hope and no awareness of a way out. What is she supposed to do? What can she do?

K.P.: Kids are incredibly resilient, so I am hopeful she will find a way to hold on. My other hope is that she can tap into her “authentic self” and not blame herself for what is happening—could be a book, sport, song, place of worship, video game, imaginary friend or a pet. I also hope a safe adult speaks up.

I still don’t always feel comfortable speaking up whenever I see an adult physically or verbally abusing a child. That just happened this summer when I was at an amusement park with my son and some friends. A little girl was being berated by her parents on this “The Flying Buccaneer” pirate ship ride my son loves. I wanted so desperately to say something to this family, but the fear for my own family’s safety stopped me. I knew security couldn’t legally do anything unless I saw the parents physically assault the daughter, which I didn’t. Influencing those laws so we can stand up for children is exactly why I do the work that I do. I still think of that girl every day and hope this is okay.

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• Five greatest moments of your life?: 1. When my husband (then-boyfriend) took my hand and said, “We will get through it,” after I told him about my history in a Starbucks next to Boston Common. We were getting serious and I wanted to give him the option to leave. Right after that we went ice skating on Frog Pond and I met a bunch of his closest friends for the first time. They are now some of my closest friends too.

2. Our son was a mop of curls eating a powdered doughnut the first time we met him. (My heart just started racing as I am recalling this moment.) He was four and in foster care at the time. We went to the social services office to meet him. That was the moment I became a mother.

3. We adopted our cat from a rescue shelter. He hopped right into my lap the moment they brought him into the visiting room. His paperwork said he wasn’t a lap cat. Ever since he’s been disproving that statement as well as the notion that cats aren’t needy.

4. The first time I had a side-splitting laugh with my best friend Mo. It was something really stupid, but we both found it hilarious. We have an unspoken shorthand that all great friends have together. Whenever I am out of sorts my husband sends me off with her for “some Mo time.”

5. The first time I heard the Psychedelic Furs song “India.” They were already my favorite band, but I’d never heard their first record. The song starts very quiet and builds to an abrasive rumbling: sounded exactly how my family life felt.

6. Can I play the sympathy card and get one more? [Jeff's answer: Yes!] The first time I went to New York City. Our seventh grade went to the National History Museum for a field trip. I realized there was a world “out there” away from my family and rural hometown.

• I’m sitting in a coffee shop, writing these questions, and the guy at the next table won’t shut up on his cell phone. Am I allowed to grab his phone and drop it in my café mocha?: Definitely. Although, I would drop it in his drink. Why waste a perfectly good café mocha?

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Michael Kors, Ethiopian coffee, Will Venable, Michelle Branch, KRS-One, patio furniture, “You’ve Got Mail,” Paul Tagliabue, nail polish, Vancouver, the letter V: Michael Kors (I am a fashion apologist), “You’ve Got Mail” (my hubs says I am the Meg Ryan character), patio furniture (love eating outside), KRS-One, nail polish (I am not a girly girl, but I recently found the perfect shade for pedicures), Will Venable (would have put him higher if he’d played in the Cape Cod Baseball League—we are huge Brewster Whitecaps fans), Michelle Branch (that 1,000 Miles song is catchy), Vancouver (I have a thing for nice neighbors), the letter V, Paul Tagliabue, Ethiopian coffee (I am a green tea kind of gal)

• There’s a drought in California. I say we shouldn’t flush after pee, just poop. Some disagree and think that’s gross. Your thoughts?: My son is 9-years old, so poop is the center of just about every conversation in our house, including this flushing debate. A member of our extended family shares practices you “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” philosophy. I also spent a lot of time with hippies in my 20s so I am all for it.

• Three best books you’ve ever read?: The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky; The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger; Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

• What happens when we die?: Hopefully we have left this world a better place.

• I always ask my son, “How do you know this isn’t a dream?” Is it possible you’re answering these questions, but it’s only in a dream?: Please. I am juggling work, school, fundraising, and being a spouse and mother. My entire life feels like a waking dream right now. Do you remember those first months of becoming a parent when you weren’t even sure the last time you’d showered and if you’d changed clothes at all in the last two weeks? I am back there.

• Should Ray Rice be allowed to play in the NFL again?: Definitely not. I think the larger question, though, is if Roger Goodell should lose his job. All of this hooey out not seeing the tape is a joke. Of course they had access to the tape and, besides, what do you think it looks like when a man punches a woman hard enough to render her unconscious? However this shakes out, the tide is definitely changing for the NFL. Hopefully the league was taking notes during CBS sportscaster James Brown’s amazing speech before the Ravens-Steelers game.

• Twelve round boxing match between you and Gisele Bündchen. What happens?: Well, our husbands spend an inordinate amount of time together (my husband covers the Patriots), so ending up at the same place at the same time is no that far out of the realm of possibility. Although, I am not much of a fighter, so I would just ask her if we could go meet Michael Kors (see previous answer).

• Celine Dion calls. She want to do a movie about your life, but insists she play the title character, and that all the other actors have to be either blind or Emmanuel Lewis impersonators. She’s offering $1 million. You in?: First I would have to negotiate the $1 million plus 20 percent of the box office gross (domestic and international). And she would have to agree to a cameo by Ana Gasteyer doing her SNL Celine character (“I am the best singer in the world”). After that I am definitely in. That cast of characters has nothing on my family, though. Plus I would want to create a whole script for watching the movie like Rocky Horror Picture Show. We would throw toast at the screen whenever someone drinks a PBR pounder.

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Marc Boerigter

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Great week for Kansas City.

The Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

The um … eh … Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

And now—the Quaz.

If you’re any sort of Kansas City Chiefs fans, the name Marc Boerigter means something. He’s your Vince Papale—the little-known, out-of-nowhere wide receiver who, in 2002, arrived from Canada (via miniscule Hastings College) to not merely make the Chiefs but—for four seasons—emerge as a weapon and special teams standout. On December 22, 2002, the man even made NFL history by catching a 99-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green to tie the league record for longest reception.

In short, he’s the classic underdog tale. The guy you root for.

These days, Boerigter lives in the Kansas City area, where he works local radio and is a senior business development associate at Randstad Technologies. Here, he considers the plight of a concussion-plagued Wes Welker, ponders when one should hang it up, explains the NFL hype machine and explains why he’d destroy Willie Gault in an arm wrestler. You can follow Marc on Twitter here.

Marc Boerigter, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Marc, so there’s a question I’ve been itching to ask an NFL wide receiver (or ex-NFL wide receiver), and here you are. Over the past few years, Wes Welker has suffered one concussion after another after another. He’s probably had, oh, eight … nine that were diagnosed. So why is it OK that he’s still playing? Do you get why he continues to throw himself out there? And should players trust that NFL trainers and doctors have their best interests in mind? Or should they worry it’s all about winning?  

MARC BOERIGTER: I have been asked this question a lot lately. At the end of the day it is up to the player to decide to keep his career going by choosing to play after all of the “documented” concussions. I had a few in my day … lots of time my bell was rung and didn’t say a word about it. Why? Because I was afraid to not play. I had to. It was my job and I didn’t want to get Wally Pipped by someone else. I know the struggle, but I also see a lot of guys who are ending early and for good reason. The worst part is none of us (doctors included) really know what is going to happen to us 20 years after playing. We are just now starting to see what the after effects are. I can only hope and pray that my long term effects from playing football will not be too bad.

As far as the doctors and trainers go, that is part of the struggle a player goes through. Are my best interests of health the main focus? For far too long their job has been to get guys ready to play for the sake of winning. That being said, it’s on the player as well. I hope that it is changing on both sides. Hope is not a good strategy though.

J.P.: You’re from Hastings, Nebraska. You played at Hastings College—an NAIA school 99 of 100 Americans have never heard of. How the hell did you make the NFL? And, when you were in college, did you consider it a realistic dream?

M.B.: I moved a whole three blocks away from home to go to school. That’s right—three blocks. I made it as far away from home as possible. I was a real late bloomer in high school. I chose Hastings because I wanted to play. I get asked a lot, “Why didn’t you go to Nebraska?” Look, I’m a Husker fan, but I was not like every other kid in Nebraska who grew up dreaming to play for the ‘Skers. Here’s how I saw it going for me: I would go walk on, maybe get to run down on the kickoff team in the Orange Bowl and pick up the glory of a bowl ring. That didn’t appeal to me.

Here’s what’s fun about Hastings: Dr. Tom Osborne is from Hastings, the first ever night football game west of the Mississippi was played on our home field (A.H. Jones Stadium), Bill Parcells was a graduate assistant and got his coaching start at Hastings College. It was football tradition … where I could play.

My father was the athletic director at Hastings. I was a ball boy on Saturdays from the time I was in junior high. I saw Jerry Drake make it to the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals. The pro football dream was possible from an NAIA school.  Jerry really paved the way for NFL scouts to look in our neck of the woods. After my Junior year I knew I might have had a shot to play professionally.

I just wanted to play. Getting paid to play (work) a game I love was icing on the cake for me. I just went out, worked hard, had some God-given ability and the road opened up for me and an opportunity arose. I took advantage of the opportunities I had. I look back now and played for eight years total professionally. Not too shabby for a kid from an NAIA school.

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J.P.: With as great detail as possible, what does it feel like to be absolutely lit up? Like, to be hit as hard as a human can possibly be hit? And what was the worst hit you ever absorbed?

M.B.: Hahahahaha. This is going to be tough to explain. I’ll start with this.  All the highlight hits you see where guys are getting lit up … those hurt! They all hurt! But it’s the ones you see coming that hurt the most. You tense up when you see it coming. Your body naturally does it as a defense mechanism. It’s why guys alligator arm balls over the middle. It’s unnatural to throw yourself in harm’s way when you know it’s coming.

Whether you see the hit coming or not, you usually end up foggy, no wind in your chest and an unusual amount of snot and saliva all over your face that somehow exited your body.

I was once knocked out by a linebacker while playing in Canada. I was run over by the late Sean Taylor on a crack block (he ran straight over me) and I had to hit the wedge on the kickoff team that felt like my neck shortened by three inches. It feels like they say it feels—like a car wreck every time.

J.P.: I’m gonna ask you a random question only seven people in the world probably care about. You played with a quarterback out of Middle Tennessee State named Jonathan Quinn. The guy had a rifle arm, he was huge, he lit it up in college—and he was an unambiguously bad NFL quarterback. Why? What was missing? And what’s the difference between great quarterbacks and bad ones?

M.B.: Ah, good old J.Q. … love that man. He had one of the biggest arms I have ever played with. He also threw the heaviest ball ever. It felt like catching a 20-pound medicine ball every time. There’s no real reason why he didn’t pan out overall. But then again, he had a nice little run as a backup quarterback in the league. Not everyone can be a starter. He did have the best Billy Bob Thorton impression from Sling Blade, though. “I like them French fried potaters mmmhmmm”

Great quarterbacks have the ability to manage split-second decisions in their heads like nobody else. They have to be risk takers, but conservative. They have to have an arm to throw rockets, deep outs, sidearm screens, finesse change-ups on shallow crosses. A great quarterback has a timer in his head to get rid of the ball. He has to be mobile enough to escape the rush. He has to have the ability to lead men. He doesn’t have to be Braveheart, but a guy who men will follow. You must trust him. He has to manage his teammates. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

At the end of the day, there are only 32 guys starting on Sundays. About five of them are elite. The next 15 are good, and the rest are JAGs (Just Another Guy). By the way, that’s all I ever was—a JAG. But JAGs are still in the league and can play ball better than anyone else trying to be a JAG.

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J.P.: Does playing in the NFL live up to the hype? I mean, people push their kids toward the goal; dream of it; salivate over it. Once you’re there, is it worth it? Why or why not?

M.B.: The NFL is the hype. It is, was and always will be about the hype. Over-hyped? Probably so. It starts from the top. Coaches work way too many hours because of the machismo of saying they work harder than anyone else. Please. Work smarter and hard, not just long. It is big case of penis envy—for the players as well. But once you are there, you wanna stay. The money, the fame. It’s the pinnacle of your profession. I mean, how many people can say that you are one of the 1,600 or so best people at their jobs in the world? Not very many. Was it worth it? Of course. I’ve been lucky. Athletics, specifically football, have taught me so many things about life in general. I will absolutely let my son play football if he so wishes. But people are starting their kids waaaay too young in tackle football. Kids shouldn’t start playing tackle until the fifth or sixth grades. And parents need to know this—YOUR CHILD DOESN’T LIVE YOUR DREAM! Let them be who they want to be. If they are lucky enough to have ability, things will take care of themselves.

J.P.: I’ve long had the belief that being a pro athlete is great; being an ex-pro athlete is the putrid pit of hell. Your prime came in your 20s, you’re always remembered for things you can no longer do, you do autograph signings and 12 people show up. How off/on am I? How was the initial adjustment for you? And has it gotten easier?

M.B.: It is what it is—cliché. Athletes die twice. When our careers end and when we actually die.

There is a lot of glory to be had in the fact that you were a professional athlete. For most of us, that defines us forever … whether in the eyes and hearts of the fans or in the eyes and hearts of our egos.

I am probably in the minority here a little bit in that I exceeded what I thought I would accomplish. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had and that I was able to take advantage of that. That said, I am a usual NFL statistic as well. I am divorced, I don’t have as much money as I should probably have and I have struggled with the loss of not playing a game any longer. You just can’t replicate the competitiveness and joy in a rec softball or sand volleyball game. You find yourself wanting to win too badly instead of enjoying drinking the beer in between innings and having the fun you should have. When it’s over, it affects everyone else around you as well. I feel good, though, that I have found the balance. I was intelligent enough to know the majority of my life would not revolve around playing. Knowing that is a big piece to the puzzle to stay sane. In the transition I have learned to lean on the people I love, and to let them love me. You learn that it is OK to have a bad day. The world will not end. You can get up tomorrow and start over. It’s a constant balance that I feel I have found.

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J.P.: With Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson in the news of late, there’s been a lot of talk about violence in the NFL, and why so many players seem to have issues. What’s your take? Is it a problem? Can we trace this to the violence of the game? To PED? To fame? All? None?

M.B.: It’s a problem. It’s a societal problem first and foremost. Athletics have always been a microcosm of society—the ups, the downs, the violence on the playing surface. Just look at bench-clearing brawls, hockey fights, big football hits. We love that part and glorify those pieces of sports. Which is a start to the problem.

I’m sure that PED and fame also play a factor. I never took anything other than simple protein shakes. But some dudes are putting all kinds of supplements into their system. Even if they are on the approved lists, has anyone actually done studies of what combinations of all of those at one time do to a person’s mind? Think about it this way—you’re a regular person who drinks a few cups of coffee every day. Try going without caffeine for a week, cold turkey. You get irritable, you have headaches and suffer throughwithdrawal. Chemically your body is not used to the changes. I think the stuff guys take make a difference in their mentality.

Ego is a better term than fame for the issue. Everyone has one … and they all grow at different rates and have a popping point. Different people react in different ways to the glory of being an NFL player. The biggest problem I have with most of the NFL punishments is it is and was never consistent. It was “due process” for guys at the top of the roster and immediate cuts for middle-to-lower end players. BS. Total BS. I believe that it’s a privilege, not a right. I don’t care how great a player you are. You are held to a higher standard because of being in the public eye

The thing that baffles me about the NFL’s reaction to the “new” tape coming out: How did that change anything? Did anyone really need to see it? The first one was enough. There is no place for that type of violence toward women or people in general. The game and Shield are not bigger than the rest of society. I mean, guys have played after killing people while drunk behind the wheel. That isn’t right. Guys deserve a second chance to make up for their mistakes and make a living. It just shouldn’t be playing professional football.

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J.P.: You played several years in the CFL—a league I’ve always enjoyed; a league many seem unwilling to respect. What’s the difference in caliber between the CFL and NFL? If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, and a great CFL team is having its best day, can the Canadian club pull off a win?

M.B.: The biggest difference is the overall size and speed of guys. There are tons of NFL-caliber players up north. Most are just undersized for their positions to play in the NFL. Here’s how to view a matchup of CFL vs NFL. Two different styles of game. If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, the CFL would win. I actually think it would be fun to do a home-and-home series. CFL wins with CFL rules. Can you imagine the NFL guys with an extra guy on the field? Bigger field, no fair catch… oh and the ROUGE! Heads would explode. More people should respect that league. Lots of good coaches and players have made the transition to the NFL from there. The players who don’t succeed in the CFL are guys who “just want to get some film” and get back to the NFL. The ones who do respect it and have a great career up there, or head back south for a nice run.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

M.B.: I have a few: My NFL record 99-yard touchdown reception. That’s a club shared by, I think, 13 or 14 of us. It will never be broken unless the NFL goes to the Canadian-sized field, so I can always hang my hat on that one. My first professional catch in the CFL went for six yards. It was a nice way to start a career. The 2001 Grey Cup Championship is another. And lastly, my first NFL game in 2002 in Cleveland. I had zero catches but I made two special teams tackle. It was one of the craziest endings ever to a game thanks to Dwayne Rudd and his helmet toss, and John Tait picking up the ball and rumbling to field goal range.

The worst—the first time I was ever cut/fired in Green Bay in 2006. It’s such a hard feeling to describe. And the 2003 season playoff loss against the Colts, at home, in a game in which neither team punted. What a game … but devastating.

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• Different ways your last name is misspelled?: Too many. Most people try to slide an H in there somewhere. I can’t even begin to try to spell half of the pronunciations I have heard over the years either.

• Five reasons one should make Hastings, Nebraska his/her next vacation destination?: Hastings College Campus, Kool Aid Days (Hastings is the where Kool-Aid was invented) The Hastings Museum, Eileen’s Cookies (the original) and Big Dally’s Deli. Oh, and Duncan Field. The baseball field in Hastings has dimensions that are 370, 405, 408, 405 and 367. There’s a lot of history in that park for baseball buffs.

• Five sweetest and five ugliest NFL uniforms?: In no particular order: Best: Packers, Bears (with the black shoes), Jets, Chiefs, Chargers’ powder blues. The five worst: Tampa Bay in a landslide, Saints, Jags, Oakland and Seattle.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Alain Vigneault, designer sunglasses, Theo Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, Wayne Chrebet, Bob Barker, Philadelphia cheese steaks, Ralph Tresvant, people who wear sunglasses indoors, long walks on the beach: 1. Who doesn’t love walks on the beach? I prefer the lake since I don’t live near a beach; 2. Theo Huxtable—Cosby Show was great; 3. Wall Street Journal; 4. Wayne Chrebet—great player; 5. Bob Barker. If this is Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore, he rises on this list; 6. Designer sunglasses; 7. Alain Vigneault—should be higher probably, but look at who he has had in net. 8. Philly cheese steaks—love them, but a ribeye shouldn’t be sliced thin and chopped up. It should be think and on a grill. I am from Nebraska; 9. Ralph Tresvant—New Edition reference! Nice work, Jeff. He probably should be higher, too,but I’m pretty sure he has done No. 10 since he was in an R&B group; 10. People who wear sunglasses indoors—Douche central. Is it really that bright inside? Medical conditions excluded

• You can either have $200,000 or the superpower of never having to poop again. Which do you take?: This is easy … take the money. Every guy in America uses the bathroom to “get away” and every guy has taken a shit that makes you feel like a million bucks afterwards. Might as well take the $200k and feel like a million bucks. Best of both worlds.

• Who wins in an arm wrestling match between you and Willie Gault?: Arm wrestling today? Me! A race on the other hand—Willie. I’d need a Seinfeld-inspired head start to beat him

• In exactly 28 words, your argument for or against neck tattoos: Ummmm, No.No. No. No. No. No. Tattoos are OK. I don’t have any, but why on earth would you put one there? Makes zero sense to me.

• We give you a start—right now—in an NFL game. What are your stats?: One catch for eight yards. Hitch route. Blew a hammy trying to make a move past the corner in addition to the lower back tightness. Left the game after one series.  (out of shape).

• Are you afraid of death? Why or why not?: Yes/No. I pray that I have a lot of time left. I have a lot I want to do yet. But if, for some reason, I don’t, I’m comfortable that I know where I am going.

• Climate change—real problem or big hoax?: Real problem. But I think the damage has been done. We can try to change, but I’m not convinced it will help.

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Joseph Lozito


Before you dig into what must be considered the most gripping Q&A in the 3 1/2-year history of the Quaz, take a moment to do a Google Image search for Joseph Lozito. Hell, I’ll do it for you—just click here.

Look at the pictures. Really look at them. Examine the scars. The cuts. The bruises. The dried blood. Now close your eyes and try to picture what Lozito went through on Feb. 12, 2011 when—purely by bad luck and awful timing—he found himself on a subway, standing alongside a maniacal killer named Maksim Gelman, this knife (pictures below) being plunged repeatedly into his body …

sharpEither because you followed the story or because, well, you’re reading this Quaz, you know Lozito survived. But do you know his saga? The bravery of confronting a killer. The helplessness of a countdown to death. The frustration of allegedly not having two nearby police officers come to your aid. The anger over a court refusing to hear your case.

Because of Joe Lozito, a killer no longer walks the streets of New York.

Because of Joe Lozito, you are reading Quaz No. 173.

Joe’s new book, The New York Subway Hero: My Battle With Evil, can be ordered here. You can also follow him on Twitter here, and Facebook here.

Joe Lozito, a hero’s welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Joe, I’m gonna start this one the way it should be started. On Feb. 12, 2011, you were on the 3 train, minding your own business. Then … what?

JOSEPH LOZITO: When I boarded the train, two uniformed police officers boarded with me and went straight in to where the motorman operates the train. Their radios were going crazy and, while I couldn’t understand what exactly what was going on, they were there for a reason. Being that my commute originated from Philadelphia that morning, I hadn’t seen a New York paper. As the commute started, a man walked up to the motorman’s door, banged on it and yelled, “Let me in!”  The male officer behind the door answered, “Who are you?” Unaware that the actual police were behind the door, the man said, “I’m the police.”  Looking through the window at the man they were there to apprehend, the male officer replied, “You’re not the police” and left it at that. As the man walked away, another man who had been standing next to me raced to the same door and was alternately tapping on the window and waving the police out. Again, no action was taken on the part of the officers. As the first man approached the door again, the second man fled back next to me. The first man stopped about three feet from the door, about two feet from me, looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re gonna to die, you’re gonna to die.” He pulled out a cooking knife with an eight-inch blade and proceeded to stab me in the face under my left eye. When he cocked his arm back for another plunge, I shot for his legs to take him down. While I was taking him down, he carved the side and back of my head three times. After taking him down, from the bottom, he was slashing upward while I was trying to catch his hand. His first swing sliced my thumb down to the tendon. His second swing sliced my arm to the tricep muscle. Finally, on his third swing, I was able to catch his wrist, slam his hand down and he dropped the knife.

It was then when I felt a tap on my lower back. It was the male officer from the motormans compartment telling me, “You can get up now—we got him”. That “We got him” is in quotes is not just because it was spoken word.

I got up and sat on a subway seat, blood pouring out of me, watching the male officer struggling to handcuff Gelman after all the dirty work had been done. His partner offered no assistance and, only when another passenger on the train helped, were they able to handcuff Gelman. Several other officers joined in sporadically and at some point I would say there were more than five or six officers in the subway car. Which, by the way, was now stopped in the tunnel between 34th and 42nd streets.

I begged the police the get the train moving. I was told to “hang in there” … that they’d get me out of there. After about 10 minutes of bleeding from my seven wounds, I grabbed an officer by the arm and asked, “Do you have children?” He said he did, and I replied with, “I have two little boys at home. I can’t die on this train.” A few more minutes passed and I grabbed another cop by the wrist and said, “Are you married?” He was. “So am I,” I said, “and my wife needs me. I can’t die on this train.” I was told to stay calm; that help was on the way. I was told not to worry because the paramedics were on their way down to the car, coming through the back of train. The only person to offer any assistance was the passenger who helped handcuff Gelman. He came and applied direct pressure to my deepest wound; a wound so deep you could see my skull in a photograph. After about 20-to-25 minutes of bleeding out and on the verge of death, I heard an officer say, “OK, we’re ready to move.” I shouted, “What about the paramedics?” and the answer was they were waiting at 42nd Street. The truth was they were never on their way to the train.

Feeling myself get weaker and weaker, we pulled into the 42nd Street station and there was a problem getting the doors open. When the paramedics entered, as they were transferring me from the seat to the stretcher, I passed out. When I came to, I overheard one of the officers describe me as “likely.” I had no idea what that meant. Later at the hospital, I asked my sister, who happens to be a New York City police officer, what “likely” meant. The answer: Likely to die. I found out later from one of the officers that when I passed out, I did so with my eyes open and she thought I had died. Once I was carried up to the street, I was greeted by one officer asking the other, ”Is that the perp or the vic?”

Upon arriving at Bellevue, I was greeted by an army of medical personnel and as I was being treated, an officer came by my head and showed me the mugshot that was distributed to all cops that day. He asked me, “Is this the guy who did this to you?” I told him it was. He said, “Well then, you’re a hero.” I said, “I’m not a hero. Why am I a hero?” He replied, “That guy killed four people last night”. That was the first I had learned of Maksim Gelman.

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J.P.: I know you’re a big guy, and clearly tough, but how were you able to pin Maksim Gelman? I mean, he’s stabbing you, you’re unarmed. How’d you do it?

J.L.: When a maniac approaches you and says, “You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die,” and then actually tries to make good on the threat, one really only has two choices. He can fight or he he can die. I chose to fight. It was instinct. Pure survival mode. It wasn’t anything I thought out. Hell, he didn’t give me any time to form a game-plan. I’ve explained it as transforming into savage mode. Or, put different, dealing with a savage with savage behavior that one wouldn’t normally use in everyday life. Or ever have a need to.

J.P.: What does it feel like to think you’re dying? In detail. What’s going through your mind? Are you terrified? Peaceful? Neither? Both?

J.L.: In my particular situation, it was the most helpless feeling I’ve ever had. I’m sitting in this gigantic public casket, yet I’m the only one dying. I couldn’t get out even if I had the energy to try. And for the longest time, in spite of others being mere feet away, I’d never been more alone. All I wanted to do is kiss my wife and hug my sons, but circumstances made it so I might have never been able to do those things again. I am eternally grateful for the man who saved my life, Alfred Douglas.

J.P.: I know about the physical scars. What are the mental scars? Three years later, do you still have dreams about the attack? Do you have weird reactions to, oh, the subway, or guys who look like Gelman, or the police?

J.L.: While the physical scars are gruesome, the mental scars are the ones I always worry about. I’m fortunate that most nights I do not remember my dreams. As far as the ones I do remember, they generally do not involve the incident, any of the participants or any of the “spectators.” I always have this weird feeling when I get on the subway—which, unfortunately, is twice a day. In terms of the police, while I continue to respect the force as a whole, with every officer I see I can’t help but wonder, “Is this person a good cop, or is he/she another Terrance Howell or Tamara Taylor?” It’s funny that you ask about people who look like Gelman. I’m a huge kickboxing fan and there is a kickboxer who, while he doesn’t look like Gelman, in certain photos if you isolate his eyes, it’s eerily similar.

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J.P.: With everything that happened recently in Ferguson, Missouri, the role of police in society has been a very hot topic. I’m wondering, after experiencing something this traumatic, if you have a new understanding of police hatred? Of animosity toward cops?

J.L.: The amazing part of all of this is that I was basically naive as far as police hatred goes. Meaning, I generally live in my little bubble and worry about myself, my family and my friends. I always figured if you have hatred for the police, you must have done something to feel that way. That changed when I was profiled twice based on my looks. Both incidents were years ago, way before anything happened that put me in the public eye. I guess the white-guy-with-the-shaved-head-and-goatee look is an opportunity for some to try and capitalize on. I realized what it was like to be profiled based on appearance. Even with that, while it bothered in the moment of both occurrences, I eventually let it go. That’s just me. I cannot blame anyone if they’ve been in similar situations and can’t just let it go. We’re all different. That being said, I’m still trying to figure out how looting helps a situation.

J.P.: It’s strange to me. The police aren’t actually saying they ignored you. They’re saying they didn’t have an obligation to help you. Which, well, seems like the No. 1 job of police: Helping. Why do you think, on that day at that moment, the two police officers didn’t assist you? I’m sure you’ve had much time to ponder this one. Were they afraid? Indifferent? Unsure? Is there a chance they just didn’t know what to do?

J.L.: Understand, the NYPD trains recruits to “serve and protect.” That is something I cannot and would not dispute. My sister Angela is a member of the force as were two of my wife’s cousins. I know the training they receive is top notch. This loophole of “not owing a duty to protect” is something that most cops aren’t even aware of. Most of the cops I’ve spoken to think I’m lying. This is something that lawyers for the NYPD, Corporation Counsel use in many cases. Some are actually justified and some, as in my case, are complete and utter bullshit. In my opinion, Officers Howell and Taylor knew exactly what to do that day. They chose not to because they are gutless cowards who chose to protect themselves as opposed to doing their jobs. Their cowardice on the train is matched only by their attorneys’ unwillingness to face me in court.

J.P.: I’m fascinated by your take of Maksim Gelman. Do you think he’s an insane guy who knew not what he was doing? Was he a calculated killer? Do you think there’s genuine evil, and it consumed his brain? Was he just trying to kill for the joy of killing?

J.L.: I think Gelman snapped. I think we have a savage side to us all but most of us are able to control it and use it only when necessary or never at all. My guess would be Maksim had fantasized about killing his step-father numerous times and the proverbial “perfect storm” occurred on February 11, 2011. I think, after that happened, it was open season. He wanted to settle some scores. By the time he attacked me, I would guess his world was starting to come undone and he wanted to go out in a blaze of glory … whatever that would mean in his twisted mind.

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J.P.: Who are you? I know you’re in New York, I know you were on the train, I know you nearly died. But where are you from? What do you do? What’s your life background?

J.L.: I’m just an average guy from New York. I was born in Middle Village and probably had the typical life of a kid. I moved to Long Island as a teenager and grew up loving my Braves, Bills and Islanders. I loved the WWF as a kid and later became a rabid MMA fan after UFC 1. I met a girl, made her my wife. We moved to Philadelphia hoping for a better life (I didn’t intend on that rhyming, by the way). I had two amazing little boys, had a fight on a subway with a deranged idiot who was trying to kill me. I moved back to New York to be closer to my family a little while after that. Like I said, I’m just an average guy. There is nothing remarkable about me. I’m not a hero, I just did what needed to be done that and I’m grateful to still be alive to tell the tale. My two goals in life are to make my wife and children happy and make sure that both my sons become productive members of society.

J.P.: You recently self-published a book, My Battle With Evil. Why? What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the message?

J.L.: What you need to know about me is that when I think I’m right and I believe something is worth fighting for, I won’t stop. I pick my battles. Ask my wife. If we’re having a disagreement and I don’t feel like fighting, I’ll just say, “You’re right.” It drives her crazy! The fight I was preparing for in the court was worth fighting for and I was going to hit Corporation Counsel and the NYPD like a freight-train. Since the day we filed our Notice of Claim, I was preparing for my battle against the city. Similar to a fighter who in preparation for a fight plays the bout out in his head over and over, I’d run the scene through my head thousands of times.

Even though my lawyer told me from Day 1 that this would be a tough case to bring to trial, I honestly thought this would be different. Then one day I received word that Judge Margaret A. Chan decided to not allow me my day in court. My family was devastated. This story is a tale that needs to be told for numerous reasons, and regardless of Judge Chan washing the back of Corporation Counsel, I was going to get it out there one way or another. I had already been in discussions with two potential authors but when the decision came down, in my heart I knew I had to write this myself. The project took me a year to complete. I wrote for nine of those twelve months and poured my heart and soul into the project. It was more therapeutic than any help I could have received from a mental health professional.

J.P.: You disarmed a man who killed people. What’s your stance on the death penalty? Does Gelman deserve to die?

J.L.: I have a very strong stance on the death penalty. I have a very strong stance on crime in general. Maksim Gelman deserves the death penalty. Maksim Gelman deserves to suffer. Maksim Gelman needs to feel every ounce of pain that all of his victims and their families have felt and continue to feel to this day. Maksim Gelman does not deserve a serene, peaceful death. He deserves torture. He deserves violence. He deserves angst. The only real way for him to go would be one of two ways and both are from one of my favorite movies, Law Abiding Citizen. At the very least, he deserves to die like Rupert Ames did but more appropriately, he should die like Clarence Darby did. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t know what I’m talking about, watch it. If you have and find my stance barbaric, put yourself on that subway in my (literally) bloody shoes and then attempt to disagree with me.

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• You said to Gelman, “You better hope I die. Because if I don’t, I’m gonna come back and kill you.” That’s the fucking greatest bad-ass line ever. Would it be appropriate if I add “… and you still haven’t done your homework” after “if I don’t” and use it on my kids?: Ha, thank you. Go for it, brother! Just hope they don’t call your bluff. Kids nowadays are fearless.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Fantasy Island, Twitter, Chuck Liddell, The Coney Island Cyclone, James Harden, Olivia Newton John, pea soup, Gaylord Perry, Dominique Dawes, The W Hotel, $2 bills, San Antonio: Ha, OK, here goes … Chuck Liddell and Twitter are at the top. After that, I’d go with former Braves Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, $2 bills, Olivia Newton-John, Fantasy Island, San Antonio and pea soup. I don’t know who James Harden is and want to keep the spirit of the question going so I won’t Google him. Dominique Dawes is either an Olympian or a WNBA player. I’d rank her ahead of Harden because I’ve at least heard of her. If I have no idea about the W Hotel, does that make me a rube? The Cyclone is last strictly because I’m a chicken-shit and petrified of coasters, especially ones that are 500 years old.

• Who wins in a 12-round exhibition boxing match between you and Tiki Barber right now? What’s the outcome?: I have the size and reach advantage on Tiki but he’s way more athletic. If I don’t knock him out inside of two rounds, it could be a long night for me.

• Five reasons one should live in New York City at some point in his/her life?: Why one should live in New York City? Reside in New York City? Oh boy, you are asking the wrong person. The only one I can think of is if you work in New York City. Other than that … yeah, I have nothing.

• Your all-time favorite New York City mayor is …: Mayor Giuliani. The guy is a badass. People around the world know him for his work during the 9.11 crisis but he really cleaned up the city after the mess David Dinkins left for him. I also liked Ed Koch. Bloomberg is a self-serving, pompous ass.

• How’d you meet your wife?: I met my wife at an Islanders game. She’s as rabid a sports fan as any person on the planet.

• One question you would ask Bo Bice were he here right now?: I guess it would have to be, “Who are you, Bo Bice?”

• How many copies does your book need to sell to succeed?: The book is already a success since it’s helped me in the healing process. As far as sales, the short answer would be I need to sell as many copies as it takes for me to never use the CoinStar machine again and the long answer is I’d need to sell enough books for me to retire from my current job and become a full-time writer. I have four or five people I’d really love to write books about one day.

• Would you rather have a new iPhone or an all-expense paid vacation to Seattle?: Oh, man, an all expense paid trip to Seattle! I still proudly use a flip-phone like my man Dana White! I’m a technological caveman! Seattle would rock as I’d spend my time doing all things Alice In Chains.

• Five all-time favorite songs?: This is tough. The first two are easy. Angry Chair and Would? from what I think is the greatest album of all-time, Alice In Chains’ Dirt. Straight Out Of Line by Godsmack would be up there as well, as would For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica. For a fifth song, I’ll go with Hysteria by Def Leppard. But, as Jerry Seinfeld said in The English Patient episode, “I don’t know how official any of these rankings really are.” Did I just set the record for most quotation marks in a single answer?

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Bill Janovitz

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If you’re a product of the late 1980s/early 1990s, you almost certainly know Buffalo Tom, the Boston-based alternative rock band that brought forth such tunes as Postcard and Late At Night and was a staple (musically) on the beyond-awesome TV show, “My So-Called Life.”

But as is often the case, bands tend to overshadow individuals. Buffalo Tom! Buffalo Tom! Buffalo Tom Buffalo …

Bill Janovitz!

Bill is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a dynamic solo artist. He’s also a prolific writer who recently authored Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of the Rolling Stones. His blog, Part Time Man of Rock, features a Cover of the Week project that offers his renditions of various pieces that have impacted his life. Hell, he’s even a real estate agent.

Bill Janovitz, man of 1,001 tasks, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Bill, so in 1986 you were one of the founding members of Buffalo Tom, a kick-ass band that’s had a helluva run. I wonder, though, what changes with musicians and bands as they age? Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like something becomes slightly lost. Enthusiasm? Energy? Hunger? Or am I totally wrong?

BILL JANOVITZ: Seems like a huge generalization that might be accurate in specific cases and completely inaccurate in others (most?). Most of the musicians I know my age are still playing passionate music, even to small crowds, in bars, clubs, theaters, and more. The more I think about this, the more I think it is mostly inaccurate.

J.P.: I know you’re a Huntington, N.Y. kid who went to UMass. But where did your music interest come from? Who sparked it? When did you first pick up an instrument? In short, what’s been your journey?

B.J.: From the earliest moment. Records, AM radio, trumpet in school, guitar at 12. First band at 13. All I ever wanted to do for most of my life. Moved to Massachusetts, formed some high school bands. Finally clicked with Chris and Tom at UMass.

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J.P.: I don’t think I’ve ever asked a musician this, but after you create a song, then release a song, do you love your own music? Hate it? Have no interest in it? Wanna hear it all the time. I ask because, recently, I saw a Backstreet Boys video and said to the wife, “There’s no way these guys actually like this song.”

B.J.: I love most of the songs. I never listen to them unless I am brushing up on something. I don’t know of any musician who listens to their own music for their own stuff. We are obsessed with it while writing, recording, and mixing, and then that’s generally it. Buffalo Tom is always surprised at how different our recordings are from how the songs evolve over the years of live performance.

J.P.: You wrote a book in 2013, “Rocks Off,” about your all-time favorite band, the Rolling Stones—through the prism of 50 of their songs that span the band’s life. What is it about the Stones that does it for you? And how’d you come up with the idea for the project?

B.J.: The Stones are my heroes. From their raw beginnings and pure love of music, into their golden period of 1968-1973, they formed their own musical gumbo and remained loyal to each other for most of their 50 year arc. They continued to write a lot of great music past their peak. The idea stemmed from the 50th anniversary and wanting to take the same approach to their whole career as I did for their Exile on Main St. album, which I wrote about for the 33 1/3 series. I wanted to articulate why the songs work, how they were written and produced.

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J.P.: On your website, you have something called, “Cover of the Week,” where you cover a different song—randomly, coolly. When the wife and I watch American Idol, the judges always talk to contestants about “making a song your own.” Of course, the songs are usually pop nonsense—but still. Bill, how does one make a cover his own? Is it possible?

B.J.: Particularly with that web project, I did not worry too much about making them my own; they were love letters to those artists who wrote and recorded them to begin with. I think a confident artist, one who is established with a sound and identity, need not worry too much; stuff comes out sounding like them. Back with Buffalo Tom, when we did covers, we really did try to make sure we were not just aping the originals; there is no point to that.

J.P.: What are the complications of being in a band? How does a band last, when most fade away? Are you best off being friends, or business partners, with bandmates? Does there need to be a leader? Followers?

B.J.: It is like a family business run by artists. You’re all in it together, thick and thin. There does not have to be a leader. A trio is a different sort of arrangement. Every band is different. It is most like having siblings. You love each other, take each other for granted, are fine with not seeing each other for long periods of time, etc.

J.P.: You do a million different things—author, musician—but your main gig is realtor. Which I 100% respect, but which also has the rock n roll sex appeal of a sheet of cardboard. How did you get into the profession? And tell me why it’s actually awesome …

B.J.: The money is awesome. It is awesome because it takes the pressure off having to stay on the road or otherwise depend on music as a living, thus making music seem that much more fun again. I specialize in Modernist houses, which is actually quite sexy to me. Dealing with lots of cool people is also fun. I took what I learned about running a biz with a band and applied it to running my own biz in real estate: no one tells you what to do; you are all feast-or-famine; you get what you put into it; marketing and self promotion; you have to deal with people; I collaborate with a partner—all very much like being in a band. I got into it when the music biz started to ignore us in the 2001 and when the band was sick of touring, and when the kids started coming.

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J.P.: Kay Hanley was Quazed a year ago, and she—like you—has strong emotional ties to the Boston sports scene. It seems like many Massachusetts-based musicians actually share this—and I’m wondering why. Is there a connection that transcends sports-music?

B.J.: I am only really interested in the Red Sox. I really could not care much less about football and basketball, never mind hockey. Yes, close ties to the city, like the Cubs and Yankees.

J.P.: What are you thinking about when you’re on stage, performing? Being serious—does the mind drift? Do you need on focus on songs, or have you done this long enough that you can have a, “I wonder what’s going to happen on the Good Wife this week?” pondering?

B.J.: I am usually in the moment; in the song. The minute I am not is the minute I give up music.

J.P.: Your band played an integral part in the evolution of Claire Danes’ character on “My So-Called Life.” Which was a fun sentence to just type—but also sorta weird. What was that like for you, watching at home?

B.J.: Lots of fun. It truly gave us a big career boost.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): San Antonio, Morgan Burkhart, Lil Jon, Lee Corso, Jet Blue, Derek Jeter, Jeff Horrigan, Costa Rica, Lou Roe, melba toast, Cinderella, Gonzo, blueberry jam, Heather Locklear, Bon Jovi: Pass.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No.

• Hall & Oates were elected into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. What’s your take?: I love a lot of their songs. Not sure about the HOF in general. Nice place to visit, though. I gave a presentation about the Stones there last fall.

• Climate change—myth, bad-but-solvable problem or likely end of the world cause?: I wish more people cared and did not feel overwhelmed by it. Obviously serious.

• Five greatest songwriters of our lifetime?: My faves: Dylan, Lennon/Macca, Jagger/Richards, Tom Waits, Van Morrison.

• The one player you never, ever, ever want to see in a Red Sox uniform: ARod.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $15 million to come to Las Vegas for a year and play the kazoo in her new show, “Celine’s Kazoo Circus of Love.” Conditions: You need to perform shirtless, with a tattoo across your stomach that reads ONE DIRECTION IS THE MOTHERFUCKING BOMB! You in?: Pass.

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Kevin Broughton

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Arrived home from writing earlier today. A package greeted me near the front door.

Man, do I love packages!

Seeing them!

Feeling them!

Opening them!

So I saw, and felt, and opened. And inside the yellow envelope was a T-shirt. This T-shirt …

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 12.07.10 AMYes, it’s a Tea Party T-shirt, straight from the Mississippi home of Kevin Broughton, national communications director for the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. We’d made a trade a couple of months ago—a signed copy of Showtime in exchange for the shirt. I received what I asked for.

So why the swap? Because it was fun. And also because—even though we share absolutely nothing in common politically—I consider Kevin a friend. Which is weird. Because he’s against everything I’m for, and I’m for everything he’s against. He thinks George W. Bush was a fine president. I don’t. He thinks Barack Obama is a miserable president. I don’t. He likes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and all those guys. I … eh … well, no. Just no.

But, as I’ve long maintained, this is the beauty of the Quaz. For me, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about learning. Opening up. Trying to understand.

One can follow Kevin Broughton on Twitter here, and visit his organization’s website here. Kevin, feel free to bring a little Tea Party craziness magic to The Quaz. It’s all yours …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Kevin, you’re a Mississippi Tea Party guy, and you were heavily involved in Chris McDaniel’s bid to unseat Thad Cochran for the U.S. Senate. From afar, after the totals were counted and Cochran was declared the winner, it sorta seemed like the Tea Party was a bunch of sore losers, complaing about fraud and more fraud. But, again, that was from afar. Tell me why I’m wrong. And, at this point, do you consider Cochran the legitimate winner of that election?

KEVIN BROUGHTON: I think it’s important to differentiate between our organization and the McDaniel campaign. We supported Chris independently, with no coordination with his campaign at all, as required by law. After the runoff, we sent volunteers—I was one—into all 82 counties to examine ballots and other election materials. We gave detailed reports to the campaign, and our position has always been that we’d let things be worked out in the court system. Because we love the Constitution, we respect the Court’s decision. So, sore losers? No.

Yes, Senator Cochran is the legal winner. The legit beef conservatives have is with the tactics the Cochran camp and the Barbour family used to win the runoff: funneling money to groups who compared Tea Party people to the Klan, funding ads that said “The Tea Party wants to prevent blacks from voting.” It was a vicious race-smear, and anything but conservative. You don’t play the race card against fellow Republicans. Not in the South. And there will be long-term repercussions from it, I assure you.

J.P.: You know how I feel about politics, so I’ll just be blunt: The Tea Party feels pretty marginal to me. I don’t mean that because you’re conservative—I’d say the same about a far, far left liberal group. It just seems that your reach is limited by your arch conservative stance, and that you’ll never really be able to do much beyond the most conservative of states. Tell me why I’m wrong, or right …

K.B.: I think this will be the first of several times I reject the premise of your question, lest we get a bunch of straw men up in here. What we “feel” to you is beyond our reach. What we stand for is personal freedom, economic freedom and a debt-free future for the next generation. We think spending is out of control. A lot of us think this country is headed toward European-style socialism, and that’s scary. See, e.g., Greece.

Our “stance” is letting Jeff Pearlman keep more of the money he earns. Maybe even pass on his wealth to his kids without the government taking half of it. We want the government less involved in people’s lives, and to stop incurring unsustainable debt.

I just don’t see how that’s radical.

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J.P.: I’ve heard the 1,001 Tea Party slams of Obama, so I won’t ask you to recite them again. I am, however, interested in your take on the George W. Bush presidency—which isn’t evoked very often by the Tea Party. Do you view him as a success? A failure? Neither? Both?

K.B.: Generally, yes, I view him as a success. There were several times where he wasn’t conservative enough for my taste. But he’s a good an honorable man, and was by far the right guy to hold the office during those eight years.

J.P.: I know you’re a Mississippi guy, I know you’ve acted. But what’s your life path, leading up to this position? In short, how did you get here?

K.B.: I graduated from Auburn University with a journalism degree in 1988. While in college I joined the National Guard and earned a commission through officer candidate school. Did some small time writing, editing nad PR work before going to DC in 1991. I worked for guys who kept retiring or getting beat. Or being jerks. So in 1994 I moved to Mississippi to go to law school. Until relocating to the Atlanta burbs in May to take this gig, I’d lived there longer than anywhere else. Practicing criminal defense law and out of politics other than helping out friends at the county level. Two old friends from my DC days—20 years ago—reached out to me about six months ago, out of the blue.

Along the way I’ve hung out with Bibi Netanyahu, donated bone marrow, and become a better than average bass fisherman. Got some screen time with James Franco in a film he directed. I play a little guitar. I think we’re up to date now.

J.P.: Um … what?

K.B.: One of my oldest and dearest friends is a Jew from metro Atlanta — whose father was liberated from Auschwitz as a child. He and I worked on that campaign in Ohio together. I left DC, he stayed in politics. Being fluent in Hebrew, he was detailed to work Bibi’s re-election campaign against Ehud Barrak (sp?) in 1999.

Bibi lost, but he and George bonded and George ended up taking dual US/Israeli citizenship and staying on with Netanyahu. I had always wanted to go to Israel, so with George living in Jerusalem, I had a free place to stay.

James Franco’s a very literary guy, so when he decided to do an adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, he was gonna film it in Mississippi, natch. They cast all the minor roles locally, so I and a bunch of my friends in the relatively tight Mississippi acting circle got a little screen time. I play the guy from the state “nervous hospital” who comes to arrest Darl Bundren—Franco’s character—at the very end of the film.

They did a “portrait” of each of us from a digital photo; pretty cool rendering.

Fun fact you’ll enjoy about that shoot: Tim Blake Nelson, a wonderfully talented character actor, plays Anse Bundren, the no-good, shiftless patriarch. Just a repulsive character. Tim got WAY into the method acting thing for this shoot, and never broke character except during lunch and after wrapping.

During a break but before we wrapped, my shirt had to be dried and re-pressed. (It’s about 98 degrees of Mississippi heat going on.) So I’m stripped to the waist, and “Anse” walks up and in character, reads the three different Hebrew script tattoos I have on my torso. Then walks away.

At the wrap party I asked if he went to Hebrew school. “Eight years,” he said. “Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

Taken at the King David Hotel in January 2000. Bibi had just smoked a Zino cigar from the box Kevin had given him.

Kevin and Bibi at the King David Hotel in January 2000. Bibi had just smoked a Zino cigar Kevin had given him.

J.P.: It seems like, to the Tea Party, compromising with liberals is a HUGE no-no, and anyone who dares talk with Obama is up for poison darts. Why is negotiating and compromising with the other side so awful? Isn’t it the only way we get things done?

K.B.: You’re doing it again. Let me help.

Remember the “Republican” shutdown last fall? Here are the salient facts. Republican House passes a spending bill with no funding for Obamacare. Reid won’t take it up. The House begins sending over bills with concessions: Fund it, but delay the individual mandate; Reid won’t let the Senate vote on it. Fund it, but delay the employer mandate; No vote. Medical device tax repeal. No vote. The government shuts down.

Tell me again who wouldn’t negotiate? Who wasn’t willing to compromise? These are objective facts. Incidentally, Obama—in violation of the law—later delayed the employer mandate, without Congressional approval.

J.P.: Climate change is, for me, the No. 1 issue facing society—yet the Tea Party never seems to address it. Do you guys have a stance? Do you, Kevin, still maintain it’s more fiction than fact? Does it worry you at all? And why wouldn’t the Tea Party jump aboard this one?

K.B.: TPPCF doesn’t take a position. We don’t take a position on much besides taxes/spending/Obamacare/debt and amnesty.

Personally, yeah. I think it’s a sham. The original prophet of the global-warming cult told us five years ago the ice caps would be gone. But since Al Gore is a stupid clown, we get distracted and miss the fact that they’re actually growing.

J.P.: You’re very pro-gun owners’ rights. I’m not. I just don’t see why citizens need some of the high-caliber weaponry that is out there and, thanks to the NRA and its supporters, very legal. I also thought, post-Newtown, we’d all be able to agree on some weapon cutbacks. What’s your beef with taking some guns off the table?

K.B.: Again, this is an area where we don’t take an official position, but we’re pro-Bill of Rights, and the Second Amendment is a huge part of it. Politically, Democrats—the ones who can momentarily detach themselves from emotion and think rationally—know gun control is a losing proposition. That’s the reality of it. And I won’t be disarmed. Molon labe.

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J.P.: Fuck it, I’ve changed my mind. Why do you so hate Obama? And do you give him credit for anything at all? Being serious—has he done anything well (as in, benefits the country) in your opinion?

K.B.: Hate is a strong word.

He released five bloodthirsty Muslims in exchange for a man who dropped his weapon and abandoned his comrades. A deserter. He has weakened the Republic in the eyes of the world, to the point that world leaders and adversaries defy us with impunity. He never misses an opportunity to stir up racial tensions when he could defuse them. American citizens are butchered like hogs on video, and he goes to the golf course. Later, he admits he has no strategy. He has welcomed a human wave of crime and disease by throwing open our borders.

That’s since June.

What’s he done well? Bin Laden’s dead.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your political career? Lowest?

K.B.: The first campaign I worked on, a Congressional in Ohio, was a tough loss. We lost by 1,500 votes in a district Bush 41 carried by 5,000. I went back to DC with no job, along with 6,000 newly unemployed Bush folks.

Greatest? Meh. Best memory I have of DC was the last week I was there.

I had been working for the Biggest Jerk in Congress, a now-forgotten prick from Wisconsin. I got tired of it, and when he dog-cussed me one time too many, I told a U.S. Congressman exactly what he could do to himself, packed my stuff and walked. I filled out—impulsively, in retrospect—law school applications that day.

So I had about four months to burn before moving and no job. A friend from church—God rest your soul, Mary Jo—was a scheduler for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. She got me a temp gig, and I ended up writing some speeches for him and bonding a pretty good bit. My last day, he took me to the Senate dining room for lunch, and made a point of introducing me to a half-dozen of his colleagues. He didn’t have to. It’s a testament to his kind nature, and the country needs more men like Chuck Grassley.

J.P.: You’re from Mississppi—a state with an awful record when it comes to education, poverty, life span, etc. I mean, you guys rank near the bottom in tons of shit categories. Isn’t that, in and of itself, an argument for Democratic office holders? Because, lord knows, you haven’t had a big one in forever …

K.B.: Jeff, the first Republican Governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction was elected in 1991. Republicans didn’t take control of the legislature until 2011. Get behind me with your straw men.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): San Francisco, Ross Perot, Martin Sheen, Shakira, Teen Beach Movie, Skittles, Roberto Duran, Kid n Play, Skid Row, McDonald’s, Jackson State, David Duke, Sarah Palin: Lord …

Roberto Duran, Ross Perot, Sarah Palin, Jackson State, Martin Sheen, Skittles, San Francisco (never been), Skid Row, McDonald’s, Teen Beach Movie, Kid n Play, Shakira, David Duke.

• Who are your top 5 all-time political figures?: 1. George Washington; 2. Ronald Reagan; 3. Winston Churchill; 4. James K. Polk; 5. Aaron Burr.

• One question you would ask Sherman Hemsley were he here right now?: “I distinctly remember an episode when you referred to the mixed-race couple (white dude and Lenny Kravitz’s mom) as ‘zebras.’ Don’t you think you should apologize to our president, and for that matter, Lenny Kravitz?”

• Better president—JFK or Lyndon Johnson? And, in 24 words, why?: John F. Kennedy. Both were overrated. But the sex addict who stole the ’60 election in Cook County did get us to the moon.

• What’s the Tea Party’s beef with John McCain?: Other than his support for amnesty and his various assaults on the First Amendment, not much.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, details …: Thankfully, no.

• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $30 million to be her campaign manager for Las Vegas mayor. She’s very liberal, insists you only wear pink and change your name to Alvaro Espinoza. You in?: Yes, and I’ll tell you why. I’d get one concession: I don’t have to listen to any of her music. In fact, her theme song when she takes the stage at a rally will be Lucero’s “Just That Kind of Girl.” It would also give me a chance to go to Vegas, and what do I care about getting some caterwauling Cannuck installed in Harry Reid’s hometown?

• The next president will be …: Way too early. If forced to pick, Rand Paul.

• If you’re an NFL GM, and you need a lineman, would you feel comfortable giving Michael Sam a shot?: You mean if I need a 4.9- 40 DT who couldn’t make the club in St. Louis, and would bring a pile of media attention and distractions? I’ll take it under advisement.

• I’m always fucking angry about something. What should I do?: “Hear, O, Israel! The Lord our God. The Lord is One.”

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Peter Carry

thinking man

Back when I started at Sports Illustrated in 1996, the payoff for a well-done story wasn’t bonus money or a pat on the back or a special mention in a Letter from the Editor. No, it was a typed note from Peter Carry, the veteran executive editor who, quite frankly, intimidated the hell out of me.

Peter was a legendary Sports Illustrated figure who started at the magazine in 1964. He’d edited the best of the best—from Deford to Jenkins to Nack to Reilly to Smith to Rushin—and you knew (you just friggin’ knew) in order for a piece to reach the final pages, it had to pass through Peter’s red pen. Sometimes, this could be painless. A few marks here, a few comments there. Other times, however, it was brutal—you could feel great upon submission, then be told the lede sucked, the transitions were cliched and, um, what the fuck was the point?


Just when you found yourself ready to seek out a gig at the Putnam County News, however, a note would arrive at your desk. One like, well, this …

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 12.22.13 PMAnd you’d fly. And soar. And jump. And leap. Those notes—rarely more than three or four sentences in length—could make a writer’s day. Week. Month. They convinced me I could succeed at Sports Illustrated; write with the best; hold my own.

In short, they meant everything. That’s why, in my old SI photo albums, I’ve kept every one Peter sent my way. They’re priceless.

Peter left the magazine more than a decade ago, but his legacy as a fierce, hard-nosed editor remains. He also served as executive editor of Discover, a science monthly that was published by Time Inc (Both magazines won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence during his time). In retirement, he’s done a ton of charity work. He and his wife Virginia have two children and two grandchildren. They live in Harlem.

Here, Peter talks of the heyday of print journalism; of what the medium has become and what, perhaps, it can be.

Peter Carry, my editor, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Peter, so you were at Sports Illustrated during what has to be considered the golden age. The magazine was the voice in sports journalism. Print was the medium. The best writers in the country wanted to write for SI. I’m wondering, more than a decade removed, how you feel when you see SI now. I don’t mean, “Oh, the writing sucks or is great” or anything like that. I mean—it just can’t possibly be what it was, can it?

PETER CARRY: I feel a mixture of pride and melancholy. Pride because I was involved for 35 years in putting out the superb magazine you described in your question. I’m proud that SI brought real journalism to the reporting of sports—and to related subjects like racism and the environment during various times—and I’m just as proud of the quality of the prose that appeared on its pages. I’m melancholy to a small extent that I’m no longer involved in that world—the standard retired guy’s lament—but much more because of what is happening to magazines specifically and journalism in general. SI is doing better both editorially and, I gather, financially than the majority of publications, some of which have sold out and become gossipy rags, joining the gossipy rags that were already there, and many more of which have disappeared or seem likely to do so soon.

I don’t mean to sound like the guy who bemoaned the demise of the buggy whip by decrying the advent of the automobile. The electronic means of communication we have are marvels, but we must find some way to bend their use to thoughtful and significant journalism that might be a bit slower in arriving before our eyes but will so much better nourish our brains. It’s essential to our world, our country and ourselves that we have well-informed citizens. This is a human problem, not a technical problem. I couldn’t care less if SI exists as an entity on paper 10 years from now, but I care immensely that the spirit of the magazine as you and I knew it lives on in whatever form SI and other publications with high standards might appear then. I’ll add here that I’m delighted that the current editors of the magazine have rededicated considerable space to the sort of long-form pieces that made SI’s reputation.

J.P.: I knew you as an editor at SI, but I know little of your path to the spot. So, eh, Peter, what was your path? Why journalism? What was it about the medium? And why SI?

P.C.: In the fourth grade at P.S. 13 in Valley Stream, N.Y., I was the editor of the Corona Avenue Gazette, as the mimeographed school paper was grandly called, so I guess this stuff has been in my blood pretty much all along. I remember seeing Dwight Eisenhower, then running for his first term as President, ride past the school in a motorcade and then writing a story about it. It was fun. It was exciting. It seemed important. What’s not to like? What really clinched the deal for me was when Time Inc. recruited me for its paid—I’d say well-paid, unlike those terrible unpaid summer jobs these days—internship program between my junior and senior years in college. I accepted even before I knew what publication I’d be assigned to, but because I was the sports editor of The Daily Princetonian, I wasn’t too surprised when I ended up at SI. By the end of that summer, the magazine had offered me a permanent job. I joined the staff upon graduation in June 1964 and then five months later left for three years in the U.S. Navy (the magazine graciously granted me a leave of absence, though it had no legal obligation to do so, so I didn’t have to worry about a civilian job during my 21 months in the Vietnam combat zone). I returned in time to help cover the Year of the Pitcher in 1968 and really begin my career at the magazine. I was blessed to have a large number of powerful examples to try to emulate and two terrific editors who generously mentored me, Jerry Tax and Gil Rogin.

Peter with his wife Virginia on a trip to the Grand Canyon.

Peter with his wife Virginia on a trip to the Grand Canyon.

J.P.: I’m gonna ask a weird question, and I hope I phrase it correctly. You were a power player at SI. A big editor in a big job when the magazine was all powerful. Then, one day, it ended. People always talk about the transitions athletes make when they retire, but what was it like for you? No more magazine? No more executive assistant, power lunches, name on the masthead? How did you adjust?

P.C.: Well, I didn’t tell the guy who paid me a lot of money to leave this, but I was pretty much planning to depart within two years of when I did. At that point I had been an editor at some level or another for about 30 years—that’s 1,500 late Sunday nights in the office, a goodly number of them all-nighters. I think I was pretty much gassed. It didn’t hurt that for the subsequent two winters I worked as a temporary editor at The International Herald Tribune, which you probably know is based in Paris. Along with my wife, Virginia, I got to live in the 5th Arrondissement, eat and drink in some pretty good restaurants and work on mon français. It wasn’t a bad way to wind down. I might add that SI’s Thursday-to-Monday work week and the crazy hours on the weekends were tough on the families of the staffers. Virginia handled this difficult situation with amazing aplomb, while also bringing up our two kids without a whole lot of help from yours truly.

J.P.: I’ve always hated the Swimsuit Issue. I mean, really, really hate it. I think it’s a sexist, treat-women-as-objects piece of garbage. Just being honest. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right.

P.C.: Mr. Pearlman, you’re usually right—well, maybe—but you’ve never been righter than you are about the swimsuit issue. I thought and think it was/is boring and sexist and had/has nothing to do with the magazine’s mission. I don’t agree that it is garbage because I know the people who put it together do so with great care and creativity. That said, I must acknowledge that it was probably the swimsuit issue, which during my later years at SI represented some place between 15 percent and 20 percent of the magazine’s revenues and in that period SI had the second-highest revenues in the magazine business, that paid my kids’ tuitions at one of the most expensive damn universities in the world.

Peter alongside his wife Virginia near their home in France.

Peter alongside his wife Virginia near their home in France.

J.P.: What was your approach to editing a story? Did you look to make changes? Was the goal to make as few as possible? And did you worry about maintaining a writer’s voice? Or does that even matter?

P.C.: Well, depends on the writer, If it was one of your pieces, I’d throw the manuscript in the shit can, pull up the keyboard (né typewriter) and start pressing the keys. But if the author was Deford or Verducci or Price or Smith … Ah, just kidding, I think. The most important work was done before the story was written, even before it was even assigned. Rule 1: The best ideas come from the guys in the field (and Lord knows whatever other sources outside your office), so listen. Refine. Combine. Bad ideas result in bad stories, no matter who’s doing the writing. Rule 2: Listen and talk to the writer. Don’t nag, don’t hang over her shoulder. But do have a discourse. Challenge. Help the writer refine the idea. Rule 3: Read the damn story all the way through before you lay a pencil or a cursor on it. This seems like a simple matter, like medical personnel always washing their hands before they touch a patient, but you’d be surprised how often patients and stories get prematurely handled. Rule 4: Be gentle but be firm. Editing is a deep element of Time Inc. culture. There were guys from Time and Life magazines who used to say to writers, “Give me the bricks, I’ll build the story.”  Thank goodness, that was never the rule at SI, though plenty of stories were thoroughly rewritten. When I was first at the magazine, the pieces of some writers, including one of the magazine’s most famous guys, were routinely and completely redone. But extensive rewriting was never the rule, and it became less frequent as the years passed and the depth of writing talent on the magazine increased. Stories written on deadline are also edited on deadline, and when the flawed story arrives on deadline there’s not much that the editor can do but have at it. There should be no need to do that on a non-deadline story, on which the writer and editor should be collaborators. I would say that a good editor can turn a weak story into a serviceable one but rarely, if ever, an excellent one. Conversely, a judicious editor (and a rigorous fact-checker) can mildly enhance a story that’s already good. And, yes, with the good and true story the editor should diligently try to preserve the writer’s voice, to retain the individuality of the piece. However, all this discussion of word-editing becomes moot when good writers are paired with good ideas. That means that hiring talented writers who are also tough reporters and then applying Rules 1, 2 and 3 will render Rule 4 irrelevant.

Peter with his son, Will, and grandson, Sully.

Peter with his son, Will, and grandson, Sully.

J.P.: Here’s something I’ve been dying to ask for years. When I got to SI, everyone spoke of the “Princeton pipeline.” I was asked, repeatedly, “How did a guy from Delaware get here?” And people would point out, “Look—this guy, that guy, that guy–all Princeton.” So … Peter, proud Tiger alum. Was there a leaning toward Princeton grads?

P.C.: Well, there was certainly once an Ivy League pipeline. The company was founded by two Yalies in the 1920s, and as late as my arrival there was clearly a penchant for hiring Ivy Leaguers, especially from the so-called Big Three. I recall that there were 12 other young men in the internship group with me in the summer of 1962, and, if memory serves, all of them came from Harvard, Princeton or Yale. Thank God, neither the “men” nor the “Big Three” part of that survived much longer. Certainly over the years Princeton was disproportionately represented on the editorial staff at SI. When I got to the magazine, I believe Frank Deford was the only Princetonian, but over the years the number increased until, I’d guess, that at one time in the 1990s there must have been eight or nine of us. As far as I know, this was not by design. Who wouldn’t have hired Frank or Alex Wolff or Ed Swift or Grant Wahl (and perhaps others whose names my aging brain can’t conjure up at this moment), who among them have written a significant number of the best articles to appear in SI. Bill Colson was a superb editor, as, I gather, Hank Hersh is now. I can’t recall ever hiring a Princetonian—the majority were brought in by chiefs of research who went to schools like Mount Holyoke and Michigan—though once they proved their worth, I was certainly eager that they be promoted, but I was no more eager for them to ascend the masthead than many, many more men and women from a lot of other schools whose roles were as central to SI’s success.

J.P.: I’ve long believed that diversity is important in sports journalism—because we’re covering such a diverse population. Yet SI has long been a place dominated by white males. I’m wondering, back in the day, whether that was a concern? Does it not matter, when the writing/reporting caliber is as strong as it was? Was it something you thought about?

P.C.: Damn right, I thought about it, and the company evinced concern. And it remains a frustration that we didn’t do better at diversifying the SI staff. As you suggest, diversity is important when you’re covering sports. I’d add that diversity is important, period. There may have been some mitigating factors here, but the bottom line is that we didn’t get the job done.

Peter, right, with a college pal—shot at a hotel next to (the hysterically named) Lake Titticaca in Peru.

Peter, right, with a college pal—shot at a hotel next to (the hysterically named) Lake Titticaca in Peru.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your journalism career? Lowest?

P.C.: The lowest is easy: When I wasn’t selected to be managing editor in 1984. There were a lot of high moments, some personal and most collaborative, but oddly the one I remember best occurred during the couple of years I left SI to be executive editor of Discover, the science magazine Time Inc. started in the early 1980s. The company made wholesale changes on the edit and publishing sides of the magazine in 1984-85 because Discover was both losing a fair amount of money and not very good editorially. In 1987 the magazine won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, and I remember the managing editor, Gil Rogin, going to the podium to accept the plaque and saying something like, “Boy, we needed that.” Truth was, we merited the award. We’d turned the damn thing around.

J.P.: Do you think a print magazine can still matter, in the way print magazines once did? Can anything be done, or—a decade from now—is print dead?

P.C.: See my answer to your first question.

J.P.: If you can answer this one in the best detail possible—what was it like working at SI at its peak? I mean, what was the atmosphere? The mood? The feeling? Because I sorta fantasize about this place that, perhaps, I never fully knew …

P.C.: Do you watch Mad Men? Well, Don sits in what looks exactly like an assistant managing editor’s office from back in the 1960s, and Peggy has a senior writer’s office. There were bottles of booze in plain view on people’s desks and cigarettes in all 67 ashtrays on the conference room table during editorial meetings; there was a fair amount of fornicatin’ between members of the staff, and everybody knew who was screwing whom; you could buy a bag of really good shit, man, from the mail boy; on the weekends there was a fridge full of cans of Bud, just serve yourself; there was a bookie who arrived on the floor every Monday to collect debts; there was a poker game—a lot of seven-card high-low, a terrible game—in the TV room that started around nine Sunday night and often ended at dawn Monday that essentially financed Virginia’s and my social life; etc. For the younger staffers especially—the ones who didn’t have kids, who lived in Manhattan—the Thursday-to-Monday work week meant that SIers were sort of forced to become close friends, often best friends. The quality of the writing and photography was always a matter of serious discussion, and there was a clear, if unofficial, hierarchy among the writers and photographs; when I came to the magazine people bowed to writers like Jack Olsen and shooters like John Zimmerman, and throughout my time that sort of admiration for our fellows who were the best persisted. That says a lot about the general seriousness of the enterprise.

In those days there was a sort of intimacy on the staff that declined over the years. Until well after I joined SI, all the writers and most of the photographers lived in New York and came to the office on days when they didn’t have assignments. Each writer had a office on the 20th floor of the Time and Life Building, and until an uppity young writer started posting a note on his door saying, “Frank Deford is working at home,” most stories were written in office, no counting those deadline jobs that were wrought in hotel rooms, press center or bordellos and sent to the office via Western Union. Clearly the superficial aspects of the culture have greatly changed, and I think that’s largely for the better. Without the managing editorship of Andre Laguerre there would probably be no SI now. When he took over around 1960, SI had never made money and was of so little moment that a lot of people of Time Inc. thought the company should just fold the damn thing, which was then a mélange of Sport, Town and Country, and Betty Crocker. Andre and the guys he listened to (SI staffers, not the corporate higher-ups) understood the attraction of spectator sports and realized that sport’s popularity was soaring because of TV, which was then the bogeyman of the magazine business. In effect, Andre allied SI to its supposed enemy. The big events and big sports stars on TV became the games and people that SI featured in-depth, and the magazine, which already had a coterie of excellent writers and photographers, took off in terms of both prestige and loot. I had no role in this transformation. When I was working at the magazine in the summers of 1963 and 1964, Laguerre was a rather forbidding Gallic presence who wore a black suit, black tie and white shirt to work every day and silently strode the halls in shirtsleeves carrying a 3-foot-long stick with which he tapped the walls. He was revered in the office then (as he still should be today, for many reasons, not the least of which was his unbending dedication to maintaining editorial independence). When I returned from the service, the magazine’s transformation was essentially complete, but the triumphant Laguerre was a much less imposing man. His alcoholism now rendered him almost useless in the afternoon following his liquid midday repast; I can’t tell you how many times I heard an editor or layout artist say something like, “We’ve gotta get this to Andre before lunch, or it’s never gonna get done.” Andre was fired a couple of years later and died much too young. He was the most prominent and perhaps most tragic victim of the office culture of the time. I don’t know when the SI “peak” you mentioned occurred. When we started to make tons of money in the 1980s? When we won two National Magazine Awards for General Excellence during Mark Mulvoy’s dynamic tenure as managing editor. When guys like Deford, Rick Reilly and Gary Smith seemed to win the best writer awards every year? For me, the peak was when Andre and his staff went against the conventional wisdom of their time and showed themselves and us today that it could be done.

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• Five greatest sports journalists of your lifetime: I’m a wimp. I want to keep my friends. I take the fifth on the five.

• How often do you read Sports Illustrated in 2014?: I at least glance at it three weeks out of four.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Spencer Haywood, Illinois State, Los Angeles Times, Instagram, Ray Combs, Elena Delle Donne, Connect Four, Yale, bottled water, clam chowder, Elijah Wood: I can’t rank these disparate items, but I can tell you what I think of them. I prefer to drink wine if my beverage has to come out of a bottle. New England clam chowder, yes; Manhattan clam chowder, no. I knew Spencer Deadwood pretty well, and Pete Vescey had him pegged right. I’ve read the L.A. Times, but probably not since the great Jim Murray died. I’ve not read a word of or watched a second of Lord of the Rings. I know that Ray Combs is no Richard Dawson. I have never sent or, I suspect, received an Instagram, except perhaps a retrospective shot of Doug Collins playing at Illinois State. Elena Delle Donne could shoot the J better than Collins or Deadwood. I learned one thing for sure at Princeton: Yale Sucks!

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to serve as editor of her new magazine, “Celine Life.” You’ll make $30 million next year, but you have to move to Las Vegas, wear Gene Simmons’ face paint every day and watch Titanic three times per day. You in?: Is any of this negotiable?

• The most overused word in writing is?: I change the question to overused/misused. Sportswriting: “Great.” Writing: I’ve got a million pet peeves, but let’s try this: any present participle used to start a dependent clause: “Thinking he was the next Marcel Proust, he began to write his own remarkably tedious novel.”

• The biggest jerk athlete you ever interviewed was …: I refuse to slam the dead.

• Are you aware that, when we were called into your office to be edited, we stared at the photo of your beautiful daughter placed on your desk?: No, but I understand why. You oughta see her now. She has had twins, but she’s more of a knockout than ever.

• Three words you’d use to sum up your feelings for reality television?: Don’t watch it.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: About 1998, I’m flying out of Detroit on an early plane back to New York to get to work on a Sunday morning after having gone to a family celebration at my brother’s house. Starboard engine goes up in a puff of smoke about 15 second after lift-off. Some of that puff of smoke passes through the cabin. I fear fire, which I know, because my father was in the aviation business, is the worst thing that can happen on a plane. But the smoke dissipates. There is no fire. People keen like mourners at an Irish funeral, I see rosary beads for the first time in years, but I’m pretty sure we’re OK. I know that the plane can make it to New York on one engine if it has too, and I can already feel the aircraft banking into a turn back to Detroit Metro. After waiting way too long—I’d guess three minutes—pilot announces what I’d already figured out. Weeping and shrieking don’t stop, however. I feel calm, until we hit the runway and I see our escort of what looks like around 100 yellow fire engines, red lights flashing, tearing down a parallel runway. We taxi back to the terminal. I get on the next flight. I arrive at the office a couple of hours late. I red pencil a story by Pearlman. That’s two scary incidents in one day.

• Why was Jimmy Carter such a meh president?: Actually he wasn’t so bad, but his nervous tic of a smile made everyone think he was out of touch, as in, “XXX of our people were taken captive in Iran today” [nervous smile]. He was smart as hell, but he was our only nerd president. However, he was perhaps our greatest ex-president. Nobel Prize-worthy.